Friday, 9 September 2016

Something Bug-ing you?

Something Bug-ing you, an article on humans irrational fear of wasps. 

Picture of wasp feeding on ginger Lilly flower taken in one of my clients garden

It’s that time of the year again in the UK where wasp numbers seem to reach their dizzy pinnacle as they fly erratically in all directions in search of those last bits of food and sweet treats. In fact, much like humans, they are sugar fiends.  It was a client’s question as to the proposed locations of some bug boxes in a garden design I am working on that led me to reflect on the public perceptions of these much maligned and somewhat unloved insects
Further I have become aware of a spread in fear and dislike of bugs and insects in general, but more significantly wasps and to a lesser extent bees. Whilst international concerns focus on the use of neonicotinoids, with their detrimental effect on bees being critically important, there seems little, or no mention, of their likely effect on the rest of the nectar feeding populations of insects and birds. Whilst the focus is rightly on bees, due to our reliance on them as pollinators, this overlooks and forgets the very important role that other insects play in the management of pests on our plants. Whilst lacewings and hover flies are important and non-harmful species in this line up of beneficial to humans, wasps are also a very important addition to that list. Unfortunately for the poor wasp they have received a very bad and negative press, with most wrongly believing them to be a harmful pest, with little or no use to humans. As a consequence I find when I explain to clients that wasps are one of my favourite garden insects in spring and summer, due to the number of aphids and other plant damaging insects they can munch through, it is usually met with disbelief.
Possibly a large part of our human fear of wasps lies in their ability to sting multiple times, unlike bees who by virtue of stinging commit what is an act of suicide. However this fear, in the main, is somewhat hysterical and out of context. The important thing to remember is, despite what you may assume, a wasp is not actively looking for a human to sting, but busily trying to collect enough food in the early stages of the year to feed the growing colony back at the nest.

A few wasp (Vespula vulgaris) facts.

1 All wasps build nests, though their nests are different from the bees, which produce a wax substance to create theirs. Wasps chew scraped wood fibre, creating a more papery nests.

2 A social wasp that is upset emits a pheromone to other wasps, signalling them to come and help. Based on this, common sense would tell us to stay calm.

3 Mating takes place between young queens and drones inside the nest. At the end of autumn, the nest dies off leaving only the fertilized queens.

4 The fertilised queen wasp emerges from hibernation around the middle April to begin the search for a suitable nesting site.

5 A queen wasp begins a new colony every spring. First the queen will raise worker wasps to help bring in food and make the nest larger. Then she will begin laying eggs. A colony of wasps can grow to 50,000 in a single summer

6 Although a nest of wasps can contain between ten to fifty thousand wasps there is only one queen at a time in the nest.

7 As summer fades and the weather becomes cooler the workers become tired and aggressive towards anyone deemed a threat. It is at this time of the year when humans are most likely to get stung as the wasps, having done the job of feeding the colony, are now left to their own devices as they die off. It is usually human overreaction and hysteria which triggers alarm in wasps that leads to stinging. Best advice try to stay calm and rational using gentle non aggressive motions to shoo the wasp away. Chances are they will leave you alone and continue their forage.

8 A few common sense rules during late summer and into early autumn when wasps are dying off. Don’t leave sweet sugary drinks or larger in uncovered drinking glasses or cans. If drinking from a can always check that a wasp, or other insect, has not inadvertently gotten into the can prior to drinking. It is not unknown for people to drink from a can only to be stung in the mouth, or throat, by a hidden insect.

9 Although for most a wasp sting will be a minor and short-lived irritation, for a small number it may lead to an allergic reaction, causing anaphylactic shock, which is potentially far more serious. If your reaction to a sting is severe it is best to seek immediate medical help by calling an ambulance.


Last but not least.

For the most part try to be aware of the very important role that wasps play in the control of agricultural pests, which in turn can lead to a reduction in the use of far more noxious and harmful chemicals. 

All pictures and content are the copyrighted property of David Keegan © 2016

Monday, 22 August 2016

Eco Garden Design Project revisited Worsley, Salford, Lancashire, Manchester

The Art of Garden.

Garden viewed from inside dining table

The Brief

It’s a truly wonderful thing to revisit a garden that you have designed and created within its first year to find it brim-full of colour, texture and most of all wildlife. The fundamental design principles behind this project, and the design brief set by my client, was for a low maintenance space, not however within the rigid disciplines of a traditional context. But more outward looking and European in its aesthetic. It was also a requirement that the designs for the garden display a strong architectural context, as well provide a haven for insect life that could coexist in harmony with humans. That’s quite a lot to expect from what is after all little more than a postage stamp size garden. 

Bug wall, green walls sculpture panels and Cor-ten pots.

Western red cedar was used to form the sculptural background frames for the Cor-ten Steel pots

 The Concept

A big part of my vision in setting out to design this garden was to truly create a connection between the inside and outside spaces, but as a garden distinct from a living room, the aim of which, to create a sense of being immersed in the garden even when seated inside. In setting out to achieve this I deliberately set out not to follow the fashion of extending the inside out, but instead, a separate space of nature that, although had a connection to the inside, its flow is complimentary, rather than continuous. In so doing, whilst the 2 spaces coexist and connect, they offer a very distinct set of moods and consequentially, emotional responses. The end result when you are seated inside the house and looking upon the garden it acts as a calming backdrop and picture, as distinct to when you sit in the garden, you are immersed and escape the connection, and its confines, of what we call house, home and room. In this way the garden becomes a distinct, but complimentary, separate space.

Stone cushions designed and made by St├ęphanie Marin, Nice, France

 View from the back of the garden to seating area outside bi fold house doors

The Visit

On this my first summers visit to the garden in year one, I was delighted to find plants dripping with colour and insects busy collecting nectar. A plant of particular note here, as it’s the first time I have used it, is a new hybrid Verbena bonariensis 'Lollipop'  a lower growing and more compact variety than the standard Verbena bonariensis, which can tend to get overly large and scraggly in a small space. Combined with Salvia purpurascens and Echinacea 'White Swan', I also used another somewhat newbie Echinacea hybrid, 'Kim’s Knee High', again, another lower growing and more compact variety of Echinacea, and with an almost metallic sheen to the petals this one is a real star. Contrast that with the soft lime green foliage, pale pinkie white flowers of Origanum vulgare, mixed with creeping lemon thymes, it all combines to create cool lower colours and the perfect foil for the stronger colours of top layer planting. Centered to all this is planted the compact Lavendula munstead, completing this haven of colour and scent. The effect of this style of planting is to create layers of colour and contrast from the ground up to just over 60cm.  Just about the right height for this size space as it provides a good picture without overwhelming the senses of the viewer. 
Planting to the cobbled areas is more muted with silver grey and bronzes to provide a framework for the central zone and includes such gems as Eryngium 'Miss Wilmott's Ghost',contrasted with the bronze panicles of Carex buchananii 'Red Rooster' which picks up the tones of the Cor-ten pots, cobble and boulders. Whilst   the striking and verdantly erect panicles and flower stems of Calamagrostis × acutiflora 'Karl Foerster', now green with flowering stems of soft buff, will extend to the rest of the plant as the seasons move and change, continuing the evolving sense of drama and contrasts in the garden.

A bumble bee busy collecting from the rich nectar store.

Even dragon flies have turned up in the garden to feed on nectar rich plants

The humble white butterfly joins the hunt for nectar.

Log store viewed through the bronze   panicles of  Carex buchananii 'Red Rooster'

Small raised planters at the back of the cedar panel allow hidden space for growing some salad leaves.

Design notes

Garden pots supplied by The Pot Co More info on pots (trade only supply) click this link

Custom made Livingstone cushions designed and manufactured in Nice, France, by St├ęphanie Marin. More info on cushions click this link 

Furniture a bespoke order from the Skyline range made in Belgium. If you are interested in purchasing garden furniture from this range please contact DK Garden Design for prices.

Large boulders sourced from a derelict Japanese garden in Knutsford, the story of which you can find at this link. 

Intermediary feature stones a small quarry I found in North Wales the location of which is a trade secret. 

Base cobble is Scottish river cobble sourced from any number of suppliers found online. All other elements bespoke built by my landscape team.

Content subject to Copyright; David Keegan Garden Design 2016