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Posts Tagged ‘bees’

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I never tire of the honey bees. And they never tire of the Russian sage.

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I wish I could capture the dozens hovering around the sage. Or the oregano, the lavender, the daisies – whatever prolific flower is in season. I wonder where they go when they leave my yard and what the honey they make might taste like?

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They crowd the sunflowers.

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This one is playing chameleon. I love his shadow on the petals of the sunflower.

The bees buzzed me several times while I was trying to get close enough to snap a good photo: stern little warnings that I was invading their space. But if I pressed the issue, it was the bees who moved away. They really aren’t up for a confrontation that might cost them their lives. They only get to sting once, then the stinger is lost and their life is forfeit. Unlike wasps, bees aren’t looking for a fight.

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The black bumblebees love our garden, too. When the rhododendrons are in bloom, we have two or three species of bumblebee hovering around, but as summer winds down and the pickings get slim, the social little black ones are all that remain. They love fireweed and this relative of borage. Like the honeybees, they will buzz at me in warning. Or maybe it isn’t a warning as much as they are just curious or I am disturbing them?

I took several photos of this one and was amazed to get such a great shot of its wings in motion as it flitted from flower to flower.

While I was bee hunting, I accidentally came across this guy resting on the veggie garden fence.

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I think it could be a spider wasp.  Family: Pompilidae. But it could be Family: Ichneumonidae (check out the ovipositor on the end of the abdomen).  Makes me wish I had captured it and could really look at it. But I turned my head and it flew off to points unknown.

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We had a wonderful warm Saturday that distracted me from all of my other responsibilities and plans. No one else was at home when I rose in the morning (except the parakeets). I looked at the loads of laundry, considered the posts I wanted to add to my blog (on homeschooling, mostly), the bills to pay and the myriad other little duties I have to do on a weekend. Then I looked outside. Sunshine. Real sunshine and real warm sunshine. I wheeled the parakeets outside so they could enjoy the day. I found my garden gloves, my garden shows, and I put on some sloppy parachute pants to get dirty in. I tied my hair back and dropped my trusty knee pads onto the still-dewy lawn.

And I dug. There’s something freeing about dirt. I pulled up chickweed and used the trowel to get under the dandelions, false dandelions and thistles that were trying to get a foothold in my flower beds. The day was warm and I lost track of time. Not much was blooming – yet – but so much had the promise of opening up to the sun! I decided to get two flower beds done: the ones out front, under the big rhododendrons, and the big “island” in the back, by the camelia. I refused to look at the camellia, which had just tipped past its prime. Camellias don’t last much more than fifteen minutes, and this one is no exception. It’s redeeming feature is the trunk. Really. And the ten minutes that the flowers are fully open, still vibrant and pink with bright yellow stamens. Then they turn brown and ugly, fall off the tree (bush? Mine is pruned to look like a dwarf tree)) and turn into slug slime on the ground beneath the camellia. Slugs won’t eat them, by the way: I suppose they consider the dead flowers are as slimy as them, so why bother? No, slugs eat my irises instead.

Ah! But I was a step ahead of the slugs this year and purchased some pretty wire ribbon from Lee Valley Garden Supply which I staked around all of my irises. The slugs crawl up to the copper and touch it with their slimy antennae. It is the gastropod equivalent of licking your finger and sticking it into an ungrounded light socket. Zap! No poison ever worked as well and was less toxic to the rest of the garden. That was what else I did while the parakeets watched me work.

Work? Playing in the dirt? Not work: pleasure. Mindless, soothing, addicting, dirty play.

I raked the rhodie leaves back from the few plants that survive the acidic soil beneath my bushes (which, like the camellia, are more like dwarf trees and have been pruned up to show off their beautiful trunks). I proudly noted that all of the crocus bulbs I planted last fall had produced spring blooms.

Here are some pictures:

The camellia just moments before her full glory…

Too late. The flowers have started to fall. THIS is why I hate camellias… (And they are marketed as “long blooming beauties.” yeah. Right. If you consider a week a long time.

The Oregon Grape. Mahonia aquifolium. I have four of them, and they were just sticks when I planted them three years ago. Not even that: twigs with roots. The birds will love me this autumn, when these bear fruit!

Chrystal’s Honesty. It survives under the rhododendrons.  lunaria annua or Silver Dollar Plant. It is a biennial, but once it gets established is not only difficult to eradicate, but will fill in the blank area under the rhodie. Chrystal threw the seeds out under the rhodie and forgot about them. One plant made it; now there are two. Next year: more.

The north rhododendron. First to bloom and the one that lasts the longest. I cut a number of blooms to take to work in a vase. Rhodies, like this cultivar, are pretty and bloom long enough to sate the bumblebees. I have a love/hate relationship with the domestic ones: they litter the yard like the camellia does, but at least I can cut the branches and make beautiful bouquets that last a week.

When cutting rhodies for a vase that you will be taking indoors, always leave it outside for several hours first. Gives the grease ants time to jump ship. Sugar ants? Whatever. Those pesky little itty bitty ants that find ways into your house, around the diatomaceous earth and into the dishwasher. Those ants. 

Look what I found, folded under some weed guard the dog dug up!! One of the anenome bulbs I planted last autumn survived! Against all odds, I have a bloom! I don’t know what happened to the rest of the bulbs (or I don’t want to know!), but one made it. Yay!! it’s still looking pale and fragile from having been hidden under the weed guard, but I think it will survive.

Finally, I have a little photo essay on the dracunculus vulgaris which is nestled under the variegated creeping myrtle (periwinkle, vinca minor) and the grape hyacinth:

Week one, March 29: just beginning to stick up above the bed of periwinkle.

Week 2, April 5. The purple-leafed item is a peony growing up beside the Dragon Plant.

Week 3, April 12. Well over a foot and half tall now. They will continue growing at this amazing rate until they bloom sometime the first week of June. Then my garden will smell like rotting meat for a few days. They make stunning flowers…

The artist’s rendition. Mine, of course.

I finished all my work in the garden sometime Sunday morning. No, I didn’t work all day and night: I saved my back and took frequent breaks, bought groceries, washed laundry, even cleaned some of the inside of the house and put the parakeets back in before the temperature dropped and they got chilled. I still have one more flower bed to weed out and several small spots. I will have to buy mulch and add it to the several flower beds, too. But I am ahead of the weeds in the major beds and I have flowers blooming!

That’s what it is all about, isn’t it? Oh, and the bumblebees, honey bees and mason bees that are buzzing happily around in my yard.

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