Saturday, 19 April 2014

Busy bees.....

“Handle a book as a bee does a flower, extract its sweetness but do not damage it.” 

A quote from John Muir.  A noted Scottish naturalist whose dedication led to the preservation of many wilderness areas in the United States.  Standing in Yosemite National Park and gazing in awe at the magnificent Half Dome or listening to the cascading waterfalls nearby,  the human race has much to thank this man for.

With the proliferation of blossom in the school garden and we expect more this weekend when the cherry trees should break into flower the bees have been very busy and evident. Tree, Red-tailed, Buff-tailed and Common Carder Bumblebees have all been seen regularly.  Along with them some lesser known species and our good friend Osmia rufa- the Red Mason Bee of which we have good numbers breeding in the garden.

Yellow-legged Mining Bee

Common Carder Bee

 Red Mason Bee
Awaiting identification but might be Andrena haemorrhoa

Buff-tailed Bumble Bee on apple blossom

In the greenhouse the flower on the large Pitcher Plant has now fully developed.  A strange flower indeed.  There are more to come on the other plants

The magnificent flower on the pitcher plant

The cactus has burst into flower this week

 The edible garden vegetable beds have been weeded and ready to seed this weekend.  The herb garden has been tidied and replanting with some addition plants for added interest.  The herb garden is always a centre of interest for the children.  There is nothing like rubbing thyme or a sage leaf in your hand and smelling the aroma.

Bee Hotel
Another bee hotel has been sited in the wall.  This one contains mainly reed stems which will hopefully tempt much smaller, and harder to identify, bees to nest in them.  The garden group likes a challenge!

The Orchard
Finally a view along the back of the garden showing the  corridor of apple blossom, pear blossom and cherry blossom.  No wonder the bees are busy!

Saturday, 12 April 2014


“Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.”


The garden group met early this morning to take advantage of the good weather. The first job was to empty a compost bin and distribute the contents on the runner bean bed.  The compost was dug into  a trench under the soil.  This will help retain moisture later in the year and help the plants grow steadily and also help to beans to set- providing the bees have done their work first!

Our own compost!

An hour later- the canes are up and the seeds sown

In the other corner  the Memory Garden was given a make over after the storms of February when the blackboard was damaged and the the strings holding the pegs to the hanging sticks were frayed badly.

In the greenhouse the rice plants were pricked out and placed in our paddy field.  We grew rice two years ago with great success. We are hoping to repeat this success this year. 

The paddy field

Alongside the rice we potted on our five tea bushes.  These were grown from seeds in the propagator and are related to Camelias.  We hope that after spending the first year in the greenhouse we can plant them out into the garden and they will grow into decent bushes.  The idea of picking our own tea sounds good!

The five tea plants

Close up of the tea plant

We are watching the pitcher plants which have flowering stems on them.  One flower is almost fully open.  A strange looking flower which is hard to photograph

The pitcher plant flower from underneath!
The Amelanchier is in flower.  It has delicate white flowers which unfortunately do not last very long.


Several artificial bee nests were installed. 7mm diameter straws will hopefully  entice the bees to nest- probably the red mason bee Osmia rufa. These bees nest successfully in the small bamboos which have put up for them.  Smaller tubes made  from reed stems will be erected shortly for smaller species of bees.

Artificial bee nest site

Colour is still prevalent in the garden as the wall flowers go past their best and the summer flowers start to appear

Finally as the garden group finished for the day with a mug of tea the coastguard helicopter made a few low passes over the garden. Perhaps they had heard that the kettle was on!

The coastguard helicopter

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Spring at last!

" Unless a tree has borne blossoms in Spring you will vainly look for fruit on it in Autumn!

A quote from Walter Scott.

Walking around the garden this afternoon in the sunshine it would have been easy to forget the battering which we took in February. The birds were singing and around every corner there was a sign of re-birth.

The pear tree is covered with blossom this year

The apple tree has responded well to the good prune we gave it!

 In the greenhouse things are moving as well.  The potatoes are ready to plant out this coming weekend and the agastache and ageratum seedlings have matured. The flowers on the pitcher plants continue to develop and we are waiting to see the results!

In the World War 2 garden the broad beans are growing well. The potatoes will be planted in the bed alongside them.

The one insect that we cannot do without is the bumble bee.  Both red tailed and buff tailed bumble bees were busy.  This red tailed bumble bee was spotted on the borage flowers.

Returning to the opening quote from Walter Scott.  We have blossom on the fruit trees so we eagerly await the fruit in the Autumn!  The garden group will be active over the weekend catching upon a few jobs.  The main one will be emptying the compost bins and digging what we can to enrich the ground with our own compost.

Finally the echiums are stretching out and reaching for the sky. It will not be long before they are covered in small blue flowers and covered in bees

Spring at last!
Unless a tree has borne blossoms in spring, you will vainly look for fruit on it in autumn.

Unless a tree has borne blossoms in spring, you will vainly look for fruit on it in autumn.

Monday, 24 March 2014

The new screens are completed

On sunday the garden group dismantled the last two remaining old hazel hurdles and replaced them with the new reed screens. The screens are fairly simple to construct but getting the battens level and pleasing to the eye is most important.  Once in situ the reeds are dropped down between the two holding battens. There is a technique to this.  Two bundles are positioned in their normal position and then the third is positioned upside down.  This maintains the thickness of the screen from top to bottom and also stops the reed from leaning to one side. Once packed tightly the battens are nailed and screwed firmly together holding the reeds in place.  Finally a hedge cutter is run along the top of the reeds to get a good finish.

All ready to start
The battens are in place

The finished piece- click to enlarge picture

A lovely natural screen!

Working with reed produces a lot of debris. Four wheelbarrow loads of off cuts and broken reed were taken to the compost area

One of four wheelbarrow loads of off-cuts

In the greenhouse it appears that the pitcher plants might be going to produce flowers. Strange growth spurts have appeared in recent days.  Some of the plants are now big enough to split and divide and plant up again giving us more plants.

We await to see what nature has to show us.  It will certainly be worth waiting for.

Finally the rhubarb crown was moved recently from out of the old tractor tyre where it had been for the past five years or so.  It was considered that not enough light reached the plant and it did not really produce a great deal of rhubarb stems.  The plant was moved and split and the crowns covered with  large plant pots to force and encourage growth.  The plants are now doing very well.