A home for pollinators

Special to The Weekly Citizen

After months of suspended activities, the Gonzales Garden Club held its first meeting for the 2020-21 season Sept. 2 online. Fourteen members attended virtually with the promise that more members will access the video conferencing program next month. President Jamie Trisler followed the routine schedule of the pledge, prayer, roll call, old and new business and featured program presentation.

Member Mary Jo Pohlig sits with her Chesapeake Bay Retriever, Sophie, on the deck steps that lead down into her sunny pollinator garden. The blooms are pink salvia, white trailing verbena, orange pride of Barbados and white cat’s whiskers.  The porch shade protects her caladiums, succulents and ferns.

Members cited examples of the impact the pandemic has had on their gardens. Many said their time spent at home resulted in outdoor success. Some stayed away from plant nurseries and bought seeds online; others propagated from what regrew or had young loved ones bring them plants and mulch. A few ventured out to nurseries with masks as their only “essential” outings.  

After recurrent family setbacks, Dale Bowman was able to “get all caught up” in her beds this summer.  Janis D’Benedetto concentrated on vegetable gardening and grew “more than enough tomatoes.” Conchita Richey noted that she “worked in the garden the entire time.  It was my salvation.”  Gwen Heck said her five-year-old garden is now “the best it’s ever looked.” 

The program this month was “Pollinator Plants” by Member Mary Jo Pohlig.  She presented photos of 26 of her plants that attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds and gave unique details about each, commenting on their growth habits and needs. Her favorite easy-to-grow pollinator plants are Mexican flame vine, purple porterweed and zinnias because of how much wildlife loves them. Other reliable sun-loving bloomers include begonia, cassia, cat’s whiskers, cigar plant, coleus, fennel, globe amaranth, hibiscus, hyssop, ironweed, milkweed, moon flowers, passion vine, penta, pride of Barbados, and salvia.  Pollinator plants that acclimate to shade are black-eyed Susan, firespike, guara, impatiens, and Turk’s cap. Prolific pollinator plants that spread are black-eyed Susan, lyre leaf sage, mistflower, ruellia, trailing lantana and yarrow. 

Mary Jo toured her garden in real time using the camera and microphone of her iPad to transmit the images of her flourishing beds.  Members were able to ask questions and get answers about Mary Jo’s garden practices.  According to Mary Jo, “To have success with these kinds of plants, fertilize thoroughly in the spring then add doses of specialty fertilizers a couple of times during the summer.” Besides using fertilizer and mulch, her best advice is “Find the right place for the right plant.”

In addition to membership in the Gonzales Garden Club, Mary Jo Pohlig belongs to the Ascension Master Gardener Association, Sundowner’s African Violet Society, African Violet Society of America, National Audubon Society and Louisiana Ornithological Society.  She is Vice President of GGC plus serves on committees that plan projects and maintain community gardens.

Member Barbara McCormick presented a floral design, which is customary at in-person monthly meetings. She used flowers, and greenery from her home garden to form a crescent-line arrangement which she displayed via Zoom.  There are three recommended horticulture hints for September.  Sew cool season annual seeds. Divide and transplant Louisiana iris. Prune roses up to one third the plant.

This virtual event was part of the club’s efforts to get back to normal. Trisler said, “Our Zoom meetings help keep our community of garden club members thriving.” Another virtual meeting is planned for next month when Marilyn Rice will demonstrate the creation of basic floral designs.