Posted by: christinelaennec | June 15, 2015

For the love of bees

Katharine Stewart began her June 15th essay by remarking:  “Another summer day to celebrate!”  And we have been doing the same.  Last week was really glorious, til about Friday lunchtime when it got a bit chilly again.  But we have had lovely hours of summer weather over the weekend, and certainly the warmth has brought things into bloom.  Even with a chilly spring, Glasgow is ahead of Aberdeen.  I don’t think I ever had a rose bloom before the very end of June in Aberdeen.

"A Shropshire Lad" rose, Glasgow,14 June 2015.

“A Shropshire Lad” rose, Glasgow, 14 June 2015.

Most of her June 15th essay Stewart devotes to bees, and how precious they are to her.  She wrote:  “Every day I walk up … to inspect the hive.  Every day I hope to find the happy, busy flying of bees in and out.  There are bees flying, but not in the numbers expected at this time.  They won’t be swarming, that’s one thing sure.  A swarm in June is ‘worth a silver spoon,’ the old saying goes.” (A Garden in the Hills, p. 81)

A busy bee!  14 June 2015, Glasgow.

A busy bee! 14 June 2015, Glasgow.  (I’m not sure what kind of bee this is.  Not a bumblebee I don’t think?)

She writes, “Some years ago I had several hives and could happily give swarms to neighbours.  Today the important thing is to keep my few precius bees alive.  I remember the time when they died, unbelievably, in early summer.  To work about the garden with no humming of bees brought such a sense of unreality and loss that I scoured the countryside looking for someone’s surplus hive, begging for a swarm.  Eventually I found a beekeeper with a nucleus for sale. … They’ve adapted and built themselves into a resonable colony now and are a most precious asset.  I’ll slip another chunk of last year’s honey into the hive to make sure they don’t starve.  It seems absurd to be feeding bees in the summer, but the weather has been so unpredictable – snow in May and gales and heavy bursts of rain – that the good has been largely washed out of the flowers.  The late flowering plants may have escaped and the heather is still to come.  So we still hope there may be a little surplus honey for our winter toast.” (p. 81)

"Guinée" rose, Glasgow, 15 June 2015.

“Guinée” rose, Glasgow, 15 June 2015.

I do garden with the bees in mind, although my English roses are not much use to them.  But I encourage the foxglove, and other open-petalled blossoms such as the native calendula.  I’ve planted a cotoneaster, which is still small but which bees love.  And of course, we’ve planted clover in our lawn for them.

The Dafter and Michael have become interested in bees.  A few years ago in Aberdeen, when I was tending the church garden, there was a nest of bumblebees inside the tool shed.  The Bumblebee Conservation Trust told us how to move them to a place that was safer for them and us.  Michael did the job, as I was too nervous.  We didn’t have any specialist equipment, we just tucked his jeans into his socks and covered him as well as we could.  He picked up their nest with a shovel, oh so gently, and transported it to a safer spot.  The bees were all around, but never stung him.  He just loved it!  He said – and he is not one given to using New Agey phrases – that they had “a lovely energy”.

The Dafter has been wanting to get a bee house for the garden, possibly one for solitary bees.  We will have to find out a bit more about it – where to put such a thing, for example.  Do share your expertise with us! (Carin!)

Guinée indoors.

Guinée indoors.

In my garden in Glasgow, I have planted eight English roses, kept two old tea roses, and I planted one old climbing rose, Guinée.  This deep red rose has a scent that is just out of this world.  I wish I could make a smell file for you!  It was bred in 1938 in France, and apparently is attractive to bees.  Why did I choose this rose?  Because there is one in a garden I’ve known for years in Aberdeen, the much-loved garden of a dear friend.  So it’s a little bit of Aberdeen in my garden, a link to a part of my life that has continued on, in different ways, in this new place.

I wish you all a good start to the week.  And I wish a Happy Birthday to my Granny tomorrow, bless her.



  1. You have shared some beautiful roses, I do so wish that I could no help in that department. Maybe get in touch with someone that keeps them for some advice. Have a great week.

  2. You have shared some beautiful roses in your post today I do so wish that we had the technology to share the smell. I am a little apprehensive around bees so I am no help to you in that department. Maybe get in touch with someone that keeps them for some advice. Have a great week.

  3. Your roses are so beautiful !! We also have bees in our garden, mostly in the spring when they come out. They are all in our insect hotel that is standing in our garden. When the sun begins to shine warm, the bees come out. These are all solitary bees and they don’t harm you.

  4. That rose is just gorgeous. I put lots of flowers on the edge of my vegetable garden this year to attract any type of pollinators. I hope it works. So far only some have come up. Happy Gardening.

  5. I think it is a honey bee.

  6. Lovely post, Christine. We had a swarm of bees just beyond our kitchen window, a few weeks ago. Our elderly neighbour reminded us that a swarm in May is worth a load of hay. Apparently a swarm in July isn’t worth a fly.

  7. I think it is a honey bee. You’ll soon see many more when your cotoneaster flowers. My husband and I used to keep bees. You know that it’s a bit addictive, don’t you? One hive is never enough. Contact your local beekeepers’ society for knowledge about bees and their habits in your area. Now is the season for getting a swarm, but you have to be prepared for it. Good luck!

  8. It looks to me like a honey bee, although I’m no expert. I like what Katharine Stewart wrote about bees, their buzz is a real summer sound and one I always enjoy. I feel I can imagine the smell of your glorious roses. I read recently that 80% of British gardens have a lawn, but 85% of gardens contain roses.

  9. Amazingly beautiful flowers!

  10. That Guinee rose looks absolutely amazing — I can imagine how heavenly it must smell! I would like more roses — I have no shade, really, and our climate is not the best — they take a lot of fiddling here. I need easy-care stuff. 🙂 My sister has more shade and is happy to cater to them and so has a gorgeous climber and some others. We shall see…..

  11. Thank you all for your comments. How fun to think a honey bee visited our foxglove! That is a nice thought.

    I’ve read that “bee hotels” for solitary bees must be kept dry over the winter or the bees will die. So this will take a bit more thought on our part. You can bring the bee hotel inside for the winter but we have no place we could do that; or you can build a good overhang to protect them.

    Martin, I love the two sayings! Thank you.

    Heather, I always thought roses need sun and space, rather than shade? I know some people think roses need a lot of care. I follow four principles: in the summer I give each rosebush a pailful of water, and the rest of the time I don’t water them much (either lots or little, so the roots go deep); I put manure around their bases in the autumn; I trim them in early spring; and I deadhead them until mid-September. I just love them so much that deadheading is a great pleasure for me, like visiting a friend. But perhaps not everyone feels the same way! In which case it is work.

  12. Ici ausi les abeilles se font de plus en plus rares et nous veillons à garder le plus de fleurs possible pour elles, en particulier les pissenlits qu’elles aimenst beaucoup, au printemps, .
    Vos roses sont magnifiques Christine et j’aime beaucoup l’idée d’en planter “en souvenir de”.
    Votre article sur votre grand-mère m’a beaucoup émue. Très bon anniversaire à elle en effet et très bonne semaine à vous !

    • Annie, j’avoue que j’arrache les pissenlits! Oui, en effet le jardin contient beaucoup de souvenirs et de liens avec certains amis lointains, et avec d’autres endroits. Je suis contente que l’article sur ma grand-mère vous ait plu. J’ai aussi des marguerites qui me la rappellent. Elle adorait ses “Shasta daisies”.

  13. Hi, i´ve read on “” that Guinèe and Souvenir du Dr. Jamain don´t enjoy the sun like other roses do. I am thinking and rethinking of growing one on a west wall but i am so affraid she won´t produce many flowers or that she may not survive our winter. I live in northern Germany. Does your Guinèe bloom well? Thank you!

    • Dear Climene,
      My Guinee is only a year and a half old, so it’s a bit early to know, but she’s had about 9 roses this first year. She’s planted on a south-west facing fence which is fairly protected from the wind. My friend’s Guinee is at least 30 years old and has survived all those winters in Aberdeen, including some prolonged below-freezing spells such as we had in 2010/2011 when it was about -20C on a few occasions. My friend gives his rose no special treatment and she blooms every summer, albeit not prolifically. So that’s the best answer I can give you at the moment! I hope that helps.

      • Thank you very much for yor answer! It was really helpful, Christine! 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: