Is this an allium?

My parents paid a visit today and as usual came bearing gifts. This time, one of them was what appeared to smell like a plant from the allium family. It has seed heads similar to wild garlic but its roots look more like the bulbils on Allium savitum. So, we are puzzled.

It seems to grow wild in South Lincolnshire. At least, it has introduced itself into the gardens around where they live but is it an allium or an allium lookalike? And is it edible?

While the puzzle continues, I’ve spread the roots around the front garden, so that all being well I can have a display next spring. I realise that the garden is about to plummet into a flower-free zone, now the tulips have come to an end and the red campion is running to seed. So, I really need to think about what else I can put in to continue not just the show but food for pollinators.

I have sown zinnia, cornflowers and rudbeckia (thanks once again to Nancy at skyent) in the pot which housed a few tulips, so I hope these come up and then self-seed. And of course, the echinacea I mentioned in another post recently may bear flowers, so it hopefully won’t be a desert.

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Ecology of a tree

I’ve just spent a fascinating half hour watching the various insects on my Orleans Reinette (apple tree). You know how you pop out to put something in the bin, only to find you need your camera… well, I did rush back for mine but it was too late for the original shot.

The sight which caught my eye was a ladybird heading towards a row of aphids,

Can you see the aphid?

closely followed by an ant, who I’ve now learned was probably trying to protect them.

I was then both charmed and astounded to see a plethora of bumblebees on the tree. Sadly, this is apparently not a good sign: according to a BBC report going back over ten years, bumblebees are attracted to the aphid secretions because of the lack of flowers providing nectar. It wouldn’t be so bad if this food had protein but alas it doesn’t.

As far as I am concerned, it seems better to give the bees something to eat than to attempt to eradicate the aphids. Besides, what would the ladybirds do? My tree is strong enough to withstand the aphid infestation and watching the insects busy in their lives is far better than TV.

Posted in forest garden, Wildlife | Tagged , , , | 10 Comments

Taken for a ride

On the list at my local organic farm this week was elderflower. So, I had to avail myself of the offer in order to make a batch of cordial.

The farmer was surprised that anyone was showing an interest but was nonetheless pleased that I did. She was even more pleased when she learned I eat nettles. ‘Come and pick them whenever you like’ was the offer, so next year I might just do that. (They are getting past it now.)

Back home, I realised I had company. It was a spider but not one I had ever seen before. I hope it likes my garden as much as elderflower.

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The knock-on effect of the drought?

For anyone who missed it, we had a drought last summer, followed by a dry winter and spring. I’ve only been in the CSA vegetable scheme at my local farm since last September, so I can’t be sure they have had to buy in vegetables because of this but I wouldn’t be surprised!

Irrespective of the difficulty in growing vegetables, it looks like my apple trees were weakened. I thought the Orleans Reinette at the back of the garden had shaken off the dreaded aphids, now it was bigger. Even better, the codling moth trap this year was catching them. Ah, but look at this:

Notwithstanding, the tree is laden with apples and hopefully not too many will fall in the June drop. The same goes for the crab apple tree, which has also been badly affected by aphids but has more fruit than I’ve ever seen before.

Even the two younger trees have apples on them, though I wouldn’t be surprised if they all fell. Besides, this is probably for the best, although I would like to try them. It would be particularly nice for my daughter to get one from her tree but all will be revealed in the fullness of time.

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The Knepp Safari

After reading Wilding by Isabella Tree at the start of the year, I was excited about going on a safari on the Knepp Castle Estate, the subject of the book. I doubt I’ll ever go on a safari in Africa, so I was intrigued about how one would pan out in the English countryside. And of course, I wanted to see what all the fuss was about in West Sussex.

In the event, considering the rewilding going on almost outside my front door (see my previous post Not the African savanna), I realised what a special place I live in. Perhaps it would have been easier to appreciate the Knepp project if I had been on foot, though the company was most definitely pleasing on the safari vehicle. And at least I now know what it’s like to be in one.

In other words, for £40 per person the safari was worth it. As you may have found, the anticipation is sometimes the nicest part but the trip did also help me join some dots.

Stairs up to treehouse from where we could look over the estate. With binoculars we saw a stork feeding its young on top of a tree in the distance.

In the treehouse – to think the land was once fields of wheat and other traditionally farmed crops.

Tamworth pigs

A slow worm, which is actually a legless lizard.

Irises. We were trying to spot nightingales with our binoculars – didn’t see them but we did get to hear them at least.

Posted in Days out, Wildlife | Tagged , | 17 Comments

Not the African savanna

It was a rare occasion that I didn’t take my phone with me on Sunday afternoon. We’d gone for a walk to look for elderflower, though I knew it was possibly a little too early.

In the event, we ended up walking through the country park near our house to get home. I feel continually blessed to have such a resource so close to my house: literally a hundred metres or so. And to think it was once a coal mine.

In the above photo you can see remnants of the coal mining industry on the landscape to the left. Here little vegetation is growing – so far.

However, the purpose of this photograph is to illustrate the lack of water in the pond. At this time of year, the pond should be thriving, not a wadi.

No doubt the drought last year will be part of the reason for the disappearing pond. This will have been compounded by the dry winter and dearth of rain this spring.

On the other hand, some things seem to have benefitted from the strange climatic conditions. One such is the purslane which has suddenly appeared in the back garden. I had sown some a few years ago but it didn’t come to much. Now it’s doing well.

Equally, I planted echinacea seedlings in the front garden in the same year. They seemed to die on me but look at this:

I do hope I’m right as I love echinacea. So will the birds and the bees if it thrives this time. Quite what happened in the intervening years, though, remains a mystery!

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Harvesting what I can

The rhubarb isn’t growing very well this year. I put it down to the crown only being rehomed in its new spot in March, so its roots couldn’t develop in time. Never mind, it is good to have a rest now and then, anyway.

On the other hand, the lemon balm reseeded itself literally all over the back garden, so I can have as many cups of tea as I could wish for.

Lemon balm tea for my morning refreshment

Since doing one of my many MOOCs, where I learned about how big my carbon footprint was from consuming imported coffee and bananas etc, and realising that coffee was giving me reflux, the lemon balm (and mint, which has been making its relentless spread) are a welcome substitute.

The chive flowers are just coming into bloom, so they are another welcome addition to my diet. They, like the lemon balm, have self-seeded in new places and when the bumble bees aren’t distracted by phacelia, which is also all over the garden, they are in their element on it.

Having moved the soil which was where the pond now is, poppies are also springing up all over. These are largely being pulled out, though. At least they are providing biomass for the compost bin, which with all the phacelia means this year might be poor in terms of food for me but hopefully good for my soil in the future.

Posted in herbs, soil management | Tagged , , , , | 10 Comments