Wordless Wednesday – Sadie and the Quarry in Summer

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Sadie exploring the local clunch pit. Prowling through patches of scabious

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… and knapweed

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… and wild carrot

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… and grasses

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… and out to the surrounding fields

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Have a good day!

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Wet feet in search of wild orchids

It didn’t start out as a quest for orchids. First off, it was just a regular dog walk on Corfe Common in Dorset, enjoying the views:

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And the meadow flowers, like this patch of knapweed shining in the sunshine:

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But then I spotted some interesting white tufts in the distance, so I dragged poor Sadie along to explore … only to find ourselves up to our paws/ankles in water. Oops, that will teach me to look where I am going. (Only it won’t of course, since I’ve reached this age without learning that lesson!)

Anyhow, those white tufts turned out to be orchids:

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I believe them to be Heath Spotted orchids (Dactylorhiza maculata). Edward Pratt, in his book on ‘The Wild Flowers of the Isle of Purbeck’, mentions their love of wet pastures and heaths and cites Corfe West and Middle commons as a prime location to find them.

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Once you’ve got your eye in for them, they turn out to be all over the place and strangely homogeneous in their distribution:

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There’s the odd bit of clumping, but that is possibly explained by the water depth (they like firmer ground apparently).

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Their season is June/July and, as you can see in this photo, bracken is beginning to swamp them in places, although this does seem to be managed. (Areas of bracken were clearly cut or rolled – a practice which reduces vigour and avoids the use of chemicals).

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The book on the Purbeck flora describes other interesting orchids in the area, such as Autumn Lady’s tresses and Green-winged, so now I can’t wait for our next trip to Studland to go looking for those!

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Wordless Wednesday – A trumpet worth blowing!

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This is Mirabilis longiflora. During the day the flowers look like scraggly bits of string at the end of the stem, but at night the exotic new flowers open to scent the air.

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Just look at those trumpets!

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Pollen at the ready! I love the fluffy ‘stays’

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And for those of a technical bent, here’s a ruler along side the trumpet showing exact how longiflora it is! (Apparently they can get to 20cm, but I’m just happy mine has flowered this year)

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Six on Saturday – 17/07/2021

The bit of the lawn that still gets mown was cut bright and early this morning, before the temperatures started to get a bit melty. This provided a lovely velvet surface for our apples fall on to. In fact I’ve been getting a bit worried that the ‘June drop’ is going on for far too long this year and am wondering whether there will be any apples left to pick when they are ripe! Well, I’ve just discovered the real reason for the drops. While we were sitting out, having a cuppa, it became clear that the continuous fall of apples is nothing to do with climatic conditions, but rather more to do with the large numbers of blackbirds (there were several successful nests this spring) that now frequent the garden. The blackbirds are currently jumping around our Grenadier apple tree (an early cooker), pecking at the stalks and adjacent flesh, until the swelling fruit give in to the inevitable pull of gravity.

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But now it’s time for six garden things for Jonathon’s Six on Saturday.

Let’s start with a plant a friend introduced me to this spring:

1 Delphinium requienii

We planted a couple of drifts of glossy seedlings of Delphinium requienii in the borders at Wimpole towards the end of April. They were protected initially from rabbits, but grew on strongly and remained untouched. Remarkably, we also discovered that slugs DON’T make straight for the plants, in spite of the genus! Those glossy leaves are tough and grew into very attractive mounds. In June the flower spikes began to emerge. I absolutely love the dusky mauve/pink tones. They were planted up with Ammi major, but those have been slower to establish and aren’t providing quite the frothing sea I’d imagined the spires emerging from. The delphinium are definitely worth repeating though.

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2 Dianthus carthusianorum

In the same way that Lychnis coronaria provides that shot-in-the-arm pulse of magenta in any bed, this tough dianthus gives a similar burst of shocking-pink colour to the border. It also has great stamina, flowering all summer long, provided it is deadheaded. Modelling the dianthus is a brimstone butterfly, which conveniently provided good visual contrast for the photo.

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3 Monarda ‘Cambridge Scarlet’

Monarda ‘Cambridge Scarlet’ is making quite a picture just now … and no mildew yet either!

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4 Betony ‘Hummelo’

I’ve been contemplating some prairie planting at the edge of our wild meadow patch, so this year I’ve been trying out betony (Betonica officinalis ‘Hummelo’) to see what sort of presence it has in a mixed border. In contrast to the floppy annuals (eschscholzia, poppies, cornflowers) surrounding it, betony looks remarkably strong and upright. It’s got a nice amount of colour on each spike too. It gets a thumbs up from me and will hopefully be even bigger next year … until I split it at least.

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5 Prickly Poppy

I’ve grown these for the first time this year and have been blown away by the scale of the flower compared to the diminutive size of the actual plants. Like most poppies, they are loved by bees and, as demonstrated by the photo, hoverflies.

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6 Angel’s Fishing Rods

Dieramas always seem to add graceful movement and height to a border. This one (probably basic D. pulcherrimum) was grown from seed collected and sown several years ago, but has taken ages to get round to flowering. I don’t seem to be any good at getting them to bulk up. I have Dierama ‘Blackbird’ languishing in pots at the moment too. Not sure what I am doing wrong, ‘cos the first time I grew them I’d swear they flowered the first year.

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So that’s my six. What are yours?

Keep cool and have a good weekend!

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Wordless Wednesday – The transformative power of nettles!

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From ravenous black, spiky little beasties

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… through the consumption of masses of nettles. (Too many? Are they causing the white spots?? 😉)

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… to sublime beauty

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Poppy ‘Amazing Grey’

I’m sure you all know how it is when you’ve been away for a few days and, as you approach home, suddenly become desperate to see how the garden has got on without you (usually fine, of course!). Well, yesterday I got to back to discover that my new poppies, Papaver rhoeas ‘Amazing Grey’, have begun to open and now I’ve fallen in love again, with yet another poppy.

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Thompson and Morgan, one of its suppliers, describe its appearance thus: “Semi-double ruffled blooms in chic blue-grey shades”. Chiltern Seeds list those shades as: pearly grey, slate blue, misty mauve with the occasional flush of dusky pink.

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I’m put in mind of stormy skies or stone fruit, sloes or damsons, with that lovely powdery bloom on their skins. The poppies open with delightful crumpled tissue-like petals. Each flower would make a perfect ball gown or ballerina dress.

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This morning the flowers are covered in hoverflies:

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They are looking good with Ammi major and Eschscholzia, which were scattered around the border at the same time.

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I will definitely be collecting seed from them, so that I can enjoy them all over again next year.

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Wordless Wednesday – Wildflowers at Corfe Castle

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Wordless Wednesday – Cornflower blue

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White-tailed bumblebee (Bombus lucorum) on blue cornflower (Centaurea cyanus)

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Six on Saturday – Whispering grass … and a challenge

26/06/2021

The summer solstice passed with temperatures lower than the winter solstice in some places round here. We had a heavy dew on our lawn, which looked like frost. It felt cold. We measured 5 deg C in the open greenhouse. Brrrr! Not BBQ weather at all.

Otherwise, things are much more normal this week, hurray, except that I am driving a courtesy car (Corsa) around. It has tinted back windows and so I find myself peering at the rear-view mirror all the time, wondering why it is so dark.

However, now it’s time to join Jonathon and cohorts for Six on Saturday  … and since I have a challenge/question for you, I thought I would start there.

1 What on earth is this plant ???

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It’s got a very square stem, so it’s probably Lamiaceae. It is growing super tall, already over a metre, and climbing. It has small red flowers at each of the opposite leaf axils.

Any ideas, please?

I am thinking of tearing it out as it is a nuisance being so tall behind the water feature. It has already eclipsed the lion king irises and a few other appropriately-sized, front-of-border plants! I am fairly certain that I didn’t plant it, but where did it come from … and what if it is something rare and exotic and I am lucky to have it????

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Let me know if you have the answer, thanks.

2 Glorious Golden Oats

Stipa gigantea or Golden Oats is a good whispering grass. It’s seed heads whisper as they dance in the breeze, but right now it is in flower, with golden stamen, loaded with pollen, swaying in the breeze. It’s definitely worth a close look to check out the feathery stigma too.

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3 Poppies and Bees

Yes, poppies for second week running, I know, but these are a different kind and are so pretty. Watching the bees enjoy them is addictive too. How many bees can one poppy hold? Four is probably my maximum.

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4 Viper’s bugloss

The farmer who plants the field behind our house seems to have sown a strip of wild flowers around its edge. The standout plant currently is Viper’s bugloss or echium vulgare. Their spikes were busy with bees, as you’d expect, but I don’t seem to have managed to catch any in this photo. I’m glad the farmer made the effort though, as it is both beautiful and thrumming with life.

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5 Allium christophii

Allium christophii is the allium that looks like it has been cast in metal, steel or titanium. The flower heads make dramatic large spheres of exploding stars. You can see why this flower is the model for garden ornaments. As a bonus, the seed heads are easy to dry and can be saved  to decorate the house.

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6 Ant nests in the grass and some solutions

My husband is keen on his lawn and this year he has been getting frustrated by the ant hills that seem to be multiplying across its expanse during the dry weather. I’d just rake the mounds before mowing, but he is determined to eliminate the nests all together. So far this has been achieved by digging them out and reseeding the patches. The result is that half the time the lawn looks as though it’s been planted with land mines that have been going off randomly and, once the seed has germinated (more cossetted than any of my flowers to be sure), it looks like the dog has been visiting the area! Here’s an example:

sos lawnRecently, we’ve been lucky enough to have had a biological control applied to the ants. Our lawn has become the favourite restaurant for this green woodpecker (admittedly eating the ants from the path in this instance). I hope he comes to dinner often, so that all the digging/reseeding can stop.

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BTW if anyone has alternative (non-poisonous) approaches to this ant problem, I’d be glad to know.

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Have a good weekend!

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Wordless Wednesday – “Healthy Hay”!

 

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Sainfoin (from Old French sain foin meaning “Healthy Hay”) used to be an important, nutritious forage eaten by workhorses, cattle and sheep. Sadly, it gradually fell out of used with the advent of modern farming practices: tractors, fertilizers, pesticides etc.

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I came across this large patch in the fields behind our house. Just imagine whole tracts of its pretty pink flowers … next to a field of flax perhaps! Nowadays it is typically found on limey grassland, agricultural land and wasteland.

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Sainfoin is a short-lived perennial herb from the legume family, grown as a grass/legume mix (rather than pure crop). It flowers from May to September

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It has several health benefits as fodder for livestock, particularly that it is a natural wormer and reduces bloating. It also improves protein absorption … ultimately leading to faster weight gain.

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It is adored by bees. It’s nectar has been observed to attract up to ten times more bees than clover! Moreover, those bees go on the produce more honey. 🙂 What a shame we don’t still grow it! 😦

More Info on Sainfoin

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