Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Shock Horror and Mass Destruction!!!

Shock Horror!!

Mr Norty (the squirrel), turns out to be Mrs (or quite possibly Ms) Norty...

...and Mass Destruction!!!

She has spent today digging up all my tomato seedlings and french bean seeds... this is only a small representation of the havoc she has wreaked today... I could cry!

However, some good news to end on...

Look at my lovely little figs! The tree has really responded well to being trained, and now there are eight fruit set and growing beautifully - Yay!!

Sunday, 24 April 2011

Easter Weekend Gardening Extravaganza

I've been poorly for a few weeks, so haven't been able to get out in the garden at all. I'm really behind with my seed sowing, and things I did sow some weeks ago are suffering from not being potted-on.

Feeling a little better over this Bank Holiday weekend, I have made a concerted effort to get on with things again. So Good Friday morning I mowed and scarified the lawn...this nearly killed me, so I had to lie down for a few hours! In the evening I planted out my sweet pea seedlings, and potted on all my tomato seedlings. They look really tragic! I'm almost too embarrassed to show then to you. I tried giving them a seaweed feed last week, but it may be too little too late. I'll keep my fingers crossed for them.

 Saturday started with a trip to the Council tip. We were recycling loads of cardboard, but the rest of the world seems to have been cutting down dirty great trees and shrubs! I've never seen so many people chucking stuff into the green recycling hopper!!

Later in the afternoon, I did my favourite gardening thing - I sowed all my pumpkins and squashes - bliss!!
Here's the list:
Pumpkins - Aspen, Uchi Kuri, Ironbark, Rouge Etampes, Jurrah Dale, Sugar Pie
Squashes - Crown Prince (my personal favourite), Butternut 'Cobnut', Acorn, Hubbard Large Blue, Pink Banana, Rugosa Friulana, Quintale, Red Kuri, Golden Nugget, Golden Hubbard, Tonda Padana, Turks Turban, Serpente di Sicilia, Tromba d'Albenga, Harlequin.
Courgettes (no idea of the variety, they were given to me)

Hold on a second...That's 22 varieties...and I sowed 2 (sometimes 3) seeds of each variety...that's a lot of pumpkins and squashes if they all germinate!!

I also sowed:
French Beans - Climbing: 'A Grand Nero', 'Tigers Eye', 'Borlotti', and the brilliantly apt 'Lazy Housewife' (Thank you Zazen :-))
French Beans - Dwarf: 'The Prince', 'Sprite', 'Sweet Australian Purple'

There's a lot more French Beans to come, but this is a start at least!

Beetroot - 'Boltardy', 'Tondo Di Chioggia' and 'Detriot 2' (because I had a fairly rubbish germination from the lot I sowed several weeks ago), I did these into a cell tray a la Monty Don.

Achocha 'Fat Baby' - these were rubbish last year, but I thought I'd give them another chance.
Sunflower 'Giant Single',
Aubergine - 'Amethyst F1' and 'De Barbentane'
Tomatillo 'Verde Pueblo'

I also potted on all my Dahlia and Stock seedlings, and planted out 16 early strawberry plants which I bought at the Spring Show, donated by Karen to the Garden Society funds. Later in the evening it looked like it might rain, so I thought I'd try to aerate the you know how difficult it is to do that when no two prongs on your garden fork point in the same direction!! Oh well, the thought was there.

Today is Easter Sunday, and I can't think of a better way of spending it than at Stone Green Nurseries at one of their open weekends. They really do grow super quality plants and most are around £5 for a big pot. I bought lots of herbaceous perennials, irises, alliums, phloxes, lavenders, a lovely white and pink clematis and three nice alpines that I shall plant up in a terracotta bowl for one of the Spring Show classes for next year. Here are my lovely acquisitions! Need a bit of a rest before I plant them out though.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Beepol Bumble Bee hive to be featured on TV

Earlier this week, I sent an email to the folks at Dragonfli (makers of the Beepol Garden Hive for Bumble Bees Beepol Garden Hive), telling them about my last blog post, and also about our discussions on the Vine regarding their product.

I got a very nice reply from Ian Bedford (Technical Director of Dragonfli), thanking me for letting them know that our Beepol arrived safely, and that we are talking positively about the Beepol here on my blog and on the Vine.

He also let me know that the Beepol will be featured on this Sunday's Horticultural Channel (Sky 166) The Horticultural Channel, which is really exciting. Our bees seem really happy in our garden, and I hope lots more people will take on a colony. I will certainly be spreading the word about the Beepol at every opportunity.

I love my Bumble Bees!!!

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Bumble Bees in our garden

On Friday we took delivery of a very exciting parcel. It had been left with our kind neighbours the night before, and they were bemused and slightly scared by the warning labels plastered all over the outside of the box...


I, on the other hand, was completely over-the-moon that this box had arrived safely, and I knew MrPB would be just as excited when he saw it. So what had we been buying?

Opening Dragonfli Beepol Villa
MrPB opens the box of bees
Opening Dragonfli Beepol Villa
The Villa is revealed

It's a Beepol hive and Lodge!! Beepol Garden Hive
...and inside...

Inside Dragonfli Beepol nest Bumble bees
The Beepol is a nest of happy healthy bumble bees ready to get to work in the garden
...our very own colony of Buff Tailed Bumble Bees (Bombus terrestris audax).
We read the instruction, and chose our site carefully and after placing the hive, we left it alone until dusk. We then followed the next set of instructions to prepare the hive for releasing the bees, and then waited until early the following morning before actually letting them go.

Saturday morning we went into the garden, full of anticipation. I stood a good distance away from the hive, and MrPB quietly went over and picked up the string that was attached to a foam bung in the top of the hive. He pulled the string, the bung came out with one bee attacking it, and then.........nothing.

We waited...
...and waited...
...and eventually we were rewarded with scenes like this...

Bumble bees emerging Dragonfli Beepol Villa
The Bumble bees begin to emerge from the Villa
(One Bumble on the roof and one hovering outide the right hand entrance.)

Bumble bee reversing Dragonfli Beepol Villa first foraging mission
Bumble bee reversing out of the Villa on its first foraging mission
Awesome! We sat watching them for ages. The most fascinating thing is the way they leave the hive.
Firstly, they come to the entrance (just like the photo above), then they turn around and reverse out of the hole. They take off, and inspect the entrance and the landing ledge. Then they inspect the hive itself and the things next to it. Then they start to fly in ever increasing circles, taking in landmarks and getting higher and higher, until....vroooom! they shoot off into the distance to go foraging! It's like they are memorising their way home.

We left them alone, and then at about 11.30 we went and had another sneaky peek, and were treated to scenes of our little Bumbles coming home, with fully laiden pollen sacs, after just four hour of foraging. Nature is amazing!!

Saturday, 9 April 2011

Garden Society Spring Show 2011 results

I've been feeling really poorly for the last week and a half, so I took a very slow run-up to this years Spring Show, starting my cooking preparation on Wednesday when I soaked the fruit for my rich fruit cake.

Thursday, I baked the fruit cake...and slightly burnt it! Rats! The recipe said 2 1/2 to 3 hours, but by 2 hours 10 the cake was smelling like it was sure was! Thinking other people may have had similar difficulties, I kept the cake in a tin until I could checkout the competition this morning...however, everyone elses cakes were beautiful, so mine ended up on the birdtable. The saddest bit is, that despite being 'over-browned', the rest of the cake was perfect! The fruit was beautifully distributed, and the texture was moist, not wet...Arggghh it was perfect! If only it had been a decorated cake, I could have got away with trimming off the crust. Nevermind.

Thursday, I also make the shortbread base, and caramel for the Millionaire's Shortbread class. I luuuurve Millionaire's Shortbread, but making it reminds me that it is basically a coronary heartattack in a tin!! Butter, sugar, condensed milk, golden syrup...and that's just the caramel bit!

Friday I baked scones, made canapes, put the chocolate on the Millionaire's Shortbread, made flapjacks, and helped set up the Parish Hall. All this was whilst feeling thoroughly unwell, visiting the doctor and having loads of blood samples taken - because of which, I am now sporting a very unbecoming bruise!!

So...the important bit:

I entered 18 classes, exhibited in 13 of them, and came home with the following:

3 First prizes:

'Spring has Sprung' Floral Art also won me a Certificate of Merit, which I am really chuffed with. My beetroot chutney - which is my favourite chutney, and a plate of 5 canapes (same or mixed) - I made mini toad in the hole with horseradish cream, and goats cheese and red onion marmalade tartlets. I even went to the length of making the red onion marmalade especially, and the horseradish cream was from our homegrown horseradish.

3 Second prizes:

Comprised the Millionaire's Shortbread, Floral Arrangement in a Candleholder and a photograph of spring awakening in the garden, mine was of a clump of primroses from my garden.

3 Third prizes:

These were for a vase of mixed outdoor flowers, a cream tea for 2 presented on a small tray, 5 Pansy/ Viola flowers floating in a bowl.

And Finally:
The seed swap is coming along really well. We are getting a nice stock of seeds, and members are donating seed at all the talks, and now the shows too, I'm really pleased, it couldn't have been better received.