Tag Archives: cornflowers

Autumn Pleasures

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Delight! The hugelkultur lives! We have visible fungi – and therefore must have more that grows around the wood we buried. I’ve been waiting and waiting for this moment.

It may not seem to have much to do with bees, but it means that the foundation for this part of the garden, the wild experimental area, is becoming better quality. So next year the flowers for the bees will also be better quality.

I don’t know if our fungi’s edible, but plan to check soon, with a fungi-grower, the Fun Gi (!), out in Lower Hutt.

As you can see, the fungi shares space with shards from the midden that we’ve been clearing for three years,  purple cauliflower seedlings, protected from birds and cats by wire netting; and tiny new land cress!

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I think it also means that we can consider some small bushes on the hugelkultur, blueberries maybe.

Visible dead wood on the zigzag is also sprouting fungi, a cherry stump on the left and a who-knows-what on the right.

It’s seed-collecting time, too. All that land cress to be winnowed from the stalks. Parsley heads to shake.

 

And seeds for more phacelia next year. So bee-loved, this one.

And then there are the bordoloi beans. Descendants of those ones that a New Zealand soldier brought back from Italy after the Second World War. Probably enough for a soup as well as to sow in spring.

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bordoloi beans ripening near the harakeke/flax

And this great round pumpkin is maturing, like others. It will be soup, too. And seeds for next year.

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And then there’s the last of the annual blooms.

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Bees and other little flying things are very happy. And so am I, doing the autumn weeding and planting. Lupins and brand beans to come.  That’ll please the bees, too. I hope: Nothing is certain.

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No Guarantees

People talk a lot as they toil up the zigzag or wander down. There are so many: mostly I tune them out. So yesterday, when someone walking up the path said ‘It’s beautiful’, I kept weeding, worrying because this year my zigzag plots don’t look as good as they did last year. And although they attracted many bees in spring, as summer progresses there are fewer.

The woman on the zigzag repeated herself.

I turned around and there she was, expensive camera in hand.

‘Thank you’, I said. ‘But this is a five-year project and I have two more years to go in this wild bit. Those plots further down are beautiful though, aren’t they?’ (And they truly are, each in a different way.)

‘It’s all beautiful’, she said, in her interesting accent (South American?), gesturing towards the houses at the edge of the zigzag and back towards the wild plot where I stood. ‘I heard that this was better than the Botanical Gardens and it’s true.’

I was gobsmacked. ‘Thank you’, I said again. ‘Are you a tourist?’

‘Yes’, she said.

‘Well, enjoy it’, I said, knowing from other tourists that they really enjoy the domestic scale of the zigzag, the historic houses as much as the gardens. ‘Because soon that house over there at no. 1 – which is older than the big brick monastery it’s next to – will be sold. And the site probably redeveloped’.

‘Whaaaaat?!’ she said. ‘That’s crazy.’

And then she left, trudging up the zigzag to her companion, leaving me in my wild zone with mixed feelings. And a couple of hours later one of those huge cruise ships sailed past. I waved, in case she was looking this way.

And thought about what’s working and what isn’t.

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Annuals like these cornflowers now self seed everywhere. I love the blue. And I’m very pleased that clover has spread, because that’s great for the soil.

And the first of my perennial hollyhocks grown from seed  have flowered, too.

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I’ve learned that honey bees and bumble bees have no interest in alyssum in this part of Wellington, whether it’s spring or summer, near fruit trees, in sun or shade. But because it spreads so well, I’m leaving it wherever it grows.

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Around the hugelkulturs, growth is good in some places. These few cavallo nero plants have done well where last year there were bordoloi beans.

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(The bordolois are doing well across the path this year.)

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This little plot grown from seeds from a well-wisher has been looking good for a while and I love the phacelia, as do the bumble bees.

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The thyme borders are terrific and much admired, particularly by those who cook. Am about to transplant some to the other side of the zigzag, down from those beans.

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But it’s not all good. Water runoff, or something harmful in it, appears to have damaged some plants, like this lavender, so I’ve spread organic biochar (it has an awful smell) under organic sawdust, after compost and other soil builders made no difference.

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I’m going to try the biochar in a couple of other places too, where there was a lot of yucky buried rubbish.

My pride-and-joys are three baby manuka trees, which I hope will give local honey bees a treat when they flower. One of them is that little spiky plant in the centre, below, surrounded by dandelions and parsley.

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Some people see this plot as a ‘mess’. For instance, as in the photo immediately below, there’s silver beet, wild sweet peas, calendula, leek seed heads and more, all mixed in together. near various native shrubs and trees.

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So I plan a sign that explains that this wilderness is for the bees (who love dandelions and calendula and clover!) and for experiments. I’ll write it on one of the tiles that fly off the monastery roof in the gales. Completely encouraged by that random visitor.

Waiheke Island Honey Co: A Joy!

Waiheke Island at dawn, from Waiheke Honey Co
Waiheke Island at dawn, from Waiheke Honey Co

You may have read about Waiheke Island, half an hour by boat from central Auckland, in Aotearoa New Zealand.  It’s fifth on Lonely Planet‘s current list of Top Ten destinations and fourth on Conde Nast Traveller’s list of the Best Islands in the World.

Late last year I was blessed.  I needed to be in Auckland for a little while and a generous artist friend lent me her beautiful, simple studio/home on Waiheke. And I got to visit Richard at Waiheke Island Honey Co. My first apiary visit ever.  Here he is.

Richard
Richard

I loved hearing and watching how much Richard loves and cares for his ‘girls’, as naturally as possible. He even names each queen – then he puts her her name on the lids of the jars of the honey he collects from her hive. From what I saw and heard, every product he makes receives the same imaginative loving care, from beginning to end. (My chef sons love the elegant-and-sturdy Waiheke Honey Co. aprons.)

If you’re in Waiheke, Richard has a honey shack for roadside sales. (His experience is that passersby are pretty honest.)

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I’m sad that shortly after I visited the photos I took were lost in the Cloud, with the rest of my iPad’s info. But I do have this picture of some pohutukawa honey I brought home for a friend – along with active manuka, multiflora and clover honeys for others (I ate the active manuka when I needed a boost, but gave the friend the empty  jar, ‘her’ jar, with ‘Queen Amanda’ on); lip balm for a mate in the sub-Sahara where sometimes it’s very hot and dry and sometimes cold dry winds blow; those classy aprons.  And a lovely memory of a special morning. I learned so much.

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Pohutukawa honey, on a pohutukawa stump among a group of pohutukawa close to home.
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the pohutukawa

This summer, Richard’s posted some pictures that feel affirming of what I do, here in the city.

He too scatters parsley seed and then lets the parsley go to seed.

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Then he gives away the seeds.

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For Christmas, he grew ‘the girls’ a special roadside meadow, beside the honey shack.

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I recognise flowers that also flourish here, 600km south.

Christmas present to bees
marigold, calendula, cornflower, phacelia, borage (etc!)

(My phacelia didn’t grow this year. Not sure why not.)

the flower whose name I can't remember
phacelia with bee

A big thank you to Richard and Sheena (it’s very much a family business!) for their warm welcome.

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Waiheke Island  Honey Co’s website (that’s the island on the label!), where you can’t yet order their products but can contact them.

And here it is on Twitter, on Facebook, on Google+.

All photographs from the Waiheke Honey Co. Facebook page, except one, as indicated.

And here’s where I stayed– totally perfect if you’re a nature lover who likes to be comfortable, want to be close to beaches and cafe and a good library and within walking distance of the ferry (there are also buses and taxis). More than totally perfect if you want to settle in to paint, draw, write.

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More Spring

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quince blossom above Oriental Bay

I went away. And iCloud lost all my photos, including some of an amazing beekeeper on Waiheke Island and his honeys.

And the weather’s been awful. And I’ve been busy with other work. But spring continued anyway.

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a tui in our apple blossom

The bees are back and I’m gardening when I can.

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blue borage, forget-me-not, poppies & calendula

In one part of the garden, all those open-pollinated seeds from last year grew, flowered and went to seed. Those seeds became a stunning early spring show of poppies, calendula, alyssum, borage (white and blue), night scented stock.

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night scented stock, beginning cornflowers,white borage, alyssum

And, of course, the lavender is still there.

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Out on the zigzag, new seeds have sprouted and the hollyhocks are growing.

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the growing hollyhocks, other flower seedlings, flowering geranium, some shepherd’s purse and in the background a kaka beak (just finished flowering)

This year, around the hugelkultur, I’m experimenting again, as I work with the seasonal arcs of the sun, very different than on the other side of the zigzag.

I’ve emulated the neighbours and tried pumpkins, some seedlings for me, some for them. Bees love those big yellow blossoms.

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The tin cans and other (homemade) metal circles are to deter slugs and snails, which don’t like sharp things. Also cats and birds.

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pumpkin seedlings on the hugelkultur

The wire netting helped with some new seedlings. But the birds got under this wire netting and pulled at my Biogro pots, even though the pots were buried. That killed a bean plant or two, alas. The birds scratched out almost all the coriander, too.

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climbing beans and the remains of the biogro pots the birds destroyed

And this morning, I’ll plant the very last of the pumpkins and some coriander someone gave me.

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Off up the path I go, past the bees already busy in the blossom. Into the spring(ish) day.

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After breakfast.

Uprooting the Borage: A Bee-Loved Flower Experiment In An Overcrowded Garden

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cornflowers at upper left, larkspur below, calendula in middle, surrounded by courgettes, tomatoes and sunflowers

My garden is overflowing. Flowers and vegetables packed in. Still too few bees. And all of them bumbles.

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silver beet, parsley, sorrel, calendula and two mauve phacelia in middle at top

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.

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bumble bee on larkspur
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bumble bee on cornflower and yes! that’s a bergamot or hyssop in the foreground, still not flowering alas

I saw one briefly on the phacelia but didn’t have time to catch a pic.

my favorite, phacelia, again, among the tomatoes and awaiting a passing bee
my favorite, phacelia –again – among the tomatoes and silver beet and awaiting a passing bee

I even saw a bee among the nasturtiums.

nasturtium moment
nasturtium moment

Meanwhile, on the other side of the house the poppies are going for it.

poppies with 'fluff' – I need to learn some 'proper' names
poppies with ‘fluff’ – I need to learn some ‘proper’ names

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.

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fluff free poppy

 

Florence Ribbed Courgettes & Hanging Tomatoes

Alongside the bee-loved plants, vegetables grow apace.

The Kings Seeds Florence Ribbed courgette is a stunner. Here are babies on some of my seedlings transplanted to a Lower Hutt garden.

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And this is looking down into one of the four plantings in my back garden.

Florence couregettes

Some of the flowers are HUGE, but they don’t seem to attract bees. On the biggest plant, some courgettes rot at the ends as they grow. (When I harvest I slash off any rotten bits. And all the courgettes have been good to eat.)

The plants that travelled up the coast to Kapiti are doing the best of all. Look at this monster that grew there, over just a few days while the owners were away.

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That big one is 14 1/2 inches long.

The two in the middle came from Kapiti, too, along with an excellent recipe for courgette and feta fritters. Those on the far right are the largest so far from my plantings here.

And, at last, I hung some tomato plants upside down, after transplanting them and  keeping them ‘right’ way up for some days without watering, so they would establish their roots.

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The bigger one, in the foreground,  is a Cherokee Purple, the smaller a little rescue Black From Tula. I’m intrigued that both tomatoes are still trying to grow upwards. See how that stem curves in the middle, towards the top of the pic?

And the compost sure holds the water. When we first hung them up even though I didn’t water them, for DAYS water dripped out via the Black From Tula, which hangs a little lower.   So I put a pot of marjoram underneath, to catch the drips.

The contrast with this lovely row is considerable, isn’t it?

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But I’m doing my best. Learning heaps.

Meanwhile, out on the zigzag, more tomatoes, silver beet and the parsley are growing well. Though something’s nibbling at one of the silver beet plants. A slug? A snail? A bird?

silver beet slightly eaten

Perhaps not snails. The other day,  a guy leant on the rail above the  cape gooseberries, next to the silver beet. He gazed at them for quite a while, without saying a thing.

cape gooseberries doing well
cape gooseberries

Eventually I said–

‘Are you wondering what they are?’

‘No,’ he said. ‘They’re cape gooseberries. I had some and snails ate them.’

So I’ve decided that if snails aren’t eating these gooseberries, it’s unlikely they’re around to eat the silver beet, either.

Anyway, I hope that guy will return, to eat some cape gooseberries when they ripen.They’re flowering now. I don’t think they need bees for pollination.

And then, after claiming yesterday that the bumbles are interested only in lavender, poppies and borage, today I saw one dancing among these flowers. Nothing left in the poppies, it seemed, so she tried the yellow calendulas and the cornflowers on the right.

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Bee-Loved Flower Mysteries

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red geraniums and weed mat on the zigzag

So I’ve planted the red geraniums. I hope they’ll grow into a little hedge that spreads across the weed mats, where mulch will soon replace those old rocks and bricks.  But now I can’t find the article that told me that bees avoid red geraniums. And why. I can confirm that bees see and distinguish all colours except red so they won’t see them. But that might mean that the bees will just fly straight past and into the spray zone. The geraniums won’t be a barrier. Is there another factor? The geranium scent perhaps?

Or the multiple petals? One reason to use heritage seeds is because new and hybrid flower varieties with double or triple flowers and new colours tend to produce less pollen and less nectar. Bees sense this. (And some heavily petalled old varieties, like peonies, are also unattractive to bees.)

And, in a related issue, how come the bumbles are right into our red poppies at the mo? I watch this wild piece of garden regularly and have yet to see a bee land on the calendula (yellow) or daisy (white with yellow centre) or cornflower (blue). But they visit every red poppy that blooms.

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there’s a bumble bee in that central red poppy

Susan Brackney’s Plan Bee explains that – unlike human beans (I’m reading Roald Dahl’s The BFG) – bees see ultra violet light. They rely on the location of the sun to help them navigate and they find their way on cloudy days because ultra violet rays penetrate clouds. And red poppies reflect ultra violet especially well. If we could see ultra violet light, we’d see red poppies shimmer in the sun and extra streaks and lines like airport landing strips, which show the way to the nectar.

I’m disappointed that there are few bees in the garden over this mid-summer time and that they are all bumbles. Not a honey bee in sight. And the only flowers they seem interested in are the borage – white and blue – and the lavender.

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bumble bee in the blue borage, early January
bumble bee on white borage
bumble bee (left) making for the white borage, same day

It’s especially disappointing because at last some of my new bee-loved flowers are in flower and so far the bees just whizz past them en route to the lavender and borage. They’re phacelia (purple tansy). Most of the seedlings died, so there aren’t many mature plants.

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lavender-coloured phacelia among the tomatoes and calendula – growing through a net which is protecting nearby seed beds from birds and cats

The alyssum doesn’t attract the bees either.

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alyssum

Nor the cornflowers. Though I did see one on this yellow flowering rocket (there for seed), in among the cornflowers. Briefly.

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rocket flowers among the blue cornflowers (aka bachelors buttons)

I’m following the action closely. Hoping to learn more.

And if you know anything about these little mysteries that intrigue me, I’d love to hear from you.