Tag Archives: red valerian

Red Valerian

A Few Random Thoughts

I forgot to tell you something a few weeks ago. When we went to the Yorkshire Coast on our day trip we saw a lot of valerian growing  (Centranthus ruber). The red and white forms were happily growing next to each other. When I looked up the Latin name I found that the white one is also Centranthus ruber, despite being white, though they do sometimes call it C. alba and Red Valerian (White form). It’s all very confusing. I was surprised to see them growing next to each other and staying red and white, after my experience with alyssum I was half expecting that they would just cross- breed to become light pink. They don’t.  When you have white and blue alyssum in the garden a lot of it comes up white with blue edges next year. Or it did with us. Then it dies. All our remaining alyssum is pure white again. I wonder if I am young enough to start learning more about plants?

Having spent most of the day listing gum cards of 1970s footballers, I have learned a lot more about 1970s footballers than I intended, including the splendidly named Len Badger. Those were the days when footballers had simple names – Len, Ron and Harry being among the favourites. One of the cards features a fresh-faced youth called Harry Redknapp. I know he’ll be completely unknown to anyone outside the UK, but I thought I’d mention it as I get to use the link to Eastenders.

It has been one of my most soul-destroying adys ever in the shop. No customers, a few phone calls and the grind of listing and photographing and editing the photos of around 100 gum cards. It’s not like proper work, and I’ve had much harder days, but I’ve rarely had a day which made me question my career choices so harshly. Still, you have to count your blessings. I sat down most of the day in reach of a kettle and there were no flies or manure involved. I’ve had worse days.

 

A Few Flowers

Red Valerian

Red Valerian

In response to a request, here is a picture of the red valerian in the front garden. If you look closely you should be able to pick out the two different reds, though I have difficulty getting a good shot of them. To the naked eye they are very different but the camera tends to average them out. It also comes in white. When we go to Matlock we pass an expanse of the white variety growing from the side of a railway embankment.

The link is to a blog I just found whilst looking for information on red valerian, she explains it far better than I can. The blog address is https://bugwomanlondon.com/ and from what I can see it is full of interesting stuff about plants and weeds.

Figs are doing nicely too – you grow them by cutting sticks from other figs and sticking them in a pot. Easy. My sort of gardening.

The rosemary behind the valerian has only recently stopped flowering. We had to buy the rosemary, but three pots have produced a forest.  We really should take cuttings and cut all the woody stuff out, but you know me – a lazy non-interventionist gardener. They are both great additions to any garden – low water needs, difficult to kill (I never say impossible ;-)) floral and, useful. Red valerian feeds butterflies and hummingbird hawkmoths. Rosemary tastes good and the smell is supposed to drive mice away. We have certainly had no winter mouse intrusions while w have had that monster plant outside. This seems to be the only link I have to hummingbird hawkmoths in my own blog, you have to go down to the end for a poor quality picture of one. I’m sure I wrote more than one post with photos…

The other plant is Nottingham catchfly, a local plant and one I have never managed a good photo of yet. Other people seem to have the same problem.

Nottingham Catchfly

Bees and Poppies – A Simple Post

We have been averaging 14-18 poppies each day. They make a good show in the morning but the petals fall by lunch, so they aren’t the best at providing a showy display. On the other hand, they did drift in free of charge. Others, which I have paid for, have failed to prosper. I keep saying I will have another go with the big red oriental ones, but never get round to it. Perhaps I will simply buy some cheap seed and sprinkle it in the gaps between flagstones. We established  a massive drift of Californian poppies on the farm by emptying some seed packets onto newly dug earth, so it’s worth a try.

Bee on Welsh Poppy

Bee on Welsh Poppy

There are some wonderful drifts of poppies on the ring road where they are letting the grass grow for the pollinators, with Californian and red poppies. They still have their petals when I drive home, so I’m thinking they may be better than the ones we have which, I think, are Welsh poppies. I always thought the yellow ones were Welsh poppies but when I looked them up I found these were an orange variety. There are yellow ones along the street, one of my gardening clients used to have them, but they don’t seem to have spread this far.

Hoverfly on Welsh Poppy

Hoverfly on Welsh Poppy

At one time we had a lot of marigolds. I was given them by a customer, and they spread well and kept coming back, but then declined over a couple of years. We still have three or four of them, but they are not showing any signs of recolonising the garden. It is strange how some things flourish and others don’t. The alyssum isn’t doing so well either, though I’m fairly sure that is being shaded out by the red valerian. That could be the reason why the marigolds have gone, as they would have been overshadowed by the valerian, which is a real thug of a plant, but I always think of them being tough enough to fight back.

Bee on Red Valerian

Bee on Red Valerian

That’s the trouble with gardening the way we do in the front garden – you get what you’re given, which in our case is red valerian. I’m thinking it might be time to cut some of it back and give other things a chance. The only thing that stops me is that it attracts hummingbird hawkmoths, which are always a pleasure to see.

The last bee is on Red Valerian because it would stay still in the morning when it was on the poppies. By 4pm there were no poppies.

I’m wondering id the black bee is a Field Cuckoo Bumble Bee because of the all black colouring. I’m not sure what else to look for to ID it, or if there are any other similar species. I’m hoping the hoverfly is a Marmalade Hoverfly because I like the name. It’s common round here, according to the ID guide, so I feel safe with that ID.

Marmalade Hoverfly

Marmalade Hoverfly

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.