We are enjoying an unusually hot Easter weekend in the UK, but we are not the only ones to enjoy it – apple blossom of all sorts is revelling in the sunshine too, with crab apple ‘Royalty’ above, crab apple ‘Evereste’ and bog-standard cooking apple below. Last year Evereste fell victim to the Eastern Beast and lost all its blossom but is now making up for it in its fecundity.
I read last year that red mason bees tend to hatch around the time apple blossom appears, so ensured the new batch of cocoons we received from www.masonbees.co.uk was in place in the nesting box as the buds swelled. Last year I left them in the house for too long and many of them dried up and I certainly didn’t want to happen that again, although the few we had that did hatch produced 61 new cocoons, a far better result than the previous year. One of this year’s batch hatched yesterday, and my first ramble today showed another had done the same; by lunchtime another 4 had hatched. I spent several minutes watching them this afternoon, as two more cocoons were vibrating and you could hear the bees crunching as they do whatever they do to get out – fascinating to watch! I was hoping to actually see one emerge, but these two seemed to need a break from their exertions and it all went quiet. However, with this hot spell due to continue for at least a couple more days it would not surprise me if they had all hatched by mid-week. Whilst I was watching the cocoons another bee flew into the tubes, and so the cycle begins again!
The first photo below shows the dish of cocoons in the nesting box – you can clearly see a group of empty cocoons to the left of middle, and the one to the right of this is partially open and at times I could catch a glimpse of leg; the second shows the nesting box in the foreground (which will be removed once all cocoons have hatched) with the nesting tubes in their revamped customised housing against the fence.
The third of today’s Six is Tulips – looking gorgeous and well worth waiting for. The purple mix is from Aldi (Claudia, Flaming Flag, Purple Flag and Blue Diamond, although not all varieties are in bloom yet), Wordless Wednesday’s Silk Road came from Peter Nyssen and were a nice surprise as I had forgotten I had ordered them, and the third are glorious species tulip Little Beauty which naturalises and multiplies readily:
Number Four is Cutting Back: for only the second year ever I have trimmed old foliage from the epimediums in the woodland edge border and could easily regret my late realisation of the difference it makes. As soon as the old foliage goes, the new foliage jumps into action and is so beautifully fresh and bursting with new life, whilst the newly exposed flowers bob about with gratefulness and the whole clump is rejuvenated before you can say ‘Bob’s your uncle’.
Trimming the old foliage of ferns is an even more recent ‘discovery’ and I know for a fact that this huge dryopteris has never been shorn since it was planted which must be around 2003. I now need to rake through the base and remove all the detritus that has accumulated below the leaves – so far this has included an old brush but who knows what else has been lying undisturbed and forgotten. New fronds are unfurling but even so there will still be some all but bare soil around the plant where plants could once again grow now the canopy is reduced – hmm, more plants….
Off to the working greenhouse for numbers Five and Six, Five being the Winter Sunshine sweet peas which are really getting into their stride, immediately drawing attention to themselves as I open the door in the morning and catch their fragrance. I am so glad I decided to mix up the colours as the overall effect is more pleasing – four shades are shown below:
The last of the six is Seeds, and I ramble down to the greenhouse several times a day, not always with a specific task in mind but just so that I can stand and gaze at all the seedlings. I just love the whole process, from the sowing to the pricking out, potting on and planting out, and am in complete awe of Nature’s magic. The speed at which tiny seeds germinate and develop into seedlings and then viable plants never ceases to amaze me, a process which accelerates with the increased warmth and light of the season. When we returned from our travels early in the week I watered all the trays and pots, watering ‘from below’ for a thorough soaking, and I swear everything grew noticeably overnight.
It becomes such a continuous process at this time of year, moving through each stage and then moving trays outside to harden off as soon as possible. Only a few things have actually been planted out so far and although last week’s frosts could well have been the last I will wait a few more weeks before the bulk of planting out begins, by which time hopefully we will have had some rain as it has been SO dry in recent weeks. The photo below shows just part of the greenhouse, but just think more of the same…
Blossom, Bees, Tulips, Cutting Back, Sweet Peas and Seeds – these are my Six on Saturday this week. Thanks go to Jon the Propagator for hosting the meme so pop over to his blog and check out his Six and the varied Sixes of other bloggers.