Tag Archives: bees

What any kind of pruning can do.

It’s surprising how much glory has bloomed and gone, in my garden and by the creek. Well before the end of July we’ve cut back the purple explosion of germander and forced the bees to move to the echium and salvias, which continue to branch out and lengthen their nectar offerings. The Jerusalem sage and lavender I always think of as long-lasting…. How can they be done? Santa Barbara daisies at least come again and again after each shearing.

By the creek, the Queen Anne’s Lace and fennel will continue for months more, and other insects feed on them. But I never see honeybees there.

Early on when the gyms first closed because of the covid-19 quarantine and more people were walking those creek paths, I saw that many of the fennel plants down there had been mutilated and dishonored. I wished I had clippers with me so I could cut them off neatly to relieve the humiliation.

But three months later, those same plants are most beautiful! For all they cared, the breakage of their stems might have been expert pruning by loving horticulturists. Now those specimens have branched out gracefully to outshine their fellows that shoot straight up. The ladybug above is posing on one.

Last fall I planted a few begonias in pots on the patio, but so far only this older one has opened:

In the vegetable boxes many of the things I planted rather late and experimentally did not even sprout, but currently collards are coming along. And in the greenhouse, moringa! I bought the seeds two years ago at an event I blogged about: here. (I also had a bunch of little amaranth plants from that source growing nicely, but something ate them off at the stem.)

This spring I managed to keep three of the seeds warm and moist long enough for one of them to sprout. If the seeds had not been so unusual, I might not have invested in the project, but who knows… and whether I will ever use it, no one can predict that, either!

I plan to grow my little tree in a pot, and then a bigger pot if I manage to keep it alive long enough for it to outgrow containers. The leaves can be used like spinach, or for tea. It’s supposed to be one of those “superfoods,” which I’ve noticed become fads and then after a while you don’t hear about them anymore. I’m more interested in this species because it’s not a sweet fruit to add to the carb load of a diet.

My fruit trees are looking good. The plums and fig got their solstice pruning to keep the size down. For the fig, that mostly meant taking a foot or two off the top. I’m keeping them at a size where I can pick the fruit without a ladder, and take care of the trees on my own. The fig tends to grow horizontally, which makes it easy for me; it’s a dwarf species also, called Blackjack. But it doesn’t seem particularly dwarfish in its fifth season of bearing! It’s loaded with fruit. Yum.

I have four Elephant Heart plums on my two trees, which this morning I thought I better take pictures of, because in previous years they have not only started out few but mostly disappeared. My lemon tree I have in the last year or so been more diligent than ever to feed regularly, and it has responded by producing a score at least of little lemons that are getting big fast. They will be ripe next winter.

Must leave you now and go see what else needs pruning!

I slake my thirst with gardens.

Way back in October, I think, was the last time a certain one of my favorite plant nurseries was open — until Saturday, when I drove over for the reopening. The retail aspect is a small part of a larger sustainable agriculture/ecological/educational project, and is only open on weekends in the warmer months. Over the years I’ve bought lots of annual vegetables there, but lately they focus on perennial edibles and and medicinal plants.

It’s a beautiful drive, out into the more rural areas of my county. I remembered to wear my sun hat to keep my scalp from burning, but when I got into the nursery area itself there was netting all over above, which probably made it unnecessary. Passionflowers bloomed like stars up there.

For an hour I got a huge rush of excitement and energy, as I saw more and more species of perennial salvias and echinacea species that I could take home and add to my pollinator garden. Echinacea Purpurea, Pallida, and Paradoxa. Salvia hians (Kashmir Sage), Salvia forsskaolii, Clary Sage and Dune Sage. The forsskaolii, or Indigo Woodland Sage, I used to have in my “old” garden, but it didn’t survive the transition. None of the new plants is in bloom yet so I’ll show them later after they are revealed in their fullness.

There was one plant that I had no desire to bring home for my garden, though they say it is grown worldwide as an ornamental. That is the Porcupine Tomato:

Solanum pyracanthos

This flowering tree grows near the entrance/checkout. Does anyone know what it is?

In my own garden, June seems to have arrived early, and so suddenly… I guess that’s because I’ve been sitting around moping and confused; I know I am way behind in planting the second planter box. But the rest of the garden just went on doing its thing, and is ready to comfort me now that I desperately need it. When there is a lull in the strange high winds we’ve been having, I can sit out there and silently bake, in the company of other creations and creatures. For a few moments at a time I revel in just being.

The showy milkweed is over five feet high already, and in the back yard it’s a favorite of the bees, along with the lavender and the echium. Oh, speaking of echium, I saw my type at the nursery; I must have bought it there several years ago. It is not the Pride of Madeira-echium candicans that is more typical here. As recently as last week, though, I thought it was just an oddly growing form of it. If it were Pride of Madeira it would have blocked the path by now; good thing it’s more vertical!

See the bee on the left, against the sky?
Pretending to be real trees.
In a spring storm two branches broke off.
Back before spring had fully sprung.

At the nursery my kind was called Tower of Jewels, and just now I found a helpful site that explains all the different forms. Mine is also called Tree Echium, echium pininana. I never noticed before how the echium flowers resemble borage and my newer plant, bugloss. Well, they are all in the borage family.

echium Tower of Jewels
bugloss

I took a slow-motion video of the bees out front on the germander (teucrium). In real time they seem very excited, almost frantic, in their buzzing from flower to flower, but when I watched the video it showed their true selves as purring bee-copters taking all the time in the world, that is, the whole day and their whole short lives, to do their work.

I’m needing to take long breaks from talking this week, mostly my own, which seems like more and more idle talk. No one talks in my garden. Even the tropical birds have been moved to their new home far enough away that I can’t hear them; now I can hear the native singers’ quieter tunes and gentle chirps.

I think I was looking for a quote on a different topic this morning when I ran across this beloved one (a beloved quote? really? Yes.) from G.K. Chesterton:

Women have a thirst for order and beauty as for something physical;
there is a strange female power of hating ugliness and waste
as good men can only hate sin and bad men virtue.

Forget for a moment the reductionist nature of these ideas — most short quotes, in order to be pithy, have to focus on one or two ideas and lay aside the complexities of the subject. Just think about what we are thirsty for… (You men also thirst, naturally.) I realized just this morning — by bathing in the the sunshine and the lavender scent, the breeze and the humming — and this afternoon, by speaking briefly about it with a wise person, that the very concrete realness, the materiality of my garden satisfies something. Maybe my garden has to do double-duty right now because of the recent lack of human touching.

How it helps me pray… I don’t need to figure out that mystery. I just want to enter in.

On Passover afternoon, ten days ago now, we had Kneeling Vespers of Pentecost. Almost everyone took part at home, but I live close to the church and I drove over in hopes that there would be few enough of us that I could participate indoors. My hope was realized! I’m sharing this picture because of the golden sunshine. May God fill us with His light!

Bees dive into purple flowers.

What I have is a small lavender-and-bee gallery for you. My 26 lavender plants in the back garden are all blooming now, and the bees have arrived by the scores to drink from those flowers, and teucrium in the front. Mostly the teucrium – goodness, that stuff is popular! I’m glad I have two long hedges of it. But we’ll start in the back:

Those are new olive leaves with lavender in the background.

Now we’ll just meander out to the front yard…

I whittled my teucrium-crazy bees down to three favorites. That’s the best I could do!

Dear little things.

Sunday evening, and I’m quite worn out, from doing so little, seemingly – but the screens are getting to me. We only have two weeks left of church school on Zoom, for which I am glad. I love the children in my class, which is why it’s exhausting to try to be “with” them this way, and it must be difficult for them, too. In any case, half of them don’t seem to be present the way they were when we were together in the flesh. I think it’s because they are quiet personalities, and Zoom-ing takes a certain amount of assertiveness.

What I did today, not in order: I took a walk first thing in the morning, and another one this evening, just before it started raining. I listened to a story by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala; talked to my godmother on the phone; listened to four homilies on the Samaritan Woman, three of them from previous years and one given fresh this morning. It seems a whole book could be written about the history, psychology and Christology of this passage of scripture, Christ’s encounter with the woman at Jacob’s well. As with many of the lessons, the preparation I do is rich food for my own heart — but I often feel ill prepared to teach about it.

I sat in the garden a bit, and thought about small things that are lovable. Those olive flower buds I mentioned last week, and other tender new growth and flowers I’ve seen here and in the neighborhood. The landscape is already filling out, and it’s only May — which means the mass of foliage and living, breathing botany has yet to reach its summer peak of green-and-fruity.

My grandson Jamie is not little the same way, but he’s still not half-grown, and I have this cute picture. He’s one of the California grandchildren, of which there are only three, so I saw him in March when I was up there.

I bought a hanging pot of succulents last summer, and had to keep it in the greenhouse over winter. It’s kind of a scruffy jumble, but two of the three plants in it have flowers now, which is nice.

olive
succulents

mock orange

I was mistaken about the dear little things in the birdhouse: they are not bluebirds, but chickadees! It’s so obvious now, in this picture taken eight days after my last.

I’ve been busy like a bee in the garden. But if it rains tomorrow, maybe I will read more, and write about books…? Good night, Dear Readers! May God give us restful hearts. If we are sleeping, may it be deep and renewing; if we are awake, may our work make us tired with that good kind of fatigue that helps us go to sleep again, in peace. Amen.