Whilst taking a very short break in between mowing, digging and potting-on, I noticed an odd looking insect that looks like a bee hovering over the lawn (photo). Some research revealed that it is not a bee, but a large bee-fly (Bombylius Major) which flicks its eggs into the nests of bumble bees. By looking like a bee, it is able to approach the nests without being attacked, and presumably, it was hanging around the garden looking out for passing bumble bees to follow. The bee-fly larvae eat the bumble bee food supplies and larva, but their up-side is that the adults do pollinate plants whilst drinking nectar through their impressive proboscis.
Daylight hours are increasing, and with the arrival of BST the evenings suddenly become useful for all those essential tasks as the garden comes back to life. It’s this time of year when the greenhouse is too small, as germinating seeds in trays need light, and there’s only so much bench space.
Some clever clocks change to BST automatically. Our car clock doesn’t, so it’s always summertime in the car.
By the time you read this, the RSPB bird watch will be a distant memory, but as I write, it was only last weekend, and was much more successful than a year ago. We saw 11 species during the hour, which unfortunately did not include the families of long tailed tits which descend on the garden for an occasional welcome but brief visit, searching for insects and grubs in the dried stalks, litter and branches.
Their visits justify our policy of leaving seed heads and plant stalks in the flower beds in the autumn, which will be removed as the new spring growth appears during March (it’s not just laziness).
‘New Spring Growth’ sounds good, and it’s not only the hardy daffodils and snowdrops that come to mind – it’s the delicate seedlings germinating in trays in the greenhouse with their potential to delight through flower and form, or satisfy the taste buds.
In other words, there are plenty of tasks to be getting on with in the garden, starting with covering those areas where seeds and seedlings are to be planted. This will allow the ground to dry out and warm up, making preparation much easier and more satisfying. But when the weather is too cold or wet for outdoor sowing, rein in those springtime tendencies with the preparation of a few indoor or greenhouse seed trays and pots, which could be salads, peppers, tomatoes, cucumbers, aubergines, celery, or plan for a continuous crop of cut flowers, and start the seeds off accordingly.
For more ideas and advice, the Minchinhampton Gardening Club has arranged a talk on ‘vegetables in a small garden’ on 20th March in the school hall at 7.30.
The Vernal Equinox on the 20th is the signal to move into BST on 26th. Venus will be at inferior solar conjunction on 25th, so in a few weeks will become a morning ‘star’, and Mercury will be close to the fairly New Moon soon after sunset on 29th.
I was born in Worcestershire where my father worked as a printer after serving in the Royal Navy during World War II. Our family moved to Coventry in 1960. My older brother, Anthony, and I both went to one of the local grammar schools and we both left home in 1973; I went south to Reading where I studied for an Engineering Science degree whilst my brother went north to study horticulture at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh. My mother has recently moved from Coventry to a residential care home in Herefordshire.
John is to join the team as a House for Duty Priest living in Amberley and he writes -
"We are looking forward to moving to Amberley and the benefice. Most of the time it is an exciting prospect but sometimes it can feel somewhat daunting. Having moved parishes before we are sure we will be welcomed by the congregations and will soon get to know people in the community, starting at my licensing on Sunday 7th May at 4.30pm."
John has very kindly provided a potted history which appears in the Parish Magazine and can be read here.
Several pages were turned, discussed and celebrated at Stroud’s first Book Festival in November. This 10-day event brought together an impressive array of writers who are connected, one way or another, with the Five Valleys of Stroud.
The Stroud Potato Day is to be held in Merrywalks on Saturday 4th February when Transition Stroud and Down to Earth will have over 20 varieties of seed potato on sale. The potatoes are supplied by Dundry Nurseries located near Cheltenham who have 100 varieties should you need more choice.
It’s early December as I write this, and the list of gardening tasks due for completion this month is dwindling as I tick them off. Clearing the pond was a major task and took the best part of 3 days, and fortunately I didn’t fall in. There remains some duck weed on the surface, so I might well take up Deb’s suggestion to remove any ice after a frosty night, as this traps the weed, making its removal simple and effective.
Now is a good time to prune vines, apple and pear trees, wisteria, climbing roses and acers. Stone-centred fruiting trees such as plum and cherry, and small step-over apple trees are best pruned in the summer. And while the secateurs are to hand, look for some suitable Christmas decoration for the honeysuckle wreath made last month.
The last weekend in September saw the flower bed in the front garden cleared, dug over and compost added, and planted up with Monarda, Crocosmia, Alstroemeria, Salvia, Lobelia and several grasses, as the starter plants for a hot bed. A few more will be added from elsewhere in the garden over the next few days, including Crocosmia Lucifer, but those mentioned were in pots and desperate for freedom. There has been a good deal of rain since planting them out, which will have helped them to become established.
The existence of a church at Minchinhampton can be traced back to at least the time of the Domesday book of 1086, however much of the Norman church was swept away with the 1842 rebuilding of the church, and the earliest surviving fabric is the 14th century tower, crossing and transepts. Aside from the building fabric there are several medieval survivals -the effigies of the Ansleys, a floor tile bearing their coat of arms, and fragments of wall painting; often overlooked however are a small group of medieval memorials known as cross-slabs.
Alan Titchmarsh once wrote that we would not tolerate a riot in any other area of life so why tolerate it in our gardens. I am not so sure. Nature has a way of rendering acceptable colour combinations that we would not be seen dead wearing. Allowing self-seeding plants to flourish among carefully chosen planting schemes lends an informality to a bed that could otherwise appear contrived or formal. In addition they help to keep the colour going from one season to the next. In our garden stachys, pot marigolds, poppies, champion, evening primrose and many others fill in the gaps, and Chinese lanterns (Physalis alkekengi) provide their beautiful orange seed cases in the autumn, which eventually dissolve into filigree cages. From time to time these 'weeds' create stunning effects for which we are pleased to take credit, even though they are purely accidental.