Wildlife in our Gardens; Favourite Plants; April Garden Scenes

Greetings to all Cothi Gardeners, and other readers. Here’s a news post with various snippets which might be of interest. Many thanks to all who’ve sent words or photos to either myself or Elena. Do keep them coming…

Carys Williams contacted me with the following information, from WWBIC :

We are your Local Environmental Record Centre (LERC) for West Wales. We would like to encourage people to engage with nature by recording plants and wildlife on your doorstep.

During the CORVID-19 outbreak, the public are urged to work from home and practice social distancing. We think this is a good time to learn more about wildlife in your garden, if it is safe to do so.

The Common or Garden Project is a simple way of recording 6 priority species for beginners. (Hare, Common Toad, Hedgehog, Bullfinch, Blood Vein Moth, and Slow Worm).  We have chosen these six species which are included in the Section 7 list the Environment (Wales) Act 2016.   This is a list of the living organisms that are of key significance to sustain and improve biodiversity in Wales. We need to know more about these species, can you help? For more information click on the link below.

Common or Garden Poster_english

Thank you, and happy wildlife recording!

Carys Williams

Biodiversity Information Assistant

West Wales Biodiversity Information Centre (WWBIC)

Tel. 01994 241468 www.wwbic.org.uk


Many thanks to Brenda for the photo of this gorgeous clump of Ipheion uniflorum ‘Charlotte Bishop’ – An easily grown spring flower related to the onion family the foliage of which dies back during the summer. Growing amidst what looks like a wonderful clump of Snakeshead fritillaries.

And to Elena for these photos and words about her friend Susan’s amazing garden in distant Trinidad & Tobago, which has a wonderfully exotic and lush feel:

All over the world gardeners in lockdown are turning to their gardens for stress relief during these difficult times. My friend Susan in Trinidad, who I have known since primary school, sent these photos of her small urban garden. What a great use of foliage pot plants! I am sure many of you will recognise the Australian red palms, colourful crotons and bromeliads, bamboo, ferns and the orchids hanging from a tree branch. Lovely … thanks for sharing Susan!!

And back home thanks to Ruth for sending a photo of her productive polytunnel which is providing lots of fresh vegetables for the table during these tricky times, Ruth says :

This is my polytunnel with the brassicas I have been growing over the winter, plus leeks, purple sprouting broccoli, curly kale, cavolo Nero kale and chard. We are enjoying eating them now. If I try and grow them in the summer the caterpillars demolish them!

I’m guessing we’ll all be focusing more on productive plantings this year.

A couple of favourite flowers right now from the garden here at Gelli Uchaf: Scilla Bithynica, the Turkish Squill, shown below, and in more detail in the video clip later. It’s a stunning small blue bulb which flowers for a very long time. We bought a couple from Shipton bulbs several years back, and it spread so well from seed that it’s gradually making a nice carpet of blue, a good 6 weeks ahead of native bluebells.

and Narcissus pseudonarcissus, the Lenten Lily :  One of our native daffodil species, which is short and early, and always pale and dark yellow, but quite variable in form. It takes a few years for the snowdrop sized bulbs to settle in, but it’s then really reliable here, and produces quite a bit of seed unlike most daffodils, so can be spread around for those patient gardeners amongst us …

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The last 10 days of sunny weather have been a fantastic time for early insect activity in our garden, and a great opportunity for seeing just which flowers are favoured by some of our commoner insects.

Day after day of unbroken sunshine, even if the wind’s been nippy, or downright bone chilling – particularly first thing, when I’m out in my nightshirt and long johns. But I hope you enjoy the merged video clips from our garden 800 feet above sea level, in often really chilly and windy conditions

It’s such a thrill to find that after so many years of deliberately selecting and planting more and more insect friendly flowers here, it’s now (relatively!) easy to film such pieces – so many insects find our garden an oasis of provision this early in the year.

Images that reinforce the message that although we all love our flowers, millions of years of evolution have really developed them for their nutritional value to our insect fauna.  And anyone with bumblebee queens a plenty in their gardens in March will probably be familiar with the distinct impression that when walking round your garden, surveying the scene, one or two of these incredibly tough, and large insects will meet you, and if not exactly greet you, then certainly check you out.

Carefully. Circling you three or four times, before heading off on more urgent duties. Just to let you ponder whether it’s them invading your personal space, certainly far too close for safe social distancing.

Or vice versa.

Does everyone else find they get”buzzed” by bumbles?

And has anyone any idea why they do this?

You’ll see in the video clip below, in this order, these wonderful symbiotic insect flower pairings, and see how much busy work is still going on outside, Covid-19 restrictions notwithstanding, in the natural world.

And for any unfamiliar with the wonderfully adapted vegetarian adult Bee fly, it has a sinister life cycle – its larvae are carnivorous, preying on bumblebee larvae. No bumbles, no beeflies.

There’s still lots of opportunities to spot these up to the middle of May, when the adults disappear for another year. Primroses, Aubrieta and Pulmonaria all seem favoured plants for them in our garden.

Chionodoxa “Pink Giant” : Honeybee – Apis mellifera

Scilla bithynica : Honeybee – A. m.

Skimmia “Emerald King” : Honeybee – A. m.

Chionodoxa forbesii blue : Honeybee – A. m.

Primula vulgaris – primrose : Peacock butterfly – Inachis io

Muscari armeniacum: Honeybee – A.m.

Aubrieta : Dark-edged Beefly – Bombylius major

Muscari neglectum : Small Tortoiseshell butterfly – Aglais urticae

Primula vulgaris – primrose : Bumblebee queen – Bombus terrestris

Primula vulgaris – primrose: Dark-edged beefly – Bombylius major

Pieris “Forest Flame” : Bumblebee queen – Bombus leucorum

Narcissus “Brunswick” : Peacock butterfly -Inachis io


It would be lovely to hear from any members about their favourite plants, or things in their gardens as we go through the next few months. Why not write a few words and send an image or two, preferably resized down to less than 1 MB? I can’t promise to put everything up online immediately, but usually within a fortnight, and it’ll be a great way of keeping in touch, and passing on information.

Or use the Cothigardeners Facebook Page.

You can send things to me at:

Cothigardeners@gmail.com

Pies and Veg; Spring Bulbs and Cinnamon; Green’s Leaves

Following another highly successful Pie Night at the Dolaucothi Arms (thank you Dave and Esther) our speaker, Ivor Mace gave, us an excellent, amusing and informative talk at our meeting in March. Drawing on his 40 years experience he guided us through the trials and tribulations, joys and successes of growing vegetables. We picked up many tips and useful information on:

  • crop rotation to help reduce diseases such as Club root
  • when to dig different soil types
  • use of green manures
  • raised beds
  • most useful tools (draw hoe, fork, spade & dutch hoe)
  • sowing times and sowing tips
  • sequential planting
  • varieties of vegetables
  • pests and diseases

Sadly we needed much longer than the allotted 45 mins – 1 hour for Ivor to include detailed information on more than a couple of vegetable types. We will have to have him back for another session.

The club plant stall continues to do well – keep up the good work all of you who supply plants and those who buy them. There are many bargains and some unusual  plants to be had; and remember the proceeds go to club funds enabling us to have a wider range of speakers.

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After Ivor’s talk we had our new slot for member’s monthly tips. If you have a tip or item of information you think would be useful or you would just like to share please get in touch with Julian before the next meeting so that it can be included.

This month’s tips were:

1: Tenby Daffodils (From Julian)

Do we all know what they look like? And do we all grow them? They’re actually a species daffodil native to this part of the world, so not surprisingly grow very well here. They’re probably one of the most vigorous forms we grow, and reliably some of the earliest to flower – usually in time for St David’s day. This year we have masses of flowers from them. But my first tip taken from moving snowdrops in the green, is if you’ve got a vigorous form like Tenby, try moving them in the green – maybe 5 or 6 weeks after flowering. So long as you do it in damp/wet conditions, and then water them well in any dry conditions, they’ll survive and it’s much easier to get them where you want, between other bulbs and plants than buying in more dry bulbs in the autumn. They’ll probably sulk for a couple of years. But then be fine. Anyone who hasn’t got any, but would like some – more money for club funds, folks, come and have a word afterwards, and Julian can probably lose 30 or 40.  (So maybe 4 lots of 10?)

2: Cinnamon for gardeners. Elena found the following information and shared it with us:

Whenever I think of cinnamon, I immediately think of sweet treats around Christmas time. But cinnamon really is an incredibly healthy spice that has more uses than just adding flavour to your favourite desserts and drinks. Yep, some of the best chilis and grilled meat spice rubs that I’ve ever had contain cinnamon. And did you know that cinnamon is good for your heart health, your brain functions, and blood sugar regulation? Amazing stuff!

Maybe you already knew all that but here’s one that very few people know about: you can use cinnamon for gardening. “Huh? How can you possibly use cinnamon for gardening!?” Yes, I know it sounds completely crazy, but you really can use cinnamon to very legitimately help you with growing certain plants.

Have you ever heard of damping off disease? Perhaps you’ve never heard of it, but you may have seen it before… it’s a soil-borne fungus that looks like cotton and it grows on the stems of your seedlings. Infected plants might still germinate, however it’s only a matter of days before they become mushy, limp at the base, and die. Nasty stuff. But this is where cinnamon comes in…

As it turns out, cinnamon has anti-fungal properties so it’s a great solution to keeping your plants free of damping off disease. Just sprinkle the cinnamon on the soil (don’t worry if you get some on the leaves) and the wonderful spice will get to work protecting your babies.

3: Scilla bithynica.  The Turkish Squill (From Julian)

A bit like a smaller bluebell, but with flowers all round the stem, and a great nectar flower. Like bluebells it does well in moist shade, say under trees or shrubs and with us seems to produce lots of seed, though this will take a few years to grow to flowering size. Slugs and rabbits don’t seem to like it, and the great thing is the colour of the blue, and that it flowers for quite a bit longer than bluebells, and about 6 weeks earlier, so gives an extended season.  Well worth a try, and we got them from locally based John Shipton, who seems to be one of the few suppliers of this bulb (currently 5 bulbs for £9.50 + shipping. Click here for his website)

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There will be lots to discuss at our April meeting, the topic is “Choice Plants for Early Season Interest” by Paul Green.

There is so much to do in the garden at this time of year but Paul will help to get you going in the right direction with tips and advice so that you can focus your attention on what will do well during the spring. Paul’s nursery, Green’s Leaves, specialises in rather unusual plants which have been grown in the UK, making sure they are suitable for our cooler climate. Look at their website for more information www.greensleavesnursery.co.uk  and come along on 19th April as Paul will bring a selection of plants for sale. These are sure to be different from those found in most garden centres.

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