There are fewer spring bulbs for hummingbirds, but those that attract them are spectacular. The California native firecracker flower (Dichelostemma ida-maia), which blooms in May or June, is especially unique and pretty. The standard form is red, but ‘Pink Diamond‘ has deep pinkish-purple flowers. Orange-red crown imperials (Fritillaria imperialis ‘Rubra Maxima’) are also outstanding spring bulbs that hummingbirds enjoy. The tall, bold flowers bloom in late spring as hummingbirds start visiting the garden. Finally, late-spring blooming foxtail lilies (Eremerus hybrids) are visited by both hummingbirds and bees. They produce tall wands of pink, orange, or yellow flowers. Plant their bulbs in very well-drained soil amended with Black Gold Garden Compost Blend.
“What is the pollinator for summer squash? I stopped trying to grow them after getting zero fruits last summer!” Question from Robin of Warner, New Hampshire
Answer: It is frustrating when squash do not set fruits. There can be several reasons why, but the primary reason is lack of pollination. The main pollinators are bees or all types, but squash (Cucurbita spp.) are native American plants, so they have unique native American bees specialized for pollinating them. Squash bees are small and come in two groups (Peponapis species and Xenoglossa species). They are solitary, meaning that they do not create hives, and they ONLY pollinate squash.
Keeping a Yard for Bees
Your squash should be enough to encourage squash bees, but if they are not abundant in your area, then you will need to rely on other bees to do the job. One way to encourage more bees to visit your vegetable garden is to plant swaths of garden flowers for bees nearby. Surrounding your garden with flowers is a great method. Bees love easy flowers like zinnias, cosmos, marigolds, sunflowers, and black-eyed-Susans. (Watch the video below to learn more about flowers for bees.)
It is also essential to refrain from using toxic pesticides in your garden. These kill bees that happen to land on a sprayed spot. Harsh chemicals in the garden aren’t worth it.
Sometimes fertilizer imbalance can contribute to poor production. Be sure to feed your squash with a quality fertilizer formulated for vegetables. Low light can also cause poor fruit set, so give your plants full-day sun. For additional information, I recommend that you read this article: Why Aren’t My Squash Bearing Fruit and Do They Have Borers?
Black Gold Horticulturist
Late-summer fields and meadows dotted with clouds of soft purple, violet, and white daisies are the surest seasonal sign that fall is here. These welcoming, cool-hued composites counter the warm oranges, yellows and burnished shades of goldenrods, perennial sunflowers, and black-eyed Susans. Garden-variety asters are even prettier, crowned in blooms that may venture into pink and magenta shades. For gardeners, there are no better flowers for the season.
Your garden’s pollinators and migrating songbirds would agree. Aster flowers attract bees and butterflies by the hundreds, and once pollinated, the seed heads become much-sought forage for songbirds. And, if these native flowers fare as well as they do in untended fields and byways, imagine how well they will do in your garden with little care.
Top Six Garden Asters
My top six asters for garden performance tend to be compact, tidy and heavy flowering. All have been proven to grow well in the regions of the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic where I have lived:
Wood’s Purple New York Aster (Symphyotrichum novi-belgii ‘Wood’s Purple’) —Loads of soft violet-purple flowers cover this low, shrubby aster (2-3’) in mid to late September.
October Skies Aromatic Aster (Symphyotrichum oblongifolius ‘October Skies’) —Many golden-eyed violet-blue flowers are the glory of this October bloomer. Plants reach an average of 2’.
Raydon’s Favorite Aromatic Aster (Symphyotrichum oblongifolius ‘Raydon’s Favorite’) —Blooming in late October to November with large, violet-purple flowers, this is a taller (3-4’) bushy variety that always performs well. Cut plants back by half in June for better flowering and tidier growth in fall.
Purple Dome New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae ‘Purple Dome’) has a bushy habit (1.5-2′) and rich reddish purple flowers that really stand out in mid-fall.
Lovely Calico Aster (Symphyotrichum lateriflorum ‘Lovely) —Clouds of tiny pale lavender flowers bedeck this bushy (2.5-3’), dense aster in mid to late September.
Alma Potschke New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae ‘Alma Potschke’)—One of the tallest of the set (3’), the deep magenta flowers sets this aster apart. These should also be trimmed back by half in June for better growth and flowering in fall.
When interplanted with tidy bunch grasses and dwarf goldenrods, garden asters look naturalistic yet refined in the late-season garden. Planting can happen in fall or spring.
Start by picking a sunny, open garden spot. Naturalistic beds look most at home in gardens with soft, sinuous bed lines, so consider reshaping your garden to fit the character of your new plantings. Newly turned beds should be amended with a quality additive that encourages drainage while adding organic matter, such as Black Gold Garden Soil, though many field asters also grow well in clay soils.
Choosing good, complementary plants is essential. Your top picks should be vigorous, sun and heat loving, and have complementary habits, foliage and bloom times. When considering what asters to plant, talk with someone who knows and grows these plants in your area.
Other Perennials to Plant with Asters
Floral compliments to all of these asters include Golden Fleece autumn goldenrod, Table Mountain willowleaf sunflower (Helianthus salicifolius ‘Table Mountain’), and the hybrid Happy Days sunflower (Helianthus ‘Happy Days’). All are compact and provide golden fall flowers that complement the cool colors of asters. Interplant with soft, airy grasses. The bunching, plush prairie dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis), mounding Carousel little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium ‘Carousel’) and steely Elijah Blue fescue (Festuca glauca ‘Elijah Blue’) will add compact texture and provide winter interest.
The real beauty of these plantings is that they provide effortless late season charm and rare color that will light up any garden.
Is there a stronger magnet that draws one into a landscape than huge, super big flowers? I’m talking about blossoms the size of a small child’s head, a Sunday dinner plate, or a brass trumpet. Why would nature produce such enormous blooms when they rob energy from the plant? As pleasing as large flowers are to us, the plant’s primary purpose is to attract the right pollinator.