Super Bloomers! : Creating dynamic connections between people and nature with Madame Beespeaker and Friends

Join our team as we explore, make, and grow through the seasons in actions inspired by the Renfrew Ravine beside the Renfrew Park Community Centre. We’ll be hosting picnics, pop-up pollinator gardens, ravine walks, and hands-on art-making with natural materials. We’ll help each other bloom and grow through inclusive, supportive, fun and engaging activities. Our aim is to create a web of deep connections among people and plants that make the neighborhood resilient and beautiful. Consider our residency a collective love-letter to the Renfrew Ravine: its ferns, flowers, bees, butterflies, birds, frogs, fungi and more! Our motto is “be brave, be kind, be green!” Our team is Madame Beespeaker (Lori Weidenhammer), Crystal Lee, Wendy Oberlander, Catherine Shapiro, Lori Snyder, Anya Chase, Jasna Guy, Heather Talbot, Julia Thiessen, and Brenna Maag.

Superblooming at the Renfrew Ravine Moon Festival

 What an amazing night!!!! Hats off to Still Moon Arts for hosting the best Moon Fest ever!!! We had so much fun chatting to folks about our bee lanterns we made with the community and helping folks make messages for the bees.

The jar lanterns were made by the teens we worked with in the Slocan Field House.

 These blue lanterns are made with the cyanotypes we created with Superbloomer artist Brenna Maag.

Crystal's dress is super fly!!!!
Madame Beespeaker becomes Madame Moth for the eveining

This piece is a bee skep entirely fabricated from handmade paper formed onto a mold. It's a piece Catherine Shapiro made and we added a few honeybees for the Moon Fest.

Artist Heather Talbot taught us how to make these awesome pyramid style lanterns.

We were mobbed by folks who wanted to make messages and poems for the bees!

It's been wonderful to join forces and collaborate to be part of such a lovely event!

Sunday September Lantern Workshops

If you have registered for our Lantern Workshops, please note the location is NOT the Renfrew Park Community Centre, but the Slocan Park Field house, located at the north end of the park. Apologies for the lack of information or confusion.

The next two workshops are Sunday, September 9 and 16 from 1:30 to 3:00 pm. There are still spaces available if you'd like to participate on one or both days. Please e-mail us at

 Here's a glimpse at what we're doing!  Special thanks to Superbloomers Catherine Shapiro and Heather Talbot for leading us in the first two workshops!!!

The frame is made from forsythia twigs from my back yard and bamboo from deconstructed bamboo mats and blinds. We're using masking tape and gaffer tape to join the corners.

We're trying two designs: the pyramid and the cube.

We attached the cotton gauze that Catherine prepped to receive the indigo paint with white glue.

And here's a design that has been painted by a young participant with natural paint made from the indigo plant!

Super Bloomers Getting Ready for Renfrew Ravine Moonfestival

We are so excited to be getting  ready for the Moon Festival on September 22! This month the Super Bloomers worked with teens to make lanterns for our installation. Yesterday Anya Chase and her helper elves came out and taught us how to make 3D house lanterns.

This is the template we cut out of bristle board and decorated with tissue paper.

Everyone customized their house with their own window and door designs.

These will look great with little solar or battery- powered LED's inside!

I worked with the teens earlier in the month on creating seed jar pendants that can be worn in the procession on Sept 22, or anytime you feel like doing a bit of guerilla gardening for pollinators!

We also made some basic insect-themed  glass jar lanterns, and I told the teens about the tradition of "telling the bees".  (More on that on another blog post!.)

And finally, we made cyanotype prints with Superbloomer artist Brenna Maag. She has a long history of working with the medium, and it was fun to make use of her knowledge and experience!

Brenna showed us this beautiful quilt she made with cyanotype prints.

The art dawgs were in attendance, guarding the ink pads!

You place the materials on the surface of the cloth and cover it  with a sheet of glass to hold it in place.

We left them for 18 minutes because it was a smokey cloudy day. When you remove the plant material, the cloth has darkened and looks like this.

Here's some of the plant material we used. Some of it was from the edge of the Renfrew Ravine.

And here you go! After washing the material to stop the developing process, this is what the cloth looks like.  (See below.) It will get a little bit darker as it dries.

Bee Safari in the Norquay Food Forest

What a beautiful day for a bee safari! When it rains the night before and then the sun comes out in the afternoon, the bees come out to work. This is a long-horned bee (Melissodes) which collects pollen on the hair on her hind legs and nests in the ground.

Before I headed to the Norquay Food Forest for our bee safari, I checked out the SPEC school garden at Norquay Elementary where the bees were having a party in the threadleaf coreopsis.

It's so lovely to see so many great bee plants thriving in these beds. You can see the coreopsis there with purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) which is an awesome plant for butterflies and bees.

If you haven't been by the Norquay Food Forest, I highly recommend  stopping in to get some ideas for your own garden, school garden, or community garden.

We met some cute doggy friends, including burdock, who loves to eat radish flowers!

And here's sweet little Summer, who just loves being sweet.

The yarrow is blooming and this is where you'll be seeing the bees here. The crab spider knows this and is waiting for its weekend brunch. Bees are definitely on her menu!

Here's another bee predator: a small wasp called a bee wolf. There was also quite a few yellow jackets and bald faced hornets taking wood from the fence to make their paper nests.

But where are the bees? We found honeybees and bumblebees in the lavender, and they will soon be harvesting pollen from these lovely purple burdock flowers.

The thimbleberries were full of these funky pickles! They are actually made by thimbleberry gall wasps that lay their eggs inside the stems of these shrubs. The thimbleberries are ripe, but best leave them for the workers who keep the food forest looking shipshape! You can also see the scarlet bee balm in the back of the shot, which is another fantastic herb for bumblebees and hummingbirds. We watched a male hummingbird silently feeding on the long tubular blossoms.

On the way to the school, we stopped by a private front yard garden with leafcutter bees in the creeping bellflower. Look at her amazing jaws! These mandibles are used to cut out leaf pieces to use as nesting material. This is a very weedy flower, so I can't recommend putting it in your garden deliberately, but the bees do love it. It's a great plant for vacant lots and back alleys.

We arrived at the SPEC school garden at Norquay Elementary to be greated by many gorgeous bees! One of the best plants for bees is lacy phacelia (Phacelia tanacetifolia) You can see the deep purple pollen this yellow-faced bumblebee is carrying in her pollen baskets.


This patch of phacelia was buzzing with yellow-faced bumblebees! There must be a nest nearby.

Calenda and borage (aka bee porridge) are school garden essentials. They are so easy to grow from seed and the bees LOVE the flowers. Humans can also put the flowers in salads and teas.

Herbs and veggies with lacy umbels of flowers attract the tiny masked bees and small carpenter bees. Honeybees, flower flies and larger bees love them too!

Scarlet runner bean flowers feed hummingbirds and bumblebees. They also look so lovely and the beans are delicious!

One of the highlights of a bee safari is catching a glimpse of the lovely turquise sweat bee (Agapostemon). Look for small leafcutter bees in these coreopsis flowers as well. They were too fast and sneaky for me to get a photo.

Many thanks to everyone who came out to explore the bees in the hood! I feel very grateful to share these lovely creatures with other folks. Everyone has something to teach me about the human connection to bees, and it inspires me to see people's joy as they witness the beauty of these creatures.