Bees, bud break and other signs of spring

crocus and snowdropsThe first bee appeared in the garden today (5th March) – a great fat bumble bee, probably woken by a few warm sunny days in succession.   The nights have been very cold though, so I hope it has a warm retreat somewhere, tucked away from the frost.

I saw Camellia bushes full of honey bees while down in the far south of England last weekend, but it was lovely to spot one here in the Highlands so soon afterwards.  (There were also lambs down south, but I’ll be rather surprised if I see one of those gambolling through the borders here).

The signs of the garden transitioning into spring are now everywhere.  Snowdrops are starting to go over and the miniature irises in pots are completely finished.  They’ve been swiftly replaced by primroses, Tete a Tete daffodils, anenome blanda, crocus, primula and masses of hellebores.  The full size daffodils don’t look to be too far behind.

primroseMany of the shrubs and early trees are starting to break their buds too.  The crab apple, shardy fushia, clematis alpina, sambuscus nigra, blackthorn and spirea are all opening.

Birds are definitely starting to have lurve on their tiny minds and the midges and biting bugs have woken up.  Even the wretched grass needs cutting (which doesn’t, never has, never will, count as gardening in any way shape or form).

I know it is only the first week in March, but the temptation to rush outside and plant things that can’t possibly cope with the night time temperatures is pretty strong!  I should probably focus my attention on those winter tasks I still haven’t finished yet (like pretty much everything structural and most things to do with cleaning, tidying and organising).

tete a tete daffodilsMy windowsills will have to overflow with cuttings and seedlings for a fair while yet!

Tell me if you’ve seen bees and other signs of spring in your garden yet!

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An abundance of wildlife – most of it unruly

If only the many creatures that are rampaging through the garden right now could follow the example of bees.  Bees are the perfect guests.  In exchange for being welcomed with food and shelter, they show the best of manners by pollinating, gently humming me to a state of relaxation and never doing the slightest bit of harm.  The only brief moments of friction come when one of us surprises the other – usually over a bag of compost, which they love.

If only the rabbits, sparrows and blackbirds would take note and mend their marauding ways.

One rabbit is a pest, but two are trouble

rabbit

William the rabbit in his favourite spot

Usually it is the rabbits who are the king of the large pests in this garden. (Vine weevils & slugs are chief evil mini-monsters).   When just one rabbit is present, the focus is entirely on eating.  Grass is the main casualty (fine with me) but crocuses and other new foliage also hold munch-appeal.

As with rowdies of the human species, the trouble really kicks off when two or more of the beasts get together.  Two rabbits in the garden generally involves random running round in circles.  I have no idea (do they?) if this is romantic, aggressive or a combination of both – but when this ritual begins, my beloved plants get squashed as well as nibbled.

Should a third rabbit enter the equation, madness ensues.  Add random leaps into the air, karate kicks & Olympic standard gymnastics to the nibbling, running in circles and general scrabbling.  My poor plants get caught in the battle royale.

Fortunately the rabbits haven’t picked the garden as a community toilet yet, but last year they tried to nest in a flower bed.  (I didn’t see any kittens, so I don’t think they succeeded).

Happily for them I have a live and let live policy.  But if the squashing and nibbling gets out of hand – or if they start tunnelling into the hillside –  I shall have to dig down and lay chicken wire below the fence where they dig their way under.

I have already learned that repellent – even foul smelling home brews of egg and chilli – have no effect whatsoever. Bizarrely, the only thing that does keep them away is not clearing up after I have cut bushes down.  If I leave the garden completely covered in rubbish and twigs, they stay away.  Clearly, like me, they prefer my garden to look pretty before they eat it.

Birds challenging rabbits in the destructiveness league

I don’t have a sentimental BBC Springwatch view of birds, I have seen them fight to the death in the garden.  But I do find them entertaining & clownish.  So I indulge them with seed heads, fruit, shelter, nesting sites and native trees that attract insects.

The garden has attracted a vast amount of birds – from pheasants, buzzards, red kites and sparrowhawks at the large end, to goldfinch, bullfinch, goldcrests, black caps, coal tits, long tailed tits, willow warblers and wrens at the small end.  There are at least two large gangs of sparrows, constantly warring robins and blackbirds (both species would rather fight over food than eat it) and a healthy thrush and fieldfare population.  Jackdaws and crows clown around by day, owls at night and I have even had oystercatchers in the greenhouse tents.

Mostly they give me more pleasure than pain.  But right now their hormones are driving them mad and even the usually endearing blue tits have turned into major thugs.  They’re all busy nest building and anything goes.

I helpfully left out lavender and other soft prunings for them at the weekend – were they interested? Not at all.  Instead as I sit here I am watching them strip random chunks of leaf from the remaining bushes.  Yesterday I watched a sparrow fixate on a specific bit of clematis.  It was too big a task for the lone sparrow, but eventually he was joined by three colleagues and the demolition job was completed.

My hanging basket liners are being systematically stripped, young plants being rooted up along with moss and mulch, and twine plant ties are being shredded.  I’m starting to regret my hospitality policy!