Sunday, 30 August 2015

August

No shortage of veggies this month as the harvest gets into full swing. Potatoes, runner and French beans, carrots and kale all keeping me well fed. And stacks of fruit - raspberries, blackberries, grapes, cherry and Victoria plums all doing nicely.

Plenty of plants for pollinators too, some like the perennial wallflower "Bowles Mauve" and the echium "Blue Bedder" have been flowering non-stop all summer, some like catmint, bladder campion and golden marguerite are flowering for a second time, whilst I'm getting another crop of flowers from a second sowing of phacelia. And of course others like helianthus, sedum, liatris and eupatorium save their glory for this time of year and are flowering for the first time.

In the meadow grass in the orchard the yellow of ragwort and blue of tufted vetch is giving way to the purple of common knapweed. A time of abundance for both me and the creatures with whom I share this little piece of planet earth.

Not so many of the common bumblebees around now as many of the colonies have reached the end of their lifecycle: order will have been replaced by anarchy and the old queen killed. However there are still plenty of tree bumblebees and carder bees around in need of nectar. It's been a fairly good year for butterflies - among the colourful garden varieties I've noticed more peacocks than small tortoiseshells this year and at the height of summer there was no shortage of the grassland types: gatekeepers, meadow browns, skippers and speckled woods. And a major improvement in the number of common blues I've seen.

Here's the pics:

 Cosmos coming to the fore in the pictorial meadow mix.

 Didiscus: I trialed this for the first time this year but it's been a disappointment, attracting very few pollinators and  also being good at falling over in the wind. One I'll probably not bother with again.

 Agastache: at the other end of the scale one of the very best plants for bees.

 Now that I'm getting a handle on which are the best plants for bees and butterflies I'm starting to think about combinations - what looks good together - to plan for future years. Here helenium, fading poppy stalks and borage with aster in the foreground.

 Agastache in the foreground with echinacia against the woody stems of a dying wallflower "Bowles Mauve".

 Meadow grass and wild flowers.

 Plot in the morning.

 Greenbottle fly on aster.

 Hoverfly on helianthus.

 Large white on verbena.

 Tree bumblebee on scabious.

 Common knapweed in the meadow grass.

 Potentilla and bladder campion make a nice combination.

 Tree bumblebee on agastache.

A treat at this time of year is seeing the sedum flowers change colour as they slowly open.

A late bumblebee on dahlia.

And the not-so-common Common Blue on marjoram.

Plants for bees and butterflies in August

Here's what's been providing pollen and nectar this month:

Agastache foenicolium 
Agastache foenicolium "Golden Jubilee"
Alfalfa (Medicago sativa) 
Aster frikartii "Monch"
Bishop's Flower (Ammi majus) 
Bladder campion
Blood Pink (Dianthus cruentus)
Borage 
Buddleia
Bramble 
Catmint (Nepeta mussini)
Cirsium rivulare "Atropurpureum" 
Clover - wild, white 
Comfrey
Coreopseris verticillata
Cosmos "Sensation Mixed" and "Pied Piper"
Cupid's Dart (Catananche)
Dahlia "Redskin" 
Didiscus "Madonna Mixed"
Echinacea purpurea
Echium "Blue Bedder" Eupatorium purpurea
Evening primrose 
French beans
Golden Marguerite (Anthemis tinctoria "Sauce Hollandaise") 
Helenium "Sahin's Early Flowerer" 
Helianthus "Lemon Queen"
Hyssop 
Knapweed
Liatris spicata "Floristan Violet"
Mallow - wild
Marjoram (Origanum marjorana) 
Monarda fistulosa (wild bergamot, bee balm)
Nicotiana "Lime Green"
Perovskia "Blue Spire" (Russian sage)
Phacelia tanacetifolia (second crop)
Poppies - cornfield, opium.
Potentilla atrosanguinea 
Ragwort
Rose Campion 
Rosebay willowherb
Rudbeckia "Marmalade"
Runner beans 
Sainfoin
Scabiosa atropurpurea "Oxford Blue" 
Scabiosa caucasia "Perfect Blue" 
Sedum
Snapdragon 
Tufted vetch
Verbena bonariensis
Veronica spicata
Wallflower "Bowles Mauve" 
Wild basil (Clinopodium vulgare)

Saturday, 25 July 2015

July in pictures

 Echium "Blue Bedder" - one of the bee's favourites.

Summer stunner: Helenium "Sahin's Early Flowerer"


 Scabious "Cambridge Blue"

 Hoverflies out in good numbers this month...

...as well as ladybirds.

Hoverfly and thunderflies on Dahlia "Redskin".

 Hoverfly on Shirley poppy.

 White-tailed bumblebee on field scabious.

 Buff-tailed on opium poppy.

 Tree bumblebee on scabious.

 Another lovely hoverfly...

...and another.

 Agastache foenicolium and Rudbeckia "Marmalade" making a nice combination.

Small tortoiseshell caterpillars on all-important nettles.

 Large skipper on one of the best plants for butterflies - perennial wallflower "Bowle's Mauve"...
  
...and small tortoiseshell on the same.

Flowers in the orchard

The most success I've had with planting plug plants in the meadow area of the orchard - and the one most popular with the bees - has been with tufted vetch. Also flowering this month is the much-maligned ragwort, clover, buttercups, rosebay willowherb and self-heal. The long grass also gives shelter to numerous other invertebrates, frogs and hedgehogs.


Nectar plants in July

What's been flowering for the bees and butterflies this month:

Agastache foenicolium 
Agastache foenicolium "Golden Jubilee"
Alfalfa (Medicago sativa) 
Asparagus 
Aster frikartii "Monch"
Astrantia major 
Bishop's Flower (Ammi majus)
Blood Pink (Dianthus cruentus)
Borage 
Buddleia
Bramble 
Candytuft
Catmint (Nepeta mussini)
Cirsium rivulare "Atropurpureum" 
Clover - wild, white
Coreopseris vertverticillata
Cornflower
Cosmos "Sensation Mixed"
Cupid's Dart (Catananche)
Dahlia "Redskin" 
Echinacea purpurea
Echium "Blue Bedder"
Felicia "The Blues"
Field scabious (Knautia arvensis)
Foxgloves
Geranium "Johnsons Blue"
Geranium pratense "Mrs Kendall Clark"
Giant Scabious (Cephalaria gigantia)
Golden Marguerite (Anthemis tinctoria "Sauce Hollandaise") 
Helenium "Sahin's Early Flowerer"
Hyssop
Lavender
Love-in-a-mist 
Mallow - wild
Marjoram (Origanum marjorana)
Nicotiana "Lime Green"
Night-scented stock
Peas
Phacelia tanacetifolia
Poppies - cornfield, opium and Shirley 
Potentilla atrosanguinea 
Ragwort
Raspberry
Rose Campion 
Rosebay willowherb
Rudbeckia "Marmalade"
Runner beans 
Salvia x superba "Rose Queen"
Scabiosa atropurpurea "Oxford Blue" 
Scabiosa caucasia "Perfect Blue" 
Self-heal (Prunella vulgaris)
Snapdragon 
Tufted vetch
Verbena bonariensis
Veronica spicata
Wallflower "Bowles Mauve" 
Wild basil (Clinopodium vulgare)

Saturday, 27 June 2015

June

So the solstice has been and gone and I can finally stop living off asparagus and leaf beet. Broad beans, peas, carrots and cabbage all coming on stream now. A bit behind with the blogging this year but I can't get everything right.

I'm continuing my experiments with which plants are best for bees and butterflies and have planted my favorites along with some newbies, more of which later.

Hope you're all having a good season and enjoying the sun at last!




Plants for bees and butterflies in June

Plenty of candy this month, here's what's flowering out on the plot:

Alfalfa (Medicago sativa)
Astrantia major
Blood Pink (Dianthus cruentus)
Borage
Bramble
Campion - red and rose
Catmint (Nepeta mussini)
Cirsium rivulare "Atropurpureum"
Clover
Cupid's Dart (Catananche)
Dahlia "Redskin"
Echium "Blue Bedder"
Felicia "The Blues"
Field Scabious (Knautia arvensis)
Foxgloves
Geranium "Johnsons Blue"
Geranium pratense "Mrs Kendall Clark"
Giant Scabious (Cephalaria gigantia)
Golden Marguerite (Anthemis tinctoria "Sauce Hollandaise")
Love-in-a-mist
Marjoram (Origanum marjorana)
Mustard
Nicotiana "Lime Green"
Night-scented stock
Peas
Penstemon "Summer Bluebell"
Phacelia bolanderi
Phacelia tanacetifolia
Poppies - cornfield and Shirley
Rose - wild
Sainfoin (Onobrychis vicifolia)
Snapdragon
Wallflower - wild and "Bowles Mauve"

 Tree bumblebee on Giant Scabious

 Red-tailed bumblebee going for Bladder Campion

 Buff-tailed bumblebee on Phacelia

 Buff-tailed on Borage

 Astrantia major

 Carder bees on Sainfoin

 The humble clover

Foxglove

Night-scented stock

 Blood Pink

In the orchard

Looks like I'll be in for a bumper crop from the top fruit this year: apples, pears, plums and cherries all looking good. I've managed the grass a little differently this year - still leaving most of it long but cutting it until mid May so it doesn't grow quite so long and thick, but plenty long enough for the wildlife to benefit from. As far as flowers for the meadow go I've planted some hardy geranium "Johnson's Blue" in there - it's a good plant for the pollinators and vigorous enough to compete with the grass. The ox-eye daisies which I put in as plug plants a few years ago have all but disappeared - I've since found out that it's a pioneer plant and that's how it behaves. You live and learn. The other plugs I put in were some vetches and they're thriving. The red campion which I put in as seed still keeps doing it's thing. Other than that there's what was there all along - a profusion of dandelions which in the spring are a useful source of nectar when there's not much else flowering and now clover, buttercups and self-heal. And there's more than enough flowers in the garden, it's the long grass which is so good for the wildlife.


The other pleasure in June is the flowering of the elderberry trees and dog roses, especially the one which has climbed into my plum tree:


Most modern garden roses are hopeless for pollinators but any of the wild or open-centred single flower types are great.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Spring equinox

Well the equinox is here and I can get on with sowing some seeds. Whether I carry on with this blog is another matter, it seems to have fizzled out last summer; only time will tell I guess. In the meantime here's a picture of this morning's solar eclipse over our site.