Posts tagged ‘bees’

January 21, 2014

RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch

This weekend sees the annual RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch. The birds that live in your garden, and in the trees outside my flat, are a great indicator of the health of the natural environment. Although the decline in farmland birds continues to be a source of concern and a priority for biodiversity specialists, the number and diversity of birds in our back gardens is something we can all do something about, by feeding the birds over the winter, providing habitat – instead of cutting down trees and replacing green with tarmac or decking – and planting pollinator-attracting plants (which will in turn attract insect eating birds!)

The RSPB are asking that we join in with the Big Garden Birdwatch by spending an hour of the upcoming weekend recording the number and variety of birds we see in our gardens. I don’t even have to go outside to do this, so plan to spend a nice leisurely hour with a cup of tea and a notebook.

By joining in, not only will you be making a contribution to a vitally important study, when you register to take part you will also receive a £5 voucher to spend in the RSPB shop – I’ve got my eye on a new bird feeder to accompany the wildly successful first one we attached to our window last month.

Alongside the hour long study, the RSPB are running a series of Big Garden Birdwatch events, and have lots of ideas of how you can help care for the birds over the winter. I do hope you’ll get involved!

Blue Tit illustration

Blue Tit: Image from RSPB

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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!

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!

August 17, 2012

Weston Scarves and Burt’s Bees collaboration

A Weston scarf is firmly on my ultimate fashion wish list. Founded by Professor Richard Weston, the scarves are a remarkable fusion of art and science, with stunning digital images taken from nature, such as rocks and minerals, being used to great dramatic effect. The end result is something not purely to wear for one season, but something you would love forever. Perfect for someone like me, who wears a scarf like an adult comfort blanket almost every day (honestly, ask my friends) and cannot bear throw-away fashion. (I’ve written quite a lot of blog posts about scarves actually, if you want to look…)

This summer, Weston Scarves are collaborating with Burt’s Bees in a campaign to support the British Beekeepers Association, with the creation of a stunning ‘Wild for Bees’ floral printed scarf and matching, special edition version of their 24 hour Milk and Honey body lotion.

The beautiful yellow, purple and green scarf, which is over a metre long, is being sold exclusively through the Burt’s Bees website, with all proceeds going to the British Beekeepers Association‘s ‘Adopt a Beehive’ project. It’s a seriously gorgeous scarf, I covet it so much. If you bought one, not only would you feel great about supporting the charitable campaign but you’d never want to take it off!

You can buy the body lotion nation-wide from Debenhams, the Burt’s Bees website and independent stores. I’ve tried the lotion and it feels very light, absorbs easily and really does soften the skin very well. Along with the milk and honey, it also  contains shea butter, coconut and grape seed oils and vitamin E, so there is no surprise that it does such a good job. I liked it a lot.

I’ve written before about the plight of bees and every single project that is making a contribution to their recovery gets my full support. As an allotment holder and keen gardener, I’m only too aware of the importance of all bees as pollinators. Approximately a third of the food we eat has been pollinated by bees, so whether you think it matters to you or not, the survival of bees is vital for everyone. This campaign, working to support honey bees in particular, will hopefully raise the profile of the British Beekeepers Association and the work they do in supporting bee colonies. The limited edition scarf and body lotion will be available throughout August and September.

With thanks to Burt’s Bees for the body lotion sample.

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!