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I’m disappointed

 

yes, they're out--
yes, they’re out–

The bees are out, on a fine morning. There are more of them in the borage today, but only bumble bees in the blossoming trees.

So I walk around and up to the neighbours’ side of the wall to see whether there’s something that obstructs the bees’ access, to get the bee perspective if I can. I look out and down. Is the washing on the line a problem I wonder?

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apples and pears in full flower, bits of other blooms. & the washing.

The blossom’s as close to the bee box as it seems to be from my place.

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pear, borage, nasturtium

Yep. I’d feel invited.

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To the pear blossom. And to the apple blossom just a bit further away. And they’re all safe. Never been sprayed.

(Some pears and some but not all of the apple trees attract codlin moth and pheromone traps have never been effective. When I prepare pears I often have to cut out the codlin larvae and wash off their frass.  And sometimes I have to pick little black bugs off the pear’s leaves, towards the end of the season.)

Will the bees find the blossom? No idea. I can’t see the problem.

And then I notice a bumble bee, on top of the box. It seems to be trying to burrow into a chip in the brick.

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As far as I know, bumbles are solitary. But does it smell that lovely bee smell? Want to be nearby? Or is it just looking for somewhere to live that’s close to the beautiful blossom?

More Magic

bees on back fence
bee box on back fence

A neighbour brought some bees home from work. From urban bee hives. They’re in and out of a little box, up on our back fence, exactly the week that our fruit trees blossom, in a garden filled with borage and calendula and lavender flowers.

And I’m in love. Can watch those bees for hours. Pop out to visit when I want to smile. And I can smell an entrancing honey-ish aroma. The beeswax perhaps?

So far, they’re not much interested in our place. This calm and sunny morning we have the same number of bees and bumble bees we’ve had here for weeks, making a pleasant hum. Are the visiting bees more interested in the neighbour’s own wisteria?

But I put out some water for them, anyway. And thought about the water. With chlorine and other chemicals. Hormones even. Have I missed an essential element in bee well-being? Should I collect rainwater? Should I worry about more than flowers grown from seeds coated with neonics (writing about them in my next post)?

heritage apple blossom, calendula, lavender, borage.
heritage apple blossom, calendula, lavender, borage. waiting for those bees.

PS That aroma. Reminds me of Dani Ehrig’s pure beeswax candles. I found a tea candle and a little heart candle in Commonsense Organics and then Dani’s catalogue with an amazing range.

A Bigger Picture

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It’s magic to have this opportunity to learn about others who love bees and about resources that will help me (& you!) grow Bee-Loved plants.

Ian Stewart and Jo Donelly, who own Bees Blessing, sell honeyed cordials at the Sunday market down the road as well as in shops. They’ve kept bees for thirty years and use their own cordial recipes and, wherever possible, organically grown produce from New Zealand. And they brew in small batches with NO additives, preservatives or ‘fillers’ (like water). I had one of their Hot Lemon Honey Ginger drinks the other day. It was ace at 8 o’clock in the morning. Totally delicious and sustaining. And one of the stall-keepers told me about cauliflower soup with borage, something to try!

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Bees Blessing blackboard at the market

And today I fell over Wild Forage, and its Wild Flower Seed Rescue Remedy. Another source of seeds! All proceeds go to the National Beekeepers Association of New Zealand.

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Yesterday, in the wind and rain, I delivered pots and seed mix and seeds (from Koanga and Kings) to my Kapiti mates. The pots came from Fertil, in France, via Biogrow. In a big box! Exciting.

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This afternoon, I’ll sow some of my bean seeds. The little brown ones (swollen because they’ve been soaking overnight) are bordoloi beans. They’re the descendants of seeds a New Zealand soldier brought here from Italy, after World War II. The big red ones are runner beans, swapped for some bordoloi with my qi gong teacher, last year. Like tomatoes, beans can manage without bees. They pollinate automatically before the flowers open, when the anthers are pushed up against the stigma. But I love having heritage beans among the other plants.

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My grandsons make bean dens but my beans will be in rows. Or in pots.

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Jake and James plant their beans, which will grow into a den.

More about Bees Blessing

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Ian Stewart, Jo Donelly & their daughter Emare

Bee-Loved Flowers

I worry about bees. In my garden, a wild bee is a rarity. Each year there are fewer honey bees and there are more and more bumble bees, which tend to damage the blossom on my fruit trees and beans.

When I learned that most flowering plants are grown from seeds treated with neonicotinoids, neuro-active insecticides that reach flowers and harm foraging bees, I decided to grow more flowering plants. Bee-loved and SAFE,  from seeds without neonicotinoids, where possible heritage seeds and open pollinated seeds that will then provide more ‘safe’ seeds and plants. To distribute as widely as possible. Let me know if you’d like some.

bumble bee in the borage on this windy spring morning when I'll never see a honey bee
A bumble bee in the Borage on this windy spring morning, when I’ll never see a honey bee – they hate the wind

I already have Calendula and Borage. Alyssum. Poppies. Evening Primrose. Italian Parsley and other flowering herbs-to-cook-with. All self sown in my garden, which has been spray-free for almost 35 years. And some plants from the organic shop. Lavender. Rosemary. But now I’m adding others, from Koanga Institute and  King’s Seeds– Peony Black Poppy, Hyssop, Wild Thyme, Bee Balm Bergamot, Anise Hyssop, Lemon Bergamot, Cornflowers. My Sunflower seeds from last year have already sprouted.

And my mates are helping me. They live on the Kapiti Coast, where it’s warmer and their garden gets more sun. Yesterday, one mate brought the  first batch of seedlings into town. I met them at the station and it felt like meeting a new baby.

the seedlings from Kapiti, with colourful labels
first seedlings from Kapiti, with colourful labels

After that, to celebrate, we went to French Can Can, the best-ever Wellington cafe for French savouries and cakes. The boss, Eric Hauser, has TWO Michelin stars. And it shows.

French Can Can, Willis Street, Wellington
French Can Can, Willis Street, Wellington

One of us had a quiche and a mille-feuille with coffee, the other an amazing little chocolate friand-like cake, filled with a delicious gooey chocolate and raspberry sauce, with a pot of tea. The tea came with a three minute tea timer, so the tea drinker could be sure to get some anti-oxidants. Then I took the baby plants home to meet the tomato seedlings.

Welcome to the world, baby plants!

borage and calendula from heritage and untreated seeds, waiting to welcome the bees
Borage and Calendula from untreated heritage seeds, waiting to welcome the bees

 

Tomatoes

small egg carton

It’s that time of year again. I’ve ordered the tomato seeds from King’s Seeds and sown them into egg cartons and cared for them at a sunny window. This year I have Black From Tula, Gardeners Delight and Cherokee Purple.

And just as the tomato seeds sprout, I get photos of my grandsons with their tomato harvest, on the other side of the world. Their tomatoes, like all tomatoes, self-pollinate. In Wellington we can rely on the wind to help, to shake the flowers. But bumblebees are also useful.

A big one.
James with a big one: 424 grams.
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James and Jake create 1 metre 30 cm of sliced tomato from the single tomato.