July 4, 2007

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Keith of Keith's Bee Service arrives prepared to battle the author's bees.

Keith suits up in appropriate protective gear.

Keith retrieves the comb from the author's soffit.

The comb proves to be about the size of a large lemon.

When compressed, the comb isn't much larger than a quarter. The author says she can use the beeswax for waxing her quilting thread.
(Photos by Beverly Nord)

  The buzz

By Beverly Nord
Freelance Writer

It pays off to be observant of your home and garden environment to identify potential problems before they get out of control. Early intervention often saves work and expense. I heard buzzing when I was outside watering and observed honey bees swarming on the outside of my house on a recent evening. Swarming normally occurs in late spring to early summer when bees are looking to establish a new hive. The bees were "bearding," piling on top of each other due to the potent pheromone produced by the queen. A large swarm, up to 30,000 honey bees, won't take much time to make a hive that will grow larger daily. Early intervention prevents larger problems.

I had hoped that a honey bee swarm would be a desired commodity by any beekeeper. You learn something new every day and I learned that I did not have a commodity at all. First, I called the local fire department and they told me to call an exterminator. Kill the bees? Oh no! I then contacted a local beekeepers association. Even the man I spoke with gave me the name of an exterminating company that he knew would take care of the problem.

Salvaging the bees was not practical. It is unfortunate, but honey bees have a similar story to red ants. Since fire ants have become the norm, we consider any ant pile, fire ants. "If it's red, it's dead," is my motto. When I was a child eons ago, ants were good. They aerated the soil and brought new soil to the surface. Not enough to make ants popular today. Fire ants gave all ants a bad rap.

Wild bees were probably desirable to beekeepers before the African honey bees became the norm. African honey bees have been in Texas since the early 90s. Now 90% of the naturalized wild bees of Italian/European decent are Africanized. My bees did not have a "dowry." They had nothing to offer a beekeeper that was a business, not a charity operation. Beekeepers purchase bees from known sources with known lineage. Africanized honey bees are more into increasing their population than producing honey. Definitely not money makers in addition to their aggressive demeanor.

My swarming bees did not seem to be very aggressive. They were just "moving in" that evening. Once the hive is established with young bees and honey, the bees would become more aggressive and protective. Honey bees are beneficial, but if their purpose conflicts with human safety, they must be moved or eradicated. The earlier the better. The bees had found a small crack in my soffit. Just what they were looking for. A small entrance is easier to guard. A water source nearby is a plus, too. I had both.

The very next day I found Keith's Bee Services in the yellow pages. Keith is knowledgeable of bees and their behavior. In addition he uses environmentally friendly methods to remove the hive and prevent reinfestation. There would be no chemical smell or mess. He explained exactly what he would be doing. He was happy to answer any questions that I had concerning the bees. Fortunately, he was available right away. This is his busy season and he puts in long hours when necessary.

It was interesting to watch the process when Keith arrived. The most important part of Keith's job is safety. Suiting up to protect his body from the angry bees is crucial . It is also important to be comfortable on a ladder when angry bees are buzzing all around you. He cleaned out the new brood comb completely and applied deterrent. The brood comb must be removed completely or new bees and other pests will be attracted by the smell of honey or pheromones. He then sealed up the hole that he had made to get at the bees with a new soffit vent. My husband will do some calking in a day or two. Since the brood was so small, Keith was able to solve the problem quickly and easily. I watched in safety from inside my house. Keith assured me that bees are fast multipliers despite their recent winter decline. It does appear that there are plenty of bees in my gardens despite recent media reports.

It was amazing to see how fast the worker bees had done their job; building their wax creation. And to think that the worker only lives four weeks! Busy as a bee takes on a whole new meaning when you see what they can do in just one day.

If trees could talk, would they? Or would they just stick their tongues out at us?  (Photo by William Scheick)

  The garden reader:
Tongues in trees

By William Scheick
University of Texas at Austin

"Tongues in trees" is a strange image which has always stuck in my mind. It appears in William Shakespeare's comedy As You Like It: "this our life, exempt from public haunt, / Finds tongues in trees, books in the running brooks, / Sermons in stones." In memorable imagery Shakespeare refers to those contemplative moments when we sense some personal meaning or lesson in nature.

This is an old idea that never grows old. In a letter written centuries before As You Like It, St. Bernard anticipated Shakespeare's thought: "You will find something more in forests than in books. Trees and stones will teach you what you can never learn from teachers."

As a professor I wince a bit at that, but I do know where this once widely-read abbot is coming from. It's a place familiar to gardeners who treasure their plants for more than radishes and turnips.

It's a place familiar to today's ecologists, too. Don't be oblivious to nature, they urge. Pay close attention and decipher what nature teaches us about our past, present and future course.

In an increasingly warming world, for example, trees have taken on new importance by reminding us not only of their majestic place in the scheme of things on our planet but also of the impact of our own history on them specifically and nature generally. So recently we have been hearing much about the importance of forests in offsetting carbon dioxide, the predominant greenhouse gas.

Claims for "carbon offsets" are often too simplistic. But it is true that at varying rates, depending on the species, trees photosynthetically store carbon extracted from atmospheric carbon dioxide. Trees intervene in climate regulation in other ways, as well, though my point here is that today we are, so to speak, hearing the "tongues in trees" differently because of questions about global warming.

We are also hearing more about the origin of trees. It is easy to feel a sense of wonder over the unearthing this year of the top portions of Wattieza, the oldest known tree in the world. From a fossil forest near Gilboa, N.Y., we now have a glimpse of this ancient arboreal ancestor — a peculiar looking fern-tree with brush-like branches instead of leaves. Leaves would come later, and so much else so precious to us on our planet.

The following books, perhaps ideally perused beneath the shade of an oak or elm, transcribe what their authors hear the "tongues in trees" to say.

Donald Peattie. A Natural History of North American Trees. Houghton Mifflin, 2007. $40.00. 490 pp.

During the 1950s, botanist Donald Peattie published two critically acclaimed books on North American trees. These books have been combined and revised in A Natural History, which retains more than 100 of Paul Landacre's original etchings.

Not only a guidebook, A Natural History is also a cultural study documenting the significant impact of trees on the development of America from colonial times to the middle of the 20th century. America was literally built with timber, including the Spanish colonists' use of redwoods in their settlements.

Donald Peattie is a natural storyteller, and so his Natural History is a treasure trove of anecdotal information rich in human interest and recovered history. It relates a rags-to-riches story that unfortunately ends tragically.

Colin Tudge. The Tree: A Natural History of What Trees Are, How They Live, and Why They Matter. Crown, 2006. $27.95 (hardback); $14.95 (paperback). 459 pp.

Colin Tudge is as concerned as Peattie about how the story of trees ends. His own book concludes with a chapter on what might be done to intervene at this time of dramatic environmental change.

But Tudge's real strength emerges in his detailed review of the startling array of tree forms. "Wood is one of the wonders of the universe," he proclaims. He particularly highlights the extraordinary means used by 60,000 tree species to survive in incredibly diverse terrains.

We have always been dependent upon trees, Tudge points out. They are the world's lungs providing us with the air we breath. They have, as well, provided us with fuel for cooking and warmth. Besides lumber for buildings, trees are a source of food and medicine. And let's not leave out their inspirational majestic beauty.

Trees have secrets based on chemistry. Chemistry determines flowering, reproduction and competition. Trees, for instance, deploy chemicals to attract beneficial pollinators and deter detrimental pests.

If you have ever seen a plant slowly incline away from its neighbor, you have witnessed plant chemistry at work. In this case, known as allelopathy, the prevailing plant releases chemicals toxic to its competitive neighbors.

There is so much more to understand about tree secrets, Tudge insists — if they survive our present global course.

Richard Preston. The Wild Trees: A Story of Passion and Daring. Random House, 2007. $25.95 (hardback); $15.95 (paperback). 294 pp.

Richard Preston agrees with Peattie and Tudge that "whatever happens to the great systems of nature will also be what happens to us."

Preston's The Wild Trees could be mistaken for a lost-world science-fiction novel. It features a virtually unknown world of ancient animals and plants ensconced in arboreal canopies suspended about 350 feet above the earth's surface.

The Wild Trees describes an exotic, centuries-old, self-sustaining ecosystem with yard-deep soil delicately trapped in closely interlaced branches. Here lungworts, ferns, huckleberries, laurels and bonsai-sized trees grow, visited by salamanders and voles capable of living only in this arboreal biosphere with its own water supply. It's a "lost place that nobody had ever noticed" or "ever imagined."

Three people — Steve Sillett, Michael Taylor and Marie Antoine — did more than notice it. After discovering this arboreal world by accident, they explored it with an obsession that, it seems, some humans are prone to when it comes to plants. They found many forms of life thriving in these "coral reefs in the air" — "an intermediary realm, neither fully solid nor purely air, an ever-changing scaffold joining heaven and earth."

The Wild Trees takes us to a very strange world located right here on earth. It's an arboreal wonderland, suspended in the air, where trees speak to us in a new way. Their message, I like to think, would not have gone over St. Bernard's or Shakespeare's head.

  Gardening tips

"Offer the benefit of micro-composting by treating your roses to a 'banana boost.'" writes Janean Thompson. "Pull back your mulch and lay the peel soft side down on the soil around a rose, then recover. The peels slowly release their nutrients (potassium) into the soil as they decompose."

Have a favorite gardening tip you'd like to share? Texas Gardener's Seeds is seeking brief gardening tips from Texas gardeners to use in future issues. If we publish your tip in Seeds, we will seed you a free Texas Gardener T-shirt. Here's a chance to get published and be a garden stylist as well! Please send your tips of 50 words or less to the editor at: Gardening Tips.

  Did you know...

Rainwater is certainly better for plants than tap water in most areas of the state. Be sure to cover your rainwater collection containers since stagnant water is dangerous. Stagnant water contains numerous micro-organisms and bacteria that spread diseases and limits the roots' ability to take up needed nutrients.


  Upcoming garden events

Victoria: Victoria Master Gardeners will hold its Summer Garden Symposium July 14 from 8:30 a.m. until 2 p.m. at Victoria Regional Airport 4-H Activity Center, 259 Bachelor Drive. Admission is $30 and includes lunch, door prizes, refreshments and a silent auction. Topics are: Container Gardening, Water Gardening, Attracting and Managing Wildlife in Your Garden, and Herbs for the Patio. All topics are taught by qualified trainers. Registration deadline in July 2. For more information, contact Liz Andres at (361) 575-1746.

San Antonio: As part of Contemporary Art Month and Texas Uprising, the San Antonio Botanical Society and Blue Star Contemporary Art Center will host Art in the Garden, a sculpture exhibition featuring the work of James Surls, at the San Antonio Botanical Garden, 555 Funston Place, San Antonio, beginning with a reception on Thursday, July 26 from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. The exhibition will be open daily beginning July 27 and will run for one year. For more information, call (210) 829-5100 or visit www.sabot.org.

Seguin: The Guadalupe County Master Gardeners will be sponsoring training classes  August 22 through December 5. Classes will meet every Wednesday from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. at the Texas Cooperative Extension Building, 210 East Live Oak, Seguin. Application deadline is July 31. Enrollment is limited to 30 paid students. For more information and application forms, visit www.guadalupecountymastergardeners.org or call the Guadalupe County Extension Office at (830) 379-1972.

Austin: The Fifteenth Annual Texas Bamboo Festival will be held on Saturday and Sunday, August 25 and 26 at Zilker Botanical Garden, Austin. Sponsored by the Texas Bamboo Society, the event will celebrate the wonders of bamboo with presentations, demonstrations and education information, including Bamboo 101, a Bamboo Kite Making Workshop led by Greg Kono, and Bamboos of Southeast Asia presented by Harry Simmons. Bamboo plants and crafts will be for sale. For additional information, call (512) 929-9565 or visit www.bamboocentral.net.

San Antonio: The San Antonio Botanical Garden is sponsoring a trip to Italy September 4 through 15, featuring Italy's villas and gardens. Escorted by Bob Brackman, the Director of the Garden, an exceptional itinerary has been designed for lovers of leisurely travel and beautiful homes and gardens. Famous for their gardens, Italians still build on their ancestors' legacy with the creation of exquisite country villas surrounded by terraced, fountain-filled gardens that have become symbolic of Italian style. Experience the rich cultural heritage of Italy. Visit special gardens, famous museums, the important cities of Florence and Rome, plus the Lake District, and the small villages which make Italy so charming, such as Cinque Terre, Santa Margherita and Tuscan villages. Feast on fabulous Italian cuisine and enjoy la dolce vita. Land cost per person sharing is $3550 plus air, which includes a $100 tax deductible donation, most meals and gratuities. For more information, contact Marianne Martz of Fuller Travel at (210) 828-6311 or marianne@fullertvl.com.

Tyler: The Smith County Master Gardener Association will sponsor its annual Fall Gardening Conference at the Tyler Rose Garden Center, 400 Rose Park Drive, Tyler, on Saturday, September 8, from 8:30 a.m. until 11:30 a.m. A plant sale and expo will be held at Harvey Hall and Convention Center following the conference, from 11:30 a.m. until 3 p.m. Conference speakers are Steven L. Chamblee. chief horticulturalist for Chandler Gardens in Weatherford, and Keith Kridler, cultivator and merchant of daffodil varieties including antique daffodils that are no longer or not commonly produced. Admission to the conference and to the plant sale is free. For additional information, call (903) 590-2980.

Independence: The Herb Association of Texas is hosting its annual conference September 14-15 at the Antique Rose Emporium in Independence. "Explore the Senses Through Herbs" is open to the public. Jim Long of Long Creek Herb Farm is the featured speaker. Register via www.texasherbs.org or call (830) 257-6732 for details and to have registration material mailed to you.

Rockport: The Aransas/San Patricio Master Gardener Association “Hidden Gardens Tour & Fall Plant Sale” will be held Saturday, September 29 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. for the Hidden Gardens Tour and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. for the Fall Plant Sale at Green Acres, 611 East Mimosa Street at Pearl Street, Rockport. Get your tickets and maps at Green Acres for this one-day event in addition to purchasing those much-wanted plants that you can’t find anywhere. The maps will lead you to wonderful Hidden Gardens in both Aransas County and San Patricio County. Be sure to take the time to wander through the demonstration gardens at Green Acres, which are continuously being updated and maintained by the Aransas/San Patricio Master Gardener Association. Admission is $10.00. For pre-registration tickets and/or questions contact the Aransas County Texas Cooperative Extension, Rockport, at (361) 790-0103.

Fort Worth, Dallas: Visit America's very best, rarely seen, Private Gardens. The Garden Conservancy's Open Days Program has been opening the gates to America's best private gardens since 1995. The 2007 season features more than 350 gardens across 21 states. Learn about gardens participating in your area through the Open Days Directory, an annual publication listing open gardens with garden descriptions, open dates and hours, and directions. To purchase a Directory or for more information, call (888) 842-2442 or visit www.opendaysprogram.org. The $5 admission fee supports the expansion of the Open Days Program around the country and helps build awareness of the Garden Conservancy's work of preserving exceptional American gardens such Peckerwood Garden in Hempstead. 2007 Texas Open Days: Fort Worth: October 14; Dallas: October 20.

St. Francisville, La.: The 2007 Southern Garden Symposium will be held October 26 and 27 in St. Francisville, La. Friday workshops held at Afton Villa Gardens include "Creating Interior Focal Points through Floral Design," led by Dr. James DelPrince; "Pruning for Plant Health," led by Martha Hill; "21st Century Gardening: Plants, Products and Practices," led by Nellie Neal; and "Timeless Tips for Fool Proof Landscapes," led by Mary Palmer and Hugh Dargan. The Friday evening cocktail buffet will be held at Live Oak Plantation. Saturday lectures held at Hemingbough include "Hot New Flowers and Captivating Combinations," led by Norman Winter; "Furnishings for the Garden: 1750-1900," led by H. Parrot Bacot; and "Garden Design Inspirations: Seeing Art Design Elements in Nature and Applying them to Southern Garden Designs," led by Edward C. Martin. $60 per person, per day admission includes lunch. Admission to the Friday evening cocktail buffet is $35 per person. For registration and additional information, contact Lucie Cassity at (225) 635-3738 or write to Southern Garden Symposium, P.O. Box 2075, St. Francisville, LA 70775.

Waco: The Texas Gourd Society presents its 12th annual Lone Star Gourd Festival October 27 and 28, from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. on Saturday and from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. on Sunday, at the Waco Convention Center, 100 Washington Ave., Waco. Featured will be gourd artists and crafters, demonstrations, seminars and much more. Admission is $5 for adults; children under 12 are free. For additional information, visit www.texasgourdsociety.org.

Belton, Temple, Killeen: The Bell County Master Gardener Association will host the Fall Glory garden tour Saturday, October 20, from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. Gardens in Belton, Temple and Killeen will be showcased. Admission is $5 for adults. For additional information, contact Sue Morgan at (254) 698-8668.

Galveston: Festive sights and sounds will fill Moody Gardens at the sixth annual Festival of Lights November 17 through January 5. This whimsical celebration will kick off the holiday season on November 17, with Santa Claus parachuting in to switch on the lights. Festival of Lights is celebrated Thursday through Sunday November 17 through December 16, and daily beginning December 17. Transforming its lush tropical garden setting into a winter wonderland, Moody Gardens will be adorned with more than a million twinkling lights and dozens of light displays. In addition to experiencing the lights, guests can also strap on a pair of skates and glide across the ice at the Outdoor Ice Rink at Moody Gardens. Indoors, visitors can take pictures with Santa or even gaze upon a giant poinsettia tree. Moody Gardens will feature a variety of holiday-themed films during the Festival of Lights. Three films will be playing at the IMAX 3D theater and two films will be playing at the Ridefilm theater. The Garden Restaurant will feature a delectable holiday buffet, offered from 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. Group rates of $20 per person are also available for groups of 20 or more, and include admission to Festival of Lights and the holiday buffet. Admission into the Festival of Lights is $5.95, and tickets to additional attractions including the Rainforest Pyramid, holiday IMAX 3D film, holiday Ridefilm, Outdoor Ice Rink and Colonel Paddlewheel Boat, can be purchased for only $4.00 each. For more information, call Moody Gardens at (800) 582-4673 or visit www.moodygardens.org.

Garland: The Garland Organic Club meets the first Sunday of each month in the little red school house at 1651 Wall St., Garland. All interested gardeners are invited to attend. For more information, call (972) 864-1934 or (800) 864-4445.

Allen: The Allen Garden Club meets on the first Thursday of each month at 7:30 p.m. at the little blue-gray house located at 102 N. Allen Dr., Allen. For more information, visit www.allengardenclub.org.

Austin: Austin Organic Gardeners meet at 7 p.m. on the second Monday of each month at the Zilker Botanical Gardens in Austin. For more information, visit www.main.org/aog.

Rockport: An herb study group founded in March 2003 meets the second Wednesday of every month at the ACISD Maintenance Department (Formerly Rockport Elementary), 619 N. Live Oak Street, Room 14, Rockport at 10 a.m. to discuss all aspects of using and growing herbs, including the historical uses of the herbs and tips for successful propagation and cultivation.

San Antonio: The San Antonio Herb Society meets at 7 p.m. on the second Thursday of each month at the San Antonio Garden Center, 3310 N. New Braunfels (corner of Funston & N. New Braunfels). For more information on programs, visit www.sanantonioherbs.org.

Dallas: The Rainbow Garden Club of North Texas meets the second Sunday of each month at 2 p.m. Everyone is welcome. Meetings are held at member's homes and garden centers around the area. For more information, visit www.RainbowGardenClub.com.

Fort Worth: The Organic Garden Club of Forth Worth meets at 7 p.m. on the fourth Tuesday of each month except July and December at the Fort Worth Botanic Gardens main building. Refreshments are served. For more information, call (817) 274-8460.

Dallas: The Dallas Organic Garden Club meets at 6:45 p.m. on the fourth Thursday of each month at the Fretz Park Recreation Center, located at the corner of Hillcrest and Beltline Road in Dallas. For more information, call (214) 824-2448 or visit www.dogc.org.

Arlington: The Arlington Organic Garden Club meets from 7 p.m. until 9 p.m. on the last Thursday of each month (except November and December) at the Bob Duncan Center, 2800 S. Center Street, Arlington. For more information, contact David at (817) 483-7746.

If you would like your organization's events included in "Upcoming Garden Events," please contact us at Garden Events.

  The Vegetable Book answers your questions

Why do your onions fail to bulb? Why do your tomatoes stop producing in July? What can you do about garden pests?

Whether you're a newcomer to Texas or have gardened here your entire life, you may be filled with questions about growing vegetables in Texas.

Dr. Sam Cotner, retired head of the department of horticulture at Texas A&M, spent more than 20 years working with commercial vegetable growers and providing statewide leadership for the Texas Extension Service's home gardening program, and he answers all of your questions in The Vegetable Book: A Texan's Guide to Gardening.

$26.63 plus shipping*

Order by calling 1-800-727-9020 or order on-line.

 *Mention Texas Gardener's Seeds when ordering by phone during the month of July and we'll waive shipping charges. (Discover, MasterCard and Visa accepted.)

  Fiber row cover valuable year-round

Grow-Web encourages plant growth and development, and also provides protection from insects, birds, diseases and frosts. It is also air and water permeable and allows for ventilation. Grow-Web provides excellent protection to seedlings when applied directly to the seedbed.

 $30.64 per 12.3' x 32.8' roll (includes shipping!)

Order by calling 1-800-727-9020. Not available through on-line bookstore.

(Discover, MasterCard and Visa accepted.)


Texas Gardener's Seeds
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