Bees suffer from late blooms

With the strange weather we've been having, it's a good time to go outside and see how many differences you can find in your garden.

My lavender, which is usually covered with bees, has only a few bumblebees visiting. This is not so nice. When I query about this, the news is that things are still the same for bee keepers. Nothing easy about keeping bees these days.

If you are near orchards, where hives are kept, you may notice no difference. But with the delay in blooming, some wild honey bees may not have been able to find a food source and may not have survived. Honey bees are on my prayer list.

My hybrid tea rose Stretch Johnson has never looked so good. Well, not since I hauled it here from Puget Sound in 2003. Perhaps it prefers cooler weather. That reminds me about an article I did for Homelife magazine years ago, about roses that performed well in the Rogue Valley. I dug back into my archives and retrieved the list.

Rosarians George and Mary Jennings have experimented with hundreds of rose varieties in their Medford property, so this is advice to rely on: Gemini, coral with pink tones; Veterans Honor, dark red; Touch of Class, an orange-pink rose that is a top exhibition rose; Olympiad, another red rose and the floribunda Gold Medal, a golden-yellow tipped flower with pink. Finding that rose on the list, I realized why I had trouble with that rose up north.

Janet Inada, owner of Rogue Valley Roses, specializes in older roses and suggested Madame Marie Curie, a large-bloomed, yellow rose, Camara, burnt orange with a cinnamon edge in cool season, and Shelia's Perfume, yellow with a pink edge.

I would add St. Patrick, a chartreuse bud that opens to a yellow-gold rose. This one holds on well, even drying on the plant. It's vigorous, which means you have to be an able pruner. I also like Hot Cocoa, a brown-red that always gets comments from my garden's visitors.

The cool spring has been kind to my snow peas. Readers might remember I planted a yellow variety with purple blossoms, Golden Sweet Edible.

My vegetable garden is in the front yard and, despite the privacy bestowed by my monster juniper hedge, I feel it still has to look better than your average veggie garden. I have two nicely framed wood planting beds. The snow peas climb a "tee-peed" lattice frame. These snow peas are every bit as ornamental as was promised; they are good producers and get compliments from my dinner guests.

I cook them simply, stir-frying in olive oil/butter and adding Celtic salt and black pepper. They have much more flavor cooked than raw. Long story short: I have no trouble recommended this showy cultivar for your garden.

My other new activity is harvesting German chamomile flowers, which recently started blooming. Because I've been spending money on the tea, I thought I'd try growing my own this year. To get the most from the plant, I'm snipping the flowers and using a drying screen, which might work in my garage in warmer weather, but now the screen has to go into the closet with my water heater. Alternatively you can dry them in bunches (cut the stems two to three inches below the blooms and hang in a dark, dry place). You could try a food dehydrator set at very low temperature for a short time. These are delicate flavors, and you don't want to diffuse them.

Allergy alert: chamomile is related to ragweed, so avoid touching or consuming if you are allergic.

While researching the plant I found a lovely tea recipe with ingredients easily grown (or found) here. Credit goes to Brenda Hyde,, who calls it Tea of Cheer and Joy. Don't you just love it!

Ingredients are all dried.

1/2 cup dried chamomile flowers

1/2 cup dried calendula petals

2 tablespoons grated lemon peel

1/4 cup dried peppermint

1 tablespoon whole cloves

Combine all ingredients and store in an airtight container. To brew use 11/2 teaspoon of tea with 1 cup (8 ounces) boiling water. Steep for 3 to 5 minutes. Strain and sweeten with honey to taste.

Calendula grows best in cooler weather, so now I wish I'd planted some this year.

Well, there's always next year.

Master gardener Althea Godfrey is gardening editor for HomeLife magazine. Reach her at

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