Invite Mason Bees to your Garden
Everyone knows that bees in general are crucial pollinators, but what’s all the buzz about the mason bee specifically? Let’s learn more about these beneficial insects and how we can make sure our gardens are set up to host our busy pollinator pals this spring.
WHAT ARE MASON BEES?
Mason bees are a native species that is quite common in North America. In fact, according to Organic Control, “there are 402 species that live in the United States.” However, unlike the honey or bumble bee, which are famous for their yellow and black markings, the mason bee is actually metalic blue or blue-black in color. In fact, it’s not uncommon that they are mistaken for large flies and are treated as such. So, watch out for fly swatters, Mr. Mason Bee!
They also differ from honey bees in that that do not have a queen, live in a hive, or make honey at all. And so, since they are off the hook when it comes to “hive duties,” mason bees are typically a lot less aggressive without a queen to protect and rarely sting.
HOW ARE THESE INSECTS BENEFICIAL?
You guessed it – mason bees, like their counterparts, are excellent pollinators! But, you likely didn’t know that they are actually 120 times more effective at pollinating than honey or bumble bees according to Organic Control, Inc. Crazy right? They are also some of the earliest risers in spring emerging while temperatures are still cold and other bees are awaiting warmer days to become active. This is typically when fruit trees begin to bloom. All this increased pollination will improve the yield on fruit trees and increase the quantity and quality of blooms on flowering plants and herbs. By mid-March in Oklahoma, you can expect mason bees to be out and about putting their pollination skills to work!
HOW TO ATTRACT MASON BEES TO YOUR GARDEN
Setting your outdoor space up for mason bees is easy! Start by planting some native flowers or flowers with single rows of petals. And always provide an open patch of mud that the bees can use to construct their home.
WANT A PLAN BEE?
Purchase a Mason Bee Starter Kit for all the essentials to create the perfect environment for your new pollinator pals. These kits are currently available at Marcum’s Nursery Goldsby location only.
Living Christmas Trees
WHAT IS A LIVE CHRISTMAS TREE?
PROS AND CONS OF LIVE CHRISTMAS TREES
The main advantage of a living Christmas tree over other options is sustainability. It goes without saying, but we’ll say it anyway – it’s good for the environment to plant trees. And, while we do love the idea of visiting a Christmas tree farm and cutting down the perfect tree with your family, there is a small bit of sadness attached to cutting down a beautiful, healthy tree.
2. BETTER QUALITY
A living Christmas tree is usually more fragrant than a cut tree. It also stands firmly in the container, so it isn’t as likely to be wobbly or tip over as a cut Christmas tree in a stand. Since a living Christmas tree still has its roots intact, it should last much longer indoors than a cut tree if it is well-watered – cut trees can dry out quickly, but a living tree with a root system is much better equipped to take up water and stay hydrated.
3. SIZE & WEIGHT
Living Christmas trees are typically much heavier than cut Christmas trees due to the weight of the root ball. The added weight of the root ball might force you into a smaller tree than if you were buying a cut tree that won’t have a root system intact.
On the downside, living Christmas trees generally cost more than cut trees. However, your investment doesn’t get thrown out with the wrapping paper and empty gift boxes after Christmas. Over the years, your family can build a living collection of holiday memories that you get to watch grow.
LIVE CHRISTMAS TREES OPTIONS
If you’re ready to start your family’s living Christmas collection, it’s time to choose the best Christmas tree for your home and landscape. The right variety will depend on the size of your home and room in which you plan to put the tree, where you plan to plant it after Christmas, and the amount of sunlight it will receive. Some varieties will need afternoon shade while others thrive in our hot summer conditions, some varieties get rather large at maturity while others stay smaller and narrower when fully grown.
Below are some of the most popular live Christmas trees and some that deserve extra consideration given their suitability for thriving in Oklahoma landscapes once their holiday stay inside your home is finished.
1. COLORADO SPRUCE
The Colorado Spruce is famous for its silvery blue-green needles and incredible symmetry. It also carries a good number of heavy ornaments on its needles. The Colorado Blue Spruce can tolerate a good amount of sunlight but, in our part of the country, aim to plant in a spot where it has some blockage from the sun’s hottest afternoon rays.
2. DWARF ALBERTA SPRUCE
The Dwarf Alberta Spruce exhibits soft, dense green needles. It makes an excellent miniature Christmas tree indoors or strung with lights in containers on the porch. It requires afternoon shade once planted outdoors in central Oklahoma.
3. NORWAY SPRUCE CHRISTMAS TREES
If you’re looking for a live Christmas tree with a lovely mild scent, the Norway Spruce is a great choice. Its luscious forest-green limbs form that classic cone shape we love about Christmas trees.
4. DEODAR CEDAR
The Deodar Cedar makes a beautiful living Christmas tree with its gray-green foliage and graceful branches. Make sure you have plenty of room for it once you get it outdoors, however, as the deodar can grow over 40’ tall and 25-30’ wide. Once established, the Deodar is also very heat and drought-tolerant.
Maybe you have never thought to choose a holly as your family’s living Christmas tree, but it could be the tree that keeps on giving for Christmases to come! Several holly varieties produce beautiful berries in fall and winter that could be clipped yearly and used as beautiful additions to garlands and wreaths for your home throughout the holiday season.
Several upright juniper varieties make lovely Christmas trees, and, like the holly, juniper clippings make for nice additions to garlands, wreaths, and Christmas boughs as well. Plus, you’re sure to find a juniper to meet your landscape needs as well; some varieties stay narrow while others get quite wide, and there is a good range of foliage colors available with junipers as well.
7. LEMON CYPRESS
This bright beauty makes the cutest potted evergreen for tabletops and porches during the holiday season. However, it is useful in the landscape long after Christmas. It has a very narrow habit only reaching about 3 feet in width and only about 10 feet in height making it a great choice to flank windows or create a hedge in a tight space. It can even be kept in containers or used for bonsai.
8. ARIZONA CYPRESS
Arizona Cypress is very tolerant of the hot, dry conditions we experience during Oklahoma summers, and it is often used in green belts and privacy screens. The soil where they grow natively is much rockier and better draining than Oklahoma soil, however, so amend tight, clay-like soils to give them ideal conditions.
Have yourself a rosemary little Christmas! Rosemary makes the most beautiful little Christmas tree for a kitchen countertop where it can be used to season your holiday dishes and brushed occasionally to release its lovely scent throughout the home.
10. NORFOLK PINE
Norfolk Pine is a houseplant in our climate, so you definitely don’t plant this one outside after the holiday. You can, however, move it to a covered porch for a few months when temperatures warm up in the spring and summer. Grown indoors it can get up to 8 feet tall.
LIVING CHRISTMAS TREE CARE INSTRUCTIONS
- Transition your tree: When possible, transition your tree from the outdoors to a garage for a day or two before bringing it indoors. Do the same when moving the tree from your home to the outdoors. This will help the tree to better acclimate to the change in temperatures.
- Timing is everything: Your live Christmas tree should stay indoors for no more than 10 days. The warmth in your home may harm the tree or trigger a springtime growth, stunting its growth when you plant it outdoors.
- Choose the right spot: Live Christmas trees like cool spaces such as your porch, entryway, and near windows. Avoid heaters and fireplaces since the warmth makes the needles drop.
- Maintain the live tree indoors: For your live Christmas tree to thrive, water it daily, and keep the root ball covered with a plastic bag. Maintain your indoor temperature at 68° F or less to keep the live Christmas tree from wilting.
- Plant and mulch: When it’s time to plant, position the root ball in the prepared hole, mix the existing soil with Redbud Compost, cover the root ball with the soil and compost mixture, and gently tamp it down to remove air spaces. A layer of insulating mulch helps to prevent freezing, keeps moisture near the root ball, and can even keep weeds at bay.
- Irrigate regularly: Water your live Christmas tree at the time of planting to help it adjust to and thrive in its new location. When temperatures are above freezing, which can be significant portions of Oklahoma winters, your tree will benefit from occasional, deep watering.
Live Christmas trees are an investment in your landscape and create a cool family tradition. Who wouldn’t want Christmas reminders sprinkled throughout the landscape to add extra jolliness throughout the year?!
Dividing Perennials Guide
Dividing perennials is an easy way to refresh your garden. By dividing perennials, you keep your garden from becoming overgrown, you help reinvigorate your flower show, and you fill in empty spaces in your garden (and maybe your neighbor’s garden, too!). Read on to learn more about dividing perennials to keep your garden looking its absolute best.
There are three main reasons to divide perennials:
- Control the size of your plants – Rapidly spreading perennials can get out of control; dividing spreading perennials helps keep them in check. Plants that become too crowded from overgrowth are also more prone to pests and disease as they suffer from poor airflow.
- Rejuvenate your plants – Dividing old plants can rejuvenate them adding vigor and more profuse blooms.
- Increase the number of your plants – Division is really addition when it comes to your perennial garden! Gain additional plants by dividing to fill empty spaces in your garden or to share plants with your gardening friends.
WHEN TO DIVIDE
Most perennials benefit from dividing every three to five years. Generally speaking, division should take place in the season opposite the plant’s flowering season; it is best to divide spring and summer flowering perennials in the fall and fall flowering perennials in the spring. Dividing plants when they aren’t flowering allows the plant’s energy to be directed toward root development and leaf growth.
For fall division perennials, allow about six weeks from division to average first frost so plants can become established in their new homes. In central Oklahoma, late August to early September is a good time to divide spring flowering perennials.
Spring division can be started as soon as the growing tips of the plants have emerged. Don’t wait until temperatures rise too much to divide; it is best to allow time for roots to establish before temperatures become too hot stressing your newly divided plants.
WHICH PLANTS TO DIVIDE
Plants that are spreading to areas they aren’t wanted, plants with bald spots, and plants with flowers that are smaller and less abundant than are typical of the species (or subspecies) are great candidates for division (provided they are species that respond well to division).
Perennials with long taproots should not be divided. Other perennials reseed freely and therefore don’t require division. Be sure to research your species and subspecies of perennials before dividing to ensure you won’t cause stress to a plant that prefers to be undisturbed.
HOW TO DIVIDE
Prepare the area where you will be moving your new divisions before beginning. Bed preparation should include eliminating perennial weeds, adding an working organic matter into the soil, and amending with fertilizer and/or other nutrients as needed. (A simple soil test can determine whether and which amendments are needed.)
Water the plants to be divided a day or two before dividing and make every effort to divide them on a cool, cloudy day. Keep divisions moist never allowing them to dry out. Plant the divisions at the same depths they enjoyed in their previous location. When you have finished dividing and replanting, water each plant with a starter fertilizer to reduce shock and to help the new plants root in and get established quickly.
How you divide your perennial depends on which type of root system they have as well. There are several types of root systems, but three groups cover perennials planted in most gardens – clumping, spreading, and woody.
Clumping perennials grow from a central clump – called a crown – which grows bigger each year producing offsets. They also develop an extensive root system that benefits from division every two to three years to prevent problems associated with overcrowding.
To divide clumping perennials, dig up the entire plant starting a good distance from the center to minimize root damage. Once you have dug up your clumping perennials, loosen the roots to determine where to make divisions. Often there will be obvious divisions; sometimes you will have to exercise your best judgement. Always make sure there is a healthy amount of foliage and root system for each division. The roots of clumping perennials tend to be thick and fleshy, so a soil knife, clippers, or other tool might be necessary to cut through the root system.
Hostas, daylilies, guara, astilbe, and many ornamental grasses are examples of clumping perennials.
Spreading perennials grow by surface or underground roots or stems. These plants’ shoots originate from many locations, and they can often look like separate plants with their own crown and root systems. Dividing spreading perennials can keep those that are more invasive from taking over a space, and it can keep them from crowding out their own centers.
To divide spreading perennials, simply dig up the portion of the plant you want to move making sure to get at least three to five vigorous shoots in each division.
Examples of spreading perennials include lamium, bee balm, creeping phlox, and perennial vinca.
Woody perennials often have rooted layers meaning they had a branch from the original plant that rested on the soil and developed its own root system.
To divide woody perennials, cut the stem that runs between the original plant and the new plant, dig up the new plant, and move it to its new home.
Lavender, rosemary, and thyme are examples of woody perennials.
GIVE IT A GO!
With a little research, perennial division can be performed successfully by even the most novice gardener. This fall, why not give it a try on your spring and summer flowering perennials?! Chances are that your garden will reward you with healthier, happier, and more abundant perennials.