Apple Day 2010

Sustainable Bungay are joining forces with the Suffolk Wildlife Trust in their annual Apple Day at Castle Meadow on October 2nd (12-4). There will be all manner of fruity events, tastings and a press for juicing your surplus apples. So, if you have any apples you’d like pressed bring them along and we’ll help you to make some delicious apple juice! To make things even easier, we can collect your apples from you on Saturday morning and take them to the press; just have them picked, bagged / boxed and ready for us to collect (contact email at the end of this post).

Jim Cooper of Clarkes Lane Orchard will be identifying apples, so do bring any mystery fruit along. You’ll also be able to find out more about our new Abundance of Fruit project. We’re working alongside Halesworth in Transition and Sustainable Beccles who have had great success with their neighbourhood tree mapping and Apple Shareing. We are planning to hold community produce exchanges at the Library too, like our Give and Grow Seedling Swap in May.

For more information about our Abundance project contact Cathy:

Autumn Newsletter (No. 7)

After much work (and more than a little editing) Charlotte, Kris and Mark have produced the Autumn Newsletter: a big thank you to them, everyone who contributed and to Helen for sorting out the printing for us at fairly short notice. Paper copies will be distributed today and tomorrow (look out for them in all the usual spots, particularly the Little Green Shop and Library) and will be available at the Library Community Garden launch this Sunday (19th, from midday).

This quarter’s issue has a few reports from our project groups – including Bungay Community Bees, Give and Take, the Library Garden and an Abundance of Fruit – as well as the usual diary section. But most of the centre spread is given over to summaries of our project groups, their current work and their future plans. Please do get in touch if any of these tickle your fancy and you’d like to get involved!

You can download a .pdf version of newsletter here: Newsletter 7

Heavy Syrup

I spoke to Bob Spruce at the opening of the Waveney Beekeepers Group Training Apiary at the weekend ( a facility for training new beekeepers and raising new bees) and his top tip for preparing for winter was feed, feed, feed (and check them early in Spring).

So today was Bee Feeding Day.  Up until now I have only prepared light ‘summer-weight’ syrup, but for autumn feeding the bees are given a heavy syrup to bulk out their stores.  They are quite different, like comparing a golden ale and a chocolate stout. It was heavy indeed – the spoon wasn’t quite standing up in it, but there was a fair old resistance when stirring.  I followed the quantities of sugar and water given in Ted Hoopers book and couldn’t get the syrup to clear past a suspension, so had to add a little more water – I’m sure the bees will manage it.

All was going well, docile bees and enough feeders for each hive, until the very last one, when a gap between my trousers and smock developed.  It didn’t take long for the bees to find their access point and I felt the now familiar fluttery buzz against my skin.  At this point many thoughts jostled for space in my mind; poor little bees stuck in my clothing; will I get stung? how can I get them out? how many exactly are in there? which ones will sting me? where exactly are they? how long have I got before I get stung? what can I take off without making myself totally vulnerable to all the other flying bees? These questions were cut off relatively quickly by a sting on the arm followed by one on the back.  I didn’t manage to get the sting out straight away so that one is the most sore.  Luckily I don’t appear to react too badly. One other bee managed a lucky escape as I stripped the smock off, good job too or I would have sat on it as I got into the car….

Planting the Courtyard Garden

Over the last fortnight plants have been arriving at the library, donated in response to our appeal. On Saturday a good number of people turned up to plant out sedum, verbena, primroses, currants, gooseberries a whole range of mints and lavenders. The beds around the edge of the garden are dedicated to more permanent, perennial, planting (fruit bushes and trees, herbs and so on) the central bed will change fairly regularly but is going to start off show-casing bee and butterfly plants – many of which are listed as part of our Plants for Bees project.

Most of the hard landscaping work is now complete, bird and bat boxes are up, trellis secured and the benches will be fastened to the walls this week – everything appears to be on target for the Grand Opening on the 19th!

Bungay Plant Hunters (press release)

Apple Blossom

Sustainable Bungay and Bungay Library are looking for plants to complete their newly built community garden.

Over the last year a group from Sustainable Bungay have been working to transform the courtyard at Bungay Library into a community garden. The first stage of the project – building the garden – is drawing to a close, and to celebrate Sustainable Bungay and the Library are hosting a grand opening on Sunday the 19th of September.

But before then there is still work to be done, not least finding plants and filling the new raised beds, so the group are launching an appeal for plants. These will go into the permanent beds around the edge of the courtyard (there is a central bed for seasonal displays) and, in keeping with the desire to mix the functional with the aesthetic, the wish list includes fruiting bushes and herbs as well as bee and butterfly plants.

“We want to fill the beds with vegetables, herbs, dye plants, native flowers, fruit trees, exotics and more; we’re also planning to display information about the history and uses of the plants,” said Nick Watts, who’s been coordinating the project for Sustainable Bungay. The group hopes the space will turn into a ‘living library’ and that the garden will become a haven for story telling, outdoor events and quiet reading.

The project got underway in January when Sustainable Bungay, part of the Transition movement, organised a permaculture design course at the library. More than just an approach to garden design permaculture – taken from the terms ‘permanent culture’ and ‘permanent agriculture’ – is a way of thinking about and creating sustainable communities as well as sustainable food production systems. Inspired by the course, the group set about using what they had learned to create a productive and beautiful space at the library.

The idea of transforming the unappealing paved courtyard has really caught on and Sustainable Bungay and the library have received generous donations from individuals, the Town Council, Bungay Town Trust, the Bungay Society and from a Mad Hatter’s Tea Party organised by Three Willows Cafe. So far the money has been used to pay a professional bricklayer to build raised beds using donated bricks, buy fruit trees, commission a unique hazel screen and purchase oak to create seats. The rest of the work, including shifting 5 tonnes of topsoil into the raised beds, has been done by volunteers.

The full list of plants is available in the library, but the group would particularly like to hear from you if you have any spare blackcurrant or redcurrant bushes, sweet woodruff, primroses, bay or verbena. Sustainable Bungay can be contacted at or through the library and there is more about the project on their website:

Notes for Editors:
For more information about the library courtyard garden please contact Charlotte Du Cann Email:
Founded in 2008 Sustainable Bungay is a community-led response to the triple crunch of climate change, peak resources and the economic crisis. We’re part of the Transition Network [] and believe that the best way to effect positive change for sustainability is through community activities – from bee-keeping to bottling.
For more about Sustainable Bungay, including more photos of the garden, visit

Bees flowers and gardens

Geranium and Morning Glory
Anise Hyssop

Anise Hyssop

A few weeks back Charlotte and I gave a talk on some research we’ve doing on bees and plants. I’ve been looking at what bees collect from plants (pollen, nectar, propolis etc.) and hence, what constitutes a good bee garden? Charlotte’s been looking at wildflowers and trees for bees and has taken some fantastic pictures of her discoveries.

The interaction between bees and plants is such an incredible world to delve into. Charlotte points out that, when walking in the garden or in the wild, it sometimes feels as if a dormant part of the brain has woken up as you begin to notice the intricate, exciting, living world around you and that you are surrounded by living hubs of activity.

Amid this seeming chaos, the bee’s stunning talent for organisation and structure, never ceases to amaze me. Every action has a purpose and a meaning, embedded in rituals that make every step a step forward, a step in living and surviving. It makes me feel very humble and at times inefficient!

Bee Gardens

We’ve been in our house for just over a year now. When we arrived there was little more than grass, a handful of fruit trees and some empty beds. It was an interesting and slightly scary blank page for my first venture into the world of herbs, flowers and bushes. I knew little about flowers, other than how to appreciate and admire their shapes, color patterns and structure, but had always felt that there would be a time where I would be able to give them my full attention (and this is it).

Initially, I didn’t really think about bees much as I was deciding what to plant. I was mainly operating instinctively, remembering a certain name or color that I like. I hoped that having some flowers in the garden, whatever they are, would undoubtedly attract some bees. However, as I’ve become more aware of the beauty of bees and the challenges facing them, I’ve started to think very differently about what I put in my garden.

What came first the bee or the flower?

The colored flowers and primitive bees probably evolved together, the bee getting its food from the flower and attracted by its colour, the flower advertising its wares with colour to ensure its pollination.

Bees have this near symbiotic relationship with most brightly colored flowers, flowering shrubs, bulbs, fruit trees, herbs and vegetables. By planting an attractive, colorful, medicinal, fruitful, garden you can become a friend to the bees! With bees come a flurry of other creatures, including: butterflies, moths, ladybirds, an amazing array of different stripped hoverflies etc… It is really enchanting.

The Bee’s Harvest

Rock Rose

Rock Rose

The bee takes four elements from the flower: Pollen, Nectar, Propolis and Water. Each has a different role to play in the bee’s life and in the flower’s life. In brief (as this is a whole subject in itself):

  • Nectar: a sugar-rich liquid produced by the plants. It is produced either by the flowers, in which it attracts pollinating animals, or by extrafloral nectaries that provide a nutrient source to animal mutualists providing anti-herbivore protection.
  • Pollen: a fine to coarse powder containing the microgametophytes of seed plants, which produce the male gametes(sperm cells). Pollen grains have a hard coat that protects the sperm cells during the process of their movement between the Stamens and the Pistil of the flowering plants or from the male cone to the female cone of coniferous plants. When pollen lands on a compatible pistil of flowering plants, it germinates and produces a pollen tube that transfers the sperm to the ovule of a receptive ovary, this is pollination taking place.
  • Water: used by the bees to cool down the hive in very hot weather
  • Propolis: used like a glue in the hive to fix broken combs and to mummify any intruders that could contaminate the hive. Bees have done a incredible job for us with the discovery of propolis. Research has found that propolis forms the bees external immune defence system and makes the beehive one of the most sterile environments known to nature. It is antibiotic, anti inflammatory, antiviral, antifungal, antioxidant and antiseptic!

Planting a Bee-friendly Garden

Apple Blossom

Apple Blossom

When planting a bee garden it is important to think with the calendar. In particular, plants should be selected that flower at times when pollen is very scarce (inside or outside the hive) as should plants that flower in the autumn, which provide food for the winter.

Bees get most of their food from wild flowers so bee gardens are essentially a top up. However, they can also be an essential lifeline particularly in rural areas (like ours) where massive monocultures can render large areas of the countrysides barren as far as the bee is concerned for much of the year! We have a job to do I feel!!

Below are some lists I’ve collected of Bee friendly plants for use in Bee gardens:



Annuals: Annual plants are those that complete their life cycle from seed to seed in the course of a single season. In general, planting in full sun will always attract more bees than in shady areas. Bee-friendly annuals include:



    Opium Poppy

    Opium Poppy



  • Alyssum: oblong-oval leaves and yellow or white flowers
  • Balendula: pot marigold bright yellow/reds/oranges
  • Balsam (impatiens glandulifera): Himalayan balsam, flowers between June and October
  • Borago officinalis: herb blue flowers
  • Candytuft: white coton ball flowers
  • China aster: native of China, daisy family wite, purple and yellow flowers
  • Collinsia: 25 species Smallflower Blue-eyed Mary and the Violet Blue-eyed Mary
  • Convolvulus: bind weed family 250 species delicate white bell like flowers
  • Coreopsis: yellow flower (a bit like a marigold) also called tickseed
  • Cornflower (centaurea cyanus): in blue, purple, pink and white, not as common in fields anymore, very pretty flower
  • Cosmos: variety of flowers very common to english gardens
  • Eschscholtzia: poppy family short bushy bottom with delicate yellow/orange flowers
  • Gaillardia: “blanket flowers” red center with yellow tips
  • Lavatera: tree mallows, rose mallows, royal mallows or annual mallows. White,pink or red petals
  • Limnanthes: meadow foams small bushy flowers yellows/white
  • Linum: includes common flax white/blue flower
  • Malope: ornamental plant,pink flowers
  • Nemophila: baby blue eyes
  • Nigella: cottage garden flower/blue with red stamens:
  • Phacelia
  • Poppy
  • Rudbeckia: Daisy like yellow orange heads
  • Sapononaria: Soapwort
  • Scabious: Rich nectar soft lavendar blue,white,lilac
  • Sunflower
  • Viscaria: Sticky catch fly, purply pink flower
  • Zinnia: White, chartreuse, yellow, orange, red, purple, and lilac.

Perennials: Plants that live for more than two years and are usually capable of flowering every season. Bee friendly perennials:

Geranium and Morning Glory

Geranium and Morning Glory

  • Achillea (Yarrow): very common in headgrows
  • Anchusa: small blue flowers
  • Aubrieta: Hardy violet pink white flowers
  • Bears breeches (acanthus)
  • Campanula: “Little bell” purple color
  • Canterbury bells: Blue, purple, mauve
  • Catmint: long flowering season, fills the june gap!
  • Centaurea: Thistle like flowering plants
  • Cynoglossum: Hounds tounge, furry blue purple flower
  • Epilobium: Small bushy plant pink flowers
  • Erigeron: Greek early old man white hairs soon after flowering
  • Eupatorium: Commonly called bonesets, thoroughworts or snakeroots.
  • Fuchsia: Beautiful delicate red flower
  • Geraniums,]
  • Golden rod: Golden yellow flowers in clumps on long stems
  • Grannys bonnet (aquilega vulgaris)
  • Helenium: Sneezeweed based on the former use of its dried leaves in making snuff, inhaled to cause sneezing that would supposedly rid the body of evil spirits.
  • Hollyhock

  • Hollyhock
  • Lenten rose (helleborus x hybridus)
  • Lythrum: loosestrife
  • Michelmas daisy
  • Monkshood (aconitum)
  • Myosotis: Greek mouses’s ear, yellow center, blue leaves
  • Peony
  • Rosa bracteata: “mermaid” tall climber, long flowering single climber
  • Rosa primula: early flower spreading shrub
  • Sedum spectabile
  • Sidalcea: Checkerblooms or checkermallows.
  • Single flowered roses: “dunwich rose” pimpinellifolia, “canary bird” early flowering
  • Statice: Sea Lavender, Statice, or Marsh-rosemary
  • Winter aconite (eranthis hyemalis)

Flowering Shrubs:

  • Barberries (Berberis spp.)
  • Buckthorn
  • Cotoneasters (Horizontalis Microphyllus spp.)
  • Escalonia (Escallonia “langleyensis”)
  • Pyracantha (Pyracantha coccinea)
  • Shrubby Honeysuckles (Lonicera spp.)
  • Snowberry (Symphoricarpos Albus): Long flowering season, rich in nectar
  • Tree Heath (Erica mediterranea)
  • Yellow Buddleia (Buddleia Globosa)

Early Spring Bulbs: Plenty to choose from:

  • Bue Siberian Squills (Scilla)
  • Crocus
  • Daffodils
  • Hyacinth
  • Narcissus
  • Snow Glories (Chionodoxa)
  • Tulips

A Living World of Plants.



It strikes me as incredible how much nature talks. Just like a person there maybe symptoms of ill health, caused by poor growing conditions, abuse or sometimes neglect. There can also be signs of positivity and greatness, such as when you see a tree or a plant and just by looking at it you are filled with joy. As in all things, the more conscious and respectful a gardener you are, the more rewards you will get. Never forget the importance of stopping and looking. Recently, I watched a wasp catch and sever the head of a housefly and then carefully carry the body off. It was like stepping out of my reality into another.

Tuning in:

The more tuned in we become, the more we will love and appreciate what nature is, gives, lives and the more we will work to save and protect it. Part of me thinks that if you took the most angry, selfish greedy, unemotional fat cat and took him by the hand, led him into an ancient forest to stop look and listen at what is under around and above us then somewhere inside something will have stirred and moved him, like a dried leaf on a half windy day just enough to pick it up and turn it on its side. Just as Charlotte says, it is in all of us.
As long as the bees continue to buzz we will continue to be.

Bee Hotels

Humble Solitary Bees are also important pollinators and becoming more so with the decline of hive bees. However, they spend most of their time looking for somewhere to nest. You can give them somewhere to live (so that they can get on with the important businesses of pollinating and reproducing) by building a Bee hotel! Bee hotels are easy to create and great to do with kids!

A couple of websites that sell ready made bee hotels:

Bees for Development

Based in the UK, Bees for Development promote beekeeping as a tool for rural economic development throughout the world, with a strong emphasis on countries in Africa.

Photography Copyright © Mark Watson 2010

Wild Flowers for Bees


This is a wild flower list primarily for honeybees. Honeybees “work” flowers in a different way from bumble and other wild bees. They like to visit a stand of one species of flower at a time, rather than hop from one kind of flower to another. They also have a shorter proboscis which means they can access a smaller range of flowers than bumble bees. Flowers which require deeper probing, for example buddleia and honeysuckle, are inaccessible to honeybees, unless their bases have been pierced previously by other insects.

Certain species of flowers provide food for honeybees – for themselves and the brood, as well as winter stores. In addition to seeking nectar (sugars and essential minerals) and pollen (protein and fat) from flowers, bees are also on the lookout for propolis made from the gummy substances of plants, such as poplar and horse chestnut buds, pine resin and sunflowers. Bees also collect honeydew, the sweet substance exuded from sap-eating insects (e.g aphids) on trees, principally lime and pines. This provides the dark, strong tasting tree honeys, much loved in Europe.

This list has been compiled to bring attention to those wild flowers that have fed honeybees for millions of years. Like all creatures the vegetarian bees flourish best on a varied diet of wild plants. Though they visit the crops growing on agricultural land, from apple orchards and oil rape fields, it is the native or naturalised wild plants growing in uncontaminated soil that keep them in optimum health (and yield the best honey!). So you can really help the bee by protecting wild flowers and trees everywhere and allowing or planting some of the following species in your gardens and backyards:-

Winter quiet

 Though the main emphasis is on keeping the hive at a warm and even temperature and preparing the brood, emerging snowdrops and winter aconites will be sought out by worker bees foraging on mild and sunny days. Pollen is collected from the early flowering hazel and alder catkins.

Spring Activity (March-May)

In March the hive really starts to buzz as the Queen starts to lay and focus ison supplying the expanding brood with nectar and pollen. The hedgerows

are the first to burst into flower, beginning with cherry plum (sometimes as early as Feb) and ending with hawthorn in mid-May. All blossoms are widely visited by bees including blackthorn, cherry, plum, damson, bullace and crab apple. Other trees that are widely visited are the horse chestnut for its nectar and sycamore for its pollen. Key Spring tree for the pollen is pussy willow. If you stand underneath a willow tree in March you can hear the whole world buzzing.

Meanwhile closer to ground on the verges, before the first cut at the beginning of May, the bees are out seeking wild strawberries, forget-me-not and garlicky jack-in-the-hedge, and in the woods bugle, and the neglected but fine old world medicine plant, figwort. Out on the heath and scrublands the whole hive is making a bee-line to the shocking yellow pea-flowers of gorse, followed in May by the broom. March and April are the best months for their favourite composite flower that grows just about everywhere, the dandelion.

Note on weeds! In Spring weeds are going for it and reaching for the sky, as every keen gardener laments. However bees love weeds, especially those troublesome and untidy thistles and dandelions, so do leave some of those sunny flower-heads in your path for them. And cultivate a taste for a “French lawn” sprinkled with daisies, white clover and self-heal.   


comfrey on the verge

June Gap


This is the month where the hive is at its most active but there are few blossoms on the trees (Holly is the exception here) and few large stands of flowers. “Arable weeds” such as field poppies, viper’s bugloss and cornflowers were traditionally in their height this month before pesticides came to the fields and white clover, perhaps the bees’ top-ranking nectar flower, has been equally reduced in the meadows. However these flowers still grow in the margins where they can (and in bee lovers’ gardens). Opium poppies spring up in the wastelands everywhere this month and are avidly worked by bees for their (blue) pollen.

Other key wild flowers out now are the wild dog rose and common mallow in the hedgerows, bell heather in the heathlands, thyme in the hilly places and tree mallow by the sea. The sky-blue meadow cranesbill is also much sought out by bees, as are fruit “bushes” such as the moorland bilberry and woodland wild raspberry.

  Harvest Months (July – September) 

 These are the months the bees start building their store cupboard. The Queen is still busy laying, but the honeycombs are being stocked for the future months, as well as for the brood. Big nectar trees are the three species of lime that flower early in July and blackberry. The ditches and waste places are rich places for foraging bees in high summer, as meadow sweet, St John’s wort, evening primrose, teasel, great mullein, chicory, and the highly attractive rosebay willowherb and the melilots (white and yellow) all start to flower. All species of thistles are highly valued, especially the fragrant creeping thistle.


Down by the river the showy purple loosestrife is now at its peak, alongside great willowherb, Himalayan balsam and water mint. At the seaside the prickly scented flowers of sea-holly are visited by all bees and small butterflies, such as common blue and coppers, as is sea lavender in the salt marsh.

ling on the heath

Later in the season the purple-headed knapweeds come into play on the verges, with stands of yellow common toadflax and goldenrod. By late August heather (ling) is blazing on heaths and hilltops everywhere (its nectar yielding the much prized heather honey).

  Fall to Winter The brood is diminishing and the focus is on preparing the hive for winter. By October the Queen is only laying in good weather and the drones are evicted. Outside the hive, the sturdy knapweeds are still flowering in the hedgerows and meadows, as are the sea asters in the marshlands. The main destination for bees (and all insects) however is the ivy. This green plant that climbs along walls and up trees everywhere is in full flower until the frosts. Though some wild plants flower further into the winter (chickweed, yarrow) the ivy marks the end of the  bee flower year . . . until the hazel flowers at the beginning of January.

hazel catkins

photos: pasque flower, bluebells and forget-me-nots; Dunwich snowdrops; blackthorn and Danish scurvy grass; gorse, dandelion field, poet’s narcissus; white clover and making frames for the Flixton hives; looking at bees among the toadflax on the verge.