Saturday, 27 June 2015

June

So the solstice has been and gone and I can finally stop living off asparagus and leaf beet. Broad beans, peas, carrots and cabbage all coming on stream now. A bit behind with the blogging this year but I can't get everything right.

I'm continuing my experiments with which plants are best for bees and butterflies and have planted my favorites along with some newbies, more of which later.

Hope you're all having a good season and enjoying the sun at last!




Plants for bees and butterflies in June

Plenty of candy this month, here's what's flowering out on the plot:

Alfalfa (Medicago sativa)
Astrantia major
Blood Pink (Dianthus cruentus)
Borage
Bramble
Campion - red and rose
Catmint (Nepeta mussini)
Cirsium rivulare "Atropurpureum"
Clover
Cupid's Dart (Catananche)
Dahlia "Redskin"
Echium "Blue Bedder"
Felicia "The Blues"
Field Scabious (Knautia arvensis)
Foxgloves
Geranium "Johnsons Blue"
Geranium pratense "Mrs Kendall Clark"
Giant Scabious (Cephalaria gigantia)
Golden Marguerite (Anthemis tinctoria "Sauce Hollandaise")
Love-in-a-mist
Marjoram (Origanum marjorana)
Mustard
Nicotiana "Lime Green"
Night-scented stock
Peas
Penstemon "Summer Bluebell"
Phacelia bolanderi
Phacelia tanacetifolia
Poppies - cornfield and Shirley
Rose - wild
Sainfoin (Onobrychis vicifolia)
Snapdragon
Wallflower - wild and "Bowles Mauve"

 Tree bumblebee on Giant Scabious

 Red-tailed bumblebee going for Bladder Campion

 Buff-tailed bumblebee on Phacelia

 Buff-tailed on Borage

 Astrantia major

 Carder bees on Sainfoin

 The humble clover

Foxglove

Night-scented stock

 Blood Pink

In the orchard

Looks like I'll be in for a bumper crop from the top fruit this year: apples, pears, plums and cherries all looking good. I've managed the grass a little differently this year - still leaving most of it long but cutting it until mid May so it doesn't grow quite so long and thick, but plenty long enough for the wildlife to benefit from. As far as flowers for the meadow go I've planted some hardy geranium "Johnson's Blue" in there - it's a good plant for the pollinators and vigorous enough to compete with the grass. The ox-eye daisies which I put in as plug plants a few years ago have all but disappeared - I've since found out that it's a pioneer plant and that's how it behaves. You live and learn. The other plugs I put in were some vetches and they're thriving. The red campion which I put in as seed still keeps doing it's thing. Other than that there's what was there all along - a profusion of dandelions which in the spring are a useful source of nectar when there's not much else flowering and now clover, buttercups and self-heal. And there's more than enough flowers in the garden, it's the long grass which is so good for the wildlife.


The other pleasure in June is the flowering of the elderberry trees and dog roses, especially the one which has climbed into my plum tree:


Most modern garden roses are hopeless for pollinators but any of the wild or open-centred single flower types are great.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Spring equinox

Well the equinox is here and I can get on with sowing some seeds. Whether I carry on with this blog is another matter, it seems to have fizzled out last summer; only time will tell I guess. In the meantime here's a picture of this morning's solar eclipse over our site.



Tuesday, 29 July 2014

July

No shortage of fresh produce from the plot at this time of year. The peas are over but there's runner and climbing French beans, carrots, cabbages, kale, tomatoes, wild rocket and mizuna, blackberries, raspberries and cherry plums.

A heatwave in the middle of the month has brought out plenty of butterflies and there's been no shortage of bees either. Plenty of nectar rich plants for them here of course - just about everything that was flowering last July is at it again, plus a few new ones too.


Also around this month is the beautiful white plume moth. I call them angel moths, although that's probably something altogether different . Apparently the caterpillars feed on bindweed. I knew it must be useful for something - so now I know.


Newbies

New this year and all grown from seed.


Echium plantanigium "Dwarf Blue Bedder" - the cultivated variety of the wild E. vulgare or Vipers Bugloss - very popular with the bees as unlike most flowering plants it gives off nectar all day long. Like phacelia the stems uncurl producing more and more flowers.

Madia elegans "Tropical Fruits" - another one popular with the bees and smells like pineapple. Fruity.


Cosmos "Pied Piper". Cosmos are a useful plant for the bees as they'll go on flowering right up to the first frosts if dead-headed regularly. This new one has these rather funky fluted petals.


Agastache foeniculum (Anise Hyssop) - another useful addition, this tender perennial smells of liquorice.

 Nicotiana alata "Lime Green" - I couldn't resist the unusual colour of this one. Good for moths and smells lush too.


 Achillea "Summer Pastels" - the shape of achillea flowers make the perfect landing pad for butterflies.
  
 Salvia farinacia "Victoria". Another tender perennial for the bees.


Heliotrope "Marine". So many bedding plants are hopeless for bees and butterflies (think geraniums and begonias) but not so this Victorian favorite. Excellent in the ground or pots.  

Scabious

The scabious family is worth a mention of it's own as they're so good for attracting the bees and butterflies. Earlier in the summer the giant scabious Cephaloria gigantia was out and now there's a few more of the tribe, all grown from seed: the wild field scabious (Knautia arvensis), the perennial S. caucasia "Perfect Blue" and two annuals - "Tall Double Mixed" - which got through the winter and is flowering for a second summer - and new this year "Cambridge Blue".



Meadow mix

Nearing the end of the month now and the meadow mix is in full swing...


...with poppies, bishop's flower and a smattering of cornflowers:
The bees just love hitting those poppies first thing in the morning.

Saturday, 28 June 2014

Top of the year

The solstice has been and gone. The dynamic of the garden changes from the manic energy of spring to a slow and steady growth ~ nature has so much to teach us.

So much for philosophising; I'm eating lovely young cabbages, peas, carrots, broad beans, garlic, salad leaves, berries. Flowers are flowering, the birds and the bees and all the rest are doing their thing.

The solstice has been and gone. But there's so much more yet to come.


A few favorites from June

 Shirley poppy

 Mullein moth caterpillar

 Magpie moth

 Echium "Blue Bedder"

Sleepy buff-tailed queen

Saturday, 31 May 2014

Busy busy

Busy busy this last few weeks with the usual sowing and planting; I'm just about on top of things and the plot is all set out now, more or less.

Slim pickings on the food front at this time of year, been eating asparagus and wild rocket till it's coming out my ears, no doubt I'd pay big money for it in a fancy restaurant but to be honest I'm glad there's finally some broad beans ready.


Early summer flowers for bees and butterflies

 Sweet William...

...attracting a rather ropey peacock.

 Small white on Erysium "Bowles Mauve"

 Phacelia

 Cirsium rivulare "Atropurpureum"

 Self-seeded mustard...

 ...popular with tree bumblebees.

 Scabious

 Welsh poppy

 Red mason bee on Erysium "Bowles Mauve"

Foxgloves - classic bumblebee plant

Bladder campion being forced open by white-tailed bumblebee.