Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Little Lamb's Ear Dress

I feel very honored to be one of the women chosen to wear a Little Green Dress made especially for me by a fabulous artist Nicole Dextras. Nicole is making 28 dresses out of local plant materials for her Little Green Dress Projekt for the Earth Art show at VanDusen Gardens. My task was to find the plants to cover the entire dress. What would I choose for materials? For the bulk of the material, I chose Wooly Lamb's Ear or Stachys Byzantin because it's soft, silvery, and seductive. Kids love it and they are amazed when I tell them it used to be used as bandages. In fact, if you get stung by a bee, crush up some plantain, bung it on a big stachys leaf and tie it round the sting.

 I am also fascinated by the wooly carder bees that have claimed my Stachys plant. They are fascinating to watch, but up until today very camera shy. In order to source enough Stachys to cover a dress I asked permission to cut some leaves from the Moberly Community Herb Gardern. The Stachys does very well by this Moroccan Sea Holly and the thread-leaf coreopsis which are both bee magnets.

 I asked friends and colleagues if they had some Lamb's Ear and then I e-mailed a local garden club called Seed to Sky and hit the jackpot!!!! Bags of it landed on my steps. People rang my doorbell and gave me leaves and two people just said I could come to their garden and help myself. Well, I was so excited! Here's some Stachys planted next to rosemary under a tree, which reminds me that Stachys is a plant that does work in partial shade. As I was cutting plants I heard a loud high-pitched whine and what did I see?

For the second time this summer, I witnessed a bumble bee mating frenzy. I counted four (or was it five?) males clinging to this popular queen. She ran around and around and literally climbed the walls until she shook one of the males off and flew away with rest of them still hanging on for dear life.

This is a close-up of what the flowers look like. The weird thing is that the flowers seem to only bloom a few at a time.

 The first time I noticed this plant was at the Salt Spring Yoga Centre. It has a very calming presence on their beautiful grounds. Honey bees do like it too.

 But the male carder bees are anything but calm. They defend the plant from other bees while the females sip nectar and  quietly scratch away the fluff on their leaves for their nests. The males are larger than the females, which explains why I always thought they were two different species.

 Isn't she beautiful? I think her wings are starting to degrade. I'm glad she got lots of sunshine to lay her eggs and make her nest.

So Thursday I get to wear the Little Lamb's Wool Dress to the opening and then it will be on display at the gardens for the rest of the show while it dries and disintegrates. I hope you get a chance to get up to the gardens to see Nicole's amazing work and do check out her Little Green Dress blog and her artist blog.

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