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Exteriorscapes featured on Houzz!

June 29, 2011

Check out Exteriorscapes’ work featured in an online article “Out in the Yard: Creating an Art-Inspired Garden” on the Houzz website.

Peter’s Pulpit: BEES

June 26, 2011

This is the first entry on the blog from Peter Lavagnino, Exteriorscapes’ Maintenance Manager & Plant Designer…our resident plant whisperer.

Bees don’t bother me. In fact, I invite them into my garden. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve learned to give them a respectful distance. I’ve also learned to identify aggressive species and the real estate they like to call home. In the end, though, we rely on them for food and for beauty.

The Modesto ash tree that grew in our family’s back yard while we were growing up was just such a piece of bee real estate. Its great canopy breathed and hummed from March to October, and we avoided it at all costs. Up one side of the block and down the other, everyone knew to run past this tree or risk being stung!

Inevitably, I was compelled to test that belief.

On a rare day when I had the back yard to myself, I thought it was time to challenge the tree. I strolled casually past the ash, making sure to avert my eyes so as not to appear threatening, just like I’d seen Jane Goodall do with Chimpanzees in Africa. As I cleared the danger zone, I turned to confirm that I was not actually being chased by a black swarm, à la Yogi Bear.

It was right then that I realized that it was just that…the cloud was 12 inches from my face and closing in fast. The last thing I remember before the pain hit was an extreme close-up of a bee face, his martyr’s dive landing right between my eyes. I ran blinded and bawling into the kitchen where my mother applied a paste of baking soda and water to the swollen forehead of her slobbering child. She explained a very important distinction that has remained helpful ever since: these were not bees but hornets!

You would think that experience and the numerous times I’ve been stung as a gardener would make me happy to see bees less and less, but that is not the case. Bee activity is responsible for over 60% of food production in the U.S., and the decline in their numbers has impacted the agricultural industry and home gardeners alike.

While I have learned that bees are territorial and protective, I have also learned that they do all the work. I just keep the weeds out. They provide me with prize-worthy produce and a display of ornamentals that constantly surprises. I have even moved in a small family of mason bees to bolster their fight against declining numbers.

Now when we meet at a crossroads in the garden, each of us busy at our tasks, they are given right-of-way. I also try to make them feel at home by providing plants that bloom for as long as the weather allows. The early part of the growing season is easily covered by Northwest staples such as daphne, hellebores, and Galanthus. Spring and summer are no-brainers, but the challenge increases toward autumn. Below is a list of plants that will invite bees over for a late summer party and make them want to stay.

Shrubs:
Arctostaphylos
Caryopteris
Carpenteria
Rosemarinus
Lavandula
Artemisia
Buddleia
Hebe
Teuchrium

Perennials:
Achillea
Agastache
Aster
Calamintha
Borage
Asphodeline
Gentian
Lobelia
Erigeron
Eryngium
Echinacea
Coreopsis
Helianthus
Helenium
Gerardia
Cucurbits
Linaria
Gnautia
Lilium
Liatris
Penstemmon
Aconitum
Salvia
Solidago
Scabiosa
Sedum
Monarda
Chelone
Eupatorum
Kirengoshima
Platycodon
Perovskia
Verbena
Ceratostigma

Be sure to see Valerie Easton’s article “Keeper brings bees to Seattle gardens” in today’s Seattle Times.