Late Blooms For Lingering Bees

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bee on rose

If the little movie above doesn’t open for you, here’s my favorite bee pic

20-20-20 Trick For Tired Eyes

A recent visit to my eye doctor has motivated me to do more daily walking, rain or shine. A post-cataract removal secondary film had clouded my favorite eye so it got laser-zapped to break up the obscuring material. When my eye doctor did a follow up check, he offered me a simple treatment for eye strain that’s changing my world view(!). So many things I do involve close-up vision, from reading and computer work to knitting and embroidery to pruning and weeding, and my aging eyes just don’t change focus range as readily as they once did. The remedy he offered is called 20-20-20; for every 20 minutes of close up work, take 20 seconds to look at something at least 20 feet away. Simple, right? And very effective; After just a week, I already notice my eyes refocusing more quickly and being less fatigued through the day.

Now that I’m setting my phone timer to chime every 20 minutes through the day, I decided that I might as well get up and move a little while I’m looking around so I add in a 30-second dance party for one. Spending one minute out of every 20 on self care turns out to have several pleasant benefits; even a few seconds of jigging about can enliven my body and I return to my task refreshed mentally as well as physically. I’ve also been trying to get up and walk around for 5 minutes for every hour of sitting, and tossing that into the mix is also helpful. A recent Cornell study indicates that doing laundry and dishes, cooking and cleaning all count as exercise as long as you do them in an active manner. Dancing through the dishes definitely makes it much more fun. Why not?

Late And Early Together

I find it most helpful to walk outside for a few minutes every hour or so. First of all, it gets me out of the house no matter what the weather, and once out, I find it easier to set the day’s worries and concerns aside for a while. Feeling the wind and/or the drizzle on my face provides a highly effective wake up and practicing the long view reminds me to look up and admire the tree tops, the soaring birds, the wind-blown clouds. However, I can’t resist stopping to admire the flowers along the way, which at this season mingle late summer blooms with early winter ones. In my garden, native penstemons are still blooming a bit, along with some sweet peas that have persisted long past their usual season. Shaggy calendulas are nearly always blooming at least a bit and the recent rains have encouraged a fresh flush of buds and blooms that are busy with bees all day long. The indefatigable catmints are throwing out their third or fourth set of long arms, each tipped with clusters of deep or paler blue florets that are pollinator magnets, as are the tiny but bright purple blooms on the ornamental oreganos.

There are usually a few hummingbirds sipping from the slim spikes of River lilies (Schizostylis), a South African iris cousin that opens its rosy or soft pink blossoms from October into March. The fragrant yellow spires of my Mahonia Soft Caress (an Oregon grape cousin) are just beginning to open and they’ll be feeding the hummers all winter long (barring deep freezes). Hummers are also fond of the late hardy fuchsias, as are bees and many other pollinators. I was mesmerized by a small native bee loading up its little leg sacs with the fluffy pollen on a late Rugosa rose, its strong perfume scenting the damp, cool air halfway down the block.

Gentle Tidying Protects Pollinators

The happy melange of old and new flowers makes it important to tidy with care at this in between season. While pollinators are still expending energy to cruise the garden, it’s up to us to make sure their efforts are rewarded. It’s easier to cut everything down all at once, but that’s not really good stewardship of our little piece of the Earth. Instead, if you can’t bear to look at an untidy jumble all winter, remove spent stems and failing foliage gently, using the chop and drop technique to keep the nutrients stored in plant material right where they can do the most good. Leave the pieces as large and long as you can stand to see them (tidy minded people often have an issue with this part) and let the pieces lie to molder into compost right beside the mother plants.

Many a hollow stem and dried seedhead is already home to a slumbering pollinator or benign or helpful insect. Many more will join them soon, so in order to protect them, it’s important that we disturb the winter garden as little as possible. When planting bulbs or adding new perennials to beds and borders, keep the digging as minimal as possible. That’s because most of our native bees are ground dwellers whose eggs are already stored in tiny dormitories beneath the mulch. Walking on wet soil can compress it lethally, enough to damage the soil itself and to crush hibernating soil dwellers as well. To avoid this, use a walking board that will spread the weight over a larger area, thus doing less damage. Walk softly and leave that big stick right where it is! Onward, right?


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3 Responses to Late Blooms For Lingering Bees

  1. Sandi says:

    The bee in your blog photo is on what flowering plant? Thank you.
    (Loved the comments about resting eyes and was able to share with a friend with quite similar story.)

    • Ann Lovejoy says:

      Hi Sandy, the honey
      bee in the picture is nuzzling an ornamental onion, Allium christophii. The bee in the little video clip above it is a native bee but I’m not sure what species it is.

  2. Diane says:

    Great article Ann,
    Loved the recommendations about our “peepers! Thank you.
    And always enjoy tips on keeping our little pollinators happy!
    Thanks as always,

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