Monthly Archives: June 2015

Armathwaite Open Gardens 2015

We had been weather watching all last week. Armathwaite has its own microclimate and conditions can be very different from what’s predicted on BBC weather. The run up was an anxious time; over the week the forecast changed from rain, to heavy cloud and rain, to sunshine with rain and heavy cloud, to rain with light cloud. What we got on opening Saturday was brilliant sunshine and 99 visitors ! The bees behaved impeccably.

Astrantia

Astrantia

Geranium growing through Sambucca

Geranium growing through Sambucca

Some we had seen last year and they greeted us like old friends. They’d noticed such a difference and really appreciated the work we’d done. They came from far and wide, one lady from Dumfries was a return visitor and we met others from Blackpool, Leeds, Birmingham and Manchester. Phil’s Dad kept count and Joseph was in charge of the photographs. Last year we had 230 through on the Saturday so numbers were well down. However, hopefully we will gain some new followers of thebuzzshelter as we had business cards made and handed them out to those that seemed interested in our activities.

Grasses by the pond

Grasses by the pond

Another welcome visitor

Another welcome visitor

It rained on Saturday night and was drizzly and humid Sunday morning but  from 12 onwards when we opened summer returned, bringing 134 visitors through our gate. The next event is the Spirit of the Eden Art and Craft exhibition which will be held in the village hall on August Bank Holiday weekend. We hope to see you there !

Dalemain plant fair

Last Sunday we went to Dalemain House where there was a plant fair and a farmers market. Penrith Beekepers also had a stall so we were able to have a quick catch up with them about our recent bee issues.

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Dalemain dates from the reign of Henry II, when it was the site of a fortified tower. It has been home to the Hassel family since 1679, but its gardening history predates even then. During the early 17th and late 16th centuries, the grounds were used to produce healing and culinary herbs for the house. Connections to the garden’s horticultural past are everywhere: for instance a Greek fir (Abies cephalonica), planted in the 1840s by ancestor Dorothea Hasell; a gift from Joseph Banks, the plant collector who sailed on the Endeavour with Captain Cook. It is now the oldest and largest specimen in the UK, measuring 85ft high and 19ft wide.

Each year it holds the prestigious Dalemain Marmalade Awards. Last year there were 2 winners and their marmalades are now sold as a limited edition by Fortnum and Mason. We tasted samples and came away with 4 jars. I think we will definitely go to the 2015 marmalade fair.

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Our friend Mr Vikki (famous world wide for award winning chilli products) www.mrvikkis.co.uk  had a stall and we bought his Kashmiri chilli pickle which is his latest creation. He will be back for chilli-fest. We also caught up with Eric and Diane Horne of Birdoswald cheeses fame. www.slackhousefarm.co.uk Phil has known them for many years and they produce hand made, cloth bound mould- ripened cheese from unpasteurised organic milk, fresh from their herd of  Ayrshire cows.

Iris photos by Joseph Dutton

Iris photos by Joseph Dutton

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We also bought some delicate iris which Phil planted by the pond. The Open Garden is tomorrow !

Comb raiders

Phil noticed a lot of bee activity around the abandoned comb left by our swarm yesterday and on closer inspection, it wasn’t Honey bees but Bumble bees, robbing out the pollen. We also spotted a wasp at the top of the comb and a couple of Honey bees helping themselves.

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Bumble bees collecting pollen from Honey bee comb. Bumble bee in flight bottom left.

 

 

 

Phew … ‘swarm outside !

Last week our Bee Buddy Stuart and John from PBKA came to help us sort out our angry bees. That morning, I was alerted again by masses of bees in the air and bee noise. This turned out to be a proper swarm and it settled atop a neighbours tree. It’s still there 4 days later and too high to reach.

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When we opened our hive, the bees still looked agitated but some normal activity was going on. Some were flying vertically up and down outside the entrance. John explained that these were newly hatched bees, wing muscle- building and learning orientation to locate the entrance to home. There were guard bees on duty; these had been the ‘Stuker’ bees that seemed intent on stinging us. We also saw bees bringing pollen back, which was a good sign because this means there were grubs to feed and therefore we still had a laying Queen.

John explained that bees are sticklers for good housekeeping and the main problem seemed to be that we had some standard frames in the deep brood box, with some deep frames. This meant that the frames were not uniform depth and the bees had extended the short frames. This makes removing them to inspect very tricky. The answer was to set up a second National standard hive and transfer all the short frames out. We didn’t know which frame the Queen was on, but we knew that the old Queen was up the tree and that the new Queen was doing her job because John pointed out some day old eggs.

As we were assembling the new hive, we took the extended comb off and put it in a nucleus box to keep the area tidy prior to disposal. John advised us to check the discarded comb and if there were any unhatched Queen cells, to put it in the new hive. This would hatch and speed up the Queening of that colony. Job done, we left the bees to it and they definitely seemed less troubled. Later on , Phil went to dispose of the comb and there in the bottom of the box was a beautiful new Queen ! We carefully put a dab of blue marker on her thorax (they have a different colour for each year) and she walked from his hand through the hive entrance and in.

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The new hive entrance is situated at 90 degrees to the other hive, to ensure paths don’t cross. As the flying bees don’t see this as their home, it means that there would be no food coming in until the grubs hatched. So, we made up some feed, which was a pound of sugar mixed with a pint of water. We put 4 pints into a contact feeder and this was to feed the wax workers to enable them to draw out the foundation and prepare the frames for the Queen to lay her eggs. It’s a case of watching and waiting.

 

‘Father and Son’

Last week week Phil’s son came to stay. He really enjoyed using the camera and took literally hundreds of photos in the garden. On our previous post ‘Blackbird potty training’ I’d caught a blackbird fledgling learning to fly from a tree pot. He’s come on a bit since then and father and son were caught here again by Joseph.

Look at me I am old but I'm happy

Look at me I am old but I’m happy

You're still young, that's your fault

You’re still young, that’s your fault

I was once like you are now and I know that's it's not easy

I was once like you are now and I know that it’s not easy

There was lots of interest at the bird feeder. Mr and Mrs Sparrow’s offspring (see posts ‘Mr and Mrs’ and ‘String Theory’) was lunching,

Fledgling Sparrow

Fledgling Sparrow

Just relax, take it easy

Just relax, take it easy

and this little Coal Tit required a double take, with its apparent super sized beak !

Cyrano de Bird- gerac

Cyrano de Bird- gerac

All photos by Joseph Dutton, all lyrics by Cat Stevens.

 

 

 

Bonkers about conkers

Only 2 weeks to go until Armathwaite Open Gardens. It’s beginning to fill out and colour up.

Aesculus Pavia 'Koehnei' (dwarf Horse Chestnut)

Aesculus Pavia ‘Koehnei’ (dwarf Horse Chestnut)

Phil can’t walk past a conker on the ground and last autumn’s collection provided fun and nostalgia when six of our friends came to stay and we had a conker knockout tournament. These were drilled and strung in the usual way but Phil has a secret; drying them on the top of the kiln ensures they are unbeatable ! They also produce some impressive bruises. This little tree was a must-buy, how could he possibly resist ?

Aesculus Pavia 'Koehnei' detail

Aesculus Pavia ‘Koehnei’ detail

Sinocalycalycanthus 'Hartlage Wine'

Sinocalycalycanthus ‘Hartlage Wine’

Sinocalycalycanthus is a rare deciduous shrub, which was very popular with our visitors last year. This year it’s come out of its pot and into the ground, where it seems much happier. This year it has flowered later but there are lots of buds so should make a fabulous display.

Sinocalycalycanthus 'Hartlage Wine' detail

Sinocalycalycanthus ‘Hartlage Wine’ detail

Allium 'Mount Everest'

Allium ‘Mount Everest’

Alliums look great when grown in a group, however this is a solo performer and was a £1 bulb from a supermarket. Two came up last year but this year just one. It’s very tall, hence the name. We left the seed heads on after flowering as they make for good autumn interest.

Allium 'Mount Everest' seed head

Allium ‘Mount Everest’ seed head

Verbascum  Phoeniceum 'Flush of White'

Verbascum Phoeniceum ‘Flush of White’

The flowers are carried on stems about 12-15″ tall with evergreen leaves. It grows best in full sun and likes well drained soil.

Sisyrinchium 'Hemswell Sky' (Blue Eyed Grass)

Sisyrinchium ‘Hemswell Sky’ (Blue Eyed Grass)

These are not true grasses, but many species have the general appearance of grasses, as they are low-growing plants with long, thin leaves. They are a member of the Iris family. Ours provide a lovely blue accent by the pond.

Peony (variety unknown) Photo by Joseph Dutton.

Peony (variety unknown) Photo by Joseph Dutton.

Another rescued plant when we moved in. These pop up all over the borders so we lift them, plant them and give them away. They may just about last another week or so.