Bee and Butterfly Friendly Plants

Bumble bee on pink flower

Bumble bee on pink flower

When choosing new plants to go into your landscape it is important that they not only be drought friendly, but bee friendly as well! Bees are at the cornerstone of our ecosystem as their pollination helps our crops thrive. Unfortunately with so many plants dying, the drought is hitting them the hardest. So we need to do our part to help them out, and there are some really easy and attractive ways to do it.

One website called Buzz About Bees says:

Believe it or not, there are many excellent drought plants out there, that are highly attractive to pollinators. Initially, many people who find themselves with a dry or drought garden, may believe their options will be limited and their gardens will be dull. However, drought landscapes and gardens do not have to be boring – they can be truly inspiring and striking. By combining different textures, forms and colours, the effect created can be visually stunning. Herbs, wildflowers and succulents especially, provide great options for gardeners wanting to attract bees to dry areas.

Succulents, such as sedums are great drought resistant plants. They are able to store water in their fleshy leaves and stems. Their compact heads ooze nectar during the late summer, and are loved by bees and other pollinating insects.

Many herbs can tolerate dry conditions. Try:

Lavender – lavender thrives in gritty, dry soils, and will buzz with bees in the summer.
Origanum, (Marjoram) – the culinary oregano can be enjoyed by both you and the bees!
Sage – both culinary and wild sages are not only good drought plants, they are also good bee plants too.
Thyme – low-growing thyme can also be grown on a green roof – although it may then be difficult for you to harvest some of it!
Rosemary – will provide valuable food for bees early in the year when other foraging opportunities are scarce.

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Cornflower

Many wildflowers are well adapted to tolerate dry conditions, and most prefer nutrient-low soils. Excellent drought plants that attract bees and other pollinators include:

Poppies
Bird’s foot trefoil
Cornflower
Candy tuft
Toadflax
Thistles
Bugle (Ajuga)
Achillea

Here is a website that features more drought-smartplants for bees,  and here is a link to the original article.  So remember our bees as you plan your garden and while you’re at it, butterflies and birds as well.

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Making Our Yard More Drought-Friendly

Over the past few weeks we’ve been posting articles about how to keep your landscaping looking great during the drought. Today, we thought we would put that information into action in our own yard.

Old Lawn

Here is what our landscape looked like before the drought.

The first thing we needed to do was some math to decide how much water our current landscape was using to find out how we could reduce that number. Here are the calculations Jeff came up with:

“As a Landscape Irrigation Auditor and Architect, part of my job is to estimate landscape water use when I design a project.   This approach can also be used when evaluating an existing landscape.

“For our project I wanted to look at how much water the old lawn needed to remain healthy and to estimate the water need for a new landscape based on the anticipated plant selection.  Below are those calculations to give you some idea on how much water can be saved.

“There are many variables when it comes to water use: local evapotranspiration, or the water which is evaporated and transpired through the leaves of the plants; plant factors, or the amount of water a plant needs to be healthy; hydrozoning, or grouping plants with like water needs together; and irrigation efficiency, or how effective our system is.

“So with our plan to remove the old lawn and plant with a combination of low water need plants and edibles, the calculations below give us an idea of how much water can be saved with proper preparation and water management.

ETWU (Estimated Water Use)

(This is based on removal of our old lawn 14’ x 34’ or 476 sf)

ETWU = (Eto) x (0.62) [PF x HA + SLA]

IE

Eto = evaptranspiration rate (45.3 annual)

0.62 = conversion factor

PF = plant factor

HA = hydrozone area (high, medium, low water needs by square foot)

SLA = special landscape area (edibles in square feet)

IE = irrigation efficiency (.85 for proposed drip application. 75 for lawn heads)

Hydrozone  – as a lawn – high water need

(45.3)(0.62)[.7 x 476] + 0 = 28.08 x 444.26 = 12,475 gallons per year

.75

Hydrozone – if modified to low water need plants only

(45.3)(0.62)[.3 x 476] + 0 = 28.08 x 167.64 = 4,708 gallons per year

.85

Hydrozone – if modified to combination of low water need plants and edibles

(45.3)(0.62)[.3 x 412] + 64 = 28.08 x 145.41 + 64 = 4,083 + 64 = 4,147 gallons per year

.85

“From these calculations, as the new plants mature, we can conserve almost two thirds the amount of water (or 8,000 gallons of water per year) as required by the lawn.   Now I love a lawn as much as the next person.  It provides an area for play, gathering, etc., but this is the step we decided to take to help lower our water use and to do our part as we work through the drought.  If we all could do something similar, even on a small level such as this, in the City of San Jose alone, with 1 million of us, we could conserve hundreds of millions of gallons of water per year. ”

After crunching these numbers it was a pretty easy decision to let the lawn go. But what to put in its place? We currently have two twenty-eight year old redwood trees, two California heritage prune trees, an orange and a lemon tree, plus a side yard filled with an olalleiberry bush. We want to protect all of these things despite letting the lawn go and find a more water-friendly way to sustain our existing landscape.

DSCN0995

This is what our landscape currently looks like now that we have let the lawn die out. (And trees have matured)

To replace the lawn, we decided we would built two raised beds and plant edibles like herbs and vegetables. This way not only are we saving water, but we also get to save a little money at the grocery store! With the changes we are making, we will also continue to provide habitat for birds, butterflies and bees while also adding to our food harvest.  Through these kinds of changes to our garden, and more importantly to our way of thinking, we can conserve enough water to continue to have a vibrant, attractive garden.   One that is manageable and one that continues to provide an important environment for us all.

Look for what you can do as we share our process and next steps.

A Lifestyle of Conservation

Throughout human history, the development of large civilizations was possible due to the direct access and possession of an abundance of fresh water.  However, as the world’s population continues to expand—by 4 billion in the last 50 years alone—our large civilizations are headed towards lengthy periods of water stress, scarcity, and finally crisis.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has predicted that by 2025, 1.9 billion people will be living in regions with absolute water scarcity, with a further two-thirds of the world’s population potentially living under stress conditions. Water stress, scarcity, and crisis are varying levels on the availability of fresh water within a region.  Scarcity denotes a distinct imbalance between the supply and demand of available water.

Though the eventual global solution potentially lies in discovering new methods of purification, conservation of current water supplies is the immediate key to maintaining our civilizations.  This begins on an individual level, using techniques and practices in our homes and gardens. In the coming posts we will cover specific methods such as xeriscaping, ecologically native plants, and even replacing water-costly lawns with sustainable kitchen gardens.vegetable-garden-133441298497619Nzh

Making conservation a part of your very lifestyle is crucial to the long-term preservation of our water supply.  One person simply being mindful of their water consumption may not have an immediate impact, but one billion people sharing a mindset, a lifestyle of conservation could make all the difference.

Architecting Sustainable Landscapes

Old_oak_treeAn old Greek proverb says “a society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they will never sit in.”  In other words, the pinnacle of a civilization is when its citizens develop future-thinking lifestyles.  The future of humanity resides in discovering and crafting sustainable ways of life, and this can begin now with our homes, or more specifically, our landscapes.

The purpose of this blog is to provide clients with practical tips and information regarding environmentally friendly, sustainable options that can work within a particular client’s aesthetic needs and desires, with a keen eye towards Northern California’s ecological systems.  We will explore topics such as the use of California native plants, as well as home gardens and water conversation, especially the latter, as water is our most valuable resource.