176- Fred Weisensee - The pollinator plants you need!


Andony Melathopoulos: [00:00:00] From the Oregon State University Extension Service, this is PolliNation, a podcast that tells the stories of researchers, land managers, and concerned citizens making bold strides to improve the health of pollinators. I'm your host, Dr. Andony Melathopoulos, Assistant Professor in Pollinator Health in the Department of Horticulture.

Good gracious that was a long winter, and it's over. Spring is here and it's time to get some plants. And if you're like me, there's so many plants; you don't know where to get started. This episode is for you. This episode is also for you if you know exactly the plants you want, because we've got somebody on the episode who knows some of the craziest nooks and crannies of the plant world Fred Weisensee from Dancing Oaks Nursery.

If you're in Western Oregon, look up Dancing Oaks up in Monmouth. They have some of the crazy interesting plants for pollinators, hard to get plants. But Fred's going to cover it. I think this episode's great for people probably right across the Western US, there's some great plants that can grow in a lot of different climates that we're going to be talking about.

And you're going to hear me scribbling down, trying to catch up, cause I don't know all these plants. So yeah, I'm really glad we capture this in episode. There's going to be a transcript. There's going to be show notes. So without further ado, let's go up the up the 99 to Monmouth with the unrepentant plant addict, Fred Weisensee from Dancing Oaks Nursery this week on PolliNation.

Welcome to PolliNation.

Fred Weisensee: [00:01:42] Thank you. I'm glad to be here.

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:01:44] Now I've heard that people around the state have just doubled down during the pandemic in their gardens. Has this been something that you've seen at Dancing Oaks? Because there has been a surge of interest in gardening over 2020?

Fred Weisensee: [00:01:56] Yeah, definitely. That's true. I would say that last year was our busiest year overall with the nursery. Part of it also is related to being a mail order nursery as well. But I've heard that, at first for a while, because of restrictions, the garden center type nurseries were having some trouble struggling, but that changed as restrictions came down.

And so I think pretty much, most nurseries in the end did pretty well, but we did because of being both a retail where people can come with social restrictions, and mail order just exploded.

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:02:35] I'm glad for that. I imagine it was a nervous time. The pandemic really ramping up just during garden season and how that was going to pan out. I'm really glad that things worked out for you. I think maybe just to begin with... Everybody in the mid Valley knows about Dancing Oaks. We had Al Shay on previously and he was talking, how wonderful it is to have the nursery.

Tell us a little bit about how the nursery got started and what what's your vision or what has been the vision for Dancing Oaks?

Fred Weisensee: [00:03:00] The vision evolves over time. It's a journey. Probably, it's a good, it's a good thing you don't know what you're getting into maybe. Maybe not start at the beginning, but no, it's been a great journey. We were living up in the Oregon city area and I'm a physician, so I was practicing up there and we had thought about at some point moving down to this area where I grew up.

So I grew up part of my growing up was this very farm that we're living. And then that I grew up across the Valley. We come from rural areas. We enjoyed living up there, but at some point we thought we would move down. And when I started looking into jobs just for the future, there were jobs immediately available for me.

So we had to make a decision if we came down here, and that really started because now we're living on a lot of land. Leonard was working at a nursery, and now that we were living on more land, we just started down that road of establishing a nursery. And as we went along, we were inspired by other nurseries Northwest garden nursery.

I don't know if you've heard of them. They've changed a lot, but they're down in Eugene area. At the time, I think that there was also Cistus starting, and nurseries like that, where they would have a garden and then also be selling plants that inspired us. We were very interested in having a garden, and we thought that we really enjoyed nurseries that had a garden where people could see things growing. Plus we would get the experience of growing them and that would be, and it has been very helpful in knowing what to tell our clients, what to tell the customers.

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:04:33] Absolutely. I can just imagine. And also just the experience of coming to a place where you can see the plants all in place in a design.

Fred Weisensee: [00:04:43] Yes, so we love gardens. And many of our customers coming asked a similar question. It could be analogous, to two heroin addicts that own a pharmacy.

And so we are completely undisciplined plant collectors. We have had various phases of collecting various genus of plants. But really we haven't found too many plants we don't like' Leonard of course now is getting a little more concerned. He's having to prune up a lot of these climbing roses that have gotten on to things. And so he's not so enthusiastic about those, but as long as they don't hurt too much. So we have everything from bulbs, perennials, shrubs, trees periodically some annuals, but really mostly perennial type plants, everything from bulbs to trees at the garden.

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:05:42] Now, when I talk to somebody and they think about pollinator gardening, they think about a lot of plants that are native to Oregon. I think about just walking around the neighborhood here, I can see all the lavender, oregano, but Dancing Oaks is the place, Al for example will go when he's looking for unusual plants, particularly native plants.

Why are some of these unusual plants? Why did you take this direction in your business? Tell us a little bit about that.

Fred Weisensee: [00:06:05] As far as our customers go also, they are quite interested in native plants. And we are also very interested in native plants. And especially, there are selections also of native plants that can be maybe have a little more interest for the gardens; they can give some different characteristics that might be more appropriate for a garden, for instance. Because they're adapted to our climate, and because there are many pollinators like we're talking about that may depend on them, we decided that should be part of what we do is offer native plants and perhaps some native plants that many people don't have access to and you can't get at many garden centers.

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:06:48] Fantastic. The key thing I did want to do in this show is, I know with there's such intense interest in pollinators and gardening this coming up this summer and also that people are aware that there are some, some really beautiful plants that you can incorporate that are pollinator plants.

I thought we'd go through the seasons and pick out some of the plants that you're excited about. And I was thinking about maybe starting right now, late winter, early spring. I imagine now we're dealing mostly with blooming shrubs and trees. Do you have some plants that you really love or recommend for pollinators?

Fred Weisensee: [00:07:22] This time of year? Yes. We ever have to put out any hummingbird feeders, and we have hummingbirds here all season long. And since we do, it's very important to us to have plants that bloom through this period of time, which it can challenging. There aren't as many plans to bloom through the winter.

Right now, among them, we have a wide range of both ribes and which are the currents or gooseberries. And also Manzanitas, the archostaphylos. So among the ribes, we also have incorporated some or Southern...when I say Southern, I mean like California or Southern Oregon varieties, because they will tend to bloom earlier here.

So for instance, we have ribes malbacium that's blooming now and has been blooming for last few weeks. And so that the hummingbirds or bees both can utilize that plant. And then following that will be the same. Which is a more common ribes for our area, or ribes lobbii, which is a little harder to grow.

It's one of the native gooseberries, but has this beautiful fuchsia-like flowers that dangle from the stands and also orange colored thorns, which even before it leaves out, it can be quite striking, but it needs a very good drainage. It's fussy. It doesn't like a lot of disturbance.

So some natives can be a little challenge. And they're not always, just because they're from here doesn't mean that they're going to be necessarily easier to grow. And then the manzanitas, we also borrow many from both southern Oregon and California. Cause they can do quite well here.

And there's one called Siskiyou pink, for instance, that is blooming now. But others are starting to bloom as well, some of the densiflora. Sometimes they'll bloom a little earlier. So the manzanitas are definitely something that the hummingbirds and also bees will go for.

And then there are also some mahonias, which there's a native mahonia, which tends  to bloom a little later, but in the winter time, there's some mahonia media crosses, and one of them i s  Arthur Menzies.

And there's another variety called charity, winter sun I think is another variety. There's there are several of those. They can get quite a bit taller. We'll talk about, I know one of the other questions is some that go from maybe, fall to winter. And there's some that might do that. Actually charity's a good example of when we get there. 

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:10:10] We're recording this the first week of February and I've seen  Manzanitas and those a hybrid  mahonias blooming right now. So they're fantastic. Are any of these plants difficult? I often think that Manzanita is one of the trickier ones. You said that the not the current, but the gooseberry was a little bit difficult.

Fred Weisensee: [00:10:30] I would say the manzanitas, that the problem often is that people over water them in the summer. So they're used to going through grout. And so if they get water too much, not allowed to dry out in the summer.

So if they're near a lawn, that's getting constant water, they will be subject to root rot. So you want to put them in an area where they get minimal... if they're going to get water, it's only intermittent in the summer and the winter there they're adapted to getting wet. They just don't want to be in what I would call soggy soil.

So if you have to, you can elevate them some, that will help. I wouldn't say they would want a lot of digging around them or things like that could introduce disease. So you can mulch, but I wouldn't be digging too much around them. I don't think.

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:11:19] Okay. Any of these plants suitable for some of our folks who live in condos, any container gardening possible with these plants?

Fred Weisensee: [00:11:27] The manzanitas possibly. I think that you might have a hard time moving them from one size to the next is the only thing, but we do that.

They do want to get bigger. So it's a possibility. I know some people have taken them for bonsai. I'm not sure how they've done with them. We have not done that, but I know people have taken them to do that, and so it would be interesting to see online, you probably could find out if people have had luck with that.

I hate to say that. The ribes, they could be tricky. We have trouble from season to season and pots with them. So I would say that for this time of year, those kinds of things are going to be a challenge. One thing that might work or some of the smaller, would be some of the evergreen vaccinium, the huckleberries. Might be better in a pot. That's a possibility.

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:12:23] Okay, fantastic. And listeners, if you if you're listening to this, and say "I did it," please write in. We'd love to hear it.

Fred Weisensee: [00:12:29] Exactly. Just because we kill them, doesn't mean you might have better luck.

Yeah. One of our mottos we thought should be is "we kill plants so you don't have to." I love that because we have so many used labels that a plant amnesty really should come out here and take us away. So I don't know if you want to hear about, there are some non-natives that that also are very good for this time of year.

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:12:55] Absolutely. I was thinking rosemary; I've got rosemary right outside my window here that's doing great.

Fred Weisensee: [00:13:02] Yeah. So that's a good example. And then also there's a shrub, a viburnum called bodnantense, and this in a selection called pink dawn, and that blooms all winter long. It's fragrant and the hummingbirds will go for it. Bees will go for it. And it's very easy. It does get a little taller. It can get up to 10 feet or so, but fragrant starts the end of October and blooms through March.

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:13:35] Oh, isn't that delightful?

Fred Weisensee: [00:13:37] That's a great thing to have if there's nothing else.

That is hardy, and deer don't really like it. You can cut it back easily. So it's an easy plant. Obviously, if you cut it back I'm not sure if it would bloom. So it may bloom on old wood, so you'd have to watch how much you do that. The other that can be cut back in a very cold year is some of the grevilleas, and one in particular.

They're from Australia. So you'd wonder how they could help our pollinators, but it's grevillea victoria. And a variety we have is called murray valley queen. And it has these orange spidery blooms all winter long, and the hummingbird birds go for it. I think it's because in Australia they also have bird pollinators.

They don't have hummingbirds, but they have other bird pollinators. And pollinators are often opportunistic, and so they will, some of them are more flexible than others. And see, the hummingbirds seem to be very opportunistic. So those two are shrubs that will bloom to the winter. And that can be very helpful.

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:14:43] That’s really remarkable because at the place where I live as well, there are some hummingbird feeders, but there's a number of plants. And you can just see them; they're just hanging on to them. They're not traveling very far, but they're just ready to sip nectar out of those flowers. And, having them bloom there is just fantastic for them.

Fred Weisensee: [00:15:01] Yes. And so we don't have any hummingbird feeders, and yet, when you go out into the garden around certain plants this time of year, you can hear them. You can hear the hummingbirds. You can hear them before you can see them necessarily. And that will only increase into the summer where we get lots of hummingbirds and sometimes we'll even find a nest, which is very exciting.

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:15:23] Let's move past this period. Let's move forward a few months. What are some of your peak spring plants that you love?

Fred Weisensee: [00:15:31] I'm probably in the earlier to mid spring, there's also a native plan called darmara. I don't know if you're familiar with Indian hellebore I think is a common name.  Darmara peltada. And it blooms before the leaves come up. And it likes either shade, or it can be in full sun if it gets enough water, but they'll put up a kind of a light pink bloom.

And then we'll get these big leaves throughout. They're quite beautiful leaves throughout the rest of the season. So that is a native plant that usually grown and more kind of wetland areas, but if it has some shade, it doesn't want to be totally dry, but it doesn't need to be a wetland that's for sure.

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:16:20] So this is distinct from all the, most of the hellebores that we see popping up right now. This'll be a native, right?

Fred Weisensee: [00:16:25] Yeah. That's a common name, and has it has really nothing to do with that. I mean it's Oh, I should've said rhubarb. Did I say hellebore? I'm sorry. Indian rhubarb. Sorry about that.

And then the native mahonias. Is there's repens, nervosa, and aquafolium, all three of those they vary in their height, everything from just a ground cover to something that's more like almost, four foot tall and they will go through their periods of blooming throughout the spring. And, another one... oh, I don't know if you're familiar with the native red bud cercis occidentalis.

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:17:05] I love it.

Fred Weisensee: [00:17:07] Yes. That is a really heavy bloomer in May and that unlike the Eastern one, it is much more direct tolerance.

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:17:15] Is that right? I didn't know that.

Fred Weisensee: [00:17:17] So it likes to be in the sun. If you happen to be driving down to the Ashland area and Northern California in May, you'll see them on their hillsides, which just absolutely bake in the summer.

And yet they're lush and blooming in May, and very brilliant. So their blooms, I think, are actually heavier than the Eastern varieties or the ones from Oklahoma or Texas. And they do quite well here. And then there's the ceanothus. Many varieties of the ceanothus. They're going to be heavy bloomers mostly in May.

They're also very drought-tolerant. And there are some varieties like centennial or repens that can be like ground cover. So these are many of the native ones to the West. Both from Oregon down into California, are evergreen. And repens and centennial are low growing; they can be just almost ground huggers. And then there are others like blue jeans that are much or victoria. Victorias can be quite big. Six to eight feet or more. And then blue jeans is more like maybe five feet or something like that, anywhere from light to darker blue color. And they are just covered in bees in the spring.

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:18:38] They're such a great bee plant. And I guess, I was just referring to somebody the other day... Neil Bell had done over at Oregon Gardens, the variety trial. And, it's just remarkable that the sizes, the shapes of ceanothus that you can get. But I remember Neil mentioning the problem with winter kill. Some of them are a little bit more sensitive I understand.

Fred Weisensee: [00:18:58] That is true. And that used to be something that had been more common and hopefully I won't be made a liar later this week, but knock on wood or whatever. We have had some very, very mild winters. In fact, the last two winters, we would consider them zone nine winters where we don't get below 20 degrees.

And so that's one thing I wanted to bring up in our conversation was that, because what we've noticed is if we were to rely completely on native plants, that we would go through a period in mid to late summer where we wouldn't have much blooming. Because of the, the change in climate are a lot of our native plants are blooming earlier and they're done earlier. So the late summer can be a desert in, as far as blooming plants that are only natives. If you don't include some plants from Southern Oregon or California, or even prairie plants are great ones to use because they get summer rainfall, and so they're used to blooming throughout the summer. Whereas a lot of our natives are adapted to drought, and so go dormant in the later summer. So that can be challenging if you just rely on native plants, you may have trouble for the pollinators.

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:20:25] And that was a message that in the last two episodes we've had Al Shea; he's really emphasized this really thinking about that late summer period and filling in with some good water-wise non-native plants that can keep that bloom going.

Fred Weisensee: [00:20:39] And so there are plants, both from other parts of the US where there is more heat, and so that's one of the major things we've found is the heat part, blooming while it's hot, and not pushing them to dormancy. Some of these plants that are from the plains, the central part of the US will adapt to drought.

You may have to just get them established the first year, but for instance, ansonia has been an excellent plant once established in a dry garden. After its first year it'll bloom in the spring, it gets a nice lavender or blue flowers. And then in the fall the foliage turns golden.

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:21:17] Oh, I'm just looking, it's a beautiful plant, gorgeous flowers. `

Fred Weisensee: [00:21:21] Yeah. And so they're native. Many of them aren't native to North America. They definitely attract our native pollinators. Another is the baptesias, which are also native to North America. And once they're established, we have found them to be quite long lived and really easy plants to grow. And also it's nice. We'd like to incorporate some legums into the mix of plants so that we can encourage nitrogen fixers. And we want to grow a variety of species. So that underground, there is this interaction that occurs when you have diversity, where plants actually share resources to get nutrients from each other.

And there is evidence that they can also so help with getting water. And some plants that are deeper rooted will also open up clay soils and help with the water drainage. So having a mixture of plants, I think helps. I think it helps with also encouraging a wider, a range of insects so that you have less predatory problems with insects.

When you're attracting a wide variety, I think it is a better balance. It doesn't mean you won't have any insect related diseases, but I think is minimized.

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:22:40] Yes, that's a great point. And I remember Gail Langellotto emphasizing this point of thinking about ecological function, a diversity of functions.

And I love the way that you've described this. You have a plant that really fits the garden, the aesthetic later in the summer, it gives you a nice shot of beautiful blue flowers, but at the same time fixing nitrogen, conditioning the soil and the whole suite, the whole design is not just aesthetic. It has this functional dimension.

Fred Weisensee: [00:23:06] Absolutely. So we are integrating a lot of plants. Some of them, a lot of natives and other things from around the world to see how they interact, see if they will adapt to our climate, and see if they are being visited by pollinators.

So we're doing all those things. And over time we decide to edit some things out. Either they don't really adapt well, or they're not really thriving with that kind of treatment. Other things that we also like to incorporate bulbs, and many, any of them are more seasonal. That's why they are a bulb often, is because they are set up to have their show and then go dormant, and hold on to that energy for the future.

And alliums are great ones to try, because generally they don't have a lot of predators to go after their bulbs, and they can be quite showy. So yeah, we've incorporated a wide variety, both as selections that are hybrids, as well as even some of the native ones, such as cernuum, the nodding onion, which is a gorgeous onion in the garden and adapts.

It is not invasive. Or one from the middle East such as christophii is quite interesting. It's sorta like the that one that kind of blows in the desert, then rolls. Anyway it's like that in the middle East in it gets this giant, like16 inch across inflorescence  that is beautiful to dry through the season. It it's almost like fireworks are blooming or sometime in late May and in June, very stunning. But it only gets two feet high, so it's not real tall but it is amazing how... tumbleweed, that's the word I wanted to use.

The inner parts of it are interesting. The outer parts of the seed head don't really have much seeds. It's more of the inner parts. The outer parts actually helped to make it roll. So we don't see it doing that here so much, but in the middle East sorta like Lebanon, Israel area, it exists and there on the plains, when it dries up, it starts rolling and then dropping seeds as it goes.

These seed heads are great. You can use them during the holidays or whatever and spray paint them if you want, or just leaving them up in the garden.

I think they're also beautiful as they age and turn kind of the straw color, or silver colors. We are not really quick to begin to deadhead things or take them out because oftentimes the seeds of a lot of these plants are also important for other birds, or other insects. So sometimes the garden is not always tidied up right away.

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:25:44] And again, I think Al Shay was he was going on about really emphasizing this point of waiting until after it gets warm enough for the first insects to fly, to start to tidy things up to give the birds a chance to clean up those seeds and all the life that goes on with these stocks and stems.

So when you're thinking about where to put bulbs in a garden, I often see them just on a border or, somewhere visible. Is there any tricks to these bulbs you were mentioning, for example rodent damage?  How do you get a good bulb establishment?

Fred Weisensee: [00:26:15] Bulbs do vary, but alliums for instance, they like to be in the sun. So being too shady is not going to work. There are some bulbs that do okay in the shade, but you'll want to really check on that, because most bulbs are going to want to be mostly sunny. And I would say most bulbs do not want to be overwatered in the winter either. Not the winter summer.

The winter is not as much a big deal, but many of these bulbs are adapted to Mediterranean type climates. Mediterranean climates are very rich in bulbs. There are bulbs that come from other areas, but I would say the Mediterranean regions world are rich and bulbs and they have adapted to summer drought.

And so you want to take that into consideration. They can be mixed into borders, but they do not want to be constantly wet. So a slope is a good idea or a place where you don't water. You let them dry out in between watering. There are many plants that will get away once they're established, and especially, I think that if there was a mixture of plants and you mulch, you can get away with less water. And I think part of that is what happened. I think the plants do help each other with acquiring water, but also I think the mixture of plants helps as I was talking about earlier, opening up the soil.

And so you get better penetration of water into the soil and then it holds on to it better. So I think that sometimes you might be over-watering some areas of our garden. And we just don't have that luxury. Our gardens too big to be watering a lot of it all the time. So a lot of our plants have to adapt to getting intermittent water.

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:28:01] Oh, that's great. That's great. Let's take a break. I want to transition now into the summer. So let's take a quick break and we'll be right back.

Okay. We are back at the break. We there's a whole lot of plants. We just didn't get into. There's such great plants. Tell us about some of the plants that we've missed in our first kind of pass of our Spring bloomers.

Fred Weisensee: [00:28:32] So one of the natives that people aren't aware of that blooms in May and June is sanguisorba, which is a burnett sanguisorba menzeizii. And that gets to about two or three feet and has side say two to three inch long, almost like maroon caterpillars, the dangle from these long stems. And I liked them because they also have a certain movement, any plants that bloom and have movement like a grass does have movement, is wonderful to add to the garden because having something that moves at the wind really adds another dynamic, I think, to enjoy them.

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:29:06] And these are really a stunning color and I can see there on those thin stalks. I could just imagine them waving with just a little bit of wind. That must be really beautiful.

Fred Weisensee: [00:29:14] Oh, yeah, there's another one called lavender squirrel tail. And that, that even gets longer blooms that dangle, some of them are more upright, but those type have really long ones that are very interesting.

And we talked about the sidalcea and the cusickii, which is a really nice one because it's a darker, some of them were a pale pink. This is a really nice dark, deep pink. Butterflies and bees really like it, and it will bloom also in May. And then there's a penstemons and many of them from the mountains.

And some of them bloom in the spring, some will bloom spring to summer to fall. Some of them are really very long blooming, so penstemons can vary. And some of them, if you cut them back a bit, will also just keep blooming.

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:30:04] And I think with those two plants with sidalcea and our penstemons, we find some of our oddest native bees on those plants. Those are real heavy hitters when it comes to the more esoteric bees.

Fred Weisensee: [00:30:16] That's right. Yeah. There are some very rare Oh, one thing I didn't bring up that is a great plant to incorporate in a garden is the delphinium trollifolium. Many people don't know about that. That's more of almost a woodland, could be a shady meadow area.

These delphiniums have beautiful foliage, green rosettes that that are very full in the spring, and then they put an imflorecence up with the blue and a white center.  It is gorgeous.  It gets up to about four feet, it is completely drought-tolerant and then goes summer dormant.

So you can have it. You can have an area within a garden or with light shade, meadow garden. And it is completely carefree.  Other than if you want to cut it back later, you can, but it is a beautiful native.

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:31:06] And I really want one.

Fred Weisensee: [00:31:11] It's beautiful in mass. So we have an area under Oak tree where there's like a 20 foot by 20 foot or more mass of them that comes up every year. And it's, I would say like April, May, it's stunning.

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:31:25] Wow. Okay.

Fred Weisensee: [00:31:27] I'm glad I thought of that. I forgot about it, but should we talk more about some of the summer ones?

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:31:33] Let's move to summer. And I know a summer seems on the distant horizon at this point, but when we get we get into that drier, hotter part of the year, what are some plants that that you recommend for pollinators?

Fred Weisensee: [00:31:47] So there's a fire weed. There used to be epilobium but now there's chamerion, I think is how it's pronounced. And what this one is slash shrine. And it's a smaller one. So it doesn't get as big as what we think of when you see fireweed out in the woods blooming, late summer. This one starts blooming early summer, even maybe late spring and only gets maybe two to three feet tall.

It'll pretty much bloom all summer long and it is completely drought tolerant. And hummingbirds and bees, maybe butterflies, I don't know, all of those will really go for it. And then there's ereophyllum lantanum, which is our native Oregon sunshine, and it varies from what area you get it from.

They can be somewhat green with a little silver frosting to the foliage. And the bright gold daisies that are held above it. Usually if you want it to bloom all summer, you almost have to cut it back some pretty hard, and then it will rejuvenate, get the foliage again, and then it'll re-bloom.

The foliage can be quite silver. So it varies from that kind of green with the silver specs to very silvery. And it's a low growing, with the blooms maybe a foot, something like that. It's pretty low and very drought tolerant. And then echinops. Some of the echinops which are in the thistle family.

Globe thistle is a common name. But they are really beloved; they're covered in bees, also butterflies, very disease resistant. They can be pretty drought tolerant. They're an excellent addition.

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:33:41] I remember looking at a study from Europe, looking at just absolute nectar production. And I remember echinops were amongst the highest. There's a reason why there's so many insects just traipsing across those globes.

Fred Weisensee: [00:33:55] Yeah. They add an interesting shape to the garden too, some are architectural, very upright. And then that round bloom. And in the right, in the morning and evening light, they just glow and they can be intensely blue.

There's one called Oxford blue that we have that is really intensely blue. Another plant that's similar is the eryngium, or the sea hollys.

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:34:20] Oh yeah. Another funny looking plant.

Fred Weisensee: [00:34:23] Yeah, they can be funny looking plants, very structural also. Excellent as a cut flower. They can be everything from intense blue.

They can start out green, but then the blue just bleeds into them through the summer. Or they can be more silvery. Starting out green and then adding silver. Silver white, like Mrs. Willmott's ghost, which is eryngium giganteum. And either one, they add a structure and architecture to the garden that also is interesting. Some of the plants are more sprawling and loose, these are add some solid architecture, I think, to the garden as well.

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:35:06] I can totally see that.

Fred Weisensee: [00:35:07] They are always covered with pollinators. And then there's the, also the Coreopsis the tickweeds.

They are often late and sometimes late spring, but more when we get some heat, and they really can keep blooming well into the late, almost into the fall.  Many of them will just keep blooming. And they're very easy to grow. And then let's see, there was a, Oh, and then anaphalis margaritacea, which is the pearling everlasting, our native pearly everlasting, with the white blooms. And that blooms quite a while from the mid-summer and it is like a pearly everlasting. It's something that it looks good, even into the winter. You can cut it back later if you want, but it has structure that stays in the garden.

And then epilobiums, which they used to be zauchneria, are related to fireweed. Many of them can grow in Southern Oregon or into California. And they can be anywhere from six to eight inches tall up to maybe two to three feet. They generally have either very silvery, soft foliage, or a little green, but they will start blooming like July and then bloom through September with orangy red tubular flowers. Very good for hummingbirds for bees.

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:36:44] Oh, that I've just, I just pulled the picture up and I always wondered what that was and now I see them. Oh, that's what those are. I've seen them all around OSU. Al has planted them in a number of spots.

Fred Weisensee: [00:36:54] I'm sure Al Shay has taken great advantage of them because they're so easy.

They really are easy and they also fill in that late season. And their drought tolerant, so there's a lot to like about them. And then there are some of the prairie plants that are good to consider are like the vernonia. I don't know if you're familiar with that. Vernonia is iron weed.

And so iron weed, there's several different selections of iron weed. Lettermonii, iron butterfly is another name for it. So definitely good for butterflies. And then there's also missurica I think, but those are late blooming perennials kind of similar to Joe pie weed, but not as big.

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:37:43] Okay. Okay.

Fred Weisensee: [00:37:46] And then verbena vonariensis, have you heard of that? Verbena vonariensis.

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:37:53] Oh yeah, there it is. Yes. I see it.

Fred Weisensee: [00:37:57] That is great for bees or butterflies, especially, and it blooms a long time. Also pretty much all summer. Totally careful free. And the inflorescence are like held on very narrow stems, so it looks like they're suspended in the air. You hardly notice the structure of the plant because pretty thin. But it holds itself up; it doesn't fall, it doesn't collapse in the wind or anything. The structure is fairly significant, but it's great.

 Because it's held up higher, more like four to five feet, so it's more like high level and they're almost like they're floating above the garden. Very interesting effect.

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:38:42] Oh, I can see it. It looks like you've got these little purple... the stems are quite slender and it looks like you're just walking through these floating blooms. That's crazy. I love it.

Fred Weisensee: [00:38:57] So a couple other native things. Many of us, when we think of our native spirea, we think of spirea douglasii, which is a fairly big shrub. And it may be a little too big for many gardens. And so other options could be spirea betufolia, which comes from the cascades and it's lower, maybe only three feet tall and very drought-tolerant and sun tolerant.

And it has more of the flatter blooms that butterflies often go for. And it pretty much blooms most of the summer. And then in the fall it has beautiful reds and oranges and purples. So I think it's a great drought tolerant... it can take some water, but it doesn't need it.

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:39:49] And they bloom a long time. The ones on campus are really blue for months.

Fred Weisensee: [00:39:55] Then another native is spirea densiflora, and it's a little bigger and it has more of a pink bloom. Not as long as douglasii, in between the two. And it also gets nice fall color. It seems to be pretty long blooming as well.

So those may be more manageable for our gardens, just like holodiscus, the ocean spray, can become quite a large shrub. We're trying to introduce some smaller ones that come from Southern Oregon, or the Rockies that maybe only get three or four feet that might

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:40:36] work out better.

That would be great. It really does hum with bees, but it, the ones that I've seen in gardens are huge. They are so tall.

Fred Weisensee: [00:40:48] Yeah. So many people may not want to take up that much space in their garden, and so having something smaller so it has room for other things, that may work out better for many people.

And then another plant we really love is the verbascum bombyciferum  polar summer, or Arctic summer. And that is a stunning vertical plant. It's foliage can last all through this through the winter. It's very powdery silver colored.

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:41:22] Oh, I see it.

Fred Weisensee: [00:41:23] It's very soft, and then it puts up an inflorescence that eventually can get up to eight feet, and it blooms all summer with these soft yellow blooms, constantly covered by bees.

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:41:36] And the foliage is really white. 

Fred Weisensee: [00:41:40] Yes. If you can imagine that contrasting with that verbena, it's also very interesting.  So a lot of the summer flowers are going to be in the hot colors, the reds, the yellows, maybe purples. And then you add this, that silver color in it and it's a nice contrast, a cooling color. So that cooling upright and it's playful too because as it gets even bigger and begins to have some movement in the afternoon breezes we often get.

And it's nice to add some vertical to the garden so that it's not all rolling mounds on the ground. Something that's eye level I think adds interest. And plus the verbascum also have these deep roots and I think that's another example of something that opens up the ground and  I think helps drainage and break up the soil as well.

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:42:38] Yeah. I can just imagine having those tall spikes in the middle. Yeah. Awesome. Great. These are awesome

Fred Weisensee: [00:42:46] Good ideas. Do you want to hear about more in that time, or do you want to move on to others?


Andony Melathopoulos: [00:42:54] love to hear more. If you've got two more heavy hitters, let's do that. And then we'll move into the next season.

Fred Weisensee: [00:43:01] Something for later summer is a salvia from Texas areas, and so it can take the heat. Salvia repens.  It's called repens, but there is an upright form and this one is called blue willow, and it has arching stems. Gets up to three to four feet, and then they create almost like a fountain of blue blooms.

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:43:25] Wow. I can see it.

Fred Weisensee: [00:43:26] And the bees and hummingbirds love it. And it has movement with it. We have it along a path going up to the pavilion in our garden. And in the late summer, it is just gorgeous, lining the path, seeing the insects going for it, and then the movement it's it adds a lot of interest that time of the year.

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:43:49] It's a beautiful plant. Oh, that's great. I haven't seen it before. So this is wonderful.

Fred Weisensee: [00:43:54] And then the group of plants are called are called mountain asters are orange neurons. They are great. They bloom all summer and into the fall. Sometimes they need to be cut back, but if you don't have a lot of room and you want something that's going to give a long season of interest, orange neurons or mountain asters are a good thing. And certainly a lot of there are a lot of pollinator, like the bees and butterflies tend to go for them, not really so much for the hummingbirds, but bees and butterflies. Excellent.

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:44:26] That's a great transition because lot of our asters are going right into the fall. What did we have for fall and maybe a little bit into winter?

Fred Weisensee: [00:44:34] So asters are certainly good. There's the Eastern asters, and then there are a group of asters aster lateriflorus or Erika folios, and they have lots of little blooms. So there's one called Prince, which has very dark foliage and in kind of light pink or almost white blooms. And then there's one called snow flurry. That just covers the ground. It just like a ground cover, solid white. And it's actually interesting because another time to that I enjoy walking in the garden is when the moon getting full or almost full because things like this the snow flurry will just pop; that white color will just glow.

So definitely if you have plants that have white blooms or white foliage or varigated, those are really fun in the moon garden too. You should go out in your garden that time of year. I mean that in the evening, like that the best time I think is late summer or fall because  it's not so late when the moon comes up, it gets darker a little earlier.

So that's a time to really enjoy that. And there are a lot of things that bloom at night and are fragrant at night that you don't smell during the day too.

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:46:00] I'm looking at some images of snow flurry and it almost looks in some cases, almost like a ground cover.

Fred Weisensee: [00:46:07] Yeah. During the rest of the year, it does lose its foliage in the winter. But it is yes, during the summer it is a green ground cover. And then it is a mass of flowers in the fall.

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:46:21] It sure is. You can't see the foliage anymore.

Fred Weisensee: [00:46:26] It's completely covered in white. It's amazing.

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:46:28] Amazing. Awesome.

Fred Weisensee: [00:46:31] And so I'm also the solidogos, the golden rods. So canadensis is our native one, and it can be a little invasive and you have to have a good placement for it because it can take over, but it is very important for our native pollinators. So if you have a place where you're not necessarily watering a lot, or it's on a hill strip or something like that, you could consider that.

But there are other there are other selections of solidago that like we have one called fireworks that is very upright, does not spread, gets about three to four feet tall and has more horizontal blooms.

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:47:12] Crazy looking.

Fred Weisensee: [00:47:14] And that one really gets a lot of pollinators and is quite striking. We have an example of it with the plume poppy. I don't know if you've heard of plume, that has very gloucousy foliage with kind of a plum colored unpoppy like looking bloom. It's more like a plume rather than what we think of the pedals of most poppies, but that combination of those two together is stunning. 

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:47:41] I’m seing one picture here against some purple asters and that's a great color combination.

Fred Weisensee: [00:47:45] Yes, that is. The asters and the golden rods are a great combination. Absolutely.

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:47:52] I'm really glad to hear you say this because I know lots of people are nervous about solidago.

They think it's just going to be a monster it's going to take over and these look great.

Fred Weisensee: [00:48:02] No, we have many selections of solidago that have been well-behaved and we have grown them in the garden and that's how we know we've seen them over the years. And I can tell you that canadensis, yes, if to give him the right situation can be aggressive. But there are many varieties that... I think it's solidogo rugosa that is the particular species for fireworks. So that one is really excellent, but there are many others as well.

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:48:29] Oh, fantastic. I'm so glad to hear that it is such a great pollinator plant late in the season. It just really does attract a lot of... and I also see like little parasitic wasps and other really great... it's an easy flower for a small insect to get into.

Fred Weisensee: [00:48:42] Yes. Now we already mentioned the vernonias, and they are going to be late blooming perennials. So that's good. And many of, the penstemmons just keep going into the fall.

So that, and also agastache, or however you want to pronounce it, the mint bush, those I've noticed some of those varieties will go well into the fall. And they have edible flowers that you can taste them; they have a very minty kind of minty sweet taste and they also can be used to make or be put into a tea to add flavor as well.

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:49:23] Stands to reason. That's great.

Fred Weisensee: [00:49:28] Yeah. Next time you view it make sure that it is a agastache, but you can definitely safely eat any of their flowers. And they're like a breath mint, right? So I think that's a very good option that is more than just the fall.

It's really goes all the way through. Helianthus. Also some of those that Helianthus can be good for both the summer and into the fall as well. They can go earlier fall. Later fall there are some non-natives for instance, arbutus unedo, the strawberry bush. And there's one selection we have that is called Octoberfest that starts blooming late October and into the early winter and has a darker pink bloom. And doesn't it doesn't get that big, maybe five to six feet rather than a big tree.

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:50:21] Oh really?

Fred Weisensee: [00:50:23] An evergreen shrub and then the following year, they will also get the strawberry like fruit that's very interesting. And then also that time of year we can see in the late fall of the Mahonia x media like a charity will start blooming. So that's a bad one. It can get up to eight to 10 feet tall and have these candelabra like upright yellow blooms that are both fragrant and great for pollinators especially since there isn't a lot else happening that time of year.

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:51:04] That is fantastic. I think that brings us all the way over to the where we started. Practically.

Fred Weisensee: [00:51:12] Yeah. There's so many plants. One of the plants I forgot to mention earlier was the monardas.

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:51:20] Oh yeah.

Fred Weisensee: [00:51:22] And there are the fistuloas, which are the native ones, but any of the monardas are going to be great for butterflies, especially. Those are a great one to introduce.

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:51:31] This is fantastic. And I guess coming the whole year round, one of the things many of us are excited about midway through this bloom season is the Pollinator Festival on National Pollinator Week at at Dancing Oaks.

Now last year was I imagine it was canceled. And yeah, that was because I got a notification from you. 

First of all, for people who don't know,  it's been going on for a number of years now, and  there's vendors from all sorts of community groups there doing pollinator education. Tell us a little bit about the event and what's in store for the future.

 Fred Weisensee: [00:52:06] At the moment because of the way the rules are and everything we haven't planned on it because it may not be allowed. And so we hate to get the groups together to do it and not be able to do it. But it is a celebration and educational opportunity celebrating the pollinators and having some education, also activities for kids.

And these are some practical things, like we've made a small nests for a Mason bees. We've given people the materials and where they can actually make them and show how to make them using natural materials such as teasel and to make them. And also have activities for kids, like where they will they'll have these balls, they can throw it, try to pollinate the flowers and they can stick to flowers, things like that, or pictures where they can take pictures with through where there's a there's a place for your head to go, and then there's a flower around it. And so people, kids can take pictures of that. But let's see. I had some information about, we would have combinations, we'd sell pollinator friendly plants as a group or individually and have specials on them.

And then we also have many different groups that could provide education about certain things like the Audubon society, Benton Soil and Water District. The Corvallis Environmental Center, Marion Master Gardeners, Oregon Bee Project, Oregon Flora, Oregon State Master Gardeners, Xerces Society. And then there was also local providers.  There was a cider company that came and then we had some vendors selling food as well.

And then there was music throughout the event. It's a one day event. And we really encourage families with kids or anybody to come. And then we did tours of the garden where we would focus on pollinating plants and give people ideas about what they could do and answer questions.

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:54:05] Well, 2022, I'm looking forward to it. I got it on my calendar.

Fred Weisensee: [00:54:10] Yes. I think that we'll see what activities we can get away with this summer. We may be able to do smaller things.  The rules have been such that encouraging larger gatherings like that have either been completely illegal or greatly restricted. So we'll have to play it by ear and see what kind of things we're able to do.

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:54:31] I'm looking forward to things resuming, but I am so glad that we have such wonderful plants in our gardens to keep us company.  I'll be really cheered up as we come out of winter and some of these plants are going to start to bloom as I go on my walks; it's going to be wonderful.

Fred Weisensee: [00:54:48] Yes, it is very exciting. And today was a great example of that already.

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:54:52] Thank you so much, Fred. Good luck with your season and thanks for taking time to talk with us today on PolliNation.

Fred Weisensee: [00:54:57] You're welcome. And thank you so much for talking to me. I look forward to seeing people out in the garden soon.

Andony Melathopoulos: [00:55:06] Thank you so much for listening. The show is produced by Quinn Sinan Neil who's a student here at OSU in the New Media Communications Program, and the show wouldn't even be possible without the support of the Oregon legislature, The Foundation for Food and Agricultural Research and Western Sera. Show notes with links mentioned on each episode are available on the website, which is at pollinationpodcast.oregonstate.edu

I also love hearing from you and there's several ways to connect with me. The first one is you can visit the website and leave an episode specific comment, you can suggest a future guest or topic or ask a question that could be featured in a future episode, but you can do the same things on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook, but visiting the Oregon Bee Project.


With people either reving up to start or spruce up their pollinator garden, we sat down with a local nursery owner about some of the plants he most recommends for bloom across the year. 

Fred is now living on the family farm in the foothills of the coast range, northwest of Corvallis and this is the location of Dancing Oaks Nursery and Gardens. He moved to this site in 1995 with his partner Leonard Foltz. The nursery has display gardens that are used to grow various plant communities and as a source of propagation for plants sold on-site and online. Fred has a full time medical practice in Corvallis.

Links Mentioned: Dancing Oaks Nursery

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