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Thursday, January 5, 2017

Victory Gardens for Bees

by Christine Freeburn

It was a very nice surprise to find in my local library, a new Canadian gardening book with a timely subject matter. Lori Weidenhammer, author of Victory Gardens for Bees published by Douglas & McIntryre, is a Vancouver based artist and educator actively involved in making Canada and the world a better place for humans and bees. This volume is beautifully illustrated with full colour photographs, seasonal planting charts, illustrated garden plans and historical facts about the original Victory Gardens. It is the type of book you can read chapter by chapter, use as a reference book or flip through for random information.

Chapter one describes the Colony Collapse Disorder, explaining that the 20,000 different species of bees worldwide are in serious danger. Currently there are 57 bee species on the endangered list. Weidenhammer gives us a clear history of what has happened over the past ten years. She suggests a bee wise program similar to the ocean wise system where we, as consumers, buy only from responsible sustainable-conscious growers and producers.

In chapter two, the author gives us the history of the original Victory Gardens along with garden plans for several bee friendly gardens. She lists sixteen essentials to creating a safe garden space for bees. By letting a few of your vegetables and herbs bolt, you will allow bees to enjoy the pollen from these plants. Did you know that 70 % of bees nest in the ground? Another reason not to dig!

Chapter three shows us some of the bee species that visit our gardens. It is well illustrated, easy to read and gives the reader so much good information about the many types of bees. After reading this chapter you will be eager to try to identify the bees in your garden.

In the following chapters, the author discusses growing specific herbs, vegetables, trees, shrubs, bulbs, perennials and annuals for a bee friendly garden. She talks about hedgerows, pastures, traditional gardens and container gardening. Each chapter has lovely photographs, charts and tips. We learn about bee habitat and how to create homes for bees. Did you know that a stumpery is an ideal spot for bees to nest and it can also be garden art?

There is also a chapter on beekeeping and the importance of having enough food for native bees as well as hive bees.

The final chapter sums up the importance of getting all generations involved in gardening, again referencing how during the world wars, Victory Gardens drew families and communities together. There are common sense tips on how to avoid bee stings, a reminder that solitary bees do not sting or sting very lightly. Weidenhammer encourages us to become bee guardians and to 'Dig for Victory!'

An index at the back, allows the reader to look up by plant or bee species. A list of sources gives you places to obtain more information and the end notes add more information.

Lori Wiedenhammer has given us a well written, beautifully illustrated, informative resource that is timely, inspirational, Canadian, and deserves to be on any concerned gardeners bookshelf.

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