The Sunday Gardener's Blog

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  1. Agapanthus in flower


    Finally I have persuaded the Agapanthus to flower. You may think so what, especially if you garden in one of the more sheltered parts of the country. Agapanthus are a real sun loving plant originating as they do from South Africa. This means in many parts of the UK its a bit of a struggle, especially where light levels are lower, higher rainfall and colder and I am blessed with all of these.

    In less than ideal conditions it can be very tough to get Agapanthus to flower in the borders; it can take years. Restricting their growth in containers may speed up the process although restrict the ultimate size of the plant. I dug up my Agapanthus out of the borders 2 years ago, and this year after 2 years in containers, 3 out of 4 are flowering. Image left is the proof taken today, along with some other images Agapanthus at their best.


    It's all a question of conditions. Below is an image of Tresco in the Scilly Isles, where the climate is hugely better. Visting Tresco I saw for myself Agapanthus growing in abundance, and wild; a beautiful sight in a natural landscape setting.
    Tresco Island Agapanthus growing wild



  2. Nymphaea common name water lily pale yellow

    Nymphaea, common name 'Water Lily' is one of the most beautiful pond plants and not difficult to grow. Like so many pond plants  it needs to be planted in sterile compost and in a basket to contain the plant, soil and roots. Water lilies are deciduous, and require full sun. 

    Many Lilies are fully hardy although there are some tender varieties which makes it is important to check when buying a named variety.  There are many which are scented including the aptly name Nymphaea Odorata, the fragrant water lily.

    Perhaps the most important point when planting lilies into a pond is to plant to the correct depth, which varies from variety to variety, from around  30cms - 90cms. This means you need to select a lily which can achieve the correct planting depth in your pond. If your pond is releatively shallow you will need to select a lily which will thrive planted at a lesser depth. The depth is measures from the top of the basket to the water surface. Plant directories give the recommended depth for different types of lilies.

    Lilies also need to be divided regularly as they are vigorous and grow to a good size. You can generally tell when the lily is due, or overdue for dividing, as the leaves start to bunch and don't lie flat on the pond surface, image center left.  If left the leaves will become more congested and flowering will reduce.   


    Congested leaves on water lily
    Nymphaea common name water lily pink

    Below are some illustrations of a lily which we left way too long before dividing and it was hard work. 

    The lily was huge under the water surface, like an iceberg or small floating island. It had signficantly outgrown it's basket as can be seen from the image where the basket is just a small part of the plant.

    Dividing it was difficult it was heavy, and had to be manhandled to the side of the pond and pieces hacked off it with a saw until small enough to lift out.

    It was then possible to separate out some roots and leaves, disgarding  the rhizome which was massive and very woody. It's a  good idea to keep the new plants wet in a tug or bucket until you are ready to replant. The new plants were re planted and have quickly established themselves; the rest is disguarded. Had the plant be devided more regularly, the job would have been much easier.

    Water lilies like so many pond plants are vigorous and dividing will check their growth.

    Water lilies grow very large This is just one plant lifted out of the water
    Water lily out grown the basket container Separate out new plants


  3. Bee On Chive
    Bee on Russian Sage
    Head first bee in Nasturtium
    Bee and Alostomaria
    Bees on Sedum with pollen sacs
    A few years ago I started planting in earnest to attract bees and now my garden is alive and buzzing. As they say, be careful what you wish for, as I now have bees living in the garden and the eaves of the house. They live quietly and cause no trouble.
    So many of the plants are bee friend the garden really does buzz. Top of the best sellers for bees are blue and mauve flowers; Chives, Russian sage and Geranium ibericum are all big hits and covered in bees. The short video “bees love blue” shows this and a moment of garden tranquillity.  
    Bees also like flowers with a “landing path”, such as Foxgloves, Alstroemeria and Nasturtium; they land and get stuck in, as the images show just bee bottoms. 
    If you want to encourage bees into the garden, pick a few plants from the Bee friend list, and the bees will follow.
    Bees also love herbs and are attracted to Thyme, chives, Borage, Marjoram, Monarda (also known as Bee Balm) and Rosemary.  There are plusses all round growing herbs as they taste good to the bees and to us, a herb garden is always buzzing. I often see Tansy recommended for bees, but be warned it is both vigorous and invasive and should only be planted with care.
    Not forgetting the Sedum of course, loved by all pollinators including bees and butterflies. In the image the bee has pollen in image the bee has bright yellow pollen sacs.
    Bees love the vegetable plot, especially if mixed with the veg are some simple flowers such as Calendula (Pot Marigold) and Nasturtiums. Bees love to pollinate and were whizzing around the broad beans so quickly I couldn’t get a decent photo. This is Broad Bean ‘Oscar’ which I am trying this year billed as shorter and more self-supporting, making it less trouble to tie in and support; so far so good and, as you can see from the image,  the flowers are lovely.
    Bumble Bees are very important pollinators for tomatoes, and essential part of fruit formation. Commercial tomato growers woke up to the power of bee pollination in the late 1980 and there is now a commercial bumble bee industry. Prior to importing bees into commercial glasshouses tomatoes were pollinated by hand, buzzing the plants to shake the pollen. Studies have also shown the bumble bee does a better job than the human efforts.
    I have seen the use of imported bees to pollinate crops, tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers in Iceland where even in the dark winter months, huge glasshouses grow crops. The glasshouses are heated by geothermal energy from the hot springs, efficient and free. Boxes of bees are introduced to ensure pollination. 




     Gardeners tend to be environmentally aware as a group, and we know the pivotal role bees play in the food cycle, and the struggle with pesticides and disease diminishing their numbers.  I like to think by bee friendly corner helps. Although the year we got a swarm, which went into the loft and the cavity was less fun. The buzzing in the cavity wall was audible and a tad unnerving.

    If you want to read more about bees I would really recommend 'A string in the Tale' by Dave Goulson. He really does know everything about bees and his book is very readable and so well informed .



  4. Lasithi-Plateau-1000


    Wild flowers of Crete

    I have been to Crete several times, it’s a beautiful relaxing Greek island with lovely beaches, many tavernas and a friendly place to visit.
    This time I wanted to do something different and during the winter  I had been reading about the wild flowers of Crete and determine to do some, (easy,) walking and see more of the unspoiled Crete. We visited in mid-May.
    Crete never disappoints, and it didn’t. The flowers and scenery were amazing, tranquil, no crowds, few cars and easy walking.
    An ideal starting place to see the flowers and countryside, which is about an hour’s drive west from the busy town of Agios Nikolaos, is the Lasithi Plateau where there are wild flowers in abundance. (image above) Lasithi is a high plateau around 840 m (2,760 ft) but readily accessible in an ordinary vehicle and easy walking. In this area large parts are cultivated for food, and alongside the fields, in the fields and in any and all the spaces in between, are many wild flowers. The whole area of the Lasithi Plateau is flat and crossed with tracks and roads on which there is little traffic, other than passing farmers.  Lovely walking country.
    The small village of Tzermiado is a good base from where you can walk into the Lasithis  plateau full of flowers, butterflies and birdsong. Tranquil and beautiful. In this area were fields of Poppy Anemone, wild gladiolus, Cretan cistus, Daucus carota, bladder campion silene vulgaris, Lavatera, and an abundance of wild grasses. 


    Cretan Ebony Ebenus creticapoppies and grassesCistus creticus Cretan cistus

    Walking trails on Crete 

    The plateau Kathero (illustrated below) is higher around 1,150 m (3,770 ft) above sea level, and can be accessed by one road only by an ordinary vehicle, but to explore fully a 4 wheel drive vehicle is required. The terrain is more rugged, noticeably cooler, and with many beautiful flowers  such as the wild Gladious (Gladiolus italica,)  Vicia tenuifolia as shown in the image. It was cool enough in May for there to be snow on the tops of the mountains and the nearby taverna had a wood burning stove on the go. This plateau is virtually uninhabitable in the winter, except for one reclusive Cretan.  We were told by our guide Leonidas  that in the summer the shepherds, around 140 fo them,  bring their goats and live on the plateau moving down the mountain in October. The purple vicia tenuifolia is grown as animal fodder, but unfortunately the goats, bring goats, eat everything they can get to which includes the destruction of trees which they climb up and eat which stunts the tree growth. Its an ecological problem for the area.
    Driving around Crete the roadsides were full of Cretan spiny broom and Nerium oleander – Oleander colourful stretches of yellow and pink. On the more rugged areas, such as walking around Mohlos the Cretan Ebony is in abundance covering parts of the hills in soft pinks. 
    Crete is well known for rare wildflowers and orchids. I only saw one Orchid and none of the images  here or on the Pinterest page are rare flowers.  In the main, I was too overawed by the lovely landscape and the natural beauty of walking, to get on my  hands and knees and properly explore the range of wild flowers. Next time I will, and visit earlier perhaps April.
    Lots more images
    Plateau Katharo