Posts tagged ‘bee’

December 9, 2013

Beefayre Candle

At the Country Living Christmas Fair, I came across a lovely company called Beefayre.

Beefayre sell a range of beautifully packaged skin care, candles and honey, pollen and propolis. At the Christmas Fair they were selling a special winter collection that smells perfectly Christmassy. However, I decided to treat myself to a Bee Garden (Watermint & Rosemary) candle, which has a lovely delicate scent.  I’m burning it to relax in the evening. Although, generally speaking, both mint and rosemary have an uplifting, energetic scent, this version is gentle and I’m really loving it. The UK produced candles are hand poured natural wax (no petrochemicals here), with a 50 hour burning time – and you can also use the warmed wax as a massage oil.

I really loved the glass jar that the candle comes in, which will still be beautiful once the candle has finished, used either as a tumbler or with a tea light dropped into it. Different scents have difference images on the glass, so a collection together would look fabulous. The rest of the packaging is cardboard which can be composted or recycled, which is really pleasing to me, as I’m trying to reduce the amount of waste we produce at home.

Bee Fayre candle

As well as being beautiful products, free from nasties like parabens and sulphates,  the company also give 3% of all profit to bee conservation and research too, and are supporting a great collection of charities such as Buglife.  I can really see it becoming a favourite brand for me and I really recommend you take a look, as all their products would make Christmas gifts too.

PS: On a recent visit to a wonderful local store, Chirpy, I saw they were stocking the aforementioned Christmas candles – so I might treat our home to a few for the festive season too!

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September 12, 2012

My top ten plants for bees

So, I promised that I’d give you a list of my favourite plants for attracting bees. This isn’t an exhaustive list by any means, but I’ve chosen plants that I really like, so not only the bees benefit! Bees prefer a relatively sheltered space, with sunshine. We’ve successfully grown a wildflower mix on the allotment and I’ve also decided to replant the small raised bed I have in the front garden with bee-friendly plants too.

There are a few points to bear in mind:

1 – It’s useful to have a variety of plants with different flowering seasons throughout the year, giving a longer period to support the bees.

2 – Local native flowers are better, which seems quite obvious really, as they share natural habitat. You don’t have to solely plant native species, but consider including them in your garden. Make sure that you get any native species from an approved supplier instead of collecting from the wild, obviously.

3 – Single flower varieties of cultivated plants are better than fancier double-flowered varieties.

4 – Weeds are a great source of food and habitat for many beneficial insects and pollinators, so if you’ve enough space to leave a patch wild, that’s always appreciated. You could go the whole hog and have a logpile too…

Lovely bee! Image from the super talented Abi Manifold.

My Favourite Plants for Bees – these are plants that I’ll be including in my planting either at home or on the allotment.

1 – Lavender. Lavandula angustifolia ‘Hidcote’ which is the one that you’ll think of as the ‘traditional’ type or Lavandula stoechas, which is French lavender, with the bracts at the top ( like a pair of bunny ears!)

2 – Sunflower – Any variety of Helianthus annus will be great. After this summer’s success, we’re definitely planting these on the allotment again.

3 – Hellebore –  Helleborus argutifolius or really any other type. I love Hellebores, they’re gorgeous plants that hide away often unnoticed in the garden. They’re perennials, so they don’t have to be replaced each year, and they’re in flower before almost anything else – which helps the pollinators in the colder months. Other early flowers include crocus and single varieties of snowdrop, which are also lovely – but look at my Hellebore!

Hellebore in my front garden.

4 – Dahlia. I adore Dahlias. The more flamboyant and day-glo the better. For the bees, however, we need less flamboyance and single varieties instead, such as ‘Bishop of Llandaff’ which is popular and well-established. So, I’ll include a few single varieties in my all-new-and-improved cutting patch on the allotment next year. The good thing about dahlia is that they’re flowering once many other things have gone to seed, so extending the season into early Autumn.

5 – BorageBorago officianalis. A pretty herb, the petals and young leaves of which can be frozen in ice cubes to serve in summer drinks. A win – win situation, I call that… Just be aware that this can self-seed and get a bit invasive if you don’t keep on top of it. I might grow mine in a separate bed on the allotment.

6 – Harebell. Campanula rotundifolia. This is the wild Harebell, so if I did grow it, I’d have to be sure that I got it from an approved supplier. I love this little wild flower – it’s the perfect example to me of something that might be called a ‘weed’ but is completely beautiful. Also, Plantlife named it the county flower of Yorkshire a while ago, so it seems fitting that I grow it.

7 – Comfrey – I keep this in a pot as it can go a bit mad and over take everything. Comfrey is also called knitbone  (something I learned in an old pony book as a child!) – and is used as a herbal remedy for problems with bones, muscles and bruising. It also makes a great, although stinky, high- potash plant food when the leaves are infused in a bucket of water. Again, a plant that benefits me alongside the pollinators.

8 – Mint.  I really recommend Mentha piperita ‘Black Peppermint’, it has a strong, quite powerful fragrance and taste, making it perfect for tearing up in a mug with hot water for peppermint tea. Far better than the dried out sachets you can buy. Mint can also be invasive, but if you keep it alone, don’t put it in too small a pot, it’ll just be unhappy. Give it plenty of room.

9 – Apple – Malus domestica Hurrah! Bees love apples too. A great excuse for me to finally get that last space in my row of cordoned trees filled with another old English variety of apple. I’m thinking a cooking variety this time. For pies, obviously…

10 – Jasmine. Jasminum officinale We have a giant plant of this outside the front of our house and it smells incredible – I’ve already told you how I bring it into the house. The bees love it too. They must be as attracted to the fragrance as I am.

So, there we have it. My list of ten plants I will be growing to attract the bees – as well as use as cutting flowers or for eating! It’s important to choose the right plant for the right place, considering your soil type and the exposure to the wind, for example. The Royal Horticultural Society have a big list of both cultivated varieties and wild flowers that will attract pollinators, so do go to their website and have a look.

I’ve just realised that this blog has got very gardening-heavy recently. I will blog about different things soon, I promise!

September 5, 2012

Neal’s Yard Remedies: Bee Lovely shower gel review

The minute my Neal’s Yard Remedies Bee Lovely shower gel arrived my daughter pounced on it, asking ‘Is this for me to share?’ Somewhat begrudgingly, I agreed. She’s been frightened of using the shower, preferring the calmness of a bath, and I thought this might be the thing to make her brave enough to give the shower a try.

I was right. She was in there for ages…

The Neal’s Yard Remedies Bee Lovely hand cream has been such a success that they’ve expanded the range to include this gorgeous honey, orange and mandarin shower gel (which can also be used in the bath but don’t tell my daughter, or we’ll be having a water shortage again) as well as a body lotion, hand wash and a multi-purpose balm. All of these are gentle enough to be used from age three upwards, which is why I’ve had to relinquish sole ownership of the shower gel. The citrus fragrance is uplifting without being too strong and used in the shower, makes for the perfect energy boost. The wake-me-up start to the day I need! I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I get to use it again, because it’s rapidly become Eve’s favourite too…

As well as being gorgeous to use, 5% of the retail price of all of this range goes to support the Bee Lovely campaign and help fund a number of the charitable partners that Neal’s Yard Remedies are working with. They’re also working with Project Dirt to provide grant funds to projects working in support of bees – so if you think you might be eligible, do take a look (the deadline for applications is 30th September)

One thing that everyone can do to support their campaign is sign the petition, which needs 100,000 signatures by 30th November 2012. I really do urge you to do this, because it’s not an overstatement to say that bees and other pollinators are vital to our survival. A third of the average diet is pollinated by bees and so their disappearance would have disastrous consequences.

Earlier this year we sowed wild flowers that we got through the Friends of the Earth Bee Cause (one of the charity partners), and the brilliant little booklet that Neal’s Yard Remedies sent out to us has lots of facts and pictures. Eve has gone from being really nervous of bees to being fascinated about them, and she is already planning what we’ll grow on the allotment next year to encourage them to return. Once we’ve decided which plants to grow, I’ll share my top ten flowers for bees here on the blog. If you want to know more about why bees are so vital, do have a look at my previous post about the Neal’s Yard Bee Lovely campaign and I urge you once again to get involved, perhaps buy one of the lovely products or plant some seeds and sign the petition.

With huge thanks to Neal’s Yard Remedies for sending me the lovely shower gel to review.

April 27, 2012

Neal’s Yard Remedies: Bee Lovely hand cream review.

I have been using the Neal’s Yard Remedies Bee Lovely hand cream for a few days now and I’m really impressed with it. I have to say, I’m not surprised at all. I’ve been a fan of the company for a long time and love their Melissa and Garden Mint and Bergamot hand creams. In fact, at the moment, my daughter is using the Melissa cream to prevent her little hands from getting dry (lots of hand-washing going on!) and she loves it too.

The Bee Lovely hand cream is being sold to raise funds for three charities involved in supporting the bee population, which as I wrote about the other day, is in serious need of help. It’s a cause that I completely support, but I really wanted the product to be great too and thankfully, it is.

Its a pale cream colour, and is slightly thicker than the other Neal’s Yard Remedies hand cream we have. It has a glorious orange smell, courtesy of the essential oil and, although it’s quite thick, it’s really easily absorbed into your skin so it doesn’t leave a greasy feeling afterwards. It’s got sunflower and brazil nut oils in, to help create the softness, as well as the all-important honey!

I have been using it a couple of times each day and I’ve really loved it. Over the period I’ve been using it, I’ve definitely noticed a softening of my skin and the removal of some drier areas across my knuckles and between my fingers. Although that could be because I’m applying it so often; I’m addicted to the smell…

76% organic, with no parabens, synthetic fragrances or odours, mineral oils or other chemical nasties, this is another winning product from Neal’s Yard Remedies and I really rate it highly. So, I do recommend you either go along to your local branch of Neal’s Yard Remedies (where you can also pick up other Bee Lovely information) or have a look at their online store to buy your own tube of Bee Lovely hand cream.  Either way, please do also sign their pesticide petition and help them to save our bees!

April 18, 2012

Neal’s Yard Remedies: Bee Lovely Campaign

It’s universally acknowledged that bees are in trouble. Before you leave, thinking that it’s not really a concern to you, consider this. Approximately one third of the food we eat is pollinated by bees. So, if you’re fortunate enough to have a nourishing and varied diet, then bees are of extreme importance to you. Not to mention that alfalfa, a major crop fed to cattle, is also pollinated by bees. So, even if you’ve never willingly eaten a vegetable (I’m looking at my husband here) then bees are still vitally important.

Why are the bees in trouble? There are various contributory factors and you might have heard of Colony Collapse Disorder, where no one reason seems to be the cause but one of the major reasons they are dying is because of the use of pesticides. It’s been recognised that a group of particularly powerful pesticides, neonicotinoids (neonics), are at the heart of why the bees are disappearing. Using new technology, neonics penetrate the plant and attack the nervous system of insects that feed of them – posing a deadly threat to all pollinators. These pesticides have been banned in other countries already. The French banned neonics in 2000 after concluding through their extensive studies, that even small doses of these pesticides disoriented bees and impaired their foraging ability. Italy, Germany, Slovenia followed suit and banned sales of two varieties of neonics.

DDT is a chemical pesticide that was used widely across Britain, Europe and the US – until it was shown to have chronic effects on the nervous system, liver, kidneys and immune system. It was banned in Britain in 1984. Neonicitinoids are 7,000 times more toxic than DDT. Yet they are still being used.

If we lost the bee population, The British Beekeepers Association estimated that it would take a workforce of 30 million people just in the UK to do the pollination by hand.  This isn’t a joke. In Southern Sechuan, China, the pollination has to be done by hand as, due to overuse of pesticides, the local bee population died out.

Have I persuaded you that this is important yet? I hope so.

So, onto practical action now. What can you do? There are various ways you can get involved, thanks to the Neal’s Yard Remedies Bee Lovely Campaign.
  • You can sign this petition about the use of Neonicitinoids from Neal’s Yard Remedies. 100,000 signatures are needed before it can be taken to Parliament.
  • If you go into your local Neal’s Yard Remedies store, there are wild flower seeds (from Land Life) and a ‘Bee Lovely and Help Save The Bees’ booklet available for you to take away. These lovely resources will help you to make better choices in your own garden and help support your local bee population.
  • You can buy a gorgeous and limited edition Bee Lovely handcream from Neal’s Yard Remedies too – with a blend of organic honey, brazil nut oil and beautiful orange essential oil, not only will a percentage of the cost be donated to the charities below but your hands will thank you too!
  • You can make different choices in your garden, choose pollinating plants and flowers, leave places for bee habitat instead of being super-tidy and garden organically instead of using pesticides.
  • Neal’s Yard Remedies are working with three partner charities:
  • Land Life, who are planning on supporting a number of bee projects and raising awareness
  • Bug Life, who are running projects to support the 250 different pollinating insects threatened with extinction.
  • Pesticide Action Network, who will be creating a bee microsite on their website, which will be a one-stop-shop for anyone searching for information about pesticides and their effects on pollinating insects.
 
From today, I am starting my own ‘Margot and Barbara Bee Project. Last year I did a day of bee-keeping, and it was superb. This is the next stage!
  • As an inital step, I will be signing the petition above and adding my name to the list of people who think that these pesticides should be banned.
  • I’m going to treat myself to a tube of Bee Lovely hand cream. I’ll share my review with you here too.
  • I am going to turn over a portion of my allotment to flowers that are recognised as being good for bees. Although the bees will benefit, they in turn will pollinate my crops so I will benefit too!
  • I am also going to turn a chunk of my allotment into a wild flower area. By planting native British wildflowers from a reputable source (such as Land Life or Wiggly Wigglers) biodiversity, and therefore bumble bees, can be encouraged. Again, they will also help to pollinate my crops.
  • I’ll be investigating the possibility of joining a local beekeeping group with the long term aim of a hive or two of my own…
  • I’ll be doing a series of Bee Project posts, which will hopefully be useful and informative and perhaps persuade a few of you to join me?
Look out for more blog posts about my Bee Project and I do hope that you will also support the Neal’s Yard Remedies Bee Lovely Campaign. It really is vitally important.