A $65,000 garden for bees

The maker of Häagen-Dazs supports research into saving honeybees.

Gardeners are well aware of the importance of bees, and that tens of thousands of bees have been killed by what's called colony collapse disorder. But what does it take to get an ice-cream maker involved in trying to solve the problem?

Two factors may help -- the realization that almonds are 100 percent reliant on bees for pollination -- and that the company uses 1 million pounds of almonds a year. Also, of course, that doing good can provide an opportunity to look good in the eyes of customers.

So, back in February, Häagen-Dazs ice cream launched a bee-friendly ad campaign, "Häagen-Dazs loves honeybees." It has included break dancers dressed as bees , a vanilla honey bee flavor of ice cream, donations to efforts to find the cause and cure for colony collapse disorder, and testifying before Congress on behalf of more money for scientific research into the problem that has killed so many bees.

But what will especially interest gardeners is the company's plan to develop a "honeybee haven" at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at the University of California, Davis.

Part of that will include a half-acre bee garden, for which a design competition is taking place. Anyone can enter, but you need to keep in mind that this should be a year-round garden and it needs to cost no more than $65,000 to install on the half-acre plot. Other parameters are listed here.

The deadline is Jan. 30, 2009, about six weeks from now, so you'd better hurry. For any landscape designer (or hopeful), this would be great publicity. And it's a wonderful service to the environment, too.

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