Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Creating a Bee-Friendly Garden

Yesterday I indulged in a blissful uninterrupted hour of pottering around our local garden centre.

Shopping for plants is my favourite kind of shopping and this year I have embarked on a crusade to fill the garden with as many bee-friendly varieties as I can find. This is made slightly more interesting by the fact that we don't have many actual flower beds to put plants in. The soil isn't great and rabbits have been known to make the occasional foray into the garden and eat everything in sight, plus the girls are allowed to free range most afternoons and chickens plus beautifully maintained flower beds don't go hand in hand. For these reasons most of my flowers are in pots on the patio, which is fenced off from the rest of the garden and therefore chicken and rabbit (although sadly not boy and football) proof. Having said that there are some areas in the garden where Hollyhocks bloom in abundance so I am planning on planting out some of my cottage garden seedlings there when they are big enough and keeping my fingers crossed.

I was chuffed to discover that many of the labels on the garden centre offerings now contain a picture of a bee, letting you know that the plant attracts bees and butterflies. So I went slightly mad and bought Scabiosa Pink Mist, Verbascum Clementine (gorgeous colour, a kind of antique pale orange), Viola Rebecca, Tagetes, Alyssum and a Lavender, as well as some fish blood and bones to feed them all with and a rather dinky mini watering can for my seedlings that I couldn't resist (cue raised eyebrows and smile from M when I showed him it later). Added to the two pots of nemesia I bought at the local market for £1.50 each (they were £4.99 in the garden centre) at the weekend plus a tray of 24 sweet peas from B&Q (for a fiver) and I had a pleasurable afternoon of planting ahead.

The B&Q (or boring and quiet as the boys call it, which is a lot more polite than the version M uses) sweet peas below were necessary when you see the photo afterwards.....

Yes. This is the grand total of seedlings from all the sweet pea seeds I sowed a couple of weeks back... One. Rather small and thin. Oh Dear.




Baby watering can...

All the little ones in the greenhouse are coming on well but are way too tiddly to offer anything more than the vague promise of colour to come, so it was lovely to plant out some instant colour. I've now refreshed the front wall (having finally got round to removing the tulips and daffs which had well and truly gone past their best and indeed wouldn't have looked out of place on Miss Havisham's wedding table), with various freshly planted pots containing nemesia (smells like bubblegum), the viola and some tagetes. The front step has the other nemesia surrounded by alyssum and on the patio the verbascum, lavender, sweet peas and other tagetes are snug in their new pots.

Elsewhere in the garden things are coming on nicely. I love this Japanese Maple. We had it in our old house and brought it with us when we moved and it seems to like living here.

I love the colours of this Iris against the brick work of the clinic. It looks as if it has been painted.

Everlasting sweet pea sown from seed a few years back. It shoots up the wall and explodes with creamy white flowers every year only to fall back again and provide cover for frogs and toads and centipedes in the autumn.

Teddy, looking like a ragamuffin

Dougal, smiling

Lilac, my favourite flower. It reminds me of my gran.

Veg patch No 1

Veg patch No 2

More lilac. Smells amazing....

Aquilegia, rather pleasingly self-sown

Broad Bean Flowers

Azalea on the bottom of the drive near the lane

Hawthorn flowers just coming out

Speedwell, lining the path to the front door

Dandelion clock

M's hanging basket tomato plants (tiddlers now but you wait)


My Hosta. We didn't see much of it last year, it being an early slug casualty, so it's lovely to be able to enjoy it this year. Another leaf that looks like it's been painted.

I worked in the garden till about 6, surviving a close encounter with Mrs Sparrow who has taken to zooming between the feeders in the back and front gardens via the most direct route, which is across the patio, and devil may care who gets in her way. Yesterday it was my nose that got brushed by her feathers, the day before it was the top of my head. I swear if I put my hands up as she went past I could catch her. As it is she doesn't even bother altering course: I'm the one who has to duck or fall over backwards, and then she lands on the fence nearby and gives me the kind of look that says "well, you nearly caused a nasty accident then. D'you think you could stand somewhere else while I'm flying?"  And she's not the only one. When we had the last spot of warm weather a couple of weeks back I was reading on the patio and Bumble (female chaffinch) whirred over my head lifting the hairs with the breeze of her passing not once but four times, going to and from the feeders. The Blue tits have stopped flying away when I walk past the fat balls and Beth (the female black cap) now barely bothers to raise her head when I'm near. I had assumed they were all just very used to people being around by now and would stay put regardless of who the human was, so it was rather pleasing to see them scatter when M put in an unexpected appearance.

I went back out at 9 with glass of wine in hand after cooking supper in the top oven (which took five times as long as it usually would because the bottom oven was blowing out only cold air and then L refused to eat his chips, which to be fair looked anaemic and damp. Yuk. The blooomin thing was only fixed last Feb. This means another day spent waiting in for the repair man, only to find out it either can't be mended, or it can but will require a second mortgage to pay for it, or (more likely) it can be fixed and only takes two minutes to do it).

Anyway, the boy cuckoos, who have been hiccuping recently, have got their mojo back in no uncertain terms and are now in fine fettle- they called pretty much solidly for three hours last night! I also heard a lady cuckoo wobbling/ bubbling somewhere in the vineyard at the back of the house, which I guess meant she'd just laid an egg. The moon came out and I stood on the patio surrounded by my days work, admiring the cloud formations and listening to the cuckoos calling and generally felt peaceful and content (despite the oven).

The day was topped off perfectly when glancing in the back garden when I went back indoors I saw that we don't have just one baby dunnock or indeed two baby dunnocks. We do, in fact, have FOUR!!!! Excuse the poor quality of the photo but it was a case of taking the pic quickly to grab some evidence before they all flew off.  

I am however slightly concerned that they are getting a bit above themselves. One of them was in the front garden on her own this morning, and she went for an adult blue tit who had the nerve to land nearby and peck quietly at some seeds. The dunnock was furious, and launched herself at the startled blue tit with her beak wide open. She drove it away!

A quick update on Mrs Massey's blackbirds then I'll leave you with our lovely nuthatch, who's keeping me on tenterhooks at the moment as to whether or not they actually have any babies to bring to the garden. Mrs M and I went dog walking this morning and apparently all the babies have fledged, so it was a good job I got the pics yesterday.
Finally, just in case you thought I was making it up, I got some pics of the baby Long Tailed Tits this afternoon. The entire clan (which is not insubstantial) descended noisily on the twisted willow just as I was leaving to pic up L from school. I rushed back in to get the camera and was consequently late for L. Are they not completely adorable balls of fluff?

Our lovely Nuthatch

Run ragged LTT parent with two blue tits

LTT baby No 1

LTT baby No 2

LTT baby No 3

LTT baby No 4 (this one might be an adult, I'm not too sure)

LTT baby No 5


  1. The baby LTT's and that gorgeous Verbascum are my favourites but they're all gorgeous. My love of plant shopping is misunderstood too!

    1. They've all just been back again, this time two of the babies attempted to land on the feeder and copy mum or dad by eating from the fat balls. I foresee a huge portion of my day being eaten up watching baby LTT's! CT x

  2. I loved all your new plants you bought, I need to buy some plants for my pots too! The flowers in your garden are looking wonderful many of which we have in our garden too. We have noticed more bees in our garden this year than usual, let's hope their decline can be halted.
    Sarah x

    1. Any excuse to buy plants is a good one in my book and the bees certainly could do with our help right now. We're off to our local car boot on Saturday to hunt for plants, always good value there. How is the lovely Daisy doing? Ted is feeling sleepy by day's close after entertaining Dougal! CT x

  3. What a lovely post of all the chicks. I like the sound of everlasting sweet pea, I'll have to look out for that. I'm desperate for a garden centre trip, it's my favourite type of shopping! I have put in a large flower bed especially for bees and butterflies which is working, the bugle is out now and buzzing with bees. I have had some damselflies as the weather is warm and sunny.

    1. That must be so gratifying Suzie to see the plants working for the insects. I'm hoping our new ones will do the same here. I haven't seen dragon or damselflies yet this year. Wondering whether to put a pond in. CT x

  4. Those baby LTTs are so cute.
    There is nothing I like better than wandering around the garden, with a glass of wine, admiring my handiwork!

    1. They are adorable, but so noisy! Wine goes well with everything I find...

  5. Wonderful photos all, but you have captured one of my favorite British birds and I can never get enough pictures of Long-tailed Tits! You have wonderful gardens too! Best -ME

    1. Hi Mark, I couldn't believe how many of them there were and that they actually stayed put long enough for me to get some pictures. They are very endearing and busy little birds. Last year their numbers took a steep decline in the UK, so I'm hugely pleased to see so many healthy chicks. Hope all's well with you.

  6. A lovely post with some wonderful photos. I love the baby birds, those LTTs are gorgeous and the Nuthatch is terrific, too. I can't hear any Cuckoos here again, now - so I envy you yours. And I also enjoy wandering around choosing plants; it's probably the only kind of shopping I do like. It's great to see that plant-sellers are promoting bee-friendly flowers with labels etc.

    1. Thanks Wendy. I've got some video (well, audio!) of the cuckoos from a couple of evening's ago that I'll try and post if blogger lets me! They sang for ages, clear and rhythmic. Am v pleased that plant growers are starting to support bees with the labelling, it's such a simple thing to do but could make such a big difference. Can you recommend any other plants in particular that your bees like?

    2. The bees will really love the scabious. Favourites in my garden include hebe, lavender and poached egg plant. The RHS do a really useful Plants for Pollinators list on the web; it's one of the guides I like referring to.

    3. Great, thank you I will check it out.


Thank you for leaving a comment. I always enjoy reading them and will try my best to reply to every one. CT x