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Sunday, 17 May 2015

Veg patch and Pollinator Meadow in May

What's better than one Painted Lady in your garden? Why, two of course! I was so happy to see the return of these migratory beauties last week. They made a beeline for the Dame's Rocket (Hesperis matronalis) in my Pollinator Meadow, which is quite a hit with butterflies.

I've gone back through my old posts and labelled the Pollinator Meadow posts as for some reason I never did that. If you are interested in how it looked the first year (2012) when it was mostly annuals, plus lots of bees and other insects on the plants, here's a link, and a post about it from last year with lots more critters including bee flies and crab spiders is here.

I was lucky they posed like this showing both sides of the wings although
I only managed one snap before one flew off, so got lucky!

The day before there was just the one Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui).

White butterflies love this plant too - here's a Small White (Pieris rapae).
Dame's Rocket is a brassica and they can use it as a host plant,
but I've never discovered any caterpillars on it.

And a Comma (Polygonia c-album).

This I think is a female Green Veined White (Pieris napi).
These Heartsease Violas self seed all over the veg patch and the strawberries
have gone wild into the Pollinator Meadow now too!

The Pollinator Meadow is the patch with the white flowers. It was originally about 1.5 metres wide by about 5 metres long, but it's spread this year as you'll see in the photos below.

In the middle of this plot in the foreground is a patch of self seeded coriander!

The shadier end of the Pollinator Meadow, which now has colonised the metre wide strip
of bare soil in front where I grew some veggies last year!

There are quite a few Aquilegias snuck in now, and I was pleased
to see some different colours from the usual dark blue
and purple that I mostly have.

Some bug life going on in there too - lots of Hairy Shieldbugs
(Dolycoris baccarum) on a Verbascum (I've no idea if they eat this plant)
and Woundwort Shieldbugs (Eysarcoris venustissimus) on the Hedge Woundwort.
I can't manage decent macros right now as they are too low down!

One of my other flower strips from last year has been taken over by
Dame's Rocket too and there's hardly any room to sow the annual
flowers I was going to as so many plants have self seeded!

And here's another of my flower strips by the fence -
there's just room to get in a few more annual seeds.

Same strip - the Hollyhocks are getting huge!
There's also Opium Poppy, Feverfew, Sunflowers, Gladioli and Phacelia.

I managed one job last week on my hands and knees - weeding around one of my
strawberry patches and putting some straw down. It's not worth putting up the netting
so we'll share these strawbs with both birds and slugs alike. :-)

Onto some veggies - my OH's spud patch after its first earthing up, and another
row of strawberries which haven't had straw put down.... yet. If at all!

A variety of lettuce he sowed earlier into this cold frame - the lid's been taken off now.
There's Cos, Batavia and Little Gem here.

Another view of the veg patch looking colourful - just the way I like it.

I had a brief look at some of the fruit trees and whilst I see tons of cherries that have set, as far as the plums go there are some greengages, but barely a damson and none that I can see on my purple plum. But that's just how it goes and we're lucky we had a good plum year last year and I got to make tons of greengage jam. I haven't checked the orchard yet for apples and pears. Should have plenty of soft fruit as usual although I'm not going to be picking a lot so the birds or the neighbours will have to enjoy them! There is one preserving job we do plan to do even if my OH has to do most of it (poor guy), and that's make elderflower cordial, as we both love it. But it's somewhat easier to do than make jam!

I have more garden photos from the rest of the garden, and critters, but will post them separately. 

I'm also feeling loads better!!!


  1. I want some strawberries. Love your garden

    1. It would be nice if you could pop over from California to pick some! Thanks Virgil.

  2. Well I'm not sure which pleases me most Mandy...these spectacular photos of your garden and the beautiful insects, or your improving health. No contest of course but these ARE super shots and those painted ladies are so great. Some real nice bugs too, even if you were unable (yet) to get down and dirty with them ;-)

    1. Thanks so much, JJ. I did get down and dirty with some baby spiders (next post to come) but felt the strain so I am being more sensible now! Plenty of time in the future for all that. I'm just happy that I'm feeling so improved and can now sit at my Mac to process the photos and write blog posts more often. And get out and enjoy the garden and its inhabitants, of course! :-)

  3. Super shots of the Painted Lady Mandy and those spuds look to be doing well.
    Good to hear you are feeling better.

    1. Thanks Roy, I managed a bit of hoeing, weeding and sowing some annuals in the bare patches in my flower strips this afternoon. Scary how a tiny bit of work exhausts me. I'm like an old lady and using my hoe to haul myself up after I've got down on my knees! But it's an improvement! :-) Painted Ladies still about.

  4. Lovely photos of Painted Ladies.
    I looked back via your links and it's amazing how your meadow has developed.
    Here's hoping that all the wildflower seeds we've planted will give us something similar, maybe??

    Good to hear that you are feeling better, onwards and upwards.

    Philippa x

    1. Hi Philippa - I bet you will have an amazing riot of colour and delight from your wildflower patches! Mine's no longer looking 'neat', and I don't know if you'd want to leave yours be for several years as mine's certainly reverting to native plants and the original N. American perennials seem to have died off, which is great from an environmental point of view and interesting in a (not very) scientific way! Good for the native insects though the bees etc were not fussy about what plants they took their the nectar and pollen from. Still it has been a fun experiment and interesting to watch, and I have tons of saved seed from the annuals to create more wildflower patches wherever I can find the space. :-)

  5. I can't tell you how happy that last sentence makes me! So pleased you are feeling better.

    Wonderful pictures as usual, I can't get down on the floor anyway so understand your frustration, all my pics are zoomed and cropped, not great for sharpness but OK form my records.

    1. Thanks so much Debrazzawoman! This last week has been looking up, and every little job I've done makes me feel like I've accomplished something! I agree about photos as records, that's the most important, great for us to look back on. One day though I hope to get back to 'bum in the air' taking macro shots of all the critters down at ground level. :-)

  6. Great your feeling better Mandy, hope it continues that way. Like the pollinator meadow, fancy having a go myself, so will take note of some of the flowers and take a look in the garden centre in France as am over this Tuesday.

    1. Thanks Ian. Now just think, you could have a wildflower patch in the space where you put all those courgettes plants, and I bet it would cause more pleasure!!! ;-) There are tons of different mixes of wildflower seeds available, although technically many are foreign plants rather than native mixes, so not exactly 'wild' flowers of Europe. Mine was about 50/50 native and foreign, but it is always nice to see plants like cornflowers, corn marigolds and poppies in these mixes.

  7. I am so pleased that you are feeling a lot better.

    I just love your Pollinator Meadow - the photos are wonderful and how lovely to see photos of Painted Ladies. I've heard rumours that it may be a good year for them.

    Thank you so much for adding labels to the meadow posts. I have just had a great time looking through them all. Such a wonderful selection of flowers and insects. Did you take the macro shots with the Canon SX50 - they are really good :) Really like the early morning shots too and we've done a bit of practice at a Photography Club I go to on the Intentional Camera Movement - I must try some shots in daylight as we just took fireworks and streetlights but your flower daylight picture is very effective :)

    I didn't realise you could get Orange Cosmos - I've only grow pinks and whites but really do like the Orange. I've also added Dame's Rocket to my list of plants to buy in the future. So enjoyed seeing the Swallowtail caterpillars too. I wish I could grow Blue Borage here - every year I buy a plant and it never re-appears but I never learn and will no doubt be buying another one soon!

    A really wonderful series of posts.

    1. Thanks so much RR, really pleased you liked the posts. It's been interesting for me looking back at them and seeing how it has all evolved. I can hardly believe how neat and tidy my veg patch was in 2012! Well it was still quite neat this time last year but there were more flowers creeping in that I didn't have the heart to hoe off!

      I only started trying ICM last year and it's certainly not easy. Fun to try though. I did some of Xmas lights in the village and got some good shots (eventually!). Looking back on the insect photos, some were taken with the SX50 and some (the bee flies and some of the bees) taken with my Canon DSLR and macro lens. I always have the SX50 with me when I am out working in the garden though, and it's my fave camera for butterflies as I can both zoom in or use the macro function, if I can get close enough.

      Borage self seeds here like a weed and I hoe off tons of it all through the growing season!!! And orange Cosmos is much smaller than the pink and white varieties, so handy for filling smaller spaces with a bright splash of colour. Dame's Rocket will be a great perennial addition to your garden, just give it plenty of space. :-)

  8. Lovely to see the Ladies. I saw my first last week, although rather tatty so suspect it had come all the way from Africa. The wildlfower meadow is lovely xx

    1. Thanks CT - yes I saw yours! Heard of several now that have been spotted in England. Let's hope we all get tons of them this year!

  9. Lovely post and the Pollinator Meadow is looking good, cold and windy here again so very few insects to be found. So happy you are feeling better.
    Amanda xx

    1. Not very nice here either, Amanda, so I stayed indoors today! Thank you. xx

  10. Yay! I'm sooooo happy to hear you are feeling better dear Mandy!!

    I love your pollinator meadow - just beautiful! Your veggie garden looks great too. I always enjoy your superb photos :-) I may have to try that elderflower cordial... I have two trees with tons of flowers. The birds go crazy over those berries.

    Enjoy your pond life wild life good life and take it easy with the hoeing and weeding!

    Love Jean xo

    1. Thanks Jean -sadly as soon as I feel better it all goes downhill again, but I'm getting so used to that I make the most of when I feell good!

      At least I managed a bit of gardening, so that made me happy! The rest of the time when I feel up to going outside I still take photos and look out for butterflies and critters, and enjoy my flowers.

      When I'm on my Mac next I'll send you the link for the recipe I use - it's in metric but you should be able to figure it out with the aid of a cup converter program as there are few ingredients. Thanks my dear. xx

  11. Mandy I hope you are not doing too much - hoeing and weeding aren't easy chores! And taking photos is much more fun!!
    I will look forward to the recipe - thanks a bunch.
    Have a nice weekend - take it easy girlfriend... and keep those hopes up!
    Love Jean

    1. Jean, don't you worry, I'm weak as a kitten and get tired very quickly so no chance of overdoing it! But just a tiny bit does wonders for the soul and makes me feel like I achieved something. :-) xx

  12. I'm so glad you're feeling better Mandy. Lovely photos of your garden, especially the strawberries. ;-)

    1. Thanks so much, Deb - unfortunately the feeling good only lasted a few days as you'll see from my latest post which I posted yesterday! Hoping to pick some strawbs today before the birds eat them all as I see some fat ripe ones! :-)