Tag Archives: phacelia

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.

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.)

honey shack

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.

parsley seeds

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

wide shot Christmas pressie

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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Bees In The Blossom. And Other Winged Insects

It is DRY. I have to restrain myself from dragging the long hose onto the public zigzag. I need to know what will grow well out there, even if neglected, even in a drought.

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left to right– borage, poppies, daisies

But it’s hard when I look at this borage (yes, the borage is back, in some places at least), these poppies. They are all stressed. The daisies seem very hardy. I’ll add them in other places next year.

In the regularly watered home garden, there are very few honey bees. But the bumbles are busy. And they LOVE the phacelia, now flowering abundantly. Even when there’s fresh borage nearby.

bumbles choose phacelia
bumbles choose phacelia, among borage, calendula, cornflowers
Bumbles in phacelia
going for it
phacelia with bee
this one so you can admire the phacelia leaves

I’ve added a little bowl of water in the back garden, for the bees. (A bumble bee fell in and was in bad shape when I came to the rescue. I put it in a shady place to recover. And then it was gone.)

The water hasn’t attracted the honey bees. Occasionally one comes by. This one had a lot of flower choice and went for a series of calendula blossoms.

honey bee in calendula

And I’ve noticed other winged insects. Here are two. I’ve searched on Google reverse image for them, without success. Are they busy eating little pests? I hope so.

another winged creature at rest

winged creature at rest

If you know what these are, I’d love to hear from you.

I’ve had a few ‘black’ poppies, too, with a range of colour. The insects, including the bees, seem to ignore them.

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(only slightly) black poppy

I keep watching.

Water & #Bee-Loved Plants on the Zigzag (1)

my watering cans
my watering cans

We’re in high summer. Here, south of the equator, that means day after day of gusts of warm and drying wind from the north. And, this year, lots of sunshine.

On the public zigzag, I don’t use a hose.  And won’t. Because I’m experimenting. Some of the experiments are about sun. I watch the arc of the sun and how that’s changed before and after solstice. Will the sunny spot where I have tomatoes provide six hours of sun a day right through the ripening period?

Some of it’s about plant choice. Natives. And as many bee-loved herbs as I can manage, to grow and self-seed in perpetuity, as a bee haven. Parsley and borage have already self-seeded here and there and  a  volunteer poppy is about to flower. To feed passersby, I’ve planted silver beet (very hardy), cape gooseberries (ditto) and tomatoes (because I like eating them too).

Some of the experiments are about water. Which plants will become more stressed than others, because they always need lots of water? (Or for other reasons.)

I want the zigzag gardens I care for to be self-sufficient, so they need only a big cleanup now and then.  So most of my planting’s been done with minimal ongoing plant support–into organic compost, and then an initial watering. Then mulch, or weed matting with mulch on top in some places. The single phacelia and some tiny parsley the only exceptions. On the less sunny side of the zigzag, where there’s lots of humus, I just popped the baby plants straight in.

I absolutely don’t want anyone to have to water out there. That’s why we started the two hugelkulturs. I liked the idea that it was possible – within a larger garden area – to establish individual gardens that don’t require irrigation or fertiliser.

So how are the plants doing during  these hot and windy days? To my surprise, among all that humus, and shaded by  trees, the plants on the less sunny side of the zigzag aren’t flourishing and appear to be  heat-stressed. Just as well the completed hugelkulturs will be there (eventually, everything takes a while).

on the dry side
on the dry side, with hugelkultur under development at top left

On the sunnier side, where harakeke (flax) surrounds them, plants are healthy, green and growing fast. I’m especially surprised that the tomatoes are flourishing without any added water.  Some now have fruit.

on the other side of the track

We put the hugelkulturs on the shady side of the zigzag  because that’s where there was wood to bury – the essential component of hugelkultur. It looks like we chose the right place.  (I’m still wondering how people establish hugelkulturs in a desert, where there’s no starter wood.)

Now I’m considering how to support the plants on that dry side. I refuse to drag the hose out there, on principle. Fingers crossed it will rain soon. Otherwise I’ll go to and fro with the big watering can. Anyway, will add more mulch.

Taking Care of Phacelia – My Favorite Bee-Loved Flower

bee on phacelia
bee on phacelia, the mauve blossom in the foreground

I fell in love with phacelia (purple tansy) before I planted a single seed. Before I’d even seen a phacelia plant. Who knows why? A coup de foudre is often mysterious. And especially for something not yet seen. But if I hadn’t loved phacelia I might have given up. For this year anyway.

First off, not many phacelia seeds germinated. They drowned easily as tiny seedlings too. With so many seedlings to water – see early posts – I was sometimes a little careless. Eventually I planted half a dozen in the vegetable garden where I could keep a close eye on them. And four in the tomato patch on the zigzag, where the nearby hyssop, parsley and bergamot flourished.

But not the phacelias. Birds saw a space with fresh compost and scratched up the plants. None of the others, in more robust groupings, only the phacelias.  I rescued what I could.  And I covered them and their rescue Black From Tula tomato neighbours with this chicken wire cage (the net was in use in the vegetable garden).

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chicken wire cage poses on vegetable garden phacelias (where a bumble bee loves the the middle one)

One zigzag phacelia survived. (I visit it every day.)

The phacelias in the vegetable garden flourished and flowered. Even the one that I somehow broke, and mended with  gaffer tape.

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the gaffer tape is that red, supporting the broken bits of phacelia

Then the zigzag phacelia looked about to flower and the Black From Tulas were growing like crazy. So a couple of days ago, with great care not to catch the plants in the chicken wire, I lifted it off. Caught the phacelia somehow. And ripped it RIGHT OUT.

Broken roots. A nasty shock. For both of us.

I put it back, with more compost. And now I run to and fro to water it twice a day. Sometimes with compost-tea in the watering-can water.

phacelia laid low among other bee-loveds and the tomatoes
phacelia laid low among other bee-loveds and the tomatoes

It looks as though some stalks have died, but one is coming back (top left). Maybe two. Whew.

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.

with 2 phacelia and everything
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.

bumble bee on larkspur
bumble bee on larkspur
cornflower
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.

fluff gone
fluff free poppy