A Butterfly Diary: May


Best-known for his carol “Hark the herald angels sing”, Reginald Heber was also a poet. His poem “The Harebell” is absolutely perfect for the view I had the day I photographed this beautiful butterfly…

 With drooping bells of clearest blue
Thou didst attract my childish view,
Almost resembling
The azure butterflies that flew
Where on the heath thy blossoms grew
So lightly trembling.


 Green-Underside Blue (Glaucopsyche alexis or Alexis-Bläuling in German)

AlexisBläuling(Click on the photos for a closer look)

They are one of the gossamer-winged butterflies, flying from May to June, and in good weather again in July and August. The meadow where I found this one in early May (and there were several flying around me) is the perfect habitat, with plenty of nectar-rich wild flowers such as vetch, clover and harebells.

The wingspan of this one was just about 2cm. We have a few blue butterflies here, but I have never seen such a pretty one before.


The more common one here is the Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus, Hauhechel-Bläuling)


Its wingspan is only about 2.5cm, and it has beautiful orange and brown markings on the outer wings. The male is more distinctive than the female, and they can be seen all through the summer. They have been in the garden since early May this year. The Common Blue likes all sorts of vetch and clover, but I love the fact that a favourite of theirs is the Ononis spinosa (Spiny Restharrow/Hauhechel), which is one of the only thorny plants I gladly grow!


Around the 10th of May I spotted this Fritillary and decided it must be a Weaver’s Fritillary (Boloria dia, Magerrasen-Perlmuttfalter)


(The photo was taken on a green mat, it’s not the lawn!)

I know very little about this butterfly although we often see it, but according to Wikipedia the larvae feed on Prunella and Violets, so again I have some good plants for these in my garden. The wingspan of this one is perhaps 3 or 4cm. The orange colour varies – some of them look much browner, but with the same markings.


In the middle of the month this brown butterfly made a brief appearance and I haven’t seen it since: a Woodland Ringlet (Erebia medusa, Rundaugen-Mohrenfalter)


The wings were very silky and the wingspan about 4 cm. I have looked it up and they fly from May to July, while their habitat is the edges of woodland, dry and chalky hillsides and in mountain meadows.


The last one I could photograph towards the end of the month was the Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae, Kleiner Fuchs).


The Centranthus is opening and these fairly large butterflies (3-4cm) are attracted to its red flowers. They will be in the garden all year – the first are in March on the spring flowers, and the last love to visit the Sedum and Asters in autumn.


Other butterflies spotted were the Brimstones and Orange Tips as well as the Green-Veined White. I also briefly saw the first Hummingbird Hawk-Moths in a warm spell, just as the Centranthus was opening – they will be back and I hope to get some photos of them.

A few other flying vistors made an appearance too. Firstly this Large Red Damselfly…


then this tiny dragonfly…


And finally this amazing creature!


It liked my metal butterfly decoration! I found out that it is a Broad-bodied Chaser dragonfly (Libellula depressa, Plattbauch) and is one of the most common dragonflies in Europe. This is a young male, with a blue tinge to the abdomen, and yellow patches which can also be seen clearly. It is pretty big – about 7 cm long and the abdomen as thick as my little finger. The Wikipedia page has lots of information on this dragonfly – perhaps you see it too?

That’s it for May – not bad, as The June Gap usually makes itself felt at the end of May and early June, when the spring generation fades away and the new summer generations are yet to emerge. (See Sarah’s post from last year on The June Gap at The Garden Deli).


Finally, some words from the late poet and human rights activist, Maya Angelou:

“We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.”


Have you seen many butterflies so far this spring? What is the most common one near you at this time of year? Please share!


The June Gap

Big Butterfly Count (UK)

Identifying Butterflies etc (UK)

The Guardian – Dragonfly Gallery

Tuesday View (27th May)

The storm that hit us last night was short, but horrible, and as I stood at the window watching the wind whipping our trees, and the path turning to a river, my only thought was my peonies… They had only just begun to open on Sunday, and with the heavy buds weighed down by the torrential rain I feared they would not only be flattened but also the stems might break. However, on assessing the damage this morning I was extremely lucky – only one is a problem as I can’t stake it any better on the steep (and now slippery) slope…

Paeonia horizontalis!


We had strong sunshine for a while in the morning, but you can see the sky looks a bit stormy in today’s view…


And late afternoon we had more very heavy rain. I’m amazed how well the poppies stand up to it.


Here is a different view of the rockery today, taken from the bottom of the opposite side.


And my favourite flower today was this Geranium macrorrhizum. The lavender buds next to it will be open by next week. 🙂


What’s your favourite flower today?

In a Vase on Monday: In the Pink!

Okay, my first vase is actually not a vase… and it doesn’t contain water either, but vinegar!


Last week my chives began to flower. I love using them in salads, and had already decided to try preserving some of them too; I bought some good organic white wine vinegar and waited for the sun to shine. And then Marie posted this… Thanks Marie! This is foolproof, and after just a few days it tastes so good!

(If you want to try making it, visit Marie’s post at My Little Corner of Rhode Island)


 Today thunderstorms, hail and heavy rain were forecast, and the white peonies had just started opening yesterday, so I cut two white ones and one sugar candy pink peony to float in a large bowl. As I write the scent is wonderful…


I experimented with a different colour background too… and added a few Veronica petals… so romantic!


Neither have names, but I think the white one should be called “Raspberry Ripple”. Mmmm, looks good enough to eat!


The storm did come – how glad I am I cut these! We had absolutely torrential rain and extremely strong wind, and the peony plants are all looking the worse for wear… I shall inspect the damage more closely in daylight tomorrow!

 Thank you to Cathy at Rambling in the Garden for hosting “In a Vase on Monday”, which challenges us to find flowers for cutting from our own gardens… it is a very enjoyable challenge too! Take a look at some of the others this week linking in to her site here.

Hope your weather is calmer than ours!


A Fruity Flowery Flan

Strawberry season is just about here…

… and the first German strawberries are in the shops. It feels very much like summer already!


I posted my recipe for Strawberry Flan here a couple of years ago. This is exactly the same recipe, just using kiwis and blueberries in addition to make a flower pattern.

Fruit Flan

  • 3 free-range eggs
  • 75g (2/5 cup) caster sugar (use part vanilla sugar if you like)
  • 75g (3/5 cup) self-raising flour
  • butter/flour for greasing pan
  • a punnet of strawberries, two kiwis and a few blueberries
  • 1 packet Dr Oetker “Tortenguss”/Clear Glaze/Arrowroot, with 1 tbsp sugar, 50ml (3 tbsps) elderflower cordial and 200ml(7 fl oz) water (follow packet instructions for the quantiies of liquid)

Preheat oven to 200°C/400F and grease and flour a flan tin.

With an electric mixer, beat eggs and sugar in a large bowl until pale and fluffy. Fold in sieved flour carefully. Pour mixture into pan and bake for 7-10 mins until lightly golden and springy to touch. Remove cake from oven and cool for a few minutes. Turn onto a rack to cool completely.

Place cake on your cake platter.

Slice the strawberries and kiwis and spread over the flan as in the picture if you wish to create a flower pattern. Add the blueberries to the middle. Prepare the glaze according to the instructions of your packet glaze. Quickly spread over the fruit and allow to set.


A healthy dessert, but it does also taste very good with whipped cream!




Tuesday View (20th May)

Since yesterday our temperatures have soared and we have gone from jackets and socks to shorts and bare feet… now that feels good!


Here’s today’s view with the blue sky and harsh light of midday…


…and here with the slightly less glaring late afternoon sun…


The oriental poppies will now gradually take the stage and the new lavender buds are such a gorgeous lime green. The Centranthus are also opening, and the bees and butterflies are already in the queue! The peony at the top, above the Euonymous, will be a white one, and it smells lovely right next to the patio.

I also want to show you the nice surprise I got last week…


This iris must have been dormant for at least 8 years, waiting for the right conditions to flower again. The place it stands was originally a stream – long gone – but I had noticed the leaves before. It must be some kind of water iris. This year’s mild winter and pleasantly damp spring encouraged it to flower. I bet it won’t like the heat this week though!

Have you ever had a plant suddenly pop up like that?

Have a wonderful week!