The Melissa Garden is a honeybee, native pollinator (there are 1700 species of native bees in California) and habitat garden sanctuary in Healdsburg, California, at the western edge of the Russian River Valley, on top of a ridge at 850 feet in elevation. Four gardens planted with many exuberant flowers for nectar and pollen forage are situated in the center of a pristine 40-acre ranch that is lush with native vegetation.
The Melissa Garden is a project that was begun in the fall of 2007 by Barbara and Jacques Schlumberger at their home. Their goal is to provide honeybees, native bees and other pollinators with an almost year-round source of floral resources- free from pesticides. Studies have found that native bees and honeybees both benefit from feeding on a variety of flowers, so season-long the garden is kept filled with an abundance of annuals, perennials and shrubs that offer attractive pollen and nectar to insect visitors. There is a mixture of plants native to California, many Mediterranean plants and others that are appropriate for the site and climate.
The same exuberance of flowers and explosive colors have attracted many people as well. The Melissa Garden has become a garden of life to feed all visitors, both insect and human. Many people have came to visit, bee-tenders, mothers groups, children, school classes, University of California Master Gardeners, garden clubs, professional gardeners, scientists and the general public who are concerned about the plight of honeybees and biodiversity in general, and wanted to learn about gardens that support them.
The gardens’ vibrant colors, naturalistic plant compositions, and intense buzzing life have created deep connections with people, and many share very touching early and present associations with nature. A lot of people leave inspired to plant their own pollinator or habitat gardens, fulfilling exactly the main goal of the project.
Living with bees – a new approach to “bee tending”. Barbara and Jacques Schlumberger live with the bees under a new paradigm at the Melissa Garden. The phenomena of the bees is approached on the premises that the colony constitutes one single being. The focus is shifted towards the study of their life forces, and interaction with them is centered around their natural needs on all levels. Most of the hives are designed to serve the bees’ health and well being.
Natural comb, free swarming and innovative hives are part of the TMG way. No allopathic treatments are applied. By becoming “bee-stewards” and understanding bees’ natural needs and life cycles, TMG benefist the world by translating these questions to other organisms as well. Once we can see bees as part of our human culture and wellbeing, they can enrich our life on many levels.
In Greek mythology, Melissa is the name of one of the nymphs that fed Zeus honey as an infant while hiding him from his father, Cronus. When Cronus discovered this, he turned her into a worm. After Zeus came into power, he changed her into a queen bee, not being able to change her from an insect form. Melissa is a Greek word meaning honeybee.