Mar 282012
Honey bee in borage

Honey bee in borage

Borage blooms early and long - the bees love it (click to enlarge)

by Avis Licht

Often, when I design a garden people ask me if it will bring bees.  Usually, it’s because they are afraid of having bees in the garden. Bees, who are gentle creatures, are more interested in finding nectar and pollen than stinging you. Often people mistake yellow jackets, who come in late summer to eat your sweet fruit or meat at the outdoor barbeque, for bees.  They are not the same at all.

Bees are absolutely necessary to the health and productivity of your garden. We need them to pollinate our fruits and vegetables.  35%  of our food worldwide is pollinated by bees. Imagine a world without honey. Well, please don’t do that.

Recently there has been a disappearance of bees called Colony Collapse Disorder. Entire hives die without apparent cause.  By planting bee friendly plants you can personally aid in their resurgence.

The best plants are ones that are native to your locale or grow well in your climate. Herbs, flowers, and flowering trees all contribute to their food source.

Using only organic controls in the garden is another way of protecting your bees.


Don’t forget to buy my ebook on The Spring Garden Made Easy 

Spring Garden Made Easy


There are many wonderful bee plants.  These are a few of my favorites.

Lavender and violas

Lavender can be planted in the ground or in containers. Beautiful everywhere.

1. Lavender: For millenium lavender has been used in soaps, balms and sachets as well as medicinally for its calming effect. My local ice cream shop makes the best honey lavender ice cream.  Grow it in full sun, well drained soil, in climates that don’t go below 20 deg F.

2. Salvias: In the sage family there are many herbal and ornamental varieties of Salvias.  Bees and hummingbirds love them and they come in many colors.

Salvia Hot Lips

This bi colored Salvia, Hot Lips, is just one of many varieties. (click to enlarge)






3. Lemon Balm, Melissa officinale – In the mint family, Lemon Balm has a wonderfully lemony flavor for tea. It is considered one of the premier bee plants. Melissa is a Greek word meaning honeybee.

Lemon balm

In the mint family, Lemon Balm has a wonderful lemon flavor and is easy to grow







4. Ceanothus– California lilac (many varieties). Many native plants are helpful to the bees. The California Lilac grows on the hills in California and as its name suggests is wonderfully fragrant. It flowers in the blue, purple and whites and  can be a very low growing shrub or up to 15 ft. Well drained, sunny sites are what it needs to thrive. It requires very little care.

Rosemarinus officinalis

This rosemary is planted next to my Apple tree. It brings the bees to pollinate the tree.

5. Rosemary – One of the most loved herbs for cooking, rosemary is easy to grow and long lived.  The bees love it. In my garden it starts to bloom early in Spring and is under the apple trees which are just starting to bloom.  This companion planting encourages the bees to pollinate my fruit trees.

In the herb family you can plant Basil, Catnip, Dill, Fennel, Hyssop, Lavender, Parsley, Rosemary, Thyme, and Sage to encourage your friendly bees.

In the ornamental flowers, try Agastache, Salvia, Bachelor Button, Black Eyed Susan, Clematis, Coreopsis, Lantana, Larkspur, Sweet William , Yarrow, and Zinnias.

In shrubs, Ceanothus, Manzanita, Arbutus, Mahonia and Philadelphus are beautiful and useful.

The Crab Apple tree blooms early and is absolutely buzzing with activity.

California lilac

The buds on this Ceanothus are just getting ready to open. (click to enlarge)








Crab Apple Blossom with bee

The bees adore this Crab Apple which blooms in early spring

Coming in for a landing

Coming in for a landing


Mar 192012
Pink flowering currant

by Avis Licht – Native plants in your garden: a very good idea. They are already adapted to your climate and soil, so don’t need a lot of fussing and attention.  In fact, they demand to be left alone.  You will bring in a large diversity of important pollinators and insect controllers naturally. Birds, bees, hummingbirds, butterflies, moths, pollinating insects are all attracted to native plants. The more diversified your garden, the healthier it is. Many people think that native plants aren’t good looking enough for their landscape. Here are some photos I took the last few days, that will show you otherwise.

One of the best sites I’ve found for California native plants is Las Palitis Nursery.  Their website is a treasure trove of information on growing native plants.

Arctostaphylos 'Howard McMinn"

The manzanita graces the dry hillsides of California - Arctostaphylos varieties

Manzanitas are great wildlife plants. Providing nectar for butterflieshummingbirds and native insects. Many of the manzanitas regulate their nectar to attract different insects, butterflies and hummingbirds during the day.

Hounds Tongue, Cynoglossum grande

The deep blue flowers of Hounds tongue are one of the first of spring - Cynoglossum officinale

Indian Warrior - Pedicularis densiflora









Indian Warrior was used medicinally as a muscle relaxant .

Pink flowering currant

Native to the Coast Ranges in California all the way north to British Columbia. Ribes sanguineum, Pink or Red flowering currant.

R. sanguineum is one of the all-time superb early-spring-flowering shrubs. It is easy  to grow, you can prune it or not, and the red or pink flowering currant has showy flower clusters. Time of bloom and flower color vary according to cultivar, but figure on anything from creamy white to crimson, beginning in February and sometimes lasting till May. The blue-black fruits are attractive, but are mainly for birds. They’re not poisonous, but they don’t taste good. They bloom at the same time as the California Lilac, Ceanothus, which is light to dark blue.  They make a very attractive couple.

California lilac

This blue Ceanothus blooms at the same time as the Pink flowering currant. They go well together.

California Columbine

These lovelies easily fit into your own garden. Aquilegia formosa, California Columbine.

Don’t forget  about my ebook on the Spring Garden. There are lots of great pointers for starting your Spring Garden.

Spring Garden Table of Contents

Table of Contents - click to enlarge

Here is the information you need to start your Spring garden. Included is information on soil, sites, annuals, perennials, fruits and much more. This is a 20 page guide to get you started on your edible landscape. Forty years of gardening has given me plenty to share. If you have enjoyed my blog, be sure to get my booklet. $10- such a deal!

Spring Garden Made Easy


Shooting star

Early spring you'll see these tiny but beautiful shooting stars - Dodecatheon clevelandii

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