A Butterfly Diary

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Keeping a Butterfly Diary this year has essentially been an enjoyable pastime; the waiting and watching, running for my camera, clambering through the rockery in unsuitable footwear, or thumbing through my butterfly guide while lying in the grass on a warm summer’s day…

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But it has also been very educational. I knew very little beforehand, and was unable to name many of the visitors to my garden. And reading up on certain butterflies meant I learned about their foodplants, migratory habits, number of broods in a year, overwintering etc etc. Overall it has been a lovely activity, and I hope to repeat it next year. This will probably be the last butterfly post this season, with numbers already dwindling as the nights get colder and days shorter. We often get very foggy or misty days in autumn too, which prevent the sun from warming up the garden enough for most butterflies.

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So let’s celebrate these last visitors and in planning our future plant or bulb purchases, spare a thought for the butterflies’ favourite flowers!

Early September was warm but damp, humid in fact. The only butterflies I saw were the cabbage whites, red admirals that have been around most of the summer, and still the Hummingbird Hawk-moths (Macroglossum stellatarum, Taubenschwänzchen). These creatures are fascinating to watch! Here is one I observed in the middle of September. They are pretty fast – longer stops would mean their wing muscles would cool down too much…

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They return to the same plants at the same times every day – especially on warm and sunny days.

For more pictures take a look here, and for tips on attracting them to your garden look here.

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A single Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus, Hauhechel-Bläuling) turned up in the middle of the rockery mid-month, also on the Centranthus ruber. Can you spot it?

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I can’t stress enough just how valuable this plant is in my garden. Not only does it flower all summer, it attracts so many butterflies and insects too! You may have noticed that many of the  butterflies I have shown over the past few months have been on the Centranthus.

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So, for a change, a different plant is the background here for the European Peacocks (Aglais io/Inachis io, Tagpfauenauge), which always turn up reliably to relish on the Sedums and Michaelmas Daisies (see the photo I posted yesterday).

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Those colours are exquisite – I wonder if they have any idea just how beautiful they are! These markings are actually supposed to make predators afraid of them… see this lovely video here for an example.

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They are our most long-lived butterflies too, surviving for up to a year if a mild overwintering place is found.

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Then we had a Wall Brown (Lasiommata megera, Mauerfuchs) visit the Sedum too. The Wall Browns like to bask in the sun with their wings open, especially on rocks or (surprise!) walls. They are typical for stony or rocky hillsides like those around us, with various grasses as their foodplant.

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I also saw the first Comma since spring (Polygonia c-album/Nymphalis c-album, C-Falter). I don’t know why I didn’t see any in the summer…

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It has a very intricate outline and such rich colouring on the upper wings, but the underside of the wings resembles dead leaves – perfect camouflage.

Can you see the comma mark on the closed lower wing in the photo below?

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The Comma hibernates, and can usually be seen flying from April to November.

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Sometimes the German names are prettier than the English, sometimes the reverse: in this case the English name wins hands down: the Queen of Spain Fritillary  (Issoria lathonia, Kleine Perlmutterfalter)!

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This was one of the rare occasions I have actually seen butterflies on my Verbena bonariensis, despite what a butterfly magnet everyone says it is. The silvery edges to this fritillary’s wings may have contributed to it being given such a regal name.

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One of its larval foodplants is the wild field pansy. They fly in three or even four generations in Central Europe, overwintering here in the caterpillar form, but they may also be one of the btterflies (like the Red Admiral or the Hummingbird Hawk-moths) that migrate from warmer climates over the Alps in the spring. Amazing to think of such tiny creatures soaring to heights over 2500 metres in order to cross the mountains…

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That was it for September. If I see any different ones in October I will be sure to post about them.

In the meantime I have been looking back at my photos for the year and trying to decided which butterfly I love best: probably the Peacock – simply because it is familiar, colourful, and a reliable visitor in autumn – my favourite time of year.

I’d love you to tell me what your favourite butterfly is, and whether you have seen it this summer?

Some nice links:

Tuesday View (30th September)

September was a very kind month to my garden, with regular rain, damp and (mostly) mild nights, and plenty of sunshine in between.  But today the sun barely managed to get through…

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I just noticed that the patio is visible from this angle, with my pixie – can you see him? And my newly planted patio container (see below): a bargain bin at the nursery meant the short, unnamed Achillea cost me just 1 Euro! I’m not sure how hardy the Carex will be, but sedums seem to work in most of my containers all year round. (The photo was taken yesterday – a beautiful sunny day!)

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 The dull skies didn’t stop the butterflies from making an appearance today though…

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How was your September?

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P.S. I’ll be posting my Butterfly Diary for September tomorrow, so hope you can stop by again.

:)

In a Vase on Monday: Autumn Loveliness

With it being Michaelmas today, I really ought to have used some of my Michaelmas daisies for my Monday vase.

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But they have featured in two vases recently, so time for something different: Euonymus europaeus, otherwise known as Spindle trees (and as “Bishop’s hats” in German!). They seem to have sprouted up everywhere in our little piece of woodland this year, and the berries are currently at their best.

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While looking for some nice Euonymus branches, I also noticed that some of the lovely creeping vine people often plant here (Parthenocissus) has found its way into the wild and has started growing up one of the bushes. (Is it called Virginia Creeper in the UK?) As I snipped a bit off I saw the seedheads of some tangled Old man’s beard – Clematis vitalba – too. I don’t cherish this plant if it invades my garden – which it frequently does – but I do love those fluffy seedheads!

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All this colour and loveliness went to my head, and I created a Haiku for today too!

Bishop hats hanging

on spindles, spinning silken

old man’s beard; autumn.

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This arrangement will not come indoors, but will brighten our patio now that there is more and more shade during the day.

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 The cyclamen was a bargain from my local supermarket and I was tempted by its deep red colour. I am pretty good at killing off cyclamens – my record being within 48 hours – so I wonder how long this one will last on the patio!

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We had another misty morning, but by midday the sun broke through and warmed me as I started emptying summer containers and washing pots. And every time I returned to the patio my vase made me smile…

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Many thanks to Cathy at Rambling in the Garden for hosting this meme “In a Vase on Monday“. The challenge to find materials from the garden for a vase each week has made me look at the flowers and plants around me with new eyes!

Hope you have some sunshine this week too!

Cheese, Please! : Cheesecake and Berries

Sarah at The Garden Deli is hosting the Cheese Please! blog challenge this month, and because Sarah is one of my favourite bloggers I promised to join in. :)

Fromage Homage

The challenge for September is to prepare a dish that includes both cheese and fruit. Sarah suggested a German recipe…. well, after scouring recipe books, picking people’s brains and searching online, I decided there are no typical German dishes where cheese and fruit are combined…. except perhaps cheesecake?

So that’s the direction I went, although my recipe is certainly not a German one, coming from David Lebovitz: an American living in Paris!

Chocolate Cheesecake Brownies and Berry Coulis

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Brownie recipe from David Lebovitz’s “Ready for Dessert” (highly recommendable, as is his blog: www.davidlebovitz.com)

Brownies:

  • 6 tbsps/ 85g butter
  • 4 oz/115g dark chocolate, shopped into smallish chunks
  • 2/3 cup  / 130g sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup/70g plain flour
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup/80g dark or milk chocolate chips

Cheesecake topping:

  • 8 oz/225g cream cheese
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 5 tbsps/75g sugar

Line a 23cm/9 inch square caketin with greaseproof paper, and grease the paper with butter. Preheat oven to350°F/180°C

Melt butter and add chocolate. Stir on a low heat unil chocolate melts too. Add sugar, then eggs. Mix in flour, cocoa powder, salt and vanilla extract. Finally stir in chocolate chips. Pour into prepared tin and smooth out. Whisk together cheesecake ingredients and put dollops over top of brownie batter. Gently swirl in a little, but don’t overdo it!  Bake for 35-40 minutes until just set in the centre.

Leave to cool completely before removing from tin and slicing. Makes 9 pieces.

Berry Coulis (my recipe):

  • 375g fresh or frozen mixed berries (e.g. redcurrant, blueberry and raspberry)
  • 100-150g sugar (start with 100g and add to taste later, as it depends how sweet your choice of berries is)
  • 1tsp cornflour

Place berries, sugar and a dash of water in a pan and heat gently. Let simmer until fruit has collapsed, stirring now and then. Strain.

Mix cornflour with a little cold water to make a paste. Return puree to the pan and add cornflour, whisking constantly while bringing back to a simmer. Strain again and leave to cool. If a skin forms you can either stir it in or remove it.

Serve the brownies in a pool of coulis. I added a white chocolate mousse and some fresh berries for decoration.

I hope this hasn’t bent the rules too far, but there IS both fruit and cheese in this recipe!

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Enjoy!

You will be able to see a round-up of all the entries on Sarah’s site soon… in fact there is even still time to take part!

Thanks Sarah!

:)

Tuesday View (23rd September)

Happy Autumn everyone!

The autumn equinox occurred at around 4.30am here, on Tuesday 23rd, although we have been well into the season for 3 weeks now. I just hope that doesn’t mean winter will come early too…

The view today, despite cloudy skies, still looks bright and cheerful. I think the golden Euonymous, which I tend to overlook, brings so much light to the rockery. I can recommend planting it so it can be seen from the house in winter. Ours has only frozen back once, dropping all its leaves, but didn’t seem any worse for it.

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My two favourite flowers this week are two of my asters… I always seem to be waiting so long for them to bloom, but when they do finally open they are beautiful, especially if captured in the sunshine!

The pink Aster novae angliae ‘Andeken an Alma Pötschke’

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And the delicate blue/mauve Aster, the name of which I no longer remember. (If anyone knows…?)

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I learned recently from Jason at Garden in a City that they are now referred to not as Aster, but as Symphyotrichum, which I can barely pronounce, let alone spell without looking it up! Isn’t that like changing the name of an old friend?! Really I should call them by the name we always used years ago: Michaelmas Daisies. This reminds me that they do flower so late every year, as St Michael’s Day is not until the 29th September.

A final picture for today, taken last week, shows the view I posted all through 2013… some of you may remember. The large acer is looking at its best with some blue sky behind it.

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Have a good week and a good start to the new season!

:)

In a Vase on Monday: Pink and Perky

With heavy rainshowers and high winds I again wondered what I would find today when I ventured out, armed with secateurs and gloves, to pick some flowers for my Vase on Monday. Cathy hosts this meme at Rambling in the Garden, and you should hop over to visit her and see her lovely vase for this week, as well as some links to other Monday vases too.

The first flower to jump into my line of vision was a pink dahlia (supposedly ‘Chocolate and Candy’ but not at all like the picture on the packaging!). The pink theme was then set in my mind and various pink flowers and foliage followed…

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Lovely bursts of sunshine between today’s thundery, blustery showers allowed me to photograph the vase at the window.

Here’s the dahlia close up… the petals a little past their best, but the centre is such a lovely rich chocolate colour (and the leaves are too).

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I added a cluster of some of the last zinnias…

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Then of course there is sedum and some bright pink asters (Aster novae-angliae ‘Andenken an Alma Pötschke’)

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Some Japanese blood grass ‘Red Baron’ and a bit of peony foliage added to the pink theme, along with a couple of Fairy roses, some Centranthus ruber and a large sprig of my pink-stemmed Aruncus dioicus seed heads.

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This pink vase certainly “perked” me up on this chilly autumn afternoon.

:)

Is there anything pink in your garden at the moment?

 

Family Gatherings

I mentioned the other day that we have had some distractions in the garden… All summer a large  – very large – hedgehog had been sighted at night around the garden. Then last week we saw three babies! Then we counted six, no seven. Wait, there’s another one, and … NINE!

How many can you spot on the photo above?

How many can you spot on the photo above?

They have been looking for food together, even during the daytime after lunch,  while Mum (and Dad?) have an afternoon nap?… Above they are gathered next to their home (under a large piece of stone near a pile of twigs).

Then at night they are out and about again. They are clearly hungry.

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We are putting down some nibbles for them, as they need to put weight on rapidly before it gets cold and they go into hibernation. I have read in several places that a minimum weight of 500 grammes is necessary before they start hibernating.

Looks like this one is enjoying a solitary snack while the others are away foraging….

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Now I know why we have seen so few slugs and snails recently! ;-)

In the flower bed

In the flower bed

They are so sweet, and my man of many talents got this photo the other day too …

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One of our dogs has been a little worried at the invasion, but I think she is getting used to them!

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Have you had any guests in your garden recently?