Bugs are Buzzing: F4P at HMR

Annuals are blooming, and bugs are buzzing at the HMR Flowers for Pollinators site. Because there are many native, and some non-native perennials surrounding our plants here, we know it’s a big deal when insects choose our flowers.

So far I’ve seen many native bees and flies enjoying the flowers of Salvia coccinea var. Coral Nymph. S. coccinea has unique stamen that protrude far from the flower. In some cases the pollinator burrows deep inside the bloom for nectar, while pollen from the long stamen is deposited unknowingly on the insect’s back. However, below we see a Green Sweat Bee who seems to be more interested in pollen than nectar – he dangles directly from the flower’s long stamen, and is covered in fluffy Salvia pollen. Many flies have also been using S. coccinea flowers to sun themselves, similar to the one pictured below.


Other critters have shown interest in various annuals planted at HMR. Melampodium ‘Showstar’ has been a popular choice for native bees, while Cosmos ‘Double Click’ and Marigold (Tagetes) ‘Bambino’ seem to be attracting an odd variety of caterpillars so far this summer. I’ll be keeping an eye on those and other flowers with the hopes that a wide variety of pollinators will enjoy the gifts they have to offer.


It’s been very exciting to observe all the insects on our annuals so far this summer. I look forward to sharing more with you all soon!


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How this all got started: Pollinator counts in 2015 at the Arboretum

Contributed by Mary H. Meyer, Extension horticulturist and Professor, U of M

Total insect counts on four zinnia cultivars and six salvia species or cultivars were taken at two locations during July-September 2015 (minimum of 1IMG_10478 counts/days at each location) in the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum Chaska, MN and the University of Minnesota campus Display and Trial Garden in St Paul, MN. A block of plants 6-12 plants per cultivar were planted in full sun in late May or early June.

Insects were counted on flowers (assumed to be pollinators) and included honeybees, bumblebees, ants, butterflies, native bees, flies and other insects. Four different people did the counts.salvia zinnia final 2015 summary for 2017 website

Counting pollinators on 15 annual flowers
In the summer of 2015, pollinator counts were taken from June 15-July 23, 2015 at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum annual display garden. There were 23 collection times; all counts were taken by one person who counted pollinator insects on the following 15 annuals. Flowers are listed in order of pollinator visits. Michelle Wisdom, a student intern at the Arboretum in 2015, collected this data.


Pollinator counts 2015 for Y&G Blog


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2017 F4P sites planted!

It’s been a busy time – and the weather kept throwing us curve balls! – but we have the three 2017 Flowers for Pollinators sites planted!

Horticulture Display Garden – U of M West Central Research and Outreach Center, Morris, MN – Located on the prairie of west central Minnesota, this garden was voted the best public display garden Morris logoin Minnesota by WCCO. Thanks to Steve Poppe, research scientist and overseer of the display garden, the F4P planting is located smack-dab in the center of the garden just off the main drive. WCROC staffer, Joe Knight, is overseeing the F4P garden. The F4P site in Morris is a free-standing bed that includes a mulched path and central seating area where visitors can be surrounded by the (hopefully!) buzzing of our pollinator audience!


Flowers for Pollinators site, Horticulture Display Garden, WCROC, Morris, MN. Planted 6/6/17

Horst M. Rechelbacher Farm, Osceola, WI – Known primarily for his creation of AVEDA, the late Horst Rechelbacher was a conservationist. He and his family opened their 360-acre property in Osceola to the University of Minnesota Bee Squad in hopes of helping research, teaching and outreach about conserving pollinators and preserving our priaries, woodlands and waterways. The F4P planting has the rock star location of bordering the foundation planting around the newly-renovated spa building where is it managed by Plant Squad staffer and U of M horticulture grad, Lindsey Miller, and HRM gardener Cheryl Elliott.


The F4P garden borders perennials along the Spa. Planted 6/12/17.

Horticulture Display Garden – U of M St. Paul campus – A Living Laboratory! Thanks to the Department of Horticultural Science, I was able to plant the third F4P site in the often visited Horticultural Science Display Garden. Earlier posts on this blog identified the 3rd F4P site as the 3rd floor courtyard of the Mayo Building on the East Bank of the U of M. After closer inspection, I found this site did not meet the planting space requirements for a F4P site (250-300 sq ft) having only raised beds totaling only about 85 sq ft. This planting is part of the Living Laboratory program sponsored by U of M Facilities Management / LandCare.


New location: Hort Science Display Garden, St. Paul campus. Planted 6/9/17

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Happy birthday, Carl Linnaeus!

Born May 23, 1707, in Stenbrohult, in the province of Småland in southern Sweden (1),

Solanum lycopersicum Virginia Sweets fruit2

Tomato (Solanum lycopersicum L.)

Carolus Linnaeus is considered the father of modern taxonomy and the creator of the binomial naming system. What does that mean? Without his classification system, we would be calling a tomato Solanum caule inermi herbaceo, foliis pinnatis incisis, meaning ‘solanum with the smooth stem which is herbaceous and has incised pinnate leaves’. Under Linnaeus’ method, the tomato is simply Solanum lycopersicum (2). When you see an “L.” after a Latin name, this indicates it was named by none other than Linnaeus.

(1) http://www.ucmp.berkeley.edu/history/linnaeus.html
(2) https://scientiaandveritas.wordpress.com/2013/04/15/carl-linnaeus-the-man-of-many-names/)

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Results: 2016 Flowers for Pollinators

In 2016, U of M Extension Master Gardeners throughout Minnesota planted 24 varieties of annual flowers and observed pollinator activity throughout the summer as part of the 35th annual Master Gardener Seed Trial. Varieties included:

2016 plant listVolunteers were trained by extension educators and sent seeds to start on their own. Germination was challenging for some plants like Rudbeckia due to cool, wet weather. As plants started blooming, volunteers observed and counted pollinator visits to the flowers twice a week over eight weeks. Participants noted pollinator visits for each flower variety group over one minute, recording which pollinators landed on its flowers: honey bees, bumble bees, native bees, flies, beetles, butterflies / moths, and wasps. They also recorded weather conditions ( temperature, sun / clouds, wind).

Based on the volunteers’ recorded pollinator observations, the following varieties appeared most attractive to pollinator insects:

  • Zinnias were by far the most attractive to
    pollinators with a total of 1702 pollinator


    Bumble bee on Zinnia ‘Pop Art Red & White’

    visits across the four varieties. Noted varieties included ‘Pop art red & white’ (599 visits and ‘Envy’, a chartreuse flower. Hover flies (634) and native bees (320) were most widely observed on these flowers.

  • Attractive marigolds included ‘Bambino’ (413) and ‘Tangerine dream’. Hover flies and native bees visited these varieties equally with approximate equal frequency.
  • Salvia varieties (1024 total pollinator visits) that were most attractive to pollinators included ‘Coral Nymph’ (349 visits, 50% by hover flies) and ‘White swan clary sage’ (238).
  • Attractive Rudbeckia varieties were ‘Irish eyes’ (543) and ‘Orange fudge’ (238).Hover flies and native bees comprised the majority of visitors (940 total pollinator visits).


    Soldier beetle and native bee on Rudbeckia ‘Orange fudge’

  • Sunflower variety ‘Lemon Queen’ (348) was visited most often and almost equally by honey, bumble and native bees. Sunflowers overall had 785 total visits.
  • Snapdragons were the least visited of all varieties (436). The variety ‘Chantilly cream yellow’ was the least visited of all 24 varieties observed (73 visits, approximately 50% hover flies).
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2017 Plant list and planting info

Snapshot of plant list

The F4P plant list has grown! 2017 includes favorites like cosmos and expands the choices of marigold colors, some pretty splashy Zinnias, sunflower sizes for containers) and Salvia colors and flower forms.
2017 plant list




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2017 Flowers for Pollinators underway

“What annual flowers attract pollinators?” continues to be the focus of our Flowers for Pollinators study, now entering its 3rd season! Three sites will feature plantings of 30 different annual flower varieties including winners from 2015 and 2016. Planting sites in 2017 include:

  • the Horst M. Rechelbacher farm in Osceola, WI, where the U of M Bee Squad has been conducting pollinator research and the Plant Squad has been active;
  • the Display Garden at the U of M West Central Research and Outreach Center in Morris, MN;

    LL sign 2017

    Living Lab sign

  • the 3rd floor courtyard of the Mayo Building outside the U of M Center for Spirituality and Healing (will the pollinators know to come to the 3rd flr of the CSH?) This site, located on the East Bank of the University at 420 Delaware Street S.E., Minneapolis, MN 55455, is also Living Laboratory hosted by the U’s Department of Operations Facilities Management.

Pollinator observations and counts will be made at each site, just as in previous years. This year, however, we are adding a bit of “citizen science”! Survey cards will be available at the Morris and CSH site for visitors to record their own pollinator observations on particular flowers. We are hoping this activity will help raise people’s awareness of pollinators and hopefully they’ll add some of these plants to their own gardens.

Seedlings 051817

Zinnia ‘Starlight zahara’ seedlings in the greehouse

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