If you read my blog from two weeks ago, you’ll know that at that time we did not have a single bee anywhere in our yard — not even on a feeder bucket. Well, we left the bucket out and on Thursday we found a handful of bees feasting away. There were a few more yesterday, and even more today. All of the foragers are young bees, which supports our premise that the old field force was killed off. The timing would be about right for nurse bees to have graduated to being foragers.
Another exciting thing about these bees is that there are some black bees mixed in with the regular Italians. Black bees have a reputation of being aggressive, but they are also known to be resistant to varroa mites. We would love to add some of those genetics to our bee colonies. Black bee numbers were decimated in the early 1900s by tracheal mites, and some thought they had been completely wiped out, but researchers have found some in Europe and in the United States. The ones on the bucket are certainly not aggressive as hubby and I have both coaxed some onto our hands to get a closer look. Of course, that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t be aggressive around their hive. We plan to leave feeders out over winter even though we don’t have any active hives in our yard. If we can support the local bee population, we are still achieving one of our goals. If we attract another swarm — well, that would be icing on the cake!
While I was watching the bees and listening to their happy buzzing, I noticed leaves on the Flame Azalea in our memory garden. This particular azalea was planted in memory of my aunt as its vibrant colors just reminded me of her. The plant is also a native plant, not a modern hybrid, and Aunt Joan was so very English in all the best ways. I’m not saying she was old-fashioned, because she wasn’t. She was an inspiration, multi-talented, and full of life. I know the azalea is just a plant, but I felt a sense of loss when it died. While I still thought about Aunt Joan every time I looked at the bare twigs (I couldn’t bear to dig it up), that didn’t cheer me up much! I am so happy to see new growth and am looking forward to next spring when it bursts into oranges, reds, and yellows again.
Without much hope, I thought that if the azalea could come back, maybe the Japanese Maple would too. Now this tree marks the resting place of our daughter’s cat, so it doesn’t have quite the emotional connection for me that the other plants in the memory garden have, but when it died, I felt like I’d let our daughter down. The last thing she needs to see when she walks over there is a dead twig! Lo and behold — new buds and one new leaf.
The idea of a memory garden started when a co-worker gave me tulip bulbs to plant in memory of my father. Tulips do not typically regenerate in the heat and the sandy soil of central South Carolina, but these tulips have returned every year. I enjoy seeing perennials pop back up every year anyway, but that joy takes on a different facet when it is combined with happy memories of those who were so loved so much.
The memory garden will be hard to leave behind when we finally move to the farm full time, but we are trying to root cuttings from all the shrubs to take with us. If that fails, we’ll buy new shrubs of the same kind to put in the memory garden we have already started down there. That garden already has English blue-bells and daffodils planted in it. It’s going to take some time to convince the summer weeds to stay out of there, but we’ll win that battle! My parents, Aunt Joan, and hubby’s parents all loved gardening. What better way to remember them all than to dig in the soil and create something beautiful?