To Bee or Not To Bee
April 28, 2014
When I was around fifteen years old, I happened upon something that absolutely changed my life. It was “the Bumble Bee theory”.
In subsequent years there have been many people supporting and dispelling the idea, but it is something that I keep with me always. Family and friends know that I cherish bees. I have a silver bee necklace that is worn constantly. I have small glass bees in every room of Hudson HQ (and in my purse) and when I see a big fat bumble bee... it just makes me smile.
In order to “do my bit for bees”, I decided to revamp the back garden to encourage more insects, most particularly bees, to come and visit.
Our “outdoor space” is quite small and is based on the garden of somewhere we stayed on holiday. It is an enclosed town garden with terracotta back wall; it has a base of small light gravel and the planting is in tubs and pots. It is low maintenance and provides the perfect setting for our gazebo (known to us as the “Toot-bo” in honour of my sadly-departed black cat, who spent all his time in there, snoozing on the bench).
In the past we did have a lawn but Lovely Husband and I don’t possess great horticultural skills. We finally gave up the turf when some glaziers came to replace the back windows, laid the replacement glass on the grass and left them there for five hours in the searing July sunshine. When they finally realised what they had done, it was too late. We had huge window shaped burnt patches on the lawn. As even the most experienced gardener would have struggled to resurrect it, LH decided to cut our losses, ditch the grass and flower beds and restyle “a la Cote d’Azur”.
One of the main reasons we didn’t want too much foliage in the garden was exactly because it encouraged all manner of “buzzing things” into our space. I was stung by a wasp in my twenties….
It was a hot summer, the wasp needed moisture, crawled over my face (whilst I did what I was supposed to and stood stock still with my lips tightly closed). It discovered my tear duct and stung me. I spent a month with my eye in a bad state - I looked like I had an egg in the socket and since then have always got tense when I hear buzzing around me.
The gazebo had the blessing of coming with internal mosquito nets. All the benefit of being outdoors without unwelcome visits from insects. It was perfect. It even encouraged LH to spend more time in the garden and we discovered that if the buzzing things couldn’t bother or sting us, we didn’t mind them quite so much. Over the years I have added small amounts of extra planting but this year decided that I was going to completely overhaul things. I bought a “bee house” which LH nailed to the wall at the end of the garden and I consulted my mum – who is a gardening genius – to find out what plants would best encourage bees (bumble and all others) into our space.
Knowing that my favourite colour is purple and also because I love its scent, mum immediately suggested Lavender (supplemented by some other purple and blue blooms). It sounded perfect. The park which is at the end of road has a huge lavender bed and I have photos of big fat bees working busily amongst it from early morning to dusk. So I decided to crack on and get the garden remodelled.
The forecast was grey and gloomy but mild and definitely okay for some light gardening. I had planned to go for gentle jog in the afternoon but figured that it would only take a couple of hours to pick up the plants, pop them into place and then get on with my plans for the rest of the day.
“A couple of hours” of “light gardening” actually turned into six hours of pretty solid toil. I hadn’t realised just how much lifting and lugging was involved in replanting and replacing the various large stone pots around the garden.
It was one of those jobs where I would do one thing, and then realise that there were lots more modifications as a result of the change. It was a proper workout out. I was hot and sweaty; I was bending and lifting and pushing and pulling. I drank several large glasses of water and didn’t think about food for the entire time. I didn’t realise I could lift far heavier weights in the garden than I would ever attempt in a gym; I had no idea that bags of compost could be quite so bulky. I had to reposition a very large all-year-parasol which meant not only moving that but also the six paving stones that keep it in place and stop it falling onto the house.
Lovely Husband did keep popping out to see if he could help, but I was a woman on a mission. I wanted this to be “all my own work” and I was prepared to put in the hard work to achieve it. Sometimes that is what it takes to accomplish something. Just putting your head down and ‘cracking on’ with it. Staying focussed and doing whatever is necessary to get the result you want. It’s about sticking with it rather than taking short cuts or quick fixes that “will do” for the moment but don’t pay dividends over the long term. This applies as much to the weight loss journey as it did to my plans for an insect-friendly outdoor space.
By 7pm I was soaking in a lavender bubble bath. I ached in places I didn’t know I had. My nails were rather bashed and broken; my scratched hands were testament to a particularly ferocious battle I had repositioning the climbing rose... (It fought back gamely but I did win in the end); my knees were bruised (I kept bashing them against the paving stones as I moved them), and I looked less than my best.
But I felt Fabulous. I had burned off hundreds of calories; had spent the day getting my fill of fresh air and daylight (“sunshine” would be stretching the point as it was grey overcast and drizzling most of the time); and I had achieved what I had set out to do.
My garden was now a space where the flying, fluttering and buzzing things would be welcome. My bee house was now perched directly above three lavender bushes in order to make it as user-friendly as possible for the bees that I love; the gazebo was clean; the garden furniture re-varnished; and I felt like I really had accomplished something to be proud of.
So whatever it is that you are doing today, I hope it brings you satisfaction and enjoyment and something to be proud of.
PS: In case you aren’t familiar with “the Bumble Bee theory”, it’s something which inspires me and really does help me believe that anything is possible:-
There is a school of thought which says that according to the principles of aerodynamics the wings of a Bumble Bee aren’t big or broad enough to support it in flight; that the laws of physics mean that a Bumble Bee can’t fly...
But no-one has told the Bumble Bee... so it flies any way.
With a Hug
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