Little things…

We are still under a curfew at 18.00 to 6.00. The restaurants, cafes and places of entertainment are still closed. You can go clothes shopping but I was never too keen on that and my garden has a very relaxed dress code.

So I have more time to pay attention to smaller stuff. Every morning I check my seed trays. There is great joy if I actually see a change! This is a Cupressus sempervirens seed that has just burst through its seed coat. The little root is making a tentative exploration into the potting compost. The first leaves are still hidden inside the seed coat.

The beginning can be tough if the seed coating sticks onto the new leaves.

Once free of the seed coat the new leaves green up. It is hard to imagine this tiny thread like shoot becoming a tree.

I’ve never grown Morning Glory before but Kourosh saw a video of bees swarming around some Morning Glory so he has decided to grow these climbers around one of our apple trees.

At least their germination is amusing.

No tiny first leaves for them.

They open up like butterflies.

Very impressive first leaves!

Liatris seeds germinating

Then of course there is the problem of how sparingly to sow the seeds. This depends on cost and availability for me. Sometimes you will only receive 4-6 seeds and if it is something you really want it means individual pots and special care.

Last year I grew Liatris for the first time and I kept all the seed. I’ve had no one to share it with this year and as I had no idea if it would germinate, I put all my seeds into one small tray.

Yes, you guessed! I think every seed must have germinated. Of course, I was delighted when I saw the little shoots popping out from their tufted seed capsules. They will not flower this year but form bulbs and flower the year after.

Just after the seeds germinated I noticed they were selling summer bulbs in packets at our local supermarket. I had a look and bought a packet of 15 Liatris bulbs for 2 euro 50, at least these will flower this year. Growing Liatris from seed does not seem an economical proposition but I will be so proud of my home grown ones :).

I often think of a taunt that used to be thrown at people when I was a child – “Little things please little minds.”

Planting bulbs the hard way


This pot has lain since May of 2014 just to satisfy my curiosity.  I had noticed daffodils appearing in the garden where I thought they had not been planted but at the same time I doubted whether they would self-seed.

Bee approaches daffodil.jpg

I have read that bees are not attracted to daffodils but that will depend on the bees, the availability of other flowers and of course the variety of daffodil.


These pictures were taken in March of 2013, before we started keeping honey bees so I cannot answer for their tastes in nectar or pollen.

Daff seeds 24.5.2014 1.JPG

I do find that some of the daffodils go to seed so in May of 2014 I decided to plant some of the seeds.


In addition, the bumble bees are attracted to the tulips although some of them make very inelegant exits from inside the tulips, like this red tailed queen bumble bee.  So I also had seeds of a pretty pink tulip to sow with the daffodils.

Fritillary seed head 24.5.14 (2).JPG

Just to make up a threesome, I had noticed that the snakeskin fritillaria (Fritillaria meleagris) had masses of seeds so their seeds went in the pot too.

The fritillaria had been sown for the first time in the autumn of 2013 and flowered abundantly the following spring.  That was the last time I saw them.  I am not sure whether our hot, dry summers killed off the young plants or whether I had not loved them enough while they were flowering.


The seeds in my pot from 2014 had produced green leaves last year but I felt they would need to be planted out this year.  So with a heave I upturned the pot to see what was happening.


You must have faith in me here, as the photo is not clear, but there were masses of fritillaria bulblets (top left), six long, thin but very well rooted tulip bulbs (eight seeds had been planted originally) and lots of little daffodil bulblets.

I don’t like planting bulbs but here I was now with lots of little fritillaria bulblets (that I am not particularly keen on) but now I feel totally obliged to give them at least a chance to grow in with the little daffodil bulbs in a patch at the bottom of the garden.

The six pink tulip bulbs have received a preferential treatment and been replaced with new soil in the pot.

So why do I do it?  Just to be sure?  It is so much easier to pick up a bag of bulbs all ready to go.







Not your usual garden flowers

pulicaria dysenterica

Pulicaria dysenterica, or Fleabane, is not your usual garden flower and I can just imagine you thinking – “That figures!”  I thought hard about bringing it into the garden as I was worried that it might be difficult to control as it seems to pop up on the roadside here in the summer time without any problem.  Actually it has grown taller and more shrub like in the garden and is quite attractive in the wilder part.  Time will tell if I have difficulty in controlling it.

Green eyed bee

This is the reason I have it in the garden.  I love this green-eyed bee, which in turn loves the Fleabane.  However, this is my first picture of it this year but having the Fleabane in the garden may have saved me from heatstroke if I had been searching for it, as usual, outside.  July has been very hot and sunny.


There are lots of other bees that come along, like this little Megachilae which I can recognise from a distance as it bobs its tail up and down on the flower to pick up the pollen on the hairs under her abdomen.  I think this is a very efficient method to gather pollen but this is the only time I’ve seen it used.


The different Halictes come in droves but my green-eyed bee remains elusive.

Common blue butterfly

As I wait I get restless and snap at the butterflies that visit.  It is a very useful plant if you are keen to have a focal point to watch a lot of the pollinators around your garden.  As for herbal uses, it would seem to have been effective as a treatment against dysentery and the dried plants were among those used for strewing on the floors to deter fleas.  Perhaps not as useful nowadays, when we are not looking for a cure for cholera or something to control the fleas from a garden plant.

Lettuce flowers

This year again I have decided to let some lettuce flower.  Last year I let lettuce flower to see what bees were attracted to it and again this year I found only some tiny bees bothered to visit the flowers, although it is hardly surprising as they are competing with the lavender and origano flowers.  This year I have let the lettuce flower because I want to collect the seeds.

Lettuce flower closed

The lettuce flowers only last for one morning and then close in the afternoon.

Lettuce seeds

The seed heads are like little dandelion clocks and I pinch the seed heads off each day.  I decided to collect the seeds of our red and green leaf lettuce as lovely plants appeared in the front garden in the spring, obviously arriving with the garden compost.  However, we have had difficulty in getting the bought seeds to germinate so I am going to try DIY lettuce seeds.

Mullein garden

I have had several Mullein plants (Verbascum thapsis) self seed in the garden this year and I have found that they fit in very well and I like their tall candelabra shape.  This picture was taken in July.

Mullein garden august

Now in August, most of the flowers are finished but I have decided to let it go to seed.  It is a biannual and is very easy to remove by cutting it at the base.  It has a tap root and its roots do not wander through the garden.  Its seeds do like some open ground and it prefers an open spot with plenty of sun.  I can think of a few suitable spots if I can harvest the seeds.

It is also regarded as a medicinal plant and the flowers can be added to tisanes.  The young leaves can also be used if taken before the flowering but in any case the tisanes should be well strained to remove and tiny leaf hairs which could cause irritation.

Mullein honey bee

The reason I want to have a steady supply of the Mullein is to be able to watch all the different kind of bees that come each morning to gather the bright orange pollen.

As I take note of the flowers that attract the bees I notice how many of these flowers have been regarded as medicinal herbs in the past.




Back home


After a week away and a couple of thunderstorms inundating the garden all the weeds are happy and flourishing.  So much for the mulch of pine needles which covered the area under the ex-Christmas tree cut down last December.  I think the mulch would have worked if we had not had such a high rainfall.


The rainfall has meant that the grass needs cutting more frequently than usual.  Everywhere is still green but my husband makes sure to leave patches uncut so we can enjoy watching the bees.

Hypochaeris radicata, catsear

The tall yellow flowers that they love are not dandelions, but catsears (Hypochaeris radicata),  I think.

Dasypoda hirtipes

They are the favourite of the solitary bee Dasypoda hirtipes, the Abeille à culottes.  

Cute bee

She is not the only bee that favours these weeds but I have not yet found out what this one is called.


The Rudbeckia provides another splash of yellow.


These flowers stand two metres tall.  They self-seed onto the patch they have grown on the previous year and I have to thin them out to allow them sufficient space to grow.  They are perfect for the summer as they take the sun well and are drought tolerant although they have had lots of rain this year.


My Fuschia is two metres tall, too.

Fuschia close up

This is another perfect summer plant that gives so much for so little care.  I now have a cutting of it in the back garden that is doing well.  It is called Riccartonii, and I would love to have another hardy Fuschia with a different colour or flowers but this is the only variety I have seen in this area.  Is it the only reliable perennial Fuschia?


My Hydrangea must be enjoying the wetter conditions as it is full of flowers.  Hot, dry conditions should be avoided for Hydrangeas but mine seems to thrive against a wall in the sun!  Two cuttings are also doing well in a sunny spot in the back garden so I think I must have a particularly rugged specimen.


I am always impressed by the rugged plants that thrive no matter what.  The poppies seem to have taken advantage of the rain and have extended their season this year.

Pink poppy and bees

I have decided you can’t have too many poppies and I plan to sow even more next year.


All through the year I put aside the seeds of the plants I want to increase the following year.  It makes sense to increase the flowers that work in the garden (and for me attract the bees) but I had never thought about the economies that could be achieved gathering seeds.  I was amazed that The Garden Impressionists had collected over a £100 worth of yellow rattle seed that they will be able to re-sow in their wild flower meadow next year.

But if you do put your seeds to dry, do remember to label them as a lot of little black seeds can look very similar!


It’s raining, it’s pouring…

It’s raining it’s pouring…Well, what does a gardener (an amateur one!) do on a wet Sunday in March?  First comes the guilt for going walking during the warm sunny afternoons last week but that doesn’t last long.  The temperatures soared into the 20’s and it was too good to stay in the garden and get started on the spring clean-up.  Today I can make a start on my seeds. I have not looked at my seeds since the autumn.  I have thought about them but I have saved up the pleasure of a thorough foray into my seed reserves for just such a day.


I have my two reserves.  My “treasure chest” for the collection of long term favourites, plus the unusual and new seeds collected during the past year to be tested for the first time.


Then I have my serious, working collection which I sort through regularly during the growing season checking for second and later sowings.


My “serious” seed collection does not look very serious as it is in an ex shoebox loving decorated by my granddaughter.  However, I can make a recommendation of this container as it has served me well for many years; keeps the seed packets in a neat and orderly fashion and in addition slides conveniently under my settee for storage purposes. A collage project for a wet Sunday, perhaps?


My first selections are practical; some mixed salad leaves, some radish and some baby spinach.  We have not had frost for a few days now so I will be optimistic and hope that they will survive in the open ground.  I cannot proceed with any flower seeds or more tender plants until I get my covered staging out of winter hibernation and I need some dry weather to organise that.

As I sort through the flower seeds I also remember the warm autumn days when I collected them.  I remember a very special day in September in a garden inEngland.   The garden was beautiful and a perfect backdrop for a family lunch outside.  The little brown envelope contains more than dried verbena seeds; it contains lots of happy memories.