Tag Archives: bumblebees

Season of mellow fruitfulness

6 Sep
One of the costumed servants picking apples for our working 18th-century kitchen

Harvest: One of the costumed servants picking apples for our working 18th-century kitchen

We keep finding apples with bite marks lying on the paths and in the beds – the Greenup’s Pippins look ripe and delicious because they’re a large variety, but as anyone who tastes one quickly realises, they need to spend a couple more weeks ripening. Hopefully, the Indian summer will last and do the trick.

A lot of people have been admiring our apple crop because, nationally, it’s been such a bad year for apples. Here we have the advantage of being fully walled, which helps protect the garden from the inclement weather, making a better environment for our pollinating insects.

The other advantage we have is that we grow a wide variety of cottage garden plants spread over a long season, providing an ideal habitat for insects, particularly bees, which are one of our main pollinators.

For those who haven’t got high walls, to boost next year’s apple crop, put in as many traditional cottage garden plants as you can. Globe thistle, borage, marjoram, cone flowers and hyssop are particularly popular with bees. For more ideas, have a look at the Bumblebee Conservation Trust website.

The apples are a key feature of Amanda’s autumn garden tours, which are on every Wednesday in September at 11.30am – if you’re in the area why not drop in?

If you’re able to visit us on another day, we have fascinating talks in the house at 11.30am and 2.30pm every day. They’re given by the costumed servants, who will be premiering some new subjects this autumn including Meet the Bigwigs (the weird world of Georgian fashion), Capon Ale and Turnip Wine (the story of 18th-century drinking) and Etiquette and Excess (the glories of Georgian dining).

Heritage apples in Wordsworth House garden

Healthy crop: Heritage apples in Wordsworth House garden


Getting to the bottom of the bumblebee question

30 Jul
Echinacea with a white-tailed bumblebee

Hard at work: Echinacea with a white-tailed bumblebee

Have you looked at a bumblebee’s bottom recently? The question is not as strange as you might think. It can be a simple way to identify the common species – and it’s good to know what kind off bees you’ve got.

You may not have realised, but bumblebees and honey bees are not the same thing at all. Honey bees live together in large numbers and make and store ‘commercial’ quantities of honey to feed their colony, while bumblebees live in small groups, so don’t make very much at all.

But bumblebees have other skills. Honey bees all have the same length of tongue, whereas bumblebee species all have different lengths, which means they can pollinate many more types of plant.

And, unlike their honey-making cousins, bumblebees will come out in the rain, which means they go on working even when we’re having a rotten summer like this one.

Unfortunately, as you probably know, bumblebees are in decline and if we don’t protect and nurture them, we’ll have an ecological nightmare on our hands. Without them, we would lose a huge number of vital plant varieties.

The greater the range of plants in your garden, the wider the range of bumblebees that can thrive and go about their business. However, they need to be traditional cottage garden plants, as they’re full of nectar and pollen.

Amanda’s had me on bee watch in the garden recently and so far I’ve spotted six different species:

  • Red-tailed, which have red bottoms
  • Common carders, which are brown all over like miniature teddy bears
  • White-tailed, with wide white bottoms
  • Buff-tailed, with pale fawn bottoms
  • Garden bumblebees, with pointy white bottoms, and
  • Early bumblebees, which are small with rusty bottoms and usually gone by June.

Not a bad total, I think you’ll agree.

Traditional cottage garden plants

Bees’ paradise: Some of Wordsworth House’s traditional cottage garden plants

Fun for all the family – indoors and out

19 Jul
Go hunting for bees in the garden

On the trail: Go hunting for bees in the garden

There’s something special on at Wordsworth House every day that we’re open during the school holidays.

For those with green fingers, Monday or Wednesday is the day to visit. On Mondays, from 11.30am to 1.30pm, budding young gardeners can decorate a plant pot made from recycled materials, sow a seed and take it home to grow.

Wednesdays are herbs and hedgerows days, with talks at 11.30am and 2.30pm about the bizarre ways – from poisonous puddings to nettle cloth – that the Georgians used herbs and foraged plants.

Weather permitting, any day of the week, your young ones can also pick up a copy of Amanda’s brilliant All-a-Buzz garden bumblebee and bug trail.

If their main interest is in the kitchen, they can roll up their sleeves and join the costumed servants on Tuesday, between 11am and 3pm, to make clapbread, or on Thursday, also from 11am to 3pm, to fashion a pastry fish.

On Saturdays, there are special talks and recipe tastings at 11.30am and 2.30pm, while for Sundays the focus is on the weird world of Georgian sports and pastimes, with talks at 11.30am and 2.30pm, and the chance to play cards or skittles 18th-century style throughout the day.

We’re open every day except Friday, from 11am (last entry 4pm) and there’s no additional charge for activities. For more details about our events programme, go to www.nationaltrust.org.uk/wordsworthhouse or call 01900 820884.

Playing snip, snap snorum

Hand of cards: Playing “snip, snap snorum”

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