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The Bumble Blog - Part 5

For once, the bumblebees are having a good time.

They wake up to endless days of sunshine, wander into the bumblebee garden and feast until dusk; completely oblivious to the turmoil in the human world around them. Right now there is a huge choice of pollen and nectar for them, like a smorgasbord on a cruise ship. Lupins, roses, nepeta in abundance, knautia, geraniums, delphiniums, marigolds, and comfrey are all flowering well. The foxgloves and lavender are on the way too. They are still visiting the wallflowers which have largely gone over and look scruffy, but as long as the bees visit they are reprieved.

We continue to weed weed weed in this garden. The topsoil brought in to make the garden has proved to be fertile, but full of weed seeds. Considerable effort went into digging out thistles and docks before the garden was planted, but docks particularly continue to germinate. Now we are seeing seedlings from the last two years’ annuals popping up which is most pleasing, and what we had hoped would happen. The marigolds, cosmos and escholzia (Californian Poppy) seem to be the best at self-seeders so far.

The only problem in the garden right now is small rodents. Mice and voles. On the right hand side of the information hut is a bank covered in rough grass. This has been left uncultivated deliberately as north-facing banks are a favoured nesting site for bumblebees. Unfortunately, where the grass meets the concrete base for the hut the rodents are colonising. This in itself would not be a problem as we welcome wildlife, and disused rodent holes are frequently inhabited by bumbles, but trays and trays of unsold crocus and fritillary bulbs were planted in the garden this spring only to be dug up and eaten.

The vegetable garden has been dug and weeded. Strawberries are coming on, and the courgettes are planted. Last year’s leeks are about to flower which will be a real treat for the bumblebees – they love them. There are two rows of broad beans which were autumn sown, but are embarrassingly awful and really should be pulled up, but they have flowers. A patch of Phacelia was sown in a spare space and this has proved a huge success. Phacelia is often used as a green manure, and apart from being very ornamental it is extremely popular with bumbles and honeybees. Another success is the cultivated blackberries trained along the fence. There are two varieties in the garden which have flowered well and are now setting enough fruit to be useful. They are Adrienne and Merton Thornless.

Finally, think about providing water for bumblebees, and honeybees. They like very shallow water they cannot fall into. A saucer full of stones is ideal. They frequently drink from a wet patch of gravel near one of the standpipes on the nursery.