Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Royal Horticultural Society and the RHS Plants for Pollinators Scheme

"RHS Plants for Pollinators"

...Wait! I thought it was the "RHS Perfect for Pollinators" scheme? Yes, yes it was. Here's what happened.

In 2011 the RHS (Royal Horticultural Society, here in the UK) launched "RHS Perfect for Pollinators" plant labelling scheme. It was a great way of helping the gardening public choose plants to support pollinating insects.

Nurseries and Garden Centres could register with the RHS, and print a logo on appropriate plant labels and advertising material to help guide shoppers towards flowering plants that would be attractive to bumble bees, honey bees, solitary bees, hover flies, beetles, moths and butterflies.

Super! However...

Studies began to show that some of the plants bearing the logo "RHS Perfect for Pollinators" had actually been exposed to pesticides during their growing. So although the plant had the right attributes to attract beneficial pollinators, it could potentially be lethal to them.

The RHS realised that they couldn't possibly 'police' all the commercial plant producers in the world to ensure that the logo was applied only to organically grown plants, so instead they chose to slightly tweak their branding.

Enter the new "RHS Plants for Pollinators" logo

RHS Plants Pollinators scheme logo

The rebranding took place on 10th May 2018, and should soon begin to filter it's way on to the marketplace.

So remember, when you see this logo, it is commenting on the attractiveness of the plant species to pollinating insects; be that the colour, markings, flower shape, scent etc, rather than suggesting that these plants are safe for pollinators because have been grown without coming into contact with pesticides or other chemicals.

It's an important distiction. 

The RHS are trying to increase our awareness of beneficial insects, applying pressure to reduce the use of harmful chemicals in horticulture at large, and are also working with the industry to produce a list of Organic plant nurseries and producers, which is available on their website.

RHS Plants Pollinators scheme logo

Choosing Plants for Pollinators

Keep your eyes peeled for these logos next time you go plant shopping, understand what they mean and that they make no promises, but above all, do your own research.

Try to provide a range of plants that flower over as wide a timespan as you can, to ensure pollinators have access to food throughout the year. The RHS have a list of pollinator friendly plants but here are a few suggestions to get you started:

RHS Plants Pollinators scheme buddleja
Buddleja flower through summer well into autumn, this is a dwarf variety and is just as attractive to pollinators as a big cultivar

RHS Plants Pollinators scheme hollyhock
Hollyhocks flower in summer on very tall stems, single flowered cultivars are best for pollinators rather than flouncy doubles
RHS Plants Pollinators scheme Phlox
Phlox paniculata flower during summer into early autumn
RHS Plants Pollinators scheme Allium honey bee
Allium flower mainly during May - bees love them!
RHS Plants Pollinators scheme Crocus
Crocus - one of the earliest flowering plants of the year and a vital food source for pollinators

RHS Plants for Pollinators scheme lavender chickens
Lavender - wonderful for insects (and the lesser-known pollinating hens!)
Rebecca xx

NB: The Royal Horticultural Society, and its logo, are trade marks of The Royal Horticultural Society (Registered Charity No 222879/SC038262) and used under licence”.

Monday, 21 May 2018

My Garden Tour Video - May 2018

There's so much going on in the garden at the moment, that I thought it was an ideal time to do a garden tour video.

The early-mid Spring flowers have faded, and the late Spring ones are bursting into life everywhere I look; geraniums, ceanothus, alliums, irises, wallflowers, heuchera, hostas and so much more. This is a lush time, before the summer heat takes its toll.

Rebecca xx

Monday, 7 May 2018

Meet Stompy our new baby Tortoise

This week's video is all about my new baby tortoise Stompy, featured in the previous blog post.

Please take a moment to like, comment and subscribe to me here on Blogger, and also on YouTube, I'd really appreciate it.

Rebecca x

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Stompy the Greek Spur-Thigh Tortoise

My new pet - a baby Tortoise!

In my last blog post I mentioned some very strange plants that I'm trying to cultivate. The reason for these oddities is this little chap...

Stompy baby Greek Spur Thigh Tortoise
Stompy the Tortoise

Or chap-ess...it's hard to tell at this age!

We've named him/her Stompy (for now at least), and for ease I'll refer to this creature in the masculine from now on (otherwise I'll drive myself bonkers!). To be honest, I wanted to call him Om after the Great God Om (Holy Horns) from Terry Pratchett's book "Small Gods", but I think that got vetoed 😢

Stompy's Particulars:

  • Stompy hatched in September 2017
  • He weighs 63 grams (I haven't measured him yet - but his plastron is roughly 6.5cm long)
Stompy baby Greek Spur Thigh Tortoise hand
Stompy is very dinky - and I have small hands!

  • He is a Testudo graeca graeca or Greek Spur-Thigh Tortoise (not to be confused with the African Spurred Tortoise Centrochelys sulcata, which grows enormous)
  • He was bred by a work colleague, who has owned the adults Tilly and Trevor for years and years. Tilly had laid eggs before 2017 but they were never fertile. Then in August 5 babies hatched from a clutch of 6 eggs, then Stompy and one other hatched in September from two more eggs laid a little later.
  • Stompy could live to be 100 years old, with the right care - I unfortunately will be long gone by then!

 Tortoise Habitat

There are approaching 300 species of tortoise and turtle in the world, 5 of them are known as Mediterranean, and they have all evolved to deal with slightly different environments.

The Greek Spur-Thigh Tortoise needs temperatures of around 20-35 degrees Centigrade during the day, the upper end being the all important basking temperature. UVA and UVB light sources are necessary for correct growth and metabolism, and a humidity level of around 40-50% is ideal.

While Stompy is so small, it's not safe for him to be left out in the garden to roam free, getting all his nutrients etc from nature, so we have to try to replicate his natural environment indoors.

The easiest and safest way to do this is by constructing or buying a Tortoise Table. Do not try to house your tortoise in a Vivarium, Terrarium or anything that the tortoise can see through. The first two are impossible to control environmentally, the latter will cause your tortoise to fret about the boundary line, constantly trying to get to what's beyond it.

Tortoise Table set up
Stompy's Tortoise Table

Research is King

I've spent months researching what Stompy will need to live a long healthy life, and while that doesn't make me an expert, it does mean I understand that Tortoise care is complicated and you can't take shortcuts. 

Initial cost is a big factor to bear in mind:

And then there's the cost of the tortoise itself. 
Expect to pay around £150 - £250 for a captive bred Tortoise with it's certificates. 

Admittedly once the initial set up is done, there will be less ongoing cost, but UVB bulbs need replacing every 6-9 month, substrate can be spot cleaned daily but needs totally replacing periodically, Vet bills must always be taken into account, and finding a good reptile/exotics Vet is harder than you might think, so do your homework, you need everything set up, tested and the basking temperature settled BEFORE you bring your tortoise home.

Stompy mini garden edible plants
Stompy in his mini garden


There are commercial tortoise diets on the market, but by growing the right plants, it is entirely feasible (and healthier) to never need to feed pre-prepared food to your tortoise. I have a several safe houseplants in the table; a Prayer Plant, a Boston Fern and a Spider Plant. I've also planted up six half sized seed trays with plants from my garden like violet, London Pride, hardy geranium, Couch Grass and plantain, plus I've sown seeds of cat grass, dandelion, harebell, zinnia, pansy, marigold and hollyhock, all of which are safe to feed. 

It's important to know that what you are feeding is safe for your tortoise to eat, that it hasn't been sprayed with pesticides, fed with chemical fertilizers. treated with slug pellets or been used as a bathroom for visiting dogs and cats.

You can download edible plant lists from The Tortoise Table, plus they have a really fantastic App that you can take with you on your mobile phone. 

I can't tell you how helpful The Tortoise Trust and The Tortoise Table websites are. There's a lot of conflicting advice out there, but if you start with these two sites you won't go far wrong.

So, please join me in welcoming Stompy to our family, we're captivated by him.

Rebecca xx

NB All prices quoted correct as of April 2018.