Thursday, June 23, 2016


Review by Rosemary Foster Louden

Anne Ophelia Dowden’s The Clover & the Bee was published in 1990.  As author and  illustrator, she details the magical process of pollination.  Although the Library of Congress Catalog lists this book in “juvenile literature”, it is a joy to read at any age.  As with all her scientifically based books she clearly presents the concepts and exquisitely illustrates them. 

If you have not read this book it is available from many used book sellers, some at nominal cost.  If you are a gardener, find and read it. Purchase a copy for your library, share it with the next generation and observe all the many pollinators around you.

Gardeners are an optimistic group. They spend many hours preparing for events that may or may not happen. Will the perennial plant enjoyed last season grow again this year? Will the tomatoes ripen early? Will the newly planted Dogwood display its color on Mother’s Day?  When the roses open their first bloom, will the showers spoil their perfection?

Even when people follow gardening “best practices”, Mother Nature’s support is essential to achieve the desired results.  Gardeners read information, buy seeds, plants, fertilizer, hoses, and tools. Their money expands the horticultural industry in many directions. These millions of dedicated and occasional gardeners can improve their community.  They can choose organic methods and join together to inspire even non-gardeners to buy food at markets that offer local produce.

While tending my small plot at Greenwich Community Garden, I happened to talk to a budding gardener.  He asked me if what he was growing would taste better than what he could buy in the supermarket.  That is not an easy question to answer.  I told him that if he harvested his beans young and picked is tomatoes at their peak of ripeness he would be rewarded.   

Gardening is a recreational activity, farming and landscaping are businesses.  The science of agriculture brings about more changes in the natural environment than individuals’ gardening. People and animals need food, sports need playing fields and florists need constantly available flowers. For business, predicability is key to success and as a result their focus is on the money as well as the product.  

Chemicals are used extensively in agriculture to minimize the need for labor.  Eliminating “pests” can mean destroying weeds, insects and animals.  One of the chemical treatments now available is neonicotinoid pesticide.  Corn seeds and soybean seeds, among others, are treated with it so that the emerging plant will be filled with chemical protection as it grows.

Fortunately, there are scientists who study the web of life, watching for changes, both beneficial and harmful.  In recent years honey bees vital to agriculture have been dying in large numbers.  These losses have been labeled “colony collapse disorder”.  There is strong evidence that neonicotinoids caused this problem.  In July 2014, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service announced plans to phase out neonicotinoid pesticides in all national wildlife refuges across the United States by January 2016. While many people rail against genetically modified foods, other equally worrisome products are sold without any fanfare.  Even your neighbors’ lawns treated with chemicals become a desert of green, providing no habitat for essential insects, and become a death trap for bees and butterflies. Our life on this planet requires pollinators: observe, preserve and encourage them.