Archives for posts with tag: environment
Geranium Magnificum

Geranium Magnificum

Bees are in trouble. Although Europe has announced a ban on neonicotinoid pesticides, bee numbers have crashed in recent years, and our fuzzy little friends need all the help they can get. If everyone were to grow a pot full of a flower that bees love, it would help enormously.

But what flowers do bees like? The answer tends to be, simple ones with lots of nectar and pollen (of course!). Frilly, complicated flowers like roses that bees have to fight to get into are not on their dinner list. One that is, is the flower above – geranium magnificum, which lives up to its name in June with a magnificent display – masses of purple flowers that will be filled all month with browsing bees.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Foxglove

Another flower that bees love is the humble foxglove. Depending on where you live in the country, this will either be a plant you need to buy from a nursery (it can be grown from seed, though the seed is incredibly fine) or it will be a weed in your garden that you find yourself pulling from every pot. Don’t pull it all out though! Those bell-shaped flowers are irresistible to bees. Just make sure that you keep them well away from children – their berries are poisonous, and their hairy leaves can also cause irritation.

P6140707 Lavender

The beautiful scent of lavender is something that attracts people to the plant almost as readily as bees. The yellow plant in the foreground, on the other hand, is goldenrod and although its flowers are very simple they appear not to appeal to bees in the slightest. But a lovely mound of sweet-smelling lavender will be smothered in bees through August and into September – well worth the space needed to grow this large shrub.

Buddleia_davidii

The buddleia is another plant that needs little introduction – a familiar site everywhere, this hardy little bush can be found growing alongside railways, clinging to cracks in high brick walls – anywhere, indeed, where it can get a foothold. And where the buddleia goes, insects follow. Long, fat spires of tiny purple flowers adorn the bush throughout August and provide both butterflies and bees with an excellent feast. Indeed, it’s hard to take a photograph of a buddleia flower without a feeding bee or butterfly upon it!

Snapdragon

The snapdragon – antirrhinum – is another cheerful and common garden plant, a biennial that flowers profusely throughout the summer. It’s a favourite with children because of its amusing composition – the plant’s stamens are hidden inside the closed ‘mouth’ of the flower, which bees (as you can see) love pushing their way into. A border favourite and very easy to grow, this is a great summer bee feeding station.

oregano

Oregano is best known as a herb, often used in Mediterranean cookery, but it is also another bee favourite. Simple sprays of lilac to deep purple flowers are found throughout August, a month when bees are quite spoiled for choice! Simple to grow, oregano can be kept in a pot on the windowsill if you are short of space, and will be quite at home on a sunny patio.

Sweet pea

The sweet pea is the florist’s favourite, a sentiment that bees would undoubtedly agree with. These gorgeous, beautifully-scented flowers unfold their delicate wings as early as May. A frame of some sort is needed for this popular garden climber – something as simple as a wig-wam of canes in a large pot will suffice, or they can be intermingled with runner beans for an interesting effect. Sweet peas will carry on flowering throughout the summer, providing they are dead-headed regularly. Picking a bunch to allow their sweet scent to fill your living room will encourage even more flowers!

***Apple

It’s easy to forget that one of the bee’s main jobs, from a human point of view, is the pollination of fruit. Therefore an apple or pear tree is also a wonderful bee attractant during the early days of a warm spring when bees are just beginning to venture out and are in most need of nourishment. A tree is not an option if you live in a flat, of course, but even a small garden can usually find room for an apple tree grown on dwarfing rootstock – this type of tree is far less vigorous than a ‘normal’ apple tree and needs no more than a few feet of space to thrive. A good prune every year, once winter has set in, will ensure it stays in shape – and of course, you get the extra reward in autumn of the juicy apples!

Red clover

Red clover is another early bee favourite and can often be found in the slightly wilder parts of a garden – having everything completely neat is not always good for insects! A small rough patch, where the grass is not regularly mowed and where a small patch of nettles and red clover can flourish, can be really helpful to both butterflies and bees. It’s also possible to buy red clover seed, as it is used by vegetable gardeners as a green mulch. The pom-pom flowers are also very attractive, nestled into a bed of grass.

Honeysuckle

Last, but not least, is the honeysuckle. Possessed of the most glorious scent in the cool of an early summer morning or evening, honeysuckle is a rambling shrub that will climb up and mask even the ugliest of walls. Honeysuckles come in a wide variety of colours, ranging from dramatic reds and oranges to pale cream.

In among this ‘top ten’ is a plant for (almost) everyone – why not find a space in your plot for one or two. Or even all ten! The bees will thank you for it, and you will be rewarded with a scent and colour-filled summer.

While at the Conwy Food Feast this weekend, I acquired myself something I didn’t expect. All aglow with bonhomie, meandering with the crowds, I took pity on a young man selling calendars for a great charity, our local children’s hospice. I beamed at him shortsightedly as he slipped the thing into a brown paper bag – how kind, I thought. When I got home, I realised why – the darn thing was full of naked men…

You are thinking, she is older than I thought, complaining about naked men! And in any case, is it not practically law that charity calendars nowadays must feature naked people? (Thank you very much indeed, Calendar Girls). You are thinking of bronzed and buff young chaps, no doubt, which would be slightly off the mark. The photograph of them playing snooker is particularly disturbing, partly because I think someone has used Photoshop to remove one of the balls (the blue, I think).

Well, all this got me a-thinking. Species extinction is a fairly sexy topic, there are millions around the world trying to save tigers and pandas and suchlike. But what about the poor, unsexy ones – the ones that have ended up at life’s metaphorical snooker table? Like the poor freshwater pearl mussel, large numbers of which were wiped out at Ennerdale in Cumbria this year.

The charity Buglife mourned these long-lived creatures (they live 150 years, so are even older than me!), saying: “The bloated corpses of animals born when Charles Darwin was alive have been floating out of their beds and (are) being swept into the Irish Sea.” Everyone else, I suspect, was looking up recipes for moules marinere… Yet these little creatures are on the list of the world’s 365 most endangered species, along with the tiger.

The UK is the lucky home to a host of rare bivalves, including the depressed river mussel – one supposes the poor beast’s unfortunate name probably doesn’t endear it to folks who would rather see it on a bed of rocket with a white wine sauce. Such creatures also suffer the very real problem of poaching, which has been happening (in both senses of the word) to Roman snails. These sadly tasty little chaps are being hoicked out of their native woodlands and sold to restaurants despite the fact that they are rare and protected in the UK, and doubtless will get even rarer if the poachers get their way.

In some places, local activists are doing their best – a news story this summer recounted one snail vigilante’s story of catching a poacher red-handed with his slimy swag. ‘“I said ‘you’re breaking the law’ and he said ‘so what?’ the good chap recalls. “I grabbed hold of the bag and wouldn’t let go; he had two choices, he could go but the snails stayed.”

It warms the cockles of my crusty old heart to know they are out there, people who see beyond the unglamorous surface to the worthwhile cause. It’s good to know, if only because it puts me in with a fighting chance of preservation. But I bet these poor creatures would be faring a lot better on the world stage if they just looked a tad sexier. I envisage a charity calendar – all I need is a dozen celebrities prepared to have their vital assets covered in various assorted slugs, snails and mussels… Anyone?

Some nice seawater...

A Welsh beach in summer, with atypical sunshine.

Well here I am, this is my blog. The ‘gravatar’ is one of my dogs, Hamish, who is much prettier than me.

I am an environmental journalist and have been for some centuries, or so some people think. I write a lot about water, for some rather wonderful publications that somehow put up with me. For that I thank them from the bottom of my crusty old heart.

Like many journalists, I suffer from the vice of Googling myself. This is not yet illegal, though some governments are working on it. Usually, all I find are links to articles I’ve written (which is good) but yesterday I found a webpage which lambasts a small news story on a UN report on oceans and climate change. Not good!

The poor little blameless story, which simply summarises the report’s findings, is lambasted as ‘highly inaccurate’ and ‘climate change brainwash’.

Since the opinion is from a Learned Doctor and I am only a Grumpy Green Granny, far be it from me to argue. But my simple brain cannot quite wrap itself round one of his arguments about seawater entering aquifers (Basically rocks that hold water, like a big rocky sponge. Water utilities pump it up for drinking). Apparently salt water getting into freshwater aquifers is a Good Thing.

The learned chap says, and I quote: ‘any intrusion of seawater into freshwater aquifers raises (not lowers) the freshwater water table. That’s a simple consequence of the physics, i.e. higher density of saltwater compared to freshwater. Therefore, any such freshwater reservoir will not diminish in size or volume by any seawater intrusion, it will just become raised.’

So, as I understand it, he is saying that the heavier seawater will simply push the freshwater up – there will be more water, and it will be closer to the surface and handier for us to reach. Oh deep joy! Break out the furnaces, onward with climate change!

But hang on a tick. I vaguely remember some physics too, or is it cookery? It is to do with mixing. You can test this yourself at home. Mix two tablespoons of salt with 100ml of water. Then add 200ml of freshwater.

Look carefully to see if you can see the helpful saltwater pushing up the freshwater. Take a sip (carefully! I don’t want anyone’s mother writing to me to complain I’ve made their child sick!). Does it taste fresh to you? No, I didn’t think so… And neither will your aquifer. It may take a bit longer, particularly if you don’t use a spoon, but it will happen. Is this a Good Thing? You tell me!