Six on Saturday: Blossom and Bees

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  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.

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38 Responses to Six on Saturday: Blossom and Bees

  1. I like the idea of the bee cocoons … we certainly need more bees.

    We have a lot of solitary bees here so I was thinking about making a bee hotel from different diameter size bamboo canes. I hope I saved the instructions to my Pinterest account.

    Your seedlings are so neat and tidy. 🙂 I also just like wandering around the garden and watching plants grow. Growing seeds is becoming quite addictive!

    • Cathy says:

      I have bits of bamboo cane and fir cones stuffed into some old bricks to make a bug hotel too. You might need to push a skewer through your bits of bamboo to ensure they are free of fibres. Good to hear you find seed sowing addictive too!

  2. So hot here that despite sun protection and a big floppy hat I could feel my neck burning at the allotment this afternoon so had to pack up sooner than intended 😦 Your crab apples are absolutely glorious Cathy. Sadly my ‘Red Sentinel’ has just one flowering branch. I’m wondering whether it’s related to last summer’s drought but then the two adjacent pear trees are smothered with blossom. The emergence of the mason bees must provide much interest and amazement. Those ‘Little Beauty’ tulips that you so kindly gave me are positively singing at the moment – thank you xxx 🙂

    • Cathy says:

      Is your Red Sentinel in a wind tunnel perhaps? We didn’t have the such biting winds as last year but it was definitely those that got Evereste last year, but the others which were better protected by fences and the like. Glad you are protecting yurself gfrom the sun, even though it means shorter days at the allotment – what tasks are required there at the moment?

  3. bcparkison says:

    Looking good and so glad you are doing the bees.

  4. Heyjude says:

    Pottering around the garden, setting up my new potting bench and hanging out the washing for the first time this year resulted in me having a pink face! But oh, so nice to be able to enjoy the last of the sun’s rays sitting at our new Bistro set and sipping G&Ts this evening. Life is good.

    • Cathy says:

      And I even sat down on a bench too – for all of 2 or 3 minutes!! It’s certainly good to feel at one with oneself and the garden

  5. Those Mason bees are very interesting – I had no idea you could buy cocoons like that! I noticed yesterday that the garden was abuzz with bees, and I spotted quite a few butterflies too – so nice to see. Your seedlings are so far along! Mine are still looking rather tinsy, but am hoping this warm weather will set them agrowing now. Have fun this weekend, Cathy!

    • Cathy says:

      You will be apppreciating your weekends (especially these long ones!) even more now, Ali! Hope you manage to get done all that you had hoped 😉 Lots of bees and several butterflies here too

  6. Nate says:

    I am so envious! I bought mason bee cocoons for a couple of years. Then I decided to put out a bee house to see how many I could attract. I’ve attracted exactly NONE in the past four years.

    • Cathy says:

      If you look at the link to the website, Nate, you will see you can become a bee ‘guardian’ and get sent cocoons every year and then send the new ones back to them to take care of over the winter. We get leaf cutter bees here too which seem to overwinter better

      • Nate says:

        The link is in the UK. I didn’t think they’d offer that program here in the US. For two years I bought cocoons from a company here, but never produced any cocoons. That’s when I decided to try to attract native bees in general already in my yard.

        • Cathy says:

          Ah sorry, I didn’t realise you were in the US. Perhaps if you overwintererd the cocoons inside…? I can’t remember if the website talks about the ideal conditions for them to overwinter

  7. All those seedlings – where do you put them? How do you find room for them???

    • Cathy says:

      I only grow on about a dozen of each thing, about half of which go into the cutting beds; some of the rest go into the borders and I pass spares onto a grateful friend. It’s finding space in the greenhouse that becomes a problem as I start in quarter seed trays, prick out into 12 cell trays, then pot on int 6 cell trays, so each time I am doubling the space needed!

  8. Keith says:

    This is fascinating. I have made a few bee hotels over the years but apparently the chances of solitary bee eggs surviving the winter in our climate in these isn’t that great but can be improved by moving the nest inside over the winter which I haven’t done yet. What do you do with the newly laid cocoons? Do you move them or leave them in place? I think I have heard of a scheme where you can send them to someone to overwinter them and they send you another batch in the spring – is that how it works?

    • Cathy says:

      Hi Keith, yes, I take part in a bee guardianship scheme (it costs about £50 to join, but that’s all you pay) and you get sent 20 cocoons each spring then send back the tubes which have been filled by the bees and they look after the cocoons over winter and then send you 20 back in the spring. Do check the website out

  9. Annette says:

    Your Evereste looks stunning with the sitooterie, Cathy, and your tulips are gorgeous. I failed to cut back my Epimedium and now they’re supporting the stems of Euphorbia griffithii so I shall leave most of them. Still waiting for our greenhouse so I’m glad it’s so mild that I can leave the pots outside all over the place. You’ve so many seedlings – will you go to a market? Happy Easter to you and the Golfer, hope you’re both well and happy xx

    • Cathy says:

      Thanks Annette – the crab apples on Evereste are so pretty, like tint peaches in colour, and I missed them last year. How much longer will you have to wait for the greenhouse – is it a problem of supply, or are you installing it yourselves and haven’t got the time? All well here, and hope you are continuing to improve. Is the new book finished?

  10. Jacqueline says:

    You have a nice garden. The apple s’ flowers in the sun : beautiful .
    Have a good weekend

  11. Cathy, I’m glad you have good weather: it rains here and it’s cool. Your photos are magnificent. The flower of the apple “Royalty” is divine like that of “Evereste”, and that of the “Pantano” is wonderful. It must be a very special experience to see the bees leave their cocoons: I love it. The house of the bees is lovely. I love all your tulips, especially Little Beauty. The epidemics are fantastic. I never would have thought that the ferns had their foliage cut off: Cathy, you’re a first-rate gardener. The corner of the Greenhouse with so many seedlings I love it. Cathy, I wish you a happy Easter. Greetings from Margarita.

    • Cathy says:

      Thank you for your kind comments, Margarita – the more I garden the more experienced and knowledgable I get and it’s good to be able share that knowledge when others ask ps we could certainly use some rain here!

  12. tonytomeo says:

    Dang! So many of us have such exquisite tulips to show off. I don’t grow them. Nor do I grow sweet peas. It must be nice to be able to do so this well.

  13. I loved reading all about the bees and your seedlings.
    I have noticed many masonbees around just as our apple blossom has begun to flower so now I know! That’s really interesting. I love watching them busy themselves around the garden. I’ve also seen many hover bees, butterflies and bee flies too which is lovely to see.
    I’m the same as you; when I’m not working i potter back and forth to the Greenhouse loving watching all the seedlings and marvelling at how much they grow! Such mindfulness right there! Enjoy yourgarden.

  14. So many seedlings! I am amazed and in awe of all that you have. Mine look pitiful compared to yours, but I’m sure a greenhouse makes all the difference. You will certainly be busy planting soon.

    • Cathy says:

      A ‘srrict’ routine of sowing/pricking out/potting on/planting out has made such a difference to my results and makes me confident enough to sow all that I do – which would be impossible without a greenhouse. I shall miss the process once everything is planted -but then it will start again for next season!

  15. cavershamjj says:

    Lovely. I particularly enjoyed your greenhouse section. I empathise entirely! I am a bit behind getting things out and hardened off. I need to make some room for the tomatoes. Btw, you have sweet peas already!!??

    • Cathy says:

      These are specially bred sweet peas Jon, bred to grow in lower light conditions and hence ‘early’ rather than ‘winter’, but they need to be grown under cover. Mine flower April to when I pull them out to make room for tomatoes (end of June maybe)

  16. Olá, gosto de ler através de o post . Eu como para escrever um pequeno comentário para apoiar vocês.

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