flower bed = bee bed

The marjoram is always a bee favourite in the garden, but this year it seems to have attracted a larger than usual number of yellow-faced bumblebees (Bombus vosnesenskii). The plant is teaming with them.

Most of the honeybees head off at the end of the day, and I always thought bumblebees did the same, but last evening I noticed they were settling down to sleep on the flowers, so I took a few photos of them just as the sun was going down. Continue reading

sketchbook – flowers for bees


Borage & lavender | watercolour and pencil

Bees are having a rough go of it these days, so I’ve tried to make our garden as bee-friendly as possible by increasing the number of blooming plants they prefer, as well as those that bloom throughout the season. A few years ago, we added a mason bee house to the garden. In return, we’ve been rewarded with a much higher rate of vegetable and berry pollination.

The variety of bees and pollinating insects we now have in the garden has exploded in the last couple of years. It’s been pretty fascinating to watch them. We’ve seen the mason bees hatch from their cocoons, and watched other solitary bees carry cut leaves into little nest holes they’ve dug in the dirt of the potted plants.

For the past couple of springs, there has been a chickadee pair trying to excavate a hole in a nearby telephone pole, without success. This year, we broke down and installed a nest box for them, but I guess they’d already found alternative accommodation because they ignored the box.

Last night we decided to have a peek inside the to make sure it wasn’t becoming a wasp colony (like the underside of the bbq lid) and were surprised to see it 1/3 full of moss and dryer lint. It didn’t resemble a bird’s nest, and there were no feathers or eggs visible, so I poked it with my finger and dislodged a very indignant queen bumblebee. We left her alone, and she went back into her nest where we’ll leave her to in peace to raise her larva.


It must have been quite a job for her to excavate and carry all that moss up into the box; bumblebees aren’t the most effortless fliers unencumbered.

grown at home

Garlic 1

 Garlic sprouts in springtime – so exciting to see proof of plant life at the beginning of the season!


Expecting failure, my first go at growing garlic yielded a decent crop of modestly sized bulbs so I was enormously encouraged. This year I put a bit more effort into it and was rewarded with a more than satisfying crop.

Garlic 2

young bulbs – early summer


Out of all the vegetables I’ve grown, I’m not sure why I’m so delighted by garlic, but I am. Maybe it’s because it’s a root crop and you only really know how successful your crop is when you pull it up in August. Or unlike other rootish sorts of vegetables, this one actually does fine in our hard-packed clay soil that blunts carrots and squeezes the life out of beets. Maybe it’s because it’s a year round kitchen staple in my house and I find it easier to use than salad greens which require a certain amount of tedious insect extraction, washing and drying before use. Or because, until recently, the choice of garlic in our local stores left much to be desired (local farmer’s markets are now bursting at the seams with locally grown garlic scapes in June and bundles of healthy looking bulbs in the late summer). Or maybe it’s just because I think, from top to bottom – curling scape to twisting root – it is a beautiful plant.

Garlic 3

The August harvest – minus the few harvested early for home use and host gifts.

My biggest issue with garlic has been that it requires planting around October and I’m rotten at planning ahead – usually the garlic variety I want is sold out by the time I remember. While I can usually find a day here or there in the spring to prep beds and sow seeds, I’m often way too busy with work to get out in the garden in the fall, and am also no longer in the vegetable gardening sort of mood, and rain in the fall is uninviting, dismal, cold, and void of spring rain’s promise of coming greenery.

Garlic 4

This time around, I prepped the beds extra carefully, put a good dose of food in the hole with every clove, fed them a few more times throughout the year and was rewarded with a bunch of nice juicy bulbs, every clove planted yielded a plant.  This year I also left the spade out of it, pulling them or digging them up by hand so there were no gouges or damaged bulbs.

I’ll keep about a 1/3 of the crop, the biggest bulbs, back for next year’s seed, and the rest should ensure we don’t have to purchase horrible supermarket garlic for quite a few months.

Sketchbook – Bowen Island Garden


Bowen Island Garden | July 18, 2010 | watercolour on Arches cold pressed, 140 lb, 7″x10″

This year, I volunteered during the PPP tour (Bowen Island’s garden tour) with my mum. I was stationed in a lovely English style garden on Adams road, directing garden-visitor traffic toward one of the many little paths that looped through the two acre property. This was my view.

Green Things

Our beans are up

In addition to planting a (completely organic) vegetable garden (and turning a bit more of the lawn into garden every year), *we built a green roof structure. It’s small, but it’s a start..

Green roof birdfeeder

So far the only birds clever enough to figure it out have been the crows. We’ve now got the best fed crows on the block.

*Darren did the building, I did the planting.

Creatures from the Dirt

Dysdera crocata
Dysdera crocata

One of the great things about gardening, beyond just the whole plant side of things, is the huge variety of fascinating creatures that one finds in the dirt, under pots, and hiding behind leaves. This is a Dysdera crocata, a woodlouse spider that eats sow bugs and pill bugs almost exclusively. It’s got great big jaws to break through hard arthropod exoskeletons.

This one was living with a huge population of sow bugs underneath a potted rose – though the spider is probably the more successful of the two species in the ‘living’ department. This is the first one I’ve seen but judging by the number of sow bugs in and around the garden, I’m sure it’s not the only one.

From what I’ve read, it’s capable of a pretty good bite, though it’s not aggressive. I didn’t test the theory and kept my gardening gloves on while I moved him into position for the photographs.