Liv Fruitful with Livi Lou! She is currently breeding strawberries, developing a garden product, trialing plants and researching the history of heirloom fruit varieties. She writes about unique perennials and fruit plants, so that you can grow an ornamental fruit garden.

Recent Blog Posts

Oct 04
The Ultimate Crop-Cage  

Aug 09
Summer Photos  

Jun 26
New Berry Varieties  

May 28
Honey Bees: The Queen Signal  

May 01
Spring Annuals & Perennials  

Mar 31
What’s the shuck?  

Mar 19
The Emotional Benefit of Trees   (2 comments)

Feb 19
Bushel & Berry: Baby Cakes  




Honey Bees: The Queen Signal
by Livi Lou - posted 05/28/17

A swarm of honey bees surrounded a low hanging tree branch in our yard. Swarming occurs when a hive has grown too large and the queen bee bequeaths half the hive to her daughter.  With the new queen, they search for a location for the new hive. 


Unfortunately, this new hive can be built in homes, which can cause severe property damage. A homeowner’s instinct is to get rid of the swarm, which usually means killing it.  Please be aware that there is an alternative; please contact your local bee inspector or a local bee keepers association, which will happily take the swarm. 



I took this opportunity to learn more about bees.  Bees communicate primarily through pheromones and vibrations, especially inside the darkness of the hive.  When a swarm is searching for a new location to build a hive, they communicate through a "waggle dance" which communicates enthusiasm for and the direction and distance of a new spot. 


For animals and insects to build complex societies, they must communicate. The queen bee is essential to the function of the entire hive. She is the main regulating factor, producing a complex chemical blend called the “queen signal.” 


When a queen dies, the hive must nurture a new queen from the brood within 12-24 hours.  Without a queen, the hive falls into dysfunction and becomes susceptible to disease and predators. The queen has reproductive supremacy. Without her, the population rapidly declines.  


Interestingly, worker bees—the ones who clean the hive, guard the entrances and collect the pollen—are female.  Drones are adult males and serve only to reproduce. Without the queen, the workers start laying unfertilized eggs, which results in drones and the cycle of dysfunction continues.


When the bees swarm, the queen is at the center and the “queen signal” keeps the swarm together.  During swarming, the bees practice a different form of communication called a “waggle dance.”  Here is an excellent video about the "waggle dance" research by Dr. Seeley of Cornell University.  The video shows how the bees communicate with the “waggle dance.”


The study in the video places two ‘new hives’ the same distance from the swarm.  The yellow hive had more room inside and a smaller opening, which means better protection from predators.  The blue hive had less room inside and a larger opening.  Obviously, the yellow hive is the best. 


The researchers marked the bee scouts with either a yellow or blue dot, according to whether the scout found the yellow or blue location. When the scouts return to the swarm, they point their heads toward their discovered locations, waggle their bodies and move forward. The quickness of the waggle indicates the enthusiasm for the new location, and the distance the scout moves forward indicates the distance. 


It seems like a democratic process as the scouts try to gather support for their discovered spots.  But other recruits will not waggle for one of the new locations until they’ve seen it themselves. Eventually, the best location is chosen by the swarm.  Other researchers are studying how this decision-making process might mirror how neurons interact within the human brain. Fascinating! There is always something to learn from nature.


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Spring Annuals & Perennials
by Livi Lou - posted 05/01/17

Spring is a breath of fresh air! Once again the air is perfumed with plant life.  Each day becomes warmer and greener. And, of course, it is time to add new additions to the garden. 

The new additions to Livi Lou Garden are more heirloom peach trees, including the red flesh peach, and new sedum varieties.  This Summer Liv Fruitful videos will return to our YouTube channel, featuring Bushel & Berry Babycakes and some other unique berries.  This Fall I will be returning to Hocking Hills Orchard for our Liv Local videos about heirloom and unique apple varieties. Derek Mills of Hocking Hills Orchard says this may be one of their best years yet! A lot of apple trees are in bloom and some are already starting to form apples. 

I am also coming closer to finalizing my garden product, which completely protects your garden bed from furry and feathered foes. It feels good to know you get the chance to harvest every tomato and every strawberry you see growing!

Until then, please enjoy these springtime photos from Livi Lou Garden.

Lilacs have such a short bloomtime, but the fragrance perfumes the air. They are also great to bring indoors as a vase cutting. 


Every spring, I enjoy annual flower shopping at my local nursery.  I always find some eye catching petunia varieties to put on the porch contianers to be enjoyed close-up. 

I know there are a lot of basil varieties, but this was the first time I saw this crinkly, large leaf variety at my local nursery.  

Enjoy your Spring!


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What’s the shuck?
by Livi Lou - posted 03/31/17

It is early spring and you are eager to know whether or not to expect fruit this summer. How do you tell if your stone-fruit tree has been pollinated?

Petal drop is not the most accurate way to determine proper pollination.  The best indicator is whether the shuck has split.

What's the shuck?

The shuck refers to the sepals that hold the anthers and petals.  As the fruit starts to form, it will split the shuck and the shuck will eventually fall off.  You can check out my previous peach formation, photo-timeline here.   Below is my new heirloom apricot tree blossoming, shedding the shuck and growing an apricot for the first time!

Above: Apricot is blooming in the foreground with peach and plum in the background.


Above: The shuck is starting to split as the apricot begins to grow.


Above: Photo taken yesterday of the apricot growing.


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