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Pollinators For Green Gardening

Flowers in May

The press have had a field day talking about the reduction in the numbers of bees. It is a problem gardeners can do a bit about but bees are not the only pollinators that need a timely helping hand.

Habitat for Pollinators

  • Health and safety are issues for insects just as they are for gardeners. Look after both.
  • Often forgotten, but insects need a source of fresh water. A shallow sloping bowl will provide a landing place for safe drinking.
  • Insects can be predatory but that is nature. Gardeners need to cater for all life and insects down the food chain to give beneficial insects the best chance of survival.
  • Pollen and nectar are key food sources for insects. see below.
  • Do not be obsessively tidy, leave places to hide, breed and sleep.
  • A log pile, rough grass, bed of nettles, brambles, old plant stems and ivy are worth cultivation ( I mean having but not cultivating)

Pollination

Health Issues for Pollinators

  • Do not use insecticides!
  • Do not use herbicides, they will kill off useful plants and chemical residues can alter the natural balance in a garden.
  • The aim should be to have a balance with nature allowing all living things a space in the green garden.
  • Pollination is less of an issue for the gardener who basically just wants healthy plants that are resistant to attack from all the environment can throw at them. In these cases optimum gardening can come from Integrated Pest Management or IPM.

Bee Happy

Food Sources For Pollinators

  • Flowers are key to feeding many insects.
  • Single flowers where the centre is accessible are great. Asters, daisies, herbs, dahlias, sages and buddleia are known for attracting insects
  • Native species of plant and wild flowers are likely to provide appropriate food sources rather than exotic imported or over bred or F1 plants.
  • Grow flowers for July and August when nectar and pollen food sources are surprisingly scarce.
  • Clover and lawn daisies can be encouraged in a lightly mown lawn.
  • Pot plants can add to the food store via cosmos, marigolds, tagetes and toadflax.
  • Grow plants that open sequentially up the stem like foxgloves so bees can feed without having to seek out new sources.

Pollination crocus

Pollinators Other than Bees

  • Mites, Ants and creepy crawlies.
  • Wind can blow pollen from one plant to another. Just look at the catkin pollen that gets blown around in spring or grass pollen on high pollen count days.
  • Moths and butterflies, birds, bats and beetles can often be species specific pollinators. Plants attract the pollinators they need by scent, colour and a range of individual techniques.

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Credits
Pollination Makes The World Go Around
Sympathy Planting and Vegetable Pollination
Grow Seedheads for Wild Life
Pollination of Crocus by Insects
Sarah Raven and Daily Telegraph for some of the food plant ideas.

What is Integrated Pest Management
Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is an effective and environmentally sensitive approach to pest management that relies on a combination of common-sense practices. IPM programs use current, comprehensive information on the life cycles of pests and their interaction with the environment. This information, in combination with available pest control methods, is used to manage pest damage by the most economical means, and with the least possible hazard to people, property, and the environment. Read more USA gov

Integrated Pest Management books from Amazon

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Scented Wild Flowers by Family

Opium may be a perfume that owes it’s history derived from wild poppies.
Wild meadow

Masses of wild flowers can produce a scented atmosphere that is second to none. Many plant families have scented species so sniff out your favourite.

Explanation why Wild Flowers are Scented

  • Scent is the oxidisation of essential oils of flowers and leaves.
  • Oils are mainly found on the upper surface of petals.
  • The most scented flowers are those with thick velvet like petals which slow down the evaporation of the scent.
  • Double white flowers like the rose are especially fragrant.
  • Oils are produced in inverse proportion to colour pigment which is why orange and scarlet flowers tend to have less scent.
  • Scent is classified into 10 and more groupings.

Evening Primrose Continue Reading →

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Giant Pumpkin Growing

Third in a short series about Curcurbits.

The British record for the heaviest pumpkin weighing 1,725 pounds can be beaten and you can win local shows next year by striving for this level of achievement.

Growing Tips for Giant Pumpkins

  • Start in February with a large hole filled with up to a ton of well rotted horse manure
  • Buy ‘giant seed’ via the internet or use Atlantic Giant seed.
  • In March sow the flat seeds, edge downwards not flat, in good sized pots in the greenhouse.
  • Plant out on top of the compost or manure pile when the risk of frost has gone. Keep a cardboard box to cover the plant on nights when frost is a danger.
  • Remove all but one (the chosen one) of the pumpkin fruits. If there are several, choose one that is about 8 feet from the roots.
  • Cull all further fruit regularly.
  • Continue Reading →

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Best British Trees Reviewed


Our series of tree reviews covers exotics and UK trees with a few specials thrown in. Each separate post covers;

  • Latin names and other common names
  • Height, uses and normal distribution. –
  • Type of tree – Evergreen/ Deciduous – dictoyledons, monocotyledon, Conifer etc
  • Description of Leaves, Flowers, Fruit and bark –
  • Family links, varieties and near relatives –

 

Below are links to a dozen British natives with short descriptions.

English Oak
Top of most lists for great British Trees. Our list of tree reviews is no different, Oak is the tops!

Rowan – Mountain Ash
The trees can be quite singular in appearance when shaped by wind on high moors and mountains.

Beech
From the copper coloured leaf to solid green hedges the Beech deserves a place in most gardens.

Silver Birch
Seem to be growing everywhere you look with some very distinctive varieties like Jacquemontii.

Horse Chestnut
Brought to England by William the Conqueror (no not really the conkers were there first).

Norway Spruce
Despite containing a foreign country name this Spruce grows freely on Forestry Commission land in the UK.

Hawthorn
Ideal for hedgerows and feeding birds. May blossom in May maybe.

Lime or Linden
a useful ornamental for parks and large gardens.

Hornbeam
Grows well in my garden and trains easily into a shapely tree.

Sycamore
Related to the other Acers but I would let someone else grow Sycamore on their land. (not my favourite)

Larch
A fast growing deciduous conifer good in forests.

Yew
Longest lived and slowest growing British tree synonymous with church yards and pagan worship.

Ash
Along with the Oak and the bonny Rowan tree the Ash is justly popular.

Notes

  • This completes our bakers dozen of British trees. If you want to learn more click on each link.
  • If you want to look for a different tree, type in the common or Latin name in our Google search box.
  • Please feel free to leave a comment or make a request on tree or garden related matters.
  • For more information of tree leaf shape design and function read this section.

Tree Organisations and Links
The Woodland Trust
The International Dendrology Society
The Royal Forestry Society
The Arboricultural Association
International Society of Arboriculture UK

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Photographs and Images of Purple Iris

bearded iris

The Bearded Iris offers a huge range of colours. This is a deep purple variety growing in the Oxford Botanic Gardens. The furry hairs on the petal or ‘Fall’ give the plant the bearded image.

Bearded Iris do well in a sunny, well drained soil. They can provide years of spectacular colour in May – July.

Iris

Other Iris are well adapted to grow in damp conditions.

Iris B

Bulb Iris are useful in rockery and Alpine arrangements and in this case are appreciated by passing Bees..

Iris

The next two pictures are taken as the rain stopped and the light improved.

Iris

Some flowers veer towards the lilac in shade but just about fit into my purple patch.

Iris
Iris are able to stand without staking as this large clump demonstrates.

George Iris

Named varieties include George an Iris reticulata.

Iris reticulata

Another Iris Histroides looks similar to a Dutch Iris but smaller.

iris

Growing in the Oxford Botanic Gardens with the other Oxford beardies.
25 Iris bulbs from Amazon (the book people not the river).

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Tree Peonies like Dinner Plates

tree peony

Fantastic, traffic stopping flowers at least 12 ” across are a wonderful feature of some Tree Peonies.

Tree Peonies

  • These slow growing shrubs reach around 4 foot high and wide.
  • They are drought tolerant but should not be made to compete with larger trees for water.
  • They are reasonably easy to grow in deep loamy soil.
  • In China they are mountain plants so survive our winters quite well.
  • Grafted shrubs are available in garden centres. They may send up suckers of herbaceous peonies that need cutting out (the leaves are greener and are not as finely cut as tree peony leaves).

Varieties of Tree Peony

  • I bought some varieties 2 years ago ‘Yu Lou Dian Cui’, above, looks white with pink overtones and ‘Shan Hu Tai’ is a strong pink really a red.
  • P Delavayi bears scented crimson flowers on 5′ stems whilst P lutea ludlowii has yellow flowers.
  • A good selection of Tree Peonies and Peony lactifolia are available from Peonies Thompson & Morgan

tree peony

Old Comments on Tree Peonies

Tree peonies These shrubs grow to about 4 foot square and are drought tolerant. Do not provide extra water or allow the roots to suffer from too much competition from other trees. P Delavayi bear crimson flowers on 5′ stems whils P lutea ludlowii has yellow flowers. They are reasonably easy to grow in deep loamy soil. In China they are mountain plants so survive our winters quite well. Grafted shrubs are now freely available in garden centres. I bought two varieties this weekend ‘Yu Lou Dian Cui’ what looks like a white with pink overtones and ‘Shan Hu Tai’ a strong pink. I have nipped out the flower buds that were showing and will wait until next year to see what colours I get.

Other Peony Comments
I am fond of the double peonies that flower so extravagantly in June. Over the years the plants give a great deal of pleasure lots of colour and a light and welcome spring perfume. That is not to say the single and specie Peonies are not also worth a place in the garden.

  • As plants mature they bulk up well and produce ever larger numbers of stalks and flowers.
  • Peonies dislike root disturbance and take a while to settle down
  • Provide a rich deeply dug soil well manured before planting and you will be rewarded for years
  • Water in dry summers and top dress in Autumn this well rotted compost
  • The single varieties include a yellow type Peony Mlokosewitchii
  • 6″ White flowers with yellow stamen P. Lactiflora varieties are readily available
  • The pink P. Sarah Bernhardt has an AGM award for the large scented blooms
  • The strong reds of the common Peony are very good for a cottage garden
  • Blooms make good cut flowers
  • Float one flower head in a bowl of water for an interesting table centre piece

Peonies and special fertilizer from Thompson & Morgan

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Joshua Tree – Root and Branch Review

Joshua Tree

See the Joshua tree as early Mormon settlers did in the barren desert lands of Utah and Arizona. Deep roots and leaves designed to minimise transpiration allow this tree to survive for many years.

Key Features of the Joshua Tree

  • Latin name – Yucca Brevifolia other common names Palm tree yucca, Tree yucca
  • Height – Can grow to 40 feet tall
  • Type of tree – Evergreen
  • Leaves – Sharp edged, spiky, strap shaped and leathery
  • Flowers – Bell shaped, pungent, cream or yellow flowers in upright clusters
  • Fruit – Fleshy red-brown capsule
  • Bark – Grey – brown ridged
  • Family – Asparagaceae agava

Origins and Distribution of the Joshua Tree

  • Found in the rugged cowboy country deserts of North America.
  • Mojave desert where it may have been named by Mormon pioneers.

Uses and Attributes of the Joshua Tree

  • Native Americans wove the leaves into baskets.
  • Flowers and seeds are edible.
  • Settlers used the wood for fence posts

Joshua Tree Blooming

Gardeners Tips for the Joshua Tree

  • Unless you live in a desert give this tree a miss.

Other Varieties of Joshua Tree

  • Yucca brevifolia jaegeriana or Jaeger’s Joshua tree is also called the pygmy yucca .
  • Yucca brevifolia herbertii is also called Webber’s yucca or Herbert Joshua tree but both may two varieties of the same tree.
  • The Yucca family is a large genus in the Agaveacea group

Joshua Tree comments from elsewhere

  • The tree is pollinated by the yucca moth which is attracted by the flowers scent. The larvae then survive by eating the seeds. This seems self defeating but then there is little food in the desert.
  • Joshua Trees have a deep and extensive root system, with roots reaching up to 36 ft from the fibrous trunk

Joshua Trees in Winter

Credits
Joshua Tree by cybaea CC BY-SA 2.0 Joshua tree from the Joshua Tree National Park
Joshua Tree Blooming by outdoorPDK CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Joshua Trees in Winter by Rennett Stowe CC BY 2.0

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Banana Republic in Kew Hot House

Banana hand

I am in the middle of a series of posts on fruit trees from exotic climes and realise that the Banana will not quite fit. Therefor I offer some of my photographs to show different varieties of Banana growing in Kew hot house and Madeira.

Kew Red Banana
Red Banana

Musa coccinea Red banana
Very Red Banana Musa coccinea

Bananas
Commercial Banana plantation

Banana
Banana in Flower

Banana plantation
Banana Crop in Madeira

Read these articles for more information.

Banana growing in UK
Exotic Gardens to Visit to see Banana growing in UK

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