‘Bees, Bees, Bees’: 7-9 p.m. (potluck at 7 p.m., speaker at 8 p.m.) Feb. 17. Learn about bees from Christine Ranegger of the Puget Sound Beekeepers Association. Presented by Plant Amnesty. Center for Urban Horticulture, 3501 N.E. 41st Ave., Seattle; free (plantamnesty.org/events2).
‘Beekeeping 101: Intro to Beekeeping’: 10 a.m.-noon Feb. 21. With Corky Luster, apiarist and founder of the Ballard Bee Company. Swansons Nursery, 9701 15th Ave. N.W., Seattle; $40, register at Ballard Bee Company, 206-459-4131 (swansonsnursery.com).
‘How to Prune Your Fruit Trees’: 11 a.m.-noon Feb. 21. With certified arborist Don Marshall. Molbak’s, 13625 N.E. 175th St., Woodinville; free (molbaks.com).
In the Garden
If you noticed an increase in honeybees visiting your urban garden last summer, it’s likely that one of your neighbors is raising bees in their backyard.
Most cities in the Puget Sound region allow bee keeping as long as you register with the state Department of Agriculture and follow regulations. Seattle residents are allowed to have up to four honeybee hives on an average-sized lot.
You may be asking yourself why anyone would want to take up a hobby that is somewhat expensive ($500 to $800 to set up two hives), requires a fair amount of work and can result in bee stings. Urban bee keepers like helping out these critical pollinators at a time when their numbers are declining nationwide, plus the quality and abundance of fruit and vegetables are greatly increased in gardens where there are hives.
Surprisingly, most urban bee keepers engage in the hobby because it’s fun and a great way to teach kids about nature. Of course, harvesting homegrown honey is an incentive as well.
If you think you might want to try raising bees in your urban garden, contact the Puget Sound Beekeepers Association (pugetsoundbees.org). They’ll tell you where you can take a beginners class to find out if beekeeping is something you really want to do and if your garden is an appropriate setting for raising bees.
If you want to raise bees in your garden but don’t want to commit to the work involved, Ballard Bee Company (ballardbeecompany.com) and the Urban Bee Company (urbanbee.com) are local businesses that will place and tend hives in your garden as long as it is an appropriate setting. Not only is there no charge for the service but you’ll receive a jar of honey for letting them place the hives in your garden.
A lack of plant diversity is a contributing factor in bee decline. Bees need a regular supply of nectar and pollen and you can help provide the nourishment they need by creating a bee border in your garden. The border doesn’t have to be huge, but it should contain a variety of plants that bloom at different times to ensure a supply of nectar and pollen all season long.
Designing a border is fun and easy. Find a sunny location and begin by planting a few deciduous and evergreen shrubs to give the garden structure. After that, fill the space with a variety of perennials, grasses, annuals and spring- and summer-blooming bulbs.
When choosing plants, remember that those with single flowers usually provide the most nectar and pollen. Quite a number of shrubs are highly attractive to bees, but a few standouts include Ceanothus (California lilac) and lavender, both which are literally covered with bees when in bloom. Single flowering carpet roses produce a virtual banquet for hungry bees by flowering practically nonstop all summer long.
Bees are attracted to almost any single blossoming perennial and annual from cosmos to aster, but there are two blue-flowering perennials that drive bees into frenzies of epicurean delight. Globe thistle (Echinops ritro) and sapphire blue sea holly (Eryngium “Sapphire Blue”) attract so many bees that it can actually be hard to see the flowers.
By the way, don’t be surprised if after you plant your new border you like it as much as the bees do. Not only will it be beautiful, but it might just ignite a whole new passion for perennial gardening in you.
Ciscoe Morris: firstname.lastname@example.org “Gardening With Ciscoe” airs weekly on KING 5; check local listings.