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The Bumblebee Blog - Part 13

Read the latest entry to the Bumble Blog by Becky Martin, gardener at the Duchy Nursery.

At last the lavender is fully out and is attracting masses of pollinators; bumblebees, honeybees and butterflies. A truly wonderful sight. With the prolonged hot dry weather recently the garden was looking a bit hot and scratchy, and the flowers a little bleached but some gentle rain this week has refreshed the foliage and rinsed off the dust. The privet hedge which was planted in late spring 2019 along the lower edge of the garden is flowering too. Privet flowers are very popular with pollinators, including moths, and whenever possible privet hedges should be left to flower before being trimmed.

The nepeta in the central bed has been cut back hard. The whole bed has had a good feed with chicken manure pellets to encourage the nepeta and the roses to re-bloom. The sweet peas in this central bed are not looking as wonderful as they have in previous years, but nor are the sweet peas on the white obelisks. Conversations with visitors to the bumblebee garden often throw up common patterns. This year many people have been experiencing problems with sweet peas and tomatoes. Last year people struggled with runner beans, and cosmos. Unsurprisingly the most common topic of conversation at the moment is lavender, and how to grow and maintain it. Our regime is simple, we deadhead as the flowers go over, simply to tidy the plants up. In early spring the whole lot is pruned hard, but with care not to cut below visible green growth points. It is not fed at all.

The rambling roses planted to cover the back of the information hut have finished flowering. These will be left to develop hips for autumn interest, and to feed the birds. In spring, when the hips have gone, and before the new leaves develop, they will be tackled with secateurs and loppers. These are ferocious plants to handle, but worth the pain. We will cut out the old shoots which flowered this summer and tie in (firmly) the new shoots which are currently growing, and which will bear next year’s blooms.

One plant blooming profusely at the moment is evening primrose, Oenothera. A single plant appeared from nowhere last summer and left behind a host of seedlings, all now flowering their socks off. We will scatter seeds from these onto the sleeper bank to encourage it to colonise there.

Evening primrose is known for its medicinal benefits, and is widely used to alleviate women’s problems. In its native North America all parts of the plant were used by indigenous people. The leaves were boiled in a tea to treat laziness and obesity, and the roots used externally to treat piles and boils. It suddenly seems less attractive.