October 18

Big Butterfly Count results

The results are in for the Big Butterfly Count and so I thought I would compare the wildlife garden results with the national results. It is a mixed picture. Some butterflies are doing really well and others are struggling. I counted on 12 separate occasions and tried to get at least one photograph of each sort although I wasn’t always successful. The images below include a moth that was in the count – a Silver Y.

Name of butterflyWildlife garden numbersNational resultsIncrease/decrease for national results compared with 2022
Red Admiral83248,077+338%
Large whites73216,666+11%
Small whites47190,506+15%
Holly Blue234,655+22%
Comma 149,173+26%
Common Blue1 (I think)30,009-13%
Painted Lady3411,893+3%
Speckled wood329,708-11%
Green veined white0 (I might have had 2 but was unsure)24,093-0%

Strangely, not that different from the national results in terms of most seen to least seen. The plant that had the most butterflies on during the counting time was the Buddleja bush. How appropriate. At times there were more than 10 Red Admirals on it and upto 8 Peacocks, particularly in the mid-morning sun.

July 21

Butterfly Count 21/07/23

A bit of variety today but only because I went down to the wildlife garden to count in the afternoon. It was much windier and less sunshine. This is definitely the week of the peacocks though.

At times there were up to 4 peacocks on one flower of the buddleia. I wonder if that is because they are starting to go over and so the small flowers with nectar are all at the end of the group. The small white was on the fading Nepeta or Catmint and the Gatekeeper on a Geranium leaf.

In this picture you can see the probiscus of the Peacock on the flowers.

July 20

Butterfly Count 20/07/23

Do you think I am seeing the same butterflies each day? I get the feeling I am but never mind. Here are todays beauties. The Gatekeeper or Hedge Browns are really enjoying the Marjoram or Oregano flowers at the moment. We have white and pink and they seem to prefer the white.

I might have been getting my Painted Ladys and Red Admirals a bit mixed up. I have them sorted for today!

July 17

Gardening in a Changing World by Darryl Moore part 3

Plants as pictures.

This section of the book is a brief history of the styles of gardening and how we have ended up where we are.

Gardens have always been the province of the wealthy with land, and still are to a large degree today. As an expression of wealth, taste is very important and tastes have changed over time. From the very formal garden with a lot of labour to manage it, to those where the plants are left to a degree to make their own place in the garden, there has been a steady march towards more holistic, plant community planning that leaves gardens for people and wildlife.

I’m going to start with William Robinson and his version of naturalism. The planting he designed had plants from across the world not just natives and he was concerned with planting a plant where it would not need any further care. Whilst he tried many combinations of plants, one that has survived is the naturalising of narcissus and daffodils in the grass and around the base of trees. His was a style of gardening that showed the ecological requirements of plants which we still use today.

Next up is Jekyll and her use of colour through the use of flowers with this lasting for as long as possible in the year. She was the first colourist, probably due to her training as an artist and using colour theory based on the colour wheel. She treated plants as items to be arranged in a prescriptive manner and this lasted for a long time in UK gardens.

The next step forward was Lawrence Johnston who took over where Jekyll left off but introduced the idea of formality through garden rooms at Hidcote. These rooms were then themed as were some of the borders, e.g. the red border, the white garden where plants were categorised according to a feature, e.g. colour rather than naturalistic or environmental relationships. This was further developed by Rosemary Verey with her iconic laburnum arch underplanted with bulbs – often purple.

Alan Bloom then set up a garden using the plants in his family nursery, Bressingham, where perennials were used, planted in islands in the grass. These were designed to be seen from every angle and consisted of plants used based on form and colour – like annuals were previously used.

Sandra and Nori Pope developed the colourist idea to the nth degree with beds of all one colour, e.g. plum and playing with tones and hues. This was a high maintenance garden which ended when they left. They went on to manage West Dean where they took their ideas about colour but there were also vegetables and shrubs and trees in this different garden.

Eckbo started to think about gardens for people but John Brookes develped this much further with his idea of outdoor rooms. Now we have outdoor kitchens, but back in his day he developed a modular system for creating spaces based on the geometry and measurements of the house in relation to the garden. In fact our patio is the size it is because I followed his guidance on using the height of the house and width to create the right sized space. It worked! Brookes used the crossover between architecture, art and landscape in his gardens.

Christopher Lloyd used what he called mixed borders where herbacious and shrubs and bulbs and anything else were all planted together. He used the whole of the plant to see where it fitted in – height, form, colour, changes throughout the season, soil preferences and changed and updated planting througout the seasons. This was a very high maintenance, labour intensive garden which really took off with the employment of Fergus Garrett as Head Gardener. Since Lloyd’s death, Garrett has introduced a more ecological form of planting with plant selection and knowledge of their characteristics as key to the beds.

Beth Chatto was a near contemporary of Lloyd and is famous for her ‘right plant, right place’ ideas aided and abetted by her husband who studied and collected plant communities from around the world. Her boook Green Tapestry showed that colour was not the deciding factor in creating beds and her other titles reflect her ideas of right plant, right place: The Damp Garden, The Dry Garden, Beth Chatto’s Gravel Garden and Beth Chatto’s Woodland Garden. I have them all! Living in a part of the country with very little rainfall, Chatto was ever aware of the changing climate and how we need to change our gardening for the future.

The current trend is for more naturalistic gardens, thinking beyond flowers to ecological interactions: plant communities that can be more resilient when faced with unpredictable weather – hotter and drier and wetter and which need less intervention and fewer resources such as water and fertilisers. These plant communities work together to improve the soil health, create habitats and assist biodiversity.

You can read part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5 and part 6 if you click on the links.

July 16

Big Butterfly Count on the wildlife plot

There is a great animation made by the BBC and voiced by Dave Goulson about the importance of insects.

This week is the Big Butterfly Count organised by the Wildlife Association. You can find out more about it here, but I usually do several counts on the wildlife plot. Here is todays 16/07/2023 at 9.30am standing by the buddleia

July 10

Gardening in a changing world by Darryl Moore part 2

Plants as panacea

There is a phase ‘plant blindness’ which is used scientifically to describe those people who do not notice or acknowledge plants, think animals are more important than plants – including humans – and who don’t recognise their use in our world. Plants are non-threatening, unlike some animals, and can usually be easily removed. There are some that can’t. Just talk to people with Japanese Knotweed on their property. They therefore are less able to fight back and we then enter a vicious circle of not living amongst plants, becoming distanced from them and then relying on the natural world to help heal us. Just think of prescriptions for gardening, forest bathing and other methods of becoming immersed in nature. There is an irony here that we rely on the very thing that we mistreated to treat us.

There is a lot of talk about rewilding or regeneration agriculture and its misuse to ‘sell’ a product. Those who are undertaking this work over time alongside the scientific community are doing sterling work but it is hard to rewild in a garden – difficult to have animals with hooves in a small city plot. Another term that might be more useful is ‘reconciliation ecology’ where the idea is to discover how to modify human areas of habitation to include as a wide a variety of species as possible. This is probably what I am aiming to do on the wildlife plot, I just never had a name for it.

Green plants are the starting point for all terrestial food chains and many insects are confined to one food plant or group of related species – diversifying plants generates many different food chains.

. . . the ecological value of the management of gardens is an important tool that can be used to increase biodiversity and ecosystem functions in the face of the climate crisis. The questions is: how can these benefits be maximised most effectively, and are gardeners up for the challenge?


This is my problem with this book. I thought we were going to find out how we could do this. Nope. Not yet. At present it still reads like a series of articles for an academic journal put together in a book.

Of course, gardeners are not ‘plant blind’, quite the opposite in many instances but their actions can have a very negative effect on the natural world. It’s that trifecta of plastics, peat and pesticides. We have to give them up.

You can read part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5 and part 6 if you click on the links.

July 10

Surviving the heat and drought on the wildlife plot

Not everything on the wildlife plot has survived the heat and drought with no watering but some things have done well and so I thought I would list them as we are all going to need more of this type of plant.

First of all is the Nepetas that were planted two years ago. I chose Nepeta racemosa which is a taller Nepeta identified on the rosybee website as being one of the best for bees. Rosybee undertook six years of research to see which of the plants bees landed on the most, so for instance out of 4 types of Nepeta the racemosa variety was the one that the bees went to the most, bumble bees in particular. But this has also proved to be a popular plant for others as well. We have had Mint moths on it and earlier this month a Hummingbird hawk moth (not easy to capture on camera), both of which are day-flying moths.

First off, the Hummingbird hawk moth. You just can’t capture these with a still image because they are never still so here is a very short film if you can’t see the one above. Play it back at half speed by clicking on the cog at the bottom of the film screen and then playback speed. At half speed you can see the moth in a bit more detail.

Nepeta is a plant used by a lot of wildlife and has flowered well and for a reasonable length of time in the heat. The plant has flopped with the temperatures but that isn’t a problem. You can also get a sense of the plant from the video too.

This picture is the best image of the moth I could get with my phone but it also shows the plant with its small flowers which give an overall blur of blue.

Next off is the Echinops ritro – a steely blue globe on top of a stick. Usually covered in bees of all types but this one had a snoozing ladybird probably escaping the heat inside it. These are very tolerant plants and I suspect that this one is Blue Globe. They spread slowly and divide very easily. This one is a division moved in the spring of 2022 and has taken well with no watering apart from when it was transplanted.

The plant is a native of southern Europe and western Asia, both quite warm, dry places inland and is a type of thistle.

I think it is flowering slightly earlier this year than usual – it’s usually more of an August flower.

This is what I know as a curry plant because if you crush the leaves they smell like curry, perhaps. It’s not a smell that everyone loves but it has narrow grey leaves which tells us that it is good in heat and drought and has small yellow bobble flowers. Its official name is Helichrysum italicum and has been flowering for at least a fortnight now and looks set to continue for a while.

And finally, a bit of a marmite plant, that is not one that you would place in your garden but one that might put itself there.


I know it has a bad name, is poisonous for horses etc, etc but the fact is that horses will only eat it if they are in an over-grazed field and there is nothing else to eat. It is a plant that supports about 30 insects many of which only live on ragwort and is an important source of nectar and pollen. And guess what?

It is very, very drought tolerant!

Here it is in all its glory.

And finally, just because I am focusing on moths this year, here is a wonderful video of moths flying.


July 3

What’s happening on the Wildlife Plot June 2023

It’s been another hot, dry month. The wildlife garden is not watered at all, other than topping up the pond, and so everything in it must survive on its own. If it doesn’t, we don’t grow it. I think this is one of the reasons why foxgloves find it so difficult to establish themselves. However, there are many plants that will tolerate these conditions and they have been out in force along with the wildlife. I will write another post mid-July about which flowering plants have done well this year and last during the droughts because it is my personal opinion that this type of weather is here to stay and that we shouldn’t be using drinking quality water on gardens.

This month has been all about fly-tipping, moths, creating new bits of the garden and a date for the Exmouth in Bloom judges to visit.

It’s not the greatest time in this hot weather to turn a compost bin but needs must. The compost on the wildlife plot takes a long time to make because it is mostly brown material. We just don’t have any green to add to the heap although I do bring grass clippings from home every now and then.

The bin was full so I decided to turn it and of course the robins were soon there to help. There are two of them and I think they are nesting at the back of the shed on the plot. They certainly have young they are feeding judging by the number of grubs and insects they retrieved.

We have our very own sculptural Bankseys creating art with the drainpipes from the back of the shop. I suspect it is children but the contraptions make a welcome change around the plot. The latest is a piece of engineering to pour water into the pond. As I was clearing some of the weed out of the pond I found newts in the bottom under all the mud and roots of the plants but couldn’t get a photo of them. These are why we no longer have frog or toad spawn. They eat it all.

There has been a lot of anecdotal evidence about the lack of butterflies this year and I would agree. I have seen very few on the plot although one I did see early on in the month is the Holly Blue. We have some Holly deep in the wooded bed to the left of the shed and this year is the first year I have managed to see any, never mind get a quick photo.

If you plant a Verbascum the Mullein moth caterpillar (Cucullia verbasci) will find it within days – and yes they did. This time it wasn’t a self-seeded verbascum but a named variety that someone donated to the plot. We won’t see the flowers but we might spot the moths later.

Talking of moths. There have been a few around, sometimes disturbed by me and others flying-during-the-day moths. Tucked away I found a Dark Arches and there are several little orange things, probably Orange Moth, flying around if you disturb the hazels.

The biggest job this month has been to tidy up and clear out all the rubble, soil and junk which was chucked over the fence right down at the very bottom of the wildlife plot, past the compost heap where no one really goes. It is a dead end now that the fence closes off the gate to the carpark (it was necessary to do so to safeguard the children in the nursery) and so I have been leaving it and planned to coppice the hazels every four to five years.

There was glass, plastic – small and large pieces, metal, wood, stones and blocks of concrete, chicken wire and posts, mountains of greenery – 3 builder’s bags, dog toys, enough wooden curtain rings for a whole house of curtains all underneath a pile of soil up to my waist. If you walk down there now, you might find that you are walking on a new soil path. I had to put the soil somewhere so it is everywhere!

With some help, I have now cleared it – I had to cut the hazels down to clear the area but they are now freed from being under the rubble and so will sprout in no time. Being of the mind that doing more of the same leads to madness, I am going to do something different with this area. I will coppice the hazels every year or two and grow hardy geraniums and other plants that will grow in the damper and sometimes shadier spot than the rest of the garden. At the back, to try and prevent easy tipping of rubble etc, I have put up a corrugated iron ‘fence’ and then build a brash hedge infront of it. The land behind the corrugated iron fence is probably not ours so please don’t go traipsing up there.

The only problem with creating a new garden at this time of year is that it is the wrong time and because we have no real rain forecast, I do not want to dig up some of the geraniums in the main garden and divide them yet so it is just going to have to sit there until the autumn when hopefully it might rain.

The Exmouth in Bloom judges are visiting on the 25th of July. If anyone would like to loiter at about 3.30pm on the plot you are more than welcome.

May 9

The third year of no-mow May

I have a small patch of grass that I look after outside my house that doesn’t belong to me but I have cut it for the last 22 years. Three years ago I heard about no-mow May and decided that would be what I would do with it. I do cut around the outside of the patch so that it looks ‘gardened’ and not just abandoned as we have had people park their cars on it before.

This year I have looked at the range of plants/weeds growing in it just to try and get some idea of the variety, so here it is.

In the section of grass that has only been left for one year we have a much smaller range of plants: only two types of grass and Cat’s ear so length of time does increase diversity.

If you know what any of these are – especially the ones I have not named – do let me know.

May 8

The wildlife plot April 2023

April is a time of showers and sunshine, sometimes quite windy and sometimes warmer, others colder. I think we had it all this April and the wildlife responded to it by being visible sometimes and not others. Probably as it should be at this time of year. We did have some sightings of insects I have not really been aware of before and some old friends back again such as this buff tailed bumble bee on the grape hyacinth. I love how furry they look.

This month they have also been on the Skimmia, Lithodora and the early geraniums when it has been sunny. They are always the first bumble bees that I see and the most prolific on the plot.

The newcomer, to me, was the Hawthorn fly. There were swarms of them on the plot and down the path between the wildlife plot and my plot and are quite distinctive. They are all black and hover, settling occasionally on flowers and then darting away (very difficult to photograph) and have long legs that drag behind them as they fly and hover. These give them quite a distinctive shape in the air.

The first photo is a little bit blurry but I have included it so that you can see the long back legs. Here they are settled on one of Dave’s brassicas that he has left to flower. Leaving your veg to flower is a really easy way to invite wildlife onto your plot. Hawthorn flies are particularly keen on hawthorn (!) which is in the hedge at the back of the allotment plot, but are also very good pollinators of fruit trees, apples, cherries and some pears which are in full blossom now. With the planting of the native hedging around the plots a couple of years ago, we should be seeing more of these over the next few years if it is allowed to flower.

I think the one in the photo must be a male because it has a large head and large eyes. Apparently the female has a small head and tiny eyes.

All the blogs that I have read about these flies suggests that they are normally seen around the 25th of April – I think we started to see them about the 20th – and they live for about a week. They are certainly not around as I write this. Strong winds can blow them over rivers and streams and this causes fish that feed on floating insects to rise and this is why fish hooks are made to look like them. No trout or grayling in the pond though.

The next thing I found on the plot was a moth sheltering in a patch where I had left weeds to grow – a good enough reason to leave small patches of weeds in out of the way places on our plots. I have no idea what it is and I can’t identify it online so will ask in the moth facebook group. (Update: Someone on the allotment Facebook group identified the moth as a Silver Y – yes it has little white Ys on its wings.) I do, however, know ladybirds and the sunshine brings them out from the cracks and crevices of the manure spread on my veg plot.

And finally, the holly blue which do not just like holly but also like dogwoods, Spindle and Bramble all of which we have on the plot.

What have you seen lately?