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Garden Tour Countdown: Bees!

I have to admit that the more I read about them and learn about them, the more I think bees might be taking their place among my favorites of the Hymenoptera order. Heck, possibly among all animals. The unfortunate part is that my familiarity with these amazing insects has come mostly from reading about what seems to be their impending doom. The more I learn about them the more I've come to realize that every good thing we like depends on bees. Enjoy a nice crisp apple on a fall day? Bees. Tomatoes in your Greek salad? Bees. A cold beer on a spring evening? Bees. Coffee? Bees. The list of crops pollinated by bees is long and distinguished.

In my attempts to keep a garden in the concrete jungle of South Philadelphia, I've become aware of how important these little guys (and gals) are to the health of my plants and the growth of the fruits and vegetables I've cultivated. I've planted several different flowering pieces with the precise goal of attracting more bees to the yard. These include herbs like bee balm, catnip, sage, rosemary, lavender and thyme; an ill-fated butterfly bush; annuals like zinnias, marigolds and sunflowers; and perennials including English ivy, clematis and some really cool purple-flowering catmint that I thought I killed but came back with a vengeance with all the rain we've had this summer.

And my garden absolutely pales in comparison to some of the things I've seen and expect to see on the South Philly Garden Tour. I remember walking into a garden not far from my house and being absolutely amazed at the dozens of bees I saw flitting around from flower to flower. It was as if the woman who owned the garden was keeping a hive somewhere on her property (which some homes and businesses in our neighborhood do... and which I hope to do someday). In fact, in searching around the pictures from past Garden Tours, I found one that I took of one of those buzzing pollinators:

bee2 So cute, right?!

This year's tour should offer just as many opportunities to see these guys in action. With over a dozen different gardens along the Broad Street corridor (focusing on 11th to 17th, Washington to Snyder) tour goers will have the opportunity to see all kinds of creative ways to green (and purple, and red, and blue) the concrete jungle AND attract bees to the ecosystem. It's a great chance to get some ideas for your own garden.

Buy your tickets today! Buy now and get them for $20 each. They will be $25 on the day of the tour. Tickets can be purchased online or at Breezy’s CafeUltimo Coffee NewboldUrban Jungle, and The Wishing Well.

In the meantime, below are a few of links to learn more about bees and some tips on what you can do to help out the bee population in our part of the world.

Bee Colony Collapses Are More Complex Than We Thought - U.S. News and World Report

Seven easy ways to help the honeybees - Rodale Institute

Saving honeybees through healthy hive stewardship - Rodale Institute's Honeybee Conservancy

And check out Baltimore Honey - a CSA (in this case, Community Supported Apiary) - in Baltimore and the Green Sanctuary Community Apiary here in Philadelphia which offers some great educational programs to the public.