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Bees vacate hive

Posted on by redwood grove

On St. Patrick's Day one of our bee hives swarmed and exited the hives around mid-day. At first they gathered in an acacia tree overhanging the hives. After staying there for a while, they moved again flying over the greenhouse and out of Blake Garden. Later in the day they were seen again by a neighbor below the garden. We called our beekeeper Chris Bauer, and he came early on the 18th to inspect the hive that the bees left. He took some closeup shots and made some interesting observations and discoveries. Chris explains:


Bees start swarming at this time of year as a way to expand their numbers. Roughly half the bees from an established colony, including the current queen, will vacate the hive in a swarm and take up temporary residence nearby. That's what you see in the video above as the bees settle in an acacia tree. When scout bees from the swarm locate a suitable hive location, the swarm takes off again to set up permanent residence somewhere much more protected. The other half of the original colony stays where they are with a new queen and continues on exactly as they had been before. When the process is complete the original one colony has become two. 
 

One of the reasons the hive in the video swarmed is that they had expanded extremely rapidly and filled out all the space in their hive. Every inch of the boxes were stuffed with bees, wax, and honey. I added an empty box to the ones they already had to give them more room to build comb in and fill out. 
 

The other close up pictures show how bees use the cells of comb for different purposes. The white cells to the left are capped over and contain honey. Adjacent to the honey are cells that hold pollen. Pollen is used as a protein source and combined with honey to feed young bees which is why next to the pollen cells are cells containing young bees. The young bees in these pictures are in a larval stage and look like little curled up grubs. When the young bee larvae reach a certain point of maturity they are sealed into cells to complete their growth into adult bees. The darker sealed cells on the right of these pictures hold rows and rows of bees that will emerge by chewing off the wax caps of their own cells and start contributing right away to the life of the hive.
 




In the Zone

Posted on by Marge dWylde
Filed under: Art In The Garden

The ‘Create with Nature Zone” was created several years ago in collaboration with area artist Zach Pine. People, big or little, can come into the zone and build sculpture out of materials we provide from the garden. Wednesday we found this little boy and his family building this large structure. He explained that he was putting keys in around the base to make the structure more sound. Good idea. It is very sturdy.


Work on Rain Garden & Redwood Steps continues

Posted on by Surprise Highway
Filed under: Water, Design, Build

Work by volunteers and interns continues on two projects in the garden. Soil/road base from the rain garden/french drain project has been dug out and replaced with rocks collected in the garden to capture and slow rain water to flow through into the garden beds on the slope above the lawn.  Meanwhile the displaced road base is sent to the new redwood steps project in the Redwood grove to back fill the new hand hewn redwood stair risers.



The Owl and the Ravens

Posted on by Surprise Highway

I came into the garden on  Tuesday morning before Christmas and  heard a bunch of crows "cawing" loudly behind the greenhouse.  Continuing the morning duties of  unlocking  doors and opening  gates the sound of the crows  was replaced by   "shack, shack, shack",  a flock of Steller's jays in the same location. As  I  wandered out back to see what the ruckus was,  little woodland birds  frantically  flew left and right.  Raven sounds ,"crunk, crunk" replaced the jays.  High on a branch, through the fog, back lit by morning light, I could make out the  silhouette of a great horned owl and two ravens attacking from either side. One raven would peck high and other  low. Then the owl let out a strange sound that resembled simultaneously a hiss and a growl.  It raised its enormous wings and then flew silently away.



Redwood steps project

Posted on by Surprise Highway

Redwood steps on a trail in the redwood grove made possibly in the 70's have rotted and pose a bit of a hazardous trail. Recently three redwoods in the area died of root rot and had to be taken down. The downed trees are being hand hewn by three volunteers in the garden: Peter, Craig and Kristoffer with a draw knife to scrape the bark off  and then hewing square a with Swedish broadaxe. Two of the treads are ready to put in place. They will be drilled and held in place with 1/2" metal re-bar.



Rain Garden underway

Posted on by Surprise Highway
Filed under: Water, Design, Build

We are in a drought we have been thinking of any or all ways to capture and conserve  water for the garden. We intend to redirect water that flows down the driveway during a rain storm into the flower bed. In order to this and not wash out the flower bed  we will construct a french drain/rain garden 1 to 2 feet deep, 2 feet wide and about 30 feet long along the road and at the top of the slope. We will redirect the runoff with sand bags into the swale lined with tumbled stones that we dug up in another part of the garden. Most french drains are constructed  of stones with a perforated pipe at the bottom of the swale  to redirect water somewhere. Most rain gardens are held in place by plants to filter the water. Our design will be borrowing from these two ideas. Our swale will run perpendicular to the slope and water will perk slowly through the permeable subsurface down the slope to the lawn. We have begun the project with a U.C. Berkeley Landscape Architecture undergrad student, volunteers and our interns from Albany High School EDSET program. 



Sculpture recently installed in reflection pool

Posted on by Surprise Highway
Filed under: Art In The Garden

Area artist Keiko Nelson with the help of Steve Capper from Wildrose Gardens & Ponds has installed a sculpture entitled  "Reflection" in our reflection pool. The sculpture is made of bamboo and bamboo chopsticks and was originally installed in the Japanese pool at Lake Merritt for the "Festival of Lights."  



(In)Land 2014: Revealing the Landscape

Posted on by Surprise Highway

(In)Land Project (In)Land students from U.C.Berkeley Landscape Architecture & Environmental Planning Summer Program  came to the garden to work on a project entitled “Revealing the Landscape”. Students paired up and chose a site in the garden that interested them and created a temporary installation with simple materials. They gave a brief presentation to a review team of professionals (landscape teachers, landscape architects and architects, and artists) with drawings and photographs along with models of their ideas, processes and finished installations.



Garden Details

Posted on by Surprise Highway
Filed under: Art In The Garden

Geoffery Agrons, a local photographer, always finds something of interest to photograph in our garden.



Flipping Compost

Posted on by Surprise Highway
Filed under: Sustainability, Video

In order in to keep our compost piles productive we add oxygen by turning and water by hosing it down to keep the piles as wet as a wrung-out sponge.  While turning we can observe what decomposers are present: red worms, sow bugs, roly poly bugs (both are actually crustaceans) ants, centipedes, millipedes. We also look for signs of beneficial bacteria & fungus which are microscopic, but they do leave evidence of white skeletal patches. All these creatures eat or absorb the organic matter we have added to the piles (leaves, branches, garden waste) and turn it into fabulous compost. Why is compost good for the garden? We process a lot of garden waste with this system  so it doesnt have to be hauled off to the landfill, compost is organic matter and holds water in the soil, and it adds humus, a kind of glue that holds soil particles together. It also adds beneficial fungus and beneficial bacteria that break down the soil releasing nutrients that are needed by plants and protect the roots of plants from non-benificials. We have sped up the video to illustrate the pattern of turning and watering the piles . The result is three piles: one we add "greens & browns" to on a daily basis, a second pile that is composting (we only need to turn and water it once in awhile)  and a third pile that we are currently harvesting through a screening system.