I can’t resist spying on sleeping bumblebees.

bumblebee hanging under a monarda blossom, with its head tucked into the leaf

Their sleeping positions are sometimes peculiar.

bumblebee holding onto the right side of a gray-headed coneflower

bumblebee perched between two petals of a purple coneflower

A few rest on the top of flowers — like this bee that looks like it’s sleeping on a pink cloud.

bumblebee at the top of a large joe-pye weed blossom

But most of them hang upside-down from blossoms or under leaves.

bumblebee underneath the spike of a purple giant hyssop

Joe-pye weed was a particular favorite this year.

bumblebee under a light-pink flower with its head to the flower cluster

bumblebee in the same spot on a similar flower, but with its head to the outside

two bumblebees on a joe-pye weed cluster, one underneath on the left and one upright on the right

This has to be the funniest flower choice I’ve seen. The bees are bigger than the flowers!

two big bumblebees hanging onto small fleabane flowers that are pointing straight down under their weight

I try not to spend too much time looking at them, though, because they seem to get stressed out if I’m too close.

bumblebee hanging under the right side of a cluster of dozens of pearly everlasting flowers

It’s better to take a quick picture and then admire digitally.

bumblebee hanging upside-down in the six o'clock position of a cup plant blossom

bumblebee sleeping vertically on the right side of a blazingstar

big bumblebee underneath a goldenrod

More of my posts about bumblebees

I’m still contemplating my new year’s resolutions but before looking forward, I want to take a quick look back. Here’s a short list of what happened in my garden in 2016:

Failures

Pasque flower simply didn’t come back, after a couple years of doing well. This was a cultivar, and I bought a native to replace it.

large purple flower near the ground and another beginning to open

Purple prairie clover started fine but was eaten by rabbits.

about a dozen stems chewed off two inches high

I scattered swamp milkweed seeds in the fall of 2015, but nothing sprouted.

Successes

Wild columbine thrived in its first year in the yard, after being transplanted late the year before

focus on one pinkish flower with several other buds and flowers blurred in the background

Strawberries not only survived their first winter, they produced several berries. The plants spread far in late summer, so we’re hoping for a real crop next year.

three strawberries on a vine, two white and one bright red

four sets of three strawberry leaves, one just opening, with vine to the left and right

Our first-ever grapes, after years of relatively healthy grapevines! (Though not surprisingly, something ate them before we could.)

three bunches of green grapes

Some kind of super-tall (8-foot) aster.

dozens of small white flowers on a stem that's bent near the ground

Unintentional beauty of onion flowers, which were leftovers from 2015 and continued growing on their own.

a globe of white flowers with green veins

New creatures

More and more insects (and other creatures) are finding a home, or at least dinner, in our garden. These are some of the things spotted for the first time:

mourning cloak

side view of a dark brown butterfly with a line of lighter brown at the edge of the wings

swallowtail caterpillar

large caterpillar climbing up a short stem and eating the top

hairstreak butterfly

gray butterfly on bright orange butterfly weed

summer azure butterfly (I think)

very light purple butterfly upside-down on a clover in the lawn

a similar, but I don’t think the same, butterfly

small purple-ish butterfly in milkweed blossoms

hummingbird moths

yellow-and-black fuzzy moth with its proboscis curled near a bee balm

brown, black, and red fuzzy moth with its proboscis in a bee balm

thick-headed fly

skinny black fly with narrow white stripes, looks a lot like a wasp

clearwing borer moth

skinny black insect with a feathery tail and clear wings on stiff goldenrod

potter wasp

black wasp shoving a green caterpillar into a small mud pot

another kind of wasp (I think)

mostly black insect with a couple yellow stripes flying between bee balm blossoms

some kind of orange dragonfly

dragonfly perched on butterfly weed

swamp milkweed leaf beetles

yellow beetle and red beetle copulating on a milkweed leaf

candy-stripe spider fighting a Japanese beetle (more to come on this encounter)

white spider with a bright pink spot, near a dark beetle

whatever this little orange bug is

bug with an orange body with marks that look like a smiling face, and tiger wings

hibernating wooly bear caterpillar, accidentally uncovered when doing late-season planting

orange-and-brown caterpillar curled into a ball

Overall

I always have several blog posts in my head and an even longer list of potential ideas, but it’s hard to get them written. So there were not nearly enough blog posts in 2016, but I posted almost daily during the growing season on Instagram.

My biggest personal success was becoming a master naturalist. I anticipate this will become a bigger and bigger part of my life going forward.

Previous recaps

A month ago, the Twin Cities was under a frost advisory for two nights, and I panicked and picked all of the tomatoes.

purple tomato with a green bottom

There was a very light frost, barely even noticeable, and I learned my lesson to leave the tomatoes on the vine and just cover them until the first hard frost.

blue bowl full of tomatoes of varied sizes, shapes, and colors, mostly green

Except that the next week there was a hard frost advisory, and it still didn’t freeze. It’s 72 degrees on November 5, and I just heard that the Twin Cities has now set a record for the longest growing season ever. Things in my garden just keep on growing.

broccoli

large broccoli head

raspberries

one raspberry flower and a dozen green berries

cabbage, which we waited maybe one day too long to harvest and now a critter is eating it

round cabbage from above, with the left half peeled back and chewed

The leaves are starting to turn.

wild geranium

one mostly orange leaf

strawberries

two sets of three red leaves, standing above a lot of green leaves

joe-pye weed

yellowed leaves that are starting to turn brown

purple giant hyssop

a tall stem of curled, deep purple leaves

bee balm

more than a dozen seed heads above yellow, green, and pink leaves

But some flowers are still budding and blooming.

dahlia

a bright pink flower with more petals open on the right side

black-eyed susans

one yellow flower, four stems with single buds, and one stem with four buds

calendula

bright orange flower with the petals in the very center not unfolded yet

autumn joy sedum

four stems of deep purple flowers

goldenrod

short yellow stalk

turtlehead, covered in dew instead of frost

short stalk with two pink flowers at the top

yellow coneflowers

cluster of nine stems with buds

and more yellow coneflowers growing in an unusual spot: the side of the planter

two small green plants on the side of a gray stucco wall

In early spring we decided to convert more of our yard from lawn to garden. We marked off a giant rectangle in the backyard and I immediately thought, swimming pool! But instead we stuck with the plan and started removing the sod for a garden. The robins were very excited about the freshly uncovered worms.

rolls of sod, and a robin sitting on a roll of sod

We planted some of the vegetables from seed, and added some fruit and veggie plants:

a box full of new plants

The raspberry half of the new garden was covered with wood mulch, and the vegetable half was covered in leaf mulch (not pretty, but effective). Here’s how our plants did:

One of our distant neighbors has a thick row of lettuce at the edge of his prolific vegetable garden. I thought we should imitate that because it may be an effective barrier for rabbits. So we had lots of lettuce – even though we quickly decided to put up a fence anyway – enough that we couldn’t come close to keeping up with it, and it went to seed. Interesting flower variety:

row of closely-spaced lettuce, four different kinds of lettuce flowers

We started with four tomato plants, and then took in about a dozen more that were going to be composted. They did well at first, but suddenly half were eaten by squirrels, and half rotted on the vine, perhaps because of all of the rain. But there seems to be a resurgence lately, and I may try fried green tomatoes this week.

green tomatoes on the vine

Of course we had BLTs with homegrown L and T.

bacon-lettuce-tomato sandwich

We planted some squashes and gourds from seed, and we also purchased some plants. Neither did very well, though it looks like all of the plants were attacked by squash borer, and some became a home for slugs.

squash vine borer from the front and top, and a vine that is dying

One vine has looked pretty good in spite of the bugs, but it has produced only one fruit (I think it’s a spaghetti squash).

white, oblong squash

A yellow squash grew but was quickly discovered by squirrels. A second one is now growing but will likely be destroyed soon, too. Even the plants that weren’t attacked by squirrels or bugs ended up covered with powdery mildew.

powdery mildew covering the leaves of a small squash plant

Our pumpkin vine has lately been growing long and flowering a lot, but it’s unfortunately going to be too little, too late.

pumpkin flower and a vine that has grown beyond the fence

We have one more opportunity with some late-growing acorn squash, and we relocated it to the smaller covered garden to protect it from any more squirrel interference.

acorn squash protected by a net

Broccoli flowered before it reached a size I would have considered harvesting. Peas did okay, but we didn’t get a lot, and I didn’t know when to pick them. Next year I will know better. We’re probably done attempting to grow corn, though. This was the second year we tried, and what the squirrels didn’t chop down, the wind knocked over.

short cornstalk laying on the ground

Beans recovered from early squirrel interference and are looking good, finally.

several green beans hanging from a vine

Our four eggplants flowered but didn’t produce any fruit.

purple eggplant blossom

Our neighbor generously gave us two dozen extra kohlrabi plants. They were a big success, and they’re actually kind of tasty. We’ve tried them steamed and roasted.

two kohlrabi plants growing together

Potatoes: two plants popped up in the compost pile, then we transplanted them to the main garden. We also purchased yukon gold and a purple variety of seed potatoes. They had pretty white flowers that even turned into tomato-like fruit, apparently because of wet weather.

potato plants, flowers, and fruit

All of the plants are doing well and the ones we’ve dug up so far have produced 3-5 potatoes apiece, though some have had strange holes. I was entertained that the purple-skinned potatoes also have purple flesh.

a pile of brown and purple potatoes, and a purple potato cut in half

We planted a lot of kale this year and that tasted okay, but one plant overwintered really well. This was the one I turned to weekly for kale chips, and it kept regrowing all season.

a big kale plant

This was the year to finally do something about our underperforming raspberry bushes. We originally planted them in a shady spot of the backyard about three years ago, and they’ve never amounted to much. This year we decided that they deserved more sun, and we moved them to the west side of the new garden.

the old raspberry location, and a freshly dug plant ready to be moved

About half of them started producing flowers and then berries.

raspberry plants in mulch

Our squirrels can’t leave them alone, though, so we haven’t yet been able to enjoy the newly productive bushes. (I’m dreaming of a giant squirrel-proof greenhouse for next year.)

two raspberries on the ground

Another potential for next year: strawberries. We bought several plants, but almost immediately, rabbits ate several of them. They still produced a few berries, and the rest of the year they grew well and even sent out runners. We have high hopes for next year – assuming we can protect them well enough from the winter.

strawberry plants on a lawn chair

It’s the first day of spring and while it’s still way too soon to start planting anything outdoors in Minnesota, it’s never too early to start planning.

a pile of flower and vegetable seed packets with handwritten plastic plant markers

Over the years I’ve acquired so many seed packets – hand-gathered and purchased, vegetables and flowers – that it will take awhile to organize them. Maybe I’ll have a plan by the time outdoor planting season rolls around.