Valerie Radestock with her bee orchids. Picture by Jennifer Burton.
IT MAY be the wet weather or some other factor I know nothing about, but this year there seems to be a profusion of my favourite little plant, the bee orchid, otherwise known as ophrys apifera.
But should you worry the severe absence of bees caused by the wet, chill climate will prevent its procreation, fret not.
I, like many other fans of this diminutive orchid, believed it relied entirely upon its mimicry of a female bee to attract stupid males to mate but, apparently, that is not the case.
Cross pollination can take place in that way but the plant is also capable of self-pollination and can successfully produce thousands of tiny seeds, which can be blown surprising distances, which is why I have had reports of it springing up on lawns and in meadows in all parts of the Island.
It has been in decline in recent years because we have lost most of our meadows but, with the IW Council at last adopting a much more relaxed regime of verge mowing, we could soon see it in those roadside ribbon oases.
In this country, the bee orchid is mainly restricted to the south of the country, where it flourishes mainly on chalky soil, but there are species that flourish in many parts of mainland Europe, stretching as far as North Africa.
Gerry Rayner, from St Helens, was alerted by a friend to two tiny bee orchids growing on the old railway track bed near to her village
“The two little plants are only about six inches high and we are so afraid someone is going to come along and pick them or even tread on them as they are not far from the path so I hope people take care,” said Gerry.
Gerry also spotted a lovely group a couple of years ago in a Brading garden. The resident left a patch of lawn uncut and in one year had no less than nine orchids on it.
Sadly, the new owner adopts a tidier, and less orchid-friendly, regime and the orchids have gone.
Newport resident Valerie Radestock is prevented from cutting much of her lawn by a profusion of bee orchids.
Her son, Nigel, e-mailed me to point out she has no less than 38 at the moment.
She has one for every year she has lived there — and can put up with the meadow in return for a beautiful show.
Bee orchids like quarries and this oddity, pictured right, does too.
Simon Spurrier contacted Ventnor Botanic Garden manager Chris Kidd for an explanation of the strangest of strange plants.
Simon, like me, had never seen the like before, but Chris had.
Chris told him: “What you have seen is a mutation called fasciation that has occurred in the growing point of a plant called purple toadflax, linaria purpurea.
“As a result of genetic damage that may have been caused by any number of pathogens, instead of growing round stems it has produced very elongated flattened stems.
“This is quite rare to observe but happens in some plants more than others. It is unusual for the trait to be passed through to future generations from seed. It is harmless but curious.”
Abundance of gardens showing off their gems
TWELVE Arreton gardens open on Sunday to raise money for the scouts and Relate on the Island as well as a contribution to the Arreton Community Theatre.
Arreton Manor, The Old Vicarage and Haseley Manor are not open to the public now so it is a great opportunity to see these very interesting gardens as well as some other delightful smaller gardens in the village, two of them different to last year.
There will be cream teas, a garden railway, water features and plant and seed sales.
There is also free parking at Haseley, Arreton Barns and by the White Lion pub. The gardens will be open from 11am to 5pm at a cost of £3 50 per person, with children under 16 free.
Tickets can be bought from Arreton Post Office until 1pm on the day and any of the participating gardens, which will be well sign-posted.
The Number 8 bus also goes through Arreton with three stops in the village. It promises to be a great day out for all the family.
Three new gardens are included in this year’s Niton group opening for the National Gardens Scheme on Sunday.
Parking is available at the football ground, off Blackgang Road, and the Allotment Road car park. Tickets can be bought in the post office and tea rooms in the heart of the village.
Niton offers a great variety of gardens, from cottage and country to orchards and veg plots, meadows, woodland and wildlife havens.
I am told part of that variety includes a typewriter in one of the displays.
Maps are available with tickets, which cost £4.50 for adults with children free. There are home-made teas and admission is between 11.30am and 4.30pm,
Cacti make the most of their flowering
I HAVE received some photographs of beautiful flowering cacti.
Cacti in their natural habitat make the most of putting on a wondrous show because arid conditions mean the time is rarely right. When it is, they make the most of it to attract cross-pollinating insects.
“I wondered if readers would be interested in seeing a picture of my echinopsis oxygona, which, although it flowers every year and is quite aged, has produced 11 flowers at one go this year and I thought looked quite stunning,” said Chris Johnson, from Yarmouth.
Julian and Joan Tisdale too have been delighted by their showy cactus.
“This is the first time it has flowered in all the years we have had it. It’s been in our greenhouse with no real care — in fact, just left to grow and get on with it as we are so busy.
“Nature really is wonderful,” observes Joan.
Top flower arranger brings skills to Island
DESPITE appearances, I am in touch with my artistic side.
Flower arranging is generally seen as a more feminine activity but how many men out there really enjoy arranging the flowers they have bought or picked for their partner? I know I do.
The Island Flower Club has been promoting flower arrangement as an art form for almost 55 years and has decided to take the bold step of hiring Medina Theatre and getting a national demonstrator down to pass on her knowledge.
Tan Strong is a National Association of Flower Arrangement Societies qualified national demonstrator, national speaker and a qualified teacher and judge and has exhibited at Chelsea, winning gold and numerous other medals.
She also helped Kirsty Allsop with her horticultural show series on TV.
“Although the July 25 date coincides with the Queen’s visit to Cowes in the morning, we hope this will not deter people from attending the demonstration, which looks like being a very entertaining afternoon,” said Island club secretary Kate Newcombe.
“We have also raised money for a TV for the Earl Mountbatten Hospice and there will be a presentation of this at the end of the show.”
Tickets for the event will be available on the door at £10 or from the chairman Julie Lines on 883344, from Kate on 564369 and Eileen on 882860.
The club not only holds monthly meetings for its members but also provides the flower arrangements for church festivals, Barton Manor hospice fundraisers, weddings and other events too.