Victory Gardens for Bees

Friday, April 5, 2024

Lichen Hues at the Similkameen Artist Residency

 I am thrilled to be one of the current artists in residence at the Similkameen Artist Residency. Stay tuned for photos taken around this beautiful place. I'm starting with some lichen studies. The colours of the lichens and rocks complement the shades of silvery greens and tans of the spring flora. I'd like to try to embroider some lichens onto a "rock dress".

Notice the shape and colour relationship between the lichens and this bigseed biscuitroot.

Saturday, March 30, 2024

Chasing Bees Until I Lose the Light



After a frustrating afternoon dealing with intransigent and insensitive humans, I need to go to the bog to find the bees. It’s been a bitter-sweet day. I need to heal my heart and mind. It’s getting to be late, but the sun will have warmed patches of the blueberry flowers, making the nectar flow, so I hope I will see some bumble bees. A group of us met here a few days ago, but it was raining and bees were scarce, so we talked carnivorous plants, bees and bog bodies. I was thrilled to share my love of Camosun bog with others who will never be the same, now that they have visited it. This is a special place, and the people who meet at the bog have a bee-blessed bond . . . also frog-blessed. This is especially true at this time of the year, when the Pacific tree frogs, aka Pacific chorus frogs, are singing their hearts out to attract mates. Immersing oneself in this sound should be a rite of spring. I vote for attending frog and bumble bee musicals as essential life experiences: bog concerts for a better life.


 Today the bog is busy with humans, birds and bees. I hear the “hank, hank” sound of a nuthatch and squint against the sun to see if that hummer on the power line is an Anna’s or a migrating rufous. An older couple guide a toddler along the boardwalk, his curiosity and wonder clearly mirrored on their faces. And there are bees . . Bombus melanopygus, B flavifrons, B sitkensis and B mixtus. I’m surprised I’m seeing smaller bumble bees already. I chase a little sitkensis around and think she’s too small to be a queen. Could it be the first workers are out already? Sure enough, a few moments later, I see another small sitka bumble bee with smudges of pollen packed onto her corbicula and she is moving fast! I try to track her, focus and snap photos, but I’m rusty after a long winter, and I take lots of shots I know will be blurry. For the sake of identification, even some of these less than optimal photos can be useful when I’m posting them on iNaturalist. I’m so pleased a sitkensis queen has established a nest. I wish her a flourishing and abundant life. I’m so happy to be here chasing the bees until I lose the light. I take some photos in the shadows and then I get ready to head back to the house.



 Sometimes I wake up in the middle of the night and fret over the decisions I have made in my life. Have I been a good mother? A caring friend? Am I a worthy and responsible human? But spending time chasing bees with my camera until the little lanterns of blueberry blossoms grow dim makes me feel a life-affirming harmony. My worries fade into the background like the ghost of a vernal frog’s chorus in the distance. I have done what I could today. It’s time to sink into a calm state of gratitude and go home to feed my belly and take a close look at my photos. Que sera, sera. Whatever will bee, will bee.



Tuesday, March 5, 2024

You're Invited!


Please join us for the launch of our BC Native Bee ID trading cards with images created by Cloudscape Comics artists!


Saturday, March 23, 2-5 pm


Outside in front of the South Memorial Park’s field house at 5955 Ross Street, Vancouver (Ross + 41st, located inside the park).


Featuring cards designed by Madeline Berger, Haley Boros, Jordanna George, Olive Pinard, Jess Pollard, and Matthew Nielsen.


Drop by and pick up a set of cards, some free native flower seeds and a seasonal guide to plants for bees in the Lower Mainland. Take a close up and personal look at some local bee specimens and learn about the amazing biodiversity of BC Native Bees. We will provide materials for you to join in and draw your own funky bee designs. Some of the artists will be in attendance along with Lori Weidenhammer, aka Madame Beespeaker.


Free! All ages are welcome!

This event is brought to you by the Native Bee Society of British Columbia supported by the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation Neighbourhood Matching Fund.

Thursday, November 23, 2023

Good-bye My Sweet Friend: Rest in Flowers and Bees



Jasna Guy told me she was not a spiritual person, but I disagree. I feel her artistic practice was born out of a spiritual and intellectual connection to flowers, bees, and the people who studied them. She leaves behind a body of work that is evidence of this elevated passion and rigorous study. It is a gift to humanity, especially to those of us who share her passion.



Thursday, October 19, 2023

Artist and Bee Talk Tonight!


Please join us tonight!

The event will begin with a screening of all roses sleep (inviolate light), followed by an artists talk with Alana Bartol and Bryce Krynski sharing their research and filming processes. Local artist and educator Lori Weidenhammer from Native Bee Society of British Columbia will also be joining to educate on local native bee species and the important role they play in maintaining a healthy ecosystem. The event will be delivered on Zoom. Email to register.

Friday, July 28, 2023

Saturday, July 22, 2023

The Ripening: A Summer Tour of the Native Plant Garden at the Royal BC Museum


Bombus mixtus on Douglas Aster

When I started this project with hcma, a bee-centric delightful unburdening, it was the beginning of the foraging bee season on Vancouver Island and now we're coming to the end of the time when the bees are pollinating. It's the past the peak of summer, most of the fruit has been set and is starting to ripen, all thanks to the hardworking spring bees we saw in spring.

The fuzzy fruit of hairy manzanita

 We returned to the native plant garden at the Royal BC Museum to visit the plants and the bees one more time. It's amazing how many species of native plants the designers packed in this small space.


The bracts of twinberry behind the tiny developing berries

Many plants are going to fruit or seed but there are a few blooming plants left in the garden: hardhack, Douglas aster, pearly everlasting, potentilla and snowberry. The summer bees are draining the last precious drops of nectar and ferrying the remaining pollen grains back to their nests.

As I surveyed the garden to prepare for the tour, I spot some little male hairy belly bees blending in with the grey rocks.


They are fast and don't perch for very long--just zooming around, drinking nectar and generally getting into trouble with the other insects in their hood.

Photo by Darren Kirby


A group of the hcma staff came and met me on their lunch break. I did a show and tell of my recent cyanotypes and talked about some of the late season bee plants.

Photo by Darren Kirby

 I also challenged them to find a plant they have an affinity for--something that appeals to their senses, stimulates their memory and/or imagination and might want to explore more deeply. I talked about the resilience nature of arbutus and gumweed and how they inspire me.

Photo by Darren Kirby

We took a look at the fruiting and flowering plants, including this lovely Oregon grape which has stunning foliage and fruit that could be considered a local super food.

The berries are great muddled in a sangria!

common snowberry

 Some berries, however, are best left for the birds--including the white fruit of common snowberry. This is an example of a long-blooming shrub that fruits and produces flowers at the same time.

 We saw galls on the kinnikinnik, containing the eggs of an insect--probably a wasp--that alters the tissues of the plant.

The fruit of kinnikinnik or bear berries (Arctostaphylos urva-ursi) was once mixed with Saskatoon berries and fat to make pemmican.



Pincushion rose galls are made by a tiny wasp.


We saw the few remaining blooms of the intoxicating mock orange flowers. These are pollinated by Andrena mining bees and other insects.

Photo by Darren Kiby

The design of the garden is layered with ground cover, perennials, short shrubs, tall shrubs and trees. 

The cotton candy for bees: hardhack

Photo by Darren Kirby

I did manage to catch a female bumble bee on the hard hack, which we passed around for folks to have a closer look.

Photo by Daren Kirby
Photo  by Darren Kirby

Photo by Darren Kirby

Turns out the bee hot spot in the garden was in the potentilla. Most of the bees visiting this shrub were Bombus vosnesenskii.

We wrapped up the tour by looking at the gardens at the Empress hotel. Apart from the brown-eyed Susans (which may have been "nativars" in this case), everything was exotic and there were a few good bee plants such as purple coneflowers, zinnia, and Verbena bonariensis.



I also issued a hanging basket challenge: How can we create hanging baskets with plants that support bees and require less maintenance?


 Here's a roundup of some of the plants I discussed: I encourage you to get to know the late season bee plants in your local area.

Late season bee plants: fireweed, gumweed, nodding onion, aster, goldenrod, hard hack, yarrow, sneezeweed and pearly everlasting


Non-native Perennials:

Late season lavender, perennial sage, Russian sage, blanket flowers, echinacea, oregano, mint, thyme, and asters


Exotic annuals: Zinnias, calendula and cosmos


Weeds: Clovers chicory, invasive Armenian (aka Himalayan) blackberry, ragwort tansy, tansy, hairy cat’s ear, thistles and ragweed.

So I leave you with this question: How can your deepening connection to bees and native plants influence your design process? I hope it leads to your own delightful unburdening!

I recently discovered this video about design based on biophilia, which you may find interesting: Biophilia: Letting Nature Encroach on Us