First thing this morning I found a tortoise shell butterfly fluttering, trapped in a spider’s web in the polytunnel. I carefully released it with one of my window props (a piece of wood). The butterfly was then on one side of the wood, still with a bit of web attached, the spider crossly marching up the other side. I removed the bit of web and the exhausted butterfly transferred itself to my T-shirt. I put down the piece of wood to allow the spider to go about its business and walked outside with the butterfly, which then, I like to think gratefully, flew away – a nice moment.
A rather less nice moment occurred after lunch. The bee man arrived and later I walked up to the hives to see how he was getting on. He came to talk to me, quite a reasonable distance from the bee enclosure. We were engrossed in a very interesting conversation about the largest hive (which is beginning to resemble a tower block) when I was attacked by a bee which went up my nostril! I desperately swiped at my nose to remove the bee and fell towards the bee man who saved me ( so much for social distancing!) I managed to extricate the bee, but it stung me under my nostril – very uncomfortable!
I attempted to continue my conversation with the bee man (very British effort, quite literally, ‘stiff upper lip’!) but then had to excuse myself to bathe my face which was starting to swell. After washing my face, I suddenly thought, “where are my glasses?”
I frantically searched the bathroom…had I taken them off when I came in? No sign of them, so I hurried back out into the orchard, praying that the bee man hadn’t trodden on them if they had fallen on the grass. Thankfully I found them intact…. thank goodness, because I can’t see properly without them and they were very expensive!
Before my mishap with the bee, I planted out a tray of Cosmos in the two long fruit cage borders, 20 on each side. I then thought it would be good to continue planting out cosmos which have become very tall in their trays. Luckily Cosmos is a very obliging plant and seems to come back well from being left in a tray too long…just the sort of plant I need to put up with my inability to get everything into the ground as quickly as I would like! I planted my first round of companion planting in the Autumn which consisted of nigella, stock, larkspur, poppies and cornflowers. The larkspur and cornflowers are still going strong but particularly the cornflowers have become very tall and rather unstable especially in a strong wind. I have blue and dark maroon cornflowers, the dark variety are surrounding my bed of Kale and I decide to give them a ‘Chelsea Chop’ or ‘Hampton Court Hack’ as described by Helen Yemm. This will stabilise the plants and hopefully encourage a second flush of flowers and my plan is to interplant them with Cosmos which I have also cut back. After the ‘bee episode’ I do not feel brilliant, but after paracetamol, antihistamine and Anthisan cream, I venture forth once more! I now concentrate my efforts on the beds surrounding the fountain at the top of the central borders. These need weeding so I can plant out any spaces with the verbena and amaranth that I have waiting (not very patiently) in the cold frames. This job involves a lot of dead heading of existing verbena which has survived from last year and also the valerian. Valarian grows like a weed and does not smell brilliant (rather like cat poo/wee) but it looks lovely in flower. I have masseS of it in white and pink, but the flowers have finished and need cutting back partly to encourage re-flowering but also to reduce self-seeding ( a vain hope!).
I recently found an excellent description of weeding in Shakespeare’s Richard the second. “I will go root away the noisome weeds which without profit suck the soils fertility from wholesome flowers”.
This certainly adds a more noble feeling to the mundane job of weeding. I end the evening with my most favourite pastime of lockdown ‘owl spotting’. I do not know if it is a coincidence but I’ve seen more owls this year than ever before. It is a joy to watch the pale form of the barn owl gliding silently over the fields and the mount makes an excellent vantage point to view them.