Six on Saturday-8.8.20

We made it out to visit a garden this week. I did consider featuring our trip to Wassand Hall for this weeks six but there was far more than six so this has featured as a post on its own. The garden is going through the transition to late summer. The poppies have come out and a few annuals so that I can put a few more dahlias in the ground. The verbena and gladioli is almost ready to flower. The air has been filled with insects with the heat of the week. The house martins are still shrieking overhead. So much to enjoy in the garden and too hot to do much more than some light deadheading until the evenings.

1. Hebe

I culled all the hebes in the front garden last year as they had all become too leggy and they weren’t flowering much anymore. This smaller one survived in the back garden. It is not quite hardy enough though. The leaves get damaged each year so it gets a cut back in spring and spends much of the year recovering. It does, however, have pretty very vibrant pink flowers that the bees and butterflies seem to like.

The passionflower is trying to grow through it so I keep needing to unwrap tendrils and put it back on the fence.

2. New Butterflies

I’ve been grumbling the last few weeks about the lack of butterflies. I’ve not had a lot of my regular visitors but I read an interesting article saying that several species are possibly hibernating earlier. Having grumbled I have then had two species which I haven’t sighted in the garden before.

First a gatekeeper. These are fairly common locally but I haven’t seen in the garden. The caterpillars feed on grasses so an area of long grass is useful for attracting them in. After lockdown easing the locals and town council have gone a bit mad on the grass mowing cutting back areas that are often left longer. I’m wondering if this has displaced some of these butterflies.

The second newcomer was a brown argus I think. When the wings are closed they are very similar to common blue butterflies but I’m pretty certain this was brown when it opened its wings. Both of the newcomers settled on the marigolds so they are earning their keep. I still think numbers are down in the garden despite the newcomers. numbers of whites are up with the caterpillars eating my sprouts and nasturtiums but other species numbers are down.

3. Dragonflies

I featured these last week but I wanted to feature them again as I’ve managed some more detailed photos.

I have seen bigger numbers this week. There have sometimes been as many as 4 in at once. They seem to like settling on the honeysuckle. They eat small flying insects. I think this spot offers them a vantage point where they can rest and observe the garden for hunting.

4. Passionflower

The passionflower is now dominating one fence. I featured the flowers earlier in the season. Each day a couple of new flowers open keeping the bees happy.

The early flowers mean it has managed to form fruit for the first time. They might even have time to ripen this year.

5. Achillea millefolium-Yarrow

In my efforts to help the butterflies I am looking at adding a few more nectar sources for them. Yarrow is recommended as a good option. Tesco had a number at the point of death for a £1. I think this one can be salvaged. If nothing else I can collect seeds.

The second is a healthy one. This is Achillea millefolium ‘Pink Grapefruit’. It is filling out the pot nicely and the pink stands out nicely. This is part of the tutti-fruiti series that have been bred to be compact. So they seem like a good option for a pot to attract some butterflies on the patio. They need good drainage. My garden is clay. I have improved it over the last few years but I think these will still do better in a pot than in my ground. They are drought tolerant which is becoming more of a consideration each year.

6. Dahlia-Black Jack

I had originally wanted this dahlia last year and I ordered ir from Sarah Raven as part of a trio of short dahlias. However, she had supply issues and I was refunded. I ordered this year from Farmer Gracy and it was delivered this year with no issues. It’s a smallish dahlia with lovely dark maroon ruffles. I think it was worth the extra years wait.

If you’ve enjoyed my post and fancy taking part or reading more check out the participant guide. I’ve got a bit of potting on to do today and may start off a few more seeds now the mini-greenhouse is emptying out. I’m gradually clearing the patio and garden ready for the return of the builders. I hope you all enjoy your weekends whatever you are up to.

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Six on Saturday: 24.8.19

This week I’ve been spoilt for choice for my six. Some will make it into next weeks six, while others haven’t made the cut. I’ve somewhat neglected the back garden while I’ve been sorting the front garden but I’ve discovered bindweed so I need to very carefully weed the borders to try and stop it establishing.

1. Zinnias whirligig

I started growing these from seed in trays. I then moved them straight into the ground and forgot about them. Then when I saw flowers emerging I almost removed them as weeds but asked for an ID on Twitter. The pack came with a variety of types in. They’ve been popular with the insects and there very pretty. I’d grow them again but I would probably put them further forward in the border as they are hidden a bit behind dahlias.

2. Clematis

This clematis was already in the garden when I took over the garden. It barely flowered so I gave it a hard prune and it has been giving a few more flowers each year. It is growing out of a thicket of shrubs and then gradually colonising the top of the fence.

3. Agapanthus

I planted these as bulbs last Autumn as they formed part of our wedding flowers. We had our anniversary this week and one is in flower. The others have put on foliage this year but no flowers. I’m growing them in pots as the advice states they like to be crowded. Hopefully next year I’ll have a few more to show.

4. Cosmos candy stripe

I’ve grown double click and candy stripe as a big mass. Double click featured a few weeks ago. Now it’s the turn of the candy stripe.

So far the majority of the patch has come out as double click but I have a few of the candy stripe dotted through. These are white with a pink edge. They are recommended as good for insects and I’ve seen a good group of hoverflies over them each day.

And a few other insects enjoying just resting on them.

5. Lily ‘Casa Blanca’

This almost didn’t make the cut this week but I decided I’d include it. It flowered while we were away and was getting past its best when we returned. It’s a pure white lily from Sarah Raven as part of her scented collection. The lilies have suffered from lily beetle this year. I’ve grown this in a pot this year but I may move it into the ground for next year. I’m not too bothered if it survives as it isn’t really exciting enough as just one. I’d need to but a couple for proper impact. It doesn’t really work in combination with my other plant choices.

6. Dahlia Tamburo

This was another Sarah Raven choice and has been a stunner. It’s been sold as a small variety for pots. I have only used one short stake and I think it would have managed without. The dark flowers are absolutely stunning and it has taken pride of place outside the extension window visible to all.

Lots of insects have been settling on the large flowers as a convenient resting point to survey the garden. It has been a good week for wildlife in the garden. I’ve had swarms of long-tailed tits of up to 40 coming in, tons of insects and a lot of frogs around. These dahlias seem to be hot spots for posing insects wanting their photo taken.

The dragonflies have been regular visitors. I love seeing the dragonflies and this year I think I’ve had more than ever. The size and their primaeval nature make them fantastic to watch.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this week six as much as I’ve enjoyed admiring them. As well as the much-needed weed of the back garden I’ve got a large fern donated from my mums garden to plant and a couple of gorgeous heucheras to plant. Happy gardening!

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Wildlife gardening-teasel

I’ve had quite a few comments from my six on Saturday talking about the teasel. It is a plant that divides opinions. The teasel has featured a number of times over the year in my six on Saturday and now seems a good time to look closer at it.

Wildlife benefits

The original reason I planted teasel was to benefit wildlife through the year. Through the Summer they have attracted in all manner of pollinators.

The bees and hoverflies have swarmed over them.

Some of the butterflies have been visiting too. The holly blues have been visiting in greater numbers this year and seem to like the teasel.

One of the main reasons for planting teasel was to attract birds. Goldfinches love it. They favour lowland woodland and hedges, but are increasingly found on our bird feeders with people putting out nyger seed.

Architectural plant

Teasel is undeniably a striking shape. It has large leaves followed by the tall seed heads. Mine has grown to a very high height this year, much larger than I generally see when it’s growing wild. It stands out in the border and is lovely for bringing inside. I’ve taken a few cuttings and allowed it to dry out.

The disadvantages

 

“Vicious
You want me to hit you with a stick
But all I’ve got is a guitar pick
Huh, baby, you’re so vicious”
Lou Reed

Teasel is incredibly spikey. The leaves are spikey, the stems are spikey, the flowers are spikey. My gold leaf gloves have come in use again and again dealing with them. I wouldn’t be suprised to find spikey roots if I dug it out. It is vicious.

It also takes up a lot of space. The leaves initially are very large maybe 30-50cm long. This means it takes up a lot of space in the border with a big footprint on the ground and it is tall and not very neat in it’s growth unless carefully tied, which I haven’t done. As I’ve mentioned it is vicious so it was tied up where I could reach through without risking body and limb.

It self seeds quite freely. So if you decide you don’t want it anymore it can be a pain. I haven’t this an issue yet, but have a sneaking feeling that my neighbours may have it growing in future as I think the wind will take it that way.

Conclusion

All in all I’ve enjoyed having this in the garden this year, but not sure I’d allow it again due to space restrictions. It has been a pleasure seeing the goldfinches on it though.

 

 

Birds of a feather

Having written about my new bird feeder I think it’s a good time to look at what I am getting in the garden. Often Summer is quite a quiet time for the feeders with an abundance of food around for the birds they can find themselves. But with the sporadic weather going back and forth between torrential rain and baking sun when the sun is shining the birds are looking to fill up on high energy foods.

Nothing puts the pigeons off coming to the feeders. Even in the rain they will sit out on the feeder getting plumper.

With lots of young sparrows around the feeders have seen the house sparrows back and forth on lots of visits.

The starlings have been swarming in large numbers, then flitting off as quickly as they came.

The blackbirds have been enjoying the wet ground, picking though for the worms come to the surface.

The goldfinches mentioned in a previous blog.

I’ve almost seen the whole tit family. There have been blue tits, great tits, long tailed and coal tits. Although I haven’t managed any photos of the coal tits.

The ever present herring gull shed mafia has been keeping watch over its domain.

I’ve also seen wrens, collared doves, jackdaws, chaffinches and thrushes. Part of the reason for getting so many I believe is down to the variety of food on the feeders. The tits seem to be going mad for the suet and peanuts. The jackdaws come for the meal worms and kitchen scraps. The pigeons seem to devour everything. The finches like the niger and the sunflower heads.

I also have feeders on different levels. Some ground feeders and some up higher on the station. Then I also have some located hanging in the trees and these seem to be favoured by the smaller birds. It’s worth trying putting more than just a seed mix out if you want to attract a variety of birds. Or if there is something you particularly want put out appropriate food.

The insect life has also been pretty good with a good variety of butterflies, dragonflies and bees coming in.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my whistle stop tour through my garden birds and all have good weekends.

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I’ll finish with an Emily Browning poem.

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –
I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.

Focus on greenbottle fly

In the sunshine I spotted these greenbottle flies. While not necessarily considered a beauty the colour of the casing in the sun is as stunning as any jewel. So I thought I’d research them for this focus feature.

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Greenbottles are one of the most common blow flies (family  Calliphoridae) along with heir cousins the bluebottle. However, unlike the bluebottle, who is best known for irritating people inside, the greenbottle prefers to be outside. The name blow fly is an old English expression. Meat that was “blown” had eggs laid on.

The greenbottle fly lays its eggs on decaying tissue, on corpses generally. From this the larvae, fly maggots, hatch. Then after three to ten days, depending on temperature and food, the maggot pupates. After six to fourteen days the fly emerges and the endless cycle continues.

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Pretty gross you might be thinking. However this knowledge has been used by forensic scientists to give time of death. Absence of fly maggots or evidence of a disturbed life cycle can show tampering with a body. So I think we should raise a glass to thank the humble fly for aiding the silent witness team in their work.

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While the fly is never going to be as popular as butterflies it’s colours can be just as impressive of what nature can achieve. I will finish with a recommendation for a children’s book that makes you think about whether to splat the fly next time it’s in the house annoying you.

The fly-Peter Horacek

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Ladybird life cycle

On a walk with Alice last weekend we spotted lots more harlequins following on from my last blog.

A few people have commented to me on the strangeness of the pupa, so thought I’d show off the stages of the cycle. The bushes along Hornsea’s park were brimming with ladybirds last weekend over the hedges and nettles.

The ladybird start off as little yellow eggs on leaves with groups of eggs laid together. As part of the beetle order they hatch out as a larvae over the Summer. Sometime known as nymphs in ladybirds. During this stage the beetle does much of it’s feeding and growing.

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The nymph then forms a pupa attached normally to the underside of leaves in late July or August.

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A now empty pupa.

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From the pupa hatches out a ladybird usually around August time. in many varieties of ladybirds they hatch out a lighter colour than they eventually end up and then darken over the first few days.

A newly emerged ladybird.

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From there the ladybird will overwinter. Then around May will mate to start the cycle again.

A whole host of ladybird spotted on my walk with Alice last weekend.

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Alice seemed happy to be out in the park too.

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Mimics

Today in the garden spotted this lovely striped hoverfly (Helophilus trivittatus I think). A wasp mimic that is common to gardens.

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The birds in the garden are starting to come back to the feeder after fledging. Still not a massive variety mainly pigeons and blackbirds coming in along with some doves, starlings. Then the occasional robin and blue tits.

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Day 21-mini beast hunting

Today my class and I got out to hunt for mini-beasts. Try to get our national insect week under way properly. We took our pooters out to see what we could suck up to inspect. I reckon the ant and woodlice population to took a dramatic dive as a result of my class sadly. But they are learning lots. Their level of respect to the mini beasts have definitely gone up. But it wasn’t the insects that grabbed their attention. The south fence has long wet grass where we found a wealth of frogs. I discovered a number of the year 4 girls are superb at capturing frogs. I have a suspicious feeling I am going to be brought frogs for the next week.

 

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We found a moth with a keen attraction to one boy in the class Kept settling back onto him. Not sure what that says about his scent.

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One keen eyed child found some prints.

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