Tuesday, March 16

Gardening Leave

1, Osmia; 2, Anthidium; 3, Panurgus; 4, Megachile.

I’ve just had an extended weekend back in Bristol. My husband (known on this blog as The Director) is a very dedicated naturalist so when the blackbirds wake us up with a blast of new season competitive singing at four in the morning his response is to get up and stand outside the front door in his pants with recording equipment. My role in this enterprise is to defrost the man-sized ice block that rolls back into bed an hour later.

I miss not having a garden when I’m in London and I love sitting outside with my coffee. However, our garden mustn’t be disturbed because our house houses a production company that makes natural history films and it’s quite handy to have a film set outside the back door. I am forbidden from doing any digging or planting apart from a very small area the size of a child’s sand box right at the end where I am allowed to plant a bit of salad (for the caterpillars).

One community that is being groomed for greatness in the garden is a colony* of solitary bees that started making burrows in our lawn a few years ago. Year on year the number and variety of species has increased and as these creatures arrive in ever greater numbers so do gangs of reprobate insects; parasitic bees and wasps coming round to steal the bee holes and lay eggs on the bee larva, a whole soap opera of naughtiness and cheating is going on down there.

Once the bees start their activity no sitting on the lawn is allowed in case the bees get a bit cross waiting to get in or out of their holes so The Director and I teeter together with our morning coffee on a bit of wobbly wall by the edge of my sand box.

*Strictly speaking we shouldn’t say 'colony' the correct word is aggregation, none of the bees are related, they just like living around each other in dense populations.


  1. hmmm...interesting setup. do these bees at least make honey? that could be one fringe benefit of giving up your garden to the beasties...

  2. wait... bees live in burrows?

  3. i had to re-read because, like nursemyra, i couldn't believe i'd read it right the first time, sugar:

  4. What queer bees you have missus! :¬)


  5. Have you considered a pot garden?

    Whenever I have the urge to have a garden, I plant things in pots on the back porch.

  6. Sounds like an ideal arrangement to me... no clipping, weeding or lawn mowing allowed! Living as I do surrounded by manic lawn mowing, gas-belching gardeners who seem only to want to achieve the look of a golf course.

    One must learn to live with the 'guilt' of allowing dandelions... though I did strive mightily the first 6 years to dig them out. I will not stoop to poison!


  7. So you have a lawn. And it's full of holes. Like a billiard table.

    [OK I stole this. From the great Alan Coren.]

  8. Screamish - 'fraid there's no honey being made - I too am having a problem seeing the up side to this situation.

    Nurse and Sav - most bees live in holes of some kind and many dig their home out of the mud.

    Mapstew - Nowt queer about my bees sir - there's something funny about my husband though!

    xl - I do have some pots - and this is where it is shown that I have black thumbs, very little survives

    Anonymous - I also am allergic to rampant gardening and am happy live alongside a few dandelions - but I'd love to grow some beans ... or artichokes ... or sunflowers

    Inky - To qualify as a billiard table don't I need to have a lot of fat blokes standing around it puffing on cigars?

  9. a "bunch" of writers is called a "compilation of writers";

    a "bunch" of teachers is known as a "dictatorial of teachers";

    a "bunch" of gossiping women is known as a "gabble" (which is very similar to the term of "gaggle of geese")


  10. hmmmm - perhaps if i sent hubby some wonderful photos i have of bees of all kinds working the sunflowers.

    also found i could sit in the middle of the herb garden and the bees were so busy with their business i was ignored.

  11. Right now, my "garden" (and I use that term loosely) is a sea of mud. My dog has killed all of my grass and I'm now leaning toward a peagravel garden, with pots instead of beds.

  12. Well, at least your garden is used for something. Ours is merely used to make the neighbours feel effortlessly superior.

  13. Deb - what would one call a handful of flowers then - or a big stemful of grapes?

    Scribe - pots rock but seas of mud could float boats!

    Mme Def - ours is indeed a very busy garden, I'd quite like to recline on it a bit more though (not just during winter time)

  14. Aggregation - yup, I prefer living in an aggregation to a colony as well ... Is that what we call France compared to Aussie??

  15. Like Nursemyra and Savannah I had no idea bees lived in burrows, but then all my bee knowledge came from watching Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café and reading the labels on jars of organic honey.

    I do know they like things that flower though, so you should be allowed to grow something.

  16. Grow some sunflowers, Lulu, they're beautiful and care not what colour thumbs you have. x

  17. Do the bees give you funny looks when you come out to enjoy your morning coffee, perhaps one of them sobbing hysterically "It's her or us, Mr Director!"?

  18. Ange - an aggregation doesn't sound that atractive though does it? We need to think of a better word...

    Eryl - bees are amazing and have many interesting ways of making a living. We do have flowering stuff.

    Synchy - sunflowers are allowed because I can drop the seeds down little holes (or plant seedlings) the mice, slugs and birds always seem to get them :(

    Ellis - you are right to be scared of gardens - they are full of beasts

    Gadjo - Mr Director does carry on with these bees as though they are his multiple mistresses

  19. I can imagine your Bristol garden as resplendent in No Entry (down a certain walkway), No Sitting, No Loitering (in case bugs are sleeping nearby)signs. You need to build a tree house to be able to loll.

    When I sit in the garden I go into a kind of reverie. I take out a book that never even gets looked at - I'm so busy listening to the buzzes and hums, it is sophoric.

    It must be very hard to leave for London again

  20. the flowers - depends on the condition of the flowers received:

    if they (the flowers) are in prime form, they are called a "Bouquet";
    if the condition is poor, it is called a "Wilt";
    if the condition of the presenter is one Less than Prime the the whole becomes a "Withering of Wives", even if the "Bouquet" is prime.

    A "bunch of grapes" is always a "Potentiality" as that can be used to refer to those for fresh eating.
    However - if these are destined for wine making - well, there MANY sub-categories from this - I don't want to be rude and take up much more space!

  21. Parasite bees ... the bastards. Colony collapse disorder can make one weep.

  22. Tous ces Insectes Hyménoptères, sociaux et floricoles sont utiles !!! Sans eux les fleurs ne seraient pas si belles et point de fruits !

    Moi j'ai un jardin rempli de fleurs,
    Un monde d'amour tout en couleur...

    Certaines parties restent sauvage ! Sauvage n'est pas le mot juste ... Naturelle ! Safran sauvage, Reine des prés, Pensée sauvage, Pissenlit
    , Ortie blanche, Plantain, chardon, Coquelicot et Aubépine, Bouleau, Merisier .......oui il est grand ! Et un plan d'eau comme miroir ... "LET THE SUN SHINE" Laissons faire la nature ! Donnez de l'espace à la nature !

    Bises au goût de miel

  23. Frenchie - a tree house is the perfect solution - I will build one and post the pictures

    Deb - I love these clarifications - so often have I held a wilt of flowers

    Red - Parasite bees and wasps are unbelievably horrific - and interesting - our next movie!

    Crabbers - moi aussi, je serai content si certaines parties restes sauvage mais les parties sauvage sont un peu partout

  24. thanks i like your work too:)))

  25. I'm very fond of solitary bees, despite their entirely ignoring the nest boxes. They and the bumblebees do sterling work on my damson and cherry trees.

  26. I've always wanted a tree house - go on, get one put in.

  27. I'm going to Bristol for a stag do soon. Anywhere I should include on my list?

  28. Welcome to you Leni - thank you!

    Kevin - I grumble about them, but you are right they are very useful, and we do have fruit trees.

    Frenchie - you might have to come over and help - are you handy with climbing gear?

    Mark - A Stag Do eh?, do you want some horses to run away from - I can give you the address of the Police Stables if you like.

  29. As a biologist and photographer, this sounds like my kind of place. There is usually a species of solitary bee that nest along the margins of my yard every spring...I haven't seen them yet this year. Cool!!

  30. Mr Jelly - feel free to come on over and enjoy our bees - you won't be able to sit down though!


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