A Bee See

P90609They were impossible to miss. They came at a weird time too.
As guests were arriving for a big event, a fire alarm was activated, and compelled everyone to leave the building that they were gathering in. The swarming bees met the guests as they came outside. The bees just happened to show up in the same place and at the same time as the guests were forced outside. Fortunately, no one seemed to mind, and some found the swarming bees to be compelling enough to stop and take pictures.
Initially, all the bees were flying in a big swarm. Those closest to the middle of the swarm were flying fast, sort of like angry wasps. No one saw the queen that the swarm was centered around, but she apparently landed on this redwood limb about forty feet up. The swarming bees slowly collected in this mass around the queen. By the time I took this picture, almost all were attached to the mass, with only a few still flying about.
At least three swarms started to establish new hives in buildings near here last year, and needed to be removed by beekeepers. One hive started to develop where another had just been removed. Another swarm was removed before establishing a new hive.
Bees seem to be attracted here. Perhaps they appreciate all the flowers in the landscapes. It is unfortunate that they can not stay where they typically try to move in. Most of us really like them.
This swarm was still here when I left, so I do not know what happened to it afterward. Hopefully, it either left the area, or at least moved into a place where it will not be problem, such as in a rotten tree trunk out in the forest where bees belong.


‘Mystic Spires Blue’ Salvia

70705Once it gets started in late spring, ‘Mystic Spires Blue’ salvia has potential to bloom until autumn. It only needs older floral spikes pruned away as they fade (deadheading) to stimulate new bloom. If it gets overworked and lanky without deadheading, it can be cut back in the middle of summer to start a new bloom cycle all over. It can get more than three feet tall and almost three feet broad.

Butterflies and hummingbirds really dig the small rich purplish blue flowers that are tightly packed into the upper foot or so of the floral spikes. These floral spikes tend to lean away from the center of the plant, with the tallest on top leaning collectively in one direction or another. They look like they would be good cut flowers, but they might start to drop their older flowers after only a few days.

The deep green foliage is technically evergreen, but it does not matter. All growth should be cut back to just a few inches above the ground in winter. ‘Mystic Spires Blue’ salvia likes richer soil and a bit more water than what drought tolerant salvias want. Yet, like most salvias, it grows more efficiently as #1 (1 gallon) plants planted as winter ends, than #5. Warm and sunny exposure is best.


The Birds And The Bees

80613thumbThere is so much more to gardening than mere horticulture. There is so much more to horticulture than mere plant life. Plants get eaten by insects and animals, and also take advantage of insects and animals for pollination and dispersion of seed. Some of us who enjoy gardening also like to attract some types of animals and insects to our gardens because they are nice to have around.

The birds and the bees, as well as butterflies, squirrels, lizards, snakes and other small animals add color, motion and vibrancy to the garden. Destructive animals like gophers, rats and deer, and cumbersomely big animals like moose and bears, are not so popular. Mosquitoes and flies are the sorts of insects that we would like to repel with aromatic herbs. Some but not all are welcome.

‘Pollinator’ flowers have become a fad recently, not only to attract bees, but also to provide them with more of what some believe they are lacking out in the wild. There is certainly nothing wrong with attracting bees. Those who are enslaved in honey production are best! Children learn as much about nature from bees as from other wildlife. The soft hum of big herds of bees is quite nice.

Beyond that, we should think outside the box of our home gardens. The unnatural disruption of local ecology can not be repaired by throwing more unnatural resources at it. Honeybees who were imported to make honey are not native, but displaced and interbred with natives enough to interfere with their natural pollinating behavior, as well as their resistance and susceptibility to disease.

Almost all plants in urban as well as agricultural areas were imported too. They were perpetuated until they dominated the localized ecosystems. There is now much more flora in places like the Los Angeles Basin and the Santa Clara Valley than there has ever been before! There is no shortage of bloom for bees. In fact, there is an overabundance of bloom potentially distracting bees from pollinating native specie who need them. Invasive exotic eucalypti might enjoy their popularity at the expense of California poppy.


61130Here on the West Coast of California, most of us know goldenrod only as a color of crayon. In most other parts of America though, it is a common wildflower that is colorful enough to be popular in home gardens. Yet, with more than a hundred specie, it is hard to say exactly which goldenrod, (Solidago spp.) the crayon color corresponds to. All are some shade of gold or yellow, but some are a bit more orange than others.

Most varieties of goldenrod that are available locally bloom in late summer or autumn. Some are still blooming prolifically now, on seemingly overloaded stems that stand taller than two feet. Shorter types that get only a few inches tall are probably unavailable. Perennial rhizomes spread slowly but surely, and can be divided to propagate new plants. Goldenrod needs full sun exposure, but not much water once established.

The blooms of goldenrod are just as interesting physiologically as they are colorful. The floral trusses of the most popular types are somewhat conical, but arching from their own weight. Each of these trusses supports a profusion of minute daisy-like flowers, which are actually composite flowers comprised of even smaller and more abundant florets! Bees and butterflies really seem to appreciate the floral redundancy!