Think twice before you are pulling up what you think are ‘weeds’ despite this label of weeds they are not only beneficial to our pollinators and wildlife but beautiful too.
Charlock: attractive to bees and white butterflies, it is also a host for turnip flies and other vegetable pests. Its mustardy young leaves ate edible when cooked, but only before flowers appear.
Field Pennycress: this annual has edible peppery leaves and fruiting heads prized by florists. Its seeds make a good alternative to mustard and can stay viable for over 30 years.
Herb Robert: a magnet for hoverflies, carpet mothers and bees, this prolific seed-scatterer is a nuisance among vegetable seedlings. Leaves rubbed on the skin are antiseptic and deter mosquitoes.
Lesser hairy willow herb: moths and bees are drawn to these quick spreading flowers. Edible, vitamin rich leaves are useful in gargle to ease throat infections.
Prickly sow thistle: these copious seed producers are highly attractive to wasps, hoverflies and other pollinators, and useful reservoir for aphids. Its immature leaves make tasty vegetables.
Red clover and white clover: its flowers attract honey and bumblebees, long tongues flies and moths, its roots fix nitrogen and improve soil quality and its dried flowers can be used to make wine.
Dandelions: is a common perennial weed that forms a large flat rosette, it spreads readily from seed, germinating throughout the year. It is beneficial to all pollinators and is one of the first sources of nectar in the beginning of spring that they rely on. Dandelions are also famously used to make coffee during the WW1/WW2.
Creeping buttercup: a low growing perennial weed which prefers wet heavy soils. It is a common weed in lawns in the UK and as the name suggests, it spreads using creeping stems that run along the surface of the ground, extending upwards into a new plant on a regular basis. These beautiful little flowers are beneficial to all pollinators and flying insects.
Birds foot trefoil: is a perennial lawn weed and is also a member of the clover family. It can be a major problem on UK lawns as it forms large patches, it has a deep root system and spreads by both stolons and rhizomes (above and underground runners).is a perennial lawn weed and is also a member of the clover family. It can be a major problem on UK lawns as it forms large patches, it has a deep root system and spreads by both stolons and rhizomes (above and underground runners). The flowers are bright yellow and pretty and resemble those of the Honeysuckle. They can be seen from late April until late September. Birds-Foot Trefoil can tolerate a wide variety of soil types but prefers non acidic, dry soils.
Yarrow: is a perennial weed, common weed on all types of lawns and turf in the UK. It has deep fibrous roots and can withstand droughty conditions. It spreads by creeping stems which root at intervals. It is generally seen later in the year and the deep root system also gives it the benefit of being able to survive dry conditions. The leaves are fern like in appearance macking it very easy to identify.
Scarlett pimpernel: is an annual weed meaning that it only lasts one year, fresh plants need to grow from seed. This means it is rarely a threat to a well maintained lawn. The leaves are very similar to Common Chickweed but can be identified by its square stems and red flower. The distinct flowers of Scarlet Pimpernel can be seen from June – September. Each flower has five petals and are an orange – red colour.
Self heal: is a common weed on all types of lawn throughout the UK. This perennial weed spreads by creeping runners known as rhizomes, which root at intervals. It can quite happily grow in closely mown areas of turf although if left alone, it will grow to a height of 30cm and produce an attractive plant. This plant can thrive in most conditions, the leaves appear in pars and in closely mown areas, they may have a purple ting. Selfheal flowers from June to October, producing a bright purple flower.
Mouse ear chickweed and common chickweed: chickweed is a perennial weed and is very common on lawns throughout in the UK. It can be very annoying as it can spread very rapidly, smothering grass in the process. It can easily survive close mowing but can be controlled with selective herbicides. The small dark green leaves are distinctive in that they are very hairy. The flowers are very small and upright and white in colour appearing from late spring up to autumn.
Creeping cinquefoil: is a perennial weed, more common on neglected lawns and turf in the UK. It is rarely a problem on well maintained lawns. It spreads by creeping stems which root at intervals. The leaves are distinctive with five different segments with toothed edges. The flowers are yellow, again with five large fleshy petals which are visible from June to October.
Slender speedwell and germander speedwell: is a perennial weed which can be a persistent problem on lawns throughout the UK. It spreads by both underground and over ground runners. Control can be achieved with current chemicals but this needs correct timing and adjuvants. Slender Speedwell is more of a problem in closely mown turf than Germander Speedwell.
Lesser celandine: Lesser Celandine is usually one of the most prominent weeds seen early in the spring. The flower is one of the first to show among lawn weeds but the plant soon disappears as the weather warms up. This is difficult to control in a permanent sense as it needs to be hit early each year to weaken it. More commonly found in darker shady areas. The leaves are fleshy and dark green, very easily recognised.
Ribwort plantain: Very similar to greater plantain in habit and location, albeit the leaves are long and thin. This plant is very drought tolerant and it can cause unsightly patches, easy however to remove using the correct selective herbicides.
Common ragwort: ragwort is rarely a problem on fine lawns but is more common on low maintenance and neglected lawns. It is a biennial weed meaning that it produces lots of leaf in year one with the aim to produce a significant number of flowers in year two. It is not difficult to control in lawns.
I hope I have changed your mind about some truly beautiful and valuable ‘weeds’ that we have here in Britain.
Next time you are gardening, don’t be too quick to pull up what you think of as weeds, give them a chance to grow and change your mind.
I thought I’d write this quick article (with the help from my Bumblebee Conservation Trust monthly newsletter) on how you can provide our bumblebees with potential nests in your garden.
We all have to do our bit to help save the bees. 🐝🐝
1. Shed basement burrow: under a shed makes for a cosy under-shed burrow, only one previous occupant, tasteful homely interior decorated with shredded newspaper paper and an old plastic bag, access to a beautiful garden with well-stocked flower beds and flowering shrubs it is inviting for most bumblebee queens.
This is perfect for a ground dwelling Buff-tail or white-tail queen.
2. Hedgehog house: set in an ideal location under a hedgerow, providing great links to local amenities, this once traditional hedgehog hibernation box has been repurposed to make a fine nest. Well sheltered from the elements and with plenty of room they make good bumblebee nests for a growing colony, most bumblebees queens would be lucky to call this place a home.
3. Bird box boulevard: former bird boxes make a great spot for bumblebee nests, it comes prefurnished with warm nesting material and is suitable for most discerning bumblebee queens. A sturdy structure at a good height, the nest box has a single entrance and is well positioned amongst flowering trees and a fence lines which is a perfect spot.
4. Rooftop residence: a modern rooftop apartment provides an expansive open plan living space, complete with newly installed fibre glass insulation to take the strain out of incubation. Tree bumblebee queens in particular will love the views from high up under the tiles. The area is a hot spot for activity in early summer with a real community buzz.
5. Green moss Avenue: secluded tussocks of long grass and a marvellous mossy mound make this the ideal location for a canny career bee to set up a homemade with a little DIY, perhaps the addition of a thatched roof, this could be the perfect place to raise a colony.
6. Compost cottage: newly emerged bumblebee queens will love this snug and comfortable abode that benefits from the warmth of rotting vegetable matter which provides the advantage of conserving energy and keeping the whole colony warm during the cold nights. This dream colony location is not like to be on the market for long.
For more information on what bumblebees look for in a nest site and what to do if you find one visit:
Freshly-mowed lawns are pretty to look at, but they could actually be hurting the environment. The emissions from gas-powered mowers and trimmers contribute to air pollution, and mowing over native grasses and wildflowers reduce the nectar for pollinators. Instead of sticking to an every-other-week mowing schedule, let your grass grow long, skip the herbicide, and let your lawn become a no-mow lawn.
If you’re not ready to let your lawn become a full-grown meadow (or if your neighborhood has restrictions), start with a small section or troublesome area in the landscape. Doing so will help the plants and animals in your area.
The chances are that at least some wildflowers will appear if you leave the lawnmower alone. What comes up in your no-mow patch depends very much on what you start with. If, like me, your lawn is old, rather weedy, and probably hasn’t encountered weedkillers or fertilisers for years, a bit more conscious neglect could transform it into a thriving mini-meadow.
Here are the some mowing tips for encouraging wildlife in your garden:
○ Cut once every four weeks: the 2019 No Mow May experiment revealed the highest number of flowers on lawns, mown in this way. Ideally, leave around three to five centimetres of grass long.
○ Leave areas of long grass: the experiment also resulted in greater diversity of flowers in areas of grass than were left completely unmown, with ox eye daisies, field spacious and knotweed offering up important nectar resources.
○ You don’t have to stop mowing completely: some species, such as daisy and birds foot trefoil are adapted to growing in shorter shards. Cutting flowers from these plants once a month stimulates them to produce more blooms.
○ Make hay while the sun still shines: using grass cuttings to turn into hay is great for seed-eating birds. After any wildflowers have finished in late summer, mowing restores the grass, with perhaps another mowing before winter to prevent tussocks. Leaving the summer mown grass in place for a few sunny days to become ‘hay’ releases seeds to refresh the lawn for next year and also provides food for seed-eating birds and other wildlife. The ‘hay’ can also then be removed and composted.
We need to be more relaxed when it comes to looking after our lawns, it’s the case of changing the way we think about how they should be kept. People don’t realise how diverse grass lawns can really be!
The statistics for wildflower meadow loss are shocking: around 7.5 million acres has gone!
The loss of this landscape means a loss of much needed food sources for pollinators, which is one of the key drivers of their decline.
Gardens can really make a huge difference to the number of wildflowers in this country.
So why not help our vital pollinators by leaving the lawn mower this spring- summer and letting your grass grow!
Many members of the houseplant community are just starting to discover the joy of collecting wnd growing the wide variety of “Hoyas” which are commonly known as wax plants or porcelain flowers due to te waxy appearance of their flowers and in some cases, their waxy leaves.
I heard of this plant for the first time whilst on a live stream with a fellow plant enthusiast and amazing human being with a lot more knowledge than me. After the livestream ended, I googled it and I was amazed at how many varieties there are and how beautiful they are; all I could think is how much I wanted one!
All about ‘Hoya’.
Hoya is a genus of 200–300 species of tropical plants in the family Apocynaceae (Dogbane). Most are native to several countries of Asia such as China, India, Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Indonesia, There is a great diversity of species in the Philippines, and species in Polynesia, New Guinea, and Australia.
Common names for this genus are waxplant, waxvine, waxflower or simply hoya. This genus was named by botanist Robert Brown, in honour of his friend, botanist Thomas Hoy.
The first Hoya was ascribed to the genus in 1810. As of 2015, there have been over 500 scientific names published, however there is much discrepancy within the group– and new species are being discovered regularly. There are likely to be somewhere between 600-700 hoya species of which many of them are still undescribed and unnamed.
Hoyas are evergreen perennial creepersor vines or rarely, shrubs. They often grow epiphytically on trees; some grow terrestrially, or occasionally in rocky areas.
Larger species of Hoya can grow 1-18 metres or more, with suitable support in trees. In Hoya’s leaves can exhibit a variety of forms, smooth, felted or hairy; veination may be prominent in some plants but not in all, and many species have leaf surfaces flecked with irregular small silvery spots. The leaves can vary from very thin to semi-succulent to very succulent, wit the exception of Hoya imbricata which is a shingling hoya that only gets one leaf per node, hoyas produce opposite leaves. The leaves of a hoya always seem to be so simple–so never serrated, this can make them a bit more challenging to tell apart.
The greatest diversity of hoya comes out of subtropical and tropical Asia through the western Pacific. The Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia and Papua New Guinea particularly have a high diversity of hoya, but they can also be found in places like Thailand, China, Singapore, India, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Japan, LAos, Vietnam, Myanmar, Vanuatu and even Australia.
Hoya has a few different types of growth structures; climbing/vining (e.g. hoya australis), hanging/pendant shape (e.g. hoya bella). Then there is more erect, bushy and shrub like which is a but more uncommon (e.g. hoya multiflora), and finally there is a shape more in between pendant and shrub like (e.g. hoya cumingiana).
Hoyas fell out of place and were easily dismissed as ‘grandma’s plants’ for years and years but that is by far doing them a disservice.
In the past couple of years, they’ve undergone s huge revival- they are now coming back into popularity.
The range of species and hybrids available has expanded from the 2 stalwart specimens you’ll find in every house plant book H. Carnosa and H. bella. Hoyas defy the the usual categorisation of houseplants as either flower or foliage, but this genus offers the best of both worlds.
Hoya has been on the rise for quite a while now, with a viral presence on Instagram and Pinterest. This surge in popularity is likely due to that fact that these easy-care, low-water plants are fragrant, slow-growing, and thrive indoors. And, as an added bonus, they might even treat you to a few clusters of star-shaped flowers, given the right conditions ( when given plenty of sunlight). Hoyas grow well in low, medium, or bright light, though they’re less likely bloom in these conditions. The more light they receive, the more flowers they will produce. Hoyas also prefer snug pots and are said to flower more when they’re a bit root bound.
With their beautiful flowers and foliage; suitable for both pots and baskets, what’s stopping you from adding them to your plant collection?
Below are some care tips for your hoya.
Care tips for your hoya:
– Hardiness varies by species. If growing outdoors, some varieties of hoya are hardy in USDA Zones 8 through 11; others (like our H. carnosa) will only abide zones 10 through 11.
– Many people grow hoyas as houseplants. If indoors, cooler temps are A-OK during the winter but make sure they don’t drop below 50. The plants enjoy the warm temperatures of the spring and summer growing season.
– Humidity in your hoya habitat should be at least 40 percent. This can be achieved through regular misting with a spray bottle.
– Put it in a spot with bright indirect light, like a north-facing window.
– Evenly moist, well-drained soil is preferred.
– Again, do not remove spurs after the blooms have faded. That’s where the next round of flowers will blossom. Allow faded flowers to fall off naturally.
– Apply a balanced fertilizer only during active growing season, i.e. spring and summer.
– Pot-bound plants will flower more vigorously.
– Keep soil moist in spring and summer, but allow it to dry in the winter — water just enough so the leaves won’t shrivel.
– Hoyas are most commonly propagated by cuttings.
– In general, don’t helicopter-garden this baby. It favors a bit of benign neglect. And definitely don’t move the plant while it’s blooming.
Here are some websites you can visit to read more about hoyas!
Inspired by the need to create important foraging environments for bumblebees, Woodlodge has developed a beautiful collection of decorative bee pots in the hope of getting more inspiring gardeners to plant pollinator friendly flowers, no matter the outside space.
The bee kind pottery collection (above) is frost proof for year round planting and available in three gorgeous bee designs to encourage people to plant for these important pollinators.
Clare Hurst from Woodlodge- “Flower pots are a great alternative (and just as friendly) to wild meadows in supplying bumblebees with the important foraging environment they need to thrive in your garden. By filling plant pots with flowers that are rich in pollen and nectar, you’ll be able to turn what was an unused space into a mini, bumblebee friendly haven”.
The range is incredibly versatile, allowing you to add colourful, nectar-rich flowers to a patio, terrace, balcony, windowsill or rental spaces.
Woodlodge suggests the following bumblebee friendly flower varieties to get you started, which are easy to grow in containers and will look fabulous in your garden, perennials such as:
Hydrangeas such as wild or smooth hydrangea
Check out the bumblebee conservation trust for more bumblebee friendly flower species you can easily plant in your garden.
Can golf courses also be beneficial habitats for pollinators?
Golf courses may appear to be manicured greens, bunkers and occasional rough grass but many can be improved to become bumblebee friendly.
The rough areas are already potential habitats for nesting and hibernation and within these rough areas or any corners and crevices that golfers don’t use, flower diversity can definitely be increased. Also ponds can be improved by planting and become beneficial to nature.
The Bumblebee conservation trust (who I am a member of and get regular newsletters and updates from; which is where this story has came from) have been working closely with a golf course on Lydd, Kent to improve the area for bumblebees.
Surrounded by open spaces, an allotment and bumblebee friendly farmers, 4 rare bumblebees have already been spotted;
Moss carder bee (Bombus ruderarius)
Red-shanked carder bee (Bombus muscorum)
Brown-banded carder bee (Bombus humilis)
Ruderal bumblebee (Bombus ruderatus)
In 2014, a Beewalk transact was set up, and since then work has been ongoing to improve the habitat for bumblebees.
In rough areas, black horehound, white dead nettle, mellows and snapped have been planted. Where the grass is naturally short and less fertile, perennial seeds such as red clover, birds foot trefoil and vetches have been added. Yellow flag iris, purple loosestrife and water mint has been planted and encouraged in ponds.
A small piece of unused land adjacent to the car park was turned into a herb garden with comfrey, lambs ear, rosemary, mint, sage and bulbs.
Across the golf course the floristic diversity has been increased and created an area of continuous forage available for all bumblebee species.
If you are a member of a golf course, or live near one, why not suggest to them that they follow the Lydd example and make golf courses bee friendly.
In the world of literary history, there are few bigger names than William’s Wordsworth!
He is the poet who changed the world with his poetry inspiring generations to think differently about languages, politics, psychology and nature.
Wordsworth rejected the highly wrought formalities of 18th century poetry, insisting that plain and simple language was more powerful, especially to explain the beauty of nature.
Wordsworth argued that everyday experiences, as well as heroic epic adventures, were a fit subject for great literature. He is remembered as a poet of spiritual and epistemological speculation, a poet concerned with the human relationship to nature and a fierce advocate of using the vocabulary and speech patterns of common people in poetry.
With Samuel Taylor Coleridge he helped to launch the Romantic Age in English literature.
Romanticism (also known as the Romantic era) was an artistic, literary, musical and intellectual movement that originated in Europe towards the end of the 18th century, and in most areas was at its peak in the approximate period from 1800 to 1890. Romanticism was characterized by its emphasis on emotion and individualism as well as glorification of all the past and nature, preferring the medieval rather than the classical. It was partly a reaction to the Industrial Revolution, the aristocratic social and political norms of the Age of Enlightenment, and the scientific rationalization of nature—all components of modernity. It was embodied most strongly in the visual arts, music, and literature, but had a major impact on historiography, education, the social sciences, and the natural sciences. It had a significant and complex effect on politics, with romantic thinkers influencing liberalism, radicalism, conservatism, and nationalism.
Definition from wikipedia.
Wordsworth’s passion for rural pursuits began at a tender age. The second of five children born to John Wordsworth and Ann Cookson, William Wordsworth was born on 7 April 1770 in what is now named Wordsworth House in Cockermouth, Cumberland, part of the scenic region in northwestern England known as the Lake District.
Wordsworth’s father was a legal representative of James Lowther, 1st Earl of Lonsdale and, through his connections, lived in a large mansion in the small town. He was frequently away from home on business, However, he did encourage William in his reading, and in particular set him to commit large portions of verse to memory, including works by Milton, Shakespeare and Spenser. William was also allowed to use his father’s library. William also spent time at his mother’s parents’ house in Penrith, Cumberland, where he was exposed to the moors.
Wordsworth was taught to read by his mother and attended, first, a tiny school of low quality in Cockermouth, then a school in Penrith for the children of upper-class families, where he was taught by Ann Birkett, who insisted on instilling in her students traditions that included pursuing both scholarly and local activities, especially the festivals around Easter, May Day and Shrove Tuesday. Wordsworth was taught both the Bible and the Spectator, but little else. It was at the school in Penrith that he met the Hutchinsons, including Mary, who later became his wife.
In the Lake District he’d spent several idyllic years lake- walking, cliff-climbing, ice-skating and boating (with walking being his favourite activity) – all these experiences that he recalled years later in his autobiographical poem ‘The Prelude’.
Though Wordsworth, encouraged by his headmaster William Taylor, had been composing verse since his days at Hawkshead Grammar School, his poetic career begins with this first trip to France and Switzerland. During this period he also formed his early political opinions—especially his hatred of tyranny. These opinions would be profoundly transformed over the coming years but never completely abandoned. Wordsworth was intoxicated by the combination of revolutionary fervor he found in France—he and Jones arrived on the first anniversary of the storming of the Bastille—and by the impressive natural beauty of the countryside and mountains. Returning to England in October, Wordsworth was awarded a pass degree from Cambridge in January 1791, spent several months in London, and then traveled to Jones’s parents’ home in North Wales. During 1791 Wordsworth’s interest in both poetry and politics gained in sophistication, as natural sensitivity strengthened his perceptions of the natural and social scenes he encountered.
When he fancied a change from the Lakes Wordsworth sometimes took a holiday, as long as it could accommodate a good walk, usually travelling with his friend and fellow poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge- he covered vast swatches of land on foot in England, Scotland and Wales and he wrote as he went.
Often, his verses contain iconic descriptions of specific landscapes and landmarks that can still be observed today; his famous poem ‘lines composed a few miles above Tintern Abbey’ written in 1798 while on a walking tour of Wales is a good example.
In this poem Wordsworth doesn’t just describe the landscape but also contemplates and reflects on the last time he saw these landscapes and beautiful land formations and how they brought comfort to him.
Wordsworth’s poetry also featured a cast of colourful rural characters, for example; thinkers, peddlers, shepherds and peasants- he often seemed to link the simplicity of these people and their proximity to nature with moral virtue, following the trailblazing philosopher Jean-Jaques Rousseau who had written in praise of the ‘noble savage’ some decades earlier.
Wordsworth offered a new and original focus on the rustic language of the people he met during his rambles, along with the beauty of the landscape and his personal, often regarded as spiritual beliefs.
We can still learn so much from Wordsworth; often walking along the countryside to ease his anxieties to maintain what today we would call ‘good mental health’.
His outlook foreshadows the emphasis placed on the modern mindfulness movement on exercise and communication with nature.
Here are some examples of his beautiful poems!
Check out the following websites to read more of his work: