An August Garden

Common carder bee 31 August 2016 001crop

Bees and butterflies love Verbena bonariensis, which is at its floriferous peak right now. I rescued two large pots of it from B&Q a few months ago – they were sitting atop a trolley and hadn’t been watered for probably a week. They were brown and crispy, but I could see that there was a little life left in them at the base. They were marked down to fifty pence, so I took a gamble and parted with a pound. I took them home, chopped all the foliage off to the base, and stood them in a bucket of water. Now they are huge plants, waving about in the breeze with purple puffs of flowers atop 5ft high stems. I’ve planted one in the border but haven’t decided what to do with the other one. Maybe it’ll stay in a pot, to be moved about the garden wherever there is a stage for dancing flowers.

Note: in the ‘face on’ photo of the common carder bee the tongue can be clearly seen entering the tubule of the flower.

Common carder bee 31 August 2016 004

Verbena and white butterfly 30 August 2016 007

Cosmos 31 August 2016 012

Cosmos are fantastic, easy garden plants. They start flowering early summer and go on in abundance until the first frosts, and bumblebees love them. All they require is a snipping-off of the faded flower heads every day or two. I grow mine every year from seed, that way I can have lots of plants to shoe-horn into every available spot. They need a little protection from slugs when they’re young, so I keep them in pots on the garden table until they’re about a foot high.

I will buy a separate packet of white seeds next year. My ‘mixed colours’ pack of seed has yielded dark pink in all but one of my plants, which is white, and has a beautiful luminosity about it as night falls.

Tortoiseshells on buddleia 12 August 2016 026

Two of four small tortoiseshell butterflies feeding on buddleia early one morning.

Pileostegia 25 August 2016 007

Pileostegia 25 August 2016 013a

I first saw this climbing shrub, Pileostegia viburnoides, a few years ago at the Wisley RHS garden. It was a magnificent specimen, about 12 feet high and clothing an old wall. It had glossy, leathery dark green leaves and panicles of fluffy white blossom. As I was planning a new garden at the time, I surmised this would be the perfect plant for a north facing shady corner.

It’s a slow grower, but it has covered the intended wall very well. It’s evergreen, so looks good in winter too. There’s just one problem that none of my horticultural books mentioned. The flowers, while being attractive to bees in the morning, are also a magnet for houseflies in the late afternoon when the sun moves round to shine on it. The flowers do not have a perfume, but one would be forgiven for thinking that a steaming pile of doggie-do was hidden somewhere within its leaves. Every time I open the adjacent garden gate a great cloud of green-bottles fly into the air. I am tempted to remove the flower heads when they’re small to avoid this, that way I may get more luxuriant foliage. Oh, but I do so love the flowers…

The second picture shows Pileostegia, Honeysuckle and Rowan berries.

Honeysuckle 29 August 2016 027

I wish I could download a smell to you. On a hot evening close to midnight I went out into the garden for some fresh air and to cool off. The smell emanating from the honeysuckle was magnificent, and filled the whole garden.

Verbena and common blue butterfly 25 August 2016 002

We have lots of Holly Blue butterflies in the garden. So when I found a Common Blue butterfly (first sighting this year) floating on the water in the birdbath I was eager to rescue her – not that I wouldn’t have rescued any other butterfly, you understand. She was rather soggy but alive, with antennae stuck together and tatty wings. I wandered around the garden for several minutes with her perched on the end of my finger, deciding which flower to rest her on. I eventually put her on the ragwort, and wished her well.

Two days later I was thrilled to see her fluttering around the garden, her ragged wings instantly recognisable. Here she is, perched on the verbena. Hopefully if she can find a mate we may get some little green caterpillars on the bird’s foot trefoil.

Blackberries 25 August 2016 016

I detect a blackberry and apple pie very soon…

Every summer our Nan used to visit us from Bradford and we’d all go off to the forest to go ‘blegging’. I presume this is a Yorkshire name for blackberry picking as I haven’t heard it anywhere since – I’d be interested to hear if any of our northern readers are familiar with the term.

22 August 2016 037

Summer wouldn’t be the same without a potful of petunias.

enoplognatha ovata comb footed spider 31 July 2016 (5)

Enoplognatha Ovata or comb footed spider is a rather pretty little spider found all over the garden, usually in low undergrowth and leaf litter. Its coloration is extremely variable, usually it has a thin cherry red stripe on either side of its pale green or white abdomen, but this one was worth photographing for its predominantly pink colouring all over. Rather looks like a brain, don’t you think?

Hebe Grace Kelly 8 August 2016 s5700 035

I’m very fond of Hebes – the large-leaved type in particular. They are mysteriously difficult to find on sale in nurseries – I don’t know why as they are wonderful shrubs that flower for months on end, are attractive to bees and evergreen too. So I was thrilled to see this specimen for sale at a nursery in Ongar which of course I just had to buy, even though I don’t have a space for it (I will make a space). I haven’t seen this variety before and fell in love with the marbled variegation and the burgundy stems. The lack of identification label left me wondering about its name. After a lot of trawling the internet I found a single picture of it on a New Zealand website.

Hebes are native to New Zealand. Some are not entirely hardy in this country – I’m just keeping my fingers crossed that this one is, and some horticultural fleece to hand that I can drape over it at the first sign of a frost.

25 August 2016 006

One or two collared doves are often to be found perching in the Acer at the bottom of the garden, dozing in its dappled shade. They have been gradually getting used to me pottering about the garden, and hesitate to fly off now when I open the back door. I can get within about ten feet of them and then they retreat to a neighbour’s rooftop TV aerial. I can see them watching me while I fill up the bird feeders, and they fly back to their perch once I have retreated. I hope that one day they will feel brave enough to stay in the tree.

22 August 2016 024

We always have Antirrhinums in the garden. John loves them and associates them with playing in the garden as a child, so I always find a few spaces for them here and there.

Hedgehog 12 August 2016 006

Hedgehog pair

All of a sudden the Medges have returned. Last time I saw them was early June, then they disappeared completely. I was beginning to think they’d met an unfortunate end somewhere. Then one early evening I heard the familiar shuffle of a hedgehog snuffling through undergrowth. Not one but two! Are they the same pair that were together in the spring I wonder? I cannot be sure. One has made a home under a pile of dried leaves at the back of the conifer, the other is living in a purpose-built structure I made earlier in the year.

If I am totally silent and move very slowly I am able to watch the hedgehogs foraging for food at close quarters. Their sight is not particularly good but their hearing is, so I have to be careful not to tread on twigs or leaves that might audibly give my game away. On a couple of occasions I have been rewarded with them creeping out onto the path close by and sniffing my feet! I’m leaving little piles of cat biscuits and fresh water out for them now to encourage them to stay in the safety of our garden.

I’ve been taking some videos of them on my phone and camera but they haven’t come out too well due to the low light. So here’s a couple of photos – of one of the medges foraging around outside his little house, and two of them eating peanuts, side by side, outside the back door.

Frames of reference

4 thoughts on “An August Garden”

    1. Thanks, Sue. Yes I do love my garden. After so many years of living in a high rise flat, I can’t imagine life without a garden now.

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