Here we go, another year begins, and I hope you feel all fired up and raring to go in the garden.
For me, this is year 5 as I try to transform my garden for wildlife. I spent 15 years in my previous garden, but these last five years in my 'new' garden have whizzed by.
Last year was amazing, with Common Blue, Brown Argus and Wall butterflies all colonising, dragonfly numbers doubling again (my totals are now 20 times what they were in Year 1), and bird highlights including an unexpected Black Redstart for Christmas.
However, there's lots of work to be done in the months ahead, and I'll be sharing progress and tips and ideas as the year progresses. In particular, I'm hoping for a big step forward in my butterfly populations now that my wildlflower 'meadows' are beginning to establish.
But back to the present, and what a glorious first day of the year it was down here in Sussex. I was in a t-shirt most of the day, although perhaps that was in part due to some strenuous digging as I prepare what will be Bee Bed 3.
However, I took some time out just to enjoy the flowers. Yes, flowers! The garden might not be wall-to-wall colour, but there are many plants still doing their best to bloom, and I don't mean just the winter specialities such as Winter Honeysuckle and Winter-flowering Cherry, both of which have bumblebees daily at the moment.
Here are some of my out-of-season brave souls doing their best to keep going (all photos taken today), all of which are offering succour to pollinators still venturing out. First up, Common Poppy still in bloom:
And the glorious native Musk Mallow:
And I did a late sowing in about August time of Phacelia tanacetifolia, that wonderful pollinator flower, which just keeps on going:
As does the Borage.I'm so glad that I staggered sowing of all these annuals through spring and summer to extend the flowering period as long as possible.
But my ever-reliable Echium 'Blue Bedder' seemed to be doing most of the legwork for pollinators, including several Marmalade Hoverflies (below). They are readily told from all other hoverflies by the alternating thick and thin black stripes across their abdomens. However, the hundreds upon hundreds that visit in summer tend to have a ground colour of solid yellow, but note how this one has very attractive whitish bands Marmalade Hoverflies that develop in cooler weather tend to show these variations, and the black markings tend to be thicker; some are even all-black.
All of these plants are so easy to grow - every single one in these photos was from seed I scattered rather than from plants I started in pots. And that will be something of a focus for me this year - showcasing the wildlife-friendly things that are so easy to do that anyone could give them a go. If you have any subjects you'd like me to cover, just fire off a reply and I'll do my best to oblige. Happy New Year!
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