Gardening for Moths Too

Kathy’s post about Gardening for the Bees was interesting – particularly because I love honey! But it made me want to encourage a similar interest in Moths. There are at least 2,500 species of moths in Britain and very few will eat your clothes!

Joe and I have been monitoring moths for the Garden Moth Scheme since 2013 when we were invited to enter a raffle for a moth trap. We think we were tricked! One of our fellow Volunteer Rangers at Jesmond Dene in Newcastle is a GMS Regional Coordinator and he was looking for new recruits! We didn’t win the raffle but he lent us a trap and a book and, as they say, the rest is history. We transferred to the South East Branch when we moved south and now we even continue through the Winter Moth Scheme…

The moth trap is a simple box with a light above it. The light attracts the moths and they end up in the box below with lots of egg trays to rest in. They are not harmed. In the morning, we open the box and identify and count the different species, taking photos of unusual ones. How different are our moth records here and in the North? For the last full year we were in Newcastle (2018), we recorded 290 moths of 61 species. Last year here, we recorded 844 moths of 143 species. Moths that hadn’t reached the North at that time were the Jersey Tiger and Box Tree Moths and we get more migrants here – some moths fly over the Channel!

Continue reading Gardening for Moths Too

Gardening for the Bees

My husband ( a beekeeper) recently treated me to a visit to the National Honey Show, which is sort of like going to RHS Chelsea if you are a beekeeper. Apart from an enormous number of jars of honey, there were talks available, and we attended one  from Dr Nick Tew on “The role of gardens in supporting Insect Pollinators”.  It was a really good talk, with scientific research explained in easy terms.

Title slide

A few slides stood out for me – for instance, the time period for flowering plants in a garden, compared with a hedgerow or pasture. Most gardeners love to have something in flower all through the year, so although the volume of nectar/pollen in a garden might not be as high as in a meadow or hedgerow in full swing, it is available for a much longer time span. So in fact such a garden is more useful to insects.

There are some downsides to a garden – Nick calls it “horticultural bling”, a lovely phrase which unfortunately can be applied to a few parts of my garden (but luckily not many!)

 A version of the talk is on Youtube, the link is below, it’s a good watch.

The Show was held at Sandown Park racecourse, and it was huge. It reminded me of a Horticultural Show in that it not only had classes for honey, but also eg craft and baking classes. The sunflowers shown here are made of wax!

I bought some sparkling mead from one of the stalls, took down a recipe for “Gin & Tonic Honey cake” and bought a couple of seed packets to convert my lawn into a meadow at some point in my dreams. The final stall we visited worried me a little, as it is giving my husband ideas!

Bee suits for the family

YouTube talk if you are interested: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JdLvAxNuEms

Kathy

Horn Fair Sunday Oct 16th

We will have our usual stall at the Horn Fair at Charlton House this Sunday, October 16th, from 11am. This year we will be outside in the gardens, by the Peace Garden gate – hopefully in some lovely Autumnal sunshine!

Flyer for horn fair

Members have been very generous with their plant donations and we also have some great plants grown on by the Volunteers in the walled gardens. As well as plants, there will be lavender bags (from the Peace Garden), and seeds for sale, as well as some Notecards featuring the Old Pond Garden, painted by local artist Amabel Barlow. https://www.amabelbarlow.online/my-portfolio-1

Head Gardener Jason Sylvan will be running tours of the garden on the hour from 12, there will be loads of activities for kids including Bouncy Castles, Autumn crafts with Montessori Moments, and our very own Spooky Spider Bat and Pumpkin trail.

Volunteers getting ready for Horn Fair and Spider trail
GETTING READY!

Frilly’s cafe, plus loads of street food, dance and music performances, Morris men and Artisan and Producers Markets. See RGHT website for full details: https://www.greenwichheritage.org/events/horn-fair-2022/

In addition, St Luke’s Church will be open (it is their patron saint St Luke’s day after all.) If you can visit the Church tower, this is highly recommended, the views are incredible!

Kathy

A Romance with Punica granatum

Vita Sackville-West wrote that “Of all fruits the pomegranate is surely one of the most romantic.” I would be willing to bet that most people walk through the Peace Garden gate at Charlton House without realising they have just passed under two “most romantic” pomegranate trees.

Pomegranate trees in the Peace Garden
Pomegranates in the Peace Garden

When the Volunteer scheme started in 2020, these two trees were deeply entwined with ivy, choking them very UNromantically. I wish I had taken a photo of our volunteers, wrestling and chopping at the ivy around the base of the trees! It was one of the team’s early successes, as the next year the trees were covered in their startlingly bright orange flowers and looked very happy. We have yet to get the flowers to “set”, so no pomegranate fruits yet. But of course as gardeners, we live in hope.

Continue reading A Romance with Punica granatum

The best way to ripen green tomatoes

Green, orange and red tomatoes

This summer’s heatwave feels like a distant memory now, but it was a good one for ripening lots of tomatoes! However, if you’ve got green ones struggling in the cooler temperatures, here’s BBC Gardener’s World Magazine’s advice on the best way to ripen them: How to ripen late tomatoes.

Using the ethylene released by bananas to help ripen other fruit is a well known method, but while Which? Gardening agree with GW on most points, they differ on the banana:

You may have heard different techniques recommended for ripening green tomatoes, including putting them with a banana, but when Which? Gardening magazine tested different methods we found that putting them in a dark place indoors, such as a drawer, works best. Tomatoes left with bananas were one of the worst methods for causing the tomatoes to rot.

Which? Gardening, How to Grow Tomatoes

Do you use a banana to help ripen tomatoes? Or do you relish the prospect of green tomatoes for cookery? Let us know in the comments.

The Rothschild Nerine Collection

Nerine bowdenii

CABAHS member Melanie told us about an unusual collection:  Exbury Gardens in Hampshire, perhaps best known for the springtime magnificence of its rhododendrons, is also home to a special collection of Nerines.

If you can visit Exbury, the Nerine collection is on view from 4 – 30 October.

As it’s quite a long way to travel, you might instead like to see photographer Lisa Creagh’s website, where she has captured the extraordinary quality of this South African native ‘Jewel lily’ in some stunning images: The Rothschild Nerines. Lisa gives a super description of the collection’s history as well as describing the drama of the Nerines’ lifecycle.

Colour in the garden

Begonia ‘Glowing Embers’
Begonia ‘Glowing Embers’
Petunia ‘Tidal Wave Red Velour’
Petunia ‘Tidal Wave Red Velour’

During this blistering summer a number of people have commented on the colour in my garden (such as it is). I think this is down to a very few plants. (For those of you not enamoured with Sarah Raven, look away now). The top photograph is of Begonia ‘Glowing Embers’. These have flowered continuously all through the summer and I think the contrast of the leaf and flower is lovely. Although often grown as an annual, I have found that if I keep them in a sheltered and frost-free place over the winter they will flower again year-on-year. But be patient! The little stone-like tubers look thoroughly lifeless for a long time and, just when you might think they were totally dead, little green shoots appear.

The bottom photograph is of Petunia ‘Tidal Wave Red Velour’. These were originally plants in pots with cosmos and coleus, the latter two turned up their toes leaving only the petunia to inhabit the pot. It is only one plant and this too has continued to flower continuously through the summer. The pots have only been watered with waste water and have had no additional feed.

Both of these hard workers have come from Sarah Raven and, no, I don’t get a discount!

Vija

Being a ‘good’ gardener

People today garden for a whole host of reasons – as a hobby, a delight in horticulture generally, exercise, well-being and being out of doors, to grow their own produce – but, historically at least, gardening has also been seen as a highly moral activity.

By the end of the 19th century the garden was advocated as a way of keeping the working classes away from the public house, where they could be usefully engaged in a more wholesome and productive activity. William Hogarth’s cartoons of ‘Beer Street’ and ‘Gin Lane’ are visual reminders of the conditions which were a cause of concern.

William Hogarth's cartoon of Beer Street and Gin Lane (1751)
Beer Street and Gin Lane (1751)

John Claudius Loudon (1783 – 1843) championed the creation of public parks to improve both the mental and physical health of working people, so that ‘the pale mechanic and exhausted factory operative might inhale the freshening breeze and some portion of recovered health’.[1] It was Joseph Strutt who picked up on these ideas and put Loudon’s vision into practice to create the Derby Arboretum in 1840. Strutt was very clear on the rationale behind this work: to wean people away from the ‘brutalising pleasures’ they might seek elsewhere and to offer them a new form of ‘rational enjoyment’. In Edinburgh recreation in a park was thought to be a solution for drunkenness and in the Midlands it was thought to lead to a decrease in crime rates.

‘In 1919 the Conservative MP for Chelmsford was reconciled to spending money on housing by the thought that good garden plots would ensure that when the man of the house got home at night “he will find not only a healthy family, but healthy occupation outside where they can go and work together as a family”’.[2] A well maintained garden was also viewed as an indication of a well maintained (and thus moral household). As late as the 1920s and 1930s inspectors were employed to visit the gardens of council estates to ensure that they were being kept tidy.

Vija

[1] Loudon, J.C. (1822) Encyclopaedia of Gardening.

[2] Floud, R. (2019) An Economic History of the English Garden, Penguin Books, p247.