Weeks of waiting are over, and the asters I was impatiently anticipating back in August (Day 224 Waiting for Asters) are bursting into flower…Read More
You have to feel a bit sorry for asters. Everyone waits about for the flowers, as if that’s the be-all-and-end-all of the matter, paying scant attention to the rest of the plant – the scaffolding, if you like, for the floral display…Read More
This mental picture seems particularly apposite just now. The radio tells me we’re enjoying the driest September since 1960, while my ears tell me that the bees are certainly taking advantage of the weather. When out walking Bill in the fields I pass between two ivy-clad columns – heaven only knows what trees are providing the structural support, the climber is all-encompassing and glossy with luxuriant mature foliage, in full flower and cacophanous with all manner of flying insects. I identify wasps, several kinds of bee and hover flies among the cloud of voracious activity, before deciding to retreat to a safer distance. They all look perfectly preoccupied, but the sound is slightly intimidating, and I don’t really fancy hanging around in case the general mood should suddenly change.
Back in the garden, the dahlias continue to romp away in the borders, the asters are coming into flower and, while most of the lavender has now been cut back, there are a few patches which we’ve deliberately left. All of these late flowers seem to be enormously appreciated by the bees, our most welcome neighbours, and in a year when the plight of the bumble bee continues to be a serious concern, their presence in our garden in such enthusiastic crowds is both welcome and encouraging.
We’ve no immediate plans to have hives of our own, happy for the time being to let others do the hard work; it’s far less bothersome to get one’s honey from a jar, rather than a wooden box full of buzzing insects. In the meantime, I’m more than content that while we didn’t set out to plant a ‘bee friendly’ garden, by virtue of that fact that it’s brimming with flowers, that’s exactly what we have.
Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
and still more, later flowers for the bees
So that they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o’er-brimmed their clammy cells.
from To Autumn by John Keats, 1819
Some bee related links:The Bumblebee Conservation Trust
Friends of the Earth’s Bee Cause campaign page
The British Beekeepers’ Association
To Perryhill Nurseries in Sussex, then, there to buy a cartful of of fabulously cheerful daisies in two and three litre pots, ostensibly to increase the stock and variety of the plants in my borders, but in all truth to perk up the prospect by filling the gaps left by dahlias which fell victim to the combined efforts of winter flooding and the bloody slugs.
My haul included three asters, the purple leaved Aster lateriliflorus 'Lady in Black', the reasonably mildew resistant Aster 'Little Carlow', and the small, gorgeous Aster divaricatus, all of which are tantelisingly bedecked with buds about to burst open. I also couldn’t resist some more echinaceas, especially the wonderful 'Tomato Soup' – just the colour of a bowlful of Heinz – and a few more 'White Swan', whose blooms I find hauntingly beautiful. They’ll be going over soon in time for the asters to step up, but I’ll pull the spent petals off to leave the firm, coppery central bosses of the flower heads, which are worthy of their space in the border once the inital drama of the flowers has passed.
|Echinacea 'Tomato Soup', with a hitchhiker|
|Echinacea purpurea 'White Swan', soon to be de-petalled|
|Echinacea flower bud, looking very Sci-Fi|