This week in the garden
In the news....
Tests in the US showed neonicotinoids – pesticides used widely in America and the UK, but banned in several other European countries – made bees more susceptible to disease even in tiny doses.
In the UK, the chemicals are used on oilseed rape and also in gardens – look out for the names thiamethoxam, thiacloprid, acetamiprid and imidacloprid on pest control sprays.
UK scientists say other factors may play a part and more research is needed. But 25 MPs supported an early day motion from Labour MP Martin Caton calling for all products containing neonicotinoids to be temporarily suspended.
On the subject of pests: the tiny viburnum beetle has knocked the mighty slug off the top of the RHS's list of most troublesome garden critters. The beetle's creamy yellow larvae reduce beautiful viburnum leaves to ugly lace doilies in late spring. No wonder we're bothered.
Elsewhere on the web...
We're getting the first sneak peeks into the show gardens being created for this year's RHS Chelsea Flower Show. Anne-Marie Powell gives a hint of the emotional rollercoaster designers must ride: 'palm-sweating', 'sickening' and 'petrifying', followed by screams, tears and quivering – and that's just when the RHS gave her the thumbs-up.
Kew has announced it's staging its first Chelsea garden for years, while Cleve 'Five RHS Gold Medals' West has been talking to his sponsor, The Telegraph, about the Libyan inspiration behind his sunken garden: 'I'm sure it will be fine,' he says, opting for bravado in the face of rising panic. 'The only concern I've got is that some people might not quite get it.'
This week's good listen: Sarah Swadling visiting a commercial Cornish daffodil farm in the rain for BBC Radio 4's 'On Your Farm': a world in which daffs come in the tens of millions.
And this week's good read: the ongoing saga of Rhizowen's attempts to introduce Peruvian root vegetables into UK gardens. As heartbreaking a tale of life conspiring against a dedicated gardener as you will ever hear.
Out and about...
For keen veg growers, Potato Days are like being let loose in a sweetshop. Old heritage varieties with names like Shetland Black rub shoulders with the very latest modern disease-resistant types, tempting you to try something new. The king of them all is the National Potato Day next Saturday at Ryton, Garden Organic's show garden near Coventry, but there are others all around the country too.
Birdwatcher extraordinaire Bill Oddie is dropping by later in the week with a post giving his take on this national love-in with our garden birds; and there are dozens of mass birdwatching events all over the country on the weekend itself. RSPB experts are at the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh, and you can feed the birds at the Winkworth Arboretum in Gloucestershire, or enjoy the shelter of the Palm House at Sefton Park, Liverpool, where there's also a display of tropical birds to brighten the winter gloom.