Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Ivy Tree

Bee getting nectar from a sage plant in the hedgerow
We purchased our property about five years ago, and after a three year transition, the property was certified as organic. As part of the transition to organic, we were able to get a grant from the federal government to plant a hedgerow along the ditch on the west side of our property. We planted drought tolerant, native California plants that flower almost year-round to provide pollen and nectar for bees and other beneficial insects and wildlife. The winter months are tough for the beneficial insects and bees because there aren't a lot of plants that flower during this time and therefore not a lot of food. That's when the bees use up their reserves of the honey in the hive.
Our house was built by the Bruno family around 1903. Their son George, who was born in and died in this house, brought his bride Gladys to live here when they married in the 1930's. Neighbors and relatives have told us stories about what an accomplished horticulturalist George Bruno was and we live with constant reminders of his innovations and the traditions brought by his Italian immigrant parents.

Ivy tree
One of those traditions is a crazy "tree" next to our house referred to as an "ivy tree." Everyone who comes to visit remarks about the tree because it's so unusual and so beautiful. It's actually two different ivy plants vining up a pole with a defunct TV antenna on top (the kids have no idea what a TV antenna is).

The amazing thing about the ivy tree is that, starting around the middle of October, when most plants are going dormant, it begins to flower and continues to flower for about a month! It seem like all of the bees from the whole Napa Valley come to this tree, because if you stand anywhere near the tree at this time of year, it sounds like it's alive because there are SO MANY bees buzzing.....those old Italian farmers knew what they were doing when they planted that tree.

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