Cometh the Bees, cometh the Spring
... And The Big One
The Hairy-footed Flower Bees are out, and spring is here! Hairy-footed Bees (Anthophora plumipes) are lovers of garden variety Pulmonaria or Lungwort. We asked listeners in the latest episode if they’ve noticed any wild and native plants that are in favour. Red and White Dead Nettle seem to be favourites, as are Hawthorne and Apples. Search your garden for the near all black females, or males with their tell-tale pale moustache. The males are highly aggressive and vigorously defend their little patch. This week we saw one attack a resting Red-tailed Bumblebee at least three times it’s size! The hairy feet are used by the males to stroke or dab the eyes of females during mating. Here is a clip of them in action:
Dr Abigail Lowe
Speaking of the latest episode, it was a great pleasure to interview Dr Lowe, Community Science officer at the Natural History Museum. Her latest project launches next week Nature Overheard | Natural History Museum (nhm.ac.uk). If you haven’t already, find out more by listening to the full episode on your podcast app or here:
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Once again, the government has pushed back the deadline for the horticulture industry to transition to peat-free. Although peat-based compost will be banned from public sale by 2024, there will be an exemption for use in plug-plants that could remain in force until 2030. Most herbaceous plants we buy in garden centres start from seed or cutting in plugs, so it is likely that there will remain a peat-element in most plants until then. The excuse is that there are not suitable alternatives, the same excuse used for the past 50 years! The lack of suitable alternatives is a direct effect of the dearth of government urgency in demanding the investment needed to produce them. Despite the industry’s protestations, we know perfectly well that peat-free growing media is well suited to growing in plugs. It’s how we start off all our tomatoes, chillies, beetroot and more!
Our Wild Garden
Even in the heart of the city, our little garden is starting to buzz. A pair of blackbirds are making a nest in the Ivy, with occasional puffs of old leaves being ejected by the fastidious female. The Sparrows are louder than ever and are squabbling over every seed. Even hanging out the washing is a chance for a garden safari, with a weary Bee Fly taking the opportunity to rest on Ellie’s finger.
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As promised in the latest episode, we are including horticultural notes on our Native Plant of the Month within each newsletter. The most recent entry is Anemone nemorosa or Wood Anemone/Windflower. There are two ways to grow your own. You can buy a potted plant now or plant the dry, dormant rhizomes in autumn. Whichever way you decide, they like a moist soil with plenty of organic matter, reminiscent of the rich woodland floor in which they naturally grow, although they can tolerate summer drought when dormant. Ideally, plant them under trees, where they will die back before the trees come into leaf.
If planting via rhizome, buy from a wildflower supplier and plant in the autumn, remembering to soak the rhizome in water before planting. As a potted plant, you can either buy the wild variety, or go with one of the garden cultivars like the lavender petalled ‘Robinsoniana’ and ‘Allenii’ or the yellow ‘Pallida’, all of which sport the RHS Award of Garden Merit. There are many other cultivated varieties but avoid double petalled specimens if possible.
The Big One
If, like us, you have been watching the BBC’s Wild Isles, you will be aware of the precarious position of wildlife in the UK. We can do wonders for wildlife in our own gardens, especially within urban and suburban areas where gardens act as refugia. But gardens aren’t enough. Without sustained and sweeping changes to the way we treat wildlife across the entire of our landscape we will continue to see damning declines. To make our voice for nature heard, we are joining ‘The Big One’, a protest in London next weekend. Organised by Extinction Rebellion, the protest is supported by organisations across society, including Friends of the Earth, Whale and Dolphin Conservation, Rewilding Britain, Keep Britain Tidy and hundreds of others. To find out more, click the image below, and we hope to meet some of you there!
As a final word, for those listening via a podcast app (Google Podcasts, Spotify, iTunes etc) you can now find all the links and show notes directly in the podcast description. Simply click on each episode and scroll down to find all the info.
The next episode
That’s it for this edition of ‘The Wild Garden’. In the next episode, we will hear the second half of our interview with Dr Lowe and a short clip from Plantlife about the upcoming No Mow May. We will also be thanking all recent donors to the podcast, so if you want to hear your name on the show, donate here. Until then, we hope to meet some of you at The Big One, and keep an eye out for those amorous bees!
Ellie and Ben
Hey Ellie and Ben, just wanted to say that your podcast is one of my absolute favourites. Full of great advice, information and inspiration for wildlife gardeners. Keep up the good work! I do have one question if you can give me some pointers. I grow some roses in my garden and have been having issues with blackspot. The rose which was most badly affected (and likely a variety with poor resistance) I removed in the autumn together with any diseased fallen leaves. I will not use sprays, so if over the course of this season I see spotty leaves appearing on my other roses, should I remove the leaves straightaway, or is there something else I can or should be doing? Any advice gratefully received. Thanks Trevor from Kent x
Will look out for you guys at The Big One! Exciting to see Dave Goulson on the line-up having been introduced to his work by the podcast 🐛