Tag Archives: wildflower

Intimate details

There is nothing I like better than getting a good close up of a flower, bee or butterfly. I am fascinated by seeing the intimate structure of living things.

Flowers are great – they don’t move about (except in the wind) and you can usually get a good look at them, even without a still photograph.

Insects are a different matter though. A lot of my pictures end up blurry and not very sharp – or with half a bee as it takes off before the shutter has clicked fully. But when you do get that good close up – the detail can be amazing. I  also find it a very useful tool when trying to identify a species I am not familiar with.

This post was inspired by this week’s photo challenge – Detail

Garden flowers – June update

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.

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.

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.

scorzonera

scorzonera

 

 

Spring is coming

It may be cold outside but there is a definite feeling of spring in the air. The birds are singing and chasing each other around the garden, and stocking up on peanuts.

bluetit

bluetit

The flowers seem to be coming in small flurries but I love the bright daffodils. So far only the dwarf ones are open but the others are not far off.

 

And the primrose are flowering in the bank by the hedgerow. They are one of my favorite wildflowers.

Primrose

Primrose

And for the early pollinators food is becoming available, so I am sure if it warms up a couple of degrees we will start to see a few early hoverflies and bumblebees. Willow is an excellent early pollen provider. This is a cultivated willow, always one of the earliest to have catkins and pollen in my garden. The wild willows are usually a couple of weeks behind it.

 

Year end

As the year draws to a close it is always a good time to reflect on the last 12 months as well as look forward.

I think this year the weather has really dominated my posts. Our climate influences so much of what we do from gardening to enjoying a day outdoors! And certainly this year’s messed up seasons has had an impact. From days on the beach in APRIL in t-shirt and shorts when it would usually be hats and gloves; to a cool, wet summer that meant a poor harvest; to storm Desmond and the gloom of constant grey days of late winter.

It is more than likely that the weather is a result of the El Nino as well as climate change but I wonder if what we are experiencing is a glimpse into the future and that there is more of this in  store for us. With this in mind for 2016 I need to think more about the crops we grow and how to grow them better and make better use of our space.

I also have been thinking a lot about our wildlife and how we can make more room for it in our garden. More bird boxes are planned. I would love to create a wildflower haven in the area that has been cleared to widen the road at the end of our lane. I also need to get more wildflowers in our meadow and more pollinator friendly flowers into the bee and butterfly garden. So over the next week I will start making plans including the fun part of looking at seed catelogues. This year I’ve been trailing more seed saving too but the proof will come in the spring as to whether this has been a success or not!

So roll on 2016 and let’s hope it is a bit drier than 2016! Wishing you all a wonderfully productive New Year:)

 

 

 

Beautiful Bees

The mild autumn weather means that there are still bees around. Late flowering plants such as devil’s bit scabious are great for providing vital pollen and nectar late in the season.

The Common carders are still busy in the garden, though all these photos were taken on a walk up Croaghmoyle last Sunday.

Many males bumblebees have distinct yellow faces so there is no problem handling them, as the males don’t have a sting. In fact, this little fellow seemed to quite enjoy the heat from my hand as it wasn’t a very warm day!

To see some lovely cuckoo bumblebees (and other great garden wildlife) check out Gardening Jules lovely Wildlife Wednesday post

The beauty of late summer’s wild flowers

We had a walk in Drummin wood and along the shores of Lough Cullen earlier this weekend. The wood has a new track, or should I say old track which has been re-opened and resurfaced. There were some lovely large specimens of hazel and holly.

Along the shores of Lough Cullen there was a wealth of wild flowers. It may be late summer but there was no shortage of colour. I just wanted to share a little of the beauty.

Grass of Parnassus was a plant I had to look up, as it is one I was not familiar with. In order to get a detailed photo I asked my husband to hold onto the flower head. It was really exquisite (it’s worth clicking on the photo to get a closer look).

And finally of course the lovely view over the lake.

Lough Cullen

Lough Cullen

Wildflower Meadow

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.

Ox-eyed daisy

Ox-eyed daisy

However, the yellow catsear Hypochaeris radicata, have  increased significantly just by collecting and scattering seeds.

Catsear

Catsear

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.

Yellow rattle

Yellow rattle

There has always been plenty of white clover, but this year the red clover is also doing well.

Red Clover

Red Clover

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!

 

 

Marsh Marigolds – Different views

Just a couple of images of marsh marigolds growing in the drain in the wood which I took a couple of weeks ago. I’ve been experimenting with them for photo101. The first image I just liked the contrast of the yellow against the blue sky reflected in the water. The images were not as sharp as I hoped and I even returned the following day to try and get a clearer shot but the water level had gone up and it wasn’t possible.

Photo101-Day Eleven, Pop and Colour

Photo101-Day Eleven, Pop and Colour

The second image again could be sharper but I like the idea architecture in plants and was originally thinking something tall, but then saw this photo and felt it would work too. I do like monochrome and should experiment more!

Photo101-Day Twelve, Architecture & Monochrome

Photo101-Day Twelve, Architecture & Monochrome