Archive | July 2017

July is Hydrangea Month

Our first spring here, I pruned some of the hydrangeas a bit too hard, and therefore they failed to flower last summer. I have had to wait another year to find out what colour they are.




So the line of four huge bushes are all the same blue – nice enough, but I have the same variety elsewhere as well. I may take one or two out and replace with something different. There is a white-flowered one tucked behind them, which at least makes a change.




In the Pond Bed, however, several have turned out to be much more interesting – they open white, then intensify to a lilac/pink, and continue to darken to a rich purply pink. Very nice both on the bush and in a vase.

The blue shrub in between is a deep blue lace-cap, which is unique within the garden. It is also huge, though – not a delicate plant at all.




I also have Hemerocallis flowering for the first time. The above is ‘Christmas Island’, a big, bold red. Below is ‘Frosted Pink ice’, which is delightful.




The rest of the garden is looking fairly nice, if you don’t look too closely at the weeds!












Down among the Dunes

Every Friday evening though the summer, a local expert gives up his spare time to lead a free walk through Braunton Burrows, finding and talking about some of the very interesting flowers and insects that live there.




Braunton Burrows is a vast sand dune system which is of huge national importance, as it is home to a large number of species, many of them rare. Most of these don’t live in the new, sandy dunes just behind the beach, but in the rolling, grass-covered older dunes behind, and particularly in the damp areas between the dunes.


Water Germander


This rather uninteresting flower looks very like mint, but is in fact Water Germander, so rare it is now only found in three sites in England!


Sand Pansy


The Sand Pansy is much prettier, but much less rare!




There were many tiny flowers growing amongst the rabbit-cropped turf, but they were hard to photograph in the dull evening light. This one is Eyebright.




Remember angelica? Green candied stuff that you used as a cake decoration? Well this is angelica plant whose stems are used.


Marmalade Hoverfly


Despite it being a cool, damp evening after an entire day of rain, there were a few interesting insects to be found. This is a Marmalade Hoverfly, presumably named for the stripes on its abdomen rather than its taste in conserves.


Cinnabar Moth Caterpillar


This gorgeous creature is the caterpillar of the Cinnabar Moth, which only feeds on ragwort. Like every other horse-owner, I have spend many an hour pulling up ragwort from horse fields, as it is very toxic to them, especially when dried in hay. But the ragwort plant is a very valuable plant for a large number of insects, especially the Cinnabar Moth, so it is important that in places like this, well away from horse fields and hay fields, it is allowed to flourish undisturbed.


Six Spot Burnet Moth Caterpillar


This is the caterpillar of the Six-spot Burnet Moth, which metamorphosizes into…this!


Six Spot Burnet Moth


Now the summer rains have reached Devon, I was hoping to find a few fungi on the burrows, but there were only a couple of tiny ones, including this minute Milky Conecap.


Milky Conecap


It was a beautiful place to spend an evening, and we learned so much from our expert guide. Now we need to go back on a hot sunny evening to see all the butterflies and dragonflies!



Wild Flower Wander

Sunday was foul. A rainy morning slowly dried up leaving our relatively high valley still in the clouds. The only way to get out of the damp was to head downwards, so we set off for a walk along a section of the Tarka Trail which we had yet to visit. Parking the car at the northernmost point of the trail near Braunton, we caught a bus to Barnstaple and picked up the trail in the town centre.






Soon we were past the town, and the trail was very easy walking, with the river on one side and pleasant countryside on the other.




We had been expecting to see a few birds along the way, and we weren’t disappointed, with a few gulls, a couple of little egrets, oystercatchers, curlew, common sandpipers, shelduck, redshank, black-tailed godwits, cormorants, little grebes, linnets, and a buzzard.




What we hadn’t been expecting was the huge variety of flowers that we found. Some were common, and easily recognised, and some were a bit more unusual or new to us. In total, we counted 43 species! Luckily for you, I didn’t take photos of all of them, but just a few.



Oxford Ragwort poss


Black Nightshade

Black Nigthshade



Common Field Speedwell


In places the origins of the trail as a railway line were evident.




There were banks of buddleias in flower, scenting the air, but as it was so dull, we saw few butterflies.




We did spot this chap hiding on an embankment




We kept finding more new flowers.


Meliotus sp


Wild carrot

Wild carrot





I was also very pleased to find a selection of nice fungi – the first of the new season. These were all boletes, which have pores underneath instead of gills. The tasty and well-known Cep is a bolete. These were new to me, and I am still not sure of their names, but I think this one is the Scarletina Bolete


Fungus 2a


And this one might be the Lurid Bolete.


Fungus 4a





At a convenient point on the path, there was a lovely new cafe overlooking the river, so we felt it necessary to support their endeavours by stopping for a snack. Refreshed, we continued on past the Marine base at Chivenor, where the guards with guns made me a little wary of taking photos!

Once past the base the trail passed through some pleasant countryside, and showed us a few more flowers, before returning us to our car.




St John’s Wort

St John's Wort sp





Rosebay Willowherb.


Rosebay Willowherb


I hope you enjoyed the photos, and please feel free to correct me if any of the flowers are wrong – I am still learning!


June in the Garden

June flew by, with a real mixture of weather, and not as much gardening as should have been done. We have a new gate now at the end of the garden to prevent stray cows wandering in and destroying the lawn with their deep footprints.




The new path that we strimmed through the meadow over the winter is looking established now, and gives a lovely view from the near garden. Now to put a bench at the end to give a reason to walk along it!


New meadow path


We have also had our first crops for the potager – a decent couple of handfuls of tasty radishes before the slugs worked out where they were. Later sowings have unfortunately been completely eaten. We will be employing some anti-slug measures!




Our mange-touts have been a great success, however, untouched by pests they have cropped heavily, and the pods are so crisp and tasty, and last for weeks in the fridge. We have also enjoyed a few baby new potatoes which managed to develop before the slugs ate all the top growth.




I uncovered a small dwarf rhododendron on the overgrown bank by the house last year, which hadn’t flowered. With a bit of space around it for a year, it has thrived, and treated me to a few flowers this year.




I am collecting varieties of Cistus, rock rose, as they seem to do well on my stony bank. This one, C. purpureus, was the first I planted, and has been smothered for weeks this year.




My bearded irises got completely eaten by slugs, but I have had more success with sibirica irises, and this lovely Iris ‘Silver Edge’ flowered well.




We also had the usual huge flowers of the oriental poppy. They are so spectacular, but the colour is a bit strident. Maybe I should move them to somewhere where the colour clashes less, and replace them with something softer…




July is proving to be just as variable weather-wise as June, so I am waiting for a dry day to get out and take some July photos. Fingers crossed!



Creatures of the Night

Warm summer evenings are good for more than just sitting around the barbecue with a glass of prosecco – they are great for catching moths.

We set our moth trap at least once a week, sometimes twice, and the moths it catches vary hugely through the year, as many moths have a very short flying season of only a few weeks.




It is basically a very bright light over a funnel, which leads to a roomy box full of egg cartons. The moths are attracted to the light, fall down the funnel, and end up in the box, where they can hide in one of the many egg boxes. In the morning, I open the trap and identify all the moths, and then release them by placing them carefully into a suitable hiding place around the garden.

Moths are really beautiful, and very varied. Even the brown ones often have very complex markings, and many of them are prettier than our native butterflies. Take this beauty – a Garden Tiger. Its wingspan is the length of my finger. I was really happy to find it in the trap yesterday!


Garden Tiger 2


Summer is the time for yellow underwing moths, which have , as you would imagine, a yellow hind wing which hides under the forewing when they are at rest, but can be seen when they fly. The most common species is the Large Yellow Underwing, but this week I caught a Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing, which has very attractive subtle markings. It is about the size of a monkey nut.


Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing


The next one is called a Pebble Prominent because of the round, pebble-like marking on the end of the wing. It also sits with his wings folded vertically against his body, rather than horizontally.


Pebble Prominent


The Scalloped Oak makes a very wide triangle when resting, and while subtle in colour, is very distinctive. Its wingspan is about the length of a little finger


Scalloped Oak


The green moths are particular favourites of mine – this July High-flyer is a little worn, but still colourful. Not as large as the others above, it would sit on a 10p piece.


July Highflyer


Some of the names are very descriptive and helpful, and some less so. This one is a Triple-spotted Clay, but I tend to see only the two pale spots.


Triple-spotted Clay


The buff-tip is well-named and very distinctive, with its buff patch on the wing and a buff face. It is well camouflaged as from a distance it looks like a broken twig.


Buff Tip


This one is a Dark Arches, named for the zig-zag pattern at the base of the wing. It is quite big – maybe half a thumb.


Grey Arches


These are just some of the 60 moths I caught yesterday, so it is a fascinating hobby. All the records are sent off to the county recorder, to add to our knowledge of moths in Devon.

I leave you with a small moth, the size of a fingernail, but one of my favourites in the summer – the Rosy Footman.


Rosy Footman