‘Soil is a living thing’: Merrimack bee, garden expert featured at Science Cafe

Photo by LORETTA JACKSON Isabelle Burke, treasurer of the Merrimack Garden Club and member of the Merrimack Valley Beekeepers Assoc., recently was a featured speaker at a Science Cafe event hosted by Riverwalk Cafe & Music Bar in Nashua. Here, she admires one of her plantings, a spectacular bloom erupting from a yucca plant, a tough deer-resistant selection that thrives in full sun, attracts bees and other pollinators and can grow to around 20-feet tall.

Isabelle Burke, of Merrimack, is a lady of varied interests, especially adept at gardening and beekeeping. Her yard on Baboosic Lake Road is a floral wonderland. Her bees are happy wanderers, well fed and healthy.

A longtime familiarity with the hobbies recently won for her an invitation to sit on a panel of gardening experts invited to the stage at the Science Cafe New Hampshire, a casual gathering of experts on one subject or another presented monthly at the Riverwalk Cafe & Music Bar, in Nashua. A similar program takes place in Concord. The Nashua evening was one of questions asked, answered, and elaborated upon among 80 people.

“Soil is a living thing,” Burke said she told the crowd. “It needs to be nourished to give our plants the basics to thrive.” She also described many honey bee challenges – pesticides, predators, diseases and more.

The Riverwalk Cafe & Music Bar, 35 Railroad Square, morphs into the Science Cafe, presented from 6-8 p.m., on the second Wednesday of the month. The next session, after an August break, is Sept. 12. The free, public programs address topics of interest to the science minded, the curious and those who enjoy a stimulating evening highlighted with craft beers, cocktails and coffees, along with edibles that please the palate.

A newspaper column presented in advance by Science Cafe New Hampshire Co-founder Dan Marcek on the editorial page of The Telegraph alerts readers to the upcoming topic of the month.

Photo courtesy Science Cafe Nashua Panelist answering questions about gardening during the July Science Cafe in Nashua include, from left, Gene Harrington, of the Nashua Farmers’ Exchange; Cameron Bonsey, of Coast of Maine Organics; Isabelle Burke, treasurer of the Merrimack Garden Club and a member of the Merrimack Valley Beekeepers Assoc.; Dave McConville, of GrowNashua; and Paul Shea, a master gardener affiliated with UNH Extension Service and the executive director of Nashua’s Great American Downtown organization.

Burke’s credentials include membership in the Merrimack Valley Beekeepers Association, a regional group of more than 100 beekeeping novices, experts and enthusiasts. She nurtures two beehives, wooden structures filled with a total of around 60,000 honey bees.

She also is the treasurer of the Merrimack Garden Club, a group that offers horticultural education and camaraderie among its nearly 50 members, green-thumbers who annually host a massive plant sale in June alongside St. James United Methodist Church in Merrimack. Club volunteers also spend many hour maintaining town garden spots at parks, the post office and the library, among others.

Burke commended the other panelists on hand at the assembly, hosted Wednesday, July 11, for the depth of their knowledge and conviviality. Presenters appearing with her included Gene Harrington, of the Nashua Farmers’ Exchange, Inc.; Cameron Bonsey, of Coast of Maine Organic Products, Inc.; Dave McConville, of Grow Nashua; Paul Shea, Executive Director Great American Downtown and Master Gardener for UNH Extension Service.

The Science Cafe event was one Burke deemed “invaluable” as a means of communicating some of the scientific information that will enable gardeners to make full use of their soil, seeds and sunshine.

“I was absorbing the information along with everyone else,” Burke said. “There were some great solutions to lots of gardening problems.”

Photo courtesy Science Cafe Nashua A diverse crowd of 80 participants enjoys food, drinks and experts’ advice about gardening at the recent Science Cafe event in Nashua. The evening featured a special craft cocktail – a Gardener’s Gimlet with fresh local lavender. Science Cafe events are presented on the second Wednesday of the month from 6-8 p.m. by Steve and Jane Ruddock, owners of Riverwalk Cafe & Music Bar, a Nashua enterprise that draws music lovers, craft beer aficionados and foodies, along with the scientifically inclined when the Riverwalk Cafe morphs into the Science Cafe. No Science Cafe is scheduled for August; it’s summer break. Next session: Wednesday, Sept. 12.

If you go

Science Cafe New Hampshire.

Where: Riverwalk Cafe & Music Bar, 35 Railroad Square in Nashua.

When: Second Wednesday of the month from 6-8 p.m. (No August session; summer break. Next session: Sept. 12.)

Information: sciencecafenh.org. See Facebook for information on the Merrimack Garden Club and the Merrimack Valley Beekeepers Association.

Photo by LORETTA JACKSON Megan Boisvert, program director for Merrimack Parks and Recreation, pauses to look at the blossoms sprouting from a specially planted pollinator garden, a 10-foot by 10-foot space mostly devoted to wildflowers that appeal to honey bees and other pollinators. The space, belonging to Merrimack’s Loretta Jackson, a fellow club member with Isabelle Burke in the Merrimack Valley Beekeepers Assoc. is one of around 100 squares tended by seasonal gardeners at the Merrimack Community Garden, a dedicated area of Wasserman Park that is located alongside the driveway that is the entrance to the site.

Photo by LORETTA JACKSON Isabelle Burke, a longtime gardener and beekeeper from Merrimack, displays her two beehives, constructions that contain a total of around 60,000 resident honey bees. Burke’s expertise at beekeeping and gardening, an accomplishment that ensures the honey bees have an opulent supply of nectar and pollen, won for her an invitation to join a panel of gardening experts at a recent Science Cafe hosted at Riverwalk Cafe & Music Bar in Nashua.

Photo by LORETTA JACKSON Merrimack’s Isabelle Burke, a beekeeper and longtime gardener, tends to some of the seedlings, potted plants and fully developed flowers, along with rooted cuttings and container gardens that are her projects and those of her fellow gardeners from the Merrimack Garden Club. The group of nearly 50 members has a corps of around 20 volunteers who maintain seasonal plantings at the Merrimack Library, Watson Park and the Merrimack post office, along with other sites including St. James United Methodist Church, 646 Daniel Webster Highway, where monthly garden club meetings take place on the fourth Tuesday of the month when doors open at 6:30 p.m. Burke was a featured speaker in a panel of experts who recently talked about gardening at a Science Cafe hosted by Riverwalk Cafe & Music Bar in Nashua.

Photo by LORETTA JACKSON Merrimack’s Isabelle Burke, a beekeeper and longtime gardener, tends to some of the seedlings, potted plants and fully developed flowers, along with rooted cuttings and container gardens that are her projects and those of her fellow gardeners from the Merrimack Garden Club. The group of nearly 50 members has a corps of around 20 volunteers who maintain seasonal plantings at the Merrimack Library, Watson Park and the Merrimack post office, along with other sites including St. James United Methodist Church, 646 Daniel Webster Highway, where monthly garden club meetings take place on the fourth Tuesday of the month when doors open at 6:30 p.m. Burke was a featured speaker in a panel of experts who recently talked about gardening at a Science Cafe hosted by Riverwalk Cafe & Music Bar in Nashua.

Photo by LORETTA JACKSON Beekeepers from the Merrimack Valley Beekeepers Assoc., a regional group of more than 100 novice, professional and beekeeping enthusiasts including Merrimack’s Isabelle Burke; Loretta Jackson, MVBA communications person; Allen Lindahl, proprietor of Hillside Apiaries & Beekeeping Supplies; and many others recommend helping local honey bees by planting patches of wildflowers, borders of annuals and flowering trees, along with restricting the use of pesticides and using organic fertilizers when needed. For retrieval of honey bee swarms that may come to rest on fences, shrubs or hanging branches it is advised to contact “Honeybees911.com,” an organization that matches swarm reporters with swarm recovery experts, beekeepers who often will retrieve and relocate a swarm of thousands with little travail.