Wishing you an up, up and away day!
One single corn poppy amongst the barley in Townsend Meadow, and snug inside a fast-asleep bee. And what cosier spot, dappled late-day sun through gauzy drapes, the gentle swish of barley all around. I wanted to curl up inside there too, and dream whatever it is bees dream. Sad to say my curiosity got the better of me. After I took this shot, I gave the poppy stem a gentle nudge – just to be sure the bee was sleeping not dying – and off it zoomed. So sorry, bee, for spoiling your siesta.
copyright 2021 Tish Farrell
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.
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.
Late summer sedums provide essential nectar for bees as they stoke up for the winter. The plants are easy to grow, tolerate gardener’s neglect and low rainfall, add splashes of welcome colour just when other flowering plants are fading, and best of all, provide us with the gently humming company of bees. Bee-lissful!
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.
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…
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:
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.
Lens-Artists #11 small is beautiful Amy asks us to show her the little things that give us pleasure, however they strike us.
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.
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.
And then there was also the hoverfly: