Why is the bee population in decline and what can we do to help?

There are more than 200 different species of bee found in the UK – and it is no secret that their population numbers are declining.

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Different types of bee include bumblebees, honey bees and solitary/masonry bees. All of them play a key role in the pollination of commercial fruit, nut and vegetable crops across the world. Without bees, these crops would have to be pollinated through other (very costly) means, ultimately increasing the price of our supermarket fruit and vegetables.

The plight of bees is largely due to changes in the UK’s countryside and agriculture over recent decades. Areas which were once covered with wildflower meadows have now been destroyed to make way for more agricultural activity.

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Bees, especially bumblebees, pollinate wildflowers, allowing the flowers to reproduce and produce seeds. The wildflowers themselves are the start of a very complex food chain that helps to sustain birds, mammals and other insects – if the bumblebee population declines so will the wildflowers – and vice versa – affecting thousands of other species of wildlife.

Fortunately, efforts are now being made to help farmers provide bees with areas rich in flowers and nesting sites. If you’re a farmer or landowner, find out how you can help here.

Gardening for bees

We can all make a difference to encourage bees into our garden – even if you’re a beginner gardener or have a small garden, it doesn’t matter, just planting one flower can help!

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The RHS’s website has a great list of wild and garden plants that bees love. Generally, bees are most attracted to purple flowers because that colour is most visible to them. It is also important to make sure the flowers you choose are not too narrow or tunnel-like, otherwise the bee will not be able to get to the centre.

The use of pesticides can be harmful to bees – it is better to use biological control or non-pesticide, organic treatments where possible.

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Flowers which we consider to be weeds such as dandelions are actually firm favourites amongst bees, so leaving one or two in your garden won’t hurt!

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You can also make a nesting site in your garden. This is particularly beneficial to masonry bees who like to nest alone in small holes and tunnels. Small tubes placed around the garden or holes drilled into pieces of wood are great ways to create a home.

Share with us how you’re helping bees in your garden!

Georgina

Exploring the beautiful gardens at Thrive

I recently had the pleasure of visiting the Thrive gardens in Reading.

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Since 1978 the charity has been helping change the lives of people living with disabilities or ill health through gardening, and I found the scale of the work undertaken at Beech Hill in Reading truly remarkable.

I saw the Thrive Trunkwell Garden Project which is set in a Victorian walled garden next to Thrive’s head office.  It features five small gardens, known as the Garden Gallery, for people with specific disabilities.

Each garden has a name:

  • Hearts and Minds Garden – created for stroke survivors or people with heart disease
  • Out of Sight – created for people who have a visual impairment
  • The Journey – created for people recovering from a mental illness, particularly depression.  I found this garden a beautiful and inviting place to sit and relax
  • IMG_7060The Unexpected Gardener – a stylish garden for older people

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  • Just for Fun garden – created for children and young people with special educational needs

Run by volunteers, the Thrive Trunkwell Garden Project enables disabled gardeners to develop their skills using a variety of plants and has areas for growing herbs, fruit and vegetables.  The site also includes a glasshouse and polytunnels, a bee border, a tree nursery, a large wildlife pond and a shop selling plants grown at the project.

Thrive therapists work with more than 100 disabled people each year ranging in age from 14 to 70 years.  The charity also runs gardening programmes in London, Birmingham and Gateshead helping people who want to garden at home, on an allotment or in a community setting.

The work the charity do is amazing, giving confidence and independence to all those that attend through gardening.

Aroonaa

Paskett PR become graffiti artists!

Graffiti tends to have a negative effect on communities, and is a blight on city centres across the country, with people seeing it as serious form of vandalism, which can cost councils huge amounts of money to remove.

There is, however, a new style of graffiti that has been popping up, transforming walls into stunning, green pieces of art. It’s called Moss Graffiti, or Green Graffiti, and it uses moss to create ecologically sound public art, which can be easily removed by spraying with lime juice.

After seeing some beautiful examples, we decided to have a go ourselves and here’s how we did it!

Ingredients

  • Two handfuls of moss (kindly donated by Holly from her shed roof)
  • Two cups of natural yogurt
  • Two cups of water (you can use beer, but, sadly, our office is lacking in that department)
  • Half a teaspoon of sugar

Step One

We washed the moss to remove as much soil possible from the roots – an interesting thing to be caught doing in the communal kitchen!

Step Two

The moss was broken into tiny pieces. It’s recommended that a blender is used to get the moss as broken down as possible, but none of us was willing to sacrifice our blenders to the cause, so we spent a considerable amount of time ripping the moss to shreds.IMG_2933

Step Three

We added the yoghurt, water and sugar, and stirred with a big stick that we remembered was behind the bookcase.

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Step Four

We disembarked into the Friar Gate Studios courtyard and began to paint our design, which I had drawn with chalk on the wall.IMG_7098

Step Five

We wait.

Step Six

We wait some more. And keep the design spritzed with water to encourage it to grow…

We’ll keep you posted on how the Moss Graffiti comes along and ‘the big reveal’ when it’s lush and green; why not try some of your own?

Fay

A workman can blame his tools and still retain dignity

I know the old saying about a poor workman blaming his tools but, when the lawn is growing like blazes, you’ve just spend a couple of hundred pounds having your mower serviced and it conks-out less than half way through its first cut, I seriously think the saying does not apply.

It’s a tractor mower that works hard.   Our garden is on quite a slope and for ten years I’ve been driving it up and down for approximately three hours each weekend.  So, over a 40 week growing season, that’s 50 solid days of mowing – and sometimes I mow twice a week during the real heart of the growing season or we are having guests!

All fondness for the machine quickly evaporated, however, when, without warning, it simply stopped.  I checked the belts and all of the usual suspects for interfering with normal service, but all appeared to be working properly.  This was around 12.30pm on Sunday so not help was available.    Throughout the afternoon I kept returning to see if it had developed a guilty conscience – it had not!

Despite extending my vocabulary into rarely used territory, that mean, little red tractor did not budge.   In the end I wheeled out the trusty 30” Atco Royale, took off the grass collecting box, and walked behind it for, what seemed like hours.    My wife had to admit that the striping achieved with the old machine did look terrific and much better than that produced by the rotary cut with the tractor – but it was jolly hard work!

I was up at the crack of dawn and out again to see if that conscience had been pricked – but it hadn’t.  So I called up the man who had just serviced it.   In his defence he was out within half an hour and as confused about its lack of mobility as I.  We pushed and shoved it off the lawn and up into his van.

A couple of hours later he reappeared and still seemed confused as to why it broke down.  He thought it was something from the coil shorting out so he isolated that piece of kit.  I now have a shiny new silver button on the dash-board of the little red tractor.   It starts with the usual key but now, to turn the engine off, I simply push the button.

To test it thoroughly, I cut the lawn again.  And do you know what?  My wife simply said it looked far better with the Atco.  There’s gratitude for you.

Graham

Get Your Garden Spring & Summer Ready!

Now is a great time to start planning and preparing your garden for spring/summer – it’s time to finally give it some TLC!

Here are some top tips:

  • Spring clean – start with a general tidy up of the garden. Clear away any debris including dead sticks, leaves and any rubbish that may have appeared during the winter months;
  • Remove and compost any dead annual plants that remained over winter;
  • Keep up with your garden maintenance, early spring is the best time to take action against weeds;
  • Get rid of pests! You may have taken the time to help prevent diseases from spreading throughout your garden with general garden cleanliness, but sometimes pests are still drawn to your plants;
  • Give your lawn a health check. If it’s moss-ridden or full of weeds there are plenty of treatments available on the market and there is still time to scarify;
  • Think about and add screening elements like trellises. Trellis fences have high functionality and can be used for various exterior projects and can provide a strong support system for plants and flowers to climb upon;
  • If you haven’t already, install a water butt in your garden. It not only helps the environment but plants benefit much more from rain water than tap water;
  • Plan things out. Before you start planting it’s a good idea to make a plan for what you’re going to grow and where.

Happy gardening!

Aroonaa

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My latest guest blog, now a couple of months in!

There are SO many different types of gardening equipment available. I realised this as I was writing up product descriptions for 13 new garden tractors. Lots of them were very similar, yet had slight differences which I had to outline – not being a garden tractor expert myself, it is harder than it seems to know what readers want to know about in just 100 words. Some of them even charge your phones whilst you ride them!

I’ve been delving into the world of gardening bloggers and podcasts, researching ways in which the Paskett PR clients can get their products talked about through a range of different platforms. There are quite a few of them out there, all offering their own tips and tricks.

The other week I used ‘Agility’ for the first time, which is a programme that contains newspaper, magazine and website contacts. You can then put together a personalised spreadsheet of publications which for instance, only talk about the latest gadgets or interior design. This is great for creating contact sheets for a client on places that their products may be able to get featured.

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It’s a cliché, but no two days are the same

As you can see I’m always kept busy, which is great because even though I’m only here once a week I’m still learning lots about working in PR, and helping where I can with different research tasks.

I noticed at Uni the other week that the Derby Internship Programme has lots of new roles being advertised ready for April. I would definitely recommend an internship to anyone to truly get a feel for the environment that you want to work in. It also gives you work experience which will look great on your CV!

Olivia

If you don’t like the view consider growing a hedge

House developers from the South have managed to acquire several fields around my home and have started work on building 140 houses. Both local authorities unanimously rejected the application and more than 3000 local people in and around Uttoxeter signed a petition against it. But the developers went to appeal and a planning official from Bristol who clearly knew Uttoxeter like the back of his hand – not – said yes, destroying these ancient fields.  The area is known as Oldfields.

…Hey ho, so much for history and local democracy.

So, what to do? There is a very old traditional hedge that separates one of the fields from our view and this will be terrific in the summer, when in full leaf. But as I write the vision of diggers, dumper trucks and workmen is all too clear from our home – not to mention the noise.

Creating screening hedges

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My wife and I have taken lots of advice and settled on a three-pronged approach. I have bought a quantity of black thorn which are about 18” high. I need to know where the real gaps are when the hedge is in leaf so, I have planted them in large pots that currently stand in a sheltered walled garden. I shall put them out strategically into the hedge in the summer.

Phase two is a line of 35 leylandii that will fill in another gap. These were planted a couple of weeks ago, and are two meters high and pot grown and, assuming the rabbits leave them alone, they will develop into a dense view and noise absorbing hedge that I shall top off at about 20 feet.

To add some green contrast to the leylandii we have planted a double row of laurels, again I shall leave them to mature to a hedge of about 15 feet high. Between the leylandii and the laurels is a gap of about eight feet and I shall plant this out with various trees that I am growing on from seedlings. These include beech, sycamore, holly and birch.

We recognise we are late in starting this project but hope that within a few years we will have some protection from the view of the houses – and they from us.

Graham

Re-raising Lazarus the Prunus tree

Following Storm Doris we lost four trees in our Staffordshire garden but one of them – a very mature Prunus – has been renamed Lazarus.  It crashed down onto the lawns and was in a terrible mess.  The root ball was about four meters high.   I spent hours cutting off the top and all the branches leaving the main trunk which, at the root, was half a meter diameter.

Using my battery powered chain saw, and staring at the top and thinner end of the trunk, I cut up into useful log lengths.  The main trunk divided into two so there was plenty of cutting up. After a couple of hours my back was aching so I decided to step down into the hole behind the upturned root ball and began trimming off the main roots.

Suddenly, there was a creaking noise and very gently the root ball and remaining trunk, which is about three meters high, began to tip backwards.  I had to jump out of the root hole very rapidly or would have been partially buried.  Now, the remaining trunk, free of any foliage or side branches, is sitting in its original hole and looks rather like an American Indian totem pole.

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It will be very interesting to see if it re-roots itself and continues to grow.  Watch this space!

Graham

It’s now my 6th week as a Paskett PR intern!

These past few weeks have definitely flown by as there has been lots of interesting things that I have been involved in here as part of the Paskett PR team.

Last week I was lucky enough to go along to Warwick so that I could see for myself what a client meeting consists of. It was great to see the amount of ideas that get bounced around between everyone! I found that everything has to be organised and planned well in advance in order to make the biggest impact on the upcoming releases and campaigns.

No two days are the same

My time in the office has been spent carrying out various different research tasks. From finding the craziest, biggest hedges, to looking for people who might be interested in using the space in a window unit at a shopping centre. The exercises have definitely been varied.

One of the things I have been doing today is some writing for competitions that will be going in The Sun. I have realised it can actually be quite hard to cut down product descriptions for gardening tools – they have so many details and specifications, even for a fork and spade!

As I carry on with my internship I am looking forward to writing some press releases, and perhaps even seeing some of my work being published. Getting feedback from clients on research that I have done for them will also be rewarding, knowing that I am actively partaking in helping the team.

Keep an eye out for more of my intern updates!

Olivia