On my birthday in late March this year, I noticed a large swarm of honeybees in my neighbor’s yard. The weather was warm and perfect for the overpopulated hive to release some of its citizens to find a new home with their new fertile queen.



Then on April 8–Easter Sunday, my own Italian honeybees swarmed. Our hive had made it through the winter although the bees had battled hive beetles. But just as hubby and I were on ladders that Easter afternoon building a new trellis for our grapes, I heard the low hum of thousands of bees lifting skyward.




Grape arbor

Grape arbor



Sure enough, the new swarm had emerged from our hive. We dropped our drills, screws, and lumber. He banged on cooking pot with a wooden spoon (to disorient the bees and encourage them to land in a nearby tree) while I set up the extra hive box with empty frames.




Healthy bees on a frame

Bees on frames in a hive box


Suited up in beekeeper gear, my hubby clipped a couple of branches from the pin oak tree to make it possible to do a hard shake on the one limb the bees had coalesced around. He placed the prepared hive box beneath the tree. Our beekeeper neighbor joined us and helped. Then, a hard shake and boom…the entire colony dropped into the hive box.



We waited until after dark to ease the hive box lid in place and then take the entire box to its permanent location in a sunny, dry spot in the garden.



A healthy hive box with lid removed

A  hive box without its lid. The bees do a waggle dance to tell the bees still in the air that this is their new home



The work on the trellis that will serve as our grape arbor was nearly complete when the swarm occurred. Now the finishing touches will have to wait for another day.






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Propagating Plants from Rose Cuttings

Author: Meera, April 6, 2015



We've planted roses everywhere

The Abbaye de Cluny rose has dinner plate-size roses



Roses are among the most romantic flowers in a garden. I grow dozens of cultivars of rose bushes–climbers, hybrid teas, floribundas,  and polyanthas. When I have an extra few dollars, I might spend it on a rose bush, but when money is tight, I simply start a new bush from one of my favorites that I’m currently growing.



Climbing Sally Holmes has scampered up a ten-foot fence

Climbing Sally Holmes has scampered up a ten-foot fence



My husband and I love the climbers. We have tall fences (over six feet) around our property on all sides. Covering an entire fence is easy when you use a vigorous, virtually pest-free climber. Two roses that quickly adapt and grow to fantastic heights are Sally Holmes and Cecile Brunner.



Climbing roses need strong support, since some canes can reach forty feet or more as they scramble over a roof or stone wall, trellis, fence, or arbor.



Last year, my husband created a rose arbor on wires strung from the fence along the north side of our house to the roof line. He planted the Cecile Brunner rose as his climber of choice. Its sage green leaves make a lovely foil for the tiny pink roses that permeate the air with a spicy-sweet scent throughout the spring. Cutting and feeding will render another bloom in summer.



My garden has plenty of places where I could tuck in a new rose bush, and I’ve bought many over the years. I have some favorites that I’d like to start in other areas. They include A Shropshire Lad, Handel, Lady Banks (a thornless yellow rose), and Iceberg.



Climbing Handel flourishes in full sun and on a sturdy support

Climbing Handel flourishes in full sun on a sturdy support



This is the perfect time to propagate roses from cuttings in the Bay Area since the rose bushes in many yards are beginning to awaken. Roses require water, something no longer plentiful in California. Thanks to a severe four-year drought, we now have mandatory water restrictions. That means we gardeners must consider how we can recycle water, use gray water, collect water, and otherwise find ways to reduce water usage.



Shropshire Lad is a David Austen climber that looks splendid alone or with other roses

A Shropshire Lad is a David Austin climbing rose that looks splendid alone or with other roses




To propagate a rose from your favorite bush, take a six-inch cutting from a healthy cane. Make the bottom cut a sharp angle cut, not straight across. Do not crush the stem. Remove the leaves.



Dip the angle cut into a jar of root hormone powder. This powder enables the cane to root more easily in the ground or pot.



Insert the prepared cutting in the soil. Water as needed when the soil is dry. The cutting will need one to two months to root and then, it will begin to leaf out.



Some people like to put a quart jar over their cutting to create a mini-green house climate. In mild climates like the Bay Area, this isn’t necessary. The best time to propagate cuttings from your favorite roses is in the spring and never in extremes of cold or heat.



Creating romance in the garden could start with a table and chairs, floral-motif linens, and a service of tea. But even before those accoutrements to romance are added, why not fill the space with roses? It’s so easy.



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Building A Fence Brings Neighbors Together

Author: Meera, March 18, 2013




Carlos near the half completed fence

Carlos Carvajal, my architect-designer husband,  near the fence we have been building for our neighbors


My husband is good at what he does. His highly developed aesthetic sense for design and sense of proportion and drive for perfection has proven  invaluable in the projects he designs and builds. For the last two weeks, he’s been working one farmette over, replacing an old fence and crafting a trellis to support a gorgeous Japanese wisteria about to bloom.


I’ve been helping on the days he doesn’t have extra workers. Although I’ve helped him build fences on our property, the fence for our neighbors was a bit different. It would include supports for a lattice and would extend about 100 feet in length between the two properties.


Our neighbors are lovely and the building brought everyone together. We shared bottles of water and cups of juice, noonday meals, and lots of conversation. We worked through the weekend and since yesterday was Sunday, we even met extended family members who came to visit and to observe the fence building that was going on.


The completed trellis for the wisteria awaits a fountain and hanging plants

The completed trellis for the wisteria awaits a fountain and hanging plants


We shared a lovely Saturday lunch, thanks to the neighbors on one side of the fence and a beautiful Sunday lunch, gratis the neighbors on the other side of the fence. When the sun grew low on Sunday afternoon, yet another neighbor invited us over for a sumptuous meal of salad and grilled salmon. While the salmon cooked, we plucked two huge bunches of leaf lettuce from my garden and rolled lettuce leaves around slices of sheep’s milk cheese and sardines. The food went down perfectly with a central coast zinfandel from the Sterling vineyards.


I almost hate to have the fence building end. It’s been a wonderful experience to learn about the families living nearby and to share our love of our construction and gardening with them. In fact, it’s been the discussions about gardening that have proved for me most gratifying. I’ve enjoyed seeing their fruit trees in bloom and learning gardening tips they have shared.


Some people might believe that putting up fences hinders the fostering of neighborly relationships, but I’d have to say that it was the fence construction that helped us get to know our neighbors better.




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