Six on Sunday: Busy!

I took photographs for Jon the Propagator’s Saturday meme yesterday but got engrossed with something else and ran out of time to write a post – probably a good thing, having lots of distractions to stop us thinking about the new ‘C’ word. Personally, I haven’t needed to do any aimless thumb-twiddling at all since we fully locked down almost a week ago, but I know this may not be the case for everybody.

The first of my six are the fritillaries in the woodland (above) which have demanded a lot of gazing time in recent weeks. I used to buy separate packs of the white variety but they rarely did well, and I find that the mixed selections often have white amongst the wide range of plummy shades and am enjoying the natural mixtures. There has been a stiff breeze in the last couple of days, a shock after the lovely mild and sunny days earlier in the week, and the fritillaries have been bobbing about nicely.

Regular readers will know I receive a batch of mason bee cocoons every year and return all the new cocoons later in the season. This year’s batch arrived a week or so ago and I kept them inside in the clear lidded plastic dish because night time temperatures were down to freezing; fortunately, I happened to notice on Thursday that there was a bee moving about inside the dish and another couple breaking out of their cocoons, the warmth of the house having encouraged them to hatch. I took the dish outside, removed the lid and placed it in the release box from which the hatched bees quickly flew off in search of pollen. I have brought the dish back in each night since then, and hope those that hatched found somewhere cosy to spend the night. Unless you see them hatch, it is hard to imagine just how small they are – and very unlike a typical bee! Photos show the cocoons in the dish and, in the second picture below, the release box underneath the nesting tubes.

I was tempted by Karen of Bramble Garden to seek out some proper hazel beanpoles for my sweet peas this year, and was fortunate enough to find a local coppicer. The poles were over 8 feet tall and I had to saw the ends off to make them a manageable size for a shortie like me before I could construct the framework, which was made as an arch rather than two wigwams. The poles were too thick to use as horizontals, but it occurred to me that prunings from cornus would be perfect – having enjoyed their superb coloured stems over relatively colourless winters, I am always reluctant to carry out this severe early spring coppicing, but with an end purpose like this the task may become less unwelcome. I cut three stems as a trial and am pleased with the result, so this will become one of the week’s tasks and the sweet pea supports should soon be complete.

The outdoor sweet peas, now hardening off, are about 6-8″ tall; the indoor Winter Sunshine sweet peas, however, are more like 30″ tall and should be flowering in the greenhouse within a month. Exciting times ahead!

Rationalising space in the greenhouse to prepare for the exponential increase in the space required, I have been moving the hardiest things outside, including all the potted lilies which have been having a winter rest under cover. Astonishingly, many of them are in bud although I know from other years that open blooms are still 2 or 3 months away – plenty of time for the leaves to be nobbled by lily beetle before then!

The sixth six was a surprise to me, causing me to rush from the house with my camera – having spotted from the kitchen window the frothy blooms of Amelanchier lamarckii dancing in the breeze at the bottom of the garden, above our neighbour’s shed. What a glorious but short-lived sight, even better against a cloudless blue sky, sadly absent yesterday:

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22 Responses to Six on Sunday: Busy!

  1. Nate says:

    I’m so envious of your mason bees!! I’ve been trying to get cocoons for years.

  2. cavershamjj says:

    Lovely. My amalanchier is behind that one, but now I am impatient for it to get on with it! Shouldn’t be long, the buds are all there.

    • Cathy says:

      And then they are over so quickly, aren’t they? Here, because of where mine is I tend to walk under it and not see it as it is in a relatively enclosed part of the garden

  3. Cathy the fritillaries in the woods are divine. I remembered from last year that every year you bought a batch of mason bee cocoons. It must be a fantastic experience to see a bee hatch from its cocoon! You have had a great support for sweet peas, I love it. In the Greenhouse the Winter Sunshine sweet peas are high and vigorous and soon they will give you their flower and perfume, I love them. The flowers of the Amelanchien lamarckii tree are wonderful. Take care of yourself and the golfer. Enjoy your exceptional garden. Loving greetings from Margarita.

  4. Noelle says:

    Wild Mason bees adopted me, at our old place…I wonder if they are still there? Your set up looks very interesting.

    • Cathy says:

      I wouldn’t have recognised these as bees if it wasn’t for them hatching in front of my eyes, Noelle 😉 At they look after the cocoons over winter to make sure conditions are optimal. I hope ‘yours’ survive from year to year back in Kenilworth

  5. Lora Hughes says:

    I may follow your tip for getting mixed fritillaries in the autumn. I love them both, so it’d be nice to have the mix. Do yours last more than a season or so? So interesting about your bees. Do you get the new cocoons from the bee box?

    • Cathy says:

      The fritillaries naturalise when they are happy, Lora, and self seed as well. Fortunately it looks as if they are happy enough in our garden! We send the cocoons (which are laid in the tubes) back in the autumn and they are looked after in optimal conditions before a batch is sent out again to us in early spring.

      • Lora Hughes says:

        I went to the link after I asked my question & all was explained (sorry I didn’t read the website first). I didn’t realise about having to clean out the tubes & will have to clean mine out, as last summer there were bees in them. What a very good idea that is, & leaves the specialty work to them.

        • Cathy says:

          There was a small charge to become a guardian, about £50 I think, but they provided the basic housing (we embellished it!) and supply the cocoons every year. We are provided with 20 cocoons each year and last year our tubes produced 42 red mason , 11 blue mason and 156 leaf cutter cocoons!

  6. tonytomeo says:

    What makes a hazel bean pole proper? Is that the Corylus or the Hamamelis? I lack the normal hazels here, although there is a native Corylus cornuta. We grew ornamental cultivars of Hamamelis on the farm, but discontinued because we could not sell enough. I did happen to get Hamamelis virginiana for my own garden. None get as big as yours, particularly if coppiced. (I do not coppice any of them, but alternate canes instead. Even then, the stems are remarkably even. They curve gently, but without gnarls. For bean poles, we use those annoying bits that fall from the redwoods. They are also remarkably even, with the same slight curve to them, and they last for years.

    • Cathy says:

      They are mostly cut from the ‘ordinary’ hazel, Corylus avellana, Tony which is native the UK and historically has been coppiced for centuries

      • tonytomeo says:

        That is one I have never worked with. I had only seen them in the Pacific Northwest. They are not ordinary here, perhaps because almond and English walnut were important orchard crops. (There was not need to import more nut producers.) Are they coppiced on alternate years, or every few years? If I grew one or more, I would not want to coppice it annually, and deprive it of nut production. That is why I alternate canes of the native species, although we get no nuts anyway.

        • Cathy says:

          Traditionally areas would be cut on rotation, usually every few years

          • tonytomeo says:

            So, they get coppiced completely to the ground, rather than cut by alternating canes. I used to do that with poplars for firewood. I cut one annually. (We do not need much firewood here.) After they were all cut once, the first one to be cut was ready to be cut again, so the cycle was repeated.

          • Cathy says:

            Yes, I believe so, Tony, although modern methods may vary depending on the size of the coppice I expect

          • tonytomeo says:

            Because the techniques, both coppicing and pollarding, are so stigmatized in California, I almost never see it done properly. I certainly see plenty of hack jobs, but that is about all. However, there is an arborist who pollards a historic Grecian sycamore, which is a copy of the Tree of Hippocrates, at the main hospital. His work is examplary, and in the English style (which is actually more sustainable than the cheap Californian style that I prefer.) I do not know who he is, if he is local, or if he comes here from somewhere else for this particular tree. I would recognize his or her work if I saw it somewhere else.

          • Cathy says:

            That’s really interesting Tony, and your tribute to the arborist suggests that he is a true professional who takes great pride in his work

          • tonytomeo says:

            It is so rare nowadays that it is impossible to ignore. Although, such exemplary work would have gotten my attention anyway. When I was in school, we learned only that pollarding and coppicing were ‘bad’. I never agreed with that, and still do it for some plants. It is obvious to me that many so-called ‘gardeners’ do far worse things than pollarding and coppicing.

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