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Monday, 25 July 2011

Written at Tatton, Posted from Home

I could have sat for hours within this peaceful meadow garden, oblivious of all that was going on around me
Here, at Tatton, we are a world away from our normal forays into show territory. Spacious, and set within open parkland, even the show gardens have a different feel about them. Less emphasis on vegetables, and maybe – because of the set themes – a glimpse into the future.

Quite a few exhibitors were displaying their plants in hessian bags - or rather disguising the pots: what a good idea for the garden, though I would cut open the bottom of the sack or it would quickly rot. And when the whole sack starts to decompose, onto the compost heap it would go.

Perhaps it is the sponsors of the gardens, but there seems to be a greater emphasis on supporting charities – all worthy causes, all portraying a message (sometimes somewhat hidden), but - mostly - the gardens do not feel like gardens, I do not feel comfortable looking at them. I begin to feel guilty, saying to myself that I really SHOULD like this one, because of what it is trying to convey. But it makes no difference, I either like something or I don’t. And maybe that is the way for all of us.

I particularly loved this cottage garden display, with the backdrop setting the scene

Of the three RHS Shows we have attended this year – Malvern, Hampton Court and Tatton, I cannot say which I most enjoyed .. the ambience and welcome afforded the press makes such a difference, when one is working. We’d have liked to do Harrogate, but the RHS would not cooperate; instead – no way would we miss it – Malvern Autumn beckons (Sept 24th and 25th) with its ‘splendid mix for food and garden lovers’. It will feel like coming home.

Of the many nurseries displaying and selling plants, this was my favourite, just in the mix of plants and the way they had been displayed

I will be posting some gardening books later in the week on my 'Book Lover's Blog' - do please visit; it's a mixture of this and that, all surrounding the printed word.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Bumblebees under threat

bumblebee on agapanthus in an Essex nursery

I've been researching and writing about bumblebees wearing my 'professional' hat (for the 'Dobies of Devon' e-newsletter and blog), encouraging readers to create nesting sites and grow flowers that will tempt bees into their garden. We've actually been watching bees here in our Cotswold garden for a long time, ever since one very hot summer a few years back when we were visited by a bee we had never seen before - large and totally black. I bought, at great expense, 'Collins Field Guide Insects of Britain and Northern Europe'; over 300 pages of extremely detailed information and colour plates.

We discovered that not all bumbles have recognisable names (like the white-tailed bumblebee), and when we finally thought we had identified it, discovered that it normally resides on the continent. We only ever saw the one, but it stayed with us whilst our annual flower border was at its most prolific (in terms of providing nectar). We had a visitation again the following summer, this time there were more large males - the females are much smaller - we hoped they were here to stay.

We have looked for them each year since, and whereas we are attracting many species of bumble, have never seen these black ones again. Perhaps the exceptionally cold winters two years in a row have killed them off. We spent hours trying to photograph it and realised how difficult it is to capture a bumblebee in its entirety, for they curl there body into the flower on which they are feeding. 

this wasn't meant to be a red-white-and-blue border; it's just the way it happened, the important bee plant is the exhium

We joined the Bumblebee Conservation Trust and now regularly receive their interesting newsletter; we garden for wildlife, creating habitats attractive to all manner of creatures; we leave the best bee-plant of all - Echium - to self-seed (it has taken over the whole border!) and we are still trying for the perfect photograph. 

one of our better pics - you can actually see the whole bee!

As to whether we will ever see the black one again, well it's a bit like the summer of the spotted flycatcher and chiffchaff - and we did manage good pics of those.