Backyard Orchard News
This spectacular plant attracts bees like a honey-laden hive does hungry bears.
The tower of jewels (Echium wildprettii), native to the Canary Islands, is a biennal; it flowers only in the second year and then dies. So, for the first year, it looks quite insignificant. The second year: it shoots up an amazing nine or 10 feet, ablaze with blossoms the color of rubies.
If you ever see a tower of jewels blooming, you'll remember it. One bloomed last year in the Storer Garden in the UC Davis Arboretum. it drew scores of visitors toting cameras.
The same will hold true when several towers bloom next year in the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee friendly garden planted last fall next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis.
Visitors to the haven will see the "tiny" Echiums during the public opening on Sept. 11. They won't see the regal beauty unfold until 2011.
Meanwhile, we're savoring the three towers in our own bee friendly garden. So are the honey bees, hover flies, bumble bees, carpenter bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.
The scouts (bees) arrive as soon as the temperature hits 50 degrees. Then they head back to their hives to alert the foragers. You can almost hear them Waggle-Dancing: "Fine quality, large quantity--hurry, hurry!" By mid-morning, the towers are abuzz with bees. By mid-afternoon, the bees sound like jet engines.
A tower of bees.
HONEY BEE zeroes in on a ruby-red blossom. (Copyrighted Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
LADY IN RED--A honey bee amid the bright red blossoms of the tower of jewels. Note the blue-gray pollen from the plant on her leg. (Copyrighted Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
BLUE SKIES, red blossoms, busy bees. A honey bee heads for a tower of jewels. (Copyrighted Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
It's amazing what a little Photoshopping can do to a bee on blue.
We captured an image this week of a pollen-packing honey bee on Phacelia campanularia, also known as California blue bells or desert blue bells.
It's a deep inky-blue wildflower that's native to southwestern deserts of California. It's planted in a wildflower patch behind the Sciences Laboratory Building on the UC Davis campus. There it mingles with the white-petalled yellow tidy tips and other wildflowers.
We ran the image through "poster edges" of Photoshop and voila! It's even more inky blue.
Maybe that's what the bee sees.
Bee on Blue
The half-acre garden, the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven planted last fall at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at the University of California, Davis, is not only bee friendly but it will be art friendly.
At the entrance to the garden will be a two-column sculpture of decorated bee boxes; the first column depicting activity within the hive, and the second column depicting activity outside the hive.
Outside the hive? Think workers gathering nectar, pollen, propolis and water.
A hexagonal block beneath a sturdy almond tree in the garden will hold a giant bee sculpture--yes, let's put the beleagured honey bee on a pedestal! Ceramic art panels will adorn the sides. Billick is creating the giant bee sculpture. The Ullman-Billick classes are providing the rest of the art in the garden.
Bee friendly, art friendly, people friendly.
The haven will be a year-around food source for bees and other pollinators and an educational experience for visitors, who can learn the plight of the honey bee and the importance of having bees in our gardens. Plus, visitors will glean ideas on what to plant in their own gardens to attract pollinators.
The public celebration is in its early planning stages, but the date is set and all systems are green:
Saturday, Sept. 11, 2010.
View of the garden
Talk about pollen power.
When honey bees forage among the bird’s eyes, they're a delight to see. They dive into the yellow-throated lavender flowers and emerge covered with a blue-gray pollen.
Bird’s eyes (Gilia tricolor) is a native California wildflower common in the Central Valley and surrounding mountain ranges and foothills.
If you look behind the Sciences Laboratory Building (near Briggs Hall) on the University of California, Davis campus, you'll see a thriving wildflower patch filled with bird's eyes, tidy tips, rock purslane, salvia and desert bluebells.
You'll see honey bees, hover flies, lady bugs and carpenter bees.
It's a bird's eye view for the bees. Or maybe a bee's eye view.
Covered with Pollen
Bee connected; save the date.
Now it's time for us to celebrate it.
It's a bee friendly garden where you can wander through Orchard Alley, waggle down Waggle Dance Way, hide out at the Honeycomb Hideout, ponder the Pollinator Patch, and snuggle up to the Nectar Nook.
The key goals of the garden are to provide bees with a year-around food source, to raise public awareness about the plight of honey bees, and to encourage visitors to plant bee-friendly gardens of their own.
The winning design is the work of a Sausalito team: landscape architects Donald Sibbett and Ann F. Baker, interpretative planner Jessica Brainard and exhibit designer Chika Kurotaki.
The team zeroed in on sustainability and visitor experience. A series of trails connect the gardens. Trellises define the entry ways and reinforce the passage to the next space.
Identification labels will help visitors know more about the plants, or what they can plant in their own yards. Some of the plants there are salvia (sage), ceanothus, bush germander, seaside daisy, Santa Barbara daisy and tower of jewels.
Then there are almond, apple and persimmon trees, strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, dill, basil, artichokes and eggplant. (Bees pollinate one-third of the food we eat.)
Yet to come: the amazing art work created by UC Davis Art/Science Fusion Program classes, taught by entomologist/artist Diane Ullman and artist Donna Billick. A two-column hive sculpture will grace the front entrance. Billick is creating a gigantic bee sculpture to be placed on a hexagonal platform beneath an almond tree.
The design is online. The grand opening is in the design stage.
This is sure to bee-come a campus destination.
In the Clover