Friday, 26 November 2010

Autumn at Stowe National Trust gardens

We recently visited the 18th Century landscape gardens belonging to the National Trust at Stowe and, unlike the previous time we visited, it wasn't pouring, so we got some nice photos of the grounds and autumn colours - including this unusual yellow-berried holly...

Saturday, 6 November 2010

New green roof pages

We now have two fairly lengthy pages of information on green roofs:

Monday, 1 November 2010

Season of mellow fruitfulness

Other than leaves, the colour of Autumn also comes from its fruits. There seem to be more berries and fruits than usual this year on many plants, and lots of colourful pumpkins and squash in the shops.

Autumn colours - Leaves

Maple leaf in a New England stream

Fall foliage is one of the best things about Autumn. We've been on a couple of leaf peeping trips to New England, which can look spectacular as the leaves turn various shades of red, yellow, purple and gold. But, there are plenty of places closer to home that look good in Autumn, such as the Royal Horticultural Society gardens at Wisley, Westonbirt Aboretum, which has the national Japanese Maple collection, or, here in London, Kew Gardens. Even the streets near us have displays of Autumn colour, whether in people's gardens or from street trees.

Sunday, 8 August 2010

The best bar in Town

Sunflowers are sometimes seen to be a bit naff. But, it is always hard to look at one and not smile. Big, bold and loved by bees - all gardeners should find a place for them in their gardens.

At the RHS Hampton Court flower show this year, there was a large field of sunflowers as part of an exhibition on growing food. It attracted a lot of bees and a large number of people all taking photos (us included).

Thursday, 15 July 2010

As seen at Hampton Court

 Umbrellas: The traditional symbol of the Hampton Court Flower Show, this year only needed for shade

The RHS Hampton Court Flower Show takes place every July, which usually means it is a sea of mud (coming, as it does, just after the rain magnets of the tennis at Wimbledon and the Glastonbury festival). This year, all three events stayed dry... isn't that one of the signs of the Apocalypse?

Monday, 28 June 2010

Geranium Cantabrigiense Biokovo

If you want a pink, delicate and girlie geranium - then try G. Cantabrigiense Biokovo it's a real sweetie.

It is low growing (about 10-20cm tall) so, makes great ground cover. It gently spreads itself, but it isn't a thug, you'll find it easy to keep under control.

We bought a couple of small pots from a garden centre because we noticed that of all the plants around, the bees were choosing this one.

From those two small pots we've increased to two patches in our raised bed (to make it easy to dead head them to prolong its flowering period), a patch on the green roof and a few pots for our neighbour.

Last autumn I gave up on our strawberries - when I realised that the local squirrel was eating more of them than we were. So, the strawberry towers were emptied and filled with this little pink geranium. It has looked great for weeks.
Seeds are starting to develop (top) with flower buds 

A bit raggedy - you can clearly see scratch marks on the petals from the bees claws

Of course the flowers fade eventually, but that isn't the end. If it is looking a bit leggy you could give it a trim, however you shouldn't be too hasty. The leaves turn from green to beautiful autumnal colours - it can happen almost as soon as it stops flowering, but even if it doesn't, it is worth the wait. 

The final gift from this great little geranium is the smell. The flowers don't have much of a scent. But the leaves have a gentle lemony smell which is released if you brush against the foliage or do the dead heading.

Green leaves will turn autumnal once flowering is done
Geranium Cantabrigiense Biokovo is named after Mount Biokovo in Croatia, where in 1990 the plant was discovered as a natural spontaneous hybrid.

Sunday, 27 June 2010


In amongst the geraniums (f5.6 @ 1/250s, 1000 ISO)

It can be fun to try to take pictures of bees in flight. But be prepared, bees move surprisingly quickly. You'll have to take a lot of images and delete most of them as they will probably be out of focus.

Geranium Himalayense Gravetye

Geranium Himalayense Gravetye is a beautiful bluey-purple geranium with large bowl-shaped flowers that have a white centre and dark veins. It holds a AGM (Award of Garden Merit) from the RHS.

It is low growing, no more than about 50cm, and spreads about 60-100cm. It's hardy, likes full sun or partial shade and well drained soil (but can grow in pretty much any situation). It can flower between May and September. It may not flower for very long (in our garden with so many bees about it gets about two to three weeks initially as the flowers go to seed quickly), but can flower a second time if cut back after the first flowering.

This year it has been disappointing - all leaves and not many flowers.

Geraniums are sometimes known as Cranesbill or Crane's Bill, because that is what their seed pods can look like (something that is very evident on this variety) and usually have attractive foliage that goes a nice colour in autumn - or earlier, as the colour can emerge anytime after they have stopped flowering.

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Geranium - Mrs Kendall Clarke

We have several geraniums in the garden, including: Geranium Cantabrigiense Biokovo,  G. Gravetye and G. Mrs Kendall Clarke. Geraniums are an ideal choice for a bee-friendly garden, because honey bees, solitary bees and bumblebees all love them, they are easy to grow, and produce lots of flowers.

Geranium Mrs Kendall Clarke

Mrs Kendall Clarke has an AGM (award of garden merit) from the RHS (Royal Horticultural Society). This means it should be a reliable plant to grow, no bad habits or nasty diseases.

It will give you masses of pale blue flowers with white veins. It is happy in full sun or partial shade and should flower throughout the summer (starting in early to mid June).

13th June 2010

We love it because our bees love it too. They are happily visiting every flower and stocking up on nectar.

It will self seed - so, you could save a few if you want to propagate it around the garden. Alternatively deadhead on a regular basis (to encourage repeated flowering) and increase stock by dividing the plant in spring or autumn.

Once it has finished flowering it can be cut back and will produce more foliage. It will take a couple of years to fill out, with a spread of about 50cm (and 40-50cm height).

Saturday, 12 June 2010


I may have gone a bit mad last year when shopping for bulbs. There was a great deal on Alliums at Hampton Court Flower show on the Warmhoven stand. You paid the money in advance and they sent the bulbs at the correct time for planting. But, I forgot what I had ordered so, I also bought some more at the RHS Wisley plant centre.

So, this year the garden has been full of alliums. The first to come up were Purple Sensation and Aflatuense.  They are pretty similar although Aflatuense is the taller of the two.

The cold winter slowed things down a little and the buds only started to appear in late April.

26 April 2010

Within a few days the buds start to open.

They hardly had time to unfurl when the bees decided to visit.

23 May 2010

6 June

All too soon flowers turn into seed heads.

Some flower heads formed these bulbils. Garlic does this too but, I've never seen them on alliums before. I eased them off the stalk and will plant them. Hopefully they'll produce new allium plants for next year, although I doubt they will be full sized blooms, that should take a few years. 


Foxgloves in the Global Stone Bee Friendly Plants garden, designed by Janey Auchincloss and Paul Hammond (f6.3 @ 1/160s. 100 ISO, 150mm lens - 225mm 35mm equivalent)

Foxgloves (f6.3 @ 1/60s. 100 ISO, 210mm - 315mm equivalent)

Black Iris (f5.6 @ 1/180s. 100 ISO, 300mm - 450mm equivalent)

  Circium (f5.6 @ 1/180s. 100 ISO, 260mm - 390mm equivalent)

Sarracenia leucphylla (f5.6 @ 1/125s, 3200 ISO)

Bromeliads in the Trailfinders Australian Garden, designer: Scott Wynd
(f5.6 @ 1/50s. 100 ISO, 300mm - 450mm equivalent)

 Irises in Christina Williams' Music on the Moors courtyard garden.
(f6.3 @ 1/50s. 100 ISO, 75mm - 112mm equivalent)

White Iris (f6.3 @ 1/160s. 100 ISO, 170mm - 255mm equivalent)

Iris Sibirica Silver Edge (f2 @ 1/30s. 100 ISO, 50mm)

  Yellow Orchids (f6.3 @ 1/13s. 100 ISO, 190mm - 285mm equivalent)

 Multicoloured Pansies (f4.5 @ 1/10s, +1.7EV, 100 ISO, 190mm - 285mm equivalent)
Andy Sturgeon garden (f5.6 @1/1000s ISO 1250)

Iris in Japanese Garden - F5.6 @1/125s ISO 1000