Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Garden and General Update

Had a few days away the week before last - consequently it took a week to catch up on work, the garden, life ... time just flashes by and it is so frustrating not to have enough of it to dedicate to a good writing session.  On a positive note, I have come up with a couple of ideas - one for fiction, one for non-fiction.  I had a couple of hours on the novel, bashed out 5000 words quite easily, typed up some thoughts for the next chapter as well.  So - #amwriting :)

 An update on the solitary bee situation, as a couple of people have been interested.   

No - this isn't exactly the same picture as last time :)  Two bees continued working on it up until the weekend and I would say this is the end product.  I particularly like the pink rose petals which were used in a couple of the holes!  Next step is for us to find some chicken wire and loosely cover the front - birds have been trying to eat the contents :(  But the canes go back a good few inches so most of the eggs are safe.

The garden is turning now, Autumn is definitely in the air and the perennials aren't going to carry on for much longer.  The hemp agrimony and purple loosestrife below - both in or near the pond, have been really popular with honey bees, a couple of red admiral butterflies and hoverflies.

But it's the unexpected things I like best - plants that have self-seeded or just popped up out of nowhere.  Like the borage and chicory below, both plants really attractive to bees and hoverflies.  And both edible I believe but I haven't felt inclined to try them.  



Over the Bank Holiday weekend 'd hoped to finish reading the novel I'd started on while I was away, but it didn't happen.  I love sitting in the garden reading, but it rained sporadically yesterday and was also too windyoutdoors.  I'm in the middle of 'Deep Storm' by Lincoln Child.  I took that, and 'Thunderhead' by Lincoln Child and Douglas Preston, to Guernsey with me.  I read Thunderhead in two days.  I'd forgotten what great writers Child and Preston are - read 'The Cabinet of Curiosities' a while ago which was amazing.  But Thunderhead was in another league.  I don't know if it was just because I was on holiday, or because I hadn't read a whole book for over a year while I'd been writing my own, but it was brilliant.  Mesa Verde and the surrounding area was so well described, together with the American Indian customs, that I know I would love to go to Mesa Verde one day and see those cliff dwellings.  How frustrating it was to be without internet access - I was itching to look at images, wiki and youtube about the area.  It made me realise how important the computer - blogging, social networking, researching etc. has become in my life - and I mustn't take it for granted.

A final picture of the garden taken at dusk this evening from upstairs - a bit blurred, but the colours always look clearer when it isn't taken in sunlight.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

On Solitary Bees ...

When we received this 'solitary bee hive' (a bit of a contradiction from a sales point of view?) I was sceptical, I admit.  But I was clearly wrong, not something which upsets me too much.  Watching the Olympics this afternoon, I kept noticing insects flying in front of the patio doors and heading for this contraption.  Gently turning it around I was amazed to see the amount of work the bees had done over the past week and realise I maybe should follow their example and get going on the next book!  At times they were carrying pieces of leaf as big as themselves to line the cane chambers above; this takes a long time, as the hollow canes are long and as far as I could see, they carefully place a piece of neatly cut leaf, then lay an egg and leave a small amount of nectar to feed the young when they hatch, then seal with another piece of leaf.  I imagine each cane houses several eggs with a separate food supply.  The end of the cane is sealed roughly, as can be seen in my photograph.

A bit more about solitary bees from the Royal Entomological Society website below:-

There are more than 200 species of solitary bee in Britain. They are so named because, unlike honeybees and bumblebees, they do not live in colonies. The first solitary bees to appear in the garden, as early as March each year, are the miner bees (Andrena). Similar to honeybees in appearance, they lack pollen baskets on their hind tibiae. These hairy bees make nests in the ground, usually in sandy soil and along paths. The female will dig the nest, stock it with nectar and pollen and then seal it, leaving the young to fend for themselves. Also to be seen later on in the season are the leaf-cutter bees such as the Megachile species, which cut neat circles out of rose leaves and petals to build nests in dead plant stems or sometimes in stacks of old flowerpots. These bees resemble honeybees but can be distinguished by the bright orange pollen brushes under their abdomens. All solitary bees are excellent pollinators and should be encouraged into your garden.

After the very low count of honey bees present in the garden this year, I realise how important the solitary bees are and perhaps I'll be buying some more bee houses soon.  I don't think we can have many more flowering shrubs and plants in the garden to attract wildlife than we have at the moment.  I took the photo below today - not only are we low on honey bees, but apart from a couple of plain whites and small blues, butterfly numbers are poor too.

Really pleased with these annual mallows - a free packet of seeds carelessly sown, creates a beautiful array of big flowers.