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Blanket of Flowers … and Bees

September 22, 2011

At the beginning of Oregon’s long, cold summer, little more than a strip of bark hugged the wall along the side of my house. When I moved in the house in July of last year, the intense summer sun was already burning the tender shoots of young plants, so I decided to hold off planting for the season.

This year, as the summer weeks rolled in, spring showers remained and temperatures creeped toward 67 degrees, but rarely any higher. Undeterred, I slowly started to fill the back yard with roses, delphiniums, dianthis and violas. As our dreary summer progressed, I wandered through local nurseries most weekends, looking for perennials that would bloom in brilliant shades of yellow, orange and red and bring a little color to a world that was still awash in gray.

Eventually, I found myself standing in front of a table filled with brick red flowers tinged in a bright yellow with matching vibrant centers. The tag identified them as Sunburst blanket flowers. I snagged two small pots and took them home to sink them into the sand and clay next to my house. But the space still looked empty given that each plant had about four flowers, so I returned the next day and found a deep red version called a Burgundy blanket flower.

Blanket flowers thrive in hot weather, though, and the cool days weren’t kind. They struggled to grow. Stems of the Sunburst flowers grew long and leggy, and the plants leaned against the house for support, but produced few blooms. The roots of the Burgundy plant almost rotted in the soil before it could take hold.

Slowly, with a bit of water, a healthy dose of fertilizer and a lot of cursing, the plants began to thrive. The scrawny vegetation grew into a lush tangle of green and red and yellow.

As we reached the end of August, and the temperature across the state finally reached the mid-90s, the flowers became a beacon for bumble bees. Starting early in the morning, the bees gathered pollen for hours, laboring well into the evening and often hibernating each night in the flowers themselves. As they worked, yellow pollen caked the tiny hairs on their bodies.

In the past couple of weeks, the bees have grown heavy on nectar, leaving me to wonder how their dainty wings still manage to lift them off the ground.

I have never been as fascinated by bees as I am this year. I am definitely not looking forward to the colder weather, when the flowers die back and the little insects disappear into their hives for the winter.

From → Balance

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