Friday, August 29, 2008


Someone asked me last night why I just write about what I do, instead of why I do it. So here goes. I didn't start a blog so I could preach, just so I could talk about the things that I enjoy, but I do talk about my garden quite a bit, so it's probably worth explaining the goals I have for my garden and why I have them.

I have always loved gardening, when I was a little girl I spent every weekend with my grandmother and we would always work in her yard. When I got to college, I realized that was something I wanted to continue, so I focused on the available botany courses. It was a small school, so my degree is in Biology. My Master's is in Environmental Science because it was convenient to the research I wanted to do, which was also plant-related. Basically I like knowing what stuff is and what it is related to, I wish taxonomy wasn't going out of style because I love being able to look at an article that talks about Bearberry as a good drought-tolerant plant and know that they mean Arctostaphylos uva-ursi. But that is not where the jobs are. I have been working in a soils lab for the last two years, and today I have an interview in a different soils lab to see if it would be a better place for me to be. Who knew? I want to get back to plants eventually, but this is just a job. That's why I have a garden.

I also have a garden so I can do something about the problems I see in the world. Not on a huge dramatic scale, but on a scale where I feel like I am making a little bit of a difference, in my own small way. I am trying to bring bees and wildlife to my backyard. I am even starting to contemplate talking to my neighbors about the chemicals they use on their lawns (lots of them have kids, or pets) because I would like to have less chemicals in the environment where I am spending more and more time. A big part of this is because of the bees. Bee populations worldwide are dropping rapidly, and we have no clue how dependent we are on them as pollinators. My bees are not agressive, I leave them alone and they leave me alone, but SO many plant species are dependent on them for reproduction. Basically, without pollination, there would be no plants, which means no animal life ON EARTH. And bees are a huge part of that. Non-native honeybees (a good invader) are suffering from a decline known as Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD):

"In the winter of 2006-2007, beekeepers began reporting losses of 30-90% of their hives, with similar declines evident in feral populations. Among the factors known to be involved are competition from aggressive Africanized bees (the so-called "killer bees"), parasitic varroa and traccheal mites, Israeli acute paralysis virus (IAPV), widespread insecticide use, and habitat destruction. Honeybees pollinate more than 130 crop plants alone in the United States, and are credited with adding more than $15 billion annually to crop values, so their sudden and dramatic decline is a very serious issue likely to cause serious repercussions in crop values and the price of food around the world." From here.

So I am trying to bring bees back to my garden. I love my garden, and so far, so do the bees. I have lavender, catmint, salvia, common, purple and Mexican sage, penstemon, coreopsis, centranthus and rosemary, (among others), all of which are supposed to be attractive to bees. And so far they are. But I want MORE. So after I get back from my trip out of town this weekend, I have a shopping list for shrubs to go with the new batch of bee-friendly perennials I just ordered (hence the pictures). I have been ripping out a big patch of ivy along the path in the backyard, and the pictures you see here are of what is going to be going in where the ivy was.The big shrubs will be more smoke bush and viburnum (berries to attract birds) as well as a couple of big Russian sages (also for the bees). I'm starting to get to the part of the yard I can see from my kitchen window so I am excited about having it not be a pile of leaves and ivy any more. I can't wait to get back from my trip (and I haven't even left yet)! So I will stop for now so I can go pack and get ready for my interview. But I really just want to be in my garden!

1 comment:

Zack said...

Great post Anne! I never realized how something natural that we just take for granted might add to the economy like that. And the idea that no bees=no anything is a particularly scary idea.

Thanks for the insight into why you do what you do. And I can't wait until your garden creeps closer to your kitchen window as well :)