Friday, June 16, 2006

blue blossoms

As far as garden perennials go, this spring has been practically ideal. The sky has been overcast to a greater or lesser degree and the air and soil temperature bathtub-warm. No wind to speak of, and the only rain has been gentle and brief. Walking outside is like entering a commercial greenhouse, full of the smell of growing plants.

The slugs are EVERYWHERE.

I carry a rose shears with me everytime I do my rounds and I halve them where they lay. Disgusting icky nasty slugs, DIE! DIE! As far as I can tell thats the only service they provide; is supplying me with a safe and socially sanctioned method of playing out my revenge fantasies about GW. I used to stab a stick through them and heave them over the fence, but sometimes there's a back spray, and thats kinda ill. I've also thrown them out on the sidewalk, but that's kinda ill for passers-by. Plus they re-hydrate in the rain and lay there like wrinkled, blackened, severed fingers oozing guck. Stylish!

Throwing them out on the street works, unless you hit a car accidentally and it slows down and you have to duck down until they speed up again and hope they didn't see you. To the driver of the green Aerostar on South Pass road; I'm sorry. You were supposed to run over it, not collide with it.

I have a rosa floribunda chinensis by my front door that is so covered with perfect, perfect tiny blossoms that the wands are laying over like a willow. I had to wire it back to the porch railing and the perfume cloud that operation stirred up almost made up for being savaged by the thorns. But unlike former years of damp springs, this year the leaves are absolutely clean. The only blemishes are hail spots; unavoidable. I was dreading powdery mildew but thankfully no such thing has happened! Soapy water clears that up, but you have to drench the entire surface of the plant and the ground beneath it; and I swear that rosebush reaches out and GRABS for you.

My easter lilly is as tall as me. 5ft 5in. No lie.

I have a ceanothus 'Victoria' by my front room window that finally finished blooming. Every year I look at it and consider cutting it down because it is not the most attractive plant in the world....not the ugliest either, but all it does is sit there and have leaves most of the year. I like a little more pizzaz. Oh, but in the spring it comes covered with small cones of Prussian blue, and the baby bumblebees come to it in their hundreds.

I love bumblebees. We have about three or four different types here, and they are all funny. First thing in the spring the queen bumbles emerge from the dirt, full of fat and baby bees, and helicopter around looking for food. In another couple of weeks the baby bumbles emerge and start working. Just a tiny wee ball of fluff dozily rambling around the flowers. Sometimes they pack themselves so full of pollen they can't fly off. Sometimes they have takeoff collisions and they run into each other. They'll stop to repack their little saddlebags and all the while the other little bee is picking up the fragments and packing her self up as tight as she can, and they go around in a circle robbing each other and dropping pollen, but all at a very lazy rate.

I think thats what I like best about bumbles...they aren't full of frantic scrabbly itchy activity like most insects. They arent spiny and poky, but fuzzy and round, and they hum. If you annoy them, a bumble will not attack you, but it will fly around and around your head like a grumpy bird. If you happen to jostle one, it will lay on its side and stick its leg out, like 'whoa, dude, mellow out. It's cool.'

In the morning you find sleeping bumbles in the cups of large flowers, blanketed by petals and dotted with jewels of dew. They are so greedy that the evening catches them unaware and they fall asleep in the midst of their banquet. You can roll them out into your hand and warm them up, and they will fly away in a tiny mist of water, dew from their bodies sprayed away by their buzzing wings.

I love to watch them get lost in a papaver orientale. The center of the blossom is a maribou stole of pollen bearing structures, velvety black and opulent. The bumbles evidently find quite a bounty of nectar in the blossom, and they roam around and around, dipping and drinking and tripping and falling, rolling in the pollen, sliding down the velvet petals and roistering around inside this ridiculously luxurious, decadent Art Nouveau setting like fat puppies in a drawing room.

Thats why I keep the ceanothus. If my bumbles like it, then I like it.


  1. Do you have those huge honkin' yellow Banana Slugs down there?

  2. I hate slugs and just smash them with a stone. I love bumble bees but don't see enough of them, this post made me want to get out in the garden.

  3. Anonymous9:22 AM

    Oh, the sweet bumbles. I've put in a butterfly and bee garden, and while I haven't had a ton of luck with the former, my garden has become a mecca for the latter. I love how they come in so many shapes and colorings and bumbliness.

    They make me happy.

    The slugs? Do not.

  4. mj: oh lordy YES. ill, ill, ill, ill, ill. tell ya what, though, nothing matches an Oregon banana slug. honestly banana sized and always laying right out in the middle of shit looking ILLL.
    frobi: bumbles LOVE blue blossoms more than anything! foxgloves are a big favorite around here.
    whinger: do i love the adjective 'bumbliness'? I do BIG!

  5. Love bumblebees too...and now wish I still had a backyard. sigh.

    A trick for the slugs, I don't know how common it is, is to plant a cup (full of beer) almost flush, but slightly above the ground. Our slugs would go in and meet their bubbly death.

  6. Slugs are repulsive slime monsters.

    I wonder what they taste like deep fried. You can eat sea slugs, apparently.

  7. christine: the beer trick works...inasmuch anything that remotely smells like food works, i.e. crap, shoes, laundry...i prefer DEATH FROM ABOVE. serves em right.
    garfy: i've eaten seaslug as surimi and its just barely a food...salty/crunchy/gone. i refuse to entertain the other...thingie...idea...ew. no.

  8. The only person I have heard speak of bees in such a sacred way is the poet Nick Flynn in his book "Blind Humer" a collection of poems all about bees. Check it out.

  9. I've gone all namby-pamby where all the slugs and snails in my garden are concerned. Last year I was exterminating them with pleasure, this year for some reason I can't bring myself to do it, despite them wrecking my entire garden. No idea why.

  10. mutha: you have the best book suggestions! for you: 'humblebee, bumblebee', an amateur guide, but written with so much love.
    wyndham: pick them up with a big leaf and heave them as far as you can. this is a 'flying lesson'. slugs generally don't make it past lesson one, though.

  11. flying lessons for slugs...I like it.

  12. I trod on a slug bare-foot once. Icksome. With a capital I...

  13. When I was little my father would send us out to the front yard, where there is a pond and two streams, to catch slugs. We'd flick them into an empty coffee tin and then when we were done, he'd count them out as he flicked them into the creek to die. He paid us a penney a slug.


  14. Haha... slugs...

    My mother was having issues with a chipmunk digging under our foundation. She trapped & killed that sucker. I felt horrible, but I think she got some other kind of satisfaction, perhaps of protecting the home.

    I love the bumble bee discussion! You made it sound so lyrical, and I pictured each event with a fuzzy dream haze, surrounded by green, and dusky weather. Bumble bees... sigh.