It’s better to bee than not to bee, so avoid chemicals

hamamelis mollis Jermyn's Gold.

hamamelis mollis Jermyn's Gold.

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I came to our present garden years ago from a background in horticultural education that had involved the use of fungicides, insecticides and herbicides.

Perhaps it was the surprise of a field mushroom crop appearing on the lawn, the result of a pony having grazed a small paddock that surrounded the house, which prompted a resolve to avoid using chemicals where possible.

We’ve never regretted what has followed. The lawns are cut regularly and look neat enough. They are of utility standard and will take footfall aplenty but, best of all, they have the seal of approval from bumblebee species from late spring to early autumn.

Wildflowers – weeds to lawn specialists – bloom in season, beginning with daisies and building up to a midsummer crescendo when they literally buzz with the presence of bees.

They love the pink and white clover, pearlwort, bugle and the occasional dandelion that is removed before setting seed.

Granted, we do have to delay cutting for two or three weeks or so in high summer to let the insects feast, but the spectacle more than compensates for that.

The lawn is quickly restored to normal after a couple of cuts, as it would had we been on holiday.

It is amazing how cutting a ragged lawn in mid-February immediately elevates the surrounding borders. It draws attention to not only an emerging display of shoots and flowers but also a few outstanding chores that must be completed before the season is in full swing.

A witch hazel, hamamelis mollis Jermyn’s Gold, was planted four years ago in an obscure part of the long border to provide a pleasant surprise when we walked in that area.

It has developed well, and its annual display began early last month, but the weather was so foul that we were missing the spectacle, so it was lifted in full bloom, with a large root ball attached, and moved to a high-profile spot, where it’s still flowering merrily, none the worse for the experience.

This is the joy of February and March – still having time to fine-tune plant positions.