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.
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!
Abutilon x suntense always attracts attention, adding early summer glamour beneath the wild pear tree. Eager-snouted visitors will draw the flowers up to sniff them, probably expecting to inhale a rich perfume but despite the flower's promise, there is none - it is none the worse for that. It will produce a succession of voluptuous violet blooms throughout May, June and into July. Fast growing, though short-lived, it easily reaches 3m in only a couple of years - hard pruning after flowering keeps it lower.
Below, a Nomada bee visits. Solitary cleptoparasites of Andrena mining bees, the females sneak into the well-stocked burrows of mining bees to lay eggs. Disposing of the mining bee grubs, the Nomada larvae develop, feeding on the stolen supplies. They are only active from late April to early June, so the flowering of the Abutilon suits their schedule perfectly.