Flora of the Coast

We helped with the Plant Life Wildflower Count this Sunday on a beautiful walk through the woodlands of the Vale of Glamorgan Coast. What looked like a Falcon, certainly a bird of prey, swooped over our heads as we were leaning over hedges and foraging through the hedges. 

Red campion, herb robert, holly and ivy.

Hedgerows of hawthorn, sloe, elder and bramble.

Hemlock, hogweed, hart’s tongue and honeysuckle.

Lords and Ladies and Bindweed peeping out. And a lot of Ash!

It was interesting to do it when many of the earlier summer flowers have ended. The distinctive flowers I realise are key signifiers of just what that mysterious plant might be. 

The Wildflower Count helps Plantlife keep a record of flora of various areas of the UK. And its a great way to learn about the diversities of our verges, waterways and pathways. You can select an area and Plantlife provide you with an OS transect of 1km which you are asked to walk and survey.


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Challenging the Mare that is Mare’s Tail

The saga of mare’s tail continues in my alotment. Inspired by an assiduous gardening friend, I decided to attempt to perform something of a forensic on the bed and try to decontaminate of all roots of the offending party. But mare’s tail is something of a wily opponent. As you try to pull out the almost elastic root, it often snaps, only to form a new double headed retaliation. After half a bed presenting evidence of a lot of past failed ‘weeding’ attempts : marked by bits of broken root and split heads, I went to the alotment shed to see what the elders had to say.

“Don’t fight with it”…”You’ll never be able to get rid of it…just learn to live with it.”

My lesson of the day. I’m taking on advice of the elders and Alys Fowler who recommends planting other competitors such as sweet sorrel, rhubarb and geraniums.

I’ve also taken to spreading a lot of mulch!


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German herb sauce

I saw a recipe for a classic Frankfurt dish that combines an interested number of herbs… borage, chervil, burnet, sorrel, parsley, cress and chives. All of which are quite possibly growing in your herb patch presently. Or if they are not they easily could be. 

Fresh, healthy and simple. Sehr gut…



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key hole gardening

I saw a keyhole garden using woven willow to plant turnips, salad, marigolds, peas and beans.

Composting seems to be the key to a keyhole system.

Traditionally used in Africa as a method of planting without having to step on to the bed, it was also a way of conserving moisture and nutrients within the immediate soil located around the heap.

The compost heap is placed in the centre of the key and can also be used as a climbing frame for plants like beans. Any dry green waste and food waste are placed in to the container and as it is broken down, compost is formed and nutrients and moisture seeps in to the surrounding soil.

Very clever… i am going to try!

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Violet Carpenter Bee


Another bee that is a newbie to the UK is the Violet Carpenter Bee, originating from the heat of the Southern Mediterranean. It is all black, with slightly incandescent purple wings. 


It is thought to have immigrated in timber or pallets from over the pond.  

A carpenter bee, they tend to nest in wood such as dead trees, felled timber, fence posts and sometimes beams or timber. The female carpenter digs out a nesting area within the wood, laying eggs in cells. These eggs are left to hatch out and begin their life, as their parents, in a rather solitary fashion!

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Wanted: the Shrill Carder Bee

Have you seen this bumble bee?


The Shrill Carder Bees are one of the two rarest bumblebees in the UK. They are distinctive with their higher-pitched buzz and delicate straw colouring and dark-band across the thorax. They are also somewhat smaller than their larger bumblebee siblings.

However, they have been spotted in the South Wales area. They seem to favour the types of habitat found around coastal spots and have been spotted at Lavernock, Kenfig Sands and around the Gwent Levels. They especially like Red Clover and are found roaming between May to September.



The Bumblebee Conservation Trust are particularly keen on hearing if any are spotted. So keep a keen eye and ear if you happen to be out and about in coastal areas of South Wales and West.

Find out more: http://bumblebeeconservation.org/news/anthonys-blog/exciting-finds

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Bumble Bees

I was lucky enough to attend a bumble bee identification workshop this week. There are around 250 bees in the UK, of which 24 are bumblebee species found in the UK.

What an array of bees we have on this isle! From chestnutty high-shrilling Carder Bumblebees to long nosed Garden Bumblebees and their shorter nosed fellows the White-tailed, Buff-tailed and Red-tailed Bumblebees. A diversity of colours, sizes and buzzes.

Bumblebees are distinctive by their round, furry bodies. They are slightly larger than honey bees and have a lot more hair.

When trying to identify which species of bumblebee you have found, it can be helpful to look at key features including colouring, banding, size, antennae and sound.


Garden Bumblebees have a longer nose (with a longer tongue to collect pollen from flowers with particularly tubular shapes). They also look like they’re wearing a belt!


Buff and white-tailed are apparently hard to differentiate until you get them under the microscope.

White_tailed_550_208 Buff_tailed_550_208

Female bumblebees tend to have less hairy legs than the males and also have perkier antennae, whilst male antennae have a tendency to droop! Females also tend to buzz a lot more. The more energetic of the species perhaps?

Out in the meadow and community orchard we put our spotting to practice with some butterfly nets, clear pots and a sensititve ear. We caught a French newly, the Tree Bumblebee, which has distinctive white-stripes, the Common and Moss Carder Bee, the Garden Bumblebee as well as many Honey Bees around the blackberry flowers.


According to Sinead of the Bumblee Conservation Trust, we need to help our bumble friends. 24 species are found in the UK but two species have become exitinct over the last 80 years and others have declined dramatically.

As gardeners we can do several things.

Firstly, we can plant out Bumblebee friendly crops. Bumblebees drink nectar and feed upon pollen so any pollen and/or nectar rich plants are recommended. All members of the pea family, dead nettle, clover vetch and knapweed are particular favourites but there is a whole array of plants to choose from.

Secondly, we can help protect and extend habitats pollinators like bumble bees love. So this includes orchards, hedgerows, meadows, lets, grassland and verges … as well as gardens of course!

Thirdly, we can encourage our parks and local authorities to also plant in more pollinator friendly ways. For example, without using pesticides or herbicides and reducing the amount of mowing.

Finally, we can also help by monitoring species. And the bumblebee conservation trust are always looking for help with their Beewalks and Beewatches.


Find out more about bumble bees …



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Blooming Foxglove

Blooming Foxglove

Cream polka dot foxy glove in full bloom.

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Pollinator and People Friendly Greens

New arrivals to the pop-up include leeks, garlic mustard, red mustard, dill, echinacea, sorrel and spinach.

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New additions to the bee library/exchange…Feverfew, Cerinthe Major,  Lady’s Mantle and Periwinkle.

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