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.
We need rain. Sunflowers have died in my garden, first time ever. About half, even though I’ve watered. And they’re wilting on one side of ‘my’ bit of the public zigzag garden, where I never water. Not so bad on the other side. Fingers crossed there will be some golden flowers quite soon.
I sowed beans to climb these sunflowers. I think birds ate most of the seeds. And/or beans may not co-habit well with sunflowers. But I now have three beans on a single plant (further up, the neighbouring zigzag garden has handfuls).
I’ll save these beans for next year’s seed.
A little patch of sorrel has survived, too. Some rain will help it expand.
And in the tomato thicket, bergamots are in flower. Some in my own garden too. But the bees haven’t found them yet.
Not bad, without any watering at all? And the cocktail tomatoes are beginning to ripen.
There’s lots of parsley, too. But the silver beet and the cape gooseberries (with its ripening fruit) are looking stressed.
And in my own garden, I have problems with my long-established fruit trees. I wonder whether climate change is part of this. For instance, the feijoa trees flowered very early (I removed the flowers) and have now flowered again.
Birds – for the second year in a row – are eating the immature apples. Are there shortages of their other food because of this hot weather? Or more birds than usual? I love the tiny native birds: fantail/pīwakawaka and waxeye/ tauhou and sometimes grey warbler/ riroriro. They dance along branches of the trees, glean tiny bugs that I can’t see. I enjoy the exotics – blackbirds and thrushes – that go for the snails. But are they welcome to most of the apples, especially from the only tree that produces big crops? No. Nets next year.
The birds aren’t eating the pears. But – another worry – the pears are much smaller than usual at the end of January.
And so are the quinces. Same size for weeks.
A big thank you to the bees that pollinated the trees. But now I have to consider how to protect the crop in other ways, next year.
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.
People visit to choose plants to take home. Two have taken a clump of sunflowers and the interplanted alyssum. But most people want tomatoes. And basil.
What about some alyssum I say. What about some sunflowers? We’ve got sunflowers, they say. Got alyssum.
Look! I say then. Look at these tiny bee-loved plants.
I don’t know what they’re called because their label sticks blew away in a Kapiti wind. But they’ll be safe for the bees at your place. Better than anything you can buy at most garden centres, where they may be affected by neonics.
But no. They want tomatoes. Which don’t need bees. Which bees don’t care about. They want basil, because it’s hard to grow and it goes with the tomatoes. We’ve got plenty of flowering plants, they say.
So, a bit of advice about tomatoes out in the open–
They will flourish only if they’re in a plot with at least six hours of sun on a sunny day.
You can split open a bag of compost and put a tomato plant directly in it – no need for more!
You can fill a bucket with compost, put a hole in the bottom of the bucket and hang the tomato plant downward – then feed liquid seaweed/comfrey etc from the top.
If you want tomato-flavour-to-die-for, establish around 50 plants and severely limit the number of branches and fruit (via the sterling Alex Mackay, whose tomatoes are legendary).
Gardeners Delight (no apostrophe!) is the visitors’ fave tomato, so far. I have lots of Black From Tula and the ones that – this year – interest me most, Cherokee Purple .
Here are small Cherokee Purples in among the strawberries a month ago with tiny bee-loved borage plants top right–
From egg cartons inside, then to the outside, then to bigger containers outside. Some Cherokees now await new owners, with basil and – in one pot – a sneaky alyssum. These are rescue plants, coming right near the rosemary, the lemon balm and the evening primrose.
And I’ve planted a few Cherokee Purples myself. The biodegradable pots are meant to be below the soil, but I haven’t got that quite right yet. So I tore the top of the pot and pushed it down towards the earth.
And – fantastic news – that top-and-bottom-less tin to protect the Florence courgettes from slug-and-snail invasion seems to be working–
Apart from the Purple Cherokees and the Florence-courgette-in-the-tin success, I’m excited about my phacellia. This bowlful and a couple of smaller containers – only one of them given away, to a special gardener. Can’t decide where in the garden to provide this new-to-me-bee-loved treat.
The big question at the mo though is, HOW am I going to persuade visitors to welcome healthy bee-loved flower plants into their gardens?
Bees & Bee-Loved Flowers. A Global View From New Zealand.