Hubris and Angelica. And Wasps.

A few weeks ago, all puffed up and pleased with myself, I wittered on about my Crambe cordifolia flowering for the first time.  (See ‘I’m So Excited’).
It’s up.
Someone, somewhere, rolled their eyes, yawned, looked at their fingernails and decided to take me down a peg or two.  Accordingly, the wind got up and when I arrived at work I found –
It’s down.

Aarrgghhhh – my lovely Crambe.  Serves me right for not staking it.

It’s up.
After a little stomping about and shaking my fist at the sky, I hauled the Crambe upright (most of its root was still intact) and lashed it to a metal support.  For a day or two it didn’t look half bad and I thought it would pull through.  But then, after weeks of virtually no rain, we had buckets of the stuff.
It’s down.
Aarrgghhhh – my lovely Crambe.  Most of the flowering stems had snapped under the weight of water.  I give up.  I mean what’s the point?  What’s the bleedin’ point?  You grow a big flower-explosion of a plant and it keels over at the first whiff of wind and the first drop of rain.  Always said it was a rubbish plant.  Didn’t I?  Wouldn’t give it border room.  Rubbish, I say.


Pretty flowers, though.   Perhaps I will give it another chance next year after all.  Perhaps.

Next to the collapsed Crambe, at the back of  one of the Kidney Beds, is an angelica (Angelica archangelica).  And it’s a big plant:  I’m six-foot and it towers above me.


What a good plant: big, robust and handsome.  And you’d need a water buffalo to flatten it.  I could do with several more to dot about – let the wind blow and the rain hammer down.  No staking required.


I like its green flowers and how they shrug off their protective sheath …


… and slowly unfurl to resemble er, I don’t know what.  A space-station?  An exploding galaxy?


And I’m not the only one to like angelica.  Whilst bees aren’t bothered, wasps adore it.

I know many people hate and fear wasps and exterminate their nests  on sight.  Generally, I prefer not to exterminate things (I make an exception for people who don’t say thank you when I hold a door open for them).  Wasps are great  pollinators (and given the state of our honey bee population we need all the help we can get) and they also take insect pests back to the nest to feed to their larvae.  At this time of year they are too intent on collecting food to worry about me.  Even though I was sticking my big head and camera lens right in amongst them, they couldn’t have been less bothered.  There were several dozen buzzing about my ears but they let me be and I didn’t feel in the slightest bit threatened.
Not like when, as a child, I stuck a stick into a wasp’s nest to see what would happen.  I got stung is what happened; several times.  Duh.  Good lesson learnt.  Never, ever, ever poke a stick into a wasp’s nest.  However much you’re tempted.  OK?  Ever.
In late summer as the cohesion of the colony disintegrates and they get drunk on  fermenting fruit, wasps can be (are) annoying and aggressive.  Especially if you’re out in the garden having a jam sandwich.  However, a couple of summers back we had a nest in an air brick outside our back door.  Even though it was at face height, we had no problems all summer.  It was only in late autumn that my partner got stung.  For no apparent reason a wasp landed on his forehead and stung him.  Probably disapproved of the shirt he was wearing.  But hey, one sting all season from a nest next to our most used door didn’t seem too bad. (Besides it wasn’t me who got stung).
The nests are almost always die out over winter and are not reused

A year later, wasps took over a bird nest box in our garden.  We watched fascinated as the papery nest slowly but inexorably seeped out from the confines of the ‘box and grew.  And grew.  I’m sure many people would have had the nest poisoned but was there any need?  Truly?  We enjoyed watching this strange phenomena swell.  A little aghast perhaps as it was sooo strange and sooo alien but we enjoyed it nonetheless.   And with friends over and a glass of Chablis in hand it made a super talking point.   “Oooh, do come and see our ever-expanding, all enveloping wasp nest.  Do.”

So no.  Generally speaking, I don’t like to exterminate things.

Call me old-fashioned.

For those of you who remain unconvinced of the charms of Vespula vulgaris, the gardens are awash with butterflies.

Meadow Brown

Just walking along the mown paths in the meadow throws up all sorts of species.

Large Skipper

I’m not a butterfly expert by any means but I am making an effort this summer to try to learn a few of the more common ones.  This website has been a tremendous help.

Small Tortoiseshell feeding on nepeta

I find it terrifically rewarding that however many doubts and worries I may have about the garden at the Priory (and they are legion), it is attracting plenty of wildlife.


Tricky to photo as they tend to fly off as you approach but here’s a passable shot of a Common Blue.  They feed on vetches of which there are plenty in the meadow.  Pretty, eh?  And they don’t sting!


7 thoughts on “Hubris and Angelica. And Wasps.

  1. Hmm. Ok, Janet. You've convinced me. The crambe lives to bloom another day (but not fall over mind or it's compost!).



  2. Our crambes stay put on the whole as everything is holding everything else up. The best one sits between three batula jaquemontii so doesn't tend to fall over. They do split sometimes in the wind so I take bits off and pot them up for friends. They are stunning. I just love that great froth of flowers appearing above the other plants.
    What an entertaining post especially the wasps!


  3. Hi Juliet, I didn't know that wasps ate cabbage white caterpillars. (Mustard, eh? Yummy). They've just gone up another notch in my estimation. Hurrah, indeed.

    Hi Michael, you're probably right about the crambe; I haven't quite decided yet. I'm still too upset to think rationally. As to the angelica, all I can tell you is that it's grown in the shade of a small tree and rhododendrons and that it is in goodish soil (annually improved with a mushroom compost mulch). Does that help? Hope so.

    Hi PG, hmmm. The crambe at the priory is in a pretty sheltered spot – so not sure how yours will cope with a windy position. But I can guess! Good luck with it.

    Hi Stacy, a time for reflection with the 'Sisters I think. They will show me the way forward, I'm sure. Sometimes, apparently, wasps do return to underground nests and so enormous colonies can develop. Probably akin to the one I stuck a stick into! Know what you mean re docking station. I really like the photo of the wasp in flight – it puts me in mind of a shuttle coming into to land.



  4. I'm so sorry about the Crambe–no fair when nature throws in a double whammy like that just as it's about to bloom. Hopefully the Pointer Sisters have had something to offer in the way of consolation.

    Especially with the wasps on it, the Angelica really does look like some sort of outer space docking station. I didn't know the wasp colonies were abandoned in the fall. No wonder they start hitting the sauce too hard and turn into mean little ASBO types.

    3 cheers on all the wildlife!


  5. Great post for two reasons. I have a crambe which hasnt flowered this year and I was looking forward to next year but now having second thoughts. Garden very windy and I try to avoid things that need lots of staking – maybe I will wait and see?
    Wasps – I have discovered a wasps nest right outside my bedroom window. I have stuff to kill the nest but am in two minds. If it wasnt right outside the window I would ignore but I am worried they will come in and sting me. Already had one sting this week from one which was caught up in some clothing on the floor. Will think further


  6. David,
    I don't believe you will give up on Crambe cordifolia! Next year…. I have had good success with Angelica gigas, but not archangelica. I have no idea why! Any ideas what makes it happy? Nice post.


  7. I'm not the world's biggest wasp fan, but they will always be welcome in my garden. Nothing else eats cabbage white caterpillars (so far as I know – birds certainly don't like them, apparently because they taste of mustard) but wasps devour them. Hurrah for wasps!


Any thoughts?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.