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My summer garden

By Staff | Aug 9, 2017

I must admit I love my garden most in summer . . . more wildflowers, pollinators, and birds to watch. Being a native plant enthusiast for 25 years plus, I am fascinated by the connection between native plants and native wildlife.

The native shrub, white indigo berry, is in fragrant bloom now attracting honey bees, carpenter bees, and hummingbird moths to nectar. During an early morning yoga session, I watched a screech owl chick swoop and snatch a hummingbird moth from a bloom for breakfast. White indigo berry is the plant hummingbird moths lay their eggs on, the only plant their caterpillars eat beside another native shrub, Seven Year apple.

Without these two plants there are no hummingbird moths. Now that is a fun food chain event!

A screech owl pair raised two chicks in my backyard nesting box this spring. Both chicks fledged in June, but continued to fly after and be fed by the adults for close to two months. The owl family came back every morning to roost in the back yard cabbage palms for the day. The parents early morning ritual included a dip in the bird bath before retiring for the day. Soon the chicks learned to do the same. One morning both chicks and mom were in the bird bath together. While I miss the chittering call made by the young owls begging to be fed, I have enjoyed hearing their calls mature.

Summer is also when the bees are nesting. Female carpenter bees are collecting pollen and burrowing holes in cabbage palm spikes to lay and feed their eggs. I sit and watch the shadow of a male carpenter bee patrol his territory above my canvas porch awning. When he tires of searching for a mate he rests inside a large bamboo pole I have hung for him. He backs into the opening so I can see his beautiful eyes up close and personal.

At dawn oil bees and green orchid bees collect pollen and oils from the native wildflower, partridge pea I have planted for them. Here I sit to drink my morning coffee. These naturalized bees are “buzz” pollinators and only buzz pollinators are able to collect pollen from partridge peas. I can hear their buzz as they grasp the bloom, lock their wing muscles, and vibrate their bodies in the key of “C.” The pollen explodes off the flower for them to collect. The females take the pollen and oils they collect back to line their nests in branches and feed their young. You can buy nest boxes for our local solitary bees at the SCCF Native Landscape and Garden Center at the Bailey Homestead Preserve.

I am waiting for the sea grapes, simpson stoppers, and elderberry in my yard to ripen. The plan is to make bitters from these Florida native plants to add to my evening libation! Ah!!! Summertime and the living is easy!

Join Dee for a “Garden Walk at the Homestead” or Owl Tales program at the SCCF Nature Center in August and September. Check the SCCF website for dates and times at www.SCCF.org.

-Dee Century; SCCF Living with Wildlife Educator, Sanibel Captiva Conservation Foundation