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: