Friday, November 27, 2015

Care Free Wildlife Gardening! And my Buddleia Test Challenge...

Hello All,

As usual it's been a long gap between my last post back in May and this one now (November!!) It's been a funny old year as I spent the summer incapacitated as far as gardening goes due to my deteriorating hip joint. This meant in the end that even a basic job like planting or weeding would take me a long time and would prove very painful afterwards due to my lack of movement and flexibility. This meant that the garden had to fend for itself to some degree this year and obviously no new projects were undertaken.

In September I was finally given surgery and now have a new hip! Currently I am in recuperation and slowly rebuilding my muscle mass, walking distance and general maneuverability.

As I sit in my office overlooking the garden and watching our new resident Coal Tit pair, I think it's time to draw a line under the last few months that have been hard due to lack of actual gardening time. So I will use this post to simply update on the summers wildlife activities and how the garden fared looking after itself for a season!

As I've mentioned them let's have a look at one of our new garden resident Coal Tits...

Not the greatest picture but one of my new Coal Tit pair...

With just a quick mow of the lawn the garden itself actually stood up well to being slightly neglected for a season. Here we have a view across the Perennial Pollinating borders  to the wildflower area in July.

 Both the perennial borders (above) and the wildflower area (below) gave a good show of colour this year and I only planted in a few plants to fill gaps from plants that we lost over winter. Again these pictures were taken in July so half way through our summer season.

So although looking a bit rough around the edges the above pictures clearly demonstrate that a wildlife garden can prove to be low maintenance (not necessarily by choice!) whilst continuing to provide a good looking garden full of colour and beneficial to a variety of species!

There are a few things that I would have changed if I was able to but generally I think the plants worked very well and we still recorded a good variety of insects and other wildlife into the garden.


Summer Garden Update 

In this next section I'm taking a lead from what I promised in my last post and will try to demonstrate what flowers and plants were particularly good for pollinators this year whilst also showing some of the wildlife that visited.

As always Inula Magnifica makes a great statement plant with its large toothed leaves but is also a great reliable pollinating plant in the garden. It is especially loved by bees & Comma Butterflies.... 

 Ragwort is effectively a weed and is probably one of the most controversial plants as in large volume it is poisonous to live stock. Ragwort will seed itself into gardens and is so valuable for many rare insects that I let if grow with will, however I never let it seed to ensure that I am being responsible by not letting it loose into neighbouring fields where it could harm livestock....

 I've mentioned Crocosmia Lucifer in other posts before and I still stand by this as a great pollinating plant for early summer bees and in particular Bumblebees....

Echinacea once again proved it's worth by attracting lots of bees and butterflies in August. White Swan is a variety that I have found to be the most attractive to pollinators...

Verbena bonariensis is one of the best know plants for butterflies and bees and should be included in every good wildlife garden. As usual it proved the backbone of my perennial borders again this year! the butterfly pictured is a Painted Lady and we were lucky to get quite a few in the garden this summer...

 If you include Verbena Bonariensis in your garden then try planting Verbena Hostata also. It's just as good at attracting pollinators but it's shorter length and conical shaped flower spires will give another dimension to your planting scheme. Generally this plant will grow to about three feet tall and makes a nice mid border perennial...

 I include lots of Honeysuckle in my garden as its flowers are great for early pollinators, it provides hiding and nesting cover for birds and small mammals also. But what I really like is the berries that it produces in June. The berries are stripped from the plant from all manner of birds with juvenile Bullfinches and young Blackbirds generally being the first to them!...

In the wildflower area we had a good show of early plants such as Bird's Foot Trefoil, Knapweed and Field Scabious among other things. Unfortunately this year we were a bit overrun by Wild Carrot and although it has some uses for pollinators such as this Brown Argus butterfly I intend to manage it better next year. this will help to ensure that the other smaller plants don't get out-competed by it as they did this year....
 

 Making sure that the whole garden has some use for wildlife has been a goal of mine and therefore we mustn't forget the native wildlife friendly hedgerow and wildlife corridor that I have been carefully developing. Within our hedge rows I have planted a large variety of plants such as Guelder Rose, Alder Buckthorn, Elder Berry among many more species. Included in this planting scheme is native Hazel which is the food plant for many moth species. I was thrilled to find that one of our bushes was defoliated by a good sized clutch of Buff Tip Moth Caterpillars (as below) This demonstrates that even a slightly neglected wildlife garden will continue to support a wealth of wildlife if the right plants have been planted....

 Back to the perennial borders and I have had great success with a plant called Veronicastrum. This grows to about four feet high and has lots of spires of pretty mauve or white flowers. It is a great addition to the back of a perennial border and I have found that the mauve colour is best as an absolute magnet to most bee species. This plant is a must!!.....

 Next to the large wildlife pond that I dug last year I planted a couple of Greater Burdock plants. These turned into large plants this summer and are quite architectural in their appearance which is a nice addition to a pond side. They produced a profusion of pinky/red flowers that the Carder Bees in particular loved this year. They were also visited by the odd butterfly.... 

 Talking of architectural plants then the Cardoon is one of the best! A good friend of mine gave me a small plant last year and this year it turned into a six foot giant thistle like plant with several flower heads as below. The Bumble bees loved this plant and it's already started shooting again so hopefully we will have another giant next year!....

This next plant is one of my best butterfly plants but I rarely see it mentioned in other peoples lists. It's lysimachia clethroides and I think a cracking summer pollinating plant. I get all sorts of butterflies on it but have noticed that the Small Copper Butterfly is especially attracted to it. The plant is vigorous and throws up lots of spires covered in tiny white flowers not disimilar to the larger flowered Buddliea. Butterflies like to work their way along each flower on the spire that has a drooping habit making the flower head lie almost horizontal...

 I grow as much Scabious as I can from the wild Field Scabious in my wild flower areas to cultivated forms mixed in my perennial borders. One of my favourites is the Giant Scabious that attracts lots of pollinators and stands over six feet tall making it an ideal companion to mix with Verbena Bonariensis or to use through a tall or prairie style planting scheme....

 Another success story of this year has been the return of our Sparrow family that disappeared for a couple of years. They have now been back for several months and are currently numbering at about thirty birds and successfully bred this year!.....

A plant that gave us much needed Autumn cover was the Japanese Anemone. Although wildlife friendly I wouldn't normally call it prolific, however this year in the warm October that we experience it performed really well and attracted lots of insects including late flying butterflies...

Teasle simply self-seeds itself throughout the wildlife garden and so long as not out of place I let them grow up as the bees like the flowers but more importantly the Goldfinches strip the seeds in winter.....



Higgy's Buddleia Test Challenge

Those of you who read last month will now that I planted about twelve different varieties of  Buddleia or as often know 'Butterfly Bush' in my garden. This is to test if any of them prove more popular to butterflies than others. 

It's obviously early days at the moment but I already have a few results that will go in the pot with the others when we get them.

This summer the two Budleia that seemed the most popular with butterflies was a pink coloured species that looks very similar in colour to our 'wild' Buddliea often seen in the countryside and a white variety that I have planted. Both bushes attracted butterflies with I think slightly more to the pale pink colour. However as with all these tests it's about their full potential and the white coloured species attracts far more moth species during night time which is of course another vital function of a well planted and functioning wildlife garden!

The pink coloured Buddleia in my challenge has so far attracted the most butterflies...

This white coloured species has attracted almost the same amount of butterflies as the pink but has one the test hands down due to the good numbers of moths that it attracts at night time...

It's not only Peacocks, all sorts of butterflies feed on Buddleia, like this Comma...

Although extremely pretty this yellow coloured Buddleia isn't yet attracting pollinators...

It's early days at the moment on this test for the best buddleia but it will be interesting to see how this develops and if we can find the perfect Buddleia for the wildlife gardener...



This has turned into quite a long post now and I still have lots to tell you about this years wildlife found in the garden, some of which is very exciting! To prevent this post from getting any longer I'll leave this summers new arrivals to my next post!

See you then!

Best regards

Higgy :-)

























2 comments:

  1. Gorgeous nature and flower shots I really enjoyed those so much. =0)

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  2. Love your postings Higgy, looking forward to the next....

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