July is proving to be a pretty grey month so far here in the west of Ireland, with little sun. Thankfully some dry days despite the clouds. Still plenty colour in the garden to bring us some sunshine.
2. Yellow Loosestrife
3. Day lily
4. In the flower meadow, orchids are really abundant this year. When we started the meadow we had about three orchids. This year we counted 18 a week ago, and a couple of more have appeared since. They are all common ones but still lovely to have.
5. Also in the meadow more ragged robin – it looks lovely against the white ox-eye daisies.
6. The bees are certainly enjoying all the wild flowers.
Thank you to The Propagator for hosting Six on Saturday.
Another warm, dry week. Really this is not usual West of Ireland weather but it was similar last year. Today there has been lots of watering and some planting in the vegetable plot.
However, I will concentrate on flowers this week. First the wildflower meadow is just getting going. Ox-eyed daisy are the mainstay, with red clover, and meadow buttercup. We usually get a few orchids but nothing showing yet.
Next rambling rose. This is one of three heritage ones that ramble through the hedge.
Blue iris. I get the feeling this plant is not enjoying the dry weather..
I bought these last autumn and had forgotten I had planted them. I think it is Allium Summer Bells
Why do we feel compelled to create gardens? My own garden has not so much being created but its journey has been an organic process of gradually fitting in what I wanted from a garden, around what was already there. The very first thing we did was fence off a vegetable plot at the same time the house was being built, as that was a priority for me. We started with fence but planted the beech hedge to provide extra shelter, and that is now well grown.
first year of veg plot
Veg plot (2016)
Second was the wildlife pond. It took a bit longer to complete but now it looks like it has always been there.
Pond with liner (2007)
Over the years we have acquired a tunnel, planted more fruit trees, and the wildflower meadow is a work in progress as there is always new plants that can be added. And then one year we had a bit of extra cash which allowed us to build the greenhouse.
Wildflower meadow and fruit trees
The last two years I have been working on the flower garden.
I never get bored in the garden. There is always something to do, something new to create. Though really all I am doing is adding to mother nature and to some degree managing her. Though if you walked into our garden at the moment you’d see that there isn’t a huge amount of management going on, as they wet weather recently has meant no grass cutting and work has meant little weeding, so it’s all a a bit wild. But I do like it like that!
Over the last couple of years I have been trying to increase the number of flowers in the garden, specifically to help our pollinators but also for our own enjoyment. Flowers add so much – colour, scent and of course the fun of watching bees, butterflies and other insects.
My wildflower success this year has been ragged robin. I have always loved this flower and two years ago bought some wildflower seed as I wanted it around our pond. The seeds didn’t germinate very well but I gather seed last year from the couple of plants I did manage to grow and these germinated brilliantly. So I had enough plants to try some in the meadow too, where I thought it may be a bit dry but where they seem to be doing well despite the lack of rain. Buttercups seem to be doing particularly well this year and many fields around us are yellow with them.
Ragged robin in meadow
Green veined white on ragged robin
Meanwhile the bee and butterfly garden is proving attractive to bees but not so many butterflies yet! Some of the delphiniums have suffered slug damage so I may need to grow a few more.
Lupins with carder bee
Buff tailed bumble on sage
Other flowers include these lovely heritage roses which clamber though the hedge. They are heavy scented. And the blue irises by the pond always seem to do well here though I have tried to grow them elsewhere in the garden and they disappeared after one poor year of flowering.
Finally this flower is actually a vegetable – scorzonera. I tried growing last year as a veg but again had poor germination so thought I’d leave a few plants in the ground and see if I could get seed. They have rewarded me with lovely yellow flowers that smell of marshmallows. The flowers grow on tall stalk about 60-80cm high.
One of my favourite areas in the garden is our wildflower meadow. Dr. Dave Goulson, in his book A Sting in the Tail, describes wildflower meadows as ‘close to heaven’ and I would certainly agree with him. Our meadow is a work in progress. It is possible to clear an area of grass and sow a seed mix of ‘wildflower meadow’ but it’s hard to get a truly native mix. Many of the mixes available here in Ireland contain species that would be found in a British wildflower meadows though not necessarily an Irish one! In addition, where I have seen this done, the meadows look great the first year and then the grasses start to take over again.
We started our wildflower meadow in what is also our orchard. I’ve gathered wildflower seeds from the surrounding hedgerows and fields and scattered them in this area. I have also ‘move’ wildflowers that come up in my vegetable patch or lawn to the area I want them. I do this with ox-eyed daisy a lot. This year, the ox-eyed daisies didn’t put on such as good display as last year. I’ve a feeling it’s probably due to the wet weather.
However, the yellow catsear Hypochaeris radicata, have increased significantly just by collecting and scattering seeds.
One of the great successes has been the introduction of yellow rattle, Rhinanthus minor. This plant is parasitic to grasses and so reduces their vigor allowing the flowers to get better established. It’s called yellow rattle or hay rattle because when the seeds dry they rattle in the wind. I originally scattered some seeds in one small area but I can find it all over the garden now. Last year, I purposely scattered seeds in our new poultry field and there are quite a few plants there this year.
There has always been plenty of white clover, but this year the red clover is also doing well.
We will cut the meadow when everything has set seed, usually in September. The last to flower will be the knapweeds and scabious. Last year, I only had a couple of plants of each but over time they will increase. One needs to be patient. Some of the seeds I will collect and scatter where I want the plants to grow. It’s important to remove the cut grass once the seeds have fallen, otherwise the decaying grass will increase the fertility and generally the flowers do better in relatively poor soil.
The beauty of a flower meadow is not just in the flowers but in all the insects that visit it. At the moment these are some of the commonest insects about. The solitary bee is a leaf cutter bee (Megachile vesicolor). The photo is from last year but I saw one today flying with a large cycle of leave in it’s jaws!