What’s blooming now?

“The earth laughs in flowers.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson

So, what’s blooming now? With the garden at it’s summer peak, a lot! Here’s a look in photos, but please come out and see for yourself:


Rudbeckia fulgida var. sullivantii ‘Goldsturm’ - Black-eyed Susan


Zinnia elegans – Zinnia


Asclepias curassavica -Tropical Milkweed (reseeding annual)

20140615_095800 Shasta Daisy

Chrysanthemum x superbum – Shasta Daisy

Verbena canadensis (Brazilian Verbena)

Verbena bonariensis – Brazilian Verbena


Lagerstroemia indicaCrape Myrtle


Phlox paniculata ‘Barten’ – Garden Phlox 


Nepeta subsessilus ‘Cool Cat’- Catmint 


Lantana camara ‘Miss Huff’ – Lantana 

Honey Bee on Coreopsis Crop

Coreopsis verticillataThreadleaf coreopsis


Borago officinalisBorage

20140615_095750 Hydrangea and Asters

Hydrangea arborescens - Smooth Hydrangea


Salvia guaraniticaBlack and Blue Salvia  


Ageratum houstonianumAgeratum 


Stokesia laevis – Stoke’s Aster



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Great spangled fritillary on Coreopsis 

Monarch on Liatris

Monarch on Liatris spicataBlazing Star



Monarch Waystation dedication ceremony

“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.” – Maya Angelou

On Wednesday, June 18 2014, the “We Dig Pollinators” team celebrated our Monarch Waystation certification with a brief ceremony in front of 60 Master Gardeners, friends and family.

Smiles all around

We briefly thanked all of the sources of our research and support – especially the Carolina Butterfly Society. We also credited Monarch Watch, the Pollinator Partnership, All-a-Flutter Butterfly Farm, and of course NC Cooperative Extension, Guilford County Center.  (Note these are links to their websites for more information).

Then the unveiling!

Vanna and the big reveal

The best part of the ceremony, though, was about to take place – the release of 50 monarch butterflies! The butterflies had been sleeping in a cooler overnight, and we warmed them up gradually in the shade before the release. We passed the individually boxed butterflies out to everyone for the mass release – once we counted to 3, everyone opened their boxes, and the butterflies flew upward pretty quickly before settling on flowers and taking some long drinks of nectar – they were really hungry!

Baylee handing out butterflies The release Pure delight

Several photographers contributed their photos of the monarchs below on  zinnia, aster, rose campion, blazing star, and lantana.

Monarch on Zinnia Monarch on Stokes Aster Monarch on Rose Campion Monarch on Liatris 2Monarch on Lantana

We’re now scouting for eggs on our milkweed, and eventually – caterpillars! Stay tuned for news and more photos.

Our first bamboo trellis also made it’s debut on Wednesday, and we’re collecting more donated bamboo for our next one.  Here are some of Catherine’s trellis design sketches, and the first finished product – come on out and see the vines as they grow!

Trellis DesignsBamboo Trellis 1


Happiness is a Butterfly

“Happiness is a Butterfly, which when pursued is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.” – Nathaniel Hawthorne

So, yes – we have added a chair to the pollinators garden, and it too is evolving along with the garden and its inhabitants. We acquired it as a donation from our advisor Janet Sommers, and it was brown composite. Very nice! To integrate it into our garden’s red theme, we decided to paint it, and team member Mary Flinn completed the paint job. The chair is making its debut just in time for today’s annual Master Gardener picnic – and – National Pollinators Week!

Red Chair

So please, have a seat in the shade and just watch. Experience the garden and all the wildlife that uses it. Let it come to you. If you just walk through, you’ll miss much of the beauty. In addition to Butterflies, Bees, other Insects and Birds, we have resident Skinks that bask in the sun on the beams that define the tiers of the garden. Toads hop around the garden, and we’ve given them shelters of broken pottery. And there are Crayfish that have long called this garden home – maybe the Greensboro Burrowing Crayfish, a species only found here!

Sign draped

But wait – what’s this? Another red ornament, or something more important? Come see the unveiling at 1:00 today in the garden. We have a delightful surprise waiting for you. Something that will help populate the garden with pollinators. And these are pollinators that desperately need our help!

Please share our Blog on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. And we’ll see you in the garden.



Today in the garden

“The glory of gardening: hands in the dirt, head in the sun, heart with nature. To nurture a garden is to feed not just on the body, but the soul.” – Alfred Austin

What a blast we had working in the garden today! The humidity just could not “dampen” our spirit or progress. Weeding, mulching, installing a mason bee house (picture to come in a future post), and trellis-building were among our accomplishments.

Something we completed a week or so ago was prepping and painting all the old rusty sculptures and ornaments in the garden. These photos show the before & after look of one of the ornaments. It really pops with the red color, which we chose to attract pollinators. You’d think that they’re only attracted to flowers, but think about how hummingbirds can spot a feeder from a distance. It’s the color that tells them to come closer and check things out.   IMG_20140510_110202_57320140612_121934

Plus, which one makes YOUfeel happier? To “de-rust” the little critter, we used Naval Jelly. Readily available at the home-improvement stores, it’s pretty inexpensive. Just follow the label instructions and away goes the rust, leaving a paint-ready surface.  It will discolor copper, though, so it’s best used on iron ornaments.

We had a visitor today – Dennis Burnette of Carolina Butterfly Society stopped by to see how things are progressing and snap some photos for a future presentation.  One of the questions we asked Dennis was “How far will a monarch caterpillar crawl to find shelter when it’s time to make the chrysalis?” His answer surprised us – they may go 30-40 feet, which in our garden would mean they’d go to the dogwood or holly. They like a lot of cover for that part of their life cycle. So if your caterpillar disappears from your milkweed and you don’t see the chrysalis nearby, don’t worry! Just wait for the butterfly to emerge when the metamorphosis is complete.

20140612_095807 Dennis Burnette

Dennis, Janet, Mary, and Catherine discuss the garden’s progress, and next steps.

That’s all for today – come out and see our trellis in progress. The first of three is about 75% done.

Hello World!

20140612_130030 Crop 1

You have found your way to “WeDigPollinators.net” – a blog and gallery of the curation of a Pollinators’ Garden at the Guilford County Center of the NC State University/NC A&T State University Cooperative Extension service. Our Pollinators’ Garden resides within the larger Demo Garden, designed and maintained by Extension Master Gardener Volunteers.

We have about 1500 square feet of terraced space, excellent soil, and lots of sun to work with. We also were awarded grant funds from the Carolina Butterfly Society in order to establish an appropriate native habitat for butterflies. There has previously been work done in this garden, as strictly a “Butterfly” garden, so we have been able to build on that work.

The Pollinators’ Garden team consists of 8 Master Gardeners: Janet Sommers (class of 2012) is the project leader, and has a real passion for learning and teaching about bees, butterflies, and other pollinators, and what they need to thrive. The rest of us are new 2014 interns, just earning our “wings”: Baylee Smith, Catherine Aiken, Christina Larson, Deborah Staves, Judy Harvey, Kathy Bellows, Mary Flinn, and Phoenix French. To research our topic and plan our tasks, we have attended seminars, read books, and researched internet sources of information on how to provide host plants, nectar plants, and shelter plants in a garden setting.

When we began our ownership of this project, it was still winter here in the NC Piedmont, and since most of the plants we inherited are perennials or deciduous shrubs, there wasn’t much excitement. There were some plant labels, though, and a database and photos to guide us.  We are still working on identifying a few plants that weren’t labeled – as they grow and bloom they become familiar to us and we match them with the database and plants in our own home gardens.

One of the first things all gardeners must do when planning or renovating a garden is test the soil. Kathy collected our samples, mixing soil cores from several spots in the garden in a clean bucket, and mailing it off to the NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services soil testing section. About 10 days later, we had our report, which outlined soil amendment recommendations. Kathy also donated the lime and fertilizer we needed to add based on those recommendations. We will address the complete soil testing process in a later post.

Our next task was to begin planning what to plant in addition to what was already in place. We all weighed in with our favorite native varieties and created a list of “must-haves” and “nice-to-haves”, with bloom time, color, height & width, and sun/shade requirements all part of the mix. Some plants were donated that we had grown from seed or divided from our home gardens, and some  were purchased.

Next came planning the location of the new plants, with consideration given to their eventual mature size. Mary had sketched a schematic of the original plantings on Day One, and we have used it to guide our decisions throughout the process. Each time a new plant was added or moved, Mary added or moved it on the diagram. This way, we can document the whole process from start to finish. There were a few nice garden sculptures that we inherited, which cleaned up nicely once the rust was removed. We painted them a bright red to help attract hummingbirds and other pollinators. We like the red color, too! It really pops against the greens of the garden.

Another educational aspect of our project is to design and build three different trellises in order to demonstrate some of the options that home gardeners have. We decided to use bamboo as our trellis material, and Phoenix found some in the adjacent barn that had been abandoned many years ago. The bamboo cleaned up great, but was too big for anything but the outer frames. We are currently on the hunt for a source of smaller bamboo. One interesting note on bamboo trellises – make sure you don’t use green bamboo for the posts that go into the ground, unless you pour concrete footers. You don’t want it to sprout! But green bamboo is fine for the internal elements.

That’s all for this post, but check back for our photo gallery, links to resources, our diagrams and designs, and especially – more info on how you can create a pollinator-friendly habitat in your own space.

Documenting the process of creating a pollinator-friendly garden in Guilford County NC