Friday Flora & Fresh Air

Lemon Bottlebrush Bee 1

My Lemon Bottlebrush hedge is in full bloom and the peculiar, yet extraordinarily beautiful flowers are attracting gobs of bees and hummingbirds.

Lemon Bottlebrush with bee in flight

The flowers really do look like bottle brushes.

Lemon Bottlebrush magical light

And when you crush the leaves, they really do smell like lemon.

Lemon Bottlebrush silhouette detail

Lemon Bottlebrush was one of the first plants to steal my heart when we moved here.

Lemon Bottlebrush Bud closeup

Any flower that unusual looking …

Lemon Bottlebrush bud opening 1so curiously different

Lemon Bottlebrush Bud opening 4and capable of attracting entire charms of hummingbirds is a winner in my book.

Lemon Bottlebrush Bee 2

Sadly, I’ve yet to capture a decent image of my beloved hummers, but I’ll keep trying.

Lemon Bottlebrush full bloom 2

Our fully established Lemon Bottlebrush hedge (labeled Callistemon lanceolatus on our original 1964 landscape plans) doesn’t require any irrigation, is always buzzing with activity and best of all, we can see it from both our study and living room. When we bought our house six years ago the hedge looked half dead, so I cut it down to the ground with a chainsaw. Seriously. The following spring, new growth shot up and within one year we had flowers. Now, we let the shrubs grow wild (they’re easily maintained at about nine feet tall), pinching them back when they get too leggy and to encourage more flowers. If you live in a mild climate (USDA zones 9 – 11) and are looking for a drought tolerant, evergreen hedge that will attract hummingbirds, Lemon Bottlebrush might just be the plant for you.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Friday Flora & Fresh Air

artichoke flower closeup bee 3artichoke flower closeup bee 5artichoke flower closeup bee 6The bees and I are completely and utterly infatuated with these artichoke flowers, it seems that neither one of us can get enough. As much as I’ve enjoyed watching and observing the bees, it’s also interesting to note how the blossoms have changed shape – in the course of a single week, they’ve gone from concave to surprisingly convex. But back to the bees … I love how they hover over the flowers looking for a spot to land and then manage to crawl deep into the interior, in search of nectar.

artichoke flower closeup bee 7artichoke flower hovering beeartichoke flower landing beeartichoke flower closeup bee 2

artichoke flower burrowing bee

artichoke flower closeup 3

I originally thought they were just collecting pollen, but after reading this informative article by Kathy Keatley Garvey, I learned otherwise. According to Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of UC Davis, it turns out that the bees are attracted to the nectar “hot spot” deep within the artichoke flower. I’m so glad I didn’t harvest all of my artichokes; bees need both pollen and nectar to survive, and artichoke flowers are a good source of both. Basically, bees need nectar for energy (they use it to make honey, which gets them through the winter) and they need pollen to feed the brood and queen.

Planting a wide variety of plants, including natives and wildflowers, results in a longer bloom time and a more diverse source of food. This in turn gives the bee population a greater chance of survival. With bee populations in serious decline due to colony collapse disorder (and blood-sucking mites), honey bees need all the help they can get.

Mariellé Anzelone, urban conservation biologist and executive director of NYC Wildflower Week, sums it up best in her op-ed piece, “Greedy Gardeners” in the New York Times. In it she writes, “When forests and meadows are lost (to development or farming), places for bees to eat also disappear. These wild bees feed us, but we are not feeding them.”

To learn more about how you can help feed bees, hummingbirds, butterflies and other pollinators, check out this helpful website by Pollinator Partnership.

As always, thank you for reading.

I hope you have a wonderful weekend and a magical first day of summer.