Tag Archives: red valerian

Gotcha!

Finally, after days of trying, I got some half-decent butterfly shots. The newly hatched Red Admiral finally held still for me, though the windy conditions were a bit of a challenge. The Red Valerian does tend to move a bit in the wind.

Then the Small Tortoiseshell – the first of the year in the front garden – stopped by. No Painted Ladies today, but I’m happy with the others.

More later. I just wanted to get these posted.

Painted Ladies and Flying Time

There were three Painted Ladies in the front garden when I got home. The combination of red valerian and warm flagstones seems to attract them.

The quality of the photographs is, as ever, dubious. Just as the garden seems to be good for Painted Ladies this year, it seems to be bad for photography at the end of the afternoon.

 

The rest of the evening was a bit of an anti-climax after that. I had some sorting and planning to do, and seemed to have worked harder in the evening than I did during the day. The Westminster School Attendance Medals I put on eBay yesterday sold within hours. P8190077.JPG

As I think I said yesterday, this always makes me wonder if they were too cheap. However, I think it’s generally that you are showing your stock to so many people that there are always keen buyers for certain things out there.

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I’m adopting one of the medals as my new motto.

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Delay Not: Time Flies.

How true.

Just Seconds Away…

I can now press buttons when I’m posting and expect that the desired result will be just seconds away instead of the 8-10 minutes it too with the netbook I just opened WordPress, clicked a few buttons and found myself, twelve seconds later, ready to write a new post.

Or, more accurately, staring at a blank screen.

It’s debatable whether this represents a world of possibilities or fear of the unknown.

I’m similarly poised in haibun terms. After a spell which featured a rejection and an acceptance that required so much work I might as well have walked away and written something new, I began to struggle. I was also finding it difficult to write with the netbook.

Fortunately I was able to keep writing using pen and paper, even if I couldn’t prepare it for submission. Finally, editing in my email programme, I managed to get two submissions prepared and send them off. I’m waiting now, but the result doesn’t really matter. All that matters is that I’m back in the game.

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Gull on Llandudno Pier

We had a Painted Lady in the garden again when I returned home, though it’s painful to watch them as I can see the way the red valerian is dying back as summer progresses. Three sightings is a pitiful result compared to the counts we used to get on the farm, but then we are working with a small paved area with red valerian a small buddleia and a few other odds and ends.

It looked like the valerian was colonising a few inhospitable cracks in the garden next door, but their normal zero-tolerance policy for wildlfe cut in after a few exciting weeks and they have returned to formal wasteland status. And there I was, thinking that I might be helping to establish a wildlife habitat.

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Arnot Hill

Open Gardens

Julia visited some local Open Gardens on Saturday. If you are interested in others there is a website here which details all the national ones.

One was clearly the result of spending thousands on hard landscaping and plants straight from the garden centre. I don’t know why you would do that on our street as the house prices don’t justify the cost of expensive garden work, and on our side of the street (as this one was) the gardens slope away from the house and face North.

If I’d been a gardener when I moved to Nottingham I wouldn’t have bought this house. Nor would I have slabbed the front garden to save work. However, plants still manage to grow in the front garden, as you can see from the poppies.

The plants were all planted in buckets because the soil, it seems, is so poor. That is strange because our soil, just a few hundred yards away is quite good. It wasn’t bad when we moved in and with compost and hoed weeds, falling leaves and leafmold it has improved over the years.  It could be a lot better, but we are best described as sporadic gardeners. Having worked as a self-employed jobbing gardener for 10 years I have to confess to neglecting my own garden dreadfully.

The plots were built up using sand when they built the houses eighty years ago, and the underlying geology is sandstone, so the soil tend to be a bit light. However, it is well drained and easy to work, and does respond well to feeding. There were allotments here before they built houses so it was hardly a barren desert.

I did, however, bring back a lot of compostable debris from my work as a gardener, so it all worked out well in the end.

That, I think is where many gardeners go wrong. Spend money on hard landscaping and plants and you will get a garden you can show off. Spend time on the soil and you will get a garden where you can grow things.

Next year I suspect this gardener will have to buy more plants from the Garden Centre to fill her garden again. One thing she won’t have to do is mow the lawn (or compost the cuttings) because the “lawn” is astroturf.

We will, once again, be cutting things back in a desperate attempt to keep ours looking vaguely like a garden. We will also return to planting calabrese and kale in the flower beds. It seems to do well and the pigeons don’t spot it like they do when you plant it in a vegetable bed.

In contrast to the posh garden there was another, where kids were playing. The owner kept apologising for this but Julia told them that was what gardens are for.

They were just doing it to help raise funds for local charities and show what an ordinary garden looks like.

It takes all sorts, and they are both valid uses of a garden, depending on your ambitions and lifestyle.

We had Hummingbird Hawk Moths in the garden a few years ago. We also had a nesting Blackcap. This year we had Painted Ladies.  You don’t get that with a tidy garden.

Red Valerian, like poppies, grows vigorously from cracks in the paving. It is a great food plant for moths and butterflies, though it’s a bit of a weed and not seen in the better sort of garden.

Spiders, Shopping and Dead Butterflies

A couple of days ago I noticed something fluttering in the front garden, It turned out to be the remains of a Small Tortoiseshell, enangled in a sider’s web. It was past help, but I thought I’d take a few pictures. If I ever need a picture of a dead butterfly with a spider I now have one in stock.

It was quite a cunning plan on behalf of the spider, stringing a web between the Red Valerian flowers and lying in wait for a passing pollinator. I imagine that it wou;d have preferred a nice juicy bee, but it got a butterfly. There must be plenty of food in a butterfly, but the wings are a bit of a waste.

I  tried to get some close-ups, but must have touched a web, as the spider made a rush for me, defending its lunch. In such a David and Goliath situation we were always going to have a non-traditional outcome. I was never going to fall over after taking a rock between the eyes. Fortunately the spider didn’t push its luck and, after a sneer, it went back to eating.

Moving forward to Bank Holiday Monday,  we went to the garden centre so that Julia could buy more plants. We always seem to be buying new plants. After the first half of the trip I hobbled back to the car, making much use of my walking stick, and allowed her to enjoy the centre without me holding her back. I am so noble.

There is, of course, nothing wrong with me, apart from laziness and the inability to put up with heat. I’m just a very bad husband. However, I was able to sit in a car in the shade and enjoy the breeze instead of sweating round a variety of converted polytunnels masquerading as a shop. I feel a little deception was good for my health.

Whether or not it remains good for my health if Julia reads this, we will have to see.

As I sat in the car I took a few photos. There wasn’t much to photograph, but when in doubt take a picture of things that look like a pattern. That’s why I took the pots and compost bags.  They aren’t good photos, but they look like they could be. The one with the pots would have been better if they’d been stacked on the level. Or if I’d noticed they were sloping when I took the photo.

 

It was nice day, even if it was too hot for me, and even better when we were able to drive round with the air-conditioning on.

At least we weren’t disappointed by this garden centre.

A Painted Lady Comes to Call

I’ve had a few problems with WordPress today, including the complete loss of a post. This was annoying as I’d spent a significant amount of time looking for links and photos.

Julia picked plums in the early afternoon and saw a Painted Lady in the garden – another first for the garden. Added to the Small Copper and Hummingbird Hawk Moth we saw earlier in the year it’s all coming together nicely.


When we left home to do some errands this afternoon we spent a few minutes watching the front garden and were rewarded by two small brown butterflies hustling past in the swirling wind, then a larger one, which proved to be a Painted Lady. It took some photographing, as it was quite skittish and there was a stiffish breeze once it left cover.

We’re not doing too badly for butterflies in the garden, partly due to looking a bit more than usual and partly due to a good showing of Red Valerian. We’ve also had Mint Moths on the marigolds, which is a first, as I’ve always seen them on mint or oregano before.

As for the plums, Julia has picked over 200. As usual, it’s a case of picking them when ripe and then using them quickly before they start to go over. We’ve given some to Angela Across the Road, who gave us figs and tomatoes in return. We’ve also given some to the Young Couple Next Door, because they give us cake.

I’m going to make sure we feed the tree properly next year, and ensure the pruning is done properly. I’ve been a bit slapdash with pruning recently and it’s turning into a biennial bearer. This is my fault, not the tree’s. If the feeding works it should fruit moderately next year, which will take some of the vigour out of it for the year after. If not, it looks like I’ll have to remove fruit buds two years from now.

I think this all started about six years ago when we had a bad spring that killed all the blossom. The next year was a bumper year due to all the stored energy and the one after that we didn’t harvest any fruit at all. I should have got on top of it when we had the first bumper year, instead I added neglect to the problem by letting the pruning slip by.

We are having Plum and Apple Crumble for tea.

All in all this has been a good day.

Hummingbird Hawk Moth

Do you recall me mentioning Hummingbird Hawk Moths a couple of posts ago?

Well, by coincidence, on my return from shopping this morning, I noticed something large flitting about in the red valerian of the front garden. I’m pleased about this as we didn’t see any last year.

You don’t see much red valerian in Nottingham, and I’m not sure where this came from. The nearest patch is about 400 yards away, around the corner. After that the nearest is over a mile away, and I don’t know where the next lot is. Ours just started growing one spring, sprouting from cracks between the paving in the garden.

In Northamptonshire it sometimes seems to take over entire villages, but the south seems to suit it better. Despite being here since the 1600s it is really a Mediterranean plant. Ours has shifted colour over the years – it was all a deep wine red originally but about half of it is now a lighter red. I’m told it can be invasive, but it hasn’t been a problem so far. I’ve been expecting to see more of it in the street over the years, but ours doesn’t seem to have much in the way of territorial ambition.

I may have to help it along.

Hummingbird Hawk Moth

Hummingbird Hawk Moth

The pictures are not good, but they give the general idea.

The bees and hoverflies were about too, though not easy to photograph as the flowers were in the way.

Later, having got the food in the fridge I went shopping again, and sat in the car watching the wildlife when two butterflies came by. The Small White dawdled a bit, sampling flowers, but the small blue one hardly paused. I’m tentatively identifying it as a Holly Blue as there’s holly and ivy around in the gardens. The Common Blue likes grassland and there’s not much of that around here.

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Bee on Red Valerian

It’s not going to solve the problems of Global Warming or bring about World Peace, but it was nice to see and cheered me up.