Thursday, 6 June 2013

Gertrude and The Bees

Around this time a few years back I was enjoying a deliciously indulgent day course at David Austin Roses, trying different rose scents, from apple through to myrrh, in a way reminiscent of a wine tasting. It was a well-designed affair and your nose didn’t get tired at all of going from one stunning fragrance to another. This year, spring has been sold cold here in the east of England that everything plant-wise about a month behind so I’m still waiting for Gertrude.  The rose Gertrude Jekyll, that is, my favourite Austin creation, which resides outside my front door.  

It shares the space with a cutting bought at Hestercombe gardens, which Gertrude Jekyll herself had a hand in designing. It’s now a large WinterSweet (Chimonanthus praecox), which is doing a bit too well and will shortly take over the window if I don’t get stern with it. One day I’d love to have a garden full of Gertrude’s favourite plants, many of them my favourites too, but right now my concern is for the bees, and making sure there’s something open and available for them in this tough season. Rosa Gertrude Jekyll, alas, beautiful as she is, is not really bee-friendly, but I’ve plenty of species roses, like Rosa mutabilis, which are. 

I have a small Oxford Bee Co Red Mason Bee nest which is making a tiny contribution to bee kind, and I leave areas of my garden rather too wild for the neighbours’ liking at this time of year but full of flowers, to help the ‘proper’ honey bee-keeper two doors along. It’s wildflowers like these that have been in the news this week, the glorious magic carpets of their colours now having declined by 97%. And that’s not helping any of the bees out there to thrive.  

There’s a plan to create Coronation Meadows across Britain for conservation, in remembrance of HM The Queen’s coronation anniversary, but listening recently to a radio adaptation of Dave Goulson’s ‘A Sting in the Tale’ about bumblebee conservation, it’s going to take more than 60 meadows amongst our 66 million population to make a difference. So if, like me, you get a lot of inspiration for yarn colours from the artworks of nature around you, then why not sprinkle a few surreptitious annual seeds about and inject a little bee-friendly colour chaos into your garden.  Wishing you time and space to create your own magic carpet of bee-friendly flowers somewhere nearby. 

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