Archive for November, 2010

Simple Holiday Gifts for Honeybee Loving Gardeners

Give the gift of seed and/or seed starting kits. ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

Looking for a great, inspirational gift for the holiday season- one that keeps on giving, with the natural world and environment in mind? It’s easy to inspire a new gardener or please a more experienced green-thumb without spending a bundle over the holidays. A present of seed and/or seed starting kits, particularly for youngsters, is truly a gift that keeps on giving. Gardening is a healthy and environmentally friendly skill to encourage – a hobby that will last a lifetime, and one that can help support other living creatures, particularly pollinators like honeybees…

My passion for gardening developed in early childhood. It all started with a milk carton filled with soil and a few flower seeds. Easy to start seeds, such as sunflower, marigold and zinnia, make great gifts for gardening novices and kids during the winter holidays. When giving seeds to children, I always like to stick them inside a book, like ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ or ‘The Very Hungry Caterpillar’, to spark imagination and curiosity.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar

For gardening cooks, herb seeds, (particularly organic basil, parsley, sage, mint and coriander), are always appreciated both in the kitchen and in the vegetable garden, where they attract beneficial insects including honey bees. And while we are on the subject of vegetable gardens, organically grown cucumber, pumpkin, squash, gourd and water-mellon seed make great gifts for friends with victory gardens, as these plants provide ample food for bees and humans alike. Other bee favorites, including the appropriately named North American native bee balm (Monarda), coneflower (Echinacea), black-eyed susan (Rudbeckia) and cat mint (Nepeta), make great flower garden gifts for anyone with a little outdoor space.

For more experienced flower gardeners, heirloom flower seeds are always a good choice – there are many interesting new varieties of  biennials available every year, including bee favorites like foxglove (Digitalis), and hollycock (Alcea). If the choices seem daunting, simply request a catalogue from a good company, and enclose a gift certificate.

Great online sources for seed include; Renee’s GardenFlorabunda Seeds and High Mowing Organic Seeds.  Johnny’s Seeds also has a great selection of seeds and an excellent selection of seed starting supplies, including biodegradable starter pots and kits.

Give the gift of life this holiday season – give seeds and encourage gardening in support of honeybees.

ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE


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11 2010

On Winter and Your Garden

Summersweet, (Clethra alnifolia 'Ruby Spice'), is a native shrub, providing easily accessed, late-season pollen for the honey bee. ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

As the trees finally shed their leaves and our thoughts turn to wintery pleasures and indoor activities, it’s easy to forget about the honey bee. After all, our busy little friends are hibernating out of sight and mind at this time of year. But before the ground freezes, and even over winter, there are still some favors we can do for these important pollinators to support them in their environment when they emerge next year.

In the early part of the growing season, flowers and their nectar are relatively scarce – this is also true in very late summer and fall. Nature provides bees with food in their environment of course, but in many areas, native plants have been reduced or eliminated as humans have encroached upon and altered natural habitats. Some introduced and hybridized plants do provide food for bees, but unfortunately, many gardeners favor double-flowered, exotic plants that are more difficult for pollinators to access. Most wild, indigenous plants have open, easy-access flowers, making them more attractive and desirable to honey bees.

So how do you choose shrubs to support bees and integrate these plants into your landscape?  Learning a little bit about the plants native to your region is a good place to start, and education can take place at any time of the year. There are a number of good books and field guides written on the subject of native, North American plants. Many of these titles are available in local libraries and universities. Some of the best guide books include both photos and detailed information about the required growing conditions of native plants, and their hardiness ranges. William Cullina’s beautiful book, Native Trees, Shrubs and Vines, is an excellent resource for gardeners.

In addition, many states have helpful native plant societies. Try Googling your state name followed by the phrase “Wildflower Society” or “Native Plant Society”. These sites will often list plants, including shrubs, native to your area. When visiting nurseries and garden centers, ask about native plants. The more we ask retailers for native plants by name and buy them, the more likely they will be to continue ordering them and keeping them on hand. All of these actions will help support the honey bee, and the environment as a whole.


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11 2010