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WASPS, FOXGLOVES, BASIL, OVERWHELM
This week Chris and I spotted a little wasp nest on a path, it had subtle cream, red and green stripes. Only a few species of wasp make these nests, chewing wood and spitting it out with their saliva to make an amazing structure. Often people ask me what the point of wasps is, which I understand because they’re scared of being stung. Wasps have a bad rep but are actually extremely important to ecosystems and gardeners. They pollinate plants exactly like bees and they eat or parasitise other insects that could become problems for crops, including aphids and caterpillars. There are about 9,000 wasp species in the UK (Buglife), though we mostly see the familiar stripy common wasp, Vespula vulgaris. This is the species that stings us but if you don’t panic or shoo them away, they won’t and will eventually fly away. They’re more of a problem in late-summer when food becomes scarce, so if you grow lots of plants like certain Persicaria or leave fallen fruit for them at the other end of the garden, they’ll probably leave your BBQ alone.
Our garden had a green moment earlier this week as the alliums began to go over, their green seed pods perfectly timed to match the Cenolophium denudatum buds before they open to white. The Deschampsia cespitosa is a local wild grass I grew from collected seed two years ago.
I planted out our basil and gherkins in the polytunnel this week, joining the tomatoes and chillies. On the allotment I’ve planted and sown French and runner beans, as well as squashes, courgettes and pumpkins. Pretty much everything is in the ground now.
When we moved here I thought the garden had one type of geranium but now I look more closely, there are at least two. On the left of the above photo you can see the lighter green leaves and larger, darker pink flower. On the right a slightly more compact plant with paler, smaller flowers (possibly ‘Wargrave Pink’). The one on the right is the look I’d like the most for our garden so I plan to take some divisions to spread about when we eventually have some rain again.
It’s the time of the foxglove where we are, one of my favourite moments of the year. Sadly it’s so dry and hot their flowers are finishing as soon as they’ve opened as they rush to produce seed before they run out of water. It will be a short lived foxglove year.
Iris x hollandica ‘Lion King’ is a lovely bronze iris with bright yellow mark on the fall (lower petal). I’m enjoying its unusual colouring among the herbs at the moment, adding to the blues, whites and pinks of the herb bed in full flower. If you’re a pollinator the herb bed is the place to be right now, apparently.
Down on the veg plot, our lettuces look and taste lovely and we’re already struggling to know what to do with all of the leaves! I only grow cut and come again lettuce, picking what we need and leaving to plant to grow more. I could grow far fewer plants really, for two of us perhaps five plants on the grow at a time would be enough.
This week someone mentioned to me they are feeling overwhelmed by the amount of information out there at the moment. They aren’t alone, I know a lot of people feel overwhelmed especially by climate change and sustainability information. The size of the problem is huge and the amount that needs fixing in society is massive. I feel overwhelmed by it all too.
I thought it was a good opportunity to say, that none of us can do everything. All we need to do is keep learning and reading when we can, make the odd step here and there within our means, such as using water butts and not using pesticides. Share what we learn and stick together. That’s how wildlife can be helped, how the world’s Governments will eventually act with enough strength and society will adapt to stop climate change. Lots of small actions add up to a lot, enough informed people working together is change itself.
This week a group of us in the horticulture sector wrote to Government and various All-Party Parliamentary Groups asking them to ban the worst pesticides for garden use because they harm wildlife in decline and aren’t needed. The all-party groups have a set of MPs sitting on them from every elected party and focus on topics like gardening and insects. Our hope is someone will listen.