Sunday, April 27, 2008

More pollen and nectar for the bumble bee Queen

The flowers on the Nanking cherry are gone so the Queen must look elsewhere for sustenance. In our garden Virginia Bluebells/mertensia are begining to bloom. Perfect shape and good color. Bumbles should like them.

The Illinois wildflower site says ...
The flowers are pollinated by long-tongued bees primarily, including honeybees, bumblebees, Anthophorid bees, Mason bees, large Leaf-Cutting bees, and Miner bees; these insects seek nectar and collect pollen. Other visitors of the flowers include hummingbirds, bee flies, butterflies, skippers, and Sphinx moths, including hummingbird moths.

Also opening are buds on the young Eastern Redbud . We picked this tree because there is a line of them growing along property of a school nearby that are quite old so we know they will do well here. The nectar and pollen will help the Queen bumble bee store food to feed larvae hatching from her eggs until they mature into worker bees that will take over foraging and feeding duties.

Soon aquilegia/columbine will follow, as will the flowers on Phlox subulata growing in the Hobbit garden.

I'll be watching to see where she lands next.

Monday, April 21, 2008


Well, I knew that it was a bumble bee as it was buzzzing [vibrating flight mucles to warm up body to get airborne at low temperatures]. It was loud enough to hear through the window left open early this morning to catch a spring breeze. In the above picture, if you click to enlarge you will see the pollen grains caught on body hairs.

The first band on the abdomen though partially blocked from view is yellow in all three pictures. There is a black circle on the backside center.

Black fuzzy pile covers the rest of the abdominal bands.
I'm thinking this is an awakened overwintered Queen bombus impatien collecting nectar and pollen until the first worker bees are old enough to take over. Then she will mostly remain in the nest laying eggs. Maybe she spent the winter somewhere here in the garden. I would like to think so.

Check out Beespotter where bumble bee and honey bee sightings in Illinois can be recorded. You enter location, pictures and a guess at species (there are pictures and drawings to help) although an expert will verify and let you know.



save garden bumble bees pdf

bumble bees pdf

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Garden Bloggers Bloom Day April 15th 2008

The garden was bare. Then with a few days of sunshine green appeared everywhere. It was like the ground had been holding back as the pressure of growth built. Then presto...all at once foliage burst forth in verdant excess.

Hellebore flowers suddenly bloomed.

Daffodils dangle.

Yellow pansies shine.

Color makes us smile.

The buds of hyacinth,tulip and iris await a turn in the spotlight.

Spring is here...

Check out April gardens around the world at May Dreams Gardens

Monday, April 14, 2008

Garfield Conservatory's 100th Birthday Celebration

Sunday April 13th 2008 was a day for celebrating 100 years since opening the doors to the Garfield Conservatory in Chicago.

Above is a picture (click on picture to enlarge) of Julia Bachrach co-author of the book 'Inspired By Nature', a history of Garfield Park, The Garfield Conservatory and the surrounding neighborhood. I was able to attend her 30 minute presentation on the history of the Conservatory and its more recent outreach programs that have made Garfield an important member of the local urban green movement.

Seems Garfield Park was initially the largest of the three west side parks Columbus,Humbolt and Garfield (originally known as Central Park), designed by William LeBaron Jenney. The park was opened to the public in 1874. In 1905 Jens Jensen was appointed superintendent of the west park system and made the decision to replace three already crumbling small working green houses with one large display house open to the public. Although fraught with problems it became a sensation drawing visitors from far and wide with its unique Landscape Under Glass.
The book has pictures of both the early days and recent improvements along with plenty of park and west side history. It is a great story well presented.

Here are a few pictures taken of the latest in an ongoing renovation of the conservatory.

Once called the Sweet House it is now Sugar From The Sun,the story of how plants use sunlight to produce the food of life. (click picture to read)

You can see bananas,pineapples,guava,sugarcane,oranges and even cocoa growing throughout.

What a beautiful exhibit that continues the tradition of landscaped spaces under glass.

Not just an attendee but also a Master Gardener volunteer, along with eating birthday cake I helped to distribute 100 free trees and explained planting and care instructions to recipients. Then off on a park wide tree trek to discover trees 100 years or older.

Lead by Jim Dehorn of Chicago Treekeepers we attempted to estimate the age of several trees. First the trees were identified. Then trunk circumference measured at a height of 4.5 ft. This is divided by mathamatical pi, then multiplied by the number of years it takes that particular species of tree's trunk to grow one inch.

1. Work in groups of 3 or more.
2. Determine the species of tree.
3. With a tape measure, find the circumference of the tree (in inches) 4 1/2 feet above the ground.
4. Determine the diameter of your tree.
Formula: Diameter = Circumference divided by 3.14 (pi)
5. Calculate the age of the tree.
Formula: Diameter X Growth Factor

Tree Species-Growth Factor
Red Maple - 4.5
White Oak - 5.0
Silver Maple - 3.0
Red Oak - 4.0
Sugar Maple- 5.0
Pin Oak - 3.0
River Birch- 3.5
Linden or Basswood - 3.0
White Birch - 5.0
American Elm - 4.0
Shagbark Hickory - 7.5
Ironwood - 7.0
Green Ash - 4.0
Cottonwood - 2.0
Black Walnut - 4.5
Dogwood - 7.0
Black Cherry - 5.0
Redbud - 7.0
Aspen - 2.0

How Old Is My Tree (pdf)

Telling A Trees Age (article)


Green Ash- circumference of trunk at 4 and 1/2 ft above ground = 90 inches

90 divided by 3.14 (pi) = 28.7

28.7 x 4.0 (growth rate) = 114.8

age estimate 114.8 years

OK, so it is only an estimate.
City trees tend to have problems like pollution or disturbance that may slow growth or if without competition for sun and nutrients, grow a bit faster.
But what a fun way to at least get an idea of how old a tree might be.