Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Mason Bee Catch-Up

These photos are from a couple of weeks ago. I've been observing the bee oasis and I find that the terra cotta doesn't hold water for very long, which is good for preventing mosquitoes, but demanding for the gardener to keep refilling on sunny days. Maybe glazed terra cotta would be better.

I also used a terra cotta base to hold my mud cake purchased from Brian Campbell (for sale at West Coast Seeds). This is made from muddy clay which you moisten so the mason bees can use it to plug their nests. Less energy spent foraging for clay means more energy for pollinating and laying eggs.

I am happy to say that all the cocoons I bought hatched, and I even held one in my hand while the bee was emerging. It's intelligent eye peering up at me from a hole in the cocoon was very touching. However, the weather has been so cool and wet that I despair as to the fate of those bees and I haven't seen many around since the males hatched. Their doesn't seem to be any activity in my condo.

Meanwhile, in my father-in-law's garden the trillium were blooming and his mason bees were emerging from a neat cocoon container made from a scotch tube. You can see the bee droppings on the outside of the container.

Doug is the perfect person for keeping mason bees being 1) retired, 2) a master gardener and 3) an accomplished woodworker. He started out with rustic homes and has now gone on to make homes with removable tubes. This version is made from hand-rolled paper tubes inserted in foam fitted into a modified scotch canister. (Yes, our family likes double malt.)

They hang on the south face of the garage behind an espaliered fruit tree. It's a shame that his crab apple tree was blooming during that freak hailstorm and the blossoms were shattered.

Here is a wooden home he made with the paper tubes inserted in the holes. I'll have to visit and see if he's got females in his condos.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Flowers in the Hood

I am extremely lucky to have neighbors with green thumbs and creative gardens. So I took a tour around the hood to see what's blooming and how the veggies are doing.

My neighbor says she's noticed a distinct lack of honeybees this year. It's been so cold and wet. Sigh.

This year I'm fixated on dark plants so this colour combination makes me very happy.

Comfrey for the bees.

Blueberry blossoms.

Jean's garden has a rustic beauty that I admire. She's always got some ambitious projects on the go.

Her cold frame rocks.

The currants are already forming berries.

A vertical palette garden.

The Saskatoon has lots of blooms.

Greenhouses make good neighbors!!!

Monday, May 23, 2011

What's Blooming on Victoria Day?

I say "What's Blooming?" but I also mean "Whassup?!!!" There's a new hotel in the neighborhood suitable for elves, fairies, toads, and bugs. Snails and slugs need not apply.

The zucchini grows in the jail that keeps the peas locked up safely for their own good.

My clematis is finally taking off! I am filled with post-rapture rapture.

The tiny bees are sipping nectar from the forget-me-nots and the petals are already beginning to fall.

The golden hops is climbing over the climbing hydrangea, which is starting to bud.

The other hops is getting ready to sprint up the wall.

I brought the lemon verbena out to play. Note to self: buy vodka for lemon verbena cocktails.

White lilacs bloom against a brooding sky.

My old faithful poppies are already closing up for the night.

The nasturtiums are recovering from the nasty hailstorm damage and the salad burnett is coming into its own.

I pruned this baby back hard. Boy, she is tough.

Now this is wierd: two kinds of flowers grow on the same azalea. See below.

There are big red blooms and tiny pink blooms. It must have been grafted. Of course there is scilla everywhere. I will let it bloom, then dig a bunch up. It really loves to attach itself to other bulbs. Like the hydra, it tends to grow new "heads" at an alarming rate.

The rhubarb catches falling tulip petals and I need to cut the grass!

We are eating our first spring salads with "Easter Egg" radishes.

The spent tulips have some amazing colours. I deadheaded the tulips and have begun to dig some of them up to store them inside until fall. What do you do with the bulbs when the stem breaks off? I planted them in a pot. We'll see how that works.

Strawberries are blooming. The buttercup is blooming and the dandelions have already gone to seed.

I put in this pic of my neighbour's dogwood tree. There's a nice colour relationship with the Japanese maple behind it and his front door.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Drying Herbs at Moberly

Yesterday I worked with students from Moberly Elementary introducing them to the Moberly Community Herb Garden and creating herb drying triangles. First, I scoped out the garden to see what was vigorous enough to harvest. I chose the nepeta, mint, and the wooly lamb's ear.

Both classes fixated on the stachys. The first class almost exclusively chose this plant, so I didn't offer it as an option to the second class to protect the plant from being over-harvested. I think it's fascinating that texture won over taste and scent.

I also brought fresh and dried herbs from my own garden, including fennel fronds and lemon balm harvested that morning.

The garden is filling in nicely. I love exploring gardens in the morning light. Most students knew about the garden, but didn't know they were allowed to touch it. I told them they could come and visit the stachys any time.

Here are the herbs from my garden and some from the MOP: anise hyssop, dragon's head, coneflower, fennel seeds, oregano, sage, chocolate mint, lemon balm, thyme, and lavender.

The students wired together a triangle made from twigs and used hemp to create the hanging part and to tie on the tags with the herbs and their names. I also gave my spiel on why we need to grow more herbs for bees. The teachers and students gave us really positive feedback and I was very pleased at how well the kids did with the project. I love the size, scale and raison d'être of the Moberly Community Arts Centre. If only we had more of these in Vancouver!

I'd like to give a shout-out to Kathy at The Branch Pop Up Shop on Main Street for inspiring the final form of the triangles we made. She created a beautiful chandelier that gave me the final eureka moment. There's a photo of her creation here. It's a really cute shop, and I love the way they've decorated the space.