Saturday, November 21, 2015

Meet the Queen Bee!

 Hello bee huggers! Please join featured artist Jasna Guy and me for Family Day at the Richmond Art Gallery tomorrow (Sunday, November 22 from 1-4 pm). We'll be facilitating arts, crafts and drama activities all about bees!!!!! Her Royal Highness the Supreme Queen Bee will also bee in attendance. Human participants are welcome to come dressed as bees.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

UBC Farm: My Favorite Place to Be in October

Beautiful pumpkins are waiting for you at UBC Farm. Make sure you head there this weekend to get yours.

An Eastern Interloper, this bumblebee has escaped from a greenhouse.

 No more flowers on the snowberry bushes. This signals the end of the native bee year here in Vancouver. You'll see honeybees foraging, but very few native bees if any at all.

Yarrow acts as a benificial plant next to crops attracting predators of the crop-eating bugs. It does tend to spread, and has deep roots, so in a smaller garden is needs to be reigned in. It's perfect for naturalizing into lawns and no-mow zones.

Bee plants can have other functions besides providing pollinators with nectar and pollen. Here's an example of intercropping kale with clover as a living mulch. (I'm not sure what that weed is at the bottom of the photo.)

Note to self: a trap crop is a crop that attracts pests away from the main cash crop. Catch crops like this phacelia and crimson clover catch nutrients and hold them in the soil in between the main cash crops.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Faux Queen on Gaillardia

When you're trying to get a good photo to ID a bee, you need to get a clear shot of the head, thorax and abdomen.

 Usually this takes me about 20-30 shots. It takes patience and perseverance.

It becomes a meditation.

And a kind of conversation. Often with the bee telling me in so many words to leave her alone so she can get back to work.

The model: I'm guessing she's a cuckoo  bumblebee. Nope, she is a true bumblebee. I should never attempt to ID a bumblebee on my own. Fail. Big fail.
What she's wearing: At first appearance it looks like she's covered in shaggy hairs designed for gathering pollen, but the glare off her body shows she may be wearing the faux fur intead of the setae a true bumblebee. And I don't see any pollen baskets.  Nope, she does have pollen baskets. Her true identity will be revealed in my upcoming book!
The location: Mountainview Cemetery meadow created by Jack Tupper as part of the Antler Collective.
The flower: A drought tolerant Gaillardia, or blanket flower
The seed mix: West Coast Seeds Bee Garden Blend custom made by Brian Campbell.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Martin John Book launch with Anakana Schofield

Hi Friends,

I'm thrilled that my friend Anakana Schofield's novel Martin John has been nominated for the Giller Prize. Woot! She is touring this fall and the Vancouver launch is right in our neighbourhood. Hope to see you there.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Fall Comes to the Bee Garden

Late-blooming perennials can provide important food for bees.

I like the way this gardener has layered and interplanted some great pollinator-friendly plants, including garlic chives, savory, and sedum.

This plumbago is my new favorite, after seeing giant bumblebee queens foraging in it in the Xeriscape garden in Summerland.

 Look at the crazy blossom morphology of this bluebeard blossom!

Before you pull all those oxalis plants from your garden, think about the last sips of nectar these little bees will take before their life cycle ends. And look at the lovely symmetry of the leaves.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Beautiful Okanagan Bees

While on holiday to the Okanagan I saw this  beautiful bee in the garden at Poplar Grove Winery. Wineries that plant pollinator and/or insectary gardens are my favorite because it breaks up the monoculture of the acres of grape vines. These gardens also provide beneficial insects that help make healthier grapes, even though they are pollinated by wind and gravity. As I guessed, there was an abundance of ground-nesting bees.

A highlight of the trip was the Summerland Xeriscape Garden where we made mental notes on which plants were functioning well with minimal water while feeding the bees. This is a cuckoo bee on Heliopsis.

Golden rod and milkweed make good companions and attract beneficial wasps.

In other gardens, spirea supported bumblebees.

There were many turquoise sweat bees, especially in this weed. The bees circled round and round the stamens collecting pollen.

Syrphid flies also visited these small white flowers.

 Gaillardia is an important drought tolerant flower and Perovskia is used in many gardens as well.

We'll need to continue to look to the Okanagan to choose hardy plants that perform well in dry summers.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Mountainview Cemetery Meadow by the Antler Collective

Jack Tupper and Antler Collective have planted meadows all over Vancouver to study pollinators and the public's reaction to various kinds of meadows in public spaces. The meadow at Mountainview Cemetery is in bloom right now at 37th ave between Main and Fraser.

I found it touching and inspiring to see this vital planting in the graveyard.

 With every flutter, pulse and buzz, bees give us the message to live our lives diving into beauty.

Creating corridors of these meadows could provide valuable links among the network of backyard gardens in this neighborhood.