Six on Saturday – Summer Butterflies

It is not just the flowers that make the garden a beautiful place to be. Today is a scorcher. For me this simply means keeping cool with a long drink sitting in the shade of a large tree. The butterflies however love it and it is so lovely to feel that we have created an environment where they can flourish.

The weather this year seems to have been perfect for them giving us a large number of individuals and a great variety. Here are six that I have captured on camera in the last week or so.

One: Red Admiral

P1040508 Red Admiral

The Red Admiral is a migrant coming in waves from North Africa and continental Europe throughout the spring and summer. Increasingly however there are reports that it is over wintering here in the UK. The migrants lay eggs in the UK which subsequently produce a fresh new generation of butterflies.¹

In Britain and Ireland, the most important and widely available larval foodplant is Common Nettle (Urtica dioica). However, Small Nettle (U. urens) and the related species, Pellitory-of-the-wall (Parietaria judaica) and Hop (Humulus lupulus) may also be used.¹

Two: Gatekeeper

P1040532 Gatekeeper

The Gatekeepers in our garden seem to be quite feisty little creatures and seem to spend a lot of time time chasing off other larger butterflies that come close. They like the same habitat as Ringlet and Meadow Brown butterflies which we also see in the garden and close by in the countryside.

The caterpillars feed on various grasses with a preference for fine grasses such as bents (Agrostis spp.), fescues (Festuca spp.), and meadow-grasses (Poa spp.). Common Couch (Elytrigia repens) is also used.¹ At least something is eating the couch!

Three: Small Tortoiseshell

P1020163 Small Tortoiseshell

A very common butterfly but no less beautiful for that. It has been rather scarce in our garden in recent years so I am delighted that it is back in some numbers this year. The caterpillars fee on common nettle (Urtica dioica) and small nettle (Urtica urens).¹

Four: Comma

P1040540 Comma

The Comma butterfly has very characteristic scalloped edges to its wings which allow the hibernating adults to be almost invisible amongst dead leaves.

The caterpillars’ most widely used foodplant is Common Nettle (Urtica dioica). Other species used include Hop (Humulus lupulus), elms (Ulmus spp.), currants (Ribes spp.), and Willows (Salix spp).¹

Five: Peacock

P1040542 Peacock

Another unmistakeable butterfly which loves the Lysimachia and Buddleias in the garden. We have huge numbers across the garden this year which is so lovely to see.

The caterpillars feed on Common Nettle (Urtica dioica), although eggs and larvae are occasionally reported on Small Nettle (U. urens) and Hop (Humulus lupulus).¹

Six: Silver-Washed Fritillary

P1040584 Silver-Washed Fritillary

This might be stretching the rules of this meme a little as this Silver-Washed Fritillary was not photographed in our garden but in nearby Hampton Wood. These are large woodland butterflies (wing-span c. 72-76mm). They do not sit still very long so I was delighted to get a chance to get this one in a sunny clearing. As they fly they flutter almost like tissue paper in the dappled sun of the woodland glade. The caterpillars main foodplant is Common Dog-violet (Viola riviniana) growing in shady or semi-shady positions on the woodland floor.¹ My next challenge is to entice them into our woodland garden.

Well that is it for this week. We share the garden with a host of other creatures and certainly my enjoyment of our garden is not all about the flowers. This post is a contribution to the Six on Saturday meme which is hosted by The Propagator. Click on the link to be inspired by what other plant lovers are enjoying this weekend.

Further reading

¹ Butterfly Conservation Website – There is a wealth of information about all of these species on this website including further details of their lifecycle, when they fly and distribution maps across the UK.

Spring flowers under the trees

At this time of year woodland plants are racing to flower, attract pollinating insects and seed next year’s generation.  This all needs to happen before the trees begin to unfurl their leaves and take away the essential daylight that allows them to photosynthesize and flourish.

At the edge of a small deciduous copse at the north end of the old grass tennis court (now the flower garden) we have a delightful area that is looking at its best right now.  Unlike many summer flowers that have big showy blooms these spring flowers are typically more restrained.  It is important that you take the time to just stop and look closely at what is growing and flowering under your feet.

From a distance the most obvious flowers you see are the native primroses (Primula vulgaris).  Nestled amongst these are the small blue star-like flowers of the Chionodoxa.  These bulbs have taken some time to establish but now return reliably each year contrasting beautifully with the pale yellow primroses on the bank.

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Also present amongst the dry leaf litter close to the yew tree are the purple pink flowers of Cyclamen coum .  The foliage on these small plants I think is particularly lovely.

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Some years ago we planted the lungwort Pulmonaria ‘Sissinghurst White’.  As with the Cyclamen coum the characteristic white dots on the Pumonaria foliage adds additional interest.  I think it is fair to say however that it is not entirely happy in this situation. It certainly survives from year to year but really has not romped away as we would have liked.  Time to move it on to somewhere new perhaps.

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In contrast a plant that is extremely happy in this woodland area is the Wood Spurge (Euphorbia amygdaloides).  We use lime green a lot throughout the garden to set off other plants and this area of wood spurge really shines out under the trees looking fresh and lush at this time of year.

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We are also delighted that the wood anemones (Anemone nemorosa) we planted a few years ago are now beginning to establish as well.  A member of the buttercup family these small plants are so charming.  Also known as wind flowers they move with such grace as the breeze blows through the trees.

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Last but not least are the daffodils and narcissus.  For me they just shout springtime and shine out even on a cold dull march day.

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The whole feeling of this area is only very transient but that is part of its charm.  As we move into April and May a new cast of characters will emerge.  The fresh green leaves of Anthriscus sylvestris (Cow Parsley) are already beginning to develop and very soon the woodland will be cloaked with a mass of frothy white flowers.   We have added a new area of martagon lilies.  So far so good, they have come up and are looking very promising.

As the grass begins to grow up and the tree leaves unfurl the smaller plants will seed and slowly die back returning to make us smile again next year.

Six on Saturday – June begins

There are so many lovely things happening in the garden at the moment that it has proved really difficult to decide what to include here today.  I’ve tried in this six to simply give an idea of six contrasting parts of the garden.


One:  Hesperis matronalis (Sweet Rocket)

I am delighted with how this bed of sweet rocket has performed this year.  Growing to about 4 feet in height this mix of the white and purple plants has flowered for weeks.  As a biennial planted last June it is well worth the effort and the space.  The scent, particularly in the evening, just hangs in the air and always strikes you as you pass the summer house.

It is nearly time to start sowing again so I can enjoy it all again next year.  I usually sow biennials around the summer solstice so that the plants are large enough to plant out by the autumn equinox.

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Two:  Cornus kousa

This Japanese (or Chinese) dogwood is a small tree that seems to start the year well and then later in the year starts to struggle a little.  Perhaps its position in the garden is not ideal but it has survived for many years now.  It is particularly striking at the moment and is ‘flowering’ well.  I say ‘flowering’ as it is the crisp white bracts against the fresh green leaves that produce the show rather than the small yellow-green flowers that are rather inconspicuous.  I think it looks really good against the grey-green leaves of the eucalyptus behind.  All planned of course!

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Three:  The new flower garden

Regular visitors to the blog will know that we have retired from commercial flower growing and are converting the old (rather utilitarian) production space into a new more aesthetically pleasing flower garden.  It has been a lot of hard work but this year it is really taking off.

The Chandelier (yellow) and Noble Maiden (white) lupins sown from seed last year have established well and look wonderful.  Here they are planted amongst dutch iris in blues, whites and yellows and set off by the lime green of the Euphorbia oblongata which seeds itself freely around the plot but sets off other plants beautifully.

The delphiniums, Aconitum and roses are all budding up and can be seen here as well and will create the follow on display.

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Four:  Anthriscus sylvestris in the copse

Some may consider Cow Parsley a weed but we love it, encouraging it to grow freely in the dappled shade of the woodland areas of the garden.  It is a delight to walk through this area in the early morning sun.

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Five:   Amsonia

One of our pleasures in life, when we are not gardening, is to visit other peoples gardens!  This time last year we came across Amsonia when the village of Wasperton opened its gardens in aid of the local church.  We just had to have one but struggled to find it in any of the local nurseries.

However, as usual, Avondale nurseries came up trumps.  This nursery in Baginton on the outskirts of Coventry is always worth a visit.  Take some money with you though as I promise you will be tempted with something.

Having found Amsonia at last we could not buy just one.  I am happy to report that both have survived the winter and started to flower.  I am really looking forward to seeing them develop over the years.

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Six:  Valerian

I have always known Valerian as Centranthus rubra but Wikipedia seems to list it as Valeriana officinalis at the moment.  It is very common and easy to grow but placed in the right location it can create a stunning display especially when you mix up the slightly different shades of red, pink and white.

Here we have a patch in a very dry area of poor soil in hot sun just above the garage.  It creates a beautiful cottage garden display at this time of year growing amongst the self sown Aquilegia, the Bearded Iris and Oriental Poppies.  The white of the Spirea immediately behind provides a lovely back drop.

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The Six on Saturday meme is hosted by The Propagator. Click on the link to see what other plant lovers are chatting about.

Native Bluebells – a walk in Hampton Wood in Warwickshire

The English countryside certainly has its spectacular moments and a bluebell wood in full bloom in the spring sunshine is just something to behold. This week we took time out after a busy Easter weekend to have a wander around Hampton Wood. Owned and managed by the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust this ancient woodland lies close to the banks of the river Avon (OS Sheet: 151; SP 254 600 Post code: CV35 8AS).

This wood and meadow is quickly becoming one of our favourite places to walk since joining the Trust last year. It is a delight. At around 12.3 hectares the reserve is not enormous but there is plenty to see and hear and try to identify.

Here are some photographs (taken on 23 April 2019) which try to capture some of the impact of these woods at this time of year. At first sight it is the mass of blue that takes you aback. However, as you look more closely the mix of other wild flowers create a series of beautiful cameos of contrasting colours and texture. Here are just some of the flowers and ferns we spotted in a short one hour meander around the reserve.

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The bluebell wood in all its glory
P1020622 Primrose - Primula vulgaris
Primrose – Primula vulgaris
P1020607 Greater Stitchwort - Stellaria holostea
Greater Stitchwort – Stellaria holostea
P1020620 Red Campion - Silene dioica
Red Campion – Silene dioica
P1020647 Green alkanet - Pentaglottis sempervirens
Green alkanet – Pentaglottis sempervirens
P1020636 Crab apple - Malus sylvestris
Crab apple – Malus sylvestris
P1020606 Lesser Celandine - Ficaria verna
Lesser Celandine – Ficaria verna
P1020605 Wood anemone or Windflower - Anemone nemorosa
Wood anemone or Windflower – Anemone nemorosa
P1020623 Ground Ivy - Glechoma hederacea
Ground Ivy – Glechoma hederacea
P1020630 Cuckoo flower - Cardamine pratensis
Cuckoo flower – Cardamine pratensis
P1020638 Fern croziers
Fern croziers
P1020595 Yellow archangel - Lamium galeobdolon
Yellow archangel – Lamium galeobdolon
P1020593 Common Dog Violet - Viola riviniana
Common Dog Violet – Viola riviniana
P1020594 Bluebell - Hyacinthoides non-scripta
Bluebell – Hyacinthoides non-scripta
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A view amongst the trees

We will of course be visiting again over the coming months to see how the flora and fauna change and develop during the year. We would like to be much, much better at identifying birds from their individual songs and calls and to help us improve we have signed up for a spring bird identification workshop next month. No doubt we will come out of the course full of enthusiasm but will it stick. Memorising the sounds birds make seems to be so much more difficult than identifying them from their plumage. Hopefully it will enhance our enjoyment of these beautiful wildlife reserves still further. If nothing else it will gives us hours of fun!

Six on Saturday – New additions

Like many of you we have been tempted by new plants over the winter months.  To be truthful there are many more than just six but these are the new additions to the garden that I have recently been getting into the ground.  As the plants are all very small or under the soil at the moment I have taken the liberty of linking to a few pictures of more mature plants (a taster of what is to come I hope!).


One:  Mahonia eurybracteata ‘Soft Caress’

From time to time we take a break from working in the garden to enjoy one of the excellent weekly lectures at Pershore College.  Many of the speakers bring along live plants to illustrate their talks and of course we cannot resist buying something.

This delightful new Mahonia is a compact evergreen shrub that has spineless leaves and grows eventually to about 1 metre by 1 metre.  We originally thought that we would grow this in a pot but to be honest we are very poor at looking after things in pots and it was beginning to look a little sickly.  It has now been planted out into the garden where I am sure it will fair much better

Photo credit:  Real time link to http://www.gardeningexpress.co.uk


Two:  Aster ericoides ‘Vimmers Delight’

Another Pershore purchase after listening to a wonderful talk on autumn flowering Asters.   We do have one or two (or more) of these already but now is a great time for lifting and dividing existing plants and planting out new ones.

We have planted this in the new flower garden alongside a number of purple varieties that we have lifted and divided from elsewhere in the garden.  It grows to around 75cm so should become a real statement in the new garden with small white flowers backed by grey foliage.  If all goes to plan, in the autumn we will have a wonderful combination of late flowering Asters to keep the new garden going long into September.

Photo credit:  Real-time link to website at Farmyard Nurseries, Dol Llan Road, Llandysul, Carmarthenshire, Wales SA44 4RL


Three:  Martagon lillies

One of the themes for this year has been to develop the small woodland area at the north end of the garden.  Carol has done a lot of clearing over the winter months and it is now time to get down to some planting.  There is already a colourful spring display of snowdrops followed by primroses, cyclamen and more recently planted Chionodoxa.

In developing this area further we have decided to introduce a large number of Martagon lillies to grow and hopefully naturalise under the trees in a sunny area on the edge of the copse.  These were certainly not cheap bulbs to buy but if it works they should create a wonderful show for many years to come

Photo credit:  Real time link to http://www.dutchbulbs.co.uk


Four:  Winter colour – Dogwood Red-stemmed (Cornus alba Sibirica) and Dogwood ‘Midwinter fire’ (Cornus sanguinea)

On the edge of the copse is a slope down to the new flower garden.  The new flower garden was originally an old grass tennis court that has been dug out to make it level.  As a result the water table reaches the surface at this point and this area is very wet indeed over the winter.  We already have some successful yellow stemmed willow in this area and to add contrast we have added a stand of two different Dogwoods to develop the area still further.

This area catches the winter sun and we hope will add colour to a part of the garden that has very little winter interest at present.

Dogwood Red-stemmed (Cornus alba Sibirica)

Photo credit:  Real-time link to Buckingham Nurseries website (www.hedging.co.uk)

Dogwood ‘Midwinter fire’ (Cornus sanguinea)

Photo credit:  Real time link to rhsplants.co.uk


Five:  Heuchera ‘Electra’ and Heuchera  ‘Peach Flambe’

In the depths of last winter we visited friends in the Shropshire countryside and I was very taken by their tubs of Heuchera which were looking wonderful outside in the weak winter sun.

As a result I decided to start developing our own small collection (always one for pinching good ideas from others).  These are the first two varieties that we are bringing on from a number of 9cm pot plants with the aim of developing some good winter colour on our patio for next year.

Heuchera ‘Electra’ Photo credit:  Real time link to http://www.dutchbulbs.co.uk

Heuchera ‘Peach Flambe’ Photo credit:  Real time link to http://www.dutchbulbs.co.uk


Six:  Solomon’s seal (Polygonatum multiflorum)

In addition to the planting of the dogwoods and the martagon lillies in the top copse we are also just about to add a stand of Solomon’s seal.  Rather than planting these out directly into the woodland we decided to start these plants off in pots.  This has worked well and we now have a large number of strong plants that we can plant out as soon as the ground is dug over and cleaned of perennial weeds and brambles.

Photo credit:  Real time link to http://www.dutchbulbs.co.uk

All of the above are about planning for the longer term.  We are unlikely to see many results this year but hopefully over the coming years we should see more colour and interest in the autumn, winter and springtime.


The Six on Saturday meme is hosted by The Propagator. Click on the link to see what other plant lovers are chatting about.

 

Shades of Autumn

Today has been one of those rather frustrating days in the garden.  One minute the sun is shining and you get all enthusiastic about planting a few more of those tulips you couldn’t resist only to find that as soon as you get out there the heavens open.

In those moments when the shine is shining however the autumn colours really sing.  Across the countryside here in Warwickshire the leaves seem to have remained on the trees this year and the colours are really lovely.

Here is a selection of the autumn colours we are enjoying in the garden at the moment.


One:  The walk up the ‘old’ rose garden contrasts the changing red shades of the purple leaved Cotinus coggygria, Prunus and Viburnum with the yellow of the hornbeam hedge and the distant yellow of the silver birch.

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Two:  This green leaved Smoke Bush at the top of the cutting garden provides a sumptuous autumn display of colour.

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Three:  In the woodland walk these small field maple trees provide a golden glow in the sunshine.

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Four:  Another purple leaved Cotinus this time in the patio bed contrasting with the still green Wisteria and grey leaved Santolina chamaecyparissus.

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Five:  Although a seriously spiky plant when cutting the grass this Berberis thunbergii f. atropurpurea offers excellent purple foliage all year and is well worth its place in the shrub bed.   At this time of year the foliage develop a range of orange hues.

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Six:  It is of course not just about the leaves at this time of year.  Many of the cotoneaster bushes, sorbus, roses and blackthorn are full of berries and hips. This tall Pyracantha is in its prime at the moment and providing a feast for the birds.

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The Six on Saturday meme is hosted by The Propagator. Click on the link to see what other plant lovers are chatting about.

Six on Saturday: Woodland Edge

Over 25 years ago our garden benefited from a Warwickshire scheme to plant native hedgerow and woodland trees.  These saplings have now all grown into mature trees and provide a number of wooded areas across the garden.  Along with the trees we have also seen the introduction of a number of smaller woodland and woodland edge plants.  These are not your flamboyant garden flowers but provide an interesting tapestry of small delicate flowers loved by many bees and insects.  Increase the number of insects and the birds follow.

At this time (the beginning of May) the spring flowers are taking their chance to flower and enjoy the sunshine before the leaves on the trees develop and reduce light levels on the woodland floor.  This weeks ‘Six on Saturday’ celebrates six of these beautiful flowering plants, some of which have a wonderful scent.


One: Red Campion (Silene Dioica)

Red Campion (Silene dioica)
Red Campion (Silene dioica)

Two: Yellow archangel (Lamium galeobdolon)

P1010112 Yellow Archangel


Three: Wood spurge (Euphorbia amygdaloides)

Wood spurge (Euphorbia amygdaloides)
Wood spurge (Euphorbia amygdaloides)

Four:  Sweet Woodruff or Sweet Scented Bedstraw (Galium odoratum)

P1010114 Wooddruff


Five: Bluebells

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Six:  Honesty (Lunaria annua)

P1010117 Honesty


The Six on Saturday meme is hosted by The Propagator. Click on the link to see what other plant lovers are chatting about.


Honey Pot Flowers are wedding and celebration florists based in Warwickshire in the United Kingdom specialising in natural, locally grown seasonal flowers. We grow many of our own flowers allowing us to offer something very different and uniquely personal.