Bee-watching is a wonderful distraction from the stresses of life. I can definitely recommend it for a warm, sunny afternoon as spring turns to summer.


Bee among Mullein flowers.

Bee among Mullein flowers. Yes, it is there! About halfway up, to the right of the plant’s stem.


Bumblebees seem to love California poppies. Most of them are black with yellow heads and a nifty yellow stripe across the bum. There are also some fuzzy-looking yellow-brown ones, but I didn’t get any pictures of them. (Taking decent pictures of bees is hard).


June 19, 2016


Note the bum stripe!

Note the bum stripe!


June 19, 2016


Possibly a wasp in the pink California poppy.

Possibly a wasp in the pink California poppy.


Honeybees favour the lavender almost exclusively. (And being smaller and a subdued orange-brown colour, they don’t show up well).


June 19, 2016

The bee is in the centre of the picture, to the right of the red of geranium flowers in the background. Enlarge and you will see it.


Note: bee-watching is not relaxing when the watcher is trying to take pictures of the bees. For best results, leave the camera/phone in the house!








Chasing Out Bad Spirits

What better day than Christmas to drive out discord and evil and welcome peace and harmony?

Some gardeners (the one writing this, for example) become psychologically entwined with their gardens. When something bad happens to the garden, it feels like a physical injury.

Damage happens in gardens all the time. We have had a series of windstorms since the beginning of December, so there are broken branches and drifts of leaves everywhere, along with an overall battered appearance. At other times of year, bugs, blights and munching deer put their own marks on the garden. Plants die suddenly for no apparent reason. Gardens are potential disaster areas, all the time.

But I’m not talking about that kind of damage here. This is about damage that feels like a deliberate attack, even if it isn’t intended that way.

Recently, my garden has experienced two such events.

#1 was when The Dog (otherwise known as Nelly the Newf) hopped the admittedly feeble fence around one of the perennial beds and did some unauthorized digging. Farewell, daylily “Mini Stella,” and maybe some other innocent plants besides. Dug up or buried deep, they may never see another spring.

#2 was when a neighbour decided a certain holly tree was unduly shading their subterranean basement suite. Hired guns with electric chainsaws appeared on a Saturday morning and administered some crude amputations, removing berry-bearing holly branches and heedlessly severing stems of Clematis armandii that had used the holly to climb into an Ailanthus. Never mind that this is permitted by law. Never mind that the neighbour issued a warning some weeks before. Once the cutting started, it felt like I was getting pruned. Crudely.

Which of these was worse? #2, of course. Nelly was just being a dog, and is a member of the household, but the neighbour… Well, just use your imagination. Even though hollies do regrow quite readily, even after crude pruning.

After several weeks, I could actually look at the back garden again without rage or sorrow boiling up, but an unpleasant feeling lingered, sort of like after your house has been broken into and burgled. The sight of the dying clematis hanging limply was infuriating. My negative feelings were corrosive and stress-inducing. Something Had To Be Done.

A ceremony. A symbolic cleansing.

I’m not much of a believer in woo-woo stuff, but recognize that symbolic gestures can be powerful. And in this case, the target was really my own negative feelings.

So, on Christmas Day,  four days past the Solstice, with a full moon rising, I circled the garden, first anti-clockwise, then clockwise, bearing a smouldering faggot of suitable herbs — lavender and sage, bound together with withered daylily foliage — muttering variations on, “Begone, spirits of destruction, welcome, spirits of peace.”


Lavender is said to bring healing and comfort, and sage (Salvia in this case, not the Artemisia that is sometimes used in such ceremonies) derives its Latin name from “salvation.”

It can’t hurt, especially as I didn’t trip over anything.