In 2012 and through December, 2013 I worked on the beneficial insect border at the UC Davis Student Farm. When the job ended, I found I enjoyed the experience so much that I decided to focus my future on two areas:
1) Designing landscapes and pollinator habitat
2) Fiction writing
These two fields are compatible for me in that they represent lifelong interests and they also provide balance; I love being outdoors in the cool mornings, and I also love sitting indoors writing and designing in the hot Central Valley afternoons.
Because of the plight of the honey bees and Colony Collapse Disorder, many people are asking ‘what can we do to become part of the solution?’ For me, the answer to that question revolves around learning as much as I can about the plants bees love and planting as many of them as I can. The process already started with native plants added to the Student Farm border (see Ceanothus ‘Ray Hartman’ above), but I realized if I want to add this focus to my residential design business then I would need a flower resume.
A flower resume? Yes, plants I really grew, see the photos for proof. The Student Farm manager graciously gave me a 200 foot long, 5 foot wide bed to use for my pollinator habitat adventure. This is a good arrangement because it gives me the opportunity to learn and experiment with support— I get access to all the water I need, tractor assistance and supplies such as drip tape. In return I do a lot of volunteer farm weeding, and I am also keeping on top of the border watering to help new plants establish.
To begin the process I started quite a few types of garden flowers and native wildflowers (forbs) in my small home greenhouse over the winter. Various things went wrong: it was too hot in the greenhouse, it was too cold; I over watered, I under watered; CA native wildflowers are planted in the fall, not the spring and it turns out I used unfinished compost from the wrong farm pile so some of my seed flat mix was unsuitable. There were also fungus gnats in the compost, and they compromised the root systems of seeds that did germinate. Next they multiplied and tried to come into my house to visit. I had to use organic treatments to kill them that didn’t work.
Planting bed ready to go, April 29, 2014.
Back to greenhouse issues: by early May it was clear that so few of my seeds thrived that I had to put Plan B into effect. This involved going out and buying plugs and 4” plants. I finally got everything planted in half of the bed.
Here is my flower resume on July 15th, 2014. In the fall I used the other half of the bed to direct seed the native wildflowers that need winter chill to germinate.
Photo above: Here is the direct seeded area on 3-14-15. Goldfields is the yellow wildflower mixed with blue lupine. I love to watch the many beneficial insects that are attracted to these flowers.
Cartoonist George Harriman’s classic illustration from the life and times of archy and mehitabel by Don Marquis, published in 1949.
While my work on the flowers was going on, in January 2014 I finally finished my novel— I was so excited! I sent it off to my wonderful editor who worked on it for about a month. When I got it back, there were many suggestions and comments: about 700 of them. They were very insightful and helpful— I even agreed with the vast majority of them… still, it was a lot to tackle. In late July I finally finished; however, I was now over the recommended word limit. So I am currently working on cutting 30,000 words. Which is also challenging. Editing is definitely a job and not as much fun as playing with flowers. Useful and important though… part of the commitment and detachment necessary to complete the project.