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.

June 2

The wildlife plot in May 2022

May is possibly the best month for the plants in the wildlife garden. They are all types of green, there is enough moisture to plump them out and start them of growing and it can be quite warm and sunny. Below are some of my favourite photos of the plot this month.

First up is the mint moth. I found it sitting on a Nepeta (catmint) leaf in the sunshine. It is tiny and flies in sunshine and at night and can apparently often be found sitting on mint leaves – I planted a lot more catmints last year so they have done their job.

Mint moth on catmint.

One of the best places at this time of the year is the path behind the shed. It is like a glade with some sunshine but deep shade later on in the day. In the afternoon, the plants seem to glow and if you sit and listen you can hear the birds pecking through the undergrowth. You can see the difference in growth from the 2nd and 3rd photos taken at the start of the month to the 4th which was taken at the end of the month.

It has also been the month of butterflies. There have been the whites and painted ladies but also Speckled Woods.

The Tree Mallow has been in flower all month. It has taken two years to get to this size and the bees and other insects have loved it, including Asian Ladybirds. These pictures are of one of the flowers and a bee covered in pollen and trying to sort itself out.

Finally, we have the chairs in the beds. They are not for sitting on because they have broken. They are here to rot away decoratively and provide some of that man made environment that wildlife has become so adapted to. There is also an old wheelbarrow leaning on the apple tree as if the gardener has forgotten it.

Leaving these elements in the beds is all part of the Permaculture principle of creating no waste. Things aren’t waste if they can be used aesthetically in a flower bed. No trips to the recycling centre and no fires to burn the wood.

May 24

6 ways to make an allotment wildlife friendly

Some people who are new to the allotments stopped and chatted to me when I was in the wildlife garden last week and said they wanted to do more for wildlife on their plot but didn’t have the space. Quite rightly, our committee are only giving out half plots at present because the waiting list is so long and then if you want another half, you can ask.

The wildlife plot is run as a garden so not everything that is on there can be used on half a plot and as the couple said to me, now that they have started to plant their veg, they realise that they have very little space left to make it wildlife friendly. So, this post is in answer to their question about what would be the best thing to do.

  1. If you haven’t got any, plant fruit trees, bushes and plants. The blossom on these is early in the year and is loved by pollinators. Be clever and use your space wisely – planting around the edges, espaliering trees so that they take up the least amount of space. Here are my pink flowered strawberries and a step-over blackberry.

2. Underplant the fruit with flowers that attract pollinators. If you are lucky some will self-seed and before you know it you have lots of flowers. Sometimes I plant in between as well, so my strawberry plants are interplanted with Verbena bonariensis and roses. There is a braeburn apple tree in the last picture, honest!

3. Grow herbs which will be delicious with the fruit and veg you are growing but can also be allowed to flower and provide for all sorts of insects. Chives, rosemary and mint all flower and are loved by pollinators.

Chives flowering under the cherry tree.

4. Leave one of each veg to bolt and flower and then go to seed. This doesn’t take up too much space but provides variety for the insects. For a lot of veg, this will happen in the second year not the year you planted them.

5. Water is an essential element for wildlife but you don’t have to have a pond. I have a metal dish I found on the plot, weighed it down with a stone and keep a bit of water in it.

6. Grow a bit of comfrey – just one or two plants – near a compost heap or in a tucked away space. The cut leaves make a good feed for plants when soaked in water (if a little smelly), can be added to compost heaps to speed up the process and are loved by bees. What’s not to like? It is a really useful plant. Ask around to see if anyone has any roots. You want Bocking 14 which is a sterile plant and will not self-seed. If you get the sort that self-seeds it will take over the plot!

7. Finally, if you ever have any ground that is left waiting for some veg, sow a green manure which will improve the soil and may flower and attract bees and hoverflies. I use phacelia which flowers at the end of April and in May before I plant my brassicas which will probably go in the ground in June. The patch of flowers thrums with insects all day long.

All of these ideas should be secondary to the fruit and veg you grow so plan those first and fit these ideas in afterwards.