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Letters / ‘Preying on the conscience of the uninformed’

We are pleasantly surprised by Ian Tinkler’s uncharacteristic exercise in self-control (Garden ‘bee bombs’ are not the problem; SN, 15 May 2019) and are grateful to him (for his sake) for refraining from the personal and defamatory attacks he recently subjected us to and which led to his removal from a Shetland gardeners’ Facebook group.

Ian’s opinion on the subject echoes that of the Bee Bomb industry and its vested interests. We prefer to rely on the knowledge of experts in this field, botanists and beekeepers and are particularly indebted to ecologist and Lea Gardens volunteer Dr Robert McDougall for his invaluable advice on the matter.

We don’t know where Ian gets his Lea Gardens information from but advise him to change his present, highly unreliable source. Proceeds from plant sales don’t go into our pockets but are used for the upkeep and improvement of our plant collection.

As to his assertion that we have no native plants here: Lea Gardens comprises 9½ acres, 6½ of which are unimproved hay meadow and pasture. The latter, grazed very lightly or on a rotational basis, is rich in waxcaps which are a good indicator of biodiversity.

Shetland’s garden industry, which Ian accuses of importing diseases and parasites, consists of plant nurseries like Frakkafield, Pure Shetland, Lea Gardens et al. They don’t import the plants they sell, they actually grow them.

We have however imported seed for decades, primarily from botanic gardens and exchanges, rather than from commercial sources. But thanks to the advice given to us by Shetland’s great botanist, the late Walter Scott, we have not imported seed of species that occur in the wild in Shetland.

Walter made us aware of Shetland flora’s unique pheno/genotypes which have taken millennia to develop their unique characteristics. One of these, the release of nectar at much lower temperatures than their southern cousins, is of vital importance to bees.

We have acted on the precautionary principle ever since and, given the ever increasing threat to our fragile flora from changing agricultural practices (massive habitat loss, e.g., less and less arable land and silage instead of hay), this is more important than ever.

We are highly encouraged by the feedback and support we have received from Shetland gardeners and want to take this opportunity to thank all who have contributed to our Shetland bee plant list. Please keep those plant names coming.

For those who are still unconvinced that bee bombs are a bad idea, we leave the final word on the subject to Shetland’s bee expert, Angus Nicol: “Bee bombs are a clever marketing tool that preys on the conscience of the uninformed.”

Rosa Steppanova & James Mackenzie
Lea Gardens