Random Ramblings

Random Ramblings: Personal observations on a wide variety of subjects. Photographs of creatures and things that are taken on seeing the unusual as well as everyday things.

Leaf-cutter bees progress

The Insect House is looking a little more shabby this year and although the bee activity has begun much later than previous years the bees are making excellent progress. There appear to be more of the Leaf-cutter bees this year. They are buzzing around both the little shed where the insect house sits and also around the bird table. I think they may be looking for extra holes to adapt as breeding chambers – time will tell.

Leaf-cutter bee cleaning bamboo chamber Leaf-cutter bee cleaning a bamboo chamber


Leaf-cutter bee cleaning bamboo chamber - facing forwards

Leaf-cutter bee leaving bamboo chamber

This year’s Leaf-cutter bees are working at a very fast pace – but they are not so meticulous with their housekeeping chores and the bamboo canes that the bees convert into chambers to lay their eggs do not look so scrupulously clean as usual. 

Monday Moth

Day-on-day the temperature in Britain is rising. As a young girl I was often told that when there are a perfusion of moths flying about at night it is a sign of the onset of a very warm and sunny weather period. Tonight there were more moths than ever – dancing about in the late evening. Many were kissing the electric lights (the new low energy ones at least doesn’t scorch their delicate wings), others were simply resting on any surface they could find.

I found this Small Magpie Moth on the door in the bathroom. It is quite common in Britain especially in Southern Scotland, Northern England and Ireland but less frequent in the Midlands, Wales and Southern England. This is the first one that I have seen for several years.

Small Magpie MothSmall Magpie Moth

This picture makes the white of the moth look slightly blue but in actual fact it is a very definite white. The wingspan measures 2.6 cm. The moth can be found flying around during the months of June and July. It lays its eggs on nettles and the young caterpillars can be found rolled up in the nettle leaves.

Static swarm

Every year, around the time of Midsummer, marks the beginning of the insect swarming season. So far this year I have seen one large swarm of bees, which is good news for both gardeners and growers alike as there is a definite shortage of bees this year.

Today, it was time for the ants. In Britain, we are currently on the edge of a heat wave – perfect swarming weather. The ants all but spurted out from their nests but what should have followed with a cloud in flight, didn’t happen. Each of the nests only pushed out around ten winged ants. The remainder were all standard workers milling about on their six little legs and transporting a few very small white eggs several feet to perhaps begin a new colony.

For an insect to change its usual behavioural pattern that has been flowing smoothly for millions of years is worrying. Even if insects aren’t your favourite creatures they are most essential to the eco system and any change in their pattern of behaviour could warrant the death knell of another creature. If insect patterns dramatically change then it will eventually impact upon us. So take a look around. Check out your local insects – are they behaving normally? Do you see any changes? Are the ants in your area swarming on the wing?


This is the very first year that I have not heard one cuckoo and although their very habits could almost be straight from a horror movie, I can honestly say I have missed their distant haunting call. For those who are not familiar with the cuckoo then their lifestyle is like no other bird. Firstly, it spends its Winters in Africa. The younger males reach British shores the second or third week of April and taunt us all. In flight it is often mistaken for the sparrowhawk but looks slightly heavier in motion added to which it has a long, pointed tail and wings. When it courts it gives out a dual note in its ‘cuckoo’ call, this is the male calling to it’s Jen, the female. The female call is a happy warble or trill.
The parents never build a nest – but it is known that with experience, the female will often look for the nests of species where her forebears have successfully had young raised. They have the capacity to almost mimic the eggs of the birds whose nests they choose to hatch and rear the one egg they deposit. There are over fifty different species that cuckoos eggs have been found in. The mother cuckoo will steal one egg from the nest that she chooses so there is less chance for the foster parents to suspect anything is wrong. Once the young cuckoo has hatched out (even though it is all skin and weak looking), its one intent is to clear the nest – so whether there are remaining eggs or off-spring of its foster parents it will hoist up the living bundles onto a hollow in its back and throw them onto the ground. The cuckoo is a murderer! The baby cuckoo then has the entire attention of its foster parents who proceed to feed it with a frenzy as it grows for three weeks until it fledges. They continue to support it for a further week or so until it is fully independent.
Around the time of Midsummer the parent cuckoo will change their tunes. There is a little rhyme that is taught to remind us all of this … here are two versions of it:
The cuckoo comes in April She sings her song in May In the middle of June she whistles her tune In July she flies away
The cuckoo comes in April She sings her song in May In June she changes her tune In July she prepares to fly In August go she must.
The last of the adults fly back to Africa in early August followed by the newly fledged birds in September. The young migrate unaided and alone.
One of the oldest rhymes that I have found dates back to around 1200. Sadly, to the best of my knowledge, the author is unknown. Here it is – in very old English style:
The Cuckoo ................
Summer is y-comen in, Loude sing, cuckoo! Groweth seed and bloweth meed And spring’th the woode now- Sing cuckoo!
Ewe bleateth after lamb, Low’th after calfe cow, Bullock starteth, bucke farteth. Merry sing, cuckoo!
Cuckoo, Cuckoo! Well sing’st thou, cuckoo: Ne swike thou never now!
Sing cuckoo, now! Sing, cuckoo! Sing cuckoo! Sing, cuckoo now!

With a nod and a wink

Here is a lovely site worth checking out ....... ;)

I hope that you all enjoy it as much as I do!

Midsummer madness

The twenty-forth day of June, Midsummer’s Day … the wild abandonment of the free spirit, a day of portend, ritual, love and anticipation. A day when all things are possible and even dreams come true.

Time to look out for fairy rings, the tiny toadstools that from time-to-time grow in a circle … but only, it is said, when fairies dance by the light of the moon. When you find one then simply stand in the middle, turn around three whole times, close your eyes and make a wish. It is claimed that the wish will be all the more potent if done when the moon has risen.

If love has been found then rose petals should be gathered at the full height of the sun, placed in a wooden bowel then in the early evening as the dew is falling -softly sprinkle them onto the earth and walked slowly over the area. This ensures love will be steadfast and true.

The poker plant is now in perfect bloom.

Red hot poker

Red Hot Poker

I have had my gift from the fairies … the beautiful leaf-cutter bees made their first debut of this year today. The little insect house is looking a little worse for wear. It is another year older, has developed a crack in the front of the lower section and is currently covered with debris from the over-hanging tree, the odd thread of spider’s web and the remains of last year’s leaf-cutter bee clutter that was used to seal up the bamboo nesting site. The bees are dutifully pulling and pushing to clear the holes ready for this year’s new chambers to make ready for their eggs.

The insect house

Leaf-cutter bee - 2009

Leaf-cutter Bees

Gone with the fairies

Many years ago my Grandma had two rambling button fairy roses one of which was pink and the other red. When I say red, I mean farmer’s red which is a deep red pink a most old-fashioned colour that once adorned the lips of women during the Second World War. It is a flower colour that I really love and can be found on the common peony.

I have tried to purchase rambling button fairy roses over a very long time but without success … but today I found this beautiful pink rambling fairy rose – not quite a small as the button variety but still tumbling with small flowers and buds. Its scent is soft and a mixture of rose and apple blossom. The flower size of this naturally beautiful flower is similar to that of the wild rose.


Pink Rambling Fairy RosePink Rambling Fairy Rose

Fairy Rose Rambler

Summer Solstice 2009

It’s a very special day, this day with the longest amount of daylight – the Summer Solstice. There are too many people with all kinds of theories linking them firstly to the Summer Solstice and secondly to Stonehenge – so be careful and wise when researching into either of these particular subjects.

My thoughts are that the most important thing for man is a calendar probably followed by a clock. Stonehenge shows the divisions of the year – the most important ability for knowing when to sow seed and when to harvest. Of showing when the shortest amount of daylight is and when the longest amount of daylight lies. So I believe that Stonehenge was constructed solely as a calendar …

Fox and cubs

I first came across this beautiful, orange daisy over twenty-five years ago. I glimpsed around a dozen plants growing on a large green area of land on the outskirts of the Worcestershire village of Alvechurch. For those of you who are familiar with this area – the stretch of land was around the turning into Rowney Green.

Fox-and-cubs - small picture

Many years later … I found one of these lovely plants growing next to a hedge on a waste area of land … so out came my trowel and a small plastic bag and I carefully dug up one small specimen to take home with me. Over the years many people have introduced them into their gardens and for those who do not enjoy the hunt of tracking down a wild specimen then garden centres often have good, healthy wild flowers grown from seed.

Once planted into the garden wild flowers usually become slightly larger and stronger than their native wild siblings – which for most, gives them an added attraction in the border.

Fox-and-cubs or its Latin name Pilosella aurantiaca is a useful border filler. It will grow quite happily in the odd patch of land that is poorly nourished and as it is a perennial will provide beautiful bright orange daisy shaped blooms year after year. It is slow spreading which really is a must for wild plants that are introduced into the garden border.


Clustrmap ……….. archive

The Clustrmap admin have notified that my little visitor’s map is once more to be archived … so I’m starting from dot or zero once more …

I enjoy looking at the different visitors I get from all over the world and I find it amazing just how many areas of the world not only look at my blog but have access to the Internet. This is an opportunity for me to say thank you to everyone both near and far that either regularly look at my blog or occasionally take a peek ……………………………… Thank you, one and all and a further thank you to those who stop by and comment.

Latest copy of my visitor’s map just prior to archiving:

Clustrmap from 18 June 2008 to 18 June 2009Clustrmap Visitor’s Map

For those wishing to add Clustrmap to their blogs here is the link. 

Total number of visitors from 17 June 2007 is 135,257 - this archive picture is from 18 June 2008

Note: This is the second archive of Clustrmap for this blog.

Cat – Teddy bear

My cat has the habit of cleaning herself and forming the pose of a Teddy bear. All cats by nature are fastidious and meticulous and checking and cleaning themselves from the top of their ears to the tips of their tails, This means that they pose in some unusual positions. Mine often takes the form of a Teddy bear and even a Sea Otter. Here is a common pose that she decided to attack on the window ledge.

Cat - teddy bear pose  Cat - bear pose - drousy sleepy pose

Cat - bear pose - sleepy pose

Cat - bear pose - just doesn't care pose

Nature’s sweetest scent

There are a few different types of wild rose. All garden roses have been bred from this wild stock. Many of today’s roses have little or no perfume. To find out what a rose should really smell like you need to put your nose up to a Briar Rose, Rose-briar or Rosa rubiginosa (its Latin name). This is the sweetest scent of rose that you will ever smell … it is the smell of rose oil, Turkish Delight … it is the scent of an English Summer evening and it takes your breath away. It is said that once a person has smelt the haunting, lingering, seductive scent of the Rose-briar it’s perfume will forever linger in the mind and it’s smell will call out to you ready to envelop and wrap you up in its sumptuous fragrance.


Sweet-briar - Rosa rubiginosa (Briar Rose)Sweet-briar – Rosa rubiginosa (Briar Rose)

This particular Rose-briar, England’s Rose was found in a near by lane curling its branches around its cousin the Dog Rose. It often grows in close proximity to its nearest relatives and so needs rose-ragging to collect the hips for the seed. This sweet rose makes an excellent addition to any rough border patch. To add it from natural stock it is best to look for the plant at this time of year when the blossoms are full and sweet, if possible always use wild stock from the countryside. Once it has been established that it is a Rose-briar (by the colour and smell) tie a small piece of ribbon or rag around the stem of each rose (rose-ragging). Check from time-to-time for the hips to form. When they are full, swollen and red – snip off the hip and a little of the stem and remove the ribbon or rag. If available place into a brown paper bag (only three or four hips are required) wait for the hips to split and the seeds are exposed. If a paper bag isn’t available make sure that the hips are exposed to the air so that mould doesn’t affect the seed. Traditional planting: clear a small piece of earth about the size of a dinner plate then gently scatter the rose seeds onto the surface and water in well. This usually provides about two or three plants which may be left to grow together or one may be dug up and perhaps given to a friend.

Remember to smell and enjoy the roses whilst you can!

Wild white woodbine or honeysuckle

A surprise awaited me as I strolled down one of the local lanes … it was the palest of wild honeysuckle plants. It had wound its way through the hawthorn and poked out several of its blossoms. I picked just a couple of the branches with flowers and managed to gently prize off another small woody branch at its elbow, which I have planted in the back garden in the hope of creating a new plant.

Wild white honeysuckle or woodbine found in WorcestershireWild white woodbine or honeysuckle

Shark attack

We very occasionally hear about Great White’s attacking people in the water. I was shocked, however, to hear that according to a naturalist slot on the news – man has now killed off, hunted, wiped out, destroyed over ninety percent (90%) of the world’s shark population. Most sharks are harmless and even frightened of man. They are a very ancient fish and have been around for more than 450 million years …. but at this rate this will be yet another creature hunted into extinction.

Perhaps we should really think about protecting sharks as they are an important part of the eco system and if we lose them what will this do to our planet?


Dead shark copyDead shark

Water feature

Any type of garden is always enhanced by a water feature whether it is a small trickling sculpture or a large splendid fountain. All express tranquillity and help to provide a relaxing atmosphere to what many people regard as their spare room – the garden, balcony or terrace. Many now extend their houses by using the garden as though it were part of the house – so it is ideal to add a background soft trickling effect to make this the most relaxing room a person can possess.

Never consider a pond, fountain or large water feature if there is the remotest possibility that it will be visited by young children. All water is a magnet to the young and sadly it only takes half-an-inch or a couple of centimetres to drown a young child.

Here are a few water features found near to Stratford-Upon-Avon in Warwickshire:


8 foot fountain

Peaceful water feature - Roman style

Beautiful peaceful garden water features

Old country saying:

“The warmer the day, the greener the dish.”

This old country saying has a very illusive meaning. Often sayings are passed on with their meanings. We are taught them at school or our families readily tell us the meanings and so they are told to each generation. The above saying is probably one of the most useful but is less widely known.

We know that when the weather is hot we need to keep hydrated but few know that greens help the body to retain liquid and prevent it becoming dehydrated so quickly. What is so mysterious is how did people know this generations ago?

“The warmer the day, the greener the dish.”

The Cotswolds.copy

Beautiful bushy blue bower

June brings a jumble of all types of flowers in the border. Some are sweetly scented whilst others are bright, hardy and ever persistent in their beauty. This particular bush is about seven years old and clipped back each Autumn as I suspect it would take over a vast space without yearly maintenance.


Ceanothus - England in May-June

Ceanothus shrub

Ceanothus shrub

Ceanothus is a delightful shrub with its small to medium dark green leaves that become bejewelled with Ceylon blue sapphire flowers at this time of year. It provides a home for the garden spider and food for bees, butterflies and a multitude of the smaller garden beetles.

Fish splash

Golden fish appear to sunbathe when they can and sometimes they position themselves near to plants and become statues … so still is their appearance that at first glance they look almost frozen in time. At times when they are apparently lapping up the sunshine they appear to be in a trance-like state.

Fish in the pond - Golden Orfe, Goldfish and Golden Tench

Golden Orfe and Goldfish

Muffin the Goldfish

Fish pond

Whilst taking these pictures of the fish in my pond, it occurred to  me that they were all golden varieties. There are Golden Orfe (these are the slightly yellow fish), several varieties of Goldfish including one comet and some Golden Tench which are bottom feeders. The little fat Goldfish is called Muffin. He was purchased as a very, very small and ordinary looking Goldfish but over the last two years appears to be turning into a type of Jelly head variety. He is especially friendly and is always first to the food … he not only likes the sunshine but will lift his head out of the water to feel it on his little round wet face!


Yes, I know that this isn’t the usual spelling but as a child one of the questions that went around schools and homes was simply this:

  • What’s a mith? The answer was a female moth.

There must be very few people who were born in the fifties, sixties, seventies and eighties that haven’t heard that question.


I borrowed a 10 mega pixel camera just to see if it looked any sharper than my old 5 mega pixel one. Taking a close-up picture of this moth should help me to decide whether the 10 mega pixel one looks any clearer. I’m still not certain …

I am still trying to find out the name of the moth!

A friend in seed …

When the children were small we would walk to and fro from school this gave us all a chance to meet and chat with friends every day. On one particular day a friend gave me a few plants for the garden she declared that they had all been grown from seed. One variety was a tall yellow daisy the other was several yellow ‘wallflowers’ ….. the latter as it happened, although looking remarkably like a wallflower and having a sweet fragrance was, I am saddened to say, a weed. I still keep having the seedlings of this weed popping up all over the place – here is a picture of it … It is, of course, Treacle Mustard, a wild flower and member of the cabbage family.

Treacle Mustard

Treacle Mustard

Vampire voting

Today, it has been a time for those who are of age to place their ‘X’ on voting slips for the candidate or candidates of their choice. Some have been voting in the Euro Elections for their European Member of Parliament whilst others have voted both for their Euro MP and any local MP’s whose seat has come up in the bi-elections.

From the depths of my being, no matter what anyone’s feelings may be or whatever their political bent I believe that we all have a duty to vote.

The moment that we give up that right or simply can’t be bothered is the time when we give away our country, our freedom and our rights. Those who don’t vote, in a sense, give their rights, freedom and their country away to any despot that would take those rights, beliefs and way of life away from us. The easiest way to invade and take over a country is simply to make its people weak and lethargic in their reasoning … not being bothered to vote is the first step to take away values and rights that make life wonderful. Added to this – it has really not been all that long since we have all had the right to vote. Not so many years ago the only people who could vote were male owners of property. It took many people much fighting for rights both for the ordinary working man and for women to achieve voting for all … and we should never forget that some paid the ultimate price of their life in order that we might have this privilege.



* Never be a vampire and suck the life out of your country always use your vote!

* “A vampire voter put simply is someone who gives up the right to vote – in other words they abstain.”

Mysterious soft fleshy rambler

Today I began to pull out the odd weed which had managed in some instances to have clung to the honeysuckle and in the darkness and shade pulled upwards towards the light. Most of the weeds were commonplace and I could name them quite easily. I have had a problem with Cleavers or Goosegrass (Galium aparine) for several years. This intertwines with the bushy plants and so it requires some pulling and tugging to detach it then it attaches itself to me! As I pulled another plant landed in my hands – one I had not seen before. It was either a climber or a rambler with a soft fleshy stem. I cannot find any reference to it in any of my plant books … I am stumped. Perhaps it is an introduced variety or may be a bird has dropped a seed – here it is does anyone recognise it?


Soft fleshy rambling plant

Wild soft fleshy rambling plant

Close up of flower of the soft fleshy rambler  Soft fleshy rambling plant

The bright fires of June

June is the sixth month of the year and with it comes a wealth of sayings that have been passed down to us from years gone by. It has a very special day that has been celebrated since before pre-Christian times that is situated around the Summer Solstice. Midsummer’s Day was long ago linked to all kinds of fancies, whispers and secrets that were interwoven with witches, fairies, ancient magic, celebration and dancing. Midsummer’s Eve would bring with it the lighting of the bonfire … this was done as people believed that with the lengthening of the days the sun was losing its power, becoming weaker possibly dying and losing its flames. The custom of lighting the bonfire on the longest day of the year began so people could give back the flame and light to the sun to protect it. Then like magic the days that followed became shorter and shorter protecting the sun’s energy.

The longest day of the year which this year is 21st June, the Summer Solstice.

Black magical crowBlack magical crow


“The fairies of Midsummer came and dipped their toes in dew then laughed and danced and sung their songs - then just before dawn away they flew.” Anon

Geranium June

June has arrived – hip, hip, hip hurray - thrice times! In olden days, June was a very special month and if you sit back and close your eyes you might just feel the sense of enthrallment, a tingling sensation deep down through your being that your ancestors felt so many years before you.

For flower lovers it is the beginning of the sea breaker of Summer colour and the garden begins to have wave after wave of colours and shapes. Every flower trying to out-do its neighbour with a riot of garish colours. One that is well worthwhile considering is the perennial geranium. All perennial geraniums are considered to be wild flowers but most happily sit in many gardens producing flower after flower in violet blues, mauves and pinks. Year in and year out with little attention they give other border plants a run for their money. The safest one to install is the roadside blue crane’s-bill. This is compact in nature and when established tends to remain in fairly tidy domes. New plants are best created by breaking off a small root portion and replanting to desired position.

Blue geranium - crane's-bill

Crane's-bill - Blue geranium

Blue geranium – Crane’s-bill or Violet Blue geranium

The next most useful perennial geranium is the common pink which is also a member of the Crane’s-bill family. These have slightly smaller flowers, quite dainty. They need to be heavily tidied and kept in close circles as they have a rapid propensity to spread. They seed readily and the young seedlings will comfortably grow just about anywhere. They will root themselves in gravel, between slabs, at the side of paths and so on …… so to see this plant at its very best – it must be kept close and tidy. Flowers may be snipped off at the end of the flowering season and it will dutifully provide a second and often third handsome batch.

Pink geranium - Crane's-bill

Pink geranium – Crane’s-bill

Although both varieties of these geraniums may be purchased from a nursery along with quite a few other varieties – they are readily available in the countryside. They are, of course, most easiest to find in June as they are in their first flowering stages. Crane’s-bill is often visible in hedgerows and at the sides of kerbs, in fields, hills and so on. Unless the plant is on common land then permission needs to be asked before prising out a specimen to take home to the garden.