The Sunday Gardener's Blog

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  1. 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 .



  2. 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






  3. Nasturtium ness botanical colourful veg garden


    May is such a busy time, it is hard to know what to plant first. Given that May is still Spring, and we can still have cold spells and frosts, it is best to keep the more tender plants, courgettes, squash, cucumber, annuals such as Ipomoea  (Morning Glory) in the greenhouse. 

    This is a good time to plant out Broad beans and Peas which are more hardy but for now I have left the runner beans and french beans in root trainers in the greenhouse.

    Both Beans and Peas need some support and there are lots of commercially available supports and nets. One of the plus points of visiting great gardens, such as RHS Harlow Carr which I dropped into last week, is for ideas and inspiration. I have been moving away from commercial metal supports for some time and the veg plot in Harlow Carr is full of twigs and pruning from various trees and shrubs to make plant supports. 

    Taking a leaf out of an RHS garden is always a good guide, and so I constructed a pea teepee and a tunnel for the broad beans with twigs to stop them from flopping. Using prunings from the garden is a great way to get plant supports for free. (More information about making free plant supports.)

    Cutting back the Cornus produces some lightweight supports for small plants. Removing an Elaeagnus has made some fabulous sturdy supports with great shapes currently supporting several Peonies.

    Conifers, with their feathery branches, make good supports for all types of plants and are used here as supports around the sweet peas.

    I love the  trend for planting annuals in with vegetables for colour and pollination, and it makes the veg plot look very pretty. Over the years at many of our leading gardens I have seen some great displays of veg and annuals, the image below is Harlow Carr again and another from Ness Botanical.

    Not to be outdone, (although I most certainly will be,) I have planted Calendula, the English Pot Marigold around the edge of the broad beans, and a run of trailing Nasturtium along the raised bed edging the Onions and Garlic.  RHS are the professionals, and their beds look immaculate, neat and regular and in fact I spotted a gardener with a tape measure in the vegetable plot when planting out which is just a tad beyond my patience. But then I don't have thousands of people visiting as RHS Harlow Carr will for the flower show on the 23rd-25th June which is definitely worth a visit. 

    May is also an ideal time for planting out Sweet Peas which again need support. Sweet peas grow tall, up to and over 2m (around 6ft) so need a good run. Grown up a traditional, albeit rustic, arch they can look very effective. 

    Peas with support broad-beans-with-support


    Sweet pea support rustic arch




    Visiting London is great, but tiring and it's such a push and shove with all the crowds. Which makes Kew such an enticing place to visit,  just 30 mins away by train and you could be in the country.  

    Or ditch the train and get the Thames barge, the aptly named "Cockney Sparrow", and enjoy a gentle cruise down the river to Kew so relaxing.

    This time of year Kew is full of azalea, rhododendron and Magnolia in full flower making a dazzling display.

    The woodland areas are magnificent, it is as if all of Kew is turning green. In spring Kew is more akin to a large woodland park than a garden. The images below show just one of the more unusual trees, the unusual Fraxinus ornus common name flowering ash also known as manna ash which has lovely fluffy flowers, along with images of rhododendron and Azalea.  


    Cockney sparrow Thames bargeBeautiful rhododendron at Kew



    The Woodland area is large,  some 300acres and the bottom images can only be a thumbnail impression of the lovely tranquil woodland walks and there are more images on Pinterest.

    Kew is just a great day out and I hope to visit later in the year and see the  Great Broad Walk in full flower.

     Fraxinus ornus  Kew Azalea bed


    kew woodland scene with Camassia