The Beekeeper’s Garden

shirley poppiesIt seems a bit presumptuous, to be writing about gardens for honey bees, as I am no authority. However, we do keep bees here at Stonewell Farm, and aim to keep them as healthy and well provided for as we can. Our gardens were well in the making long before we began keeping bees.  For the sheer pleasure of having an abundance of blooms and color, we planted annual cutting gardens with cosmos, larkspur, china asters, sunflowers, zinnias, gladiolii, dahlias. In February’s dead of winter, I scattered millions of charcoal colored  poppy seeds upon the blank,white canvas of snow, as if making a sketch for a richly colored painting that would materialize four or five months later; for our pleasure and stimulation, not the bees.

Beehive

But now we’re gardening for the bees as well. Gone are the Plume Poppies (macleaya cordata), pretty, in fact striking, but also poisonous to honeybees. We’ve learned that the Agastache, which is invasive here, and which we’ve been trying to weed out, provides a great source of nectar and pollen for honeybees, and so we’ve adopted a cautious tolerance of it; leaving some for the bees, in gardens which are not so particularly “curated” (which just so happens to be in the environs of the hives), and tearing it out where it will create aesthetic and horticultural conflicts with us. We have never been ‘lawn’ people.  We do have large, expansive stretches of “grass”, which means a green groundcover, but anyone can see that it’s mostly weeds cut short. Since there’s an abundance of dandelions and clover, both of which provide significant sustenance to honey bees, we’ve adopted an attentively diplomatic laissez-faire policy of allowing these plants to flower….attempting to mow when we think we’ve struck a balance, or compromise, between satisfying the bees and our neighbors. That means mowing before the plants set seed, and keeping the blades at the highest setting, to allow for the emergence of more blooms.

It just so happens that the plants we love are also plants that the bees love, and so now, the wheels begin turning for future garden plans and where we’ll put all these bee-friendly plants. Here’s a short list of plants that honeybees love, for those who would like to contribute to their welfare.

  • Agastache
  • Cosmos
  • Mint
  • Poppies (papaver orientale, papaver rhoeas, escholzia. papaver nudicaule)
  • Nepeta
  • China Asters
  • Clover
  • Dandelions

 

The Ultimate-ish Gardening Apron; Free Giveaway!

Producing a useful gardening apron is high on my list of things to do. I want to expand my apron offerings on Stonewell Cottage, to include the Ultimate Garden Apron. Many years back I had someone make a few artist/ craft aprons for me that were patterned on a sort of short, waitress style design. They were cute. When I moved to the country and actually tried using them for gardening, I discovered that they simply don’t function well. For the past couple of days I’ve googled gardening aprons and have found quite a variety, but surprisingly few will actually do the job they need to do. They look great on the real-life models who are standing erect and in a garden environment, tools nicely featured in generous pockets, and the more stylish ones are downright adorable and chic, not dissimilar to the ones I created years ago, but they just won’t do the job that I want my garden apron to do.

Here are my thoughts, based on real-life gardening work, and the criteria I will apply to designing the perfect gardening apron.

  • Firstly, the apron must have a slit through the front. Of course you want plenty of pockets for tools, seeds, etc..and these must be included, however, they will be positively useless if you cannot access those pockets in a crouched position. Its akin to keeping your tools in your front pockets…you simple can’t get to them, or worse, they’re jabbing you in the solar-plexis.
  • The apron needs to be more like a toolbelt, but not exactly. I have something like that and it presents problems for me. This takes me to the part that I think might be a hard sell because it seems so weird. I garden in a close fitting long-sleeved T shirt and sturdy jeans (baggy clothes catch on things, like rose thorns). In the classic crouched weeding or planting position, the T shirt rides up and the pants down, exposing a crescent of my lower back that gets sunburned. My garden apron idea is to have the apron tied on in the opposite way that it would normally be worn. In other words, a back panel would cover the lower back, preventing sunburn, the tie would be in the front, in my case, enfolded in belly fat, and the utility pockets would hang accessibly from the sides of ones outer hips, where they can be readily accessed.
  • The majority of people are right handed and so the narrow pocket for a writing implement might be on the right, but a similar pocket could be on the left, for lefties, or equally serviceable for plant markers. The heavier hand tools; the trowels and cultivators, would best be located as close to the vertical hipline as possible, so they work in harmony with gravity and our most durable and padded anatomical parts. (Sorry supermodels…talk to me about doing a padded couture version just for you!).

So I want your input and experience….pros, cons, all of it. There could be a bibbed version of the Ultimate Garden Apron. I suppose a bibbed version would provide additional storage for small items, but I think the pockets on the bib would have to be placed somewhere mid-chest and they would have to hang freely for easy accessibility, which means they can’t be very deep, otherwise they would block your field of vision. (Sometimes bibs can ride up and choke you a bit).

Oh, I forgot to mention…..my ultimate gardening apron must be durable and good-looking. I’m planning my apron around 100% cotton ticking fabrics, made in the USA.

Ladies and Gentlemen, this is a contest / giveaway. Totally subjective (but nepotism and familiarity free).  You MUST comment. Include details regarding what you want a Garden Apron to do for you. Based upon the seriousness and depth of you comments, I will select a winner, and he or she will receive one of my Ultimate Gardening Aprons within a months time.

Deadline for Comments is: April 1, 2014!!! I look forward to hearing from you!

Totebags – Franglais Chinois!

You know, we all seem to have a dozen or more totebags but few of them are chic or stylish. In an attempt to change that ethos I’ve come up with a stylish, chic and utilitarian version of a Totebag, smart enough to double as a handbag. The fabrics are chic, honest and rooted in traditional textiles.  The main body of the bag is a heavy-weight cotton ticking made in the USA. The exterior pockets, the lower part of the bag, are in a polyester ultrasuede made in China, trimmed and lined with the charming Provencale fabrics that we’ve imported from France, which also line the interior of the tote, which features an interior pocket for a cell phone or, whatever… The straps combine the durable ultrasuede and the yellow ticking fabric.

The 'Avignon' totebag.

The ‘Avignon’ totebag.

Chic and useful totebag.
The bold, stylish, and infinitely useful ‘Avignon Tote’.