Future Challenges and Some Hairy Visitors
Around 95% of our gardening activity at Tullie House Museum involves looking after herbaceous plants, shrubs and bushes, most of which have been planted in the past by others. The gardening team weed (especially the hundreds of sycamore seedlings that keep appearing), dead head and cut back – basically all the tasks that keep the gardens a place to enjoy and let us appreciate what nature has to offer. The plants in the garden that keep coming back year on year however (known as perennials) will need a bit more work for them to stay looking their best. Some have grown too well and encroached on others around them, some may be struggling a bit and there are those that self-seed into other areas of the garden (not to mention a few that have blown in in the wind).
Our Siberian Iris – Iris sibirica ‘Persimmon’ has a few “uglier” neighbours and the Caster Oil Plant – Fatsia japonica variegata looks as if it needs to be kept in control.
We therefore should consider lifting and splitting a lot of our plants later in the year. This will also allow us to tackle some of the more pervasive weeds like couch grass and Galium aparine (commonly known as cleavers or catchweed or stickyweed or sticky willy) that have unfortunately taken a foot hold in places. If we do this a small area at a time hopefully the task will not be too hard for the gardening team.
The other 5% of our activity is with the annuals. We only have a few small borders where these will be planted but as they are on the terrace in front of the cafe and function room (where several weddings take place throughout the year) it is important that these are looking their best. This year’s new bedding plants will go in next week.
I mentioned nature’s offerings earlier which off course includes the creatures that live in or visit the garden. Perhaps not this dragon fly hiding in the Smilacina Racemosa (False spikenard – at first glance this plant could be mistaken for Solomon’s seal however when it flowers its difference with 15cm long fluffy cream plumes of flowers – more like astilbe – appears). These posts with insects are dotted around the garden and are used by the educational team. More about them later.
One insect however is a very worthy visitor and was sighted last month. The Hairy-footed flower bee (Anthophora plumpipes). The Cumbria Biodiversity Data Centre which is based in a building next door to the garden has kindly supplied notes on this little fella.
The Hairy-footed flower bee is a solitary bee which tends to emerge in the spring, and frequently nests in old walls or in the ground. Males and females differ in appearance with females tending to be black with orange hairs on their hind legs. Males are largely brown with long hairs on their mid legs which give this species its name. Both sexes have a long tongue to drink nectar, preferably from lungwort flowers. This male bee was photographed by CBDC on the 28th April in Tullie House Museum’s garden. There are over 1,000 records on the NBN atlas for the UK, but we only have 32 records in Cumbria, 29 of which have been in the last eight years. This species appears to be expanding its distribution northwards. However, it has ‘jumped’ from central England to Cumbria with very few records in Northumbria Lancashire, Yorkshire and Scotland. Does anyone have any suggestions as to why Cumbria may have a population but neighbouring counties lack sightings? Visit the Bees, Wasps & Ants Recording Society’s website http://http://www.bwars.com for more information on this species and many others.