Phacelia: Bee-Kind & Soil-Kind

IMG_0121

If you want lots of bees and hoverflies in your garden then phacelia (native to the Americas) is a good choice. It can be sown from spring to late summer and its mauve flowers, delicately scented, provide nectar all day long for foraging insects. The hoverflies can return the favour by also eating the aphid pests.

On the soil front, I grow it at the allotment as a cover crop. This year I sowed it in mid summer after I had harvested the broad bean plot. It is always good to keep bare earth covered, and the fleshy, ferny vegetation supresses weeds and holds on to nitrogen.

I also grow it as a green manure (other examples: clover, mustard, rye, alfalfa, fenugreek, field beans). Traditionally phacelia, like mustard, is ‘dug in’ before it flowers to stop it seeding. But I prefer the ‘and’ and ‘and’ approach, so I leave it to become bee pasture. Also, I’m trying not to do too much digging, an activity which apparently disrupts the soil’s natural fertility-enhancing systems. Instead, I let it over-winter, or at least until the first frost when it will simply collapse. I‘ll then leave the resultant ‘mulch’ to go on protecting the soil surface from leaching and fertility loss. Meanwhile the root system will rot down and help to improve soil structure.

With any luck, come next spring, I should be able to plant or sow directly through it.

If I’ve sown the seed too thickly, which is easy to do as it is very small, I thin out some of the excess growth through the growing season to feed the compost bins. Or best of all, pick a now-and-then bunch of flowers and bring them home for the kitchen table.  Such a generous, life-enhancing plant.

IMG_0109

IMG_0108

 

KindaSquare #1 October is here and Becky bids us to show her all ‘kinds’ of squares. Please pay her visit to find out more. As ever, the main ‘rule’ is the header photo must be square.

A Prickly Perspective

IMG_9104sq

This thistly entity is a teasel flower. It is borne aloft a magnificently statuesque plant most often to be found on waste ground. It seeds promiscuously and every part of the plant is prickly. In past times some of those prickles were put to good use. The dried flower heads were split and pinned to a cruciform structure, called a teasel cross or card (a bit like a table tennis bat) and used in the weaving industry to raise the nap on finished cloth.

There are photos and more information HERE.

I’m sorry I can’t tell you what kind of little bumble bee this is; the ID charts defeated me though my best guess is a carder bee. (Which would be appropriate).  I anyway like the way its colour scheme ‘goes’ with the teasel’s ashy tones. I also admired the way it picked its way so gingerly through the spiny elements to reach the nectar in the tiny segmented florets.

This scene was captured over the garden fence in the guerrilla garden, where all is presently thriving. Here is a field-side perspective with the teasel bringing up the rear. I transplanted it as a seedling found on an abandoned allotment plot. I might just regret the introduction, but for now it’s looking rather splendid.

IMG_9102

 

Square Perspective #27

World Bee Day Today 20th May

IMG_2675

I’ve written lots about bees on this blog, and I guess most people who come here know how important they are to human existence; their overall busy bee-ness and the way they pollinate flowers that produce so much of our fruit, nuts and veg. So to celebrate bees here’s a gallery of snaps taken in the garden and up at the allotment. All, with the exception of the blue cornflower shot taken last month, are from the archive. At the moment the bees are zooming round too fast to have their pictures taken. Anyway more power to their pollinating…

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

United Nations World Bee Day

Bee-fuddled Bumble ~ A Case Of Too Much Pink?

IMG_4723

To my eye this looks like one inebriated bee, O.D-ed on pollen and caught here, flat-out among the rhododendrons at Rosemoor.

It was a year last May and we were on our way back to Shropshire from Cornwall after a very special event, the christening of Graham’s god daughter, and we decided the route home must include a deviation through Great Torrington in Devon, and thus a visit to the Royal Horticultural Society’s garden at Rosemoor. It is a magical place, both of itself and its setting in the River Torridge valley, and you probably need to spend a whole day there to do it justice; or better still, stay several days in Rosemoor House and so see the gardens out of hours. Here are a few of the RHS website highlights – not one garden but several gardens.

And here are some of my highlights, pink and otherwise, though we weren’t too lucky with the light. Click on any image to view as a slide show:

In the Pink #25

Sundowner Bee At The Allotment Cafe

IMG_1662

Can one post too many happy foraging bee shots? I’m thinking not. This particular bee was caught the other evening, enjoying the day’s final tuck-in on an allotment dahlia. I’d gone up there to pick runner beans, tomatoes and autumn raspberries, and to deliver a big bag of compost makings to one of my several heaps.

The dahlias in question have been grown by my plot neighbour Mark. He only grows  flowering plants – and with the sole objective of providing for insect life. Of course these late season blooms give everyone who comes to the allotment gardens a burst of pleasure. It’s as if they have captured the best essence of summer in their petals and want to share it with the world. Blooming lovely.

IMG_1664

Lens-Artists #11  small is beautiful  Amy asks us to show her the little things that give us pleasure, however they strike us.

In the Pink #16

A1 Plant For Bee Forage ~ Shame About The New Name

We used to call them sedums (Sedum spectabile). Now, for reasons best known to botanical taxonomists, these common garden succulents have been re-named Hylotelephium spectabile. Talk about a horticultural tongue-twister.

They are late summer bloomers of the stone crop family with flat umbrellas of tiny flowers, on the cusp of opening in the header photo. (The fallen petals belong to some neighbouring phlox). Once they are flowering, the bees and other pollinators will come in swarms for their end-of-season stoke-up on nectar. They are VERY IMPORTANT bee fodder.

That’s one good reason to grow them. Another is that they are exceedingly drought tolerant. A clump on an abandoned  plot at the allotment has survived all through the four months of heat and drought, while anyway occupying an arid, rain-shadowed spot under a goat willow, and without any attention whatsoever. While the stems are looking a touch pallid, it is still preparing to put on a floral display. I’m thinking I might repatriate it chez Farrell, that’s if I can excavate it from the concrete soil in which it is presently subsisting.

And the third reason for growing sedums is that they have a certain architectural value in the garden – both before, during, and after flowering. They come in a range of colours through the pink to burgundy spectrum. There are also white ones, and some with variegated foliage.

With some thoughtful planting they can indeed be spectabile, limit the need for watering in dry weather, and keep the bees well fed at summer’s end.

IMG_3085

In the Pink #10

Out In The Garden Bee-Dazzled And Bee-Dizened And Bees Showing Their Knees

IMG_7412

IMG_7456

IMG_7458

IMG_7466

I popped out in the garden at lunch time, armed with my little Canon Ixus, and found it was all go on the bee front. The header flower, Helianthus Capenoch Star was proving very popular. I’d only bought it the other day, to go in the back of the flower bed that I said was ‘officially full’, and it is still in its pot, waiting for a slightly cooler moment to plant it out. In the meantime, it is being much visited. But then that goes for most of the other flowers: zinnias, cosmos, liatris, doronicum, echinacea, rudbeckia, and the self-sown purple toadflax. So many happy buzzing souls.

IMG_7428

IMG_7370

And then there was also the hoverfly:

IMG_7380

Columbine Roofs?

sunset sq 8

Well they look like pagoda roofs to me. But the other interesting thing is that these bumble bees are breaking into the flowers through the rooftops, drilling into the nectar stores at the end of the flower tubes. This, I learn, is a habit of short-tongued bees, stealing the stash from the long-tongued bumbles (Bombus hortorum) who usually visit columbine flowers more politely, using the front door.

sunset sq9

sunset sq6

Roof Squares 17  Please drop in on Becky – for a very novel roof, and a brilliant round-up of everyone’s roof offerings

All Bee Hum And Bee Bums In The Raspberries

P1060324

I’ve written quite a lot about bees on this blog, and in particular the threat of neonicotinoid pesticides to which, researchers suggest, bees become addicted (see Bee-ing Bee-Minded), so I am hugely pleased to find so many bees feeding on my untainted raspberry flowers. Nothing like the sound of happy, busy bees and the sight of all those raspberries in the making.  Thank you bees.

P1060334

P1060329

P1060355

P1060358

copyright 2018 Tish Farrell