Entertainment In Your Garden

I’m not much of a morning person during the winter months but now that spring is here, I feel vividly alive. I feel the explosion of life around me and literally leap out of bed in the mornings to see what there is to see.

By the time I venture out onto our deck, His Majesty is there waiting for me. I put half a round of fresh orange into a coffee cup identical to my own, and this is how the day begins. I sip my coffee and contemplate the day ahead, while King Tui sips at the orange and surveys his territory for intruders. King Tui has had to learn to be more sociable since the karo (Pittosporum crassifolium) tree began to flower. This tree is one of my favourite native trees, each year it produces small dark red to purple flowers that attract a wide range of birds.

If you’re lucky enough to have space to plant a new tree in your garden, this tree is a must-have. I can honestly say that when this tree is in flower, it is a moving mass of bird activity. There are so many tui birds here right now that I can’t count them all and, needless to say, neither can King Tui. He darts in and out of the tree like a fighter jet plane. I’m exhausted just watching him.

I love gardening, for me spring is all about preparation for the months ahead. However, there are always things that you can’t prepare for.

A few summers back I was alarmed to hear a rather odd humming sound coming from beneath our kitchen sink. Whenever I ventured into the cupboard under the sink, the humming would become louder, and more intense. Martin and I were rather confused by this noise, and we almost called a plumber, but then we realised that we were occasionally seeing a bumblebee just outside the kitchen window. When Martin and I went outside to investigate, we simply couldn’t believe what we were looking at.

A few months earlier we had installed a new kitchen, and this included altering the plumbing. There was a small hole where the down pipe had been removed. It was now rather apparent that the cavity had since been converted into a bumblebee nest.

I rather like insects, but I do get a little twitchy around those that sting, or bite, so I was on the verge of panic...

“Is this normal? There are thousands of trees here, why pick our house?”

The issue wasn’t so much that the nest was close to our kitchen window, but that the outside area, the entrance to the nest, was alongside a very narrow walkway on our deck.

I said to Martin, “We don’t need a plumber, we need a traffic management plan!”

Life changed over the summer months. To walk along the deck we had to stop just before the nest entrance, wait for two worker bees to exit, then listen out for any that might be returning, only then would we politely cross the entrance. It was a respect thing to be honest, and the same respectfulness applied when it came to doing the dishes. We could no longer hurl the dish wash detergent bottle back into the cupboard. Instead, we had to place it very carefully, and quietly.

As you can see by these photographs, I became very relaxed around the bumblebees and our native honeybees. My macro lens was in full use during the summer and, just in case you’re wondering, neither Martin, me, or any of our visitors were stung.

I’m rather hoping the bumblebees will return home to us, and I’m now planting lots of flowers for them. Spring gives us hope for rejuvenation. A time to renew the excitement and zest for life that lives inside and outside. It’s time to get busy in your garden. (HEIDI PADAIN)

To see some of Heidi’s other photographic work go to www.flickr.com and type Heidi Padain into the search box or you can contact Heidi by email hidihi@xtra.co.nz