An unprovocative look at the birds and the bees…and other bits


I did not publish a “week six” from the Huntington Botanical Gardens last week.  I was expecting to share from the lovely Japanese Garden, but I went later in the day without considering that all of my photos would be taken facing directly into the rapidly descending sun.

I’m sharing just a few of the half-okay photos to at least give you a taste–and we’ll try again later this week.


In 2011 the garden underwent a year-long renovation in time for its 100th anniversary. The Japanese Garden, very peaceful and serene, is a very popular feature of the Huntington Botanical Gardens.

A friend found an old post card reflecting the Japanese Garden the way I remember it as a child.


Moon Bridge is now natural and unpainted. I liked the red, but termite damage and years of weathering broke it down, and a more authentic bridge was substituted.

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When I started the year thinking I’d share photos from the Huntington every week and hopefully show evidence of some rain, little did I anticipate 90 degrees Fahrenheit in February. .

El Nino Headline

While I wait for rain I’m still very engaged in my garden and doing what I can to make it every bit as inviting as it was before water rationing went into effect. So far, I’m happy with the changes and while incorporating more native plants I’ve also focused on inviting more birds and bees to my backyard party.

I added a new hummingbird feeder and I seem to have tipped the balance of nature.


All the experts said, “Just put a dish out there for the bees. Make the sugar-water even sweeter than the feeder. And slowly move the bee sugar-water further away from the feeder.”

All that did, quite frankly, was invite even more bees.


I’m a bee-lover and for a split second I thought this might be cool (I do have a very patient husband), but then the dog started chasing them and I could see disaster.

I was disappointed, but I’ll include even more hummingbird-friendly plants and the bees are already thick and hearty in the herb garden. They’re greedy little buzzers!

I did purchase a new oriole feeder, but come to think of it, I’m supposed to use jelly to attract the orioles.


I hope I don’t attract ants!



43 thoughts on “An unprovocative look at the birds and the bees…and other bits

    1. I’m hoping to plant more lavender this spring. I think it’s one of the loveliest fragrances! In my yard it’s a rosemary bush that seems to have attracted all the bees. I think that may have been the problem. They were already happy in my yard but had to work for their treats. Putting sugar-water out was like offering them candy! As for El Niño, I’m trying to remain optimistic, but it’s hard!

  1. Debra, it’s always lovely to read your posts and to learn from your experiences and virtual docent-led tours. 🙂 Having lived in Japan for 2+ years, I always appreciate a Japanese Garden, wherever one is located. Surprisingly, in the middle of the desert, the Albuquerque Botanic Gardens have a wonderful Japanese Garden. I go there simply to de-stress and appreciate the tranquility. Thank you for sharing your delightful captures and captions.

    As for El Nino, the Meteorologists got it all wrong for the High Desert. Our December was brutally cold (as forecast) yet our January was delightful and February, beyond unseasonably warm. And the precipitation they called for…. non existent. I feel for those of you under water rationing though we are not yet subject to same.

    I trust and hope all is well in your life.

    1. Eric, it’s really nice to hear from you. I appreciate the simplicity and attention to detail that seems to accompany many aspects of Japanese culture. I’m sure that living in Japan for more than two years would certainly influence a love for Japanese gardens. I always leave the Huntington’s Japanese garden area and think I’d like to have a little tea house in my yard. 🙂

      I think our local meteorologists are going to be so disappointed if we don’t see torrential rain! Earlier this year they couldn’t even stand in one spot delivering the weather news. They bounced up and down with such glee at what they were expecting. I almost feel sorry for them. 🙂 Thank you so much for sharing, Eric, and for leaving such a nice comment.

    1. Those little birds were so patient with the bees! They kept making an attempt to get the nectar and in the evening when the bees slowed down they could get their fill. It was a grand experiment that didn’t go as I had hoped. 🙂

  2. Finding the balance is hard… attracting the ‘right’ wildlife is hard here too! We get squirrels and mice if I put bird food out, and the ants seem to thrive whatever we do! Hope you get rain soon Debra. (And I loved that old postcard of the Japanese bridge!)

    1. It’s really true, isn’t it, Cathy? Balance in the garden is the goal, and at times there are so many conflicting conditions that it isn’t easily attained. In this case, all I could do was take down the feeders. Balance restored. 🙂

    1. Thanks for appreciating the headline, Frank. I don’t even know how to be provocative, at least not intentionally, and I didn’t want anyone to be disappointed in the body of the message. LOL!

    1. I loved the flowering peach trees, too, Kate. They really stood out against the primarily gray landscape. I had a couple of fun days battling bees! But they were fun in their own way. When Zena started chasing them I knew I had a problem, though!

  3. Can you hear me clapping my hands in glee? Bees and hummingbirds and orioles and Japanese gardens. Life is grand! We have orioles here. I’m always excited when I first hear the male, returned from a winter further south, but, I hardly ever see them this close. Maybe I’ll reconsider having an oriole feeder. 🙂
    You are doing a yeoman’s job, my friend, of attracting pollinators and adapting to your climate concerns. Debra – Citizen Scientist Extraordinaire!

    1. Thank you for appreciating my efforts, Penny! I tried so hard to relocate the bees and thought at first I was just going to be so “superior” in providing them a haven. It just didn’t work out at all. We have one or two orioles at our seed feeders every May for two or three days, and then they’re gone! I purchased an oriole feeder and I’m hoping I might attract a few more and maybe they’ll stay a little longer before moving on. I don’t think I’ve caught on to their song yet! I like the idea of Citizen Scientist, my friend. I do make an effort–sometimes it just doesn’t extend very far in results. LOL!

      1. The orioles are probably migrating, Debra, especially if you see them for only a few days in May. You, my friend, are providing them necessary nourishment for their journey. I’ve come to know their sound. They fly to the tops of the trees, but, they have stopped for a drink of water at times. I really do appreciate your efforts. 🙂

  4. Thanks for sharing some busy bees and birds with us! I like the look of the bridge au natural. The red is rather “bold.”

    I’ll keep my fingers crossed that you will need an umbrella soon.

    1. We may get some rain tomorrow, Nancy. The funniest thing this morning was when I told my husband it was predicted and his first words were, “They’re lying.” I laughed so hard. I don’t think I’ve ever heard him say that anyone is a liar…not even politicians. LOL! He’s the most positive person I know and I think he’s just fed up with all the talk. I do keep my umbrella in my purse as an act of positive thinking, or maybe it’s just hope! 🙂

  5. Um, I’m afraid we stole your El Nino. The firehose from Hawaii is pointed directly at us for the next couple of weeks. Yesterday I had 1.21″ at my house, the most daily rain I’ve ever seen in February and one of the wettest days throughout my years here. Our waterfront trail always gets mudslides this time of year, but yesterday I watched a dozen baseball-sized rocks tumble down the bluff not six feet in front of me! I immediately turned around.

    Our beloved Seattle meteorologist and blogger, Cliff Mass, has more details at
    if you are interested. Sorry it’s not better news for southern California.

    1. Incredible, Lori! Thank you for the explanation. I do enjoy these meteorologists and I learn so much from them I feel like I’m getting a bit of an education while at the same time I fret and worry about “where’s the rain?” I honestly think if we go into summer as dry as we have the last three years I am going to be a bit depressed. I am sorry you’re having so much rain! We’ve lost all sense of balance and proportion. Yikes!

  6. Love the post card. The women look like 2 Barbie dolls taking a break. Hummingbird feeders work wonderfully — everywhere but my yard — but the sweet content of the water often draws more than the birds. You got bees while Zia gets ants. That Japanese garden is a real gem. Was the sun really a problem or were you looking for an excuse to return? Doesn’t really matter so long as you get back there. 🙂

    1. Funny comment about the sun, John. It really was a problem. There are some nice features in the Japanese garden that were caught in the glare. This time of year the garden doesn’t open until noon and closes at 4:30, so the window is very short. I will always make an excuse to go back, however. 🙂 And you’re so right about the Barbie doll look of the women on the post card. I looked at them several times and thought they looked a little odd, but I didn’t think of Barbie until you mentioned it. And I had read that ants could be a problem with the feeders. Poor Zia, I know how she feels. I have been to other homes where the hummingbirds are fighting each other for a place at the fountain, and before my local birds could even discover their new treat, the bees swarmed in. The good news, since I have to be resilient here, is that we now know there are plenty of bees nearby! 🙂

      1. The birds don’t mind the ants in the slightest. Her bird feeders attach to her window so that she can sit and watch them. They’ve actually landed on her when she’s sat on her porch. And they do fight. They’re quite territorial and we’ve watched one take his perch in a tree waiting for a uslurper to arrive. I cannot put up a feeder of any kind. My nemesis, The Squirrel, and his friends the raccoons and possum would tear it apart. The trumpet vines were my answer but, as I’ve mentioned, they were a fail. So, I watch Zia’s hummingbirds. As long a I get to see some every summer, I’m fine. 🙂

  7. Love your “half-okay” photos of the gardens. We will definitely have to visit this beautiful place when we next make it down your way—The Japanese Garden looks magical. I look forward to seeing more photos from your next visit there. I do hope the rains come soon.

    1. I know you’d enjoy the Japanese Garden, Jeannie. I do need to take some more photos because I barely entered it before it was time for us to leave. I didn’t plan my timing very well. If we do get rain I’ll be doing my happy dance. 🙂

    1. Weather patterns are so interesting and I have taken comfort in the fact that although the drought is a concern, we have had bright beautiful days. It’s hard to complain too much when it’s so “cheery.” LOL! And the good news for today is that it is raining. Even if it doesn’t last long, it sure is nice for now. I am very happy to share some sunshine with you, Colleen!

      1. Perhaps I sent some of the rain along with this comment. 😉 Although right now, I am seeing blue skies behind the clouds and it appears quite lovely this morning. So thank you for sending your sunshine!

  8. Those half-okay photos are still gorgeous! We’re unusually warm over here in the Midwest also…nothing like your 90 degrees but we’re having very beautiful 50 degree high days and that is really strange for mid-February. I’m not complaining though! 🙂 It’s supposed to get up to the low 70’s this week and I’m so excited! Saw a beautiful cardinal in our backyard the other day and thought of you…enjoying the buzz of activity around us that seems to be signaling spring sooner than expected!

    1. Oh Stacey! A cardinal! That’s a bird I’ll never have at my feeders and I think that’s so exciting. You are going to see so many birds this spring, many of which aren’t familiar to you from either AZ or CA. Fun! Enjoy those warm days. I know how thrilling that must be. And we’re enjoying a little rain tonight after all. It sounds so nice! I’d say it smells good, but I have big white dog sitting by me sharing “wet dog” smell. LOL! I’m still not complaining, my friend. ox

      1. I know! The vibrant red was truly beautiful! I’m hoping to see him or her again soon! Glad you guys are getting some rain tonight…the world needs a little shower every so often 😉 even if there is a wet dog in the mix…lol!

  9. The Japanese Garden is beautiful, Debra ~ these photos are way more than ‘half decent’! I love the old postcard showing how it used to look, it’s very evocative. We have had rain almost every day for a few months and the ground is soaked and muddy, which makes dog walking unpleasant. Just this week we’ve seen some bright sunshine on alternate days but it is absolutely freezing, so not much is happening above ground in the gardens just yet. I love reading your informative posts and comparing our environments! 🙂

  10. I visited the garden several years ago, they were renovating the place. So glad to hear you are getting more rain. These are beautiful bird captures! Thank you for sharing, Debra 🙂

  11. Pingback: {coyotes and rabbits and dogs, oh my!} | breathelighter

  12. The first photo from the Huntington Botanical Gardens is so beautiful despite what you say about the light. But sometimes back light really brings out the colours and forms of leaves and petals. As for bees, they are important in nature’s balance, but this seems to be quite overwhelming. 🙂

  13. That poor hummingbird!! I wonder if it can get stung? I know Zena could… My oldest daughter’s Golden tried to catch one, which she did. Her tongue developed a HUGE balloon under her tongue. Of course we freaked out as we had no idea what caused it. I put her into the bed of my BRAND SPANKING new black F-250 with the Roll-a-Long package and my then little girl opened the split window, of course… with the result being tons of dog drool raining onto my brand new rear seat.

    Your photos of the Japanese garden were still stellar, Debra! Such beauty in the middle of February. Although we’re parched – goodbye car washing at home soon – we are fortunate to not have been under siege by a blizzard.

I always enjoy hearing from you!

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