Nurturing nature

Nature is humming along at Aliso Creek Inn and Golf Course — quite literally.

The picturesque lodge and nine-hole golf course is the site of a new "green" initiative that combines locally-grown produce with the power of bees.

Six new table-height planter boxes, built in June near the location of the conference and meeting rooms at the Inn, are now producing several varieties of lettuce, plus Thai peppers and a number of herbs, in addition to strawberries.

At a remote location on the property, a beekeeping box hums along, with a healthy stock of Italian brown bees inside.

The "potager" garden and beekeeping projects were the idea of the Inn's general manager, Kurt Bjorkman, who wanted to demonstrate the precepts of sustainable agriculture.

Bjorkman had his staff build the raised garden beds out of lumber found on the grounds, in an effort to "re purpose" or recycle the wood.

The rabbit-proof garden beds were put in place in June, and now are yielding an impressive selection of winter vegetables. In spring, they will be planted with even more vegetables for "strictly fresh" fare in the Inn's restaurant.

As for the bees, since their arrival in March, they have so far produced about 30 pounds of honey, but that's not the main reason they're being kept.

"You need bees for a garden," said beekeeper and gardener Andrea Wilde — who doubles as the Inn's catering and conference director. "Yields on a garden are greatly increased by having bees."

The honey is not being harvested — yet. That will wait for the future.

"Right now, I am keeping the honey for the use of the bees," Wilde said.

Bees survive on the honey they produce, and Wilde wants to make sure the hive remains healthy and well-fed.

Wilde opens the box about once a month to check on the hive. Even without opening the drawer in which the queen lives, bees begin to swirl out of it, curious about the strangers who have come to call on them, and protective of their monarch.

Wilde worked at an estate in England where she learned the art of beekeeping, and says she eagerly volunteered for the beekeeping job. She also has a knack for gardening, as evidenced by the healthy crop of vegetables and herbs on which she keeps a watchful eye.

"It's all for 'green' awareness," Wilde said. But it's clearly more than a demonstration project.

Wilde says there are more plans in the works, such as using landscaping between the hotel rooms for a cut flower garden, as well as fruit trees.

"We'll use the flowers for weddings and parties," she said.

Wilde just planted three varieties of tomato seeds that should be ready for picking next summer.

"Then we'll harvest the seeds and develop a tomato by taste," she said.

The garden plots all have calendula plants growing in them, and not just because of their attractive yellow flowers.

"It's the poor man's saffron," Wilde explained. "The flowers are edible and you can use them to color foods. They also attract bees." The bees collect pollen from the plants to make honey and in the process pollinate the plants — and so the cycle of nature is complete.

Twitter: @CindyFrazier1

If You Go

Aliso Creek Inn and Golf Course is at 31106 Coast Hwy. in South Laguna. The restaurant is open for private parties, and the golf course is open every day, rain or shine.

For more information call (949) 499-2271 or visit

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