In the Yard

Rhonda Hayes is a garden writer, photographer and blogger. She also volunteers as a Hennepin County Master Gardener. Rhonda chronicles her gardening adventures and advice at her award-winning blog, The Garden Buzz. She is a frequent contributor to Northern Gardener magazine and the Star Tribune Home + Garden section. At Your Voices, she writes about life around the city lakes, occasionally veering off the garden path with essays on the silly and serious issues of the day.

Become a Pollinator Hero on Tuesday! (Bee Attire Optional But Encouraged)

Posted by: Rhonda Hayes Updated: December 15, 2014 - 4:03 PM
I could take this informative announcement coming to me via Nora Wildgen White, bee activist, artist  and all around fantastic lady, and reword it for the blog. But it seems more efficient and straightforward to just forward the information on as written:
The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) has shown its interest in pollinator health by launching a review of neonicotinoids and calling on every Minnesotan to be a #MNpollinatorhero. On December 16th. 
Join us!  Bee Swell, Humming For Bees and Pesticide Action Network, Beez Kneez, Pollinator Friendly StillWater, and The Organic Consumers Club; we are all calling on MDA to become a true #MNpollinatorhero by restricting or suspending neonics!
         Let's make MN 
      A Pollinator Hero ! 
    We Will Be The First!
When: Tuesday, December 16th, 11am
Where: Minnesota Department of Agriculture
  Meet at East Columbus Ave & Central Park Ave E, St Paul, MN 
  **parking and transit directions are below**
What: We'll gather outside MDA for a few brief speakers & colorful performances (please come bundled and ready for about 20 minutes outside!). Then, we'll march together into the MDA building to deliver a basket of pollinator-dependent foods that grow here in Minnesota. This basket represents our gratitude for the work that MDA has done so far, and our hopes that the Agency will suspend neonics in its current review. 
Please wear yellow, orange, and black if you can; bee and butterfly costumes and bee attire are encouraged.
( I do have bee and pollinator attire, antennas and lapel flowers to share. Or, if you'd  rather simply hold a Bee Friendly MN sign, I have those, too !)
Why: Pollinators are in trouble. In recent years, Minnesota beekeepers have lost upwards of 50% of their honey bee colonies annually. Native bees and butterflies are also facing dangerous decline. These losses threaten Minnesota's agricultural economy, including many delicious Minnesota-grown food that rely on pollinators, like apples, melons, cucumbers, squash, strawberries, apricots, berries--and of course, honey! 

According to independent scientists, systemic insecticides like neonicotinoids are a driving factor in declining bee populations. And neonicotinoids aren't just harming insect pollinators: birds, fish, and plants that are important for Minnesota hunting, fishing, and outdoor communities are also at risk, because neonics impact entire ecosytems. 

Right now, decision-makers at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture are reviewing neonicotinoids and considering whether to restrict or suspend these pesticides. Beekeepers, gardeners, farmers, and many others who love Minnesota-grown food are delivering a message to MDA: be a #MNpollinatorhero and suspend neonicotinoids!
Can't be in St. Paul on December 16thJoin our efforts by posting on Facebook or Twitter using the #MNpollinatorhero hashtag.
Sponsored by: Pesticide Action Network; Healthy Bees Healthy Lives; Honey Bee Club of Stillwater;Humming for Bees; Organic Consumers Association;
Parking & transit information:
Park and Ride: Free parking is available at Uni-Dale Mall at the Dale and University Green Line stop. Take the train two stops East to Robert Street and the MDA. 2.5 hour ticket for $1.75.  For train schedule visit 
Parking at MDA: Metered parking is available at Centennial Parking Ramp at Columbus and Central, and 14th Street Ramp, Lot U and Lot W, all on 14th Street between Robert and Jackson, with rates of 1.25/hr.
The MDA is wrapping up their neonicotinoid review now and NOW IS THE PERFECT TIME FOR THIS "ASK " TO BAN NEONICS

Gardeners: Save Your Own Skin

Posted by: Rhonda Hayes Updated: December 6, 2014 - 7:40 AM

The garden's asleep. It's time to take care of the gardener.

I try to wear sunscreen. I really do. But for the past few years when I know I'm going to spend serious time in the garden (more than a quick pass-through grabbing a berry or bloom) I tend to just cover up rather than slather. Long pants, shirt with sleeves and gloves, maybe a hat. It's not a style statement but it saves my skin so to speak.

I grew up on Southern California beaches and earned every wrinkle and freckle I have the honest way. But now that smorgasbord of skin oddities is a constant source of worry. I go and get something taken off every now and then, but this week I decided to go and get all checked out. If you garden, you should go too. It's easy to lose yourself in the garden and also lose track of how much time you put in with the sun beating down while you play.

It's easy to put it off. As in, oh god I'll have to shave my legs. I ruminated all night about the potential time bombs that might be ticking on my skin's surface. I was dreading the possibility of some slice and dice procedures but got lucky with just a few squirts from the ice cannister instead. And now I can use that energy for planning next year's garden instead of worrying about whether I have skin cancer.

Get an appointment. With lots of people busy out shopping and partying I bet there's an available opening just right for your schedule. Get the full body scan. It's not that bad. It's one less New Year's resolution you'll have to make come January 1.

Press One for Condolences

Posted by: Rhonda Hayes Updated: November 6, 2014 - 9:28 AM

It's not like in the movies where a room full of gasping relatives gather at the lawyer's office for a dramatic reading of the will. No, being executor of my father's will has been mostly a gauntlet of phone menu options, press 1 for condolences.

As I go in an endless fast forward loop through the stages of grief, the "Oh Daddy!" to the "ooooh daddy..." to the "What were you thinking, Daddy?" and back again, I have to do paperwork. Paperwork is not my strong suit. I'm all about words, please don't make me do math. Furthermore I'm not comfortable being the "doler outer" of my father's meager but complicated estate.

My dad's death is so different than my mother's almost 30 years ago, not just in the amount of time passed. Death in the age of social media makes an almost-celebrity out of the deceased. My father grumbled at the idea of Facebook but his passing trended on his church's site. And yet the big turnout at his funeral was created from years of face to face interactions rather than likes on a page. 

If only the duties of executing the estate were so easy. I can take and share a high resolution photo with all the world in a matter of seconds, yet people who administrate the business of dead people require me to FAX paperwork from one of those bulky, ivory but-not-quite beige machines. I'm getting to know the guys down at the UPS store on the corner where I regularly haul out the power of attorney and death certificate then listen for the warble and chirp that signifies my FAX has landed in a tray of other faxes, hoping my catchy cover statement snares the attention of said business.

Otherwise it's all over the phone. Most awkward is that moment when I have finally reached the party's extension that I have no clue of, and have the supreme honor of speaking with a customer service representative (these people are not paid near enough) who upon hearing my situation offers me the company or institution's sincerest condolences. I picture them reading it off a post it note stuck at the edge of their screen. Occasionally I get one that sounds truly sincere. And an "Awww." Like when I had to cancel my father's 60-year Triple AAA membership.

He lived like a church mouse and kept meticulous records of all his financial transactions and correspondence. Like many people from his generation, he printed all his emails. Still he left a few mysteries and like many I'm left with the "should'ves". Come spring I will head to Florida as many adult children before me have done, to clean out the house and decide the awful decisions of what to keep and what to let go. I don't know when I will sort through the 400lbs of photos I shipped home via FedEx.

I read recently about the Victorian's intricate mourning clothing rituals. While in this day and age of antibiotics lots of it seems silly, one thing occurred to me as so sensible. People wore black so that others might approach them in a kindly and understanding manner. They were to be treated gently since the concerns of everyday life would seem so trivial or too much to bear in the face of such sadness. There have been a few times in public when I was oddly struck with the finality of my father's death, with tears suddenly streaming down my face, when at least a black armband would have been handy. 

Post-Mowing Update on Lake Calhoun Trailside

Posted by: Rhonda Hayes Updated: October 8, 2014 - 10:16 AM

I thought I'd give an update on what's growing and not growing along the Lake Calhoun trail after this summer's "mis-mowing" incident.

(Pardon the irregular posts lately. I've been absent for awhile following my father's death and dealing with related family needs, I hope to get back on a regular schedule now)

In case you're just tuning in, the misdirected mowing cleared the shoreline giving a great view of the water while taking away an important source of food, shelter and nesting sites from pollinators, birds and other animals that live in this urban and diverse little ecosystem along the lake.

Back to walking the trails afterward I've noticed some regrowth of the plants that were mowed down. Shoots of common milkweed have reappeared yet this tender new growth probably hasn't had time to harden off in time for approaching winter conditions.

A few sprigs of wild asters dot the area with what blooms they could muster. Without the larger plants full of blooms the bees would have foraged over, they also aren't there to set seed as the season ends.

The mowing opened up the shoreline to more sun exposure seeming to allow more grasses to grow, some good and some not so great. With this year's rains blurring the boundaries of the lakeshore, lots of wet areas are now favoring the growth of more aquatic or boggy plants, once again, good and bad.

Interestingly there is a burgeoning stand of horsetail occurring in one spot. Horsetail is a native plant and yet quite aggressive, people love it (like architects for its ramrod straight habit) and others hate it (for its nonstop march to world domination).

What's curious is that it's appearing right across the road from a huge installation of horsetail in a home's contemporary landscape. This ancient plant spreads by both spores and rhizomes, so it's safe to assumed it's been sowed by the wind.

I'll be intrigued to see how the shoreline regroups next spring and what surprises are in store.

What's With All The Bee Signs?

Posted by: Rhonda Hayes Updated: September 5, 2014 - 1:35 PM
The pair of teenagers walking past my front yard paused a moment by the Bee-Safe Yard sign, looked at the blooming sedum plant next to it and exclaimed, "Holy S**t! Look at all the bees!" But it gets better, upon noticing me there on the porch, one of them asked about the bee-covered plant and said he would have to remember the name.
That's the beauty of a bee yard sign no matter which bee advocacy group (and the number is growing) it comes from. Mine is a small sign with a big message that might reach folks that aren't otherwise looking to learn about bees. And although it's late in the season, it's not to late to educate and plan for next year's bee friendly garden.
Yard signs advocating for bees have been popping up all over this summer. If you didn't know better you'd think bees were running for political office. Instead these are signs of change. People recognizing the importance of pollinators, both honeybees and native bees, are joining together to bring about policy decisions that go in favor of pollinator protection and conservation.
The poster below is the artwork of Nora Wildgen, illustrator and pollinator enthusiast.The adorable bee brings a serious message. Bee Swell’s mission is to "promote awareness of the problems our pollinators are facing today, including pesticides and a lack of habitat and food sources, and to encourage bee friendly gardening practices that support these essential members of our garden community."
Visit the Bee Swell website and download the poster for free. Then post it to get out the message for bee-friendly gardening practices.
You may have read about the city of Shorewood's Bee Safe resolution, passed this summer making it the first bee safe city in the state. Started by a group of concerned citizens that began attending the Shorewood City Council meeting seeking to have the city discontinue the use of "neonics", systemic pesticides that are detrimental to bees. Furthermore, the city will begin planting pollinator-friendly habitat like clover to help sustain bee populations.

Humming for bees "is dedicated to contributing to a sustainable future for bees and other pollinators by:

‪- being informed

‪- educating others

‪- facilitating  policy that supports bees in one      small city

‪- making that prototype available to other communities

Starting locally, the west suburbs of Minneapolis, MN, Humming for Bees seeks to create a

“Bee-Safe City”

that will be a model for other cities."

Humming for Bees has set its sights on creating the next bee-safe city, and Nora Wildgen is hoping to make it St Louis Park where she lives and gardens for pollinators. Knowing Nora, it's going to happen.
Visit the Humming for Bees website for more info.


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