Gardening with Nature on the Edge of the Atlantic

As Summer Ends

I think that this has probably been the best year for butterflies since I first moved here over thirteen years ago. All the usual favourites such as the Red Admiral, Peacock Butterfly, Small Tortoiseshell, Painted Lady and Speckled Wood are in abundance in the flower garden and copse, but there have also been many more of my rarer visitors. I have seen up to five Gatekeepers, fluttering together, small blues and many others who have been moving too fast for me to make a positive identification. I attribute this in part to the reduction in cut grass throughout the property as the long grasses seem to be the favourite of these latter butterflies.

Yellow and white tend to be the predominant colour of the wildflowers that you see in the garden. These colours usually dominate as the flowers are much larger than the many blue, red and pink specimens that require careful observation to see. These Birds-foot-trefoil pea flowers have three tiny red streaks per petal and have retained their clear yellow colour. In much of the garden, they are usually a deep red or orange probably as a result of the dry rocky ground.

A truly ‘red’ red Admiral sunning itself on an Elaeagnus leaf.

At the other end of the spectrum, I have noticed these crab-like spiders for the first time. The pale green colour is distinctive although if these are flower crab spiders as I believe they can change colour to mimic the plant they are on. In this instance the Jerusalem sage. The seed heads of this plant are as interesting as the flower and I will see if they dry well for winter posies.

Another colourful addition to the garden. I think that this may be a red raspberry slime mould although it looks rather solid here. It appeared overnight in a new raised bed that I am creating. The name ‘slime’ became obvious the next day as it obviously disintegrates quickly. Despite its rather off-putting name it is apparently harmless and I always appreciate colour wherever you can find it.

One of the many meadow Brown butterflies enjoying the sun. I will have to rethink my planting of Hebe this winter. They have been particularly popular with the butterflies as well as a host of flying insects and probably deserve more space than they currently inhabit.

The flowers from the carrot family are perhaps the most elegant of all wildflowers. The young Wild Carrot Daucus Carota is pink tinged and can be distinguished from the sea Carrot as it matures by it tiny inner, centre flower. It is often known as Queen Anne’s lace. The ‘red flower’ in the centre of the Wild Carrot can be difficult to see and even more difficult to photograph and in my garden it is more accurate to describe the tiny flower as ‘wine’ coloured.

These two photographs show details of a young Sea Carrot flower in its early stages. Many seemed unusually pink this year perhaps due to the dry spell earlier in the Summer.

Sea Carrot. The pink tinge and forked bracts become more obvious as the flower matures.

I am impressed at the way in which many of the hydrangea survived the long dry spell this year and in fact have suffered more from the rain and wind. The paniculate seem particularly resilient and are looking at their best this year. This is Silver Dollar with Ayesha in the background.

I am always trying to come up with ways of battling the slugs in my raised beds and recently tried out one of my ‘bright ideas’. I had noticed that parsley and fennel leaves seem to provide a deterrent if fresh and thought that rocket might be equally repulsive. I encircled my newly set spinach seeds with the latter . The theory was that the rocket would deter the slugs and allow the spinach to grow in peace. I now have an area of about one square yard with a couple of weak rocket plants and over 13 wildflower varieties. It is very reassuring to know that my soil is so ‘wildflower’ fertile but I am returning to my conventional rows for future plantings.

I occasionally come across a creature for the first time and immediately assume that it is a rare species. As usual this black and yellow longhorn beetle Rutpela maculate turns out to be very common but I am thinking of changing the definition of ‘exotic’ to mean ‘I have never seen it before’.

I have taken to sitting in the garden under the trees when the weather permits. This young robin is proving to be as brave as its parents and pays regular visits. It is lovely to catch a glimpse of one that has not yet got its adult coat and I would imagine that I will see it regularly at the bird feeder this winter.

My new friend posing for the perfect picture.

I fell in love with two, old wheels from a threshing machine on a visit to Bantry market this year. I had no idea what to do with them but I had to have them regardless. I put them in the safe hands of Noel Malloy of Moz’art sculptures in Skibbereen. One has now been turned into this beautiful gate separating my garden from my field and I suspect that they will last forever.

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