Thursday, May 25, 2017

Red House Garden Pop-up Restaurant

Have you ever been to one of those trendy pop-up restaurants where a celebrity chef opens a restaurant for only a limited time?


Yeah, me neither (and I'd hate to know just how much it would cost for a meal at one), but I love how right in my own backyard there seems to be an array of different pop-up restaurants for pollinators all throughout the season (and the meals are free!)   All the pollinators and their mothers seem to swarm to the hot new location until the spread is over, and then it's off to the next act that pops up in the garden.  And for the past couple of weeks, the hot new place in the garden was...


....the Carolina Silverbell tree, aka Halesia carolina.

This location has caused quite the buzz (literally).  Pollinators of all kinds have been swarming to dine from its hundreds of white bells full of delectable nectar and pollen.  I have spotted all sorts of bees, bugs, and even hummingbirds feasting here when things were open for business.


The Carolina Silverbell is normally a small understory tree or large multi-stemmed shrub and prefers partial shade to full sun and moist, slightly acidic soil.  It is native to the Southeastern US, mostly found in the mountains and Peidmont sections of the Carolinas, hence the name.  I first saw a Carolina Silverbell tree in flower at Duke Gardens when I lived in North Carolina, and I knew I (and all the local diners) wanted one in my own garden.

a Carolina Silverbell at Duke Gardens
My tree is only about 5 or 6 feet tall now (more like a shrub, really), but eventually Silverbells grow to be 20 to 40 feet tall and 15 to 30 feet wide.   They are hardy from zone 5-8 and like some protection from wind.  The wood is rather soft and close-grained, making it valued for wood crafts.  They bloom their small white bells for about two weeks in April or May.  There are also pink-blooming varieties, such as 'Arnold Pink'.


Carolina Silverbell may be only be a limited-time-only pop-up restaurant for the pollinators in spring, but it does offer more bounty for wildlife at other times throughout the year.  Its leaves are hosts for several different moths and squirrels eat the seeds.  I am also very curious as to how this tree got its nickname of 'Opossum-wood'...  (Anyone know the story to that one?  Should I start expecting opossums to move in and partying at my Silverbell tree?)


It is now almost the end of May, and my Carolina Silverbell has finally finished flowering.  The show is over, the restaurant closed up, and the swarms of hungry diners have moved on to find the next eating establishment to pop up in the garden.


I wonder if they will enjoy the next place quite so much?

13 comments:

  1. Love your analogy here to a pop up restaurant. It's exactly that in my garden too. We have C. silverbells in our woods and we just added one to our front garden. I love them. They are loaded with drupes so pollinators did a good job this spring.

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    1. That's neat to see them in your woods! We have a lot of Wild Cherries that are now blooming in our woods, so I think that is likely where the bees are headed next.

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  2. It is always nice to see bees and other pollinators feasting on flowers. Looking forward to seeing photographs of feasting opossums in your garden :-))

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    1. Ha! I think I would get quite the fright if I saw one in our little tree! I do wonder if they enjoy the seeds, though, with a nickname like that.

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  3. Great metaphor and beautiful photos!

    I'd love to have a Carolina silverbell, but my garden is kinda hot and windy in the summer... not much shade either... so I don't know if they would like it here.

    But I'll look into it again given the fact that it's such a hit with pollinators in your garden!!

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    1. Yeah, I'm not sure how it would do with hot and windy in full sun, especially down south. The pollinators definitely enjoy it, though! There are likely better trees that would do well in sun that would also attract them.

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  4. This has been on my "possible" list for quite a while. I don't recall seeing one in a local nursery, though it should grow here. We also have plenty of opossums!

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    1. I would assume it is hardy there, since it is native to the Southeast. I am fortunate that I have a very large nursery not too far from me that often puts together a section of native plants, and I was able to find my little Silverbell there. No opossums spotted yet in it though!

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  5. Great post, Indie!
    My garden is a mini restaurant.
    I love it when it comes to spring and fruit strawberries, cherries
    Greetings.
    Lucja

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    1. I have a lot of strawberries in my garden. The chipmunks usually get them, but I have hope this year that we will get a few!

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  6. The Silverbells are a wonderful tree. There are quite a few at the Lincoln Memorial Garden in Springfield, one of my favorite places.

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    1. A large display of them would be very pretty when in bloom! That's great that the garden has so many native trees in it.

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  7. The decor of your pop up restaurant is classic and the fare sounds delightful. No wonder this was such a trendy, popular place. I just noticed some dracunculus vulgaris getting ready to open in my garden. They emit the odor of rotting flesh to attract flies to pollinate them. Soon parts of my garden will smell like the dumpster behind a pop up restaurant.

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