The Early Bee



Yesterday was another very mild day. Mild enough for this large bee to be out and about, checking out all my glasshouse seedlings. Anyway, ar aon nós, she had wandered into the glasshouse and for a short while was unable to locate the emergency exits. 

At the time I was checking last year’s geraniums for water and greenfly when I noticed her, silently resting against the frame. Her, not me.

The geranium needed water added and whitefly removed. Happy again now. I moved two of the large geranium pots outdoors but I’ll need to be alert to low night temperatures for another 6-8 weeks or thereabouts. They will grow better outside in a sunny spot, and I’ll put them back inside if necessary.

The story had a happy ending when the bee buzzed off somewhere else.


Primrose Lore

Garden centres are gearing up for the mad rush and gardeners are gearing up for visits to garden centre. Its a win-win situation.
Before the mad rush, I visited my local Country Life yesterday and came away with nineteen plants for a tenner. A single Aubretia Kitte Blue, a container of twelve cauliflowers and six beautiful promroses. The variety is unknown. While primroses are generally known to be yellow, it’s not always the case: there are so many varieties and colours available now.
I chose the stunningly vibrant lilac/pink ones standing erect on tall stems. The petals are so precisely formed, and right in the centre is a contrasting yellow. Within an hour, I had planted them into larger pots and they look great among the other spring plants.
Later, during the course of several gun battles on television, I elected to open up my Irish Wild Plants book. Primroses are given a chapter to themselves. Here are some items of information relating to them:

  • Long ago in Ireland, people used to hang a string of primroses over the door at the start of May. It was said that the primroses would protect the house as the fairies were not able to pass.
  • In many places primroses given as a gift should be a very full bunch or else misfortune would ensue, and a single primrose brought into a house was an omen of death.
  • In herbal medicine primroses were considered useful to treat jaundice, insomnia, tuberculosis, toothache and anxiety.
  • Coughs in horses were cured using crushed primrose roots strained in breast milk and put into the horses’ nose frequently!
  • In Irish it’s name is sabhaircín (pronounced sour-keen)
  • Finally, the Druids often carried primroses during their Celtic rituals as a protection from evil. Fragrant primrose oils were used to purify and anoint during these ancient rites.

Caterpillar Hell

For the past number of years, I have grown some vegetables. In 2015 I had created two raised beds in order to make things easier for myself. Most raised beds are constructed using wood to a height of about 30 centimetres, but I decided to use concrete, and I raised the beds much higher.
One of my favourite vegetables is Brussels Sprouts. The interesting thing about sprouts is that they are also favoured by caterpillars and slugs. Back in 2017, I selected three plants from the row of seeds I had planted and set them about 60 centimetres apart. As the butterfly season approached I covered two of the plants with netting and left the third uncovered. The result was that the butterflies colonised this plant, while the others were saved for our use.
This year I intend growing vegetables again and I put a permanent netting in place. Nothing will be planted here until mid-April but I like the idea of being able to keep all the home-grown food for ourselves rather than feeding the invaders. I will need to do some further adjusting during the summer because the sprouts will rise higher than this netting. How will I stop the slugs? I think I’ve got it sorted.


The rain began at lunchtime yesterday and it’s still at it. There was a very brief respite for about two hours after dusk. I had intended doing my usual bit of cycling this morning, but I opted instead for some recovery time. Time to put other jobs on the long finger too, such as powerhosing the front driveway, getting pallets to make a composting area behind the glasshouse or starting the cold frame that will be needed in April.
It’s not even the right weather to go taking some photographs so I am taking a look back through some shots taken since last summer. It’s a cheat day, really. Happy to reminisce.

Forcing The Rhubarb

Full moon and frost last night. Truth be told, the full moon is at 4pm today, but it looked full last night, measuring 99.3% just after midnight, clearly visible in a cloudless sky. That’s why the frost arrived.
Just as well, therefore, that I put in extra protection for the rhubarb plants. I had been digging a few days ago and I needed to remove the plant mulch and horse numna. While I was doing this I realised that an upturned terracotta pot (or two) would be good insulation. The height will be good too, as rhubarb forced in this way will grow to about 20-30cm before long.
Unfortunately, forcing rhubarb robs the plant of valuable energy, and later summer growth may be compromised. It is recommended to do this only every second year.

Dust Bath for the Birds

I’ve been watching closely. Nature is amazing. I had scattered plenty of sand and gravel on this patch of ground under the Acer. It is in dark shade during the summer and less so now. I had put the sand there to suppress weeds. It has worked well. Recently I noticed small almost- circular hollows, each one about 10cm across and about 3cm deep. They have been created by small birds, mostly house sparrows. They use the sand for their weekly dust bath. Even in winter, this area is dry because it is sheltered by the wall and it is banked up so that any excess water runs off.
Dust baths, also called dusting or sand bathing, are part of a bird’s preening and plumage maintenance that keeps feathers in top condition. The dust that is worked into the bird’s feathers will absorb excess oil to help keep the feathers from becoming greasy or matted. The oil-soaked dust is then shed easily to keep the plumage clean and flexible for more aerodynamic flight and efficient insulation. Dry skin and other debris can also be removed with excess dust, and regular dusting may help smother or minimize lice, feather mites, and other parasites. (Credit: Melissa Mayntz, The Spruce)

I spent a while digging today. The soil was unbelievably dry and very easy to work. Actually, I have very little digging to do each year. Most of the garden is weed-proofed using loose stone over a layer of membrane. In other places, there are dense ground cover spreading plants. The only areas of bare soil are the vegetable bed and the annual flower bed. Today was a good day to get started. I didn’t stay long at it because I was interrupted by a heavy shower. It was on this bed I had spread seaweed before Christmas, so it’s now completely dug in. The vegetable planning can now move on to the next phase.

Alpine Phlox

When I started doing a short daily update four months ago, my brother said that it would be hard to find something to write about for the winter. I had similar thoughts too.
Anyway, I decided to stick with it, and as the weeks went by I realised I had not missed a day. It felt a bit like the award given at the end of the primary-school year: no missed days. At no stage did I find it difficult to keep it going, because there’s plenty to see in the garden, even in winter. Because there is no growth and very little colour does not mean that there’s no life. Plants are hibernating and staying protected from the cold, and when conditions become favourable they are like a little dog let off a leash.

This little thing is Phlox subulata. It is very insignificant during the summer because it is very small, perhaps a mere 10cm across. It gets dwarfed by the strong growth of larger plants. The variety is ‘McDaniel’s Cushion’. After I took some photos and this video, I looked it up again on my ShootGardening page. I am reminded to take softwood cuttings from April to July. I will be looking forward to having six of these next year.

Final thought: We might think we are nurturing our garden, but of course it is our garden that is nurturing us. ~Jenny Uglow