The Spoiler Strikes Again

On Friday, I posted about confused bees in my garden, bees dropping from the sky and my concerns over neighbors using pesticides. Then over the weekend, I noticed this:

killed weeds

Needless to say, I was a bit suspicious particularly since there was some dead catmint and lavender involved. Actually, I was more than suspicious–I was horrified, because I was pretty sure I knew what it meant: the Spoiler had resorted to using chemicals! (Now you know how he gets his name!).

So I went up to the house and questioned him and of course he admitted it–he even said proudly that he was terribly efficient in his use of them, getting it done in little chunks of time that he had available to him (which clearly means when I am out of the house and off the property–in other words, during the day, when the bees are out and about! How awful!)

I asked him if he didn’t understand what I was talking about when I was wailing about the dead bees? And did he not understand that those plants in particular were bee plants and if that he was going to bring those nasty and vile things onto our property and use them when I wasn’t around, he had to do it at certain times of day?

Sadly, I’m sure that this will go in one ear and out the other. I haven’t found where he’s hidden the jug of whatever he used–perhaps it’s gone. I can only hope.

Bee Armageddon?

Last Friday I wrote that I had been seeing fewer bees than usual. Then my natives all came into bloom at once, thankfully.

black eyed susans

Here’s a field of black eyed susans. They don’t seem quite as popular with the bees as some of the other plants but I know the goldfinch will be over them when they start to go to seed so I’m not worried.

Butterfly weed

This is probably my second most popular bee plant in the garden right now. It’s a yellow form of butterfly weed (asclepias). It attracts everything–the bumblebees you see, honeybees, the smaller pollinator bees and of course I originally planted it for the monarchs. I thought I had lost it because it was so slow to come back. None of my other 3 asclepias species did come back.


This is the ultimate bee plant in my garden. It is constantly covered with bees. At the time I took the picture–maybe 90 minutes before sunset–there were mostly bumble bees–but they were laden with pollen. It was a great sight to see.

As I was about the leave the garden, I saw that my rose of sharon leaves were being nibbled by something. When I stepped in to take a closer look, I found not the culprit, but this:

confused bumble bee

It’s difficult to see from the photo–it’s by the upper cluster of buds–and I didn’t want to disturb an already confused bee–but I watched this bee very clumsily climb into this branch. It appeared confused and disoriented and seemed as if it would likely stay the night there–except why would it do so laden with pollen. Very troubling.

Even more troubling, I have found 2 dead bumble bees on my driveway. What is causing these bees to drop from the sky, dead, onto my driveway? I’m horrified. One bee I’ll just chalk up to old age or an accident. More than one and I’m getting worried. Now this third confused bee and I’m sure something is going on. Very sad.

Wordless Wednesday

orchids outside

When I lecture on house plants (as I often do) folks will often ask me about orchids. I say that they are very easy, and, like the rest of my house plants, I give them no special treatment. I put them outside around Memorial Day and I bring them inside around Labor Day. That’s it–no miracles involved.

You can even see a white cyclamen that I stuck in there with the orchids. It too is blooming its fool head off.

In case anyone doubts this, none of these orchids or the cyclamen were blooming when they went outside.

""hardy" gardenia

This is one of those tender perennials I talked about a few weeks back. I got it as a sample at one of the Garden Writer trade shows, probably in the mid 2000s. It supposedly is hardy to 25 degrees. It’s actually hardy to much colder than that because the unheated sun porch where I over-winter it got down to 18 this past winter–and as you can see, it’s doing just fine.

Every so often I lose things on the porch–or more often, as in this “polar vortex winter” in the garage. But if you haven’t tried over-wintering plants that are not hardy for you and you have an un-heated space where you can do it, I highly recommend it!

Daddy Long Legs

Daddy long Legs

It’s funny what you find where. For over a week now I’ve been sharing my bathroom with this creature. Despite the urban legend that it has the “deadliest bite of all the spiders” (wrong on more than one account because this isn’t even a spider–a spider has a two segmented body This has one. We’ll stop there), this is a harmless insect (to humans).

In the winter I often wonder how things get into my house and why. I figure lots of things hitch rides in on the house plants and then will “hatch out” at appropriate times for the insects (but inappropriate times for me!)

In the summer, I wonder the same thing. This is a really large bug. It’s so big, one of its legs didn’t completely fit in the photo. What is it doing on the second floor of my house? Doubtful it chose to climb up the side and sneak in a window–they haven’t been open much lately in the heat.

It’s possible it “rode in” on something–me, the Spoiler or one of the dogs and then just found its way to the bathroom. I find insects love bathrooms and the kitchen for the readily available source of moisture.

Normally I’d try to take misplaced creatures back outside but these guys are delicate and this one is so big I don’t know what I’d use to relocate it–a small box? Besides, I did have that kitchen spider that lived for 6 months.

From what I’ve read, these guys are fairly omnivorous and will eat almost anything that comes by, including bird poop. There shouldn’t be any of that in the bathroom but there should be enough other stuff to sustain it.

The biggest problem is that it moves around quite a lot. Unlike the kitchen spider, every time I come into the bathroom, it’s in another place. And until I locate it, I’m always a little wary. I don’t want to accidentally grab it–or find it’s on my hairbrush–or soap, as it was one morning. It was quite accommodating when I told it I needed to use that that and it needed to move. It’s actually more accommodating than the dogs sometimes.

And it has great markings. Perhaps I’m growing a little too fond of it!

Bring On The Bees (and Others)

I have been noticing a decided lack of bees in my yard this year. And this is bees of all kinds. I usually have hundreds of native bumblebees–this year, not so much.

This year I can count the honeybees I’ve seen on two hands, probably. Very sad.

And while most folks wouldn’t bemoan a loss of wasps and their kin, they too are pollinators and I’m not seeing a whole lot of those either. Usually this time of year, as my large natives like filipendula and veronicastrum begin to bloom, I can just stand there and photograph away at the interesting array of flying things. This year there are a couple of bumblebees–for which I am truly grateful–but I’m also worried.

I’m not sure what to “blame:” the polar vortex, which we are so quick to blame for everything? It’s been nearly that cold in these parts before, and really minus 9 is not statistically colder than minus 4 (what I mean by that is it’s still in the same zone–technically Zone 6.)

I know one more of my neighbors has begun using a lawn service. Is that the “chemical” tipping point that drove away these good bugs? Is there now just too little habitat for them? That would break my heart.

I know I have not yet seen any of my favorite cicada killers–even though the dog day cicadas are here. And I’m even seeing far fewer butterflies this year. Very discouraging.

A recent weeding adventure in the garden did get me up close and personal with some bees–who were very unwilling to be photographed, although I think it was the nature of the plant. They were on and around Invincibelle Spirit hydrangeas, and those conceal the flowers inside the pink panicles. So the bees would land and almost immediately move underneath or inside the lovely “flower” heads.

Here’s the best I could do.


Here’s the most abundant creature in my yard, the bumble bee.

hover fly

This is a hover fly. I have a decent number of these, in a couple of species as well.

bumble bee

Finally, at the lower right, about to disappear into the “flower” head, is a bumble bee. As I’ve said, I have very few of these this year. I suppose I should be grateful I have any, given the toxic cloud my neighbors seem intent on creating.

Wordless Wednesday–Hot Colors

Last year, at the end of the year, I realized the my color scheme had been decidedly autumnal. Even though I’d chose bright colors, I had still chosen a color palette of oranges, reds and yellows. It was nice, but scarcely something I wanted to live with all summer and into the fall.

So this year I went back to one of my tried and true favorites: red and purple.

Annual pots

This is a mixed collection of annual pots with a few perennials or shrubs I’m growing.

clematis and petunias

The typical purple clematis on the lamp post. This year I hung some petunias with it as well.

mixed calibrachoa and geraniums

Some hanging calibrachoa and red geraniums below.

Petunia Pot

And of course my mixed petunia pot.