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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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!

 

 

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?

vertical garden

 

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

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What on earth are tittypines?

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Yes you will have to read on to find out the answer!

What flowering plant says “it’s Spring” to you? One of my favourites is the sweet and understated Cowslip (Primula veris) and I love it when they appear on motorway verges in April. I’m still finding my way with the Bee Kinder website and blog and have been brainstorming different content ideas, one of which was profiling bee friendly plants, so today we will be seeing how that goes!

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This pretty thing is my very own cowslip in my back yard – its been back for three Springs now, which is quite impressive as I’ve not got a good track record for keeping plants alive, despite my efforts. Mercifully, cowslips are really low maintenance. With that to recommend them why not try and plant some in your own space?

ECOLOGY – Cowslips are native to the UK and are usually found in a boggy, short grassland habitat. Their habitat preference has meant, that unfortunately, their population has declined in the UK since the agricultural changes that occurred after the war. They are pollinated by long tongued bees, butterflies and moths so it might be time to go out at night with a torch and attempt some moth spotting!

NAMES – I had delusions of Cowslips getting their name from some cute cow related thing but, alas, it’s thought they are named after cow dung. Hmmm…. Cowslip also has a range of very sweet and interesting folk names including peggle, key flower, key of heaven, fairy cups, and tittypines (where’s that one come from?!)

COOKING – Wikipedia reliably (?) informs me that cowslip leaves are used in salads in Spain and that English people have used the flowers to flavour wine and vinegar.

MYTHS – In folk medicine cowslip was used to treat rheumatism, gout and even as a sedative! Whilst it is not used to create sedatives today, some herbalists concoct sleep inducing tea from cowslips, and the plant has been found to have a mild narcotic affect! Nicholas Culpeper, a renowned English herbalist of the 17th century, said that women applying cowslip preparations to their faces were likely to become better-looking! Since some herbalists still create cowslip tinctures as a cleanser today, if you’re into natural beauty maybe it’s one to try?

REFERENCES – 

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Spring Ideas

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To use a cliche massively overused at this time of year – spring has sprung in my own little yard, and it’s looking jolly pretty even if I do say so myself!

The primulas have produced large purple globes of tiny florets atop long straight stems, speaking of purple globes the chive has started sprouting it’s own (they look lovely on a plate of goat’s cheese!), the lavender has some new, lush green growth and the mint has come bounding out of the sides of my herb box. In Autumn last year I planted some tulip bulbs, as I was conscious I hadn’t planted much and I’d nearly run out of time for the year… again! I’m not sure of their worth for bees and I’ve never seen a bee land on one yet, but tulips are really pretty too, look I have proof! Only two of them have grown but they are glorious! Here’s the red and yellow star of the show.

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The brightness of the garden and the improved weather has been rather inspiring and I’ve been making plans about what to try next with my yard. I have a nice new bee motel to install, and I’d love to add some more planting space – in my dreams I’d install a raised bed for some veggies. The yard has dirty old paving stones and I’d love to spruce them up a bit – I’m flirting with creating a bleach design on them, although maybe that wouldn’t be the best medium for a supposed wildlife yard? I found this design which looks amazing… I’m confident it’d look equally fabulous in my yard!


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If you’re short on space too, then thinking vertically is a good idea. I’ve seen a few great ideas on Pinterest and it’s always worth checking out the gardening boards for inspiration. Home Stories has a great tutorial detailing how to make a plant pot tower, these look especially effective when planted up with trailing species. If you need further inspiration (surely not!?) here is a picture of a finished version of a plant pot tower I’ve borrowed off Pinterest. Are plant pot towers something you would try in your own garden? Let me know how you’re spending the sunnier weekends in the comments, I’d love to hear from you!

plant pot tower

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The colours of a spring garden

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As I’ve said before, we are the proud owners of a rather small backyard that’s unremarkable in many ways. It can’t be much more than a few metres squared, it’s paved and has no lawn, pond or wildflower meadow (all things I wouldn’t mind of course!). It is mine though and I’ve decided to make the most of it. One of my aims with this blog is to learn more about improving the wildlife value of a small suburban place and hopefully to share that with other people who might have a similar, small and seemingly sterile outside area.

There’s a few things I love about my yard, and I’m adding more and more things for me to love as I go along. I mostly prefer the wilder elements – I love the way the ivy drapes itself over one of the walls and the fact that purple Bellflowers sprout amongst it during the summer feeding a range of buzzing bees . We’ve not got a lot of money for garden-stuff so we’ve tried to make the best of what we’ve got. We took an old granite surface from the kitchen before we renovated and put it on piles of bricks to create a bench. We’ve put loads of pots on top, it makes a bit of a focal feature if I do say so myself!

Spring has sprung to use a rather overdone phrase.

The colours and textures are beautiful and fresh. Here’s some pictures, as much as a record for me than anything else.

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My husband planted this nice pot up (with my help of course), which is yellow and pink lupins we bought as seedlings from Bolton Market surrounded by pansies we salvaged.I love lupins, you can see them on railway verges during the Summer – makes it worth putting up with the commuting hell!

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Our house opens straight on to the street but that doesn’t mean you can’t add a bit of colour for passers by to enjoy! Here’s some little pots my lovely mother in law made for us. It’s pansies, mini dafs and irises or irii – I’m not sure what the plural might be – do you know?

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I love Cowslips they’re one of my favourites.

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Another beautiful iris.

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One of my snowdrops – I planted last year.

I need your help, loyal botanically minded readers…

Firstly…

On Valentine’s I got this rose from my beloved and now it’s sprouting little shoots, does anyone know if there’s any way to plant this? It could be a physical representation of our ever growing love – mwahahaha! Please let me know in the comments if you do, I’ve never taken a cutting or anything before.

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Secondly… I took this picture in my dad’s garden, any ideas what this is? My best guess is Common Spotted Orchid but it has a few more leaves than I would have expected.

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Pinspiration!

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The most important thing to me about our little outside space is that it, in some small way, supports some of our local flora and fauna. Throughout the last few months I’ve been trying thinking of ways to increase it’s potential for wildlife. I did another post about the potential of our yard a couple of months ago.

Pinterest is a great sources of inspiration and information, and gardeners seem to pin all kinds of advice and interesting ideas which I can benefit from. I decided to use this post to share some of my favourite Pinterest ideas. As I want my yard to be somewhere for us and wildlife to enjoy, some of these ideas are included more for decoration than ecological purposes.

Back gate love - it doesn't help bees per se but it sure is pretty!

Back gate love – it doesn’t help bees per se but it sure is pretty!

Don't know where you could buy the plan pot holders but I want to find out!

Don’t know where you could buy the plant pot holders but I want to find out!

The reality of this in NW England might not be quite the same...

The reality of this in NW England might not be quite the same…

Great way to recycle old milk cartons

Great way to recycle old milk cartons

Stylish Breeze-block planter

Stylish Breeze-block planter

DIY bird feeder - they're pretty expensive in the shops aren't they?!

DIY bird feeder – they’re pretty expensive in the shops aren’t they?!

In my dreams...

In my dreams…

What do you think? I’ve done a bit of a redesign of my yard which I can work through this year to try and improve things. Here you go… what do you think? Please leave me a comment below with any suggestions.

Click to view image larger

Click to view image larger

Current Inspirations – Round-up

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The more research I do for this project the more amazing projects and people I find out about! Its all adding up, shaping my ideas, informing and inspiring me. So I decided to do a round up of my current favourites – maybe they will inspire you too?

Green and Gorgeous – grow beautiful flowers on their Oxfordshire farm, which they cut and form into the most gorgeous arrangements. They provide a brilliant UK based alternative to your bog-standard supermarket blooms, which are mostly grown in far, far away countries, heavily treated with pesticides and then flown over from said tropical climes at great cost to the environment (not so much the consumer as they’re usually suspiciously cheap!). Green and Gorgeous’ flowers are simply,well, gorgeous. They specialise in traditional garden varieties which have amazing scent, colour and vibrancy. I know this because I attended a “Grow Your Own Cut Flowers” course earlier this year, where I learnt a lot and arranged this beautiful bouquet from flowers we cut from their garden. It was a hugely inspiring visit as one of my ambitions is to become an ethical, eco-conscious florist (who looks after bees by planting their favourite meals!). The course provided loads of tips and advice which I’m sure will be invaluable in the future of my own project. I’ve just found their Twitter its @GandGorgeous

Gorgeous… no?!                                                                                                                                                                                                                       (C) Lucy Hesford 2012

In a similar vein to Green and Gorgeous is Higgledy Garden. I’ve recently started following Benjamin Raynard the proprietor of Higgledy Garden on Twitter – he’s a flower farmer who says that he practises “sustainable growing to save the world and impress girls.” Well, Benjamin consider this girl impressed! I also love the Twitter pictures of life around the flower farm – it’s every flower child’s dream! Higgledy Garden have a great blog and as well as selling eco-cut flowers Benjamin sells seeds – well worth remembering. He’s at @higgledygarden on Twitter

I want to read more but my initial glances at Project Maya have been exciting and informative. They are a social enterprise who work to “connect people, place and planet” through education, enterprise, research and campaigns. There’s a lot more to read, but I thought I’d include this diagram I’ve snaffled from their website as it describes how permaculture works. The idea centres around “Earthcare (e.g. restoring soils, habitats and wildflife, recycling and producing no pollution), Peoplecare (e.g. promoting human health and well-being, right livelihoods, and happy communities), and Fairshare (e.g. co-operation, fairly distributing resources and wealth)” – what more could you ask for?! (I copied that quote from their site – they explain it much better than I could!) You can follow them on Twitter @projectmaya

I believe they are funded in part by a rather lovely endeavour which sells seed balls, it’s called er… Seed Ball. You must have heard of them? I think there’s a number of company’s selling them – I even saw them in Waterstones, sometimes they’re called Seed Bombs. They consist of small balls of seeds packed in clay ball form which consist of everything the seed needs to germinate once the conditions outside are good. We, the consumer, simply purchase and distribute somewhere that we think needs prettying up! Et voila, pretty flowers in your neighbourhood with minimal effort and preparation. I’m going to buy some on pay day, they cost £4.50 for 20, and I’ve got some targets already mapped out! Seed Ball’s website is pretty cool and informative too! You can follow them on Twitter @seed_ball.

There’s plenty more sites and projects I’m enjoying reading about but I will save that for an Inspiration Round Up Strike 2! Coming up soon will be some bug-motel building, some winter bird feeding and hopefully some more bee-friendly flower sowing.

Thanks for reading – do you know of any projects, ideas or eco-warriors you think I should read up on? Please leave a comment below!

A spot of gardening

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Yes, it was definitely time for some gardening today…

My mother in law gave me these (once) beautiful begonias. They did really well and were very pretty all summer. It was really quite nice looking out of my lounge window into a begonia jungle, but I think they’ve finally had it. They are pretty plants but apparently they’re a poor nectar source for bees.

So I’ve decided to replace them with something a bit more bee-friendly.

Snowdrop, Fritillary and Daffodil bulbs (c) Lucy Hesford

Today, then, I’ve planted some species of bulbs I’ve read can provide vital early nectar sources for bees. I don’t have oodles of cash so I only bought two lots this time. I chose Snakes Head Fritillary (Fritillaria meleagris), which are my childhood favourite, Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis) and some Daffodils (Narcissus sp.) that my mother in law donated (she’s pretty generous as you can tell!). I’m not sure if Daffodils are all that good for bees but they need using up and they’re undoubtedly pretty :o)

Me being me, I rushed head long into buying the bulbs and also had to get some potting compost. I staggered across the garden centre with a massive bag of compost which seemed to weigh about six stone, wrestled it into the boot of my car, out again, and through my house and to our backyard only to find it has blue slug pellets in it. Boo! This hardly goes along with my natural / organic principals, grrrrrrr! I can’t bear to waste it all though so I’ll just use it up in my own yard and avoid taking it anywhere else – lesson learnt!

Here’s hoping my bulbs end up looking  like these, but with more bees!

 

Snakes Head Fritillary (BBC’s image), Snowdrop (Scenic Reflections) and Daffodil (c) Lucy Hesford