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Archive for the ‘Gardening’ Category

bumblebee in field of clover

The lawn is laden with clover this week, offering an all-you-can-eat bumblebee buffet.  The bumblebees’ activity is so quick and their movement so constant (they’re as busy as bees you know) that almost every photograph I took of them was blurred.  It was also a challenge to not step on the bees as I attempted to photograph them while they worked.

bumblebee showing pollen basket on clover

As they travel from clover floret to floret seeking nectar, female worker bumblebees fill the pollen baskets on their hind legs.  By the time these baskets are considered full by the bee, each might contain up to a million grains of pollen.  Imagine the care and hard work required to gather so many grains!  This pollen will then be carried home to feed the next generation of bees.

clover floret

Due to their long tongues, bumblebees are the insects most capable of reaching the nectar hidden within the folds of the clover floret.  Bumblebees pay for the pollen grains they gather by cross-pollinating the many clover florets they visit.  They’re hairy little creatures, magnets for any pollen they encounter as they go about their busy work.  Later, back at home, they’ll use special combs on their legs to carefully clean off any pollen that’s left lingering on their bodies.

bumblebee on clover

One can no more approach people without love than one can approach bees without care.  Such is the nature of bees…
~ Leo Tolstoy

Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2014

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Even Van Gogh’s Starry Night pales in comparison to the fresh beauty and scent of flowers brought indoors from the garden.

Whether they’re lilies, peonies or another seasonal favorite, fresh blooms have the ability to bring any room in the house to life.

Although I don’t usually bring cut flowers indoors, these peonies fell onto the ground after a recent rain .  As peonies require ants to complete the pollination process, I was careful to inspect the blooms prior to bringing them indoors.

Little did I know that something else had hitchhiked in with the blooms, likely on a leaf.  It was only a matter of a few minutes before it had made its way onto the table leg.  Can you see it?

Nature is always full of surprises.

Whether you’re enjoying nature indoors or outdoors on this beautiful sunny day, Happy Canada Day to you!  By the way, this slug will be spending the rest of the day outdoors 🙂

Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2012

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It might look all pretty on the surface, but don’t be deceived.  There’s a fierce and brutal competition going on in local gardens these days.  Many plants depend on insects for cross-pollination in order to ensure the survival of their species.  With such high stakes, it’s inevitable that some are going to be more successful than others at attracting pollinators to their blooms.  Take rhododendrons for example.  Locally, it’s difficult to find a residential street where these showy non-native ornamental shrubs are not in bloom this week.

What does a plant have to do to get some attention from flying insects?  Look bright and beautiful for starters.  And this is something rhododendrons do especially well.  So well in fact that they distract many pollinators from visiting our less showy native species.  Canadian bees probably haven’t heard about the poisonous ‘mad honey’ that’s created with the nectar of rhododendrons.   (See more in Wikipedia’s entry on Grayanotoxin).  They simply target the most spectacular blooms and tuck in.

Many gardeners too likely don’t know that the petals and leaves of common rhododendrons are poisonous and can prove deadly to livestock and children if ingested.

While attracting a good share of pollinators during the daytime, white flowers also catch the attention of night-flying moths with their subtle scent.  What wonderful flying creatures are drawn to these alluring blooms under the moonlight?

In many countries around the globe, common rhododendrons are now considered an invasive species as they’ve taken over the natural understory in some forests.  (See the Wikipedia entry on Rhododendron ponticum).  In the past year, I’ve found two invasive rhododendrons growing in otherwise wild areas on my property.  If they start crowding out the native plants, will I become a rhodi-basher in the years to come?  I hope not, but it can be a jungle out there.

Invasive rhododendrons

June 18th to the 24th 2012 is International Pollinator Week.  Do you know what’s going on in your garden? For more information, see Pollination Canada.

Text and photographs copyright Amy-Lynn Bell 2012.

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Have you seen the Green Man? His tracks are everywhere these days…  in the yard, in the woods and around the salt marsh.  He’s been busy engaged in activities that are too often attributed to Mother Nature.

From the trail I can see where he’s been doing his business in the woods, carpeting the forest floor.

Even areas with standing dead wood seem to come to life with him around.

The Green Man has been laboring in secret for thousands of years.  Besides greenery, his signature work includes flowers like forget-me-nots that are frequently found growing out of bounds.

Through the ages, he’s been known by many titles, among them Pan, Silvanus, the Wild Man, Skanda and the Green Knight.  But Mystery’s always his middle name.  He’s busy wherever it’s spring and summer on the planet, spreading his seed and encouraging unbridled growth.  His drawn, painted, or  sculptured image is found worldwide in various cultures dating back to ancient times.  His face is often covered with leaves.

Though you may not get to see him in person, you’re probably familiar with his work.  It speaks to all of us who are looking for a rebirth of the spirit (and the garden) at this time of year.

For more information about the Green Man, see Wikipedia’s entry.

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The colder weather and accompanying snow this past week has slowed down the activity of cold-blooded creatures.  This little garter snake was found cuddled up under a rock in the mint garden.

It wasn’t moving very quickly, so I was able to pick it up and place it in a container for closer observation.  Over the years, my sons captured numerous snakes under the rocks in our yard.  We’ve also come across garter snakes in the woods and among the wild rose bushes.  Last year I almost stepped on one that was sunning itself on the front steps.

Garter snakes are known to make good pets.  One year, we kept a large garter in a terrarium over the summer months.  They do give off a scent after a period in captivity so it was eventually released back into the wild.

Garter snakes are ovoviviparous, meaning that a mother carries the eggs internally but offspring emerge live with no sign of the shell at birth.  Garters are independent of their mothers as soon as they’re born.  One of my neighbors would frequently dig into a mass of newly born garters while working in her garden.  In northern areas, garters will also congregate in a massive ball with other snakes prior to hibernation.

Garters are mildly venomous.  My youngest son was bitten by them as a boy with no adverse effects.

These snakes are the most widely distributed reptiles in North America, likely due to the fact that they’re not picky eaters. Worms, amphibians, mice, young birds, bugs, fish and eggs are all acceptable fare.

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moss 1

Moss brings an enchanted appearance to forests.  Several varieties grow around Flandrum Hill, on the ground, on stones and more than just the north side of tree trunks. 

moss on tree

In recent years, some innovative horticulturalists have suggested that it might be ecologically beneficial for homeowners to consider growing lawns of moss instead of grass.   Here are some reasons why:

  • It grows fast,
  • prevents erosion,
  • repels weeds,
  • doesn’t require fertilizer,
  • doesn’t require watering and 
  • doesn’t require mowing.

That last reason should be enough by itself to convince people to look into the moss option.  Imagine all the labour that would be saved in lawn maintenance!

moss 5

Though mosses thrive in moist, acidic soil, all they really need is a bit of shade.  They’re able to absorb enough moisture from rainfall to allow them to survive without extra watering.

 

sphagnum

The sphagnum moss shown above is a marvel of nature.  It can absorb several times its own weight in water or oil.  It has many uses in gardening, ie. as a seed starter, and dried, is an excellent insulator, firestarter and dressing for wounds.  

Mosses are often used by scientists as bioindicators, species used to monitor the health of an environment, to identify the presence of heavy metals and other pollutants in an ecosystem.  Their presence here doesn’t just make the woods seem more magical, they reveal the good health of the environment as well.

For more information on moss lawns, see

Moss Makes a Lush, No-care Lawn

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