Tag Archives: bee

What a Difference a Year Makes

The Garden Being Cleared

The Garden Being Cleared

What a difference a year makes! Last year, when the monsoon summer threatened to wash gardens away, we were just beginning to clear a neglected-for-several-years plot. This bed was a tangle of brambles, nettles and neglected shrubs.

But look at it now! Still not perfect, still not as I want it, but a huge improvement, and buzzing with bees and butterflies.

I lifted the plants that were in the bed, removed tons of Spanish bluebells, added some organic matter, replanted some shrubs and plants after cutting them, quite harshly, back. Then I started adding my own plants, either grown from seed or bought from various places. As you know, I wanted to help wildlife as much as possible. I’ve used some wild plants, like the mullein (see last post) and some garden cultivars to fill the bed with colour and flowers for our bees, butterflies and moths. Achillea, foxlgloves, heuchera lambs ear and geranium have attracted lots of different bees, and the buddleia, just starting to flower, is a butterfly magnet. We’ve had a lot of Meadow Browns so far, but hope to see other kinds as they build their numbers back up following last year’s wash out. There is still a lot of work to do on our 120ft long plot, but it’s great to see some planting working out. I will, of course, be moving those plants that are in the wrong places, but not until the autumn.

Garden After a Year

Garden After a Year

Easy Grow Bee Plant

Dahlias Feed Bees

Dahlias Feed Bees

Back in March, using all my optimism, given the snowfall and cold I sowed some seed of dahlia Coltness Hybrids. These dahlias are single or double flowered, so still have plenty of pollen on offer, unlike the overblown, full petalled ones. Carefully nurtured, they are now in full flower and are attracting all kinds of bees. The orange ones seem to get more attention than the red ones which germinated. I will be saving the tubers which have no doubt formed, and taking cuttings next spring to increase the colours I want more of. What a delightfully cheap way to help save the bees, and I get to sit and watch them when having coffee on the patio. Wildlife needs our help and I need colour! What flower choices do you make for the bees? I’d love to hear your ideas.

A Drought Busting, Bee Feeding Alpine Trough

Alpine Trough-insects have adored.

Alpine Trough-insects have adored.

 

Planting Season

Cherry Blossom

Cherry Blossom

May is an amazingly busy time in the garden, and there is so much to do to ensure flowers, vegetables and fruit are plentiful. So hurting my back last weekend was not a good idea. I’ve had to look longingly at all the planting out and nurturing I should have been doing and just watering all the seedlings and young plants I’ve raised. The weather, of course, has also played a part in delaying planting, since it was hot and then cold again. My lettuce etc, only just being hardened off, would have suffered for the cold. But now my back is on the mend I plan to do some planting under cloches. I’ve bought a couple, but for small things like lettuce, milk cartons with the bottom taken off will suffice to protect from cold winds and give me a reasonable early crop.

As I can now walk again without wincing at every step, the next few days should see me catching up and getting plants in the soil.

Wandering down to the greenhouse this morning I could appreciate the cherry blossom trees in my garden. Two were here when we arrived, but one I brought from my old address, in a container, is looking stunning. I’ve planted it in the border I cleared of Spanish bluebells last year, and it’s looking very happy and healthy. I just hope the wind we’re getting doesn’t blow all the blossom off the trees, depriving me of that wonderful colour.

Bees have started arriving in the garden, as I took care to plant spring flowers such as cowslip and forget me not. I’ve seen them enjoying the rosemary, too, which they love and is now in flower. Three colours of drumstick primulas, one of my favourite spring flowers, adorn a corner of the flower bed, and will provide lots of nectar for those bees too. I had the red and the lilac form, but no white. I bought some last weekend at the flower festival in Spalding (see previous post here) and planted them as soon as I got home.

How does your garden grow? Are you doing better than last year?

Food Glorious Food

Apple Blossom

Apple Blossom

Warmth and sunshine with us at long last. I now have a greenhouse full of seedlings and a new 14′ x 9′ raised vegetable bed. As space is limited for vegetables, I’m aiming to get the most out of it for my money. Kohl Rabi, a root veg said to taste like a cross between cabbage and turnip is over £2 each in the shops. Seed packet to grow plenty, £2. They’re growing well in modules before I plant out to beat the slugs. Also in modules are lettuce, salad leaves, turnip, leeks, cabbage, broccoli and calabrese. I’m growing food we love to eat. I have to have a special diet as I’m celiac and have food allergies to dairy and eggs. Variety in my veg is therefore important. My apple tree is flowering now, and this year there are some bees around, so hopefully there will be pollination and fruit.

There will also be french beans, runner beans and sugar snap peas. I’ll wait until after the forecast gales and rain in the next couple of days before doing much planting, though. Not least because of my back, which has me hobbling around at the moment.

How does your garden grow?

The Buzz About Bees. Can We Help Them?

Painted Lady Butterfly

Painted Lady Butterfly

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At last the government have got involved. But they are still debating, procrastinating, about the use of neonicotinoids. Nicotine based pesticides are modern, used only for the last twenty years. Bees are in trouble, as we’ve known for a long time now. If we lose them we’re in big trouble. Our food supplies would be hugely affected. That’s why we should all be doing our utmost to help them. I’m no expert on insects, I’m just a concerned gardener and amateur naturalist.

Members of the Commons Environmental Audit Committee are calling for a moratorium on the use of sprays containing neonicotinoids. If you want to know more about it there’s an article currently on the BBC website.

So here’s my plan for this year. I planted early flowers for bees last year, and two days after snow cleared, as I mentioned in my last post, I have violas flowering. There is also heather in flower, growing in my holly.  Crocus, too are there providing that vital nectar. I had nesting solitary bees last year, and left them undisturbed. Primroses and cowslips will also help as soon as they begin to flower. I have also made insect hotels out of lengths of cane, and we currently have piles of rotting wood which will provide more insect hide-aways.

Almost all the flowers I plan to grow this year are single flowers, as these provide the most pollen and nectar. Daisy flowers of all kinds are loved by bees with their composite heads, therefore lots of pollen and in one place. I will have, as long as they all germinate, bidens, felicia, dahlia (single flowered), aster, coreopsis, sunflowers, and a blended mix of wildflowers. The packet says they are to attract butterflies, but many of the flowers for them will also feed and attract bees.

Bee On Geranium Flower

Bee On Geranium Flower

I’ve planted a buddleia, the butterfly bush, and have more cuttings of that to give away or plant elsewhere. My son has planted one in his tiny garden in a nearby town. Spread the bee and butterfly love!

Sedums are excellent nectar plants, and I have planted several. I’ve also planted  geraniums. The hardy type. As you can see from the bee photo, they love them, and they are for the most part easy going plants that will give pleasure for years.

The great news for today is….drumroll….I saw the first bee and the first butterfly. Spring on the wing. Hooray!!!

Bees, Butterflies and Growing Things at Barnsdale

Inspiration from the late Geoff Hamilton

bee food echinops

Echinops smothered in bees

Last week we visited Barnsdale in Rutland, the home of the late Geoff Hamilton and his famous TV gardens. His son Nick has continued in his father’s footsteps, so I was at last able to see for real what I’d only seen on the small screen.

Way ahead of his time, Geoff’s ethos was always to work with wildlife, garden organically whenever possible and integrate food growing with beauty and practicality. Many of the gardens he built demonstrated these principles in many ways. Geoff always wanted people to be able to do what he could do, so there were plenty of ideas for those of us making our own kit, whether that be a pergola, a cold frame or a compost bin, a path edging or archway. Even my partner, a non-gardener, was inspired and impressed with the innovative ideas.

The family have continued to develop the site, adding more modern features that still retain the ethos, but bring current aesthetics into play. It’s paid off. The place was positively buzzing with bees, fluttering with butterflies and heaving with hoverflies. Dragonflies, to my delight, also made appearances.

I chatted to one of the staff working among the borders. He told me the balance achieved there is so good that even this summer, this year of monsoons, has yielded healthy vegetables relatively unmolested by slugs and snails, and I saw the veg for myself.  That HAS to be proof that given the chance, nature will balance itself out. He told me they have lots of blackbirds and thrushes that keep the pesky pests in check.

I made note of the flowers that were swarming with life so that I can ensure I’m growing the best possible nectar and pollen plants on my own plot. Echinops, geraniums and cosmos were I think the top three. Sedums also played a big part, and I came home with a new one called Sedum telephium ‘Matrona’, according to the label in Barnsdale’s nursery, an excellent bee and butterfly plant. It’s currently in bud, and I can’t wait to see what happens when the flowers open.

If you fancy a visit to Barnsdale, you can find all the details you need for prices, opening times and courses here.