February – at last!

There is nothing happening in my garden right now… A few Hellebore buds under the snow, and some snowdrops struggling to open. January is definitely not a favourite month of mine, so I am pleased to welcome February and am hopeful that I will see a flower or two before this month is out.

Still, the view from the house was lovely very early yesterday morning as the sun made one of its rare winter appearances…

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Photo taken from indoors at around 8.30am

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I thought the world was cold in death;
      The flowers, the birds, all life was gone,
      For January’s bitter breath
      Had slain the bloom and hushed the song.
And still the earth is cold and white,
      And mead and forest yet are bare;
      But there’s a something in the light
      That says the germ of life is there.


from “February” by Mrs. Jane G. Austin

~~~

Have a good February!

🙂

In a Vase on Monday: Earthly Joys

I look forward to Mondays these days… Searching my garden for something attractive to put in a vase for Cathy’s meme has become quite a ritual, although I must admit to sometimes doing this a day early.

Today I carried my little vase through the house to the lightest room, my fingers still numb from the cold, and as I opened the door there lay the book I have been intending to read for some time now: “Earthly Joys” – the perfect title for my post!

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This is the same Hellebore from my patio pot that I used two weeks ago, and I found the label. It seems I mixed up the names of this and my Amaryllis/Hippeastrum – the Amaryllis is not Christmas Star as I had thought, but “Bolero”. The Hellebore is “Christmas Star”.

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I added a few sprigs of box, some laurel, Euonymous, Vinca and Carex, and a few red Heuchera leaves.

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Despite our lack of sunshine in January, I did manage to find a light spot for the photo. Have you noticed how the days are getting longer ?

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Sun of joy, and pleasure’s light,
All were lost in gloom of night.
Night so long, with tears and sorrow–
Hearts might break ere broke the morrow.
Day so short and night so long–
Fled the bird and hushed the song.
But, my heart, look up, be stronger,
For the days are growing longer. “

from “Now the Days are Growing Longer” by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

Take a look at Cathy’s site “Rambling in the Garden” where she has presented her beautiful white Amaryllis today.

And many others have linked in with their own creations too. Why not join in?!

😀

 

In a Vase on Monday: In the Bleak Mid-winter

In the bleak mid-winter, Frosty wind made moan

Earth stood hard as iron, Water like a stone;

Snow had fallen snow on snow, Snow on snow

In the bleak mid-winter, Long ago

(English Christmas carol based on the poem by Christina Rossetti)

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Shall we have tea on the patio?

😉

I hope you will forgive me cheating slightly this week, but at still 4 degrees below zero by lunchtime I didn’t think I would stand a chance of finding anything but evergreen cuttings for a Monday vase. The ground is frozen solid and it is snowing again. I will not be beaten though!

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Look at the Forsythia I brought in on December 4th… finally flowering properly!

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But with the fire glowing and the heating on full blast its days are now numbered…

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A Christmas gift on the 23rd included two freshly cut Hippeastrum/Amaryllis flowers. One went into my Advent vase, which has been refreshed with more berries from our hegderow and is going in to its third week now…

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And one went into a smaller vase with more greenery. I followed the advice Cathy (Rambling in the Garden) gave after she read an RHS article and I tied the base of the Amaryllis stem with a rubber band – it has definitely helped keep it from splitting.

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As winter progresses Cathy’s In a Vase on Monday meme really does become a challenge… I am already thinking ahead to the first vase of 2015!

Take a look at Cathy’s lovely Paperwhites today, and the other vases linked in from around the world.

Have a good week!

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!

A Butterfly Diary (August)

Swallowtail 2012

Swallowtail 2012

“I dance above the tawny grass

In the sunny air,

So tantalized to have to pass

Love everywhere

O Earth, O Sky, you are mine to roam

In liberty.

I am the soul and I have no home,

Take care of me.”

From The Butterfly, by Alice Archer (Sewall) James

~~~

Since March this year I have been carefully recording the butterflies, along with a few other beautiful winged creatures, that have visited my garden or the meadow just beyond my garden gate. This month I have again seen many regular visitors; Tortoiseshells, Meadow Browns, Common Brimstones, the occasional Blue, and of course the Small and Large Whites, which despite their profusion have been practically impossible to photograph due to their incessant fluttering!

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Last month I posted a photo of the Red Admiral (Vanessa atalanta, Admiral) with its wings closed. At the beginning of this month a couple were regular visitors to the garden again and rested with open wings for longer periods…

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An unnamed Verbena (maybe someone out there knows which one it is!) attracted this Small Pearl Bordered Fritillary (Boloria selene, Braunfleckige Perlmutterfalter)…

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There are so many similar fritillaries, so if anyone spots I have made an error please let me know, but the Small Pearl Bordered is one of the most common ones in our region – actually fairly large with a wingspan of about 3-4cm. Like other fritillaries, the main foodplant is violets. The second generation caterpillars drop to the ground beneath their foodplant for protection in winter and remain hidden until spring, only then forming a chrysalis.

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Another Fritillary, perhaps a High Brown Fritillary? (Fabriciana/Argynnis adippe, Feurige Perlmutterfalter)

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The oregano and marjoram plants have been particularly favoured by the Meadow Browns featured last month, as well as this butterfly; the Map (Araschnia levana, Landkärtchen). The wings when closed explain the name it has been given, with a network of lines…

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And the upper side of the wings (see below) does also remind me of the colours found on old maps. This one is a second generation one – the early spring ones, which I haven’t seen here, are more colourful with a lot more orange on the upper wing. Apparently the Map is only seen in central and eastern Europe, and not in the UK. Have you ever seen one?

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The Map lays its eggs on nettles and prefers the edges of woodland as its habitat. There humidity is higher and there is some shade for the larvae/caterpillars, while the adults can then fly beyond the woods into sunny areas with nectar-rich flowers.

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The Hummingbird Hawk-moths (Macroglossum stellatarum, Taubenschwänzchen) have been visiting the Centranthus since it opened in May and although there have been phases with fewer numbers, I’d say I have never seen so many as in this summer. The early spring warmth must have suited them.

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The early ones were small (only 3cm wingspan) and flew very fast, but as the year progressed they became larger and very slightly slower – acoording to Wikipedia 70 to 90 wingbeats per second! Other interesting facts: the proboscis is about 2cm long and they can fly backwards! As our climate has slowly got milder they now overwinter in most of central Europe, but many still migrate quite far north. Do let me know if you’ve seen one or even several this year. The ones visiting us may be both those that have overwintered and migratory ones. The second generation appears mid-August.

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 They fascinate me with their tiny fat soft bodies and distinct faces and I love having them brush past me while working in the rockery.

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Apart from a very brief glimpse of a Bedstraw Hawk-Moth (Hyles gallii, Labkrautschwärmer) the only other hawk moth I have seen this year is the Broad-bordered Bee Hawk-moth, (Hemaris fuciformis, Hummelschwärmer)…

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Beautiful creatures!

This one has a slightly larger body than the Hummingbird Hawk-moths, but the wingspan is about the same – around 4 to 5 cm. From the information on the German Wikipedia page (the English one is minimal!) I assume we have two generations here, and they overwinter here too. The foodplants include all Lonicera, as well as Galium, Deutzia, Knautia and – to my surprise – Cephalaria, which I recently put on my autumn planting list after seeing it in Janet’s garden (Plantaliscious). 🙂 They are found in open woodland and chalk hills with conifers and shrubby honeysuckles – precisely what our region offers.

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Other hawk-moths I have seen in previous years were the Small Elephant Hawk-moth (Deilephila porcellus, Kleiner Weinschwärmer) and the Bedstraw Hawk-moth (Hyles gallii, Labkrautschwärmer), which I posted about in 2012 here.

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Mid-month my neighbour brought me a caterpillar to identify: a Pine Hawk-moth (Sphinx pinastri, Kiefernschwärmer). It was about 7cm long and very lively!

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After looking it up I thought the actual moth looked familiar. In early June I took a photo of a large grey moth with black markings, then promptly forgot about it…. here it is: the Pine Hawk Moth…

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Not as impressive as the caterpillar, but still rather pretty markings. This one was about 10cm long, but I didn’t see its wings open. The adults lay the eggs on pine needles or other conifers, and are seen between May and June, and then again in August. I imagine our caterpillar will overwinter in its chrysalis then.

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While looking through old photos from June to find the Pine Hawk-moth, I also discovered this picture which I had totally forgotten about as well: a Five-spot Burnet (Zygaena trifolii, Sumpfhornklee-Widderchen). I shall include it here and add it to my June post too.

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The wings are almost black, tinged blue, with those distinctive red spots. I have since learned that the foodplant is Bird’s-foot Trefoil – another excuse not to do the weeding!

😉

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 I glimpsed the elusive Swallowtail butterfly floating elegantly across the lawn, but the photo at the top of this post was taken 2 years ago. There’s still time yet, and a Swallowtail caterpillar on the fennel provides hope!

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There is still another butterfly month left – maybe even two – so I shall be keeping my eyes peeled and will report once again at the end of September.

🙂

What visited your garden in August? Any unusual guests?