The most common visitor question in the garden right now is "What's that blue plant over there?" On this beautiful first day of the fall equinox, bottle gentian (Gentiana andrewsii), is bringing vibrant color to the autumn garden. This oddly shaped flower never opens, hence its moniker. This native flower co-evolved with pollinators that have wings that beat quickly enough to create vibration.
Monday, we harvested honey from our two bee hives with the Chicago Honey Co-op. We waited until the bees started their morning foraging out in the garden, this way fewer bees were in the hives when we opened them. We did this on a non-rainy day as we don’t want to get the inside of the hives wet. Then we filled our smoker with dried bayberry leaves and broken-up honey locust branches. This makes a nice thick, but cool smoke which has a calming effect on the bees.
Today at Lurie, purple clouds of blooms grace the garden throughout the Light Plate. Wide leaf sea lavender (Limonium latifolium) is a must have garden plant for full sun locations. This tough, drought-tolerant perennial has a lot to give, providing blooms from mid-summer through frost. Even after the purple petals drop, the calyx remains lending an ethereal effect. Looking at the basal rosette of shiny, dark green leaves in spring, you would never guess that such stunning cushions of blooms emerge from them in July.
Lately out in the Lurie Garden you may have noticed some insects of unusual size. Unlike the fire swamp in The Princess Bride, we don’t have a problem with giant rodents. We do at this time of year have a noticeable population of native, solitary wasp species that sometimes startle visitors. Fortunately, the three most commonly found in the garden in August don’t sting humans and are actually beneficial to the garden.
The great black wasp (Sphex pensylvanicus) is a beautiful, iridescent, midnight-blue wasp that is found on rattlesnake master (Eryngium yuccifolium), sea lavender (Limonium latifolium), and blunt mountain mint (Pycnanthemum muticum). This solitary wasp is an important pollinator.