Community bulb planting for bees

Urban Bees and River of Flowers’ spring bulb planting weekend on Clapham Manor Estate went a treat last month. The bulbs had been carefully chosen for their attractiveness to bees and other pollinators, to provide food in the spring and throughout the year.

Jim, 10, helped to plant round headed leaks (Allium sphaerocephalon) and Ruby Giant crocuses in raised planters, and masses of native English bluebells (Hyacinthoides non-scripta) with mum Nina in the more shady beds. He said it was better than doing his homework…. and he’d learned a lot about botany and planting from Kathryn at River of Flowers.

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On Sunday more residents, including Rosemary and Tammy Sharma and her two lovely children, Alex 8, and Shanti, 4 , were out in force clearing a large L-shaped bed that was overgrown with Black Nightshade (Solanum nigrum). Greg Thompson from Lambeth Living, which manages thousands of council homes in the borough, was very popular when he came down with a large bag of cultivated bulbs that the kids enthusiastically planted in the now bare soil.

The L-shaped bed was also the perfect place for some larger shrubs that the bees will like; Dogwood (Cornus), which produces small, creamy-white flowers in May and June, and St John’s Wort (Hypericum) which will have masses of yellow butter cup like flowers which the bees adore from July to October.

 Fragrant Walk

We kept the Fragrant Walk free of bulbs. The bay trees, Lavender and Rosemary bushes looked good once we’d done a huge amount of weeding so you can actually see them!

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 Bee Pasture

The Bee Pasture (which was certainly attracting bees with its wild flowers) was also attracting the ire of some residents who clearly  felt intimidated by the far too tall sunflowers and thistles that needed pulling out.

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To keep residents on side, beds need regular weeding and  any green rubbish this creates needs to be disposed of quickly. But for this project to work long-term residents themselves will have to nurture the flowers beds and maintain them….

 Plant Locks

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Six Plant Locks, two on Brayburne Avenue and four on Victoria Rise were cleared  of rubbish and ‘weeds’ and planted with white Snowdrops (Galanthus nivalis), ruby Crocuses and purple/bue harebells (Campanulas). There was a giant nettle in one of the Victoria Rise Plant Locks – great for butterflies but not so good for passersby!

Plant Locks need regular maintenance so hopefully the school on Victoria Rise will take could care of the ones outside its gates.

Unfortunately, the Plant Lock at the junction of St Rule Street and Wandsworth Road was also full of weeds and rubbish. Luckily there is group that has planted bee-friendly flowers in the triangular area at the junction, so they could take care of the Plant Lock which is only about 1 metre away from their bed.

With winter fast approaching the bulb-planted beds and planters are looking a bit bare now, apart from a few purple Penstemon’s, but come next spring they will be bursting with colour for us to enjoy and for the bees to feast on with their nectar and pollen-rich flowers.

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Urban Bees and River of Flowers have been working with Lambeth Council and residents around the Clapham Manour Estate in 2014 to create  a colourful, bee-friendly corridor (Bee-line)  through the estate for residents to enjoy, and where bees will be able to find more year-round forage  in a dense, urban environment.

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