The honeybees are busy in the Walled Garden at Crathes on these sunny February days. From the great diversity of plants they find a good selection of flowers to provide pollen and nectar. The bees belong to the Aberdeen and District Beekeepers’ Association who have an apiary beside the carpark. Soon the honeybees will be joined by bumblebees and solitary bees and hoverflies, never mind a variety of wasps and other insects. Because there will be such a profusion of flowers in the Walled Garden in the coming months there should be nectar and pollen for all. The early flowers, however, are very important: the bodnantense viburnums, the winter jasmine, snowdrops, snowflakes, hellebores, mahonias and early honeysuckles are all good sources of nectar and pollen. Outside the garden there are hazels for pollen and thousands more snowdrops. The Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postill’ up by the viewpoint is buzzing with bees when the sun comes out.
We know that our wildlife is in trouble. Whilst dandelions and rabbits cannot be allowed to run riot in the Walled Garden there is much more to celebrate than a glorious garden in a historic setting. Peat has been banned for more than a decade. No pesticides are used in the garden and herbicide use is to be further reduced; a new flame thrower to keep the paths in trim will help. The garden is full of birdsong at the moment. There are no feeding stations in the garden, but tits and finches find their natural foods of insects and seed in plenty. Pigeon feathers in the woodland garden suggest that a female sparrow hawk has made a killing.
There is good news for dragonflies too. A project arising from drainage problems has revitalised the Woodland Garden pond. For years the Doocot area had been giving problems, and was often off limits after heavy rain. Eventually, funding was found in 2018 for a re-laying of the granite slabs and the installation of a new drain to lead from the area, under the wall, into the Woodland Garden pond. The pond, which has a concrete base and had long been choked with grass and sedge, was cleared of vegetation.
As soon as the drain was working extra wildlife moved in. Soon after the paving was laid I noticed a large toad sitting under the drain cover – presumably it had crawled up the pipe from the pond. Tadpoles were flourishing in the spring of 2019. Pond dipping in the autumn of the same year established the presence of other creatures including dragonfly larvae – likely feeding on the tadpoles. Over the winter Steve and Mike have had the major job of re-landscaping the area and making the pond more of a feature.
The hard landscaping has now been completed and the residents of the pool can have a bit of peace. New planting and spring growth will soon soften the area. I can’t wait to see the dragonflies parading in the garden – they will find plenty of insects to hunt. Patience might be needed since the larval stage can last up to four years. We did get the occasional one flying in the garden previously, but I look forward to honing my identification skills as their presence increases.
Mice are not welcome in the glasshouses. The arbutus seedlings turned out to be a delicious snack for some wee timorous beastie. However, two seedlings survived and quite a few more germinated after the feast had taken place. Maybe there’s hope for the arbutus yet.
Elsewhere in the garden routine jobs continue. Jo and Mike have been pruning in the Trough Garden where volunteers Muriel, Sheila, Sandra and Steve have been clearing away leaves and unwanted suckers. Andy has tackled the large hydrangea on the South Border and Tim has had a lesson in pruning the actinidia.
Sycopsis sinensis is one of the more unusual shrubs flowering just now. It doesn’t have any petals, but the attractive stamens were just beginning to emerge on the photograph taken early February. Since it was cold at the time and there were no bees about, I am not sure if it is attractive to bees, although I have a vague memory of seeing the bees in previous years.
Likewise I am not sure about the Euphorbia characias on the Victorian Terrace. I will have to keep an eye out – or maybe somebody can let me know? This plant used to grow on the Aviary Terrace, but it succumbed to the frost. Fortunately Andy had cuttings and its offspring now thrive in a different location.
Currently the eucalyptus tree has become more of a problem than the arbutus tree. In the gales last weekend one top branch came astray from the Eucalyptus gunnii beside the glasshouses and a cherry picker will need to be hired to fix it. What will Storm Dennis bring?
And, the Evolution Garden continues to evolve!
Apologies for the slippage on this post since it was first posted. I have corrected it as best possible without having to do the whole post from scratch.