Nesting bees

It was one of those days when you are sitting having your lunch, pondering the nature of utility and beauty and realising that your garden is not quite passing the William Morris test: ‘Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful’ – for more see here , where I argue that the test does not apply to the garden. In the garden there are many many beautiful things but also some that are not beautiful but are useful, mostly old plastic buckets and odd bits of wire caging which keep cats off the vegetables – example here

20190105_144328Not beautiful but definitely useful.  There are other things which fail the test but stay in the garden because I don’t know how to dispose of them in a sensible environmentally friendly way and anyway, we might find a use for them one day – the footballs from the monster hedge fit in this category:


Meanwhile an old shed door has lain about in the garden for ten years, being used for football practice and various other delights and has met a creative end as a pirate ship. Even old shed doors do come in useful one day.

Anyway, while pondering these higher things, we decided that the old garden bench had finally failed both tests. It has served us very well over twenty years but it stopped being beautiful a few years ago when its various cracks and unsafe bits were repaired effectively but somewhat less beautifully. It has also served as a very good cat scratching post – useful but making it less beautiful – pictured here complete with cat:


Now those repairs have collapsed and it really does not meet either condition. What to do with it though? We just added it to the pile of possibly useful garden things.  While doing this , I ventured into a bit of the garden I haven’t looked at for a few weeks and saw that someone or something had torn a huge piece of turf away from one of the fairy mounds. I immediately recognised the signs – last time this happened the mysterious something was attacking a wild bees’ nest – see here  The destruction was too great for it to be cats so it must have been a badger or a fox, I think. Last time I was too late to rescue the nest. This time, I’m not sure as the bees are still buzzing about. So I used one of my not beautiful but never-the-less useful wire racks to cover it up to keep the intruder out, and this time, also put up a sign to warn them off:


Beautiful? Useful? I don’t know but I was very excited to find that the bees had nested in my garden again.

Paradise reclaimed

This blog takes its name from Joni Mitchell’s song Big Yellow Taxi. My front garden is a reclaimed car park where previous residents parked their cars in front of the house. For more on this story, see my about page. Instead of parking cars, I grow plants and welcome the wildlife. Today I did a big tidy up in the front garden, updated the labels in my herb garden and revelled in the plants and creatures that would not have been there had I been parking cars instead:

I also found this frog in the back garden, lurking in the long grass around the raised beds

and this magnificent slug


I found these exciting seed pods


which came from this beautiful California poppy


Seeds are magical but the bees and the butterflies are just the best:



Paradise indeed.

London flowers

I’ve been away again and not gardening or blogging as much as I should. I was in London for a family event but I sought out some floweriness even in the big city.  As part of #30DaysWild I tried to find some wildness in the city parks and found these glorious (if not actually wild) foxgloves.


There is a bee in the white one on the right, making it a little bit wild:20190608_130113The highlight though was my adult son’s suggestion to go and look at the roses in Regent’s Park. He’s always been a flower lover and it was entirely in keeping that we made this detour to sniff flowers:


.. just roses though, no embarrassing photos of him now or when he was four (though there are many).

Now I’m home and the garden is growing beautifully and the wildlife is doing what wildlife does:



Over at the allotment, things are less cheery as the slugs and snails have demolished my peas but the beans and onions are doing well and I’ll sow some more peas in the hope that they’ll catch up.


Thirty days wild

It’s June, so it’s time for #30DaysWild – an annual event run by the Wildlife Trusts  to encourage people to get outside and enjoy nature. I try to appreciate nature every day, not just in June, but the 30 Days Wild event makes me try that little bit harder. My busy city life doesn’t usually allow me time to do some of the more adventurous things suggested by the Wildlife Trusts but I try to find some joy in nature in my garden, my allotment and in the urban landscape. While it’s easy to find wildness in the garden and allotment, I can also find nature walking to and from work, taking a moment just to listen to the birds or to notice the wildflowers growing between the paving stones or the roses escaping from the gardens. I’ve followed 30 days wild for a couple of years now – see previous posts here and here and even tried to do it in December  to lift the winter gloom.


December was a bit of a struggle, but it’s easy to find joy in nature in June. The start of the month has proved a little challenging as I was travelling and busy with work but I shared the shelter of marble pillars outside an art gallery with a little bird, as a thunderstorm raged around us:

20190530_154555Now I’m home and able to enjoy the simple pleasures of a bee on the clover which has rooted in the paving in my front garden:

20190602_122638and the rose ‘Shropshire Lad’ which I planted beside the back hedge to provide scent and colour where there used to a conifer desert


I’ll keep tweeting some wildness every day on my twitter account @GreenBeanJackie  If you look at the #30DaysWild hashtag you’ll find lots of other people enjoying nature in extraordinary and everyday places. I hope you all have a wild month!




I don’t know about you but when I go out to spend a day in the garden, things never go quite according to plan. I did make a list, mostly concerning seed sowing, but, once I got outside, my mind turned to other things. First of all, it’s been the most glorious day – cold but with a with a spring tranquility. There was lots of birdsong, daffodils still in their full glory, some contended cats, taking it in turns to enjoy the flowers with me:


While admiring these lovely primroses with Bella, I took a closer look at the back hedge, one year on from the great conifer removal. It is still quite scrappy looking but there are definite signs of renewal and there are daffodils, honesty and wallflower providing some spring colour:





You can also see there a  rose, a honeysuckle and a lot of campion about to surge into flower. It’s definitely getting there and should look better in the summer once the regrowth has continued.  I did some light pruning of the privet to encourage it but once I had the shears in my hand, I wandered off to other areas of the garden in need of hacking back, finding myself attacking the enormous and ancient escallonia, which dominates one side of the garden. This magnificent bush has taken the place of the conifers as the oldest plant in the garden. It doesn’t appear to do very much but in the summer it is a magnet for bees:

Bee on escallonia

At this time of year it just looks rather scraggy and gets very out of hand if not pruned. Apart from the bees, what I love about this plant is that it doesn’t seem to mind what you do to it, it just grows back. Once I had cut back an entire council bin full of prunings, I found myself in right at its centre, where its ancient, ivy covered heart  is regrowing already:




Alongside the ivy all sorts of tiny things have self-seeded and started to grow inside this bush, including a holly:


a bramble bush:


a cotoneaster:


and, astonishingly, a yew tree.


Yew trees are supposed to live for thousands of years, but I suspect this escallonia is going to compete with it.  I cut back the ivy a bit (I know you’re supposed to leave it for wildlife and things but there is really quite a lot of ivy in my garden) and I pulled up the bramble but I’ll leave the cotoneaster and the holly and the yew to see what happens next.

I may go back out to the garden now to do some of that seed sowing but I came in to warm up, write this blog and to sample some of yesterday’s allotment cake, which turned out rather well:




Slowing down

There’s a heatwave in Scotland, too much going on in the day job, garden and allotment in full vegetable production. They don’t combine well with putting your left arm out of action with a (thankfully) minor injury. So I’ve had to slow down. The grass will stay long, the weeds will invade, the shrubs will grow straggly but the frogs and bees are in heaven.

frog in lilies


The lawn is full of clover.


I love it and so do the bees. I’m trying to slow down, pick the peas and raspberries and watch the tomatoes, marrows, bees and frogs enjoy the sun. Everything else will have to wait.

… oh and typing with one hand means the blog will be full of typos but like the weeds and the wildlife, they may bring special joys


Frog and bee paradise

This weekend has been all about the frogs and the bees.  We’ve always had frogs in the garden, even before we built the pond and we were delighted when they moved into the water.  We don’t see them very often as they are, rightly a little shy, what with cats prowling about.  This weekend though they have been sitting in the pond, poking their little noses in the air, catching flies or other delicacies.  Last night I counted six, tonight there were nine. Don’t you just love them?

WP_20180624_10_13_04_Pro (1)



WP_20180624_15_27_32_Pro (1)There was even one at the allotment this evening

wp_20180624_19_27_31_pro.jpgYesterday I spent the whole day in the garden, planting, weeding, generally tidying up and, while I was there, noted down all the flowers that were attracting bees.  I came up with the following list: campion, clover, foxglove, raspberry, radish, thyme, sage, escallonia, cotoneaster, borage, daisy. Bees are much harder to photograph than frogs as they don’t stay still for long. I managed to catch this one on a beautiful red scabiousWP_20180623_14_04_00_Pro.jpg

Watching the frogs and bees has been part of my #30days wild challenge. They have certainly repaid my patience. Maybe it’s because I took the time to really look, or maybe it’s the warm weather. Either way, I’m delighted.




Bees and ivy flowers

I’ve not done much gardening this weekend, but yesterday I was out and about, looking for inspiration from the natural world to cheer me on my way.  I passed a little garden with huge pink sedum flowers:


(Photo of sedum from a previous occasion) – those should be covered in bees, I thought but there were none.  Then I saw where the bees were – on an ivy bush, growing against a wall, covered in ivy flowers, not the most stunning blooms but absolutely buzzing with bees (and wasps but that’s fine).  There was a very fat bumblebee which I tried to photograph but failed.  I did manage to catch one bee though:
DMq1ynJX4AAPmvEIn case you can’t spot the bee, here is a clue:

Bee and ivy 2It’s quite hard to capture bees on camera but I had a lovely time watching them and they cheered my day.  Must remember to be more sympathetic to the ivy in my garden.

Autumn joys

I’ve been away at the weekend, visiting my mother.  We went to the wildlife reserve at Caerlaverock, in search of migrating geese.  The geese migrate to Svalbard in the summer and come back to Scotland in the winter.  We were a little too early, though I did see my first skein of geese in the sky, a sight and sound I always find uplifting.  While we watched for geese, we also enjoyed the other wildlife, including these bees gorging on a sedum plant:


I was so impressed that I succumbed to buying a sedum in the garden centre.  Otherwise I was doing some tidying up in my mother’s garden, helping to harvest some of her magnificent apples:
WP_20170916_17_15_17_Pro[1]I thought it might help if I targetted the highest up ones.  I’ve seen fancy gadgets in catalogues for harvesting apples but I improvised my own apple grabber from a thing I found in the shed, I think designed for citronella candles:

WP_20170916_17_07_44_Pro[1]Grab the apple in the baskety thing, give it a little twist and it comes off neatly enclosed. Perfect.  The only drawback is the great pile of apples that I’ll have to cook or do something with soon:

WP_20170916_17_14_58_Pro[1]I also did a little weeding and hacking back of my mother’s overgrown garden, worrying a little that I had been overenthusiastic in my hacking back of roses earlier in the year.  There is a lovely rose growing over a pergola that my father made for their golden wedding a few years ago.  The pergola is terribly overgrown with enthusiastic honeysuckle and thorny rose shoots. He would be horrified at the lack of order but I hope he would love the flowers:


Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme

When I dug up the car park and created a huge bed in the front garden I intended to grow vegetables.

Since it is in a lovely sunny spot, the idea was that I would increase my vegetable growing space and grow lots of tomatoes and other sunloving things. The trouble is that they have never done very well. I’ve tackled this every year with yet more compost, green manure, nitrogen fixing plants such as beans and I water when I remember. One year I had a magnificent crop of overwintered broad beans but otherwise everything tends to go straggly, get eaten by snails, dry out with the faintest whiff of sunshine and generally fail to thrive. The reason for this is that it is lovely and sunny but it dries out too quickly because the monstrous sycamore in the corner of the garden has stretched its endless roots into my lovely compost and helped itself to all the good things in the bed. Putting yet more compost into this is only feeding the sycamore.

Meanwhile, the herbs that I planted round the edges of this plot have been in their element. I’ve had magnificent rosemary, sage, thyme, lovage, oregano and tarragon – no parsley, I’m afraid. These plants have been trying to tell me something. The lovely vegetable patch in the front garden is not suitable for vegetables but it is perfect for herbs. And the bees love this.


So, I’ve finally decided to give up on the front garden vegetables and turn it into a proper herb garden instead. It is a bit odd having a herb garden at the front but the peculiar arrangement of our house means that the kitchen door faces into the front garden and it is just as easy to dash out there for a pinch of herbs for the soup or salad as it would be go out the back. I keep a collection of pot bound herbs right at the door

but, despite what all the books say, most of my herbs don’t seem to be very happy in pots. They are getting rather overgrown, the dratted vine weevils are nibbling their way through their roots, while the slugs and snails are helping themselves to the juicy green bits.

So today I’ve planted out the bay tree in the middle of the ‘vegetable bed’

There are still some struggling broad beans which may yet do something, as well as some chives, newly transplanted.  You’ll see in the close up of the bay the tell-tale signs of vine weevil munching.  I’ve kept some cuttings back to grow in the pot in the hope that they will root before the weevils get to them and provide new plants just in case of a very cold winter.

I’ve planted out some more chives and garlic chives and split up the happy tarragon, oregano and thyme to let it all spread about a bit.

There are still daffodils lurking underneath:

Sometimes you just have to let the plants decide where they want to grow and give up on the grand plans. It’s never going to look like the tidy herb gardens in the garden design books but here’s hoping that everything will do well, bring joyful daffodils in spring, provide us with fresh herbs most of the year and keep the bees happy in the summer.