Monday, we harvested honey from our two bee hives with the Chicago Honey Co-op. We waited until the bees started their morning foraging out in the garden, this way fewer bees were in the hives when we opened them. We did this on a non-rainy day as we don’t want to get the inside of the hives wet. Then we filled our smoker with dried bayberry leaves and broken-up honey locust branches. This makes a nice thick, but cool smoke which has a calming effect on the bees.
Today at Lurie, purple clouds of blooms grace the garden throughout the Light Plate. Wide leaf sea lavender (Limonium latifolium) is a must have garden plant for full sun locations. This tough, drought-tolerant perennial has a lot to give, providing blooms from mid-summer through frost. Even after the purple petals drop, the calyx remains lending an ethereal effect. Looking at the basal rosette of shiny, dark green leaves in spring, you would never guess that such stunning cushions of blooms emerge from them in July.
Lately out in the Lurie Garden you may have noticed some insects of unusual size. Unlike the fire swamp in The Princess Bride, we don’t have a problem with giant rodents. We do at this time of year have a noticeable population of native, solitary wasp species that sometimes startle visitors. Fortunately, the three most commonly found in the garden in August don’t sting humans and are actually beneficial to the garden.
The great black wasp (Sphex pensylvanicus) is a beautiful, iridescent, midnight-blue wasp that is found on rattlesnake master (Eryngium yuccifolium), sea lavender (Limonium latifolium), and blunt mountain mint (Pycnanthemum muticum). This solitary wasp is an important pollinator.
The Lurie Garden has a small section of lawn along the south end of the Boardwalk feature in the garden. This is a great place for visitors to relax on a blanket in either sun or shade. We also use this area for family activities such as storytelling and our toddler programs. We keep our garden chemical free, including our lawn, so the clover you may see blooming there is a happy occurrence. We do hand weed the dandelions to prevent the seed from blowing in the garden beds, but white clover (Trifolium repens) does not cause a maintenance issue in the garden. In fact, it is a welcome sight to humans, bees, and bunnies.