So Out in the Park became Out in the (Car) Park, as part of a much bigger event, Cuba Dupa.
And our Bee-Loved stall was there, under one of these gazebos, thanks to my qi gong teacher, Fan, who contributed some – very popular – plants of her own. And to Tasha Haines, whose lovely eye and generous heart are always valuable to have around.
We also advertised qi gong and sold some women’s film-related things.
And Anna Keir’s quirky crafts.
It was fun. And good to talk with visitors, share the plants and the accompanying handouts.
Until a Wellington gust lifted the row of gazebos. Twice. The gazebos were dismantled and we went home early.
I was proud of my plants, from heritage seeds, in their biodegradable Fertil pots from France, in their organic compost and growing sturdily: alyssum, two kinds of basil, bergamot, borage, calendula, coriander, parsley. Many flowering or about to flower. All attractive to bees. All going to provide seeds that their owners can use next year.
Now it’s time to prepare the garden for winter. There are still bumble bees in the lavender. And the anise hyssop is flowering. But daylight saving ends soon.
A couple of times a day, most days, I’m out there in my kitchen garden with a rubber glove on one hand, to collect the stink bugs with my ungloved hand and squash them with my rubber gloved hand, or sometimes within a nearby leaf. I’m pretty certain the bugs are nezara viridula. I hate the squashing process. That little POP the bigger bugs make when I kill them. I long for a spray. Soapy water, someone suggested. In the past I’ve tried neem oil.
On the public zigzag, the tomato plants are bug-free. They’ve grown without water and I’ve wondered if this is because they’re surrounded by harakeke/flax. Are they also bug-free because of the flax?
Some tomato plants in my kitchen garden are also bug-free. I can tell because the fruit doesn’t have the bug-sucked characteristics, the soggy-sh, woddy-ish outer layers. Perhaps because bergamot grows nearby, or they’re in better quality soil. But in a central patch the stink bugs in their various forms of development suck the juice from the outer layers of the tomatoes.
The bugs reproduce vigorously – the shiny black babies congregate around the tomato stems – and stay in ones or two until they become the mature plain green bug, viewed (by me) as a pair only when mating.
All the bugs seem to like the calendula seed heads where they’re easy-ish to pick off. But they also sense my intent, I think. Often, even when I carefully position myself to throw no shadow, they leap off before my hand arrives. Except when they’re babies, they’re especially sneaky on the tomatoes, skitter away from nearest point, often over the top of the tomato and around the back. or round the side to the back. Sometimes, if they’re on a leaf, they swing underneath it. And by the time I’ve repositioned myself they’re GONE.
A friend suggests these bugs reproduce according to the moon’s cycle. But I’m not waiting around to observe that closely. The tomatoes ripen within that one cycle and my focus is on them right now. And on my longing to spray, to machine gun those nezara viridula OUT OF THE GARDEN.
I’m going to build up the soil where the afflicted plants grow and see if there are fewer stink bugs in a year’s time, because the plants are stronger. (Or because I’ve killed so many bugs.) I don’t have to sell my tomatoes – or my beans, which the stink bugs destroyed last year – but I now have much more sympathy for those who grow plants for a living and use sprays, including neonics. I know more about the tensions between loving bees and ensuring the best productivity of plants that don’t need bees to fruit. As well as my own ability to kill, to protect my food sources.
The garden’s fading. Dry. Few bees. But on the shady side of the public zigzag, a little group of sunflowers.
The bergamot and the thyme are growing well out there too, in a shady spot by the path. But not flowering yet.
Some hyssop is flowering at last. But it’s not healthy, in the kitchen garden or out on the zigzag. A small insect eats at its leaves I think and it may have needed more water. Can’t see myself gathering enough to make a drink for wintry coughs.
The plants in my pots are healthy though, waiting for their next date at the postponed fair, at the end of the month. One of them’s flown to Nelson.
I love it when the plants go somewhere else. They often do much better in their new homes. On the other side of town, a bergamot from an earlier seeding is looking gorgeous.
Tomorrow, with assistance from lovely mates, I was having a stall at Out in the Park, Wellington’s Queer Fair, down the road at the harbour’s edge. For the first time, I was going to sell bee-loved plants. I even have this big (A0) vinyl poster, logo designed by Maeve Marama Lonie, the daughter of one of my oldest friends.
There’s a coldish southerly tonight, so I brought the plants inside for the last time, sad that they’re going. Each biodegradable pot holds alyssum, two kinds of basil, bergamot, borage, calendula, coriander, parsley, all grown completely organically and without neonics. The idea is that people get to know these plants as they grow and flower, attract bees and then seed. And because the plants all come from heritage seeds, buyers can collect their own seed for next year.
The plants loved it when my qi gong teacher spent forty minutes giving them qi, on Tuesday. ‘They’re happier’, she said afterwards. BUT last night some little organism got to the large basil – the fino verde is fine – so that happiness didn’t protect them.
And now the fair’s been postponed till Sunday because of that nasty southerly, whoosh! in from Antarctica. Irritating, because my driver isn’t available that day and the day’s timeframe for the fair may change, too.
But the extra day gives me time to replace the munted basil and to better organise the other, film, side of the stall. There, I’ll be selling items that aren’t at risk from the environment in the same way plants are.
Pure cotton tea towels from my Development project. All the same size, unlike the bergamot, for instance.
And Complex Female Protagonist military caps. Three colours – black, white, khaki. All standard, unlike the greens of the plants. Here’s the poster–
I’ve been too timid to open the carton they arrived in– what if I hate the caps I ordered, military-style, as befits a ‘campaign’?
And now there’s lots of time to do that tomorrow. And to enjoy the sunflowers. Even if it’s raining.
I might even walk along the zigzag to our local park, formerly a monastery garden. Traces of the garden are still there – brick walls, a huge pear tree, some herbs. But most of all, I love the mature pohutukawa trees. The bees love pohutukawa too, when it flowers in December.
In the spring, I gave bee-loved seedlings (and tomato and courgette seedlings) only to people I love. By chance really. People in my extended ‘family’ who help me flourish, so I see them regularly. Because they warm my heart, with their laughter and talk and generosity. (Some of them passed on the seedlings to people I don’t know.)
As the plants mature, I’m learning that these beautiful Bee-Loved Flower People (the 1960s return, in a new form!) also help the plants flourish, strongly. And differently from those that stayed here, in my garden and on the public zigzag. I expected that this would happen with the seedlings I gave my chi gong teacher, but it seems to be happening with all the plants.
Remember that 14 1/2 inch Florence ribbed courgette/marrow the other day, from up the coast in Kapiti? That courgette photo from out at Lower Hutt? And now there’s more news, via Twitter, from a household that’s a twenty minute stroll away.
Last night, in a series of tweets, I got the picture above, of the first bergamot seedling to flower, confirming that the plant is a bergamot. Then these tomato pics. Like me, this Bee-Loved Flower Person has lost the plant labels.
‘I think that’s the Gardener’s Delights,’ came the tweet. ‘Not sure about these wrinkly ones. I don’t think that’s the Black From Tula but I don’t remember what the third breed was you gave us!’ (Cherokee Purple.)
And: ‘I think this might be a B(lack) F(rom) T(ula)’.
‘Mine are so SMALL still,’ I tweeted back.
The response: ‘I may have cheated as they’re planted straight into potting mix bags. We are quite sheltered though which probably helps?’
My response just flew onto the screen: ‘There’s no ‘cheating’ in that. Shelter, yr sun, yr good chi & green fingers. All that laughter–‘
I’m so excited by all this. Surprised and delighted that these Bee-Loved Flower People’s experiences with their plants extend and enhance my understanding of the plants that stayed here.
My garden is overflowing. Flowers and vegetables packed in. Still too few bees. And all of them bumbles.
More than ever, I regret my failure to transplant all the sunflowers to the zigzag. They’re now taking up far too much space and overshadowing tomatoes and herbs, the bee-loved plants that I hope will soon flower .
A couple of days ago I saw the borage and parsley growing and seeding like crazy and decided to make space by ripping out all the borages.
Two advantages. More space. And I could observe what (bumble) bees choose when borage isn’t immediately available.
No guilt involved– the borage is great in the weed bins and there are already tiny borage plants everywhere for the not-too-distant future.
And yes! The bees made for the other blue plants– larkspur and cornflowers.
I saw one briefly on the phacelia but didn’t have time to catch a pic.
I even saw a bee among the nasturtiums.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the house the poppies are going for it.
And the bees love them. But I’ve noticed that once the fluffy bits around the seed head in the poppy centres disappear (often on the very day the poppy flowers– is it the wind, the bees, or just a normal rapid poppy change?) the bees avoid those poppies. The fluffy bits must carry the pollen. It makes sense.
I had NO IDEA that growing beeloved flowers would stimulate so many conversations. Not always about bees.
On the zigzag the conversations are with passersby. Some I know. Some I don’t. Sometimes I’m happy to chat. Sometimes I’m not. And I loved it when a strong and chatty house guest dug a trench for me, in a clayey zigzag spot, for the sunflowers which I should’ve transplanted weeks ago. You can see they’re not that happy, a week later. But today it’s raining steadily. That may help.
I left the rest of the group in my back garden where they flourish.
I loved it on the zigzag when an old acquaintance passed by and said he’d like a parsley patch. So when the sunflowers were in, in front of them I planted a group of volunteer tomatoes a neighbour donated, some Black From Tula toms that I’d left far too long in their pots, some phacelia that the birds – or a cat frustrated by the netting on the backyard garden – immediately scratched up. And at the very front, next to the zigzag path, a little patch of small parsleys and a few calendulas.
I also have conversations with people who are growing tiny plants from here, at their place.
This picture came in a tweet, in a little group of tweets from one household–
I looked at this herb, growing on a sunny windowsill I’m familiar with. It’s grown more quickly than most of my own herbs sown from the same seeds at the same time. But all their labels blew away when they were seedlings. What is it?
I know it’s not thyme. There are thyme, hyssop and bergamot babies in my garden. I sowed two kinds of bergamot, bergamot bee balm and bergamot lemon but they and the hyssop are new to me. Thyme’s the only one I’m sure of, by look and smell and taste.
Is that plant on the windowsill anise hyssop? Maybe.
Is it bergamot? Also maybe. See how it has serrated leaves too? Do you know what the plants on the windowsill are? Please feel free to let me know–
Like hyssop, bergamot is an aromatic perennial herb. It’s also thought to be a good companion to tomato plants. So I hope those little plants in the sunny window are bergamot and will join the now-flourishing tomato plants in my friends’ also-sunny garden. And that they will flower soon and feed many bees.
Via email, I have another conversation, with my mate who identified shepherd’s purse on the zigzag. We swapped bean seeds last year. My bordoloi for her scarlet runners. And both are going great at her place. She sent me some photos. A bordoloi already–
And lots of scarlet runner flowers.
I gave her a Florence ribbed courgette too. Like mine, it’s looking good. Well on the way.
And as for the bees, they’re regularly on this little path leading from my place to the zigzag, more bumbles than honey bees.
(I’ve learned now that bees stay away from geranium, so it’s a good plant to establish around places we want bees to avoid, like a child’s sandpit. I’m keeping mine here by the mailbox, as a courtesy towards the posties.)
AND, for the first time, I’ve seen a (bumble) bee on the zigzag. It alighted on this forget-me-not, near the new tomato plants.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Bees & Bee-Loved Flowers. A Global View From New Zealand.