Six on Saturday: 26.9.20

It’s been a week of contrasts. The first half of the week was glorious sunshine. The second half of the week has been hailstones, torrential rain and strong winds. This has put a halt to the building work. They made a good start but they can’t do the render until there are a few dry days together. The wind has crushed a few plants but hopefully most will recover alright.

1. Tulip pot

Alice bought her tulips last week but she wanted a really nice pot. She won a garden centre voucher back in May for National Children’s Gardening Week that we hadn’t spent yet. So, we went to the local garden centre and she chose this bee pot and we got the tulips planted last Sunday before the weather turned.

2. Wild about weeds competition

I also had some good news this week that I came 2nd place in a competition! I entered Jack Wallington’s wild about weeds competition. The aim of the competition was to show a weed within a plantings scheme. This was the photo I entered showing Asplenium within the front garden.

3. Sambucus racemosa

I planted this earlier in the year. It’s still only small but the lovely bright foliage is stunning right now. The foliage is working well against the darker dahlias foliage.

It is looking particularly nice against the Fuschia next to it.

4. Hanging basket

The hanging basket was replaced with a few fuschias I grew from cuttings. They’ve been slow to get going but they have finally realised I am growing them for their flowers.

5. Leptinella squalida and Acer palmatum ‘seiryu’

I have combined this Acer with Leptinella squalida ‘Platt’s black’.

‘Platt’s black seems to be getting marketed as black moss. It isn’t really a moss but it does act as a ground cover plant. The foliage is small and fern-like in appearance. It’s actually part of the Asteraceae family, the daisies. It does flower with small brown flowers. Hopefully, it will spread to fill the base of the pot.

I wanted to see if the finer filigree leaves hold up better to my drying sea winds. It will still need a sheltered spot. But in theory, small leaves of this nature should lose less water and be more tolerant of the winds though it will still need a sheltered spot.

6. The dry garden

I have volunteered to tidy several of the planters at work. They have got a bit worn over the last year and just need a bit of a spruce up. They are outside the nursery and have a compost mix of sand and soil in. They are in full sun and will not see much watering for periods. Currently, there are a few lavenders healthy enough and a few sempervivums, a broom and a patch of Festuca grass. So I figure it makes sense to plan for dry garden conditions. The existing plants are mainly silver as many drought-tolerant plants have silver foliage. I have started reading Beth Chatto’s book, “The dry garden” to gain better knowledge. I largely garden on clay and my favourite area to work is my shaded front garden. So these planters are pretty much the extreme opposite of what I normally work with. I grow a few alpines and succulents in pots. I think it would look nice to find the handful of darker options to contrast with the existing silver plants. I’ve got a few stonecrops and sempervivums that can be split to use. It does feel a bit ironic to be planning a dry garden during the wettest week in months.

We are planning a visit to Scampston Walled gardens tomorrow so hopefully, the weather will hold off long enough for us to have a nice day. The gardens include both Capability Brown designed areas and Piet Oudolf designed areas so a bit of a contrast. I’m sure I will end up reporting back on it if we do go. Enjoy your weekends whatever you are up to.

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Six on Saturday: 19.9.20

The building work has started properly now. We have stacks of materials around the garden. It is difficult getting to a few areas but they reckon they will be done by the end of next week so that seems hopeful. I’d mentioned in my blog on Burnby Hall that I think my RHS exam went well. I need to get the next assignment done. This unit is around compost and plant nutrients so it is quite a useful unit with plenty of chances to apply the knowledge practically.

1. Air plant

I’ve had two air plants in the spare room that have survived a good while yet and saw this one at the garden centre. They have gone from being a speciality purchase to being sold on the counter as an extra like a novelty cactus. An improvement on the googly-eyed cactus though. This one has gone in the bathroom where it will get a burst of humidity each day to keep it going and then the odd spray.

2. Tulips

Taking Alice to school she noticed the florist have their tulip bulbs for sale now. She had asked a few weeks back about getting a few new ones. I hadn’t really planned to add any more tulips as I have quite a lot that seem to be returning. She choose Giuseppe Verdi, a short yellow and red Kaufmann tulip that flowers in early spring. Then Chopin which is yellow with a red streak. It is supposedly perennial but we’ll see. She has requested that they go in a pot, but a nice one. We’ll look at getting them in today. Not the most exciting photo I have featured within my six. But, if I don’t record what goes in the ground I won’t be able to look back to work out what they are.

3. Watering can

I’ve been after a new watering can for a while. My larger watering can doesn’t fit up to the water butt tap and the smaller watering can is cracking. This new one feels nice and solid and should last a good while.

4. Hydrangea libele

I moved this hydrangea into the ground back in February. It suffered a bit with frost but it bounced back and seems alright. Last year a lot of the flowers were hidden in the foliage whereas it seems to be sorting itself out with a handful of the lacecap heads opening up.

The white bracts are pretty with a centre made up of a mixture of blue and pink.

5. Japanese anemome ‘honorine jobert’

This was planted as a reduced bargain last year and didn’t do very much. It is planted in a spot where a line of hebes used to grow. I think this has meant it has struggled a bit to establish but it is hanging on in there and has flowered. In late autumn or spring, I’ll add a bit more mulch around it to improve the soil conditions.

6. Iris unguicularis

A few people featured these irises last winter and I liked the fact that they flower during winter when little else is. I’ve managed to get hold of two cultivars. Mary Barnard is a velvety blue flower that will flower in February or March. It has an RHS award of merit for being reliable. Then Walter Butt has lavender coloured flowers that flower in December or January. It is apparently the most scented of the unguicularis so that should make it a nice treat for by the back door in the winter months. They are currently placed out of the way while the building work goes on.

I’ve got a few jobs to get started on now. I’ve given the front garden a good weed over but I need to try and work around the builder’s materials to check over the back garden. There are a few bulbs to get in the ground. But, I reckon I should have time to get back up to date after focusing on exam revision. Time to get cracking.

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Six on Saturday: 12.9.20

I have made it through my first week at work. It’s been lovely. I have the first of the RHS exams next week. I am feeling confident of passing but I’d like to get the commendation but we’ll see. WordPress has made the update to the new editor for writing my blogs. So far it is very clunky, sections I’ve written keep vanishing so I’m hoping I can change it back or it improves rapidly as this was a pain to write. I hope you all appreciate it.


1. Scaffolding

The builders are returning to finish our rendering. This has been an ongoing problems since last year. The builders did the job poorly putting internal insulation on the outside of the house and then rendering over. This all has to come off and then another team of builders who seem to know what they are doing are fixing it. It means the garden is going to be a bit of a mess for a while as a lot had to come off the patio ready for the work.

2. Front planters

I have two planters either side of the front door. Into these I placed hydrangea runaway brides. One has thrived. The other has shrivelled. Not sure exactly why. They were both suffering slightly with chlorosis but they’ve both had the same feed. They both get watered at the same time and have similar conditions.

I have cut back the one that has shrivelled. It may return next year but I’m not holding out much hope soI have moved some cylamen in to fill the gap for now. The foliage of the cyclamen being one of my favourite autumn plants.

Only one is flowering currently but they look to be a red and a white one.

3. Pot Rose

Alice has been going past the florist each day on her way to school and has been asking if we can get one of these little pot roses. As we’d made it through a week of work and school I indulged her.

Not necessarily a colour I’d choose but it looks nice enough. We’ll keep it inside to flower and then try transferring it outside to see if it can come back again.

4. Mouse

I went looking in the shed for a potlast Sunday and knocked this little mouse into the bird feed box. I kept it in a box so Alice could have a look and then released it back. They don’t do any harm in the shed. The bird food is all in metal tins and I’d rather they were out in the shed than coming in the house.

5. Bishop’s Children dahlia

This was another of the Bishop’s Children dahlia grown from seed this year. There has been a variety of colours from bright red, through pink and orange and yellow. This one seems to have developed as a partial double form.

6. Asters

The asters are coming into flower now. This is a tall variety that is wedged behind a hebe and sambucus.


And now they’re flowering the insects are happy.

Well, this was painful to write in the new editor. There is no spell checker and trying to read back through it leaps around so I expect complaints from my mother about mistake. I will be getting on with my last burst of exam revision this weekend so I may not get around to reading everyone else’s six blogs until after Monday. Enjoy your weekends.

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Six on Saturday: 5.9.20 Monocots & Dicots

For this weeks six I thought I would do a blog to aid with revision for my first RHS exam in a few weeks. Having had a look through past exam papers the differences between monocts and dicots is a regular exam question. Flowering plants (Angiosperms) are divided into two key groups moncots and discots. The course never really explains why this is important to know but it does give you a good idea of how a plant will grow, what leaves it will have. Some diseases may affect dicots but not monocots so it can be useful to be able to categorise the two.

1. Leaves

The leaves of monocotyledonous plants have parallel veins. They are usually strap-like in shape and have the stomata (where oxygen exits and carbon dioxide enters) are spread evenly between the top and bottom of the leaves. Grasses would be a good example of this. Here we have a hosta showing the parallel veins.

Whereas, dicotyledonous plants have spreading, reticulate (net-like) and branching veins. Here on the heuchera you can see the veins spreading out like a web. The stomata are located on the underside of the leaves.

2. Stems

Monocot stems have vascular bundles scattered around the stem with an epidermis one layer thick. They cannot undergo secondary thickening so they do not form woody stems. There are some exceptions such as palm trees and bananas that can form larger stems but these are exceptions that have developed different strategies than dicot stems for growing larger. So while something like a hosta may grow large leaves it does not develop a large stem. Here the agapanthus has the strap like leaves with a long stem but it cannot undergo secondary thickening to make it more stable.

Dicot stems have vascular bundles arranged in circles around the pith acting as a starch store. They can undergo secondary thickening. So, in general, most trees will be dicots.

3. Flowers

Monocot flower parts are arranged in multiples of 3. Irises and lilies are good examples of this.

Whereas, dicot flowers have parts arranged in multiples of 4 or 5.

4. Seeds

Monocot seeds have one cotyledon, thus the name monocot. The cotyledon is the embryonic leaf that the plant initially grows when first germinated. As it grows larger it forms the true leaves. In the case of monocots, as already said, strap-like.

In dicot seeds, they have two cotyledons. Here we have the two seed leaves of the dicot coneflowers, Echinacea purpurea.

5. Roots

In monocot roots are usually fibrous. They sometimes have an initial taproot that dies off quickly to be replaced by the adventitious fibrous roots. Whereas dicots can form a tap root system with a central thicker root growing down with roots branching off this. Then from the secondary roots smaller taproots may form. Here we have the fibrous roots coming off an onion.

6. Pollen grains

Monocot pollen is monosulcate. This means it has a single pore through the outer layer.

Whereas dicot pollen is tricolpate meaning it has 3 ridges through the outer layer.

I hope you have enjoyed me sharing some of my course knowledge. Hopefully, some of it may be accurate. One more weekend to go before the test so I have a bit more time to cram. Sorry if I don’t get around to reading everyone else’s sixes this week. Between starting my new job on Monday and preparing for my exam I am a bit busy. But it should settle into a nice routine after the exam. Enjoy your weekends.

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Six on Saturday: 29.8.20

I haven’t spent much time in the garden this week apart from preparing for wind damage. A few things have been staked in better and a few things removed as they were blown over. I lost one sweet pea patch but nothing major. The combination of wind and rain can be very punishing for the garden but as the week has gone on it has shifted to a bit less wind and a bit more rain. I have still been reading up on plenty of gardening know-how as I prepare for my first RHS exam in a few weeks. On Thursday evening I attended a zoom lecture by Rosy Hardy of Hardy’s plants. This was excellent. The talk came through Lou Nicholls Patreon channel. There is a good line up of talks coming up. It’s about the same price as the monthly gardening magazines and probably better value. Rosy’s talk covered several perennials with excellent tips, a wealth of experience around the Chelsea chop, growing tips for plants, trouble-free alternatives to several popular choices. It was well worth the monthly price. Mark Lane, Steven Edney, Phil Gilmartin, Harriet Rycroft and more are lined up already. It gives you access to Chelsea winners, university lecturers and authors and the chance to pick their brains on their specialist area.

1. Heuchera ‘Bressingham’ hybrid

These were started from seed a few months ago. I bought two types from Chiltern Seeds. These and greenfinch. I potted them on from the seed tray this week into plugs. I now have about 100 plus. I doubt they’ll all make it to maturity but I should hopefully have enough for my needs. They have evergreen bright green foliage. The flowers come out red, pink and coral and are cut for cut flowers but they are also loved by the bees. I haven’t seen as many of the greenfinches germinate but not abandoning them yet.

2. Digitalis lutea

This is a perennial foxglove I am growing from seed. These have been potted on now into 9cm pots. They should be able to carry on rooting for another month or so and then I should have some strong plants ready for next year. They are shorter than the biennials but I have had issues with the biennials. I had one year I where I think I removed many of the self-seeders and another where slugs accounted for a number. With the perennial varieties, I can plant them where I want and now where they are coming back up.

3. Hylotelephium

The talk with Rosy Hardy reminded me I’d added two new Hylotelephiums to help encourage butterflies. I’ve also wanted some of the dark-leaved varieties since I first saw them in the in-laws garden. Time to mention them so I have the record on the blog of what they are called. These were known as sedum but they had a name change with the spring flowering plants retaining the name sedum while these autumn flowerers gained a new name. This is a short, sprawling one ‘Bertram Anderson’. I have placed at the front of the border to spill over. It’s a bit untidy but I think as it flowers it should be popular and when it puts on fresh growth next year it will fill out and look a bit better.

This is another dark-leaved type, Hylotelephium ‘Vera Jameson’. More like the popular ‘Autumn Joy’ with dark leaves. It is taller than ‘Bertram Anderson’ but that is currently meaning it has flopped over. It would have benefitted from a Chelsea chop but I bought it after the time for that. Rosy Hardy gave an excellent explanation of how to do this in various ways on the Thursday talk. I’ve put it next to the green ‘Autumn Joy’ which you can see in the picture. This has lost a number of its leaves as I don’t think it was in the best health when I got it but it will come back fine next year.

4. Brunera ‘Alexander the Great’

This is just small currently but will fill a nice space with its super foliage. Suitable for shade and the small forget-me-not flowers attract the bees. It has a large Dryopteris fern to one side. They should contrast nicely in terms of texture and foliage shapes.

5. Verbena rigida

This is shorter than the ever popular verbena bonariensis but forms larger clusters of purple flowers. But just like its taller relative, the small tubular flowers are popular with butterflies. I have got a packet of seed kicking around somewhere so may try and grow a few more to spread around. It’s fitting in nicely here with the fuschia.

6. Dahlia tamburo

I believe this is Tamburo. Alice swapped labels last year. I bought the tubers last year as part of a collection of short dahlia for pots. It’s a lovely dark dahlia. It’s one fault is that the flowers tend to come out in the middle of foliage. They often form between stems and then the foliage growth overtakes them. I’m sure this could be resolved with careful pruning but deadheading is enough of a job currently.

I’ve got one more week and then I return to the world of work. There are a few days forecast as dry so I can hopefully get a few garden jobs done so the garden is in the best state before I start work. If you fancy taking part in six on Saturday read the guide.

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Six on Saturday: 22.8.20

Well, what a week! Rain for the first part of the week followed by glorious sun followed by wind and sun. I’ve been busy clearing the patio ready for the builders. I’m trying to find spaces for lots of the potted plants in the borders. So there are several areas of the border that are a bit rammed currently but I will gradually sort them out as annuals come out. Yesterday was my two year wedding anniversary. We didn’t get out but had a nice evening in after getting Alice to bed. The wind was blowing strong. I cut a few of the gladioli for vases inside as I didn’t fancy their chances.

1. Lily

This lily was in a pot last year on the patio. It was completely devastated by lily beetle and didn’t flower. I had heard on gardener’s question time that they often survive better in partial shade so I moved it near the black cherry. It has come back with a vengeance and has been spectacular. Even with the wet weather I’ve had a few weeks out of it. The wind yesterday has accounted for most of the petals but it had a pretty good run.

2. Hydrangea paniculata ‘limelight’

Just behind the lily is limelight. It’s a spectacular hydrangea with lime green flowers fading to white with a tinge of pink. The flower heads are a good size. There are varieties with bigger heads but I think the proportions of this are quite pleasing. I planted two in the back garden last year and one as the centrepiece in the front garden. As you can see, they are settling in well and should carry on putting on a bit more height in future years.

3. Small tortoiseshell butterfly

I had mentioned that small tortoiseshell butterflies have been lower in numbers in a previous six. I’ve just started to see some in the garden this week. I think this would be a second brood of the year. Here it has come for the Achillea millefolium ‘Pink grapefruit’ (yarrow). I had planted this a few weeks back to attract in more butterflies so it is good to see it is doing its job.

The chives are also proving very popular. I cut them back a month or so again after flowering and we’re getting a second burst.

4. Silver Y moths

Each year we seem to get a few years where these day-flying moths are around in large numbers. Last year was a record year but we’ve had a few days this week where every plant I touch sends up a cloud of them. They migrate into the UK but don’t stay for the whole year as it’s too cold for their liking.

5. Dahlia variabilis ‘cactus mixed

These were grown from seed this year. Not reaching anywhere near the heights on the label but they are still looking pretty. So far I’ve had orange and yellow. None of the purple on the label that I quite fancied but these are a nice bright burst.

6. Gladioli

I’ve grumbled about my gladioli since I first put them in. They were blousy pastel colours. I added several dark purple and white ones into the border. I prefer block colours for these and this Wilco’s special is looking particularly good. A few have been blown over even with staking and have been taken for cut flowers inside.

Another productive week in the garden. I still have a few more plants to clear from the patio. A few winter bedding plants to pot on. It’s a week of rain ahead on the forecast so I don’t know how much I’ll get done. But, on the positive side, the garden is looking lush. If you fancy taking part in six on Saturday check the guide. It’s an ever-growing community of gardeners with many blogs and hundreds taking part on Twitter. Enjoy your weekends whatever you are up to.

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Six on Saturday: 15.8.20-Bay wildlife

We have returned from a trip the in-laws before we potentially end up in another partial lockdown. They have a fantastic garden with several tiers as it goes down to a cliff edge. The garden is in good order with drifts of verbena, the hydrangeas at their peak and the sedums ready to bloom. The agapanthus are doing very well. But, I thought I’d make a focus of the wildlife in the garden this week as we had a few exciting sightings. Their garden is a good example of how, with a variety of habitats, you can have a wide range of wildlife while still having a garden that looks prim and tidy.

1. Dragonfly-Southern Hawker

The wildlife pond at the bottom of the garden is doing well. The grasses and flowers are attracting in many bees and a few other pollinators. Plenty of food for dragonflies. The weather was a bit grey so I didn’t see that many dragonflies but I did spot what I think is a southern hawker. This is different from the ones visiting my garden so nice to see something different.

2. Newts

The pond is also home to newts. The in-laws I think would prefer the frogs for the slug defences but it’s glorious to watch these amphibians that were common in my childhood but rare now. If you have newts they eat the tadpoles so you generally don’t get many living together. I think it’s a smooth newt. These are the commonest in the UK but still protected by law. It is illegal to sell or trade them. Whereas Northern Ireland has better protection: no killing, injuring, capturing, disturbance, possession or trade. Newts will still manage to thwart Boris in Northern Ireland

3. Hoverflies on buddleja

As I said, the weather was a bit gray so not many butterflies on the bushes famous for enticing them in. But, there was still lots of hoverflies enjoying them.

4. Robin

I saw lots of birds on the feeders: tits, bullfinches, goldfinches, sparrows and wrens. But, I didn’t manage any decent photos of them with the exception of the robin which was a bit more sociable.

5. Martha

A bit less wild, this is Martha. This was Amy’s cat before she went to live in Indonesia. She hasn’t taken it back as it is settled well here and I’m allergic. So my birds are safe. She was sat down by the pond and bird feeders for a lot of our visit. She likes people but not sure about small children. So, Alice was given a wide berth.

6. Badger

The compost heap has been getting dugout. The in-laws have been concerned that it might be rats so we left the trail camera set up to check. A little bigger than a rat. They have had the badgers before but they thought they’d fenced up the entry points.

We tried to narrow down where they are coming in but only really know which end of the garden they are entering.

It’s been great visiting them and wonderful to see so much wildlife within their garden. Don’t forget to check out the other six on Saturday posts. I now need to get on with getting my own garden jobs done. The seagulls have been throwing the compost out of pots and lots of plants are still very dry. Enjoy your weekends whatever you are up to.

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Six on Saturday-8.8.20

We made it out to visit a garden this week. I did consider featuring our trip to Wassand Hall for this weeks six but there was far more than six so this has featured as a post on its own. The garden is going through the transition to late summer. The poppies have come out and a few annuals so that I can put a few more dahlias in the ground. The verbena and gladioli is almost ready to flower. The air has been filled with insects with the heat of the week. The house martins are still shrieking overhead. So much to enjoy in the garden and too hot to do much more than some light deadheading until the evenings.

1. Hebe

I culled all the hebes in the front garden last year as they had all become too leggy and they weren’t flowering much anymore. This smaller one survived in the back garden. It is not quite hardy enough though. The leaves get damaged each year so it gets a cut back in spring and spends much of the year recovering. It does, however, have pretty very vibrant pink flowers that the bees and butterflies seem to like.

The passionflower is trying to grow through it so I keep needing to unwrap tendrils and put it back on the fence.

2. New Butterflies

I’ve been grumbling the last few weeks about the lack of butterflies. I’ve not had a lot of my regular visitors but I read an interesting article saying that several species are possibly hibernating earlier. Having grumbled I have then had two species which I haven’t sighted in the garden before.

First a gatekeeper. These are fairly common locally but I haven’t seen in the garden. The caterpillars feed on grasses so an area of long grass is useful for attracting them in. After lockdown easing the locals and town council have gone a bit mad on the grass mowing cutting back areas that are often left longer. I’m wondering if this has displaced some of these butterflies.

The second newcomer was a brown argus I think. When the wings are closed they are very similar to common blue butterflies but I’m pretty certain this was brown when it opened its wings. Both of the newcomers settled on the marigolds so they are earning their keep. I still think numbers are down in the garden despite the newcomers. numbers of whites are up with the caterpillars eating my sprouts and nasturtiums but other species numbers are down.

3. Dragonflies

I featured these last week but I wanted to feature them again as I’ve managed some more detailed photos.

I have seen bigger numbers this week. There have sometimes been as many as 4 in at once. They seem to like settling on the honeysuckle. They eat small flying insects. I think this spot offers them a vantage point where they can rest and observe the garden for hunting.

4. Passionflower

The passionflower is now dominating one fence. I featured the flowers earlier in the season. Each day a couple of new flowers open keeping the bees happy.

The early flowers mean it has managed to form fruit for the first time. They might even have time to ripen this year.

5. Achillea millefolium-Yarrow

In my efforts to help the butterflies I am looking at adding a few more nectar sources for them. Yarrow is recommended as a good option. Tesco had a number at the point of death for a £1. I think this one can be salvaged. If nothing else I can collect seeds.

The second is a healthy one. This is Achillea millefolium ‘Pink Grapefruit’. It is filling out the pot nicely and the pink stands out nicely. This is part of the tutti-fruiti series that have been bred to be compact. So they seem like a good option for a pot to attract some butterflies on the patio. They need good drainage. My garden is clay. I have improved it over the last few years but I think these will still do better in a pot than in my ground. They are drought tolerant which is becoming more of a consideration each year.

6. Dahlia-Black Jack

I had originally wanted this dahlia last year and I ordered ir from Sarah Raven as part of a trio of short dahlias. However, she had supply issues and I was refunded. I ordered this year from Farmer Gracy and it was delivered this year with no issues. It’s a smallish dahlia with lovely dark maroon ruffles. I think it was worth the extra years wait.

If you’ve enjoyed my post and fancy taking part or reading more check out the participant guide. I’ve got a bit of potting on to do today and may start off a few more seeds now the mini-greenhouse is emptying out. I’m gradually clearing the patio and garden ready for the return of the builders. I hope you all enjoy your weekends whatever you are up to.

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Six on Saturday: 25.7.20-Anatomy of a photo

This week I have been aiming for a few decent photos in the garden. There are a few photo competition deadlines coming up including the Countryfile calendar competition. Going off previous years where the ‘wildlife’ has been faked in home-built studios I probably don’t stand much of a chance. But the theme this year is ‘bright and beautiful’ and I have an idea of a photo I wanted. The rules have been changed a bit for this year in that people can enter wildlife photos taken closer to home as we’ve been on lockdown rather than the countryside. So I wanted to try and get a photo of the wildlife in my garden that has brought me comfort during lockdown.

1. The aim

I have been wanting to get a decent photo of the bees on this allium. The allium was randomly placed in Alice’s fairy garden. It is growing out on in its own but the bees are loving it. It frequently has two or three bees on it.

Being out on its own it has the advantage of standing out dramatically on photos as I can angle photos to either have the bright green of the grass of the bright pink of the Hydrangea macrophylla. I knew the combination of a bee, the allium and a striking background could make for a stunning photo.

2. Initial attempts

My initial attempts were taken with my telephoto lens (Nikon-300mm) as the bees were a bit skittish when I got too close and they weren’t settling for long. I can focus this lens quickly for the quick movements of the bees and take shots from a little distance. The results were ok but using such a long lens limited my freedom to compose the shot with the background as I can’t gain the height to get the background how I wanted it. It also lacks the detail I felt I could get on the bees.

3. Lens change

I decided I’d try with the macro lens to get a higher level of detail on the bee.

It’s been a bit of a grey week so the photos are a bit muted. But, you can see the level of detail on the bee went up from the previous photo. However, it lacks the depth of field to have much of the allium in focus.

4. Flash

I’ve been hoping for brighter days, but as they haven’t happened I got the flash out. I don’t often bother with it as I mainly use my previously mentioned telephoto lens for taking pictures of the birds. The flash doesn’t make much difference at those distances. But for this close up work it stops me or the camera shading out the subject. It does add quite a bit of weight to the setup.

The best result with the flash.

5. Diffuser

The flash helps give the extra light to really show off the hairs of the bee but it places all the light in a focussed spot. So I had quite a few photos with the light bouncing back at me or spread unevenly. So I added the diffuser to the lens. This covers the flash and allows some light through but more evenly.

This got me some much better photos. With a little bit of digital editing to increase the colours a little bit more so they reflected the colours the bee and plant really are. I don’t generally edit my photos much after except cropping as I mainly just take photos to illustrate the blog but I was aiming for a particular result here. I was close to results I was happy with.

But they both had elements that were wrong. On this one, the allium is still out of focus. The bee’s positioning meant all of the bee was pretty much in focus though not the most exciting composition. But the bees aren’t that accommodating at poising.

On this one, the position was more dynamic but key elements around the face were out of focus.

6. Tripod

Over the week I’d seen that in the evening the bees become more sluggish and they stay on the allium for longer. I thought I’d try for a few more shots using the tripod to make up for my shakey hands. The camera weighs a lot by the time you add the lens and focussing with the macro is precise. So the tripod allows for less camera shake allowing for things like a slower shutter speed without the photo becoming blurry. With the tripod and flash, I was able to manage a photo with both the bee and allium in focus and the hydrangea background I was hoping for.

I’m unlikely to win as like I already said many of the winners have been staged photos within studios or certainly look that way. Then of the actual natural shots, there have been some far more stunning and technically better photos. Photos of mammals almost all win the public vote. People seem to be able to relate more and go for that ‘cute’ factor. But, I have enjoyed the process of trying for a better photo. If I do get a day with better natural light I’ll try for some more photos. I’ve probably got another few days before the allium goes over. But Amy is complaining that I am on infringing on her photo specialty of macro, so back to birds for me. Thank you if you’ve read this far and tolerated me writing a different six on Saturday again. If you fancy seeing more garden pics or taking part check the participant guide.

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Six on Saturday: 18.7.20-Bees needs

This week is Bees Needs Week, organised by Bumblebee conservation. There are 5 simple guidelines to help.

  1. Grow more flowers, shrubs and trees.
  2. Let your garden grow wild.
  3. Cut your grass less often.
  4. Don’t disturb insect nest and hibernation spots.
  5. Think carefully about whether to use pesticides.

So, for this weeks six, I am looking at six bee favourites in the garden right now.

1. Hosta flowers

While not a flower people necessarily think of as a pollinator favourite the hostas have been constantly buzzing with bee activity. Great for adding that extra pollen source in the shade.

2. Passionflowers

The passionflowers are about as far from a native species as you can get in the UK. But the exotic blooms are loved by the bees.

3. Borage

Borage is probably one of the best flowers for bees currently. The nectaries supposedly refill in about a minute meaning they can be visited again and again. If you wanted a bee magnet for a limited space this would be it. I have both the blue and the white varieties growing and they are equally loved.

4. Hollyhocks

The hollyhocks are coming into flower. The leaves are covered in rust but they are blooming well. The hollyhocks are wonderful for the bees. They enter the large open flower and come out covered in pollen.

5. Single dahlias

While many of the double dahlias may look more spectacular I prefer the singles for the variety of pollinators that enjoy them. Last year these were enjoyed by bees, hoverflies and butterflies throughout the late summer. Here is the first one to open this year being enjoyed by a hoverfly.

And with a bee coming into land.

6. Marigolds

My mass of marigolds has seen many visitors with both honey and bumble bees coming to enjoy.

I am pleased with how many bees are coming in right now. The bumblebees are the most frequent but we are seeing some honey bees and a variety of solitary bees. It is good to know our efforts to provide for them are showing good results.

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