bringing bees to the garden

I often get the feeling that all we gardeners do is talk, or more importantly complain, about the weather, whether it be too warm, too wet, too cold or too dry. It is of course an essential part of our ability to garden, no one likes the thought of mowing the lawn in the rain. My recent discussions with others have been all about the “saints de glace“. In case you were not aware, in local agricultural folklore nothing tender should be planted out unprotected until after the days of the saints de glace” have passed. These ice saints, Saint Mamertus, Saint Pancras and Saint Servatius, celebrate their feast days on 11, 12 and 13 May each year. Until these days have passed there is still the possibility of night frost. I think this year they are dragging their heels as we’ve had some very chilly nights recently. With my garden hovering around +7c as a high one day last week, I’m very glad to be behind with my tomato planting. Do keep an eye on the overnight temperatures and if it looks like it might be very cold and your garden is very exposed, throw some garden fleece over those tender shoots.

For all of you tulip lovers the annual sale of the Morges tulip bulbs takes place on Wednesday 20 May from 11:00. At each of the three entries to the Parc de l’Independance the first bag will cost Chf 10 and a subsequent bag Chf 5, bring cash.

This is Chelsea week. The gardens and displays have been built, the press has been in and the medals have been announced, now is the time to enjoy the show. This annual event showcases the best of garden design, plant nurseries, floral design and educational exhibits. If you can’t make it this year don’t worry the BBC has over 20 hours of programming planned. The greatest garden show in the world, the RHS Chelsea Flower Show has been held in the grounds of the Chelsea Hospital in central London for over 60 years. Here is a link to the BBC schedule of programmes – enjoy, I know I will:

May is when we can appreciate the exuberance of spring before the heat of summer arrives, a wonderful time. I’ve been enjoying my perennial border, delighting in the appearance of plants I’d forgotten about and marvelling in the insect activity from early morning to late in the day. Bumble bees and honey bees buzzing away – a wonderful sound. Encouraging pollinators into the garden is something we should all be concerned about. By continuing to plant nectar and pollen-rich flowers we can help improve their numbers. The RHS has an extensive list on its website; divided into seasons each sub-list is alphabetical with a key to help identify the plant (i.e., T = tree, C= climber, A= annual etc.). They also have a top ten list for the more impatient gardener. Something to remember is that the more open the flower the easier it is for the insect to reach the pollen or nectar, so when faced with a choice between a simple flower or a multi-petalled flower where the centre is almost invisible, choose the simple one.

I am about to embark on the creation of a wildflower meadow. A steep section of garden that is difficult and time consuming to mow may become a haven for insects instead. It will not be an immaculate wildflower meadow, the likes of which are popping up in town plantings all over La Côte, but more of a really wild patch packed with flowers and long grass. So far the blue cornflowers and red poppies have yet to show their faces, I’ll let you know how well I manage.

The boxwood caterpillar which made it’s first appearance in Switzerland in 2007 is back this year and is thriving. Take a close look at the interior of all the box plants in your garden for small white web-like cocoons, filled with tiny green eggs and small caterpillars. It is best to act as soon as you see even the slightest infestation as these beasts are voracious and will cause significant damage to your shrubs. You should hand pick and remove all caterpillars, destroy them and then spray all the box plants in your garden. One of the best products to use against this “Pyrale des Buis” is called Delfin and is made by Andermatt Biogarten in Grossdietwil, near Luzern. Their website has a wonderful gallery of close up photographs of these pest, perfect in aiding with identification and you can mail-order their products directly from the website:

Keeping on top of the weeding is always a challenge especially with a vegetable garden. In dry weather use a hoe and in damp conditions try to hand-pull. If you can manage it spend five minutes every few days casting your eye over the plants, this will enable you to quickly identify those unwelcome weeds in their early stages of growth, it will be time well spent. As always, little and often is the way to go.

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