California native vines
These aren't widely available, so you'll likely need to go to a specialist nursery or plant sale to find these. These are listed alphabetically by genus, and I've indicated if it's deciduous or evergreen. These will all grow through a fence or other support and don't need to be tied.
Not a bee plant, but a larval food source for the native California pipevine swallowtail butterfly. The unusual flowers are attractive to flies and appear in early spring before the leaves. Native to riparian areas in northern California and southern Oregon, it will need regular water and part shade in the garden, although it can subsist on less water but will go dormant in the summer. This plant reaches up to 15 feet and can cover a fence or grow up through a tree.
California morning glory (Calystegia purpurata ssp. purpurata). Deciduous to semi-deciduous. Sunset zones 14-24.
California honeysuckle (Lonicera hispidula). Evergreen. Sunset zones 7-9, 14-24.
This plant is used as either a vine or a groundcover. It differs from the more commonly sold non-native honeysuckles in that the pink and white flowers are more subtle and not fragrant. This spring-bloomer is attractive to many bees -- including honey bees, carpenter bees, and bumble bees -- and is also used by hummingbirds. Grow this low-water plant where the roots will be shaded but the foliage will be in sun. Looks best with a few deep waterings over the summer.
These are more commonly available than the natives listed above and add additional bloom time and interest to the garden.
Purple lilac vine (Hardenbergia violacea) 'Happy Wanderer'. Evergreen. Sunset zones 8-24.
This Australian native blooms in late winter and early spring. It needs moderate water and full sun, and will need to be tied or otherwise supported as it begins to grow. Thin the stems after blooming to prevent it from becoming too tangled. The small purple flowers are attractive to honey bees.
Passion vine (Passiflora cultivars). Evergreen to semi-deciduous. Sunset zones 5-9, 12-24.
These vigorous South American natives will grow quickly to cover a fence or pergola in one season. Due to this growth habit it has become invasive in Hawaii. While the leaves can look a bit tattered by late summer, the flowers put on a spectacular show. It's the larval food source for the gulf fritillary butterfly, so it brings the colorful non-native adult butterfly to the garden. This vine will need to be tied to a sturdy structure to get it going, but once it starts it will provide fast cover. It needs regular water and full sun to light shade. There are many cultivars available with flowers in varying colors from blue to white. In addition to honey bees, we routinely see carpenter bees using this plant at the Haven.
Wisteria (Wisteria sinensis). Deciduous. Sunset zones 3-24.
Next to star jasmine, this very vigorous grower might be the most commonly used vine in the Sacramento region. Just be prepared to give it a very sturdy structure! This Chinese native needs only moderate water and full sun. We grow the cultivar 'Cooke's Purple' at the Haven, as it re-blooms (although not as spectacularly) in July. It is used by larger bees like carpenter bees and bumble bees.
This plant has become invasive in the southeastern US, where the more restrained native Wisteria frutescens is a better choice.
It's that time of year: hurricane-force winds one day and beautiful spring weather the next. Here's what's happening in the Haven in March:
We've finished our winter pruning and are eagerly awaiting the flowers that will follow. Our winter-blooming plants are going strong, providing vital food for the honey bees at the Laidlaw Honey Bee Research Facility next to the Haven. Some top winter-blooming plants for bees include rosemary (Salvia rosmarinus -- yes, rosemary is now a salvia!), germander (Teucrium fruticans),
Our irrigation system is always given a going-over in the winter to ensure there are no leaks and that the precious water is being used as efficiently as our system will permit. We'll be working on this throughout March.
This is the start of the time when the Haven changes almost weekly. If you're planning a visit, things really get going in late March, and the garden remains at its best through the end of May. Thanks to a generous donor, we had the funds to replant one of our display beds this winter. We'll be using additional support from our Crowdfund campaign to refresh our demonstration orchard.
If you'd like to plan your own bee garden, you'll find a searchable plant list on our website. The list includes bloom time, bee resources provided, Sunset growing zones, and water and light requirements. In addition to our full plant list, you'll find several targeted (e.g. low-water, shade, etc.) bee plant lists here.
Yolo County has moved into a lower COVID tier, and we hope to resume guided tours by the last week of March. Pending approval by the University and COVID restrictions on group size, we look forward to welcoming tours back to the Haven. The garden remains open for individual visitors.
In the meantime, we've loaded more videos to our YouTube channel; look for more throughout March.
Thanks to everyone who donated, shared, or otherwise supported our February fundraising effort through Crowdfund UC Davis. We've nearly reached our goal of $2500. Contributions may be made here through February 28. Thank you!/div>/div>/div>
It's the first week of spring at the Haven and our plants are starting to look their best. For those of you who cannot make it to the garden this week, here's a brief tour of what's going on. For those who can make it, I've included some of the bees to look for.
The garden is currently open, although the cities of Davis and Sacramento are now recommending shelter-in-place. If this expands to other areas or becomes mandatory, the garden will close. Check our web page for the latest information.
Now blooming at the Haven:
Ceanothus, many species. For more detail on this genus, see this previous post.
Western redbud, Cercis occidentalis. This plant provides bright pink flowers early in the year, while leafcutter bees use its foliage for nest construction throughout the summer. This California native needs full sun and little to no summer water. It grows slowly, so it's worth buying a larger size for your own garden. It may be fed on by the redhumped caterpillar; damage occurs towards the end of the season so control is not needed.
Brandegee's sage, Salvia brandegii. This is a long-blooming California native sage. As you can see from the photo, which shows one plant, it can get quite large. Flowering from late January through May, pair it with the summer blooming native Cleveland sage (Salvia clevelandii) for season-long bloom. It also needs full sun and low summer water.
Bladderpod, Isomeris arborea. This is another long-blooming California native. It is at its peak in the spring, but will produce some flowers year-round. Our single plant is about 6 feet by 6 feet. Needs full sun and little to no summer water.
Firecracker penstemon, Penstemon eatonii. This bright red California native is used more by hummingbirds than bees, and adds a jolt of color to the early spring garden. It's soon to be followed by the foothill penstemon, a bee favorite. The firecracker penstemon can take part shade and will re-bloom if given some water after the first flush of flowers. Like most of our native penstemons, it will go dormant in the heat of the summer, at which point watering should stop.
Bees to look for this week include honey bees and the blacktailed bumble bee, Bombus melanopygus. The latter seems to like the Brandegee's sage, so look for it there.
We've all seen them....garden catalogs or magazine articles with cute little bee houses hanging like birdfeeders, or entire fences made of nesting tubes for solitary bees. We even had them at the Haven -- for a while -- in the form of bee condos. The only problem? They often don't work, and may even do more harm than good.
This is not limited to bee houses; previous investigation by Mihail Garbuzov and Francis Ratnieks of the University of Sussex found similar misinformation surrounding bee plant lists. They reviewed lists published for various regions worldwide, and found large variation in recommended plants, even within the same region. The science behind the lists, such as university research or repeated monitoring by trained observers, was also often unclear.
So what's a conscientious bee gardener to do?
I've written extensively about solitary bee houses on this blog. In the wild, bees nest in abandoned beetle galleries in trees. This environment is dark, stationary, and made of wood, and can inform our choice of solitary bee housing. Consider the following:
1. Bees will use a nesting tube diameter that corresponds to their body size. A good range of sizes for common bees is 3/16 to 5/16 inch. Tubes should be 4 to 6 inches deep; anything shorter will produce predominantly male bees.
2. Bees will not use houses or nesting blocks that move or are open in the back
3. A shaded entrance is important; even a piece of burlap draped over the top of the nest can work
4. Bee houses constructed of wood seem to be preferred
5. Position house with entrance out of the prevailing wind
6. Pathogens can build up in bee houses as they are used; they cannot be sterilized with bleach or other disinfectants. 'Cleaning' the used nesting tube with a drill bit or brush is likely to push pathogens into the wood. Houses (in the case of wood blocks) or individual tubes should be replaced after they are used.
7. Consider all dimensions. Bees may nest in hollow stems that are not horizontal.
A fact sheet about building and using solitary bee houses is here.
Bee garden plant selection
The Haven is all about teaching, research, and outreach to save the bees. Our programs are consistently rated highly by our visitors; we've grown every year of our existence and would love for that to continue. For details about our past accomplishments, please see our annual reports: 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, and 2014.
A grant that provided half of our support recently ended, and I am seeking your support to help keep these successful programs going.
What you can do:
1. Donate here. The Haven is supported solely by grants, donations, and volunteers. A generous Häagen-Dazs gift established the garden, but Häagen-Dazs does not provide ongoing support. Recent funding has come from the California Department of Food and Agriculture, the UC Davis College of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, the USDA, and the California Center for Urban Horticulture.
Individuals and local clubs such as the Roseville Better Gardens Club and the Sacramento Area Beekeepers Association have also made much-appreciated donations.
If the 3500 people who've attended a tour, Haven event, or class so far this year each gave $10, we'd be covered for seven months. While large donations are great, many small donations are just as important.
2. Attend our fall fundraiser on September 21. Details will be posted soon on the Haven's web page.
Thank you. Together we can keep this unique garden going strong.