Sunday, April 29, 2007

On Bees

Rivahgal's message on my last post must have been telepathy - I wrote the post that follows yesterday evening, but didn't have time to publish it, and then found her message today.

Watching a programme on TV on Friday – a sort of science and nature news and documentary programme – I heard an alarming item about bees. It seems that numbers in Europe and the US are decreasing rapidly. Billions of bees have died - and it’s being put down to mobile phones.

It worried me enough to follow it up, and I came across this article from
The Independent. The theory is that the electronic signals from the phones disrupt the bees’ navigation systems, they can’t find their way home and die. As do the Queen and young bees left in the abandoned hive.

I spent part of this morning sitting outside on bee watch - not one, despite the fact that the balcony is now full of flowers which normally attract them. It's not proof of anything, as being in the centre of the city we don't get a lot of bees anyway. But there would normally be an occasional visit over an hour or so.

The British government has denied that there’s evidence of a problem with mobiles – but something is obviously making the bees disappear. And until they find out for sure what it is, I’m turning my mobile off.

Friday, April 27, 2007

On Dandelions

I have a confession to make which probably does away with any pretence I might otherwise have to being a gardener – I’m incapable of growing dandelions. I’ve tried collecting seeds, taking root cuttings, but nothing comes up.

Those of you who curse regularly as you attempt to root them out of your gardens rather than into them probably wish you had the same knack – or lack of it. But I like them. Some time ago I posted a list of gardening quotes and, of all of them, my favourite was :

If dandelions were hard to grow, they would be most welcome on any lawn. (Andrew Mason)

But on my lawn they would be welcome anyway. I think they’re pretty and I like eating them, and I was hoping to grow a few so as to get the young leaves.

I’m not the only one though.
Snappy has been blogging about them a lot in the past month or so, and has been making dandelion wine – follow the link then scroll down for the recipe and other dandelion posts. And my calendar this month is dedicated to them.

Dandelions, according to the calendar, are great for liver and gall problems, and full of vitamins and iron. The calendar doesn't mention dandelion wine (which I imagine would rather destroy the point about it being good for your liver, but never mind) but suggests eating the young leaves in salads, cooking the root as a vegetable, using the dried leaves to make tea, adding the leaves to pizza, juicing them together with fruit, or even drying the root and making coffee out of it. This one intrigued me as it brought back vague memories of my mother saying they'd drunk it during the war, so I followed it up on the net and found lots of people giving recipes and describing how to make it. And people selling it. This is
the search page if you’re interested.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

On Seeds

In my kitchen I have an old shoe box. It’s full of seeds – seeds which I’ve collected from my own plants or elsewhere, commercially bought seeds, even a few which I appropriated from the hamster’s food to see what would come up …

I thought I had a good collection, but I hadn’t realised
what is going on at Kew Gardens. The Millennium Seed Bank has just reached its one billionth seed. The Seed Bank is an attempt to counter the loss of biodiversity which is currently happening on the planet due to climate change, deforestation and so on, by saving seeds which can then be used in the future. They’ve already got 18,000 species, some of which are now extinct in the wild, and the aim is to get to 25% of the world’s 300,000 species by 2020.

They presumably have a bit more storage space than a shoe box.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Flowers on the Fifteenth

Carol of
May Dreams Gardens suggested that on the 15th of each month people posted on what's in bloom at that moment. So here's my list. OK, it's the 16th, but I've still done better than last month.

It was hard to know which photos to pick, because in the last two or three weeks everything has just exploded into flower and I've currently got winter spring and summer flowers all blooming together. So I've decided to leave out the photos of the summer flowers - there'll be time for those later.

Starting with the winter flowers which are still going strong - the cyclamen have given a stupendous performance this year, and the primulas too - though they're now past their best ...

Of the spring flowers, the pansies are proliferating ....

And the wallflowers are filling the balcony with scent ...

I think this is some sort of sedum, which flowers just for a couple of weeks in April ...

The Myosotis (forget me nots) are flowering, but have disappointed me this year - last year's batch virtually took over the balcony, whereas this year only a couple of fairly puny plants came up. The Bellis are in flower too but have disappointed me for another reason- I was expecting a mixture of red and white, and they've all come up white ...

The stock and the honesty are out ...

The alyssum (white and purple varieties) is too ...

A few things which have come from garden centres are in full flower - Mesembrantheum, yellow Surfinia, Dimorphotheca, Impatiens New Guinea, Cineraria, Begonia and two types of red pelargonium - zonal and ivy leaved. And talking of pelargoniums, my salmon pelargonium is now in its fourteenth consecutive month of full flower. I don't think it's ever going to stop.

And of the things which I've grown from seed or cuttings, there's quite a lot which has just started flowering but is mainly still in bud - Antirrhinums, white Pelargoniums, purple Surfinia, and some daisies which I can't precisely identify.

These last few weeks have also seen the germination of some of the seeds which I planted since the end of February - Marigolds, Lobelia, Zinnias, white Surfinia, Impatiens, Campanula, Alyssum, Purple Loosestrife, Calendula, melons, Mirabilis Jalapa, Portulaca, Sunflowers, two mysteries because I forgot to label them, and one set which came from a packet of "oriental poppies" - but that can be the topic of another post.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Easter Monday Flower Market

Easter Monday is flower market day in Milan and the traditional start of the balcony gardening year.

The market is held in and around Piazza San Angelo, a small cobbled piazza in front of a church, and lasts all day, till about eight in the evening.

You can find everything from alpines to zinnias, with tomato plants and olive trees along the way, but the majority of the plants are the balcony "standards" - pelargoniums, petunias, begonias, impatiens ....

I go most years, along with the other two million inhabitants of Milan …

This year I was fairly restrained and bought only the two yellow surfinia which I went to find.

But that didn’t stop me browsing for an hour or so. And taking photos. Enjoy.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

April Flowers

This is an experiment which failed rather. I wanted to see if I could make a video out of some photos that I took on the balcony yesterday. There's quite a lot of stuff in flower and it's starting to look great again. So after spending the morning messing around with the camera, I spent the afternoon learning how to use Windows Movie Maker. And it came out really, really well - on my computer. But to upload it to You Tube I've had to convert it to a specific file type and I don't know if it's that or You Tube itself, but it's come out all fuzzy - both in sound and video. Oh well - after all that work I've put it up anyway, but I'll post some of the photos another time - they're too nice to waste. If anyone knows what I did wrong, I'd love some advice.

Related Posts with Thumbnails