Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Post Cards From Oregon Day 2


It was very restorative to spend time in my host's garden admiring the spring blooms and chasing bees with my camera. These are the blossoms of a fruit-bearing quince. I never saw bees in them, but there was almost constantly and hummingbird feeding in the flowers and then zipping up to the evergreen tree that loomed above. I wondered if there might be a nest up there.


These plum blossoms were very popular with bees. On the first sunny day, there were tiny mining bee males lekking around the blossoms.


 The gardening seminar I was speaking at was called "Fertilize your Mind". Awesome title!


I got shivers when I saw this beautiful sign outside the door of the room I was speaking in. My surname means "willow" in German, so this plant figures in my lineage.


This signage was so inspiring! It seemed so appropriate to be celebrating gardening in this context.


And anyone who's had to soothe a teething baby, you know how brilliant this willow rattle idea is!


This is a plant I don't have much experience with, but I'm very intrigued to get to know it.



This is the view from the casino.


The building itself is dedicated to the people that fought to have their nation officially recognized by the American government. I found this very moving. There is a mini-museum in the foyer which describes the values of the Coquille Nation.


This is the installation outside the cedar room.








               

There were display tables created by local businesses and community groups.


 And free seed catalogues!!!!!



Attended a wonderful talk by Emily Stimac on themed herb gardens. Definitely have to visit The Thyme Garden some day. And Rich Little enlightened us on the truth behind several gardening myths.


It was lovely to meet so many passionate gardeners!!!


Here's hoping the language and dialogue around the local native plants will reawaken, flourish, and thrive.

Monday, April 8, 2019

Post Cards from Southern Oregon: Day 1


It's bee a few days since I got back to a trip to Oregon to do a couple of bee gardening talks, and I'm still on a high for meeting such warm, generous people and seeing some gorgeous scenery and of course, beeyoootiful Oregon bees! Not realizing how remote the community I was going to was, I probably could have simplified my travel plans, but anyway, let's say it involved planes, trains and automobiles! Anyway, I was happy to have a lovely Master Gardener with insider knowledge take me to the Bandon Fish Market where I saw my first Oregon bumblebee of the season noshing on the nectar of a pink flowering rosemary bush right outside the door of the fish and chip shop!


Bandon is a quaint fishing village that reminded me of Steveston, south of Vancouver, BC. There are lots of cute shops and I spent some time shopping in the local bookstore/gift shop Winter River Books and Gallery stocking up on souvenirs and guides to Oregon flora and fauna. I also bought a "bee themed" tea towel.


Of course, the inside joke is not one of those insects is a bee. They are all bee-mimicking flies! Well the illustrator has done such a great job depicting the flies I had to buy it!


I love the idea of having a picnic shelter for inclement days. You can look out at the water and scarf down your ling cod when the chip shop is packed to the gills with hungry locals and tourists.


One of my favorite parts of traveling is getting a secret peek into people's gardens, so I was thrilled to see these lovely starts in the gardener's porch. Isn't this a sweet spot?!


I was also introduced to an invasive species of allium. These are three-cornered leeks (Allium triquetrum) from Europe. Apparently some local foragers had discovered them and were harvesting them from this vacant lot.


Which is a good thing, because look at how they've taken over this site. We were wondering if they feed any bees. There is also a terrible problem with scotch broom and gorse here, much like Vancouver Island. (So don't plant three-cornered leeks on the Island!)


 The gardeners had brought some of their beloved succulents up from their yard in California.


I also got a peek at the Bandon Good Earth Community Garden.


It seems cinder blocks are popular for making raised beds here because of how much rain they get.


The willows were blooming their hearts out here. And we are talking a HUGE volume of bee forage in this area.


This is a variety of Ceanothus that was growing by the community garden. I love these tiny leaves!
After my tour, I went to my motel and had a lovely meal in Coos Bay looking over at the water. Two  rainbows appeared as an end brackets to my lovely day in southern coastal Oregon.


Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Magnolia Mating Madness!


As I was coming back from a visit to Camosun bog, I noticed several male bees flying around the blossoms of a pink star magnolia tree, so I stopped to take a closer look.


The blossoms had a spicy floral scent that reminded me of lilies. Usually it's so hard to photograph these little male mining bees, but this time there were several who stopped to sun themselves on the petals. Maybe they were as entranced by the fragrance of the flowers as I was!


The males are thinner and more delicate than the females. They have longer antennae and cute yellow markings on the part of their face called the "clypeus".


As soon as a female arrives on the petal, all the males head straight to her. Male bees hover around the blossoms waiting to pounce on females. This behavior is called lekking. The fastest males with the best endurance win the genetic race.


Next thing you know, the bees are makin' whoopee!


. . . And more whoopee. Or should I say "whoopbee"?!


The strange this is I never see bees foraging in magnolia, and the females don't seem to be going into the flowers for pollen or nectar, so this is a bit of a mystery.


Mining or ground nesting bees  often nest right under their preferred food source. Have you seen bees foraging in magnolia?


Those little sideways eyebrows on the female bee tell us it is a species of Andrena bees.


I noticed some little yellow spots on the petals. This looks suspiciously like bee poop. Maybe that's why the males were pausing on the flowers! Not as romantic as I thought!


Does that look like bee poo to you? You can also see how the light reflects from the petals, creating a sparkling effect. It's likely nice and warm on the petals, which is another reason the males like to sun themselves on the surface.


This male was sunning himself on the ground, waiting for the females to come down and enter their nests. He's got his own lekking technique.


The ground underneath the tree was scrappy and sandy. Apparently it's just what these bees like!


And here you can see the tumulus around the nest hole where the soil has been excavated. I see them as miniature Bugs Bunny holes.


So the next time you stop to smell the magnolias, look for bees makin' whoopee and poopin' on the petals! And watch where you step, because there might be bees underfoot.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

100 Seeds: It Always Ends in Flowers


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Usually at this time of the year, I make a list of one hundred New Year’s Resolutions. Some are grand ambitions like becoming more fit, saving pots of money, or deep-cleaning the house. Maybe it’s as small as writing a letter to a faraway friend. There are often several garden resolutions on my list, and almost every year I vow to plant more edibles. I try, but it always ends in flowers. I spread the seed catalogues over the table, and become seduced by the glossy photos of liatris, sweet peas, zinnias, cosmos, and sunflowers. Sure, I end of buying seeds for beans, peas, and pumpkins, but I almost always end of giving them away because I run out of room and the flowers take up every nook and cranny of our back yard. I would love to have the space to plant a giant Victory Garden for bees, with space for herbs, veggies, cultivated and native flowers, but that’s not in the foreseeable future. I’ll have to plant more metaphorical seeds before I sow those future seeds. I’ve got to play the long game. 

Yesterday, a family member noticed that we’ve had such a mild winter here in Vancouver that the bulbs are coming up earlier than ever. “Such a relief to know that there’s nothing we can do to control the weather.” I guess that’s what the climate change deniers tell themselves, comforting themselves with the idea that whatever we do, the weather has a destiny of its own. That’s one narrative. Another narrative that’s making its rounds in the news headlines is we have twelve years to act before climate change becomes irreversible. So as we make our “to do” lists, bucket lists, and resolutions, we need to think about the steps we can take and the seeds we can plant to help heal the damage we are doing to the earth and prevent catastrophic repercussions of our actions.

All this fear of the damage we do to our environment can become overwhelming and numbing. This has been a year where I must admit I turned off the news more times than before because it’s just so bleak. It’s also been a hard year for me personally, with the loss of my father and a host of family problems that need emotional triage. I’m so thankful for a group of friends and family who have been quietly and steadfastly supporting me along this rocky path, planting seeds of kindness that have helped me cope and do the work I love so much. My own pain has not made me blind to the pain everyone around me has also been experiencing. We are collectively experiencing anxiety, uncertainty and feelings of helplessness. More than ever, we need to acknowledge our collective maladies and pull together to find solutions that help the global village.

My sister in law gave me a package of liatris seeds for Christmas. Lord knows, I love liatris, aka blazing star. They're one of my favorite bee plants. I’ve never grown them from see because they are so easy to start from corms. But there’s always something so inspiring about growing a complex bee-feeding organism from a seed that’s smaller than the head of a pin. It’s all about acquiring deep knowledge of that plant and being its midwife and vigilant steward. It’s about playing the long game. And when someone gives you seeds, that means you have a responsibility to find a place for them in your world. It’s a gift, but also a call to action. It’s like your ancestor is tapping you on the shoulder and telling you to get busy and start gardening, whether you believe you can change the weather or not. The best things in life are seeds. Let’s share them, plant them, and help them grow. Let's treat each other with the same careful stewardship and vigilance as our seeds.