Wisley has been looking fantastic with the warm weather. Everything is growing quickly now and looking fantastic; the Trials Field is awash with colour (you must see the delphiniums), the Cornus kousa are covered in their coloured bracts and the Glasshouse Landscape is looking delightful. And, of course, the June gems of the romantic Country Garden and everso fragrant Jubilee Rose Garden are in their prime. Fruit and veg are making my mouth water - it's strawberry season!
Our gardens rely on insect pollination to ensure our crops of crisp apples, tasty strawberries and ornamental rose hips. And the RHS Plant for Bugs research project, led by Horticultural Advisor Helen Bostock and RHS Entomologist Andrew Salisbury has just been planted up, beyond the Pinetum on Howard's Field (with control area off site at Deer's Farm). You're free to go have a look anytime.
This is Helen's account of what she and her colleagues did last Thursday:
With nearly eighteen months in the planning for the Plants for Bugs project, it was such a relief to be finally getting some plants in the ground. Across the 18 experimental plots there are over 70 species of plants and 9 different planting plans to get our heads around. Good planning was definitely the key. Despite the wet weather on Tuesday and Wednesday, Tom Brown (Trials) and I marked out 1m grids on the plots and plant-by-plant laid each one in its correct planting position. I was at the plots early Thursday morning (6.30am to be precise!) to ensure the deer hadn't nibbled anything in the night. By 8am we had a couple of planting parties busy at work - Tom and Emma Cox from Trials leading the planting on the Deer's Farm site; myself and Andy Collins (Woody Ornamental) leading the team on the Howard's Field plot. Other members of the project team, Andy Salisbury (Entomology) and James Armitage (Botany) also got stuck in with a spade and trowel for an hour or so. By half past three the trays and plant pots were empty and, in what had turned into a scorcher of a day, all the plants were given a long drink.
We've still around 40% of the plants to arrive and plant later this summer and autumn. There's also the signage being developed to allow visitors to Wisley to see what we're up to. Andy Salisbury and the team are developing the sampling protocols so we can begin to record the insects that visit the plots. There's some way to go but it will be exciting to get the first results in. Will there be any differences between the plots? Will the plots planted with British natives be richer in invertebrates than those planted with exotics or will there be little between them? Andy's high-tech vortis sampler is soon to be put to the test. It's such a strange looking piece of equipment - a bit like a vacuum cleaner crossed with a pneumatic drill! Apparently it's designed to suction insects off plants but I've yet to see it in action.
Next week we'll be starting to recruit volunteers to help with weeding, watering, sampling and observation. If you live local to Wisley and can spare a Thursday each week to help volunteer with Plants for Bugs, contact firstname.lastname@example.org