Right Plant – Right Place

Right Plant Right Place

January 11, 2013


It’s important to know what you can plant with difficult soil types.
by Charlotte Ridley – A Room Outside Garden Design.

What to plant in tricky soil
Heavy Clay Soil in Deep Shade
 Clay soil is easily compressed when wet and water can be slow to drain away.  This can make it cold and wet in winter and if this is compounded by being in a deeply shaded area, little light will be able to filter through.  If the soil becomes water logged, there will be insufficient oxygen at the roots and the growth of the plant will be impeded, eventually leading to rot if the water logging persists.  In long, dry periods, heavy clay soil can become hard and cracked making it difficult for roots to penetrate, particularly for young plants. 
 However, the water-retentive nature of heavy clay soil also means that nutrients are retained in the soil for longer.
 Plants that cope well in these conditions will tend to have fleshy, rather than fibrous, roots.  They are also more likely to have larger leaves to make the most of the available sunlight.
 The following plants are suited to growing in these conditions:
Aucuba japonica
Viburnum davidii
Kerria japonica
Hosta sp.
Campanula lactiflora

Light Sandy Soil in Full Sun
 The problem with sandy soil is that it has very little structure.  Water drains away quickly as do nutrients.  However, this also makes sandy soil quicker to warm up than a heavy clay soil.  For these reasons plants that grow in these conditions have to adapt to suit the abiotic conditions.  To reduce loss of water through leaves many plants have developed silvery foliage to reflect light.  Alternatively they may have lots of narrow or deeply cut and spiny leaves to reduce the amount of water lost through transpiration.  Plants with fibrous roots, such as grasses will do well as they have a larger surface area through which to absorb nutrients from the soil.  Some bulbs do well in sandy soil as they do not like to sit in damp conditions.  A bulbous plant is suited to growing in a soil that may be lacking in nutrients as the bulb is able to retain enough energy for the following growing season without having to rely on getting nutrients from the soil.
 The following plants are suited to growing in these conditions:
Acanthus hirsutus
Allium christophii
Euphorbia nicaeensis
Cortaderia selloana
Linum narbonense

Permanently Damp Soil
Although there are many plants that thrive on permanently damp soil, the majority will start to suffer if their roots remain damp for prolonged periods.  This is due to the plant being forced to respire anaerobically which does not produce as much energy as normal, aerobic respiration where there is an adequate supply of oxygen.  In waterlogged conditions there will be insufficient oxygen available to the plant roots and those that have not adapted to this sort of environment will be unable to survive.  Bog plants have evolved so that they can take in oxygen through other areas such as their stems so that they are not affected if their roots are permanently wet.
 The following plants are suited to growing in these conditions:
Salix daphnoides
Viburnum opulus
Spiraea x vanhouttei
Gunnera manicata
Astilbe chinensis
Rodgersia pinnata
Rheum palmatum

Acidic Peaty Soil
 An acidic soil is classed as pH 5.5.  In this type of soil there can be a lack of magnesium and some plants may be more prone to conditions like club root.  Ericaceous plants thrive in this environment, often found in woodland.
 The following plants are suited to growing in these conditions:
Ericaceous Plants:
Magnolia fraseri
Camellia japonica
Erica cinerea
Acer japonicum
Gentiana x macaulayi
Thalictrum diffusiflorum
 In a very acidic soil (pH lower than 5.5) nutrients such as calcium and phosphorus are restricted.  A lack of calcium causes nutrients to wash out of the soil and a lack of phosphorus affects root growth.  In soil such as that found in peat bogs this severe lack of nutrients has caused plants to evolve in more extreme ways to find their nutrients elsewhere.  Carnivorous (or insectivorous) plants attract, trap and digest creatures, often insects.  As the insect decays, nutrients are released that can be absorbed by the plant.
 Carniverous/Insectivorous Plants:
Dionaea muscipula – Venus Fly Trap
Drosera capensis – Sundew
Nepenthes glabrata – Pitcher plant

Coastal sites
 Coastal sites suffer from exposure to harsh, salty winds causing plants to lose a lot of water.  Coastal plants have adapted to reduce transpiration levels in a number of ways such as narrow or deeply cut leaves that reduced exposure, silvery foliage to reflect light and hairy leaves to retain moisture.  As coastal sites are often sandy and free-draining as well, moisture retention is extremely important.
 The following plants are suited to growing in these conditions:
Euphorbia nicaeensis – small blue-ish leaves
Senecio cineraria – silvery, hairy, deep cut leaves
Pennisetum alopecuroides – narrow, strap-like leaves, fibrous roots
Geranium sanguineum – deep cut leaves, low-growing plant
Escallonia – very small glossy leaves
Cytisus – very narrow leaves and small flowers

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What to do in the garden in April

What to do in the garden in January

What to do in the garden in April

There’s always something to be doing in the garden, whether it’s pruning, tidying or sowing, so we’ve put together our top gardening tasks for April.

flower garden daffodil In the flower garden

  • • Dig in a 5cm (or more) layer of compost or well rotted manure into your beds to prepare for the growing season. You can also work in a general purpose fertiliser such as pelleted chicken manure or fish, blood and bone.
  • • Apply a layer of mulch around your perennials, trees and shrubs before the hot weather arrives. Use organic matter such as well rotted manure.
  • • Feed trees, shrubs and hedges with a balanced, slow-release fertiliser by lightly forking it into the soil surface. Roses are greedy plants and will greatly benefit from feeding as they come into growth.
  • • Lift and divide perennial plants now to improve their vigour and create new plants for your garden.
  • • Divide Hostas before they come into leaf.
  • • Divide Primroses after they have finished flowering.
  • • You can start to move evergreen shrubs and trees now provided the soil isn’t frozen or waterlogged.
  • • Plant summer-flowering bulbs such as LiliesGladiolus and Ranunculus into beds, borders and containers.
  • • Continue to plant herbaceous perennials.
  • • Forced flower bulbs such as hyacinths and daffodils, which have now finished flowering, can be planted outdoors in garden borders..
  • • Hardwood cuttings taken last year may need planting or potting on now.
  • • If any of your garden plants will need supporting this year, put the supports in now so the plants grow up through them. Adding supports afterwards is difficult and and may damage the plant.
  • • Tie in climbing and rambling roses to their supports.
  • • Honeysuckle and Clematis will now be putting on growth, tie in new stems to train the plant along its support.
  • • Check any tree ties to make sure the tie is not cutting into the trunk. Loosen any that are tight to allow the trunk room to expand.
  • • Prune your Penstemons now – cut all the old shoots back to the base provided there is new growth at the bottom of the plant. If there are no new shoots at the base, cut just above the lowest set of leaves.
  • • If you haven’t done so already, finish cutting back any dead foliage left on your perennials and ornamental grasses to make way for new growth.
  • • Prune Forsythia as soon as they have finished flowering, cutting back to strong young shoots.
  • • Trim winter-flowering heathers as the flowers disappear, to prevent the plants becoming leggy.
  • • Continue to remove any faded flowers from your winter pansies to stop them setting seed. This will encourage flushes of new flowers throughout the spring.
  • • Deadhead daffodils and tulips as the flowers finish but leave the foliage intact allowing it to die back naturally.
  • • Direct sow hardy annuals outside or in pots or modules.
  • • Check that your container plants are not drying out – warm weather will quickly affect soil moisture levels.

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How to grow potatoes in bags

How to grow potatoes in bags

How to grow potatoes in bags

If you’re lucky enough to have space on your vegetable plot you can grow your potatoes in the ground. If you only have
limited space read this potato growing guide to find out how to grow potatoes in containers.
Nothing beats that freshly dug, earthy taste of your own home grown potatoes! Growing your own potatoes isn’t as
 complicated as you might think, particularly if you grow them in potato bags. It’s the perfect method for growing spuds 
in small gardens, patios or even on balconies! Potatoes growing in containers are also at much less risk of pests and 
diseases. You can buy seed potatoes for cropping throughout most of the year, including seed potatoes
 for Christmas which are becoming increasingly popular.

When to grow potatoes
Potatoes are normally planted in March for harvesting throughout summer and autumn. They can also be planted in August/September for Christmas new potatoes (these are also known as Second Cropping Potatoes). 
Use the table below as a general guide on when to plant potatoes.
 Cropping Type   Planting time begins   Final planting date   Harvest from
planting date 
First early potatoes End of February Late May 10 weeks
Second early potatoes March Late May 13 weeks
Early maincrop potatoes March Late May 15 weeks
Maincrop potatoes March Mid May 20 weeks
Second cropping potatoes Early August End of August 11 weeks

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Top 10 easy to grow flower plants and seeds for beginners

Top 10 Easy to grow flower plants and seeds

Top 10 easy to grow flower plants and seeds for beginners

Do your neighbour’s borders burgeon with colour, and their containers drip with flowers
while yours look brown and crispy? The fact is that some flowers are easier to grow than
others – but your neighbour probably knows that already! Read our list of top 10 easy to
grow garden plants and discover the secret to a hassle-free summer garden.
No 1 easy to grow - Sunflowers


Easy plants for kids to grow – they will definitely be impressed with 
Sunflower ‘Mongolian Giant’ growing up to 14 feet tall! Just sow the
 seeds straight into the ground in a sunny, sheltered spot and watch
 them grow and grow and grow! Be sure to provide the stems with 
supports to grow the tallest sunflowers around.
No 2 easy to grow - Sweet Peas

Sweet Peas

Who can resist their delicious fragrance? And the more you pick,
the more flowers they produce! These large seeds are easy to handle, 
but if sowing sounds complicated then buy them as plug plants! 
A sunny spot, a supportive fence, and plenty of water is all these 
climbers need to produce your own ‘home grown’ cut flowers. 
Just keep an eye out for troublesome slugs and snails – they love the young shoots.
No 3 easy to grow - Nigella

Nigella (Love in A  Mist)

Such easy plants to grow. Simply scatter nigella seed across 
a patch of bare soil and let it look after itself! With jewel-like flowers 
and delicate ferny leaves, nigella is much tougher than it looks. 
As the flowers fade, this pretty plant will set seed for the following year. 
What could be simpler!
No 4 easy to grow - Aquilegia


Aquilegias are easy plants to grow from seeds and will come back year after year. 
Start aquilegias in small pots for transplanting later on.
 Once they are established they will happily set seed so you will never be short 
of new plants! They tolerate almost any conditions in sun or semi-shade,
 and their pretty bonnet-like flowers come in almost every imaginable
 colour combination.
No 5 easy to grow - Eschscholzia (Californian Poppy)Eschscholzia (Californian Poppy)
If you are not a fan of watering then Eschscholzia would make easy to grow plants 
for your garden. These colourful little annuals thrive in poor, dry soil and full sun 
so they are perfect for filling forgotten corners of the garden. 
Simply scatter them where you want them to flower and let them take care of 
themselves. Each year they will set seed which will grow the following summer, 
creating effortless drifts of colour.
No 6 easy to grow - Nasturtium


Quick growing and colourful! Nasturtiums are easy plants for children to grow. 
Sow them in borders as ground cover or let them spill out of containers. 
The large nasturtium seeds can be sown directly into the soil – just wait until 
after the last frosts. Try some of their edible flowers in a salad or as a pretty garnish.
No 7 easy to grow - Marigolds


These easy to grow bedding plants are another great choice for kids.
 Marigold seeds are easy to handle and grow really quickly so you won’t have
to wait long for their colourful flowers. From tall varieties for the border to 
small types for beds and containers, there is a marigold to suit every sunny 
spot in the garden.
No 8 easy to grow - Hardy Geranium (Cranesbill)

Hardy Geranium (Cranesbill)

Reliable, low maintenance, ground cover that will wander through your 
borders year after year. Hardy geraniums are not difficult to grow from seed 
but you can grow them from bareroots which is even simpler.
No 9 easy to grow - Fuchsias


Easy to grow patio plants when grown from plugs, and best loved for adding colour 
to hanging baskets and containers. Fuchsiascome in all colours and shapes, 
from trailing to upright you could even try the climbing fuchsia ‘Lady Boothby’ 
for an ambitious display. For a really professional look, pinch out the tips
 of each stem while the plants are still young to encourage lots of bushy growth.
No 10 easy to grow - Pansy


With their cheery faces, it’s hard to resist the appeal of pansies. 
These garden favourites are easy plants to grow from seed but even easier
 from plug plants. Whether you grow them for winter or summer colour,
 remember to deadhead the faded flowers to encourage more and more.

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Gardening for kids

Gardening for kids

Use your own garden as an excuse to spend time with your family and you can all get some exercise while having fun.

Planting tips and ideas 
• Choose bedding plants that will look promising as soon as they go in the ground. Pansies, geraniums and primroses are usually safe bets with pretty results.
• Keep mess under control by getting your child to plant flowers in pots that can sit outside but don’t require lots of digging. The pot marigold can be planted in spring and within 10 weeks produces lots of flowers.
• For something different and durable, sow cornflower seeds in one corner of your garden and wait for their vibrant bluey purple flowers spring up.
• If your child wants to plant something from seed, keep up their interest by taking regular photos to chart their bloom’s progress as the weeks go by.
Gardening in small outside spaces
• If you don’t have any or very much garden space, try windowsill pots (herbs and small tomatoes your child can then help you cook with when they’re ready).
• Ask a neighbour or elderly relative if you can help look after their garden. It’s still great fun and will bring great pleasure to someone else.
• Find a local community gardening project. You can learn a lot from other gardeners’ style of garden design while you’re all joining in. The RHS website has lots of listings for these, organised region by region..
Pass it on – 3 amazing gardening facts for kids
Encourage your child’s enthusiasm for gardening with a few fascinating details.
• Give kids a magnifying glass and let them discover that worms have bristles!
• Show them how some flowers are pale and smell more appealing in the evening so that moths not butterflies will be attracted to them for pollination.
• A caterpillar has 4000 muscles!

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Tips for Beginners

• Don’t do the entire garden

Most people who are just starting out or have moved into a new garden feel pressured to do the whole garden at one time. I persuade most of my clients to stage the design and build. This is great for beginners and I would suggest they concentrate on getting the area around the house finished first. Not only will this give you an area that you can enjoy relatively quickly but it also means you can budget for the entire garden. 

• Cover the soil with ground cover plants

One of the biggest problems newcomers to gardening find is maintenance – the last thing you want to do is spend all of your down time looking after a garden. Plan ahead, think about covering every centimetre of your soil with plants – choose ground cover plants and place them in-between larger shrubs and don’t be afraid to plant annuals, these will suppress any unwanted weed growth. 


• Buy quick growing plants

Plants take time to grow and whether you have grown from seed or cuttings a garden full of tiny new plants can be demoralising at the best of times – choose plants which grow fast and that will give you a great show in your first season. Try clump forming perennials such as Asters and grasses – buy plants that can easily be split to make several plants for the price of one. 

• Use natives wherever possible

Native plants offer a fail safe answer to many new gardeners. Native plants have adapted over the years to most climatic and soil changes therefore make the most easily to look after plants. Choose Hazel and Birch for fast instant structure. Native plants are generally much cheaper than their hybrid alternatives so keep a look out in the garden center. 


• Vegetables

Vegetables can be extremely rewarding to the first time gardener and also offer you a chance to understand how plants grow and what they need to survive – forgetting to water your tomatoes will give you a nasty shock! Picking and eating your own produce also helps you bond with your garden and there is nothing quite so relaxing as returning home from a hard days work to water the vegetables and harvest a crop.

• Use local garden centre knowledge

Garden centres are a great source of knowledge with most having help desks. It is important to use this knowledge and ask staff for help with certain plants and also to clarify if the plant you are buying is right for you.

• Share cuttings with neighbours

The great thing about gardening is that it is addictive and gardeners are nice people – sharing cuttings and seeds from your garden with your neighbours will encourage a profitable return!

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Ten Must-Have Garden Tools

It is so easy to go overboard when purchasing tools for your garden. There are so many types of pruners, shovels, hoes and other gadgets out there, and each of them promises ease of use and less time doing hard labor in the garden. Buying these specialized tools can be fun (not to mention expensive) but there are really only a few tools you need to have in your garden shed.

1. Spade

Must-Have Garden Tools: Spade
These are the square-headed shovels that have short handles. They are perfect for digging planting holes, edging beds, removing sod, and moving small amounts of soil or amendments. Look for a spade with a steel head, a strong wood or fiberglass handle, and fairly beefy footrests. This is a tool you can easily invest some serious cash in, and every cent would be worth it: a good spade will last the rest of your gardening life.
2. Hand Trowel
Must-Have Garden Tools: Hand Trowel
Trowels are perfect for planting small annuals, herbs, and vegetables; planting container gardens, digging out weeds, and mixing potting mixes. If your budget will allow it, look for a trowel that is one piece of forged stainless steel. These are incredibly durable, and usually have a rubberized grip for comfort. If you can’t find a forged trowel, look for a trowel with a stainless steel head and a strong connection to the handle.

3. Digging Fork

Digging forks are indispensable for lifting and dividing perennials, loosening compacted soil, and turning compost piles. Be careful in your purchase here: you want a digging fork, which typically has four square tines and foot rests for comfortable digging. You do not want a pitchfork. Though these are wonderful for turning compost and spreading mulches, the tines are just too weak for heavy-duty digging and dividing. A good digging fork will have a forged or cast stainless steel head and a fiberglass or hardwood handle. Also look for a D-shaped handle: these are the most comfortable for getting real leverage when digging.

4. Hoe

Must-Have Garden Tools: Hoes
There are several different types of hoes, from the standard garden hoe, to stirrup “action” hoes and super-thin models designed to get into tight spaces. The type of hoe, or hoes, you select will depend on your garden. Vegetable gardeners would do well to have a standard or stirrup hoe, either of which is perfect for weeding between rows of vegetables. If you have perennial gardens, a more delicate touch may be required, especially if your garden is fairly full.

5. Dandelion Digger

Must-Have Garden Tools: Dandelion Digger
What would we do without the dandelion digger? These unassuming tools are perfect for digging out any weed that has a long taproot, including plantains, Queen Anne’s lace, and, of course, dandelions.

6. Rake

Must-Have Garden Tools: Rake
For raking autumn leaves and cleaning out beds in the spring, a good, sturdy rake is a must. Plastic rakes are inexpensive and fairly sturdy. Bamboo and steel rakes are very good for cleaning out perennial gardens without harming emerging plants.

7. Hand Cultivator

Must-Have Garden Tools: Hand Cultivator
These hand tools are very useful for removing small weeds and roughing up the soil for seeding, both in containers and in garden beds. Look for a model that is either one piece of forged or molded steel, or one that has a steel head that is securely attached to a wooden handle.

8. Bypass Pruners

Must-Have Garden Tools: Bypass Pruners
Bypass pruners are necessary for all kinds of jobs around the garden, including deadheading, gentle shaping, and removing spent foliage. A good pair can be fairly expensive, though there are many mid-range brands that are of good quality. Look for a pair that you can easily take apart for cleaning and sharpening, and be sure that it fits comfortably in your hand; you will be using your bypass pruners a lot!

9. Loppers

Must-Have Garden Tools: Loppers
These are absolutely necessary for anyone who has trees and shrubs in their landscape. They are perfect for removing branches up to two inches in diameter, which means that they are well suited for all kinds of pruning and shaping jobs. Look for a pair that has thick, sharp blades, a strong connection between the two blades, but one that can still be taken apart for maintenance, and either wood or fiberglass handles that are attached very securely to the blades.

10. Long Hose with a Rain Wand

Must-Have Garden Tools: Hose
A long rubber hose, one that can reach to every area of your yard, will save you plenty of aggravation. You won’t have to move hoses, and there won’t be any odd corners that you never manage to water. Rubber is best, because it stays fairly pliable. Plastic hoses, especially less expensive ones, tend to be brittle and can be difficult to work with. Look for one with brass couplings rather than plastic; these are much more durable. 
A water wand or hose-end sprayer is very useful for watering hanging baskets, containers, and providing a gentle mist for seeds and seedlings. Look for one with a few different settings.

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Ground Cover Plants

Aster dumosus Wood’s Blue 

Also known as Michaelmas Daisies these old favourites bloom from late summer into fall with lots of intense blue, long lasting, daisy-like flowers. They are very hardy and they form ever-increasing compact clumps but they need to be divided every 3 – 4 years in the early spring. Plant them in pots or borders and combined with other late flowering plants they will provide color when most other plants are fading. The name Aster is derived from the Greek word for Star.
  • Spreads over the years
  • Covers bare spots quickly
  • Colour green
  • Full grown height 25 – 50 cm
  • Full grown width 25 – 50 cm


                   Convallaria majalis White

Also known as Lily of the Valley these very sweetly perfumed, May flowering bell-shaped blooms make perfect cut flowers. Lily of the Valley will spread over time into large areas, ideal for under shrubs and other shady or partially shady positions. The thrive in humus rich well drained soil.Height 12- 16 cm
  • Covers bare spots quickly
  • Cutflowers
  • Fragrant
  • Spreads over the years
  • Colour green
  • Full grown height 10 – 25 cm
  • Full grown width 1 – 10 cm

                                         Campanula carpatica Blue Clips

Campanula carpatica Blue Clips is a lovely ground covering plant with large bell blooms; if spent flowers are removed regularly it will continually produce flowers from June until late September. They’re ideal for borders, pots and rockery gardens.
  • Covers bare spots quickly
  • Suitable for rockery gardens
  • Colour green
  • Full grown height 10 – 25 cm
  • Full grown width 1 – 10 cm

Ground Covering Rose “Pink”

No garden is complete without ground covering roses, they are suitable for filling areas where low cover is needed, can be trained on rockeries or to cover unsightly objects. They are also excellent for providing low maintenace colour and look good growing in pots as well as in mixed borders for a more informal look. Flowering from summer into autumn they keep weeds at bay and discourage cats with their dense prickly branches.
  • Covers bare spots quickly
  • Fragrant
  • Colour green
  • Full grown height 25 – 50 cm
  • Full grown width 10 – 25 cm

Saponaria ocymoides Soapwort

Saponaria is a very rewarding ground covering plant. It blooms abundantly during July to September with bright pink flowers grouped together in thick clusters providing you with a carpet of colour. Saponaria will spread rapidly and is ideal for edges.
  • Covers bare spots quickly
  • Spreads over the years
  • Suitable for rockery gardens
  • Colour green
  • Full grown height 10 – 25 cm
  • Full grown width 10 – 25 cm

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Did you know? Flowers

What is pollination?

Free White Flowers Royalty Free Stock Image - 19541006Pollination takes place when pollen lands on the stigma of a plant. It then travels down to the ovary and it’s here that the ovules are fertilised. Most plants have flowers with the male and female parts present in each flower. Mostly, plants rely on insects, such as bees, to take the pollen from the anthers to the stigma.

Pollination by insects

Free Ladybug Royalty Free Stock Images - 17179739An insect can pollinate flowers accidentally when the pollen is rubbed off the body of the insect. Plants can produce nectar within flowers, a sugary liquid, which many insects feed on. Pollen is a useful source of protein for some insects, such as bees. Insects are attracted to the flower by scent, colours and nectar. They carry pollen from flower to flower, while collecting nectar and pollen for themselves. After pollination, the plant produces a seed, which mostly grows protected inside the plants’ ovaries.

Pollination without insects

It’s not always insects that pollinate the flowers; plants may use the wind, birds or even bats as pollinators! With wind-pollinated plants – such as grasses, cereals and some trees – the flowers are very simple, with no bright colours or nice smells as they don’t need to attract the insects. These plants have both male and female reproductive parts and they make a lot of pollen. This is why a pollen allergy is called ‘hay fever’.

Interesting facts
  • Most plants grow flowers each year, but some take much longer. The century plant or agave grows only one flower after many years and then it dies! Even more amazing is a rare plant called Puya raimondii from the Andes in South America; it doesn’t grow a flower until it is 150 years old – and after that it dies too.
  • The smallest flowering plant in the world is thought to be a floating duckweed called common watermeal. Its leaves are only 1mm across!
  • Bamboo plants have amazing flowering habits. There are many different sorts of bamboo, and they have different flowering cycles. A few flower each year, but most wait much longer. What is amazing is that all the bamboos of the same species will flower at exactly the same time, wherever they are growing! Nobody knows how they manage to do this.
  • The flowers on the European edelweiss are covered with a thick coat of hairs to protect them from the hot sun and the drying winds.
  • The flowers of the Caucasian lime, which can grow in Britain, are poisonous to bees. They can often be found on the ground underneath the trees.
  • Hummingbirds hover in front of flowers while they collect nectar. They use so much energy to do this that it would be like you needing to eat 150kg of hamburgers every day!
  • The white flower of the Amazon water lily is the size of a football and turns purple after it has been pollinated.

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Bumblebee on flower
Bees have been in the news a lot lately, as calls to ban neonicotinoid pesticides have reached fever pitch across Europe. The EU is proposing a temporary ban of their use on crops such as oil seed rape, although some EU countries – including the UK – are resisting this proposal until more research is done.

This family of pesticides includes the chemicals imidacloprid and thiacloprid, which are often the key ingredient in common garden products such as bug sprays andvine weevil drenches. When applied to the seed or plant, these systemic pesticides are absorbed by the plants and are found in small doses in their leaves, roots and stems, but also in their pollen and nectar. Pollen and nectar is, of course, collected and eaten by bees and, as such, the pesticides have long been linked to global bee declines. One scientific study conducted last year found that the number of bumblebee queens produced by each nest was reduced by 85 per cent when exposed to neonicotinoids.

There’s a lot of politics surrounding the issue – not least the fear that an outright ban of neonicotinoids will result in smaller crop yields. What’s more, the pesticide manufacturers, Bayer, has strenuously denied a link between their products and bee declines. But, while the governments, farmers and industry lobbyists battle the issue out, we gardeners can help create pesticide-free refuges for pollinators in our gardens.

Whether current evidence is enough to sway you or you would like more research to be done before making your mind up, it’s clear that this group of pesticides may be contributing to bee and other insect declines. A number of garden centres and DIY stores have already withdrawn products containing neonicotinoids, but if your shed is home to bug sprays and vine weevil drench then why not leave them on the shelf for now, at least until more tests have been done to determine – once and for all – whether these chemicals harm our bees.

In the meantime, wild bees and other pollinators are starting to emerge from hibernation now, hungry after a winter without food. I know they can forage safely in my garden – can they do so in yours?

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