Seen at The Festival of the Tree

...if you would be happy all your life, plant a garden ~ Chinese proverb

Monday, 27 July 2015

Singing in the Rain... Again

Singing in the rain... again - a collage of rainy photos from the garden

The garden's enjoyed the rain we've had over the past few days and I took advantage of a brief lull over lunchtime yesterday to grab a few photos. Raindrops have a great way of accentuating the form of flowers and vegetation, and some plants like Alchemilla mollis and lupins are positively made for the vagaries of our English weather.

An overcast day means there's even lighting to play with and no need to get up so early as there's a good light to be found in the middle of the day. This kind of weather is great for blooms with richer colours, or for yellows and whites to add highlights to the gloom. However, early morning or evening may be still be preferable on breezier days as the wind usually calms down at those times.

I used to moan about garden visits in the rain, but a trip to the Bloedel Reserve a few years ago opened my eyes to the possibilities of wet days. I've found they help me home in on tiny details which I might otherwise have missed. The same happened at Chelsea Flower Show earlier this year, where that wet day helped me focus on some key elements of good design.

Singing in the rain... again - a lake view at West Green House Gardens
Cornus controversa 'Variegata' with raindrops at West Green House Gardens

It happened again on Friday when it was time for my monthly visit to West Green House Gardens to take the photos I need to operate their online accounts. It was a miserable drive to Hampshire and I fretted the whole way about not finding enough shots. I needn't have worried, there's plenty to be cracking on with. Thank goodness, as what I needed to do couldn't be postponed to another time.

It turned out to be an an amazing day, accompanied by the sounds of opera singers warming up, a tinkling orchestra, and a reflecting grand piano providing a different view of the garden. This week sees a season of opera and musical events in the gardens, and Friday was the dress rehearsal day for The Marriage of Figaro.

Singing in the rain... again - a different view of West Green House Gardens as reflected in a grand piano

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Friday, 17 July 2015

Another Visitor to the Plot

A harlequin ladybird form conspicua on Knautia 'Red Ensign'

As well as the welcome garden visitors I blogged about on Monday, I also spotted this unusual looking ladybird on my Knautia 'Red Ensign'. I thought it might be the dreaded harlequin ladybird, but was reassured to find a similar looking one in a downloadable ID guide; our native 2 spot ladybird also has a reversed red on black form.

However, Dave Kilbey on Twitter told me:

He went on to say:
The App is available for both android and iPhone versions and there's also an online form available for your observations if you don't have a smartphone. The Harlequin Ladybird Survey website is also a mine of useful information, as is its sister, the UK Ladybird Survey website.

I've submitted my sighting and I'm comforting myself that the harlequin was snacking on its preferred food source, the abundant aphids on my Knautia. Now those aphids are gone, I'll keep a watchful eye out and hope it doesn't go after the native ladybirds in VP Gardens.

Dave is a useful person to know as he's involved in developing the Apps available from naturelocator. If - like me - you're interested in citizen science or the natural world, there's bound to be an App or two you'd like on their website.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

GBBD: Sultry

Monarda 'Gardenview Scarlet'

Victoria once remarked my garden is very purple. Today's view is quite different. This is Monarda 'Fireball', which is a more mildew resistant form of  bergamot from what I've seen so far. I particularly like how its blooms add a fiery air to the garden, especially at dusk. I planted 3 9cm pots last year which have grown to form a satisfyingly large clump this summer. Bees love it and a brush past the foliage releases a wonderful scent. It's definitely one of my summer favourites.

However, if you stay on the spot, then look in the opposite direction and take another photograph...

Clematis obelisks and Elsa Spath taking a wander around the garden

... you'll see Victoria was right. My garden's going through its switch from its spring purple garments to a sultry summer clothing of reds shot through with some yellow. I gave my clematis obelisks a severe haircut in February and they've rewarded me with oodles of blooms. I must have missed some of the shoots though, as C 'Elsa Spath' has decided to have a wander around the terrace beds.

Then a couple of days ago I found another wanderer. The Knautia 'Red Ensign'* which waved so prettily at the base of last year's planting has now decided to grow tall and poke its blooms out amongst the bergamot.

I love these kinds of gardening accident, don't you?

Garden Bloggers Blooms Day is hosted by Carol at May Dreams Gardens.

* = the popular purchase at the at West Kington Nurseries' plant sale in early July, judging by its presence on nearly every wheelbarrow trundling past me. I went for some sultry dark-leaved dahlias instead. More on them another time.

Monday, 13 July 2015

Of Garden Visitors and Butterfly Counts

Scarlet tiger moth on a lupin plant

The hot weather's bought all kinds of new visitors to the garden lately. The most notable I've managed to photograph is this Scarlet Tiger moth. It looks a little the worse for wear which leads me to wonder whether it's an over wintered specimen. A wonderful Hummingbird Hawk moth did zoom by just moments after I'd taken the above photo. It was far too quick for me though!

Getting an ID for my new friend allowed me to spend some delightful time on Butterfly Conservation's website, where they have lots of information to help visitors identify common day flying moths seen in the garden.

As a thank you for the information, I'll be taking part in their annual Great Butterfly Count which starts on Friday (17th July to 9th August 2015). It just takes 15 minutes of sitting in the garden, and noting which species visit during that time. It's the perfect excuse to kick back and relax for a while, and there's a handy ID chart or phone App if you need some help to identify what's what.

A comma butterfly on our recycling bag in our kitchen

I hope my count includes the pair of commas which have been regular visitors over the past few days. As you can see one of them was a little bold for a while and took a shine to a recycling bag we have in the kitchen.

Have you had any unusual garden visitors lately?
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