The honeybees built the comb with bright yellow beeswax this summer and filled cells with vibrant orange-yellow pollen. Emily and I imagined that our bees had been visiting sunflowers.
The weeks have since flown by and Emily has now moved to Cornwall. After almost seven years of keeping bees together, I shall miss my hive-partner-in-crime very much, but I will continue to follow Emily’s adventures in beeland as she discovers the bees and wildlife of the west country.
Meanwhile back in London, the sunflowers are in full bloom in our garden.
The sunflowers were a gift from the garden of John’s aunt and uncle, Jo and Brian, who live in Hay-on-Wye, Wales. We had visited them earlier in the summer for the Hay-on-Wye Festival and came home not only with books but sunflower seedlings and a rowan tree sapling.
Today I caught a carder bee on the sunflower – her face full of pollen.
Summer has turned into autumn and the bees are busy foraging for every last drop of nectar and dusting of pollen that the garden has to offer.
The gardener’s year, I think like the beekeeper’s year, begins in September. The honeybees clear out the nest by throwing out the drones and the queen lays fewer eggs as the brood nest becomes smaller with more space instead for winter stores. In the garden, it is a good time of year to clear out weeds and prune back overgrown plants to make space for what you will grow next summer.
This was the first weekend that I have had free from work for a couple of months, and the sun has been shining. I made a start in the garden by pulling up the weeds around the apple tree and working the soil into a fine crumble ready to scatter the toadflax seeds.
A toadflax meadow had sprung up between the gravel this summer, but the flowers were now fading and the seed pods beginning to burst open. I moved as many of the toadflax as I could from the gravel to the apple tree bed and into large containers to let the seeds fall where I want the flowers to grow next year.
The apple tree bed is prone to weeds, but toadflax seedlings are easy to recognise (see above) with their narrow spiral of pale-green leaves and are less likely to be weeded out by mistake.
The carder bees buzzed around me as I moved the toadflax that was still flowering to the containers and then inspected my work to make sure it matched their standards.
I uncovered some slugs and snails, and moved them to another patch of weeds that I plan on tackling next weekend. They can munch on these in the meantime.
While I was moving this snail, I noticed that she had a little hitchhiker on her back. Mum and baby are now happily eating up my bindweed, I hope.
That done, I left the garden to go indoors. It wasn’t long before John called me outside again. He had been mowing the lawn and spotted a rare visitor perched on the roof.
We stood on the decking to take photos of the heron who looked unimpressed with the cage around the fish pond.
And then he was off!
Everything ends and starts again in autumn. As Emily and I move on to our new adventures – from bees in Cornwall to wildlife gardens in Ickenham – I hope that we will always be inspired by the natural world around us and that our paths will one day cross again beside the hives.
Hi, Emma. Thank you for sharing your garden and your bees. It is so nice to read that the love of the beekeepers is not just for the honeybees, but for the garden and the nature in general.
Here in our little corner of France, we found that each year the sunflowers planted were of a different variety. Two years ago they were absolutely of no interest to the bees. Last year we had a great harvest of honey that quickly crystallized into a beautiful yellow colour, showing that the sunflowers were good for the bees. This year it was average. Our honey is nice but not the same colour as last year.
I hope that you have a good harvest too.
Thank you, Kourosh. Yours and Amelia’s garden has inspired me for many years now and I hope to make our garden just as beautiful and wildlife friendly. It is funny how some years that certain flowers don’t attract the bees and others years they can’t keep off them. Our sedum hasn’t attracted as many bees this year, although the flowers do look quite tired and I may have to take some cuttings and refresh the clump in spring. I hope you enjoy your honey harvest! Emma
We have found the same. It naturally depends on the availability of other flowers. For us we have also suffered from drought which might affect the production of nectar, etc. _ Kourosh
I keep bees in Lincolnshire and there are fields of sunflowers so the bees are having a wonderful time!
You are right – the sunflowers must be fun for bees. I watch them running all over the huge flower heads not knowing which pollen tip to shop at first!
The Toadflax is still blooming here. I love the flowers but I wish they had a more beautiful name. Amelia
We still have a few flowers of toadflax, and snowberry I think, but the sunflowers are taking over now. I know what you mean about the name and I’ve never seen a toad in them!
The baby snail is very sweet. How is the Rowan tree sapling doing?
I thought the baby snail was cute too. The rowan sapling is doing ok, but I think it may eventually outgrow our garden. Perhaps I may have to bring it to Cornwall one day!
Thanks for your seasonal post and the fascinating photos, it’s amazing looking at what is just around us. Although I am not a beekeeper, watching solitary bees and bumblebees and the flowers they like has made me much more aware of the flow of the seasons.
Thank you, Philip. There is so much to learn from nature, it is a life journey. Every year though I look out for ivy bees on our bush in the garden and hope one autumn I will be lucky enough to see them. 🙂
Lovely photographs of your sunflowers Emma, I wonder if you’ll get birds coming for the seeds later on? It looks like you picked a lovely sunny day for your gardening, we haven’t had too many of them lately. Love your Heron too, has it been back?
Thank you! The sunflowers were just begging to be photographed with their stunning sunny faces. I haven’t seen birds but the squirrel has stolen a few heads. It was quite funny, I caught it dragging an entire sunflower head down the garden path – it was torn between seeing me and wanting to run away, and not letting go it’s prize. The heron hasn’t been back as I think he realised that he is no match for our fish cage. Hoping we both have more sunny days. All the best, Emma
Sounds like an enterprising squirrel you have! I’ve never seen them take a sunflower head – now that would have made a great photograph!
Love the heron and how very lucky are you to have him or her land on your roof!
Thank you! John was very excited when he spotted him.