"Gardening makes my heart bloom" -- mum

"The hardest thing of all is to find a black cat in a dark room, especially if there is no cat." -- Confucius

Friday, 19 November 2010

Friends of the garden

The garden was abuzz with all sorts of wonderful insects this year.  After such a harsh winter, I wanted to 'grow' lots of pollen and nectar primarily for the bees (as well as seeds for the birds).  The garden already had an established California lilac, a honeysuckle and an overhanging buddleia from next door.  To these I added chives, thyme, calendulas, borage, nasturtiums, lavender and sunflowers, planted alongside vegetables and fruiting plants.  'Weeds' such as celandines, daisies and dandelions were allowed to grow and multiply with reckless abandon to provide food for our garden heroes.
I had never encountered bumblebees until I came to this country.  They were mesmerising and demanded instant attention with their noisy arrival to claim the garden's airspace.  Showy, dizzy, clumsy, cute little furry blimps....how do they manage to stay airborne?  How?  Everytime I had seen one, I half expected him/her to crash drunkenly into the shrubbery....then I found this great series of short video clips produced by the BBC, check out Impossible Flight.  If you have time, watch musicians play Flight of the Bumblebee on this YouTube clip (7 pianos)...and this (trumpet)...and this (percussion) and finally this (iPad)!
White-tailed bumblebee
Red-tailed Queen bumblebee

Ladybirds are my favourite beetles.  They are considered by some as a harbinger of love, good luck and good fortune.  I am just so glad that they have taken up residence in the garden.  They were the first insects to come out of hibernation this year, tumbling out of the patio umbrella to stretch their little legs and wings.  That umbrella is never going to be moved into the shed again!
A wonderful surprise from within the patio umbrella 
Ladybird larvae: a most welcome sight anywhere.....though I must admit to wanting to swat this ferocious looking creature the first time I laid eyes on it.  Luckily, I left it alone, made some identification and was then able to welcome hordes more which were hatching all over the aphid infested honeysuckle.
Ladybird larvae

Hoverflies were everywhere from mid-spring to mid-autumn, busily feasting on the nectar and pollen of plants such as calendulas and borage grown to attract them.  Still, I had trouble telling the difference between hoverflies and wasps.  A quick research on the internet gave me my answer: hoverflies HOVER over the same spot (hence the name - duh!), wasps don't.
Hoverfly feasting on a calendula

Borage heaven

I'm not a great fan of spiders but I know they are an essential part of the eco-system.  As a child, I used to be frozen to the spot in terror at the sight of one.  Later on, living in Australia, the land of the deadliest spiders and snakes, I did my utmost to avoid spiders.  My last encounter was with the Redback Spider in Perth.  I rented a lovely old house surrounded by trees and bushes but soon enough Redbacks were dropping from the ceiling, everywhere!  Read this Metro article about Redbacks arriving in the UK. 
Can anyone identify this spider?
I am so glad that British spiders are harmless. Today, they weave their webs all over the garden with my blessing. I am now brave enough to relocate spiders out of the house without breaking into a cold sweat!

Fab location to catch insects - this web was spun
between raspberry canes.
Common Garden Spider


Stevie from GardenTherapy.ca said...

What wonderful photos! I too love to watch bumblebees lumbering from flower to flower.

Dim Sum Gardener said...

Ahh another bumblebee fan! Don't they just remind you of a friend who just couldn't stop talking?

Matron said...

I have your blog back again, hooray! Even though Matron 'does not do flowers' I have been trying to encourage beneficial insects into my veg patch. Poached egg plant (limanthes) are one of my favourites, but I have been leaving at least one or two veggies to go to flower and the bees love it! Particularly 2 year old parsnips and broccoli flowers!

Dim Sum Gardener said...

Welcome back! I used to say 'if I can't eat it, I'm not growing it' but now I know better - we need to feed the pollinators too. I've seen pics of limanthes on your blog, they look fab! Will definitely try those next year.

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