Greenwalks

Gardening where the sidewalk ends

Molasses July 10, 2010

Filed under: bugs,flora,summer — greenwalks @ 10:19 am
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That’s the speed of my blogging, blog reading, and gardening this summer. Or slower. More like a wet bee, one of which I found on some lavender I cut and brought inside in the rain last week. Luckily, I have not been stung too frequently in my life, so it wasn’t a big deal to let the bee crawl on my finger so I could take it outside to transfer it to a flower (Campanula persificolia) for some drying-out time.

Soggy bee

It didn’t sting me, and when I went back later to check, it had gone, so I hope it was able to fly away.

The rains have gone, the sun is here, the garden is taking care of itself by necessity and if I can water every couple of days, usually as the sun is setting after 9:30pm, that’s life in the big city.

How is your garden growing so far? Do you have time to actually enjoy it? I hope you do!

 

Bee-autiful Poppies June 10, 2009

Filed under: bugs,flora,my garden — greenwalks @ 5:26 pm
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I have a lot of poppies in my garden at the moment, all bright (loud, really) colors, all about to have a bunch of interesting seed heads but also floppy, dried-out foliage. Many will get yanked to make room for summer annuals, a few more perennials that need to be liberated from their pots, and my growing herb collection.

While they last, though, the poppies not only put on a riotous visual show but also get the bees going nearly insane with delight. I am easily distracted from garden tasks (and they are legion at the moment, including boring endless watering since we have had no appreciable rain since mid-May – what is this, California?!) and love to watch and listen to them wander around the garden and roll around in the pollen. Here is one in the big showy red poppy right outside our front windows:

Bee in poppy

I know we are supposed to be worried about colony collapse, but I have seen a ton of honeybees this spring so maybe things are not so bad as they have been? Anyone know?

I had to hold onto this smaller poppy to take the photo, since the bee was making it wave around so much. Darker bee, maybe a mason bee? I don’t have bee houses so whoever comes to visit, they are making their own homes and hives.

Bee in orange poppy

Lastly, I don’t know quite how they got into my garden, but late spring and early summer would not feel complete for me at this point without my parking strip full of California poppies. I mention them a lot because they just make me so dang happy. The bees agree on this one too – this time it’s a bumblebee.

Bee on California poppy

We just watched the latest Mike Leigh film on DVD, “Happy-Go-Lucky.” I thought it would maybe be annoying, as his work sometimes can be, but it was one of the better movies I’ve seen in a while (click here to see the trailer). A very nuanced take on the daily life of someone who either by nature or choice is just a truly compassionate, funny, joyful person. Her name – oh, did you need to ask? Poppy!

 

Buzzing February 23, 2009

Filed under: fauna,garden shows — greenwalks @ 8:48 pm
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In these times of economic woe and gloom, many small businesses are taking a hit along with the big guys. I worry that a lot of the smaller gardening-related outfits are going to be struggling soon if they aren’t already. So it was with great delight that I saw this one booth at the NW Flower & Garden Show, The Beez Neez Apiary Supply, veritably buzzzzzzzing with customers. (Sorry, couldn’t resist.)

Jim and Rachel of Snohomish, WA are professional beekeepers and have everything you need to start keeping bees. They seemed to be having a great time at the show, happily fielding questions from wannabee (oh, sorry again!) apiarists and selling their wares.

Mason bee folks

City and suburb dwellers often feel most comfortable beginning with Mason bees, aka Osmia lignaria , who do not live in hives and are generally non-stinging. They help with pollination and are relatively easy to care for. My folks have a bunch at their place, to help with the apple orchard and berry patches. You can buy a cute little house like this:

Mason bee house

to attach to a tree in or near your garden. The bees fill the holes with mud and go about their solitary ways. It’s kind of like a little bee condo, or maybe a monestary dorm.  Or you can make your own bee house, if you are handy with drills and such. Here’s one plan from the National Wildlife Federation site. Here’s another one that uses mostly stuff you have around the house (except for maybe “bee straws,” which you can probably order from Jim and Rachel).

At first I thought someone had the nutty idea of putting bee sounds on a CD, maybe as a relaxation aid. Actually, I think that would be pretty cool. But it turned out to be a DVD instead, “All About Mason Bees,” by Dr. Margriet Dogterom, who is kind of the Queen Bee (agh! again with the bad bee jokes!) of the whole mason bee thing.

Mason Bee DVDs

She is often at the Garden Show representing her company, Beediverse,but I didn’t see her this time. Maybe she was just off touring the show gardens, flitting from flower to flower… okay, I’ll stop.

Have any of you tried your hand at beekeeping, or with opening up a guest house for Mason bees in particular?

 

Our friends the bees August 11, 2008

Filed under: gardening,my garden — greenwalks @ 11:52 pm
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Every time I feel like a water pig, out there with the hose trying to keep my parking strip plants going through the driest part of the summer (i.e. right now), I try to remind myself that having flowers instead of grass is a happy thing for the bees. With all the reports of “hive collapse” and an article in today’s Seattle Times about how to attract bees to the garden, it got me thinking about which flowers seem to keep those critters buzzing the loudest.

The English lavender that is everywhere at our place is a big one in the early summer when it’s in blossom (see Prima Post photo for bee action shot). They also love the purple-blue flowers of rosemary, which tend to be out in late spring – early summer. Later in the season, sunflowers and calendulas are big attractors. They also love the California poppies that many folks consider to be weeds but that I use as a volunteer space filler in early spring until I’m ready to put in more annuals and other stuff.

Apparently they prefer yellow, orange, white and purple flowers, leaving the bright red ones to hummingbirds. I’ve seen them on our coreopsis, blanket flower, and sage flowers, all either orange or purple, so that seems to fit. We don’t have a lot of white flowers except erigeron (i.e. fleabane, great easy-care low-growing perennial), but they do love that:
Erigeron with bee III
So, do your part to avert the global disaster that would befall us if the bees were no more – plant some stuff they like! UC Berkeley has a great list here of plants for an urban bee garden.