Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Still here

Sorry about the lack of posts this year, I just don't seem to have the enthusiasm for blogging at the moment. Still gardening of course, and now at the end of June the fresh crops are coming in: peas, cabbage, new potatoes and strawberries.

Still experimenting with trying to find which are the best plants for bees and butterflies; as well as growing much of what I've had success with in previous years I'm also trying some new ones - Ageratum "Blue Mink", Dracocephallum moldavicum (dragonhead), Gilia capitata (blue thimble flower), Echinops ritro, Limonium latifolium (sea lavender), Salvia viridis "Blue" (blue clary) and Statice latifolia. Results to follow in due course.

I've created a document at http://tinyurl.com/h25wl7v about plants for bees and butterflies which shows the results of my experiments of the past few years.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Autumn

So I've managed to keep up with the blogging until the end of the season this year so well done me.

Autumn is the time for the apples and pears and I've had a bumper crop this year. Also cropping kale, carrots, leaf beet, autumn raspberries, blackberries and the outdoor grapes. Now there's been a frost I can make a start on the sprouts too.





Plants for pollinators in autumn


Flowering on the plot and in the garden in October and November:

Actaea simplex Atrropurpurea Group (Bugbane) 
Ageratina altissima "Chocolate"
Aster frikartii "Monch" 
Aster cordifolius "Little Carlow" 
Aster novae-angliae "Barr's Pink"
Catmint (Nepeta mussini)
Coreopseris verticillata
Cosmos "Sensation Mixed" and "Pied Piper"
Dahlia "Redskin" 
Echium "Blue Bedder" 
Evening primrose 
Helianthus "Lemon Queen" 
Ivy
Marjoram (Origanum marjorana) 
Monarda fistulosa (wild bergamot, bee balm) 
Monkshood
Nicotiana "Lime Green"
Perovskia "Blue Spire" (Russian sage)
Phacelia tanacetifolia (second crop)
Rose Campion
Rudbeckia "Marmalade"
Scabiosa atropurpurea "Oxford Blue" 
Sedum
Snapdragon 
Verbena bonariensis
Wallflower "Bowles Mauve" 

Much of what has been flowering over the summer continues into autumn of course but some plants save their glory for this time of year, amongst them actaea, ageratina, monkshood and ivy.

From my observations I'd say that the favourite for the bees at this time of year has been the cosmos and dahlias, until the frost finally finished them off at the end of November. And an important food for butterflies is the rotting fallen fruit in the orchard so it's just as well I'm too lazy to tidy it up.



 Dahlias are popular with the bees at this time of year...

...as is the cosmos.

Aster novae-angliae "Barr's Pink" flowers in October...

...as does monkshood...

...and Ageratina altissima "Chocolate".

Ivy

Ivy deserves a special mention as it is such an important plant at this time of year for providing nectar and pollen for bees. In fact recent research has shown that almost ninety per cent of pollen being brought back to honey bee hives in autumn comes from ivy; no doubt wild bees and other insects are making much use of it too.

Ivy will clamber into trees but rarely swamps them, after all they have been co-existing for thousands of years. It has two stages of growth, a juvenile stage when it is climbing and then a mature stage with different oval-shaped leaves and the all-important flowers. Furthermore it provides vital shelter for our little wild birds in the cold of winter and then berries and a nesting place in spring.

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

September

The thing I've been most chuffed with this month has been the Victoria plums. It's been the best year I can remember for them, no burrowing insects inside and very few have rotted on the tree. In the shops they're purple and green but growing my own means I can pick them at the peak of ripeness; they taste like they're laced with brown sugar.

Also cropping this month: runner and French beans, kale, mizuna, leaf beet, carrots, blackberries and raspberries. Nom nom.



Nectar plants in September

Flowering this month for the bees and butterflies:

Agastache foenicolium 
Alfalfa (Medicago sativa) 
Aster frikartii "Monch" 
Aster cordifolius "Little Carlow"
Bladder campion
Blood Pink (Dianthus cruentus)
Borage 
Buddleia
Catmint (Nepeta mussini)
Cirsium rivulare "Atropurpureum" 
Clover - wild, white 
Comfrey
Coreopseris verticillata
Cosmos "Sensation Mixed" and "Pied Piper"
Dahlia "Redskin" 
Didiscus "Madonna Mixed"
Echinacea purpurea
Echium "Blue Bedder" Eupatorium purpurea
Evening primrose 
French beans
Golden Marguerite (Anthemis tinctoria "Sauce Hollandaise") 
Helenium "Sahin's Early Flowerer" 
Helianthus "Lemon Queen"
Marjoram (Origanum marjorana) 
Monarda fistulosa (wild bergamot, bee balm)
Nicotiana "Lime Green"
Perovskia "Blue Spire" (Russian sage)
Phacelia tanacetifolia (second crop)
Potentilla atrosanguinea 
Rose Campion 
Rosebay willowherb
Rudbeckia "Marmalade"
Runner beans 
Sainfoin
Scabiosa atropurpurea "Oxford Blue" 
Scabiosa caucasia "Perfect Blue" 
Sedum
Snapdragon 
Verbena bonariensis
Veronica spicata
Wallflower "Bowles Mauve" 


 Cosmos in the meadow mix.

 Lovely light at this time of year.



 Newly emerged comma.

 Carder bee on dahlia.

 Some plants save their glory for the autumn - like this aster "Little Carlow" - just staring to flower at the end of September. (Now renamed symphyotricum but I can't pronounce that).

Little stunner more like.

Sunday, 30 August 2015

August

No shortage of veggies this month as the harvest gets into full swing. Potatoes, runner and French beans, carrots and kale all keeping me well fed. And stacks of fruit - raspberries, blackberries, grapes, cherry and Victoria plums all doing nicely.

Plenty of plants for pollinators too, some like the perennial wallflower "Bowles Mauve" and the echium "Blue Bedder" have been flowering non-stop all summer, some like catmint, bladder campion and golden marguerite are flowering for a second time, whilst I'm getting another crop of flowers from a second sowing of phacelia. And of course others like helianthus, sedum, liatris and eupatorium save their glory for this time of year and are flowering for the first time.

In the meadow grass in the orchard the yellow of ragwort and blue of tufted vetch is giving way to the purple of common knapweed. A time of abundance for both me and the creatures with whom I share this little piece of planet earth.

Not so many of the common bumblebees around now as many of the colonies have reached the end of their lifecycle: order will have been replaced by anarchy and the old queen killed. However there are still plenty of tree bumblebees and carder bees around in need of nectar. It's been a fairly good year for butterflies - among the colourful garden varieties I've noticed more peacocks than small tortoiseshells this year and at the height of summer there was no shortage of the grassland types: gatekeepers, meadow browns, skippers and speckled woods. And a major improvement in the number of common blues I've seen.

Here's the pics:

 Cosmos coming to the fore in the pictorial meadow mix.

 Didiscus: I trialed this for the first time this year but it's been a disappointment, attracting very few pollinators and  also being good at falling over in the wind. One I'll probably not bother with again.

 Agastache: at the other end of the scale one of the very best plants for bees.

 Now that I'm getting a handle on which are the best plants for bees and butterflies I'm starting to think about combinations - what looks good together - to plan for future years. Here helenium, fading poppy stalks and borage with aster in the foreground.

 Agastache in the foreground with echinacia against the woody stems of a dying wallflower "Bowles Mauve".

 Meadow grass and wild flowers.

 Plot in the morning.

 Greenbottle fly on aster.

 Hoverfly on helianthus.

 Large white on verbena.

 Tree bumblebee on scabious.

 Common knapweed in the meadow grass.

 Potentilla and bladder campion make a nice combination.

 Tree bumblebee on agastache.

A treat at this time of year is seeing the sedum flowers change colour as they slowly open.

A late bumblebee on dahlia.

And the not-so-common Common Blue on marjoram.

Plants for bees and butterflies in August

Here's what's been providing pollen and nectar this month:

Agastache foenicolium 
Agastache foenicolium "Golden Jubilee"
Alfalfa (Medicago sativa) 
Aster frikartii "Monch"
Bishop's Flower (Ammi majus) 
Bladder campion
Blood Pink (Dianthus cruentus)
Borage 
Buddleia
Bramble 
Catmint (Nepeta mussini)
Cirsium rivulare "Atropurpureum" 
Clover - wild, white 
Comfrey
Coreopseris verticillata
Cosmos "Sensation Mixed" and "Pied Piper"
Cupid's Dart (Catananche)
Dahlia "Redskin" 
Didiscus "Madonna Mixed"
Echinacea purpurea
Echium "Blue Bedder" Eupatorium purpurea
Evening primrose 
French beans
Golden Marguerite (Anthemis tinctoria "Sauce Hollandaise") 
Helenium "Sahin's Early Flowerer" 
Helianthus "Lemon Queen"
Hyssop 
Knapweed
Liatris spicata "Floristan Violet"
Mallow - wild
Marjoram (Origanum marjorana) 
Monarda fistulosa (wild bergamot, bee balm)
Nicotiana "Lime Green"
Perovskia "Blue Spire" (Russian sage)
Phacelia tanacetifolia (second crop)
Poppies - cornfield, opium.
Potentilla atrosanguinea 
Ragwort
Rose Campion 
Rosebay willowherb
Rudbeckia "Marmalade"
Runner beans 
Sainfoin
Scabiosa atropurpurea "Oxford Blue" 
Scabiosa caucasia "Perfect Blue" 
Sedum
Snapdragon 
Tufted vetch
Verbena bonariensis
Veronica spicata
Wallflower "Bowles Mauve" 
Wild basil (Clinopodium vulgare)

Saturday, 25 July 2015

July in pictures

 Echium "Blue Bedder" - one of the bee's favourites.

Summer stunner: Helenium "Sahin's Early Flowerer"


 Scabious "Cambridge Blue"

 Hoverflies out in good numbers this month...

...as well as ladybirds.

Hoverfly and thunderflies on Dahlia "Redskin".

 Hoverfly on Shirley poppy.

 White-tailed bumblebee on field scabious.

 Buff-tailed on opium poppy.

 Tree bumblebee on scabious.

 Another lovely hoverfly...

...and another.

 Agastache foenicolium and Rudbeckia "Marmalade" making a nice combination.

Small tortoiseshell caterpillars on all-important nettles.

 Large skipper on one of the best plants for butterflies - perennial wallflower "Bowle's Mauve"...
  
...and small tortoiseshell on the same.