flutter

Sorting through piles and piles of old work, more precisely the cast off sheets of imagery on gampi from the large bee-themed work from 2015, I started to play with the materials; exploring, in a sketchbook, the idea of collections, of possessing nature. Specimens, both botanical and entomological, are instrinsic parts of my new work, and I am reflecting upon my own need to see nature as a collectible entity.

 

on the road

Part of the thrilling process of learning about native pollinators and their relationship to flowers is moving beyond my immediate surroundings and exploring environments that are further afield. One of my most favorite parts of this province is the Okanagan-Similkamen region with its fragrant desert hillsides, the Ponderosa Pine forests, the orchards and of course, the wineries.  But even getting there is a rich experience as roadsides are often full of wildflowers that color the dusty banks with splotches of red, blue, purple and yellow and white. Some of those colors come from native plants, like the lupins, yarrow and Indian Paint brush, but sadly, some also come from invasive species like some thistles and knapweeds, Dalmation toadflax, sulphur cinquefoil and oxeye daisies.

Indian Paint Brish and Lupins

 

Thimble Berry and Lupins

Bumblebee alighting onto a native rose.

A feast of lupins!

Lupins of different tonalities and Indian Paint Brush

It’s interesting to observe the communities of plants. Where they grow and how they grow. Indian Paint Brush is semiparasitic. It needs to rely on neighbors for survival. Is it the lupins that provide the help, the tree or some other plant?

Bird’s Foot Trefoil, yarrow and wild roses. This was such a fragrant place to be! The roses were amazing.

menzies larkspur: an ode to May

Sometimes a blossom that I am studying has so many astounding structures that taking it apart and understanding its beautiful components becomes a total obsession for days.  And so it is with this little native wildflower, Menzies larkspur, Delphinium menziesii,  from the family Ranunculaceae. It produces nectar in its amazing little nectar spurs, and sheds pale creamy pollen from its numerous anthers.

 

 

Process 2: flubs

A print of an enlarged dissection of a Cranesbill Geranium blossom.  One of the tricky aspects of printing on this thin gampi paper is that the printer does not like it, and the inkheads of the printer tend to clog and splotch, often resulting in a totally messed up and unusable print. You can see the bottom edge of the image has black spotches.

Cranesbill Geranium,  in process, 34

Cranesbill Geranium, in process, printed on gampi, 34″x 22″.

Close up detail of the bottom left section of the larger print (above). I’ve tried to rescue the print by creating little drawings around the ink splotches. Not sure if this is successful, but I am going to use the image anyway as evidence of this inevitable part of the printing process.

bottom edge of the  print, Cranesbill Geranium

bottom edge of the print, Cranesbill Geranium

Victory for Queen Lori and the bees

Wow, it’s mid June and I haven’t posted anything since April!  I’m deep into pollen collecting; it’s taking all my time and energy right now. Everything is early this year!

But now to other great news–my bee-buddy, Lori Weidenhammer (aka Madame Beespeaker, Queen Lori), has been on a grand tour, promoting her new, fabulous and informative book on bees, Victory Gardens for Bees. Check out her super blogsite for postings of her experiences. This is a great time of the year to be reading and learning about pollinators since many of the plants mentioned in Lori’s book are blooming right now. I find it such a delight  to read about a bee or a blossom and then actually see one in the flesh!  There is so much useful, practical information in this book–about our native bee species, about native and near-native plants, about gardens and garden design, about natural ways of controlling pests, about easy ways for all of us to help pollinators–and, it’s Canadian! Yay, Lori!!! Need a good summer read? This is it. Completely enjoyable and yet so informative!

Lori-Weidenhammer-book

more buzz and more cool pollen from the pollen path

This past weekend, I had the very great pleasure to be at a workshop given by artist, Lori Weidenhammer (the official “Madame Bee Speaker”) at the UBC Farm.  Lori was downright fabulous–informative, engaging (and entertaining). Her passion for bees is infectious, and I think that all the students left that afternoon with a wealth of new knowledge under their belts (as did I).

Lori gave me the opportunity to try my hand at sonic pollination in the field, with borage blossoms, but unfortunately, I was not successful.

When I got home though, I was determined to try again. I harvested a stem of borage from my garden, put it in water and waited for a bit for the plant to acclimatize to the new environment. Each blue blossom has stunning deep purple anthers. I held a blossom over black paper, and with my tuning fork (“C”) zapped the anthers with the vibrating fork. Presto! A lovely little puff of pollen fell onto the paper! What a thrill. Apparently there are several genera of bees that can buzz pollinate–bumblebees, sweat bees, carpenter bees and some stingless bees. Honeybees do not have this ability.

I don’t have enough borage pollen to make a good color sample yet, maybe later in the summer.
borage-buzz-pollination

I’ve also been collecting fireweed (Chamerion Angustifolium) and managed to get enough pollen to create a reasonable color sample. The fireweed pollen is sticky. It has viscin threads on each pollen grain, which makes it clump together and as a result, the pollen doesn’t come off the anthers easily.

Fieweed-pollen

In the image below, I’ve placed 2 fireweed anthers on the color samples in Dorothy Hodges’ book, The Pollen Loads of the Honey Bee, and got a reasonably close match to Hodges’ lightest Fireweed color. Fresh anther pollen is different in tonality from the pollen loads collected by honeybees and bumblebees, and it also varies in tonality from year to year and plant to plant, depending upon the environment in which the plant grows.

But look at those anthers–the filaments are pinky-purple. What a wonderful contrast to the blue/green pollen.

Fireweed-on-color-samples

Bluebells

Bluebells-comp Bluebells have appeared in my garden faithfully every spring since we first moved into our home. They came gratis. Originally I thought they were the native bluebells famous in English countrysides, but no, my bluebells, and white bluebells and pink bluebells are Spanish hybrids and therefore have no claim to fame. They are beautiful nontheless, and the bees enjoy them too. Apparently, the true English bluebell (Scilla nonscripta)  has creamy colored pollen.  You can see the yellow to creamy-yellow swatches on the bottom left of the image below. The swatches represent the various tones of pollen loads collected from honeybees that have foraged on English bluebells. Garden-Bluebell-with-pollen-colors-copy   The blue-green swatches on the right represent the colors of pollen loads collected from bees that have foraged on Spanish bluebells. Quite a difference! The blue-green dust in the image above is the anther pollen I collected from the Spanish bluebells in my garden. Although the pollen loads from honeybees will always be different in tonality from fresh anther pollen (because honeybees mix nectar or honey with the pollen thus resulting in tonal changes), there is still quite a similarity between the pollen dust and the lightest sample in the swatch.