Protect your Bunny, Beautiful Buddleias & Perfect Pesto

Taken from Lynne’s weekly column ‘Green Scene’ for the Western Mail. 20th August 2016

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Protect your Bunny!

RabbitsI have gone to great lengths to accommodate the wild rabbits in my garden this year. I built raised beds and then fenced them off with chicken wire as they weren’t quite raised enough. I sacrificed my first sowings of veggies to the long eared furries as I didn’t work quickly enough to get my defences in place and have since lost all the peas and beans that poked through the wire as they were devoured before I could harvest them.

The payback was to be able to watch the little bunnies playing and growing up in the garden. It seemed a good trade off, but, as always in nature, nothing stays in balance for long. I have been distraught this past week, as the long eared furries have succumbed to the cruel and deadly myxomatosis disease. It is horrific to witness an affected rabbit as the eyes and mouths become swollen, rendering them blind, unable to eat and generally disorientated.

Myxomatosis is a severe viral disease of rabbits that decimated the wild rabbit population when it arrived in Britain from Australia 50 years ago. And whilst it is heart breaking to see in the wild, it is worth noting that domestic rabbits are also susceptible to the disease and deaths in pets are reported every year.

Pet rabbits at greatest risk are those living outside, especially if they may have any contact with wild rabbits or hares. Pet rabbits that could be affected by rabbit fleas are also at very high risk – rabbit owners who also have a dog or cat that hunts wild rabbits (or foxes that visit the garden and nose around rabbit hutches) must be particularly careful, in case rabbit fleas are brought back to the pet bunny. The disease won’t affect your dog or cat (or hares) but they can carry the fleas back to your garden and bunny.

But you can get your rabbit vaccinated against myxi and I strongly urge all rabbit owners to have a chat with your vet about the necessary steps to take.

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Beautiful Buddleias

Buddleia davidiiBuddleias (Buddlejas) are in all their glory this month and whether you love or loathe them, they are undoubtedly adored by the bees and butterflies (hence being known as the Butterfly Bush).   Personally I think they are a good-value shrub but you do need to be ruthless with them.

Buddleia davidii has been classified as an invasive species in many countries including the United Kingdom which I think is a little unfair – they are nowhere near as troublesome as Himalayan Balsam or Japanese Knotweed but their enthusiasm to grow in places where nothing else will (including chimneys) has earned them bad press.

There are numerous varieties, cultivars and hybrids meaning that there is a buddleia suitable for every garden – even a balcony. The Buddleia Buzz collection by Thompson & Morgan has five different varieties of this dwarf patio buddleia, which have been specially cultivated with smaller gardens and patio pots in mind. The sweetly scented flowers are approximately 15cm (6inch) long, which are the same size as that of a full-size buddleia flower, but they only grow to an eventual height and spread of just 4ft (120cm) making them perfect for pots.

The five varieties are named by their blossom colour and you can choose from ‘Magenta’, ‘Ivory’, ‘Sky Blue’, ‘Indigo’ and ‘Candy Pink’ which was introduced last year.

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Perfect Pesto

Vegan-Rocket-Pesto843-843x446The recent hot weather has made my rocket rocket! I can’t keep up with it in salads and sandwiches so have made a delicious batch of rocket pesto. It is more peppery than the traditional pesto and great on pasta. And if you are spiralizing, then it is also fabulous with courgette spaghetti.

You will need:

  • 1 small garlic clove
  • A pinch of sea salt
  • 25g pine nuts, very lightly toasted
  • 50g rocket, 25g Parmesan, finely grated (optional – leave out if vegan)
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • 125ml extra-virgin olive oil

Put the garlic and salt into the bowl of a small food processor and pulse. Add the pine nuts and pulse until roughly chopped (be careful not to over-process). Then add the rocket and pulse carefully until it is well mixed, but still very textured. Turn into a bowl and stir through the Parmesan (if used) and lemon juice. Pour in the olive oil and mix well until you have a juicy paste, seasoning to taste as you go.

And if you have a glut of herbs – they benefit from being cut back now – you can make alternative pesto from mint, tarragon, thyme and parsley as well as leaves like kale, spinach and chard.   Experiment and enjoy!

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