Sunday, April 25, 2010

Acme™ lily beetle destruction technique

I've blogged before on the destructive tendencies of lily beetles. I've practically stopped growing lilies, except for one cultivar. But I don't want to give up my beautiful fritillaries :-(

And so, I am spending an inordinate amount of time at the moment, kneeling on the floor, peering. And I have discovered how to kill lots of them. Ha ha ha ha ha (maniacal laugh beloved of evil villains).
Step 1: To catch the easy ones... If you can see any of the red devils on the plant in question, quickly put your hand (or a piece of paper etc) underneath - if they see you coming, they will drop onto their backs on the floor, making them difficult to see. Having caught them in your outstretched hands, deal with them how you see fit. As an evil villain, I will naturally feed them to my subterranean pool of circling sharks.

Step 2. Some of the wee devils will be lurking around, trying to avoid looking as though they might be wanting to eat your fritillaries. They're difficult to see, sitting upside down in the undergrowth. So, shake the nearby vegetation. The lily beetles will drop to the floor. You may see one or two land, in which case deal with them how you see fit (perhaps subject them to decapitation using a butler with a sharp-edged bowler hat).

Step 3. Wait. Wait a little longer. But keep your eyes open. Soon, they will come. The dislodged devils will right themselves, and make their conspicuous way back towards the smell of their favourite food. And then you pounce. And then you deal with them how you see fit. By this point, I have had enough of devising evil genius-style methods of death (well, they always escape, don't they?). And so I crush them. Bwah hah ha hah ha haaaa.
Make sure you squish their eggs, too.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Sunday, April 18, 2010

A drum roll please......

...And the winner of the RHS competition for biodiversity in the garden is... Kay Halley with her amazing front garden. Congratulations, Kay, and thank you to Rosie and Liz for taking the time to enter the competition. I will be in touch with details of the prize, Kay. For thiose who didn't win, and for anyone else who would have liked to enter, I believe that there may be competitions coming up on other blogs in the near future - I'll let you know.

Thank you to the RHS for donating the prize and highlighting what we can do to help wildlife and to encourage biodiversity in the garden.

If you wish to enter a similar competition, head over to VP's blog, where you could again be in with a chance to win a year's RHS membership.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

GBBD - April '10

After a hard winter, most plants seem to be almost catching up with where they were last year. The plum trees are smothered with blossom. The hellebores have been out for an age but still look good. The daffodils are going over quite quickly, after a few warm days at the weekend. But to just stand in the garden, and smell the spring, and practically see the plants growing before your eyes - happiness.

For more flowers in April, visit the host of GBBD, Carol at May Dreams Gardens.

Wordless Wednesday - feel the forcing

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Dorothy Clive Gardens

The warmest day of the year so far saw me in the mood for a bit of garden visiting. I was going to go to Dunham Massey but changed my mind and went to the Dorothy Clive Gardens in Shropshire instead.
Detail on stone bench

The gardens were created by Colonel Harry Clive for his wife, Dorothy, and cover 12 acres. They are best known for the quarry garden area. This area is full of large rhododendrons and azaleas, with a top storey of mature trees. In some places ground cover plants have started to grow and flower, giving added interest.

Grape hyacinth

Ferns 'fwinging' in the undergrowth

Peony foliage emerging
I was initially disappointed when I arrived, as I realised that I was around three weeks early to witness the rhodies and azaleas at their best, along with the extensive plantings of tulips. But the quarry garden is like a maze to wander around, and I enjoyed looking at the differences between the rhododendron cultivars, even when most of them weren't flowering.
Rhododendron leaves

Laburnum arch - no, really

It's worth looking up in the quarry garden

The daffodil walk was at its best, though. And the scent of swathes of Narcissus 'Jack Snipe' just added to the feeling of calm which the sunshine and the sight of hoardes of butterflies had already instilled in me.
The daffodil walk
The scree garden has just been refurbished, and I spent 15 minutes or so chatting to the chap who was literally putting the finishing touches to the planting. He is a member of the British Alpine Society and spent time pointing out plants which had been grown from seeds sent by alpine plant colleagues from around the world. And we were both pleased to see the Tulipa humilis in flower - it had apparently come out for the first time that morning.

Scree garden

Tulipa humilis

You won't find cutting edge garden design. You won't find modernism. You won't be challenged to think about gardens as art. This is a garden as love - love for a wife. If you're in the area over the next month or two, go and explore it. And feel the love.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

What's in a name?

SomeBeans, the under-gardener, has picked up a lot of knowledge about gardening and plant names, just through the process of osmosis. Years of Gardener's question Time, Gardener's World, and trawling round gardens and garden centres has led to some of it being absorbed.

Not all of it, however, is absorbed completely correctly. I suspect that it's deliberate...

So, we have Camillas instead of Camellias, Mangolias instead of Magnolias (though SomeBeans was recently vindicated in this by a single mention of Mangolia in a journal extract of Ernest 'Chinese' Wilson in a book I was reading. I maintain that it was a typing error.

This is the time of year when the flowering currant, Rabies, apparently looks its best. We also have Solomon's Seed rather than Seal. There's also Dicentrica, a rather weird mix of the correct name and an energy company.


SomeBeans is triumphant if I occasionally make the mistake of saying any of these the wrong way (i.e. his way). So forgive me if I make reference to Dicentrica, Camillas and Mangolias when I'm in polite gardening company - it's peer pressure.

Saturday, April 03, 2010

STOP PRESS: Biodiversity Competition Entry

This post is dedicated to all of the wonderful images and information that are being sent to me as entries for the RHS biodiversity competition to win a year's membership of the RHS.

I have received the brilliant photo of a hoverfly (below) and some great ideas from Liz Arblaster:

Copyright: Liz Arblaster

Liz says:
"To encourage biodiversity I try to use plants attractive to wildlife; flowers, trees and shrubs all have wildlife in mind with a range across the seasons to provide food. I leave tidying to a minimum for insects to hibernate over winter and especially encourage Bees, Hoverflies, Butterflies, Moths and Birds.
Without the wildlife the garden feels empty to me, and nothing makes me happier than hearing buzzing or watching Butterflies flit around the garden."

Thank you, Liz, for your great entry - the photo is amazing.

Hot on Liz's heels is this wonderful photograph from Kay Halley.

Copyright: Kay Halley

Kay explains:

"Our front garden consists of 300 square metres of lawn, cultivated by us for 10 years as a meadow. It is on chalk so we have introduced a number of chalk grassland species, many from locally collected seed and it is cut just once a year in September. It supports around 120 species of herbaceous flowering plants including 13 species of orchid, plus tree, shrub and grass species and in summer it is heaving with insect life. In recent years we have collected seed from our meadow and used it to reintroduce cowslips and other common species to nearby roadside verges."

Thank you Kay - a real inspiration. I can almost hear the sound of all the insect life your meadow must attract. Beautiful. And I don't think I've even seen 13 species of orchid.

Rosie over at Leavesnbloom is encouraging biodiversity with her new lacewng hotel. Rosie has even developed her marketing patter to encourage the aphid-munchers:

"We’ve got a great holiday (lifetime) package for all you Lacewings. We are going to be offering free board and keep from about August 2010 onwards but until then the leaves‘nbloom garden can offer a great daily banquet on condition that you lay your lovely eggs in the garden (about 300 per lacewing would do nicely rather than American express or visa) and allow your little ones larvae to roam freely in the garden where they can feast on our lush greenfly (that’s the chef’s speciality by the way)".

I've got a feeling that Rosie's hotel will be full when the season starts. Thanks for entering, Rosie.

Can you beat those entries? There's only one week to go. See this link for details on how to enter.


I have quite a few hellebores. I read recently that, in English folklore, witches used hellebores to summon demons. Make of that what you will.
My favourite hellebore in the garden just has to be this one:
It reminds me of strawberry Cresta, which our next door neighbour sometimes used to give us when we were little. Delicious.

Now, must be off - I've got demons to summon.