I'm sat here at my computrer trying to tpye but all the time my eyes are being distratced by the comnigs and gonigs of the pair of sparrwos outside my widnow. (Right, concentrate Adrian! Eyes back on the keyboard).
The female sparrow has just come in with a big green caterpillar, while the male seems to be specialising in beakfuls of blackfly, probably off my broad beans. (Go for it, boy - have as many as you want!).
It made me think about how important it is to give yourself a pat on the back for anything you have done in the garden over the last few months to help give nature a home. Now is the time to take a moment (indeed, as many moments as you like) to just enjoy it, revel in it, celebrate it.
Buoyed by this thought, I've just taken been to grab a snapshot of some of the wildlife happenings in my garden. Don't worry - I'm not after praise; what I'd love is if it prompts you to think of all the great stuff you've achieved.
So my eye was drawn to my Red Campion, all grown from seed, which is now forming swathes of colour in more shady areas where previously there was none. It is so easy to grow and it is one of our most glorious native flowers.
Then there is my Bird'sfoot Trefoil which again I've grown from seed and now in its second year is blooming like crazy. I planted it primarily for the caterpillars of Common Blue butterflies, but it is such a sure-fire winner with all sorts of bee species. Here today there were Common Carder Bees...
...and Red-tailed Bumblebees...
I found brand new life in the pond - this just-emerged gossamer damselfly, so fresh out of its nymphal case (the exuvia), is still to flush with colour, but is a Large Red Damselfly.
And there are new projects from this winter that are just starting to settle in, such as the Boat Garden (I found the boat buried in the garden, and thought I ought to use it somehow!).
It may not look much yet, but those little smudges of green you can see are native plants I collected as seed on our glorious beaches over the last two years, such as this Sea Kale which is already blooming and providing nectar:
The thing is that there are so many of us doing little things to help wildlife in our gardens, on our balconies and in our local greenspace that it adds up to a pretty monumental difference for wildlife. One pair of sparrows may seem nothing, but combined with all of your pairs of sparrows, in combination we are giving the species a fighting chance. That's the value of us all doing our bit.
I’ve managed to attract all those butterflies as well as small copper and ringlet (since getting Adrian’s book!). Very excited to get regular visits from orange-tips and small coppers now. I also enjoy the bugs which visit such as the shiny emerald green rosechafer and bloody nosed beetles.
(I didn't mean to press send there - I was going to say more!). What I was going to add is two things about caterpillars. The first is that garden butterflies use a VERY limited suite of plant species for their caterpillars. As MrGreenSky says, the two Buckthorn small trees for Brimstone, nasturtium and brassicas for whites, Garlic Mustard and Lady's-smock for Orange-tip, Holly and Ivy for Holly Blue, and Nettle for Red Admiral and if you're lucky and have a large enough patch for Comma, Small Tortoiseshell and Peacock. Meadow Brown, Gatekeeper and Speckled Wood use wild grasses (not lawn grasses). So satisfying butterfly caterpillars is difficult; but helping moth caterpillars is much easier - there are so many species, and between they they use so many different plant species, that a garden full of plants will have moth caterpillars. We don't see them often because they have all sorts of mechanisms for remaining hidden. So my main advice is that if your soil is rich and you like growing garden flowers and they do well, then grow lots, focus on those that provide nectar and pollen for pollinating insects of all types, and you will be doing wonders for entire food chains, I guarantee it
Hi Anne. I know what you mean about needing proper rain - we're parched down here in Sussex. Yes, your experience of wildflowers growing rather too vigorously and then flopping is typical of many of our species that like poorer soil. However, there are some native plant species that don't mind nutrient richness - I'd recommend you have a look at the Emorsgate website of their wildflower seed mixes and look at the species they put in the soil that is closest to yours. wildseed.co.uk/.../meadow-and-grassland.
Hi Anne. I was keen to encourage caterpillars so decided to add the food plants of the butterflies seen in the garden. I planted purging and alder buckthorn 2 years ago as very small bare rooted plants for brimstone butterflies. This year I had a female lay eggs and the caterpillars are now decimating the plants. It depends on soil type and position but in my garden the single alder buckthorn has performed best. Next up are the nasturtiums I have grown from seed for the large and small whites. I hope this encourages you to give it a go!
When I have tried to cultivate wildflowers in my garden, the soil is clearly overly rich and they grow in unnatural forms - typically too tall and leggy. What can I do to impoverish the soil I've spent years enriching to grow traditional garden flowers or are there some species (other than dandelions and daisies) that will grow normally in richer (but frequently very dry) soil? Bluebells and dog violets seem to do OK. Sadly, I've never seen a single caterpillar for several years either locally in the wild or in my garden (we live in Ilkley) and would be delighted to know the best way of encouraging or even introducing some - given the previously mentioned difficulty growing wildflowers. We had exactly the same problem as discussed below with our small pond - toads and toad spawn for several years and now nothing. The tadpoles were always eaten (every one of hundreds) before maturing (and literally overnight). The pond does have both common newts and dragonfly larvae - but why no spawn in the first place? I'm feeling rather disheartened due to the recent decline/loss of so many species in/around my garden so I hope some replies will cheer me up! Some proper rain would help........
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