A couple of mornings ago, I was making our pre-getting up pot of tea, when my husband called out ‘look out of the window!’. I did, tied my dressing gown, then grabbed a camera and went out of the back door for this shot – facing East. Then, devoutly hoping the paper boy would not appear at that moment, I went out of the front door for this gentler western one. Today I saw that the iris stylosa (or unguicularis), are going for broke. Winter?
Every year I am fooled into thinking I have a spacious garden. I mean, why on earth would a modest pot like this need all that space?*
The plants have plenty of elbow room.
Tiny scillas and modest hellebores are easily visible.
I get super excited about the first blossoms on the cherry
and the fattening buds on the camellias.
The bees and I become delirious on the scent of the skimmia which fills the air for yards around (you can’t see them because of my photography, but I gave up trying to count them). I have this temporary sense of control, I even add a plant or two… and every year nature teaches me a lesson before we reach midsummer.
*To see what happens to the tub click here.
We recovered 12 in all.
Feeling really concerned we found the Bumblebee Conservation Trust online http://bumblebeeconservation.org/about-bees/faqs/finding-dead-bees/ There we found an explanation for our dead bees. There is a lime tree overhanging our drive and for reasons not well understood (go to the link) bumblebees keep feeding on the lime tree nectar even when it is low. They run out of energy and die. Apparently honey bees aren’t quite so foolish.
It seems, also, that finding dead bumblebees generally is not necessarily a bad a sign (so long as the numbers are not too great). Perhaps, taking the hopeful view, we have seen more because we are growing more bee-friendly plants. This hope doesn’t, sadly, apply to the plight of honey bees, whose numbers are still in free-fall.
This is Rhododendron Crassum – supposedly scented. We have had it for seven years. It has been cut back by frosts, failed to produce buds, or the buds have failed, but I think we are going to see something at last.
And finally a newcomer that has thrilled me, Rosa Wollerton Old Hall, with a light scent of myrrh. I could almost eat it for breakfast.
M-R, you asked what Threadgold Press is. Well, in 2002 I had my first novel published by a stupendously chaotic one-man independent publisher (he had a colleague, but she resigned). So with my second novel, after I had tallied up a few rejection slips, I became a (fairly chaotic) publisher myself. Threadgold Press is a small thing, but mine own. You can be a publisher by giving yourself a name, and applying for ISBN’s, jumping through a whole load of hoops and publishing a book. I published Unseen Unsung (Hilary Custance Green) in 2008, I’ve sold around 400 copies, and reckon I have broken even. Amazon.co.uk currently offers 7 copies (used) for .01p and 1 (new) for £999. Uh? (I won’t see a penny from these either way).
On a different (more important) subject, I am deeply worried that I cannot go into the garden without stumbling over a dead bee. These are usually smaller bumble bees and I see one or two most days. Is anyone else finding these? We don’t use pesticides.
One the upside, a few days ago, my husband called from the glass area near the back door. He had heard what he described as a four-engine job. An enormous fat golden stripey hornet was bombing around in there. It looked magnificent and sort of new-born, metallic shiny; it also sounded very fed up. Sadly, I do not have a picture. I love bees, wasps, spiders etc but I’m an all-out wuss when it comes to hornets. I gazed in admiration from a distance as my husband wielded the butterfly nets we keep for such events. I am now steeling myself to look into the loft (not my husband’s territory). I saw a big ‘something’ flying around near the eaves and then popping in.
I was weeding as the light was fading and became aware of a continuous buzzing noise. The great lime tree next door, covered in blossom, was almost shivering with bees. You could hear the humming right across the garden.
Swifts were screaming over and round the house and I could hear the nesting martins burbling away under the eaves. A second nest has been inhabited late in the season and is full of young. We are not the only ones enjoying the hot weather. Mind you, I had to rescue some very limp lettuce earlier today.
We moved a funny old home-made brick urn into a flower bed and filled it with water, to match a similar one that we use as a bird bath. We’ve not seen many birds, but it is in full use.
In January 2009 I succumbed to an offer – a so-called Garden Bargain mini Orchard. I received three bare-rooted named fruit trees: a Moorpark apricot, a Victoria plum and a Sunburst cherry – all guaranteed to flower and fruit in the first year. I planted all three, but was concerned about the resin oozing from a wound on the apricot – I was told to report back again later in the year. Neither the cherry nor the apricot flowered in year one. The plum flowered; it looked remarkably like an apple, but as a late frost wiped out the blooms, I couldn’t prove it. The apricot continued to weep, but I had to agree that it was still alive.
Year two, still no flowers on the cherry or the apricot. The plum was definitely an apple, but the fruit fell in a late frost before I had photographed it. The apricot was still alive and its wound beginning to heal. I stopped making any attempt to contact the vendors.
Year three – nothing. We moved the apple and bought a Victoria plum.
Year four – March 2012. The not-plum apple flowered well and set fruit, the new real plum flowered, but did not set fruit. The cherry had a couple of blooms, but no fruit. The apricot flowered, looked stunning, and set some fruit. Late frosts again wiped out all fruit.
Year five – three blooms on the apricot and no fruit. The new plum, the not-plum apple, and the cherry flowered and have growing fruit. I can’t wait. I have no idea what kind of apple the ‘plum’ will turn out to be.
I finished the Secret Life of Bees, by Sue Monk Kidd a few days ago. This atmosphere was so warm you could almost bath in it, yet not saccharine or without dark events. I was happy to linger on the page and spend time with the characters. Although I wanted the story to reach a satisfactory conclusion that seemed less important than spending time with the people and places. I really enjoyed the directness of Lily’s thinking and speaking, she felt like a kid I would like to meet. That doesn’t happen to me very often. It was good to read a different take on the black/white relationship from the usual ones. The antagonism was there but outside the stories of the main characters. I also found it startling to think that although the background to this story feels like ancient history, it all happened during my lifetime. Although there have been massive changes in the relationships between ethnic groups, we clearly still have a long way to go.
In our discussion group the story provoked a great deal of reminiscence about badgers, hedgehogs, etc. The bees play such a central part in the story that they made us all think about our connections with local wildlife, though I admit that I found this concentration on the backcloth rather than the story a little disconcerting.