Habits of the Unwatched Bee

Like many a gardener, my appreciation for insects was transformed when I began spending time around plants. I’m downright proud that so many plants in my yard have bees buzzing around them all day.

My impression has always been that the bees browse and linger over their meals.

But I’ve never tried to photograph them before.

Turns out they move all over the damn place.

My mad plan to photograph bees at a variety of flowers began while out for a walk this morning. A distant neighbor has a spectacular hedge of Matilija poppies (a southern California native plant), which tower ten feet tall, invade for a few weeks each year, then disappear. But I digress.

Anyway, I liked this bee. See it? On the yellow globe center of that Matilija bloom:

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So then I wanted more photos of flowers with bees. I kept my camera/phone ready, but for the rest of my walk, I saw nothing but yards devoid of bees. Why would bees ignore all those flowers? Perhaps those yards use pesticides?

(If only someone would invent something like the internet so I could investigate such questions.)

Back home, there were plenty of bees around my plants but. They. Would. Not. Hold Still.

I took a whole lotta photos and got two that sort of included bees. Can you spot the bee butt near the bottom of this photo?

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Zoom in he’s going to land no, wait, ahhh, there he goes…

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Perhaps my next photo project should involve snails.

(The WP Photo Challenge is Partners.)


Local Color

Here in southern California, we didn’t have a winter. We had autumn, an extended spring, and now an early summer. In other words, we went from wildfire to pollen to smog season, skipping the mudslide/debris flow season this year.

They are subtle but we do have detectable differences from season to season. In the spring, the flowers have an intensity of color that they lose in summer, when it is too hot to be bright and everybody including flowers must fade and dim to survive the heat.

It is definitely still spring in the garden. The native sage is most brilliantly blue in the mornings before the sun hits:

Gray green leaves, purple-blue flowers, and a wondrous spicy fragrance - this sage has got it all!

Gray green leaves, purple-blue flowers, and a wondrous spicy fragrance – this sage has it all!

Spring is when this blue morning glory – a relentless, destructive weed – strengthens its hold on the neighborhood. The flowers are too lovely to remove:

Morning glory appears to encircle this aloe. By mid-summer, it will have strangled the aloe unless ripped away.

Morning glory appears to crown this aloe. By mid-summer, its vines will have strangled the aloe if allowed to remain.

No one knows where this morning glory begins, it snakes from yard to yard, along phone lines, across fences. I’ve even found runners in my dark, dry garage! It looks especially pretty with the bougainvillea, though, doesn’t it?:

Another year of morning glory invasion begins.

Another year of morning glory invasion begins.

As soon as the blooms wither, however, the vines must go, lest the rest of the garden vanish behind their twisting tendrils. Stylistically, the morning glory and kudzu have much in common.

Clearly my days as a plant nerd are over. I once knew the common and Latin names for this fellow, whose flowers glow even in brightest sunlight:

The ... er... purple one.

The … er… purple plant.

I don’t know what this flower is, either, but I have a better excuse. I discovered it in a neighbor’s yard today and have never seen one before. My guess is that it’s South African:

The... er... one with tall spikes of orange flowers.

The… er… one with tall spikes of orange flowers.

My Channel Island Bush Poppy is one of my favorite plants. It is not supposed to fare well in my hot inland location, yet mine is 15 feet high and wide. It blooms profusely and cheerfully every spring. Best of all, it requires neglect. If I water it, it will die. The plant made for me!:

Imagine these flowers filling your screen and your vision. That is the Spring experience near a Channel Island Bush Poppy.

Care for this one at its peril!

All this blogging about my garden makes me realize I am overdue to do some gardening… Well. Those that can, do. Those that don’t feel like it, blog.

The WP Weekly Photo Challenge wants to see “Spring”.

Sna-ap! Crack! Russstle…. Repeat!

In my yard, Spring is a time of great destruction. All manner of flying insects flit by to tease the cats. The insects escape into foliage, the cats go after them. Typically, the insects escape harm but the foliage does not.

I’m saying cats but the main culprit seems to be Leo, an excessively large feline:

SpringLeo2014-05-03 15.08.17

Only great Dog knows what poor small creature Leo stalks here.

Leo’s personality spans the range between goofball and doofus. Except when an insect is nearby, he is the quintessential gentle giant:

Leo in foreground, another possible plant-murdering suspect, Arrow, behind him. Not yet trampled poppy in foreground.

Leo displaying his most common approach to life: jus’ chillin’. Not yet trampled poppy in foreground.

The other day I saw him body slam a sage to nab a grasshopper. The grasshopper popped away, and Leo shot through several feet of leaves in futile pursuit. He left behind a sage with snapped branches and a hole in its greenery:

Memorize the damage to this sage. You will soon be asked to tap this memory.

Memorize the damage to this sage. You will soon be asked to tap this memory.

Hmmm, thought I, recalling the backyard wisteria. It is mostly dense lush green, now that it has finished blooming:

It is like a cave inside this thick wisteria.

It is like a cave inside this thick wisteria.

However, there is one hole, with snapped limbs:

Does this remind you of any damaged plant you have recently viewed?

Does this remind you of any damaged plant you have recently viewed?

I had previously assumed that a bear had somehow entered my backyard and fallen into the wisteria, because several thick sturdy limbs are broken:

Bear(?) damage to the wisteria.

Bear(?) damage to the wisteria.

However, after the incident with the sage, Leo has become the prime suspect in the wisteria attack.

As always, even if he confesses, punishment will be out of the question. He is just too cute. Here he is cuddling with Luna:

If there exists a cuter cat picture, please comment me the link!

If there exists a cuter cat picture, please comment me the link!

The WP Weekly Photo Challenge wants to see “Spring.

Calling All Spider Afficionados

For many years I feared spiders but once I became a gardener I became quite fond of them – provided they do not get toooo close.

My garden is filled with a really interesting spider and I ‘d like to get your help to identify it. Here is one away from its plants.

Looking online once, I found a Green Lynx spider that sounded similar to this fellow but I am just not sure.

Is this a Green Lynx spider?

Is this a Green Lynx spider?

You can’t see it in this picture but it has what looks like a large, powerful jaw. I would have to get really close to take that picture. I won’t be taking that picture.

In late summer, these spiders spend al their time next to egg sacs (I probably have the terminology wrong) that look like fuzzy white balls, about 1/2 inch (1 cm) diameter. When the fall winds arrive, the sacs blow apart and tiny spiders are blown all over the neighborhood.

This is where somebody tells me that these are deadly poisonous and it is a miracle that anyone in the neighborhood still survives, right?

The Daily Prompt: The Zone – Digging for Boulders

I love to dig in my garden. My neighborhood lies in the foothills of a mountain range, so all the yards are full of rocks of many sizes which were shed from the mountains in ancient landslides.

When I dig a hole for a new plant, I am a rock archaeologist, discovering buried artifacts. Except I don’t have to be careful where I slam my shovel. Sometimes the rock is so weathered that I can pull it apart with my hands, exposing fresh glittering crystals in the local granite (technically a granodiorite, for other rock nerds).

When the shovel catches and bends, I know I’ve caught a big one. A boulder. Then I dig from many angles, eventually on my knees with my hands, to excavate it. Often a rock is lodged in place against several other rocks, still locked and buried.  I have to use my fingers deep inside the hole to figure out which rock to move next in order to  release my target.  So removing a lodged-in-place rock requires working a 3D puzzle with your eyes closed.

And when I finish the puzzle, I have a hole for my plant and new borders for my garden.

The undug.

The undug.

This post topic comes from The Daily Prompt.

My Unappreciated Rosemary

Driving home today, I passed a mass of lovely blue flowers. Wonder how long my rosemary bushes have been blooming?

I take my rosemary for granted. For many months it provides such charming flowers. It pleases bees.  It never needs water, it rarely needs pruning, it always spreads to cover the gaps, it drapes down the wall in an appealing manner. Its thick growth deters weeds. I could touch it every day and every day get a fantastic burst of powerful fragrance. Instead, at best, I brush against it by accident sometimes when I take the trash out.

It’s true I will always love the sage more but that does not excuse my neglect. I must try to do better.

Communing with Vegetables

Winter’s not over yet but after weeks of cold, suddenly it feels like spring. Too early, certainly, and if this persists there will be wildfire hell to pay later. Nonetheless – I’ll take it!

Warm sun blue sky gentle breeze.  Just sitting outside is all I want in the world, today.

I really should get the chores done.

Birds singing.

I meant to do some writing today.

That sun really feels nice.

I’ve got work deadlines looming.

A cat and a dog lounging nearby on the warm ground.

I’ve neglected my blog of late.

This must be what it’s like to be a carrot, close to harvest time.

An Ode to Earthworms

It rained last night, hard enough to wash earthworms into the streets. I used to try to relocate them back to the dirt but nowadays I just wish them luck or farewell. (Turns out to be crazy hard to pluck them from asphalt without hurting them.)

Earthworms have always intrigued me, from the days I used to dig to China in my backyard and they would slip away from the edges of my hole.  They move like a sound wave or certain earthquake waves, by contraction and expansion. They can live for a decade! I just learned from Wikipedia that they include a few, wide-ranging species which are called cosmopolitan earthworms.

And of course, if you are a gardener, they are your special allies. When they move through the soil, they make it looser – they are better aerators than any device. As a bonus, their excretions are a terrific fertilizer. I know somebody who enslaves earthworms to gather their pee and pour it at the feet of her flowers. The flowers do indeed thrive. Maybe it isn’t a horrible life for the worms. They live in a black plastic tub, but she is always feeding them treats like watermelon she buys especially for them. Still, I keep hoping for the right windstorm that will tip the tub and free the worms.