August in the yard

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This post is really an excuse to put some new pictures of my yard up. I’m rather proud of it after all!

It’s been summer and stuff has grown happily. I have been enjoying eating yellow cherry toms, smelling sweet peas and watching bees enjoy the various plants I have provided for them.  It seems gardening has much to teach me, a 21st century woman hooked on my mobile, Neflix and instant gratification. Gardening takes time and there are no instant results – it’s a bit like saving money up, basically doing something today for tomorrow (or next Spring). This quote from the beautiful Audrey Hepburn kind of says it all.

Audrey Hepburn Quote | best stuff. VargaStore.com loves Audrey!!!! <3 She inspires us when designing our women's fashion.

 

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One of my favourites – sweet peas.

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Cotoneaster is a bee favourite – my lovely auntie sent this one to start me off.

IMG_7035My crazy Mint plant has flowered – I believe bees enjoy it but I’ve not seen one on it yet!

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The honeysuckle has grown to the top of the trellis already! It must be happy there!

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Yummy sweet cherry tomatoes!

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This gorgeous rose is my favourite, I love it’s bright red colour.

My husband had bought me it as one of those single red roses they try and sell you in restaurants (this one was from Valentine’s Day last year).  I’m a bit of a soppy soul to be honest (Shhh…) and thought I’d try and plant the stem and see what happened. Over time it began sprouting leaves, and then from June this year grew vigorously then produced this gorgeous flower. I’m not a great gardener, but I must have done something right with this one!

How’s your summer going? Has your garden yielded any surprises for you?

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Traffic island wildflower meadows

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In this day and age it’s unusual for somebody to compliment the council, but that’s just what I’d like to do. Roads around Bolton are currently beautifully decorated by stunning wildflowers in bloom at the moment… it’s a joy to drive past! This is a simple post but I wanted to share the some gorgeous images.

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There’s an area at the top of Beaumont Rd, a roundabout in Johnson Fold and a road verge in Westhoughton. Earlier in the year I saw the area on Beaumont Rd seemingly razed to the ground and I’ll admit it I was pretty scathing of the powers that be at that point! I imagined they’d just sprayed a ton of pesticide down and left the area to fend for itself. Although they perhaps did pesticide the area, I’m trying instead to believe that the area was mown then planted with wildflower mix… yes I have been called naive in my life.

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IMG_6448IMG_6392Aren’t these flowers simply breathtaking? I don’t think the best gardener in the world could do better. They’re just thrown together in a seed mix but where they’ve landed has created perfect photographs a few months later.

As you can tell bees relish these types of flowers, if you’ve got room why don’t you try and replicate this in your own garden? I have a post about it here, which I will be adding to over time. The bees and your camera will thank you!!

Does your town do anything special like this? Let me know in the comments, I’m really interested in town’s that appreciate and enhance their natural beauty.

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Backyard make-over

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In my last post, I spoke about my backyard make-over, which is mainly the handiwork of my amazing Dad!  I’ve been trying to make my backyard more hospitable for bees for a year or so now – and happily it is working quite well; here’s a little pic of a bee enjoying my sage plant (I bought this plant more for its culinary potential… but never mind!).  I also found these little spiderlings hanging around on the Buddleia. I’ve no idea what species they might be, but is it weird that I think they’re pretty cute?

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Anyway, the majority of the backyard make-over has now been finished by my aforementioned amazing Dad, so I decided to share some pictures today.  I can’t lie, I’m pretty pleased with it – so I’m showing off a little bit too!  We began with a rather small, non-descript yard in sunny North West England.  A lot of people are “stuck” with little yards like this.  I think they’re very typical and they can feel like a pretty poor substitute for a garden.  I wanted to show that any outside space can be used for the good of nature, but can also be good for you too!  Here’s the rather rough sketch I did that we were working to:

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The original plan was to simply screw the purchased decking (which had been cut to length) on to the salvaged pallet we were given.  As you can see, this resulted in a rather small decking area which was a bit too small for our little picnic table.  As the point of the decking area was to provide a place to eat outside, we decided to make the area larger.  The original plan was to get hold of another pallet, but this wouldn’t have fit in the area properly, so Dad devised a new plan to make the decking area larger by expanding it using salvaged planks of wood.  In the next picture you can see where we started adding our salvaged wood trellis to the wall which we planned to hang plant pots on.

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The final picture shows the very nearly finished beautiful decking area in my backyard!  My dad used a pallet, salvaged wood, decking purchased from B&Q and various screws to create this lovely decked area with trellis, perfect to hang bee friendly plants and even a tumbling tomato or two!  This gives me a lot more space to hang plants, as I must admit I was running out of room thanks to all my random plant pots, and it was making it hard to get the bins out.  It’s also great for summer BBQs and drinks!  So what do you think? Do you have a backyard?  Would you consider doing something like this in your own yard?

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Places to go – Martin Mere

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I’ve been away for awhile but I have been working hard believe me!  Well, my Dad has!  He has been helping me to “do up” my backyard.  We’ve nearly finished so I will do a full post about it soon and share photos and advice.  Today I decided to suggest another place to visit – one of my favourites: WWT Martin Mere.

Martin Mere is a wetland nature reserve near Burscough in Lancashire, managed by the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust.  I have had a soft spot for this place for a number of years now, because I volunteered with the wardens for a long time through my degree course, so it holds a lot of happy memories for me, regardless of being a great site with a lot to see!  So I was happy when my SO suggested we visited again and thought it was a great reason to get back working on my blog too.

It isn’t free to enter Martin Mere, and if I am honest it’s expensive at nearly £25 for the two of us.  However, if you become a member of the WWT in 30 days they will reimburse your entrance fee which is quite a saving on the overall cost for a year’s membership.

Martin Mere consists of both a “normal” nature reserve with hides and an enclosed area which they call the grounds and is home to nearly 100 species of exotic, rare or endangered birds and mammals, which is where we began our visit.

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As soon as we entered the grounds we were greeted by a gaggle of flamingos, ducks and opportunistic pigeons!  It was really nice walking through the grounds, seeing the huge variety of species and I imagine it would be a great place to take children, particularly if you buy some bird seed.  You’ll be surrounded!  Here are some of my favourite shots…

One of my favourites - Mr. Tufty!

One of my favourites – Mr. Tufty!

Mr. Pink Legs

Mr. Pink Legs

This poor little guy always seemed to miss out on the seed we threw...

This poor little guy always seemed to miss out on the seed we threw…

Shelduck and ducklings

Shelduck and ducklings

Our tribe of cupboard lovers after some food

Our tribe of cupboard lovers after some food

Martin Mere has some impressive wetland mammals on site too.  There’s a joyful family of Short Toe Asian Otters and more reclusive Beavers and they’re both pretty impressive I must say.  Here are some cute pics of the otters just to make you say aww!

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I had heard rumours that Martin Mere is currently home to a Bee Orchid (Ophrys apifera) which is a rather rare species I have wanted to see for a long time and we set off hunting for it.  Happily it is fenced off by a rope and a sign saying “Bee Orchid” near the impressive Harrier Hide so it didn’t take us long (I’m lying actually we didn’t see it for looking and it took about 15 minutes!).  I can happily tick it off in my Flora guide (is this normal?), it’s a beauty isn’t it!?

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Near the Beaver enclosure, Martin Mere has planted up an “Eco Garden” with herbs, vegetables and flowers, it’s a quieter part of the site but it was great spending some time photographing the bees enjoy the flowers, this blog is called Bee Kinder after all!

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Thanks for reading, Martin Mere is a great place with loads of things to do and see, they frequently hold classes, workshops and talks too.  Visit their website or facebook group to find out more, and pay them a visit if you’re able – it’s a great place!

P.S Have you seen this app? It allows you to submit your bee counts to Friends of the Earth and will provide vital info to those monitoring populations.  It’s a very practical way to contribute and I daresay it will help improve your ID skills to boot!  Download it here, or from Google Play or the AppStore. See you soon

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Sensory garden at Leighton Moss

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We decided to take a lovely bank holiday trip to one of my favourite places today? I’ve loved Leighton Moss since I was little so I always enjoy a visit, and I’d urge you all to visit it as soon as possible! Tempt unwilling friends and family with the promise of amazing tiffin – the cafe does delicious food.

The reserve is large with a number of hides and is home to some charismatic species, including the bittern, bearded tit and even otter. We really enjoyed walking around the sensory garden today and I noticed a few things to incorporate in my own backyard, so I thought I’d document them here. Having a sensory garden is something I’m aiming for, particularly as I’m planning to sit outside a lot this summer (if possible!) and want to enjoy my space as much as possible.

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The Five Senses…

Sight – The sensory garden had lots to see, and in one way that’s the easiest sense to cater to! Leighton Moss have done it right with a range of beautiful plants and herbs of various colours and form in bloom – including the gorgeous Perennial Cornflower pictured above and the pink rose below. Many of the herbs were flowering too, especially the mint which was full of purple pink flowers which bees were going mad for. Of course because of the flowers there were lots of insects to look at too; there were a number of damselflies gracefully alighting on leaves, hoverflies and plenty of busy bees collecting pollen. There were some plants yet to flower so I expect that the sensory garden has been set up so it is in flower for most of the year, which is something to aim for – particularly as you are helping bees by providing food sources all year around. There was also a massive bug hotel delightfully called Bugingham Palace! Here’s a damselfly on a furry sage leaf.

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Taste – Taste was well catered for too, as lots of the flowers were herbs, which can be used raw or cooked. It’s my plan to create a vertical herb garden using a trellis made from wood my dad has salvaged. Plus the advantage of herbs is that bees love ’em!

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Hear – At Leighton Moss you can hear a lot more sounds than in the average garden, specifically ducks quacking and the slightly obnoxious calls of black-headed gulls. However, we can replicate the buzz of bees and tweetings of garden birds of course! Another way to add sounds to your garden is to plant noisy plants e.g. bamboo, which makes a relaxing swooshing noise in the wind, or install a pond with a trickling fountain! Ponds are brilliant for wildlife too, perhaps I will post about that one time as I aim to create a very, very small pond in my very small back yard!

Feel – This might sound tenuous but the plants were all different textures, which you can stop and appreciate. One herb that adds a lovely texture to touch is sage with its furry, rabbit-ear-like leaves! There’s silky rose petals, furry bees (although I didn’t touch them!) but just make sure not to touch nettles!

Smell – At Leighton Moss the sensory garden smelt amazing! As well as rubbing the variety of herbs between your fingers, scent also came from the flowering plants, in particular these roses which had an intoxicating smell, which always reminds me of Turkish Delight.

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Have you any ideas of how to create a sensory garden that I haven’t mentioned? I’m looking for more ideas for my yard, so please comment below if you do!

A flower with a sweet treat!

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This the second post in my “What’s in a bee-friendly flower’s name?” series (punchy title, eh?), where I describe how certain plants beloved of bees got their name, and I’ll tell you a bit about their ecology too. This time it’s honeysuckle, or Lonicera periclymenu. It’s a bit of a beauty isn’t it?

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Honeysuckle and its beautiful, powerful scent has always been reminiscent of hazy sunny days to me, and I remember picking it when I was little.

ECOLOGY – Bees need a variety of plants of different shapes and sizes, not only because they need a varied diet but also because the anatomy of different species of flowers is more suitable for certain bee species, e.g. honeysuckle is good for long tongued species such as the Garden Bumblebee. Moth species also feed from honeysuckle, including this strange beauty, the “Broad-bordered Bee Hawk-moth”, which you can see in all its glory below:

Not enjoying honeysuckle today but they proper love it... honest! Photo from http://butterfly-conservation.org/

Not enjoying honeysuckle today but they proper love it… honest! Photo from http://butterfly-conservation.org/

The plant itself is a native, climbing plant that prefers a sunny spot. It prefers nutrient rich soil and tends to flower in summer. Its fruit is a shiny red berry. To learn more about planting honeysuckle please visit the RHS website.

NAMES – The Latin name of Honeysuckle – Lonicera – refers to a mostly forgotten natural history buff Adam Lonicer who was around in the 1500’s. Linneus named the flowers after him in 1753, which is a pretty cool honour! According to “100 Flowers and how they got their names” by Diana Wells, children of ye olde times used to open up honeysuckle flowers and drink the sweet, honey like substance inside! This is most likely where the plant gets the name honeysuckle from… worth a try if you ever get hungry whilst out and about?

OTHER USES – Honeysuckle vines were often boiled and eaten like a vegetable in the past, and the flowers were boiled into syrups or placed in puddings. There’s still some recipes to be found featuring honeysuckle, here’s a page containing recipes for honeysuckle cordial, scones and vinaigrette!   Apparently some people wrap honeysuckle around young straight branches in order to eventually make walking sticks with a spiral pattern imprinted.

MYTHS – I’ve found a few myths about honeysuckle actually! OK, so the first one isn’t an English myth but it’s still rather sweet. In Greek mythology, Daphnis and Chloe were lovers, but they could only be together when honeysuckle was blooming as they lived far apart (no I don’t get it either…). However, besotted Daphnis went to the god of love to ask if honeysuckle could be made to flower for longer, so he and his love could enjoy more time together! Thus explaining why honeysuckle blooms continually during times of warm weather. In some countries, bringing the blooms of honeysuckle into the house means there is going to be a wedding within the year, so if there’s any readers desperate for a wedding, get out there with your secateurs! Lastly, In Scotland, honeysuckle vines were hung on barns to prevent cattle from being bewitched (taken from Garden Guides).

Daphnis and Chloe by Jean-Francois Millet 1865 (is that honeysuckle behind them?!)

Daphnis and Chloe by Jean-Francois Millet 1865 (is that honeysuckle behind them?!)

So there you are… more than you ever thought you would know about honeysuckle. Do you have honeysuckle in your garden? If not, it’s certainly worth planting it if you want to create a wildlife friendly garden, and is especially useful if you’ve got a yard, or garden structure, like a pergola to train it up (see this article on the other part of my site about training a bee friendly plant). You can find ways to help bees that suit your circumstances on the other part of the Bee Kinder webpage, simply click the button to the left – “How to Bee Kinder”

Follow Friday

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Follow Friday is a well established theme on Twitter, so I thought I’d use Fridays to write on my blog about people in the bee / environment “world” doing cool and inspirational stuff! You could follow them on twitter, check out their blog / website from time to time – whatever you want. I think supporting people on social media may have the positive effect of further encouraging them, it networks caring people together and of course their ideas and passion inspires us, the reader to make changes too!

Brigit Strawbridge is an activist and campaigner, who often uses social media to discuss and protest the threats faced by bees, and hence humans and the wider environment. She writes a blog,and is a frequent tweeter (follow her at @B_Strawbridge or @Bumblebee_Farm). Brigit operates a bee sanctuary and self catering flat in Cornwall, called… as you might have guessed… Bumblebee Farm. It sounds pretty idyllic there to be honest, she has her own hens, grows food and has lots of wildflowers…. maybe I should book myself in.

Finally, here’s a video of her talking about how to garden for bees, which contains a lot of great information.

If you have friends doing up their garden or anything at the moment please recommend they visit my page in particularly “How to Bee Kinder” as perhaps they could build some of the ideas I’ve collected together. Thanks for reading!

 

 

Places to go – Inglenook Farm, Rainford

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This sunny weekend saw us make a visit to the beautiful Inglenook Farm in Rainford. I’ve been here a few times now and really enjoy it, and as you’re here reading, I thought it reasonable that you might enjoy it too, and so thought I would recommend it through a post!

Inglenook Farm is a working lavender / chamomile farm, which smells heavenly in summer! At the farm they create essential oils from their produce and sell a range of gorgeous lotions and potions on site in a very nicely presented little shop, where I was surprised but very pleased to find seedballs for sale! So of course I purchased a tin of the bee mix, I’ve got a “distribution location” in mind already, wink wink! I thought they were relatively inexpensive at £3.10 a tin, and they make great gifts.

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On site there’s also an art gallery, food market, girly craft shop and even an African themed gift shop.  There’s also a quaint cafe where you will find delicious home made cakes amongst other home made fayre! There’s some seating at the front of the building and if you’re lucky hens run around the lawn as you enjoy your food! They have farmers and craft markets at the weekend as well as the occasional special exhibitions so it’s worth checking out their website if you’re thinking of visiting.

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Swallows fly around the farm and fields at what seems to be 100 mph – we tried so many times to get a great shot and this was the best I’m afraid but when you see how fast they fly I’ve a feeling you might be impressed with this shot! As well as the lavender and hens there’s also a family of goats on the farm, with two twins born in March – just look at them!

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Even the car park was pretty, with loads of wild flowers, so I thought I’d leave you with a trio of gorgeous flowers to brighten your day! Left to right I have ID’d them as Ramping Fumitory (Fumaria muralis), Oxeye Daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare) and Red Campion (Silene dioica).

Anyway how did you use that beautiful sunny weekend? Any new places to recommend? If so let us all know in the comments, many thanks!

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A few bee friendly weekend activities

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I hope you are enjoying this glorious weather! Have you been out gardening? I have, but my main focus has been trying to save my lupin from the ravages of slugs! Any advice would be gratefully received. So, if you’re looking for a couple of bee friendly activities you could undertake this sunny weekend, you are obviously in the right place!

1. Lend your signature to this campaign: Bayer: Withdraw neonicotinoids from the market. This petition is simply asking Bayer, who are a global chemical company, to stop manufacturing neonicotinoids which have been shown to poison bees. The signature is very near it’s target of 150,000 now, so please go across and sign! This poorly bee thanks you!

2. If you’re hoping to plant some lovely flowers that will appeal to your bees, you might be interested in Higgledy Garden’s Seeds to Sow in May collection, which for less than twenty pounds gives you around twelve species to plant, including the gorgeous Corncockle, which bees adore…

Photo by davesgarden.com

…see! Plus there’s free P&P.

3. Finally I found this great article on Organic Authority which gives ideas for creating beautiful vertical gardens. These ideas are great for people with yards too, as they won’t take up limited floor space! Personally I loved this tree arrangement and am going to work out how to do it with paint rather than rails as I’m not sure where I’d get them from. Is vertical gardening something you would try?

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Thanks for reading, and get out there and enjoy the sunshine!

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Who’s that bee?

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Until I started on this voyage of discovery one bee looked very much like another… am I right? However, as I’ve started paying more attention I’ve started to notice the subtle differences between the species. I love being able to identify different organisms – mainly because I’m a bit of a geeky show-off. I’d love to get a better handle on bee ID so I thought I’d use my photos and try and identify some of the species I’ve photographed. You can come along for the ride… wild! The first bee I’m going to try and identify is featured below on a photograph I took at Ness Gardens a couple of weeks ago. Remembering where you saw an animal is probably important when you come to identifying it. A trap a lot of people fall into when identifying animals is thinking they’ve found a mega rarity. Whilst it’s not impossible that you have, it’s much more likely you’ve found a reasonably common species, so start your ID efforts there. bee id 1 This individual is enjoying its mega meal of Heather (Calluna vulgaris). I’m about 90% sure this one is a honeybee; to be specific,  the Western Honeybee (Apis mellifera). There’s only one honeybee species in the UK, or so I was told at uni anyway! I can see it’s definitely not a bumblebee as it lacks the thick hair and was smaller.  It has a slim, wasp like shape, but is darker and somewhat plumper with some golden stripes across its abdomen.  What do you think? Am I right? beeid2 This one is a definite bumblebee – its cute and furry for a start (how scientific, right?). According to the Bumblebee Conservation Society, the best way to ID a bumble is to look at the stripes on their thorax and abdomen. The thorax is the section that joins the bee’s head and abdomen together. BCT have a great guide you can download for use when you’re out which will help you identify common species. I’ve downloaded this to help me, so am looking within common species only to identify the bee I captured in this picture. This one could be either Buff Tailed Bumblebee, a Garden Bumblebee or a Heath Bumblebee. I’m going to plump for Garden Bumblebee (Bombus locurum) as the pictures I’ve seen of this bee have the same bright yellow stripes and slightly silvery tail. I may be completely wrong, and if you know more please let me know! I like to learn! The BCT allows you to submit your bee photographs to their online survey, Bee Watch, and they will confirm the ID for you! As well as the Bumblebee Conservation’s webpage, Buzz About Bees also has great information about biology and identifying bees. Do you try and ID bees? Got any tips for me? Next time it’s sunny why not try and do some bee ID of your own? Many people think that there’s just two types of bee species – honeybees and bumblebees – but there are loads more out there (including solitary bees and lots of different types of bumblebee!), all with varying needs. Understanding this diversity and being able to identify the types of bees in your garden will only help you cater better for them!