Monday, June 23, 2008

Weekend News

The Saturday edition of our local paper had a couple of articles that I thought would be of interest to you. Did you know that this is National Pollinator Week? Concern over the decreasing honeybee population has led scientists to create more awareness in the public about the important role bees play in maintaining the world's diversity of flowering plants. In the U.S. the number of honey bee colonies has declined by half since 1947. According to the head of the University of Illinois' entomology department, "Without pollination, for these species there will be no fruits, no seeds and no future. All the organisms that depend on those particular plants are thus jeopardized." The U of I entomology department is taking an active role in promoting the week by sponsoring several activities, including getting the public involved in monitoring wild bee populations through a web site called BeeSpotter. A related article stated that "ordinary people" can help conserve bees by "limiting our use of pesticides and favoring native plants in our landscaping."

I know I am preaching to the choir with this last statement, but I think it is great that more and more people are being reminded of the importance of protecting our bee population. As for me, I was never much of a bee lover and remember all too well what a bee sting feels like. But in the last few years I've come to understand their important role in nature, and I can now say that the bumblebees and I happily co-exist in my flower garden.

The other interesting article was in a weekly column written by a horticulturist with the County Extension Office which this week featured a suggested garden destination: The Frederik Meijer Gardens and Sculpture Park in Grand Rapids, Michigan. This immediately caught my eye, because we visited these gardens a few years ago while on a short vacation in southwest Michigan. There are indoor garden areas as well as outdoor themed gardens and nature trails. The Meijers, founders of the grocery stores of the same name, also were very interested in art, particularly sculpture, and have an excellent sculpture park as well as three art galleries on the grounds. I don't know very much about modern art, but even I recognized the name Rodin among the artists. My favorite piece, though, was the huge bronze horse sculpted by an American artist and modeled after the famous bronze horse attempted (but then destroyed) by Leonardo Da Vinci. It is one of two such horses, the other being in Milan, Italy. This summer they also have two special exhibits honoring Monet and Degas. My husband and daughter were trying to humor me when they agreed to drive over to Grand Rapids for the afternoon to see the park, but I think they wound up enjoying it as much as I did. If you live in Michigan or are driving through, I highly recommend a stop at the Meijer Gardens--it's worth the trip!

So how did I spend the weekend besides reading the paper? On Saturday Beckie and I went on a Garden Walk sponsored by the local Master Gardeners. (I'm thinking of changing the name of my blog to "The Gardening Adventures of Beckie and Rose," what do you think?) This is the first time we have attended this yearly event, and we had been looking forward to it for several weeks. Since neither of us are early-morning people, we decided on a late morning start, which was a good thing since a brief thunderstorm hit the whole area about the time the garden walk began. By the time we started out, though, the sun had come out, and we had a great day admiring other people's gardens.

Beckie has already posted about the walk, so I'll keep my description brief. Besides, I apparently was oohing and aahing over all the gardens that I forgot to take many pictures!

We visited 6 of the 8 gardens on the walk, all of them at private residences which varied from modest homes to larger homes in new subdivisions (read: no trees) to one home in an established, very affluent neighborhood in town. I was captivated by the front lawn and garden of this house across from the Country Club, and it wasn't even on the walk!

All of the homes featured large expanses of plantings from the front yard to the back. One home was on a lake, and the homeowners had plantings right up to the lake as you can see below. It was beautiful, but I kept imagining myself falling into the water trying to plant irises on the hillside.

Beckie was in dragonfly heaven here as there was a flock (a throng? a herd?) of dragonflies hovering about the waterlilies. We even saw two flying together in what appeared to be the mating act. Both of us kept snapping away with our cameras; she definitely got the better picture. The sun was much too bright to get a good shot, but I wanted to show you this one anyway. I didn't know until I looked at the photos later that there were two in the picture!

Besides just enjoying the beauty of a well-planned garden, one of the advantages of this type of walk is seeing how people combine different plants and their placement of garden art or accessories. I saw this sedum at one home surrounded by a collection of medium-sized rocks. I don't know the name of this particular sedum, but I've seen it in local nurseries. Seeing it in this setting gave me the idea of the perfect spot for it in my garden.

I do not have an eye for decorating, so I especially enjoy getting ideas from the ways people use different objects as garden art. This decorated pink flamingo apparently won a first prize in some kind of contest.

Funny and original, yes. But I'm not a big fan of pink flamingos. I don't think I'll be rushing out to buy one to decorate any time soon.

My favorite garden on the walk was actually the first one we visited. The front of their modest-sized, tidy brick home was surrounded by these Annabelle hydrangeas and large hostas. The Annabelles seemed pretty popular as we saw them in several of the gardens.

Passing from the front yard into the back, every other square inch of property had been transformed into a garden. In the middle of the back yard/garden was a pond complete with koi fish and a small waterfall. If I had a pond (and how I wish I did!), I would love to see this little guy floating in the middle of all the lilypads.

It was a lovely day, and you might think I went home with a serious case of garden envy to go with my camera envy. Yes, I did see some beautiful gardens and wished I could add more to my own garden, but at the same time I kept thinking, "These are huge! Unless I could afford someone to dig up and prepare all these beds, I couldn't keep up with all of this." Instead I went home and looked at my gardens with a critical eye, thinking about what could be added or moved, but I have no plans to dig up my whole front yard! I'll let someone else worry about trying to create an award-winning garden.

Our weekend ended on a sweet note--literally. Our youngest grandchild celebrated his first birthday with a party on Sunday. The chocolate cake was delicious, but no one enjoyed it as much as he did!

Happy Birthday, my dear little one!


  1. Rose, Great minds think alike!! I was just going to do a post on an overcrowded garden area and as you mentioned you thought of that also. Now I see you are mentioning Frederick Meijer Gardens. I live in the Garnd Rpaids area and go there frequently. There is a wonderful daylily show there on July 12th. I plant to attend if possible and will take many pictures. Look for that article mid July.

  2. Hi Rose, You were quite busy this weekend. It sounds like you had a grand time.

    We go to visit family in Ann Arbor, MI occasionally so I will try to get to the Meijer Gardens the next time we are up that way. It sounds fantastic.

    You are very lucky to have a good friend to go on garden tours. It is so much fun to visit those big professionally maintained gardens to see what can be done. Great inspiration.

    Pink flamingoes have shown up in my garden in the past. None of my friends want to admit they put them there. Ha.. So I guess I can say they migrated here. They are ugly sorts but comical. I can say that they fade after a summer in the garden so they don't make good yard ornaments. tee hee

  3. Jane Marie, It's good to know I'm not the only one with an overcrowded area. I should have paid more attention to the suggested planting width on the tags:)
    I had forgotten what part of Michigan you lived in--can't wait to read your post about the Meijer Gardens!

    Lisa, It was a good weekend! Did you see Jane Marie's comment? Her post should really be interesting and give a much better idea of the gardens. I thought it was a fantastic place.
    Yes, I'm lucky to be able to go with a good friend. I told Beckie Saturday that the reason it took the two of us so long to go through the gardens is that we "lingered" more and discussed each area. Certainly a lot more fun than going by yourself!
    I was hoping no one with a pink flamingo would take offense:)

  4. Love that first birthday shot! I think all of ours were taken in the "messy cake eating" mode, too.
    the article about the bees really caught my eye, too. I'd been hearing about their decline for a while, but just this week, as I was enjoying my bee-balm blooms, I realized they are usually humming with pollinators, and this time I didn't see any! It's kind of creepy. I hope they show up in a few days when it gets a little warmer; I'd like to think their absence is just related to weather.

  5. Belated happy birthday to grandchild! He looks to be enjoying that very much!

    I love that hippo! I want one!

  6. Rose that sounds like such a happy weekend. You took some good pictures of the gardens, the iris and pond one reminded me of Monet's painting.

  7. A lovely ending to your post with your 1 yr. old grandchild! Happy birthday little one!
    I love the bees and for the reasons that you write about! They are our pollinators and without them we would not enjoy our garden blossoms as much nor the fruits in our stores!Each bee that lands on my flowers is a gift that I cherish..and they make the best subjects for photographs all fuzzy covered in pollen!Keep em buzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzing at your gardens HUgs NG

  8. Rose, Of course I didn't see the article, but it's good to know the U of I is working on solving the bee problem. I am participating in the 'great sunflower project' this summer. Your bee shot was great. And of course the dragon flies were wonderful. Thanks for being so patient with me when I was trying to get a picture of them.

    I loved the "Adventures of Rose and Beckie" comment! When we get to be experts we COULD do a blog together!!:)Also, enjoyed your comments about the walk. It was such fun sharing it with you.

    Maybe next year, we could plan a trip to the Meijer Gardens. Or that day lily show.

  9. Joyce, My grandson didn't quite understand what all the fuss was about, but that cake sure did intrigue him!
    I think the bees are just starting to appear around here, though I couldn't find a bumblebee to photograph yesterday for the life of me. The news article did say that bees in Illinois have not declined as much as elsewhere.

  10. Liz, Thanks for the birthday wishes for grandson (and hoping you have one in the near future):)
    The hippo was very well-mannered and not nearly as large as I expected. He would be welcome here!

    Suburbia, Comparing my photo to a Monet painting--that's quite a compliment! Thanks.

    Naturegirl, I just recently learned that bumblebees like purple, which explains why they're always hovering around my garden--I like purple, too.

    Beckie, You'll have to tell me about the "great sunflower project'--seems like I read about that somewhere.
    Maybe someday we could be the replacements for "Coffee with the Plant Experts" :)
    I had forgotten about going to the Meijer Gardens until I saw the article--you would love it there!

  11. Hi Rose Firstly what a darling little boy......grandsons capture your heart, don't they?

    The bee post was interesting Rose. I read in the paper last night, that in a remote region of China the farmers had used too many pesticides and killed all their honeybees on the farm. Now every year the local people have to pollenate the fruit trees themselves. They have managed to do it but it is weeks of work....a lesson to be learned I think.

    The garden you visited are beautiful Rose and immaculate. I wonder if they have gardeners to help them.......

    I love the photograph of the two dragonflies, absolutely lovely.

  12. The dramatic decline in the bee population is worrisome. I have noticed far fewer bees the last two years. This spring my Service Berry tree doesn't have many berries.

    Love the photos of the pond;)

  13. We are also having problems with our honey bees in Britain because of a mite that is affecting many of them. It sucks the blood out. We will all be in a mess it we have no bees!
    The photos of the gardens you have visited are lovely. Not keen on plastic pink flamingoes! Like the hippo though. I haven't space in my garden for a pond but I have a small one in a pot containing 2 miniature water lilies (pink & white) I also sank an industrial plastic bucket into the ground & put pebbles & some water weed in it. I now have a frog living there!
    Lovely grand child!

  14. I was going to post that there are more bees in my garden this year than last year! Maybe I am paying attention and just noticing them more.

    Garden tours are lots of fun with a good friend and going home inspired is the best experience!

    I have a very similar photo of my now 26 yr old son on his first birthday! What fun! Such love grandmothers have!

  15. If you & Beckie want to blog together, don't wait until you feel you are experts - we'd be happy with it anytime. (Sort of like Divas of the Dirt.)
    I love the pink flamingo - trashy yet funny. The hippo is very fun too. It sounds like you two had a great weekend.

  16. Rose, what a lovely post. Some good ideas there in those gardens you visited. I liked the combination of Hosta and H.arborescenc Annabelle. Wish I could grow Hostas out in the open.
    Your birthday photo must have recalled a lot of one-year-old-today pictures in your readers' minds.

    I know where all the bees are: In my attic! Every year we get a swarm invading us. We have to call out a specialist. He says he relocates. Probably true, as they are back again the following year.
    Disconcerting to be sitting in the bath and suddenly realizing there are literally hundreds of them watching you.

  17. Cheryl, Thanks; I think grandson looks like little cherub. I'm seeing quite a few bees around here, so I don't think we have as much of a problem here. And yes, I do think some of those homeowners had help; that wouldn't be much fun, would it?
    I have seen so many dragonflies this year!

    Marnie, I would love a pond; the one in the photo had a little waterfall at the end, which is what I would really like. At the very least, a fountain would do!

    Maggie May, Yes, there is some parasite that is killing the bees in their nest, I think.
    Your pot and "bucket pond" sound like a great idea; I've seen those before. That's an idea I could use; thanks!

    Gail, I do have a lot of bees here, too--but they're finding our native plants, aren't they?
    When I see my grandchildren like this, it always brings up memories of their daddies (my sons), too.

  18. MMD, We might consider a co-op if one of us gets any busier. "Coffee with the Plant Experts" is a local radio show Sat. AM. They can answer ANY question; I don't think we could:)

    Joco, Ouch, that doesn't sound good! The only bee sting I ever had was at school where we had several swarms in the fall. I was worried that a student who might be allergic would be stung, but no it was just me. I didn't realize how much that could hurt!

  19. Rose, you may turn Grand Rapids into a 'destination vacation' spot - what a cool place! We don't have Meijer stores here, but we sometimes stop at the one in Champaign when going between Chicago and Texas. Does being a customer mean we're supporters of the arts?

    Happy birthday to your grandson - chocolate is the best cake, of course!

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  20. A lovely post, Rose. Sad to say that living in Michigan all my life, I have yet to visit the Meijer Gardens (but on my must list of things to do). Your grandson is adorable! I must say ~ you had a 'perfect' weekend!

  21. Oh so sweet. I love that photo of your grandson with those wonderful chubby cheeks and hands full of chocolate cake! Seems like just yesterday I was celebrating first birthdays with my own little ones.

  22. Hi Rose, what wonderful gardens you visited, and yes preaching to the choir on the insect population among the garden bloggers anyway. But your cute birthday boy stole my heart. I will remember the annabelle hosta combo, that is inspired in its simplicity.

  23. Stephanie, Thanks for stopping by!

    Annie, I never thought of that, but I guess I can feel better about buying groceries if I am supporting the arts at the same time.

    Joey, You'll have to make a trip to Grand Rapids!

    Amy, I know what you mean. Wish they could stay this cute and adorable forever.

    Frances, I liked the Annabelles and hostas, too. Looks "cottagey" to me.

  24. I did not know about Pollinator week. Now I do and thanks. Love your little man picture. I want cake!


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