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I had this brilliant brainwave. I would make use of my excessive collection of sticks and I could fill a gap by the back of the conservatory. The patch is in a permanent rain shadow, making it difficult for planting but ideal for pots full of dormant spring bulbs; until they bloom, these are not very exciting. I decided to construct a dormitory for beneficial wildlife which would be attractive and useful, without much effort or expenditure. All I needed were some clay drainage pipes. Off to the reclamation yard, where I was offered umpteen different sizes and colours of plastic. I explained to the burly bloke that I was making an abode for bees. I asked him if he would like to return to a residence constructed from synthetic materials, or whether he would prefer a vision of beauty in terracotta. I said that my gifts tend to consist of hard landscaping. Other women ask for powder, paint and perfume, while I request ironmongery. I detected supportive glances being exchanged between my husband and the reclaim man but I pretended not to notice and stuck to my plan.
Bee bedding
Bee bedding

After rooting through piles of granite and slabs of marble, we came to a hoard of coping stones, formed to throw water off the top of a wall and made hollow to save on weight. I chose three bricks which matched in shape and shade, which I knew would make insects feel cared for and comfortable. More fleeting looks of considerable compassion passed on the faces of the salvage worker and my spouse, so much so that the former chiselled off the old mortar and loaded my treasure into the boot of the car. The tyres groaned and the suspension complained but Attila was fairly chipper, as he didn’t have to wield the hammer.
Persicaria virginiana “Painter's Palette”, Phlomis russeliana & Euphorbia amygdaloides var. robbiae
Persicaria virginiana “Painter’s Palette”, Phlomis russeliana & Euphorbia amygdaloides var. robbiae

The hardware seemed larger and heavier, once we got it home. We found a few bricks to raise the level, then I set about chopping old 8 foot bamboo canes, cutting them down to 12 inches to fit. Why in the name of all that’s green and growing, do I want to encourage wildlife? The garden is full of the stuff, most of it with a fixation on my orifices. Working in the sunshine I got sick of sneezing bugs out of my nose, removing buzzing creatures from my ears and retrieving winged floaters from my coffee, to save them from being swallowed. It took me two hours to cut enough canes to fill the space available.
Euonymus planipes (spindle tree)
Euonymus planipes (spindle tree)

I retreated to the blessed cool of the sitting room with skinned knuckles and bruised knees. I couldn’t raise my arm above chest height. The loppers were no whit less sharp but the same could not be said of me. The leisurely walk around the pine forest collecting fir cones for the remaining holes will have to wait until I can bend. Suppose there are no takers for my cosy billet, said Mr. Optimist. I promised that I would ensure a full tenancy, if I have to go around the garden, slurping up bees with a turkey baster.

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