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Mason Bee Basics

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So why would anyone want to attract bees to their property? Haven’t we all thought that bees are just out to sting us? The truth about bees is far more complex than that. It is important to note that domesticated honeybees, which come to us from Eurasia, are not the only pollinators of fruits and vegetables in our gardens. There are many different types of  insects that we think of as bees. They range from honeybees, bumblebees, and mason bees, to wasps, hornets and yellow jackets. Other flying insects besides bees pollinate plants as well. Consider flies for example, which are attracted to flowers that smell like rotting flesh! All flying insects have an important role in making sure that plants get pollinated at the right time, so that fruits, vegetables and other seeds can develop.

There are many species of wild bees that are native to North America, including mason bees, a solitary bee species. They build their nests inside hollow stems of decaying plant twigs. Their name comes from the way they use mud to seal up the egg chambers, after they deposit their eggs. These bees can be far more efficient in pollinating flowers than their domestic counterparts. The same could also be said of bumblebees, another solitary native bee.

On the one hand, domesticated honeybees live socially in hives, and often depend upon a caretaker to take them to the plants that must be pollinated. This is the process used by strawberry and orchard fruit growers. On the other hand, wild bees live on site, and are always there to pollinate at an optimal time, since there’s no need to wait for honeybees to be brought in. That’s why it’s so important to have plants which attract pollinators, so that they can help your garden plants set fruit.

Mason bees can be encouraged to set up shop by providing a nest-building habitat for them. Bee bundles are made from the hollow stems of grasses, bound together into a stack. Mason bees prefer to deposit their eggs in these tubes, sealing them in with dampened mud.

Watch our video below, to see mason bees building their nests. Then order your bee bundle, and attract mason bees to your property today.

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Visit the Xerces Society to find out how you can do more to support pollinators in your area.

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The Beauty of Spring is Here!

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It’s amazing how quickly the plants rebound after the bleak, cold of winter’s grip. And they burst forth which such gusto! Making use of every bit of sunlight coming their way. The early blooming flowers delight the emerging insects, a diverse bunch of invertebrates, which include bees, wasps, flies and of course ants. All of these pollinators are looking for breakfast. What are you serving? Contact us to find out how you can add this wonderful mix of wildflowers, herbs and ground covers to your pollinator-friendly garden!

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Contact Mother Oak’s Garden to find out about stopping by to buy plants! https://motheroaksgarden.net/contact/

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Get ready, get set… Plant!

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Within the last week or so, spring has pushed forth; new shoots of daylilies, onions, dandelions and iris poking out from the leaves. Daffodils, crocus and forsythia, following. Now is the time to pull back the leaves on the ground, which have lain there since last fall. The soil underneath has been covered with a new layer of compost. As the leaves and debris is collected into the compost pile, seed heads, twigs and mosses are scattered by the wind, where they can renew the woodland floor with fresh seedlings. It’s best to rake leaves now into the compost pile, before the spring plants are fully emerged from the soil.

Now is also, the time to observe the “bones” of your garden. Where will the sun be obscured by shade during the summer? Where will future understory trees and shrubs benefit from morning, or late afternoon sun? Are there invasive species such as English ivy, vinca, pachysandra, euonymus, Bradford pear or Norway maples on your property? These species overrun native plants, which deprives local birds, native bees and other insects of the foods which they eat in order to survive. You may want to consider replacing these plants with species better suited to the north shore of Long Island.

Last month, I attended a seminar presented by the Xerces Society in Brooklyn, NY, on how to help support invertebrate pollinators. Topics included an in-depth examination of specific, solitary native bees, such as the mason bee, which have demonstrated to be more effective plant pollinators than European honeybees. It was evident from their presentation that our current landscape industry of “blow, collect, and haul away” leaves is a really bad idea, environmentally speaking. Some pollinators can spend a great deal of their life cycles in leaf litter, so collecting leaves and bagging them effectively kills pollinator larvae, preventing them from reproducing. These pollinators need our support, not removal. Read more about bumblebee conservation here:

Bumble Bee Conservation

As homeowners, it is time to change our habits in order to enrich our local environments with native plants while protecting pollinator habitat. Replace lawns, especially in areas where they perform poorly (dry shade), and plant other ground covers and perennials which will prove to be far more attractive, and beneficial to invertebrates. Mother Oak’s Garden creates lovely garden designs utilizing native plants for your property. Please sign up to receive our email at: http://motheroaksgarden.net/contact/

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Thoughts of Spring During the Dead of Winter.

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How many of these plants can you identify?

As I look forward to seeing all of the plants in the garden reawaken in the spring, this particular image of green leaves on my desktop caught my eye. It reminded me of how important it can be to have a green carpet underfoot; not just one composed solely of Kentucky bluegrass.

Originally, this garden bed in my shady, woodland garden located adjacent to a grass path was planted with a running cultivar of foamflower and hosta. But as the years passed, other plant species naturalized and took up residence. A reading of the plants in the image above reveals how quickly various species can interact to create a unique, walkable palette. Two species of native trees, black cherry and chestnut oak, have anchored themselves in the garden bed, along the left side in the image. Someday, they may replace the mature specimens that already exist nearby. A small Norway maple hopes to dominate the scene, but will not last long on this property! Norway maples are invasive, to say the least, and should be removed.  Native vine five-leaved Virginia creeper meanders throughout the ground covers, interspersed with non-natives Duchesnea indica, or mock strawberry, which is often confused with wild strawberry and ajuga reptans. The perennial stalwart which has taken up residence at the top in this scene, is the native white wood aster, a Long Island perennial well suited to the dry, sandy woodland soils found along the north shore. Finally, a sprinkling of golden creeping Jenny splashes across the steps on the right. Another non-native, it escaped from a pot of annuals a number of years ago, and been held in check by the occasional plunge into the deep freeze. Throw in some sedges, mosses, and violets, and a groundcover that is easy to care for can replace “lawn” in those woodland, shadier places of the garden.

Soon, Mother Oak’s Garden will be offering a variety of shrubs, perennials, and herbs that can be added to your woodland garden, which will support the survival of local pollinators by providing food and habitat. Some of the native and non-native plants we hope to carry include:

Tiarella ‘Running Tapestry’, Asarum europeum, Uvularia grandiflora, Dicentraspectabilis, Smilacina racemosa aka Maianthemum dilatatum, Geranium maculatum, Iris cristata, Japanese Painted Fern and Ajuga reptans.

Sign up to receive our emails so that you receive our Plant List for 2019! Just click https://motheroaksgarden.net/contact/

Thank you for your support!

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Scenes from Summers Past

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Over the years, the garden has transformed from a partly sunny area, where many flowers and herbs could manage with part shade; to a dense, shady retreat that is dominated by foliage standouts and undemanding flowers and shrubs. Hostas and daylilies were favorites for years. But as the shade encroached, the daylilies were crowded out, and many hostas were at risk of being lost under the rhododendrons.

Furthermore, as many trees grew and aged, some suffered significant storm damage from the brutal nor’easters that dumped heavy snow in the spring. But leafy ground covers help to add textural interest along the ground. Goatsbeard, Lenten roses, tall phlox and ferns have meandered around the garden, filling spaces where the less sturdy succumbed to the elements.

Does your property need to be transformed? Message Mother Oak’s Garden today and make an appointment for a landscape consultation.

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Bumble Bees in the Garden

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Check out this video of a bumble bee “buzz collecting” pollen!

Bumble bees are solitary, ground-dwelling native bees that are excellent pollinators. Check out this bumble bee gorging on the pollen in a rose blossom.

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Read more about bumble bees here: https://xerces.org/bumblebees/

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Attracting Pollinators

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How can you attract pollinators to your garden? Think of your own needs when looking for a place to live. What do you need? Shelter, water and food. An animal’s needs are basically the same. Pollinators come in many shapes and sizes, including birds, bees, wasps, flies, other flying insects. One bee that gets little attention in our concern about pollinators is the solitary, mason bee (of the genus Osmia). More about the lifecycle and nesting habits of this bee can be found at this cited article, Mason Bee – Wikipedia.

These industrious bees are excellent pollinators for your vegetable garden, so it’s important to encourage them to nest on your property. Along with your tomatoes and peppers in your vegetable garden, be sure to plant plenty of bee-attracting flowers such as agastache (hyssop), echinacea (purple coneflower) and rudbeckia (black-eyed Susans). Suffice it to say, that this hard working bee simply asks for a small, cozy shelter within which to lay it’s eggs and raise another brood. Bundles of hollow reeds usually do the trick, along with a spot of mud nearby.

Cardboard tubes, which can be widely found from internet merchants, are not actually appropriate homes for mason bees. The paper cardboard can disintegrate over time, subsequently molding when exposed to heavy rains, which can harm the developing brood. However you can obtain excellent, long lasting bee bundles right here from Mother Oak’s Garden. Add one or two bundles to your garden for the bees!

Nothing pleases a mason bee more than having a ready-made habitat on site, ready to go! These expertly crafted bee bundles will provide a nesting place for solitary, mason bees. Tie one firmly about three to six feet off the ground, preferably facing east, to encourage bees to nest inside. Locate your mason bee home near mud, which the bees will use inside their nest. Enjoy a bountiful vegetable harvest this fall with the help of your friends, the mason bees!

Photo by Randee Daddona