If you're thinking about adding more bee friendly plants to your garden but you're concerned about the drought, the UC Davis Arboretum has the answers.
The arboretum will host its public spring clearance plant sale on Saturday, May 17, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the UC Davis Arboretum Teaching Nursery on Garrod Drive.
You'll find a large election of Christmas natives and Arboretum All-Stars. (Members of the Friends of the UC Davis Arboretum and the Davis Botanical Society receive 10 percent off their purchases. And yes, you can join the Friends on May 17.)
One of the plants we like--as do the birds and the bees--is Kniphofia "Christmas Cheer," also known as a red hot poker and torch lily. Ellen Zagory, horticulture director of the Arboretum, describes it as "a torch lily on steriods. It gets big and puts out a large display of showy flowers in winter and long into spring."
Yes, it does.
We remember taking a photo of the Christmas Cheer on Christmas Day in the Arboretum's Storer Garden. The bees didn't know about the winter break. Neither did a finch.
Break? What break?
In a recent newsletter, Zagory wrote about some of the plants that will be available for sale.
“On campus we have fairly heavy soil and water that's high in bicarbonates and boron, so I always think…if it grows well here, it will do even better elsewhere. In light of limited water supplies and rising water prices we need to think even harder about plants that can survive with low or very low quantities of water, but they can still be pretty. You'd never know these were drought-tolerant considering the seasonal impact and drama they provide!”
The Arboretum kindly provides a list of available plants that you can download from its web page.
The bees--and the birds, butterflies and others engaged in animal/plant interactions--will thank you.
If you're on your way to Bodega Bay in Sonoma County, stop at Bodega Head and see all the yellow-faced bumble bees on a yellow coastal plant, Eriophyllum, commonly known as the woolly sunflower.
The bumble bees, Bombus vosnesenskii, are back and they particularly like the Eriophyllum. It's probably Eriophyllum staechadifolium, agreed Ellen Dean, curator of the UC Davis Center for Plant Diversity, and Ellen Zagory, director of horticulture at the UC Davis Arboretum.
According to Calflora, it's also called lizard tail andseaside golden yarrow as well as seaside woolly sunflower.
We spotted a huge orange pollen load on one yellow-faced bumble bee. Saddle bags!
If you're looking for a good bee plant that offers a little bit of an obstacle, try the violet trumpet vine (Clytostoma calystegioides). It's one of the UC Davis Arboretum All-Stars.
What's an Arboretum All-Star? The UC Davis Arboretum horticultural staff, led by Ellen Zagory, singled out "100 tough, reliable plants that have been tested in the Arboretum." The All-Stars are "easy to grow, don’t need a lot of water, have few problems with pests or diseases, and have outstanding qualities in the garden. Many of them are California native plants and support native birds and insects. Most All-Star plants can be successfully planted and grown throughout California."
In addition to hummingbirds, you'll find honey bees all over the purple-veined blossoms. Bees crawl inside a blossom (obstacle course!), forage a bit, and then pop back out, ready for another blossom.
Unlike most UC Davis Arboretum All-Stars, the violet trumpet vine is not a California native. It's from Argentina and the southern part of Brazil.
However, like many vines and trumpet players, it likes to put on a show. Its "show" is climbing walls and trellises and covering the sides of buildings for breathtaking displays. When you visit the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee friendly garden on Bee Biology Road at UC Davis, you'll see it trellised.
This is a plant that knows how to survive the winter and "bee" ready to bloom in the late spring and early summer. Call it robust. Call it hardy.
The bees call it food.
it's a traffic stopper.
The plant, reminiscent of a Christmas tree, attracts not only vehicular and foot traffic, but honey bees, bumble bees and hummingbirds. It's basically a tower of bees when it blooms.
The one in our yard is about eight feet tall. Honey bees, eager for the nectar and pollen, keep creating traffic jams. If you sit and watch them, you'll see them constantly bumping into one another as they forage for food.
No wonder it's a favorite of beekeepers.
The species, a biennial, is native to the Canary Islands. It's endemic to the island of Tenerife.
Last year several towers of jewels bloomed near Storer Hall on the University of California, Davis campus, and a couple of others graced the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a bee friendly garden on Bee Biology Road, about a mile west of the central campus.
The UC Davis Arboretum Teaching Nursery sells these at their plant sales, but they go fast, says Ellen Zagory, the arboretum's director of horticulture. "We don't have any left," she said.
It's good to see so much interest in bees.
When folks think of bees, they usually think "honey bees." However, our European or western honey bee (Apis mellifera) is one of a total of seven species of honey bees found throughout the world.
Worldwide, there are some 20,000 described species of bees.
University of California scientists Robbin Thorp, Gordon Frankie and Ellen Zagory will be discussing a few of them in their "Buzz About Bees" program on Saturday, June 5 at the Bouverie Preserve in Glen Ellen, Calif.
Thorp is a native pollinator specialist and emeritus professor of entomology at UC Davis who continues to do research. Frankie is a professor and research entomologist at the UC Berkeley Division of Insect Biology. Zagory is director of horticulture, UC Davis Arboretum.
The registration deadline for this session, a science discussion about the "plight of Sonoma County's pollnators," closed May 28 but Thorp and Frankie continue to call attention to the plight of the pollinators. They talk about bumble bees, cuckoo bees, blue orchard bees, sweat bees and the like. Some bees are defined by what they do: leafcutters, masons and miners.
And Zagory is an expert on plants, especially ornamental plants. One has only to walk through the UC Davis Arboretum--or ask her to identify a plant--to confirm that!
We hope the "buzz about bees" continues to draw widespread interest.