Monday, 22 August 2016
Seems I was wrong about the last day of summer - we've been granted another three days this week. So here are some butterflies and stuff.
Quite a lot of these about which was nice, some on the tansy and some on the mint. They can be hard to identify and I'm not 101% sure about this one because the female common blue is often brown, but I think this right.
When I planted the tansy I imagined it would be an insect magnet and much appreciated by them. That's not been the case rather disappointingly and it smells nasty too but today in glorious sunshine after a couple of days of imposed famine by high winds it was meeting a need. The Meadow Browns are reliable grass loving butterflies all through the summer although their demure brown fades out as the season progresses. The tansy was attracting lots of flies too, some hoverflies, some ugly flesh eating ones. The pictures of those weren't good, so I've spared you.
Silver Washed Fritilliary
These lovely big butterflies are some of our most frequent species here, although they tend to get a bit tatty as they age. They're not usually fans of the tansy either, preferring the top of the buddleia or bramble flowers in the forest margins but today was special, obviously.
If the coppers can be difficult to identify then so can the Blues. This Common Blue looks quite like many of the blue butterflies we get, particularly at speed. However, the clue is in the name, so without other evidence I'm quite happy to identify this one, and he's a boy too because his colours are so bright.
The Holly Blues could just as easily be called Ivy Blues but for some reason they're not. These are quite distinctive, paler, just a little light spotting on the underwings and they nearly always rest with their wings closed upright.
Sooty Copper female and Small Tortoiseshell
How I'd love to see the Large Tortoiseshell but we don't seem to have them here. We have an abundance of small Tortoiseshells though and they are enjoying life in August very much. The picture below shows a caterpillar nursery of them on some nettles. There are lots and lots there but some will be lost to predators and weather. Even so, they look set for a good year again next year weather permitting.
Small Tortoiseshell caterpillars on nettles
I think these are the prettiest of the beetles and have to take their picture whenever I see one. The larvae live in the roots of brambles (and roses) but I won't hate them for that.
Red Admiral on Buddleia x weyeriana
The Red Admirals are fairly snooty butterflies until the plums drop and they become drunken sots rolling around on the ground sucking up all that fermenting deliciousness. They'll put up with the less intoxicating flowers of the buddleia but none of them fancied the tansy this morning.
Mint is another excellent plant for attracting insects. The Green-veined White is another opportunity for a misidentification since the Wood White is very similar but despite the bleaching in this slightly over exposed photo I'm sticking with my id for this one.
Jersey Tiger moth
Not a butterfly but a moth and despite its day-flying habit this photo was taken around midnight last night. It's nice to see the underwings at full stretch but I turned the kitchen light off after I took this picture so the poor thing could get some rest.
Wednesday, 17 August 2016
It might be the last good day of summer today. Misty mornings and bakingly hot days are forecast to give way to storms tonight and cooler breezier weather in the following days.
This is the prettiest sunflower I've had for a long time and it catches my attention and my camera every time I pass it.
Thursday, 28 July 2016
Not a good year for the onion family in the garden. Various impediments meant everything was planted much too late and alliums do love their spring growth. This is onion Rose de Roscoff although probably I shouldn't call it that, since we're in Normandy and there is now an Appelation d'Origine Contrôlée on the type. It's probably one of the biggest we have despite being started from a set. Most of the others are going to be more at home in a pickles jar. I dream of the day when I'll have those 300 good sized onions that I calculate we get through in an average year, and then some for the condiments.
The elephant garlic did get an early start and seems to have done well enough, although the plants have taken rust now. I'm never sure whether it will help to remove the flower heads or not, but the insects love them so they're usually left. The leftover leeks are also flowering at the moment and it makes a lovely lilac show amongst the weeds.
The true garlic was in a sorry state when it went in March. The bought in seed garlic was practically dust and the last saved bulb of garlic bought on the market last summer nearly as soggy. As a result there's barely anything to harvest but a few of the market sourced cloves have formed roundels - undivided bulbs - which can be used. If I was desperate to retain garlic I'd grow them on again next year for bulbs with cloves but it's probably easier just to buy some new seed garlic this autumn. The end times haven't got so close yet.
The Babington leeks are in a patch which is achieving a renewed state of nature. Considering the competition from thistles, nettles and grass they're doing o.k. but I should rescue them and replant in a clean bed before the summer is out. The heads of bulbils are still green and tender. They make wonderful flavouring for all sorts of seasoned vinegars and dressings at this stage and are just right to add to jars of fermented pickles as they develop. Take them young or they form a hard skin that is impossible to remove and nasty to eat and keep at least one head to renew your stock with for next year.
The pot of shame. This is the very last walking onion. I thought I'd lost the lot but found this final specimen in a box of discarded compost on its way to the heap. Carefully nurtured it should be possible to turn its fortunes around. I hope that I don't forget it again. The little plant in the pot is an Erysimum cutting that I must have slipped in there at some moment when I'd broken a shoot and didn't know what to do with it. Serendipity is everything in the garden.
Thursday, 21 July 2016
It might be small but it's perfectly formed. This year's strange weather has seemed at times to be completely minacious to growing vegetables, too cold, too wet, too hot and now too dry, but there are some old favourites that slugs and deer aside can be relied on to come through and give a crop.
These are the first Ice Crystal wax beans to arrive. Named for their almost glistening pale colour, these are short beans on bush plants which try to climb in some seasons producing scrambling floppy growth that can hide the pods. Best taken very young like this they are magnificent in a dressed bean salad but even when a little older and larger will make a good vegetable if you have the patience to string them. The seeds are tiny, rice beans, but the flowers are prolific and it's easy to shell out a couple of hundred grams of dried beans for soup at the end of the seaon from a 3 metre row. I'm very fond of these beans and recommend them.
Another first harvest. These are the beans with no name - they are so good I can't believe they're not a well known variety but I only know them as Riana's bean from Corbieres. Long fleshy green pods without strings on plants that truly enjoy hot weather, their only downside is that it takes a long time for the pods to mature and dry. I've started marking the first few pods of each plant at the start of the season to ensure that enough pods mature to collect viable seed for the next year.
I can't believe I grew three courgette plants this year. And what plants! Determined to get white 'cousa' type fruit I picked an F1 seed variety - I forget the actual name - and the vigour that comes from this sort of breeding is frighteningly apparent. At the moment I'm picking one or two 15cm courgettes from each plant every day. The hot weather predicted for the next two weeks might slow that down but it's far more courgette than this lone diner can contemplate. Must dig out that recipe for pickles.
The salmon flowered peas are growing on me, even though I was less than impressed earlier in the year. They are pretty during their brief flowering and are prodigious croppers of quite pleasant peas. They need better staking than they got this year, the top heavy plants fall over as the peas swell but I'll grow them again, perhaps in a block instead of a row to make them self supporting.
Monday, 11 July 2016
We've had visitors and the sun, although unreliable has been giving some warmth and joy for a few days, so little work has been done on the various projects for a while. These bright red pelargoniums make a bold show in a re-purposed mail box but fickle as I am I've decided I'd prefer deep purple next year. Just enough willpower stayed my purchasing hand last time I was at the garden centre buying more Bordeaux mixture but I will upgrade my colour choices for 2017.
The Japanese wineberry that I was given by a permaculture gardener neighbour of Incredible Vegetables when we visited in the spring is looking good. It was one of my mother's favourite plants but when she tried to sneak it into my aunt's glorious garden it was relegated to a back corner and faded away into obscurity. This specimen will have a happier future than that.
First flowers on the Tigridia pavonia - also known for its edible bulb cacomitl. It was introduced to me by Rhizowen but although I read his blog closely I was still amazed by the size and splendour of the flowers. I shan't be taking a harvest of bulbs this year but the blooms are a lovely addition to the vegetable patch.
Amongst the oddities I tried this year, the baobab. Of six seeds only this one has germinated but that just makes it more special. If I can keep the slugs off I'm hoping for great things from this baby.
First fruit on the Indigo Kumquat tomato. They look very dark at the moment but I believe they will develop some orange flushing as they ripen.
Butterflies are still rather scarce but examples of all our regular inhabitants can be spotted. This lovely White Admiral was fresh and new when I snapped it a couple of days ago which makes a change from the tatty specimens that we usually see.
Wednesday, 29 June 2016
Sunday, 19 June 2016
Another month has passed I see. Oh well.
The weather hasn't been all that good, a little bit hot, but humid and stormy. A little bit cool, windy and overcast. There's been quite a lot of rain. So it's a true curate's egg and the nasty bits have overshadowed the enjoyable considerably.
But from all conflict some good may come and for a change there are radishes. These easiest of vegetables, given to children for their first crop, have always been a bit of a struggle for me. Not so this year. Even with the inevitable attacks of flea beetle the rows are bulging with roots, standard red ones and some Long White too. A miracle.
We dug the first early potatoes a couple of weeks ago. Premier they were and lived up to the name having been in the ground for about 11 weeks and tasting really rather good. The flowers above are on the Golden Wonder. Pretty aren't they and nicely scented. The Ambo are also flowering already. So far we've had only a couple of Smith period days and with the current cool conditions I'm holding back on spraying for blight. Hoping this won't be a terrible mistake because the potato patch is looking good this year.
The first pea pod has set on the Raisin Capucijners which is nice to see. The Salmon flowered are just started to form their crown of flowers. I'd always thought these would be interesting to grow but now I have some, meh. We'll see, perhaps they will win me over.
The Asparagus beetle is back in adundance. This is probably my own fault, bad cultural practice and all that but it does look like asparagus is going the way of broad beans in this garden. Plants I'm unable to grow without special measures are going to be left behind, no matter how sad it is. It's been suggested diatomaceous earth might help with my problems with the broad beans but I've been reluctant to apply this to flowers where bees work. Perhaps on asparagus it could be utilised as a beetle deterrent, more research needed.
We had such an abundant crop from the green/purple tomatilloes last year that I've only done six plants this time. It was a great shame that the last two seedlings of Dr.Wyche's yellow variety which I had from Realseeds several years ago were eaten by slugs before I could prick them out. I was hoping to compare the two varieties for yield and flavour this year. Realseeds don't seem to have this variety any longer although it's still available on the American heirloom seed sites.
So much more to say but my blogging mojo is low. There's stuff about maize and other cereal crops, ocas to catch up on, disasters with deer and fruit trees, cucurbits and more but it'll have to wait for another day when the motivation is strong.