Sunday, 21 June 2015

Having A Field Day

I know, I know.  I am not the world's best blogger but rest assured that I have been out and about and will be reporting back about it all.  Things I have done for the 30 Days' Wild since my last posting have included:

*  Noticing which flowers attract pollinators and which don't, especially in my garden.
* Photographing more wild flowers and escapes
* Smelling all the roses I can find!
* Yes I did get to dance in the rain but only once as we are having a drought
* Maintaining the more valuable (ie those attracting pollinators) plants in my garden and weeding out others
* Having a field day...

Buckfast Abbey, home to a remarkable building constructed from scratch by only six monks only one of whom was a mason!  It took 32 years starting in 1907 but was well worth the effort as you can see.  Also home to the notorious "Bucky" which if you are Scottish you will know more about than the average Devonian ('nuff said) and Brother Adam, who bred a unique type of bee known as the Buckfast bee which is resistant to disease and stings less.  You can see them everywhere here, because they have planted the right plants!  We arrived before 9.30 and the restaurant does not open until 10 so there was plenty of time for chilling out and watching the bees.
Geraniums.  Not the pelargonium type or the red ones with the addictive scent but this simpler variety.  It was everywhere and covered with bees.
Lavender of the English and French varieties.  The French was out in force being earlier but the other types were just coming out.  You can see how hot it was, a glorious "flaming June" day and again alive with bees because all varieties of lavender attract them.
Honeysuckle, another popular plant with pollinators.  So you can see that it wasn't just me that was having a field day, the bees were too!

Monday, 8 June 2015

Poppies & Pimpernel

What did I do over the weekend?  I went shopping on Saturday and didn't manage to spot anything of interest apart from in the shops!  On Sunday I spent some time in the garden...signed up for The Big Butterfly Count which runs from 17 July to 9 August.  You can do this here if you live in the UK.  I did it last year and managed to see a few, but sadly I see fewer every year.  I remember as a child "cabbage whites" munching their way through the brassicas but now these are getting scarcer.  I can even remember being very young and seeing my last Large Tortoiseshell whose population crash was linked to their food plant the elm.

On a brighter note I spotted a red poppy (going over so I didn't photograph it) and one of my very favorite wild flowers, cow parsley:

Rather a blurry image due to the wind, and it doesn't even look much like cow parsley!  It is however, and this plant (aka Queen Anne's Lace) conjures up images of going on vacation as a child and stopping in laybys for a snack.  It is also getting more common due to it not getting eaten by farm animals as verges used to be or cut for hay but being trimmed by councils and the trimmings left in place.  These enrich the soil too much for most wild plants which prefer poor soil, and so a few robust large species flourish like this one which likes richer soil and is a member of the carrot family.  Do not grow it in your garden or it will take over, do not eat it as it is poisonous.  Another similar-looking plant (though not of the same family) is giant cow parsley aka giant hogweed which is a lot more poisonous even to the touch and looks like a huge version, growing up to at least 16'.  Another plant that looks attractive but not in your back yard!

Smaller and less obvious is scarlet pimpernel.  Another blurry photo due to the sea breezes:
I must try and get a better one but I keep getting very funny looks from people as I take my flower photos.  I could understand it if I was taking shots of manhole covers or bins but then it might look as if I worked for the council...oh well.  The flowers only open when the sun shines hence its old name "poor man's weatherglass".  There is also a rarer blue form which I have never seen, despite it being associated with south west England where I live.  It is not native to this country but very widespread these days and I cannot find out any creatures that pollinate it but it grows well on poor, light limey soils.  You can buy it to put in your own backyard wildflower meadow right here.

Friday, 5 June 2015

Periwinkles & Pokers

On my walk along the seafront today I could see that the red hot pokers were in full bloom.  These always grow on the cliffs every year in some profusion, and are yet another garden escape that has become naturalized.  It is rather depressing to see how few native wild plants there are around here, maybe they have been crowded out by these brash, robust incomers.  This plant origiinated in South Africa and is hardy - after all, it has come from a place chilly enough to have penguins!  There are many cultivated varieties and you can find out more about growing them in your garden here and buy them from Mr Digwell here if you live in the UK.  In their native country they are pollinated by birds, here by bees.  When I was a child just about every garden was full of them including ours.  Now you don't see them so often.
Note the slightly bigger photo.

Growing on the edge of the beach and in clumps in various other spots I also spotted periwinkle.  This is lesser periwinkle vinca minor, and you can buy this pretty plant here which is pollinated by bees and is poisonous so no tasting!  It is a hardy, tough plant that grows just about anywhere and can be invasive, but makes a good ground cover.
I had no idea how much I was going to learn doing this! 

Thursday, 4 June 2015


It is Day Four of the 30 Days Wild challenge and don't think I didn't do anything yesterday because I did!  I went into my own garden and had a look around - more about that another time.  Today it was fine and bright so I went for the same walk and took this picture:
This was on the very edge of the beach near the mallow and growing in clumps.  Looking it up back home I could see that it was a type of ragwort, but I was not sure which variety.  It most resembles Oxford Ragwort, which is not a native plant to the UK unlike several other ragworts but which is often seen growing on waste ground.  If you are concerned about ragwort being poisonous or a nuisance there is a whole website devoted to myth busting here which is useful.  Common Ragwort is a more useful plant which is important to the existence of many insects, some of them rare and vital to the cinnabar moth which is in decline.  Oxford Ragwort arrived in the UK in the early years of the 18th century where is was put in the Oxford Botanical Gardens as an ornamental plant.  It escaped and spread, spreading further with the advent of the railways until it was a common sight everywhere.  I used to live in Oxford and know the Botanical Gardens well.  It is the oldest botanical garden in the UK and has a website here so you can see how lovely it is. 

Tuesday, 2 June 2015


It is Day Two of the 30 Days Wild challenge.  Again I did the longer walk and instantly spotted a pretty flowering plant growing on the beach and elsewhere.  Here it is:

Back at my keyboard I looked it up and discovered it was a type of Lavatera, the mallow family.  I am not sure which one as it frankly did not exactly resemble any of the photos, but it is happy growing right on the edge of the beach amongst the pebbles.  You can also find it growing out of walls, up on the cliffs and all over so I imagine it is a garden escape as it did not look that much like the wild Marsh Mallow despite its penchant for growing in salty places.  I can't discover either whether it is popular with pollinators, but it is widely available if anybody wants to grow one and has lovely leaves.

I snapped a couple of other pictures and could only see garden escapes, so I will have to look elsewhere for something truly wild.  In the meantime it is still wet and very windy but at least I have learned something today.

Monday, 1 June 2015

It's Partee Time!

No, I haven't stopped being able to spell.  This is a rather feeble pun on the word "tee" as this is the third in the series of sporty cards aimed at Fathers Day, and also aimed at recycling bits of your craft stash.  In this case you can use up oddments of card, or even colored envelopes to make a card for the golfing Dad, or golfing afficionado of either sex you want to send a greeting to. 

Amass the following items:

Shopping List:
Basic card kit plus:

White card blank 5” x 7”
Pale blue card or paper to cover the front
Scraps of gray, white, green and gold card
Adhesive stones from Papermania Docrafts
Computer program with Acklin font or similar
Permanent marker pens in red, blue and green

Instructions For Golf Card:

  1. Cut a piece of white card 10" x 7" and score down the middle.  Cover front of card with pale blue card.  Cut out from templates a gray golf club, white tee and ball and gold crown.

 A template for the gold crown:

A template for the gray golf club:

Finally a template for the white golf tee:

2)  Cut a strip of green card 14cm (5”) across and draw zig zag lines up and down to resemble grass.  Cut out and assemble all these on the card as shown.

3. Stick adhesive stones onto the crown, and add smaller ones onto the points.  

4. Choose a chunky masculine font like Acklin (available in Word) and print out the words “It’s Par tee Time!” about 5/8” high.  Transfer to the card using a fine embossing tool and ink in with a black pen all but the letters “tee”.

Here is the printout being transferred.  You will be able to see the indentations if you press hard, or use some carbon paper.

Coloring in the letters with permanent markers on the gold flash.  You could use a paler flash made of non shiny paper or card if you want to use ordinary waterbased felt tip pens.

All done anyway and just the football card to go. 



Going Wild!

Perhaps that should be blowing wild, as although today is the 1 June and the first day of 30 Days Wild weatherwise it is not quite what I had hoped.  Blowing a gale and with squally showers it does not bode well for the first month of the summer, but this is Britain and nature carries on regardless.  You can find out more about 30 Days Wild at but sadly you are a wee bit late to sign up for it.  Never mind, you can read what I am doing and maybe be inspired to do the same.

The idea is to do something different every day for a month that puts you in touch with the wild world.  As humans we are part of the wild world, but becoming less so.  Now here is a great excuse to get back in touch with nature!  So, what did I do today then?

Took the long way around home which meant going down the road until shops and houses run out and I am on the beach.  Then turning around and instead of going back the way I had come I went along the beach path and up over the cliffs.  Past the piles of lobster pots and beached fishing boats, past the rows of pastel beach huts, the cafe on the beach (deserted) and past...the vegetation.  I want to try and find out more about this and see if anything would be suitable for my own garden if it attracts pollinators.  Living in East Devon not far from Lyme Regis the cliffs are unstable and keep eroding.  This means that there are not just garden esapes but plants growing on the cliff edges that used to be in gardens.  You used to be able to see tiled floors when I first moved here.  Resplendent up here is this plant, red valerian:

Pretty, isn't it?  You can buy it here to grow in the garden and it is salt tolerant, a good plant to choose for seaside gardens that have neutral to alkaline soil that is well drained and rather on the poor side, just like the soil in my own garden.  Looking at it on the Wildlife Trust's own site here you can discover that it is also good for bees, butterflies and moths like the hummingbird hawk moth, one of the few hawk moths that I have actually seen.

I also saw bumblebees on dog roses which I stopped to smell, but not of course on the more usual type of rose.  They might smell much the same but the flat, single type is the one to grow not the tightly curled variety.  Bees and other pollinators need to be able to get inside, and many fancy "garden center" types of plants are sterile.  Rosa rugosa is a good choice, a nice red color to match the valerian!

Now it is raining again and they are giving out weather warnings.  I might venture forth later, but in the meantime here are some of the things I plan to do this month:

1) Find out more about the wild plants I see everyday where I live.

2) Do a garden bioblitz when I get a nice fine day.

3) Before I pull up "weeds" try and find out what they do for nature.

4) Get my pond sorted out.  Not a lot going on in there - why?

5) Take my walk further than I did today.

There are things to do every day for the first week at the Devon Wildlife Trust's website.  Check out