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Bay Area Bee Fair on Oct. 13: The Place to 'Bee'

Black-tailed bumble bee, Bombus melanopygus, nectaring on nectarine blossoms. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

It's a fair. It's a party. It's a pollinator party. It's the Bay Area Bee Fair in Berkeley. And it's the place to be on Sunday, Oct. 13 at the...

Black-tailed bumble bee, Bombus melanopygus, nectaring on nectarine blossoms. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Black-tailed bumble bee, Bombus melanopygus, nectaring on nectarine blossoms. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Black-tailed bumble bee, Bombus melanopygus, nectaring on nectarine blossoms. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A yellow-faced bumble bee, Bombus  vosnesenskii, nectaring on Mexican sunflower, Tithonia. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A yellow-faced bumble bee, Bombus vosnesenskii, nectaring on Mexican sunflower, Tithonia. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A yellow-faced bumble bee, Bombus vosnesenskii, nectaring on Mexican sunflower, Tithonia. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A black-tailed bee, Bombus californicus, nectaring on blanket flower, Gaillardia. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A black-tailed bee, Bombus californicus, nectaring on blanket flower, Gaillardia. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A black-tailed bee, Bombus californicus, nectaring on blanket flower, Gaillardia. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A bumble bee, Bombus vosnesenskii, and honey bee, Apis mellifera, sharing a purple coneflower, Echinacea purpurea. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A bumble bee, Bombus vosnesenskii, and honey bee, Apis mellifera, sharing a purple coneflower, Echinacea purpurea. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A bumble bee, Bombus vosnesenskii, and honey bee, Apis mellifera, sharing a purple coneflower, Echinacea purpurea. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Bugs and Opportunity

I read recently an article published by the American Rose Society entitled “Beetlemania”.  I am a member of the ARS but this article came unsolicited about a couple of rose bugs.  I have been trying to develop a way of thinking about the bug challenge in general because it is clear that at times the bugs have to be taken head-on or they win the battle and the flower, if not the whole plant.  Beetles and thrips, the foci of the ARS article, are examples of bugs that take advantage of good opportunities for a good meal.  Bugs, in general, are opportunists: they take advantage of weak plants and thus make them weaker – but there is little resistance.  It seems to me these bugs go for new growth or can tell when there is no natural deterrent from the plant itself.  Also, if the plant is exploding with growth and is very full, the bug senses a good meal.  So it is not surprising to go out into my garden and find spider webs all over the place this time of year, making the plant look like a colorful Halloween mask.  

I find that being out in my garden is the only way I can tell whether the plant needs my help to survive.  Sometimes just leaving it alone with some beneficial (read, natural enemy) can be the best solution – as with aphids and ladybugs.  It relieves me to believe that there is a middle ground of care when the plant is just doing ok – most of the time.  The extremes deserve attention and can most often be encouraged back to the middle range; new growth is a sign of the bugs relenting. 

So, what I have concluded is that watchful plant care helps me know when I need to intervene, it most often doesn't take much to get it back on track, and it is a wonderful reason to be outdoors.  My limitations as a gardener are that I don't remember whether a particular bug is good or bad, and I feel humbled by the notion of the perfect plant.  I am perhaps too cavalier about my roses, but I think that good care is good enough – I don't want to forget to smell the roses and take an afternoon nap.

photo by Jennifer Baumbach
photo by Jennifer Baumbach

Posted on Wednesday, October 9, 2019 at 4:27 PM

Robbin Thorp Began His Career Studying Honey Bees and Almonds

A honey bee packing pollen and nectaring on an almond blossom at UC Davis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Yes, he began his career studying honey bees. The late Robbin Thorp, the renowned UC Davis distinguished emeritus professor of entomology and global...

A honey bee packing pollen and nectaring on an almond blossom at UC Davis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A honey bee packing pollen and nectaring on an almond blossom at UC Davis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A honey bee packing pollen and nectaring on an almond blossom at UC Davis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

In his retirement, Robbin Thorp co-authored  two books,
In his retirement, Robbin Thorp co-authored two books, "Bumble Bees of North America: An Identification Guide" and "California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists." (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

In his retirement, Robbin Thorp co-authored two books, "Bumble Bees of North America: An Identification Guide" and "California Bees and Blooms: A Guide for Gardeners and Naturalists." (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Robbin Thorp (left), legendary authority on bees, shows UC Davis alumnus Alex Wild the
Robbin Thorp (left), legendary authority on bees, shows UC Davis alumnus Alex Wild the "Miss Bee Haven" sculpture in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology's bee garden on Bee Biology Road. Wild, who received his doctorate in entomology at UC Davis, is the curator of entomology at the University of Texas, Austin. This image was taken in 2008. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Robbin Thorp (left), legendary authority on bees, shows UC Davis alumnus Alex Wild the "Miss Bee Haven" sculpture in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology's bee garden on Bee Biology Road. Wild, who received his doctorate in entomology at UC Davis, is the curator of entomology at the University of Texas, Austin. This image was taken in 2008. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Wildfire preparedness bill puts UC research to work

Steve Quarles and Yana Valachovic examined houses in Paradise after the devastating 2018 Camp Fire. Quarles holds up a vent screen that may have allowed embers to enter the house. Photo by Yana Valachovic

Last week, Governor Gavin Newsom signed a series of bills aimed at improving California's wildfire prevention, mitigation and response efforts.  AB 38, a bill aimed at reducing wildfire damage to communities, incorporates University of California research to help protect California's existing housing.

“Prior to AB 38, the State's wildfire building policy focus was centered around guiding construction standards for new homes and major remodels,” said Yana Valachovic, UC Cooperative Extension forest advisor for Humboldt and Del Norte counties. “How do we help incentivize homeowners to upgrade and retrofit the 10 million or more existing homes in California to help them become more resilient to wildfire? AB 38 is an attempt to start that important work and to protect Californians.”

Heat from vegetation burning close to the structure can break a window. Photo by Yana Valachovic
After wildfire passes through a community, many are left wondering why one house survives while another nearby burned to the ground. Research by UC Agriculture and Natural Resources scientists shows that building material choices, design and installation options, and maintenance can improve the odds that a house will survive a wildfire. 

AB 38, introduced by Assemblymember Jim Wood (D-Santa Rosa) provides mechanisms to develop best practices for community-wide resilience against wildfires through “home hardening,” defensible space and other measures based on UC ANR research. This bill is especially important to Wood because wildfires in 2017 destroyed lives and hundreds of homes in his district and because of his work as a forensic dentist following the Santa Rosa and Paradise wildfires.

“AB 38 was a huge effort by many partners as we sought the best policy solutions to address what is today one of our state's biggest challenges,” said Assemblymember Wood. “I could not have accomplished it without the support and guidance of the people at UC Cooperative Extension Humboldt-Del Norte, especially Dr. Steve Quarles and Yana Valachovic. Their expertise proved invaluable as we worked through this process.”

Studies conducted by Steve Quarles, emeritus UC Cooperative Extension advisor, and his continued work at the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety have identified building materials and designs that are more resistant to flying embers from wildfires. Embers are small, fiery pieces of plants, trees or buildings that are light enough to be carried on the wind and can rapidly spread wildfire when they blow ahead of the main fire, starting new fires on or in homes.

Evaluating the homes lost in wildfires that ravaged Paradise, Redding and Santa Rosa have also informed Valachovic and Quarles' recommendations.

Hardening a home to withstand wildland fire exposure does not have to be costly, but it does require an understanding of the exposures the home will experience when threatened by a wildfire. 

Their recommended best practices for hardening homes against wildfire can be found in UC ANR Publication 8393 “Home Survival in Wildfire-Prone Areas: Building Materials and Design,” which can be downloaded for free. More information is also at the ANR Fire website https://ucanr.edu/fire.  

Vegetation and combustible mulch around this house were ignited by embers. This ignition provided sufficient heat to break the first window pane. Photo by Yana Valachovic
Posted on Tuesday, October 8, 2019 at 1:54 PM
Tags: Steve Quarles (2), wildfire (133), Yana Valachovic (17)
Focus Area Tags: Natural Resources

Planting Around a Splashing Fountain

When we moved into our home in Vacaville quite a few years ago, we discovered that the previous owner had done some amazing things with the landscaping. There were beautiful mature fruit trees, a gorgeous palm tree, and some lovely areas of the yard that had their own separate gardening areas.

One area that has always been a pleasure to see is a circular garden.  It is located outside the kitchen area and is the first place you see when you enter the backyard.  It isn't a huge space, approximately 8' in diameter, however, it does catch the eye at first glance.

Originally, there were plants in this garden that would provide blooms throughout most of the year.  One beauty, in particular, is the light pink colored Peruvian Lily Alstroemeria aurantiaca, which resembles a small lily.

Throughout the years, we spent a lot of time focusing on different areas of the yard and did not touch the circular garden, which was okay because this little garden seemed to just take care of itself -  just a little splash of water here and there, and it seemed to do just fine.  We did, however, make one nice enhancement by adding a birdbath with a running water fountain.

We were still focusing on many other landscaping needs when I noticed that one of the plants, the Peruvian Lily, was slowly taking over the garden.  The Peruvian Lily is not invasive by nature but was it happily expanding around the garden because the soil conditions had completely changed.  Due to the light water splashing from the fountain, the soil became very moist in some areas and very soggy in others, forcing many of the original plants out. Even though the Peruvian Lily flowers are very pretty and seem to have a very long blooming season, we missed having a variety of blooms over the seasons.

So, I began researching the types of new plants I could put in this moist garden.  There were so many things to consider when choosing the plants.  Should they be perennials or annuals?  What type of plants can tolerate very soggy soil?  What is their bloom time?  Could they be invasive?  How tall could they grow?  I really didn't want plants taking over the garden or growing so tall that they would block the view of the fountain.

I have come up with a game plan.  The plants listed below are compatible with USDA Zone 9 requirements.  Some of these plants should only be planted in spring or fall, so I may have to wait a while to begin.  However, that works out fine because I will use annuals in pots to fill in where and when necessary.

The Peruvian Lily will stay around the outer edge of the garden.  The next area toward the middle of the garden will be filled with perennials:

  • Elephant Ears, Colocasia for beautiful foliage shape and color
  • Horsetail, Equisetum for light, tall stalks – just make sure to keep in a container or sink barrier at least 12” into the ground so the rhizomes don't spread underground.
  • Iris, Iris for a beautiful splash of purple color
  • Leopard Lily, Lilium for a splash of orange color
  • Crocus sativus for a splash of yellow color

The inside area of the garden will be filled in with annuals.  To add more excitement and change to the garden, annuals can be placed in the garden in pots – no need to plant and pull them out when they are done blooming.  There are so many eye-catching flowers to choose from – Pansies, Violets, Marigolds, Cosmos, Zinnias, Impatiens, Heather.  The sky is the limit (or bloom time), just use the annual that is blooming at that time!

I am looking forward to watching the progress of the little circular garden and will share all that I have learned.  Keep tuned in, there may be a perennial begging to leave the circular garden and looking for a new home!

http://ipm.ucanr.edu
https://calscape.org/loc-california/cat-damp_soils/ord-popular/vw-list
https://homeguides.sfgate.com/plants-water-fountain-gardening-26992.html

Original Circlular Garden - photo by Al Alvarado
Original Circlular Garden - photo by Al Alvarado

Circular Garden Fountain - photo by Al Alvarado
Circular Garden Fountain - photo by Al Alvarado

Circular Garden - Peruvian Lily - Suzy Q Zen Spot
Circular Garden - Peruvian Lily - Suzy Q Zen Spot

Posted on Tuesday, October 8, 2019 at 9:29 AM

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