Sunday, 5 July 2015

Practical Session Report - July 2015

Creeping Jenny
Today was a wonderfully sunny, if rather hot session. Again we had more plants in flower than I had rows on my recording form (note to self: improve recording form)!

We had some more visitors today, including a lovely lady from Corston, a village that's a little less than 4 miles north of St Giles. I advised a good dose of yellow rattle (Rhinanthus minor) for the small meadow she'd like to incorporate into the churchyard there.

Speaking of yellow rattle, it's been a wonderful year for it at our churchyard. We have three patches of long grass that have yellow rattle and I recorded two of them last year. The first patch increased from 75 to 95, with the other patch increasing from 64 to 178. This will, in part, be due to the additional seed we sowed last year - a simple process of throwing it on the grass and stylishly attempting to tread it into the ground.

Sue spotted a new plant to the churchyard, but it was Ivan who suggested the correct identification immediately (Sue and I weren't sure because the book we were using didn't quite match, but later research did agree with Ivan's assessment). This new comer is one of at least 300 species in its genus and is most likely common skullcap (Scutellaria galericulata). It is particularly appropriate due to the monuments that include skulls on the tombstones and within the church - and can apparently be used for herbal tea.

Earlier I keyed out an umbel that Sue and I spotted to be ground elder (Aegopodium podagraria). I was surprised that on our original flora list circa 1998, we had an entry for ground elder. Therefore We've either missed it for 4 years in a row, or it's making a good come back with the appearance of 5 or 6 plants all in the tomb area of the churchyard (as Sue pointed out to me on the phone; it's probably the former).

Sadly my family and I won't be able to attend the next session, Saturday 25 July, but the team will be there. So, feel free to join them if you're in the area. Tea and biscuits, the staple of all conservation activities, will be provided!

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Parish Life - July 2015

A couple of months ago, I was about to take a shower, when I paused to hear a strange kind of humming from the ceiling above my head. It wasn’t consistent, but more like an intermittent “Buzzzz...bzzzzt....bzz.................bzzt....” This noise continued, day and night, and became louder and even more busy as time went on. We have had wasps’ nests in the loft, but this noise was different. I could find no evidence of a nest when I explored the attic, but by observing the outside of the house, I discovered that we had Tree Bumblebees as lodgers. These insects do no damage to the framework of the house, but enter through spaces that have been discovered by mice. Apparently, the bees get very excited by the smell of mouse urine and follow the trail, establishing a colony where the mice have been (in more ways than one!) By the end of the season, there can be a colony of 300 – 400 individuals.

I am quite proud of the fact that the garden around our house is very “bee-friendly” with lots of nectar-providing plants. Sadly, many of the pretty bedding plants that are on sale in Garden centres do not provide accessible nectar, having been bred for their floppy, attractive petals. Begonias, petunias and the more elaborate dahlias are not good for bees. Single dahlias, verbenas, heucheras and many herb plants such as lavender, rosemary, chives and borage are very bee-friendly. Fruit plants, for example, apples, plums, quinces, strawberries and raspberries, are much loved by bees and give us the added benefit of something sweet to eat.

In St. Giles’ churchyard, we are still addressing the issue of providing good nectar sources. Betony, Scabious (Devils’ Bit and Field), Nettle-leaved Bellflower and St. John’s Wort will all be in evidence in July. The flowers are of varying sizes, which suits different insects with short or long tongues, to access the nectar. We have two work sessions in July, as it is the busiest growing season; we shall be carrying out our usual maintenance tasks, as well as enjoying refreshments and good company. Tools and gloves will be available. Please come and join us in some open-air exercise and care of the environment. The dates for your diaries are Saturday 4th and 25th July, 9.30 a.m. to 12 noon. Come to one session, or even better, two, to see the haven for wildlife that surrounds the church.