The Regale lilies are always popular with honey bees as the big scented flowers produce copious nectar and pollen. This bee wasn't being busy, and on closer inspection it was clearly dead, a dry husk of a bee. Just visible is it's assassin, a specialist predator of pollinators, the Crab Spider, Misumena vatia. The females lurk in flower heads to catch visiting pollinators and though only pea-sized will easily tackle prey as big as a bumblebee. Preferring white or yellow flowers, they change colour to match their chosen bloom perfectly. They don't only wait passively for prey to arrive though but garland the flowers with web trip lines too - around the back of the flower the spider was busy doing just that.
Teasels are getting ready to flower, the soft, green buds are getting larger everyday. A shower of rain has filled the cups formed by the leaf bases. Already collecting is a fine collection of teasel-cup crud, and now small insects will drown in these pools. As their tiny bodies rot, the nutrients released will give the teasel a boost - teasels with cups full of prey produce many more quality seeds than 'un-fed' individuals.
The first flush of flowers of the South African Daisy bush, Euryops chrysanthemoides, is just fading. Garrard has been busy dead-heading them, a fiddley tiresome job, snipping each one off individually with scissors. This time spent is well worth it, as left alone the dead-heads would become increasingly messy. Cleaned up, it will soon be producing a further flush of its bright golden-yellow flowers. Well done Garrard.
Parsnips, grown from a few shrivelled old roots stuck in the ground at winter's end, are flowering. The flat heads of luminous yellow/green flowers are opening, to delight hungry hover flies. Our gardener is liking them too, he'll be chucking parsnip seed into the borders for a repeat appearance next year. Grown from seed these should make for stronger plants with even better flowering, to carry the yellow/green 'umbel' theme forward as the fading stems of early Alexanders' domed green heads - below - get cut down.
The first flush of the garden roses is well underway. They can prove irresistible. Last year there was a successful prosecution of a rose thief, arrested in the early hours of the morning climbing over the railings with a bucket of stolen blooms - our gardener, used to clearing up the sad remains of sniffed and discarded blooms, thought this was a great use of police time!
Though not at the top of any wildlife-friendly planting guide, roses do support wildlife. Rose sawfly larvae will soon gnaw their leaves to herring-bone skeletons, aphids will gather in great herds on new soft growth, leaf-cutter bees will cut semi-circular snippets from the leaves to line their brood cells. Single-flowered varieties will be busy with eager pollen-hunters. The double will be busy with noses, as garden visitors stop for a sniff.
Our roses are growing in poor, rubble-rich soil. They are unsprayed and only fed the odd bucket of compost once in a while. Despite the usual complicated advice that is usually given for rose growing, strong varieties really are tough easy shrubs. Of course, the varieties we grow have proven themselves over time and any that couldn't cope and wanted fussing have long since been thrown on the compost heap. Death to the weak!
The Oriental poppy, Papaver orientale 'Coral Reef', grown from Thompson & Morgan seed, is flowering now at the North End, with big beautiful bristly buds opening into great glamorous satin-petalled, soft-pink flowers. Oriental poppies are tough persistent perennials, easily grown from seed they will flower in only a year. Growing through the cooler months to flower in early summer, once established they are pretty much drought-proof, though if the summer is very dry they will go dormant and collapse in a messy heap after flowering, waiting until the first rains of autumn get growing again. In flower for only a few weeks, there are still plenty of buds to open. Enjoy.
Three-cornered Leek, Allium triquetrum, is the only plant growing at the Phoenix that our gardener truly considers a weed. Just coming to the end of it's flowering, the white-with-a-green-stripe pixie-hat flowers have been busy with bees and as pretty as can be, but, he says "don't be lured into planting it". Described by less reputable bulb companies as 'suitable for naturalising', Three-cornered Leek is extremely competitive and a menace. The rapidly multiplying bulbs spread quickly through borders and it seeds incontinently. The leaves first appear in early winter and grow throughout the colder months, to form an impenetrable blanket that smothers neighbours - herbaceous plants rot beneath the dense foliage, the lower branches of shrubs likewise, even rough grass cannot compete. From the strong scent of the bruised foliage, it is often mistaken for wild garlic, but it is easily identified by the triangular cross section of the flower stems and the flabby, linear grey-green leaves. Wild garlic is much smaller with wide dark green shiny leaves and a clean garlic scent - it is altogether better behaved.
Three-cornered Leek. Impossible to get rid of and a dirty killer. You have been warned.
The wisteria has been fantastic this year, with loads of violet trails of flowers waving in the breeze. Flowers soon to fade, it's getting ready to spread great octopus arms over Flitcroft Street, the long rubbery stems of extension growth will need cutting back repeatedly through the summer or it will end up in a great tangled mess.
Rosa chinensis sanguinea, flowers in waves through the year, even in the very dry soil beneath our wild pear tree. All the new growth ends in loose clusters of elegant uptight buds that open their petals in a big red flop. The single flowers are unscented. The foliage is healthy with strong red tints. An old China rose, it has been grown for hundreds of years, and with good reason. It really is a very good shrub, pretty, tough and trouble-free.