Thursday, April 14, 2016


After reading a Gordon Frankie (University of California, Berkeley) article on bees in urban settings, I drove down to one of our city's industrial areas. Once a booming manufacturing area, it has gone through some rough times, and now there are many abandoned shops and plenty of empty parking lots and alley-ways.

The above photo shows part of a crumbling, abandoned building, yet wherever a seed found its way into a crack in the pavement, it began to grow some hardy wild plant--many with flowers and seeds. There are even trees and shrubs--all planted by Mother Nature. Bees and other insects buzzed around in the hot sun. Every city has places like this, and with a plan in place could become a habitat for pollinators. Cities with their miles of concrete and sun reflecting off buildings are warmer than open areas and could extend the growing season to accommodate our native bees. Vacant land could become useful again as bee-loving gardens spread, adding beauty to the purpose of pollination.

Some of these abandoned areas are large and could create oases of lush growth that would nurture, not only native bees, but many varieties of birds and butterflies. Native wildflowers, once established, do not need regular watering. They do best without fertilizer.

Seed packets, many labeled specifically for your area, are readily available in mixes that sometimes include annuals to beef up the mix until perennials begin to bloom

Wednesday, April 6, 2016


For years, Wally has been guarding the garden--specifically the rock wall. Wally wears his fur in a decorative braid and notice Wally's tie. Dotted with tiny blue polka dots, the tie is just one of many. He is a fashionable fellow. His goal is to keep out munchers while harmonizing with the colors in the springtime garden. He selected blue dots to bring out flowering brunnera's colors, but not to compete with the tiny, intensely blue flowers suffused with raspberry pink.

Soon after Wally took up his post at the wall, a strong wind brought plummeting temperatures, then rain and snow. It brought all flowering to a standstill. Look at the ground surrounding Wally--mostly barren. When snow finally quit, we had a total of six inches on the ground, but Wally didn't complain even when he got pelted--his tie askew from the strong wind. He is the most dependable of all my garden guards and takes his job seriously. When mischievous chipmunks knock him over, I go out to lend a hand in getting him upright again. And unlike other rabbits, he never nibbles the plants.

Soon, I know, the sun will come out to warm little Wally, but until then, I'll tend to his needs and check the shops for appropriate neckwear, as Wally doesn't drive.

Saturday, March 26, 2016


The "Friendly Little House" is decorative, not utilitarian. The stump is utilitarian! The decorative element camouflages a grid-pattern of drilled holes that provides a place for solitary bees to lay their eggs.  Six inches deep, the holes provide a perfect, protected place. Because the holes blend in with the bark, they are difficult to see in this photo. They are located just below the watering can in front of the little, winding fence. This is the stump of a pine tree that was cut down last year. The little house came about from my habit of looking for attractive additions to the landscape that will also serve the purpose of providing a haven for critters.

The house is a standard birdhouse without openings, as I thought bees might not like the risk of being eaten by birds. It is made of sturdy, solid maple. The roof is sided with the rough bark that was chiseled away from the stump. Mosses (green, brown and orange) tucked in among the slabs of bark, came from a variety of places in a yard that is quickly becoming too shady. The little attached shed, originally a waxy carton that held coffee cream, was covered with individual scales removed from a giant pine cone and roofed with the same rough bark as the house.

Get the kids--with their wonderful imaginations--to help devise garden plans. Everyone will get satisfaction from giving nature a boost and providing a pleasing garden feature.

Sunday, March 20, 2016


This is a good time to plan for emerging mason bees. When temperatures reach the mid-50's (fahrenheit) for about four to five consecutive days, it's a good idea to have a place ready for them to create a nesting spot. This temperature range will coincide with the blossoming of orchard trees.

As bees emerge, they immediately begin foraging and depositing eggs. The pictured teardrop-shaped mason bee house is a good start when providing habitats. These houses are usually equipped with a hook for hanging, but in my experience bees prefer their houses to be stationary--no dangling. So be sure to secure them if you choose this type nesting site. 

The gentle mason bee is smaller than the honeybee, but works alongside them  compatibly. And, with only six in an area, they could successfully pollinate one whole fruit tree. Native to North America, these gentle bees pollinate almonds, melons, and blueberries.

Upon emerging, their lifespan is approximately four weeks, but males begin dying off a few days after pollination.

The nesting tubes in a mason bee dwelling need to be 6 inches long to protect the eggs from long beaks like those found on woodpeckers.

For more information and pictures on how you can help our native bees, visit: