One plant that I've always been a big fan of is Buddleia, mainly because of the pretty little creatures they attract; Butterflies. The Buddleia in our back garden has been allowed to run wild and tall this summer and is full of tiny purple flowers. This is how I've managed to take part in the Big Butterfly Count last month and this month for Butterfly Conservation http://www.bigbutterflycount.org/ Our Buddleia is full of butterflies! So far the species I've managed to spot in the garden are:
- Large White
- Small White
- Small Tortoiseshell (I counted 20 on the Buddleia at one time!)
- Red Admiral (my new favourite)
- Meadow Brown
Stunning Red Admiral in the garden
I can remember not that many years ago when Butterflies became a really rare sight, I especially noticed that back in Cambridgeshire. It's funny how you notice trends like that - another I notice here on a different note is that I very rarely see Kestrels (my favourite bird of prey) in West Berkshire, yet they were a common sight back in Cambridgeshire. We do however have Red Kites soaring right above our house here in West Berkshire and they are a wonderful sight too, there were four playing just the other day, soaring and dive-bombing and playing in the blue skies. Given the size of Red Kites it's no wonder that you don't see many Kestrels! Back to the butterflies though, it's lovely to see so many different species all in our garden. The farmer has left a nice big wildlife boundary between our garden fence and the wheat field and this is abundant with grasses, wildflowers and nettles, the latter being the ideal plant for butterflies to lay their eggs. As well as the Buddleia attracting Butterflies to the garden, it's also attracting another garden favourite, the Bumblebee! I love watching these insects working, they don't seem to stop and we've had some rather big Bumblebees in the garden. The noise they make as they buzz from flower to flower is rather loud and quite often I catch Barry looking up at the Buddleia wondering why it almost seems to be humming. As yet Barry hasn't been stupid enough to catch a Bee and let's hope he doesn't! He's quite the fan of chasing insects in the garden! I also met a Carpenter Bee for the first time the other day when it sadly got trapped in our conservatory while the door was open, but I managed to guide it out. We also have a number of honey bees in the garden and suspect there are hives nearby in the village.
Small Tortoiseshells on the Buddleia
I'm not sure how much longer the Buddleia will keep flowering for, but luckily my lavenders in the garden are also thriving and this seems to keep the Butterflies and Bees happy. I've only managed to plant a few other plants in the garden such as Dianthus, Dahlias, a lovely Hydrangea and a few hardy Fuchsias. I'm absolutely loving having my own garden, but sadly I'm a Hayfever sufferer and it's been a particularly bad pollen season for me this year. I don't let it deter me for the most part but have to admit defeat when my eyes just about swell shut (not a pretty look!). The Butterflies have given me the photography urge once more though and I have to say it's lovely playing around with the camera again (hopefully I'll have something more than these phone photos to show you soon).
One other part I love about having my own garden (other than pottering around, enjoying fresh air and admiring the countryside views) is growing my own herbs and other food. I'm a keen cook and I love using fresh products. There's something even better about them being grown in your own garden. I'd love a smallholding one day, it's been a dream of mine since I was very young and I love the idea of living more sustainably. Sadly I think the chance of a smallholding is a long way off (if at all) but something I'm still determined to try and work towards. I love my current job, but I don't like the idea of being sat at a desk doing accounts/finance all my life, though I do think a financial brain may come in handy when trying to budget on a smallholding. As mentioned earlier, hayfever and only fairly recently moving has scuppered plans this year for growing much veg, but I did however manage to grow Peas, Mangetout and Runner Beans successfully in some large pots until we can dig over an area of the garden for a more permanent veg bed. I've also got some pumpkin plants coming along nicely. My best plants this year that I've grown are my herbs. They're in a nice dry sunny spot under the Buddleia tree and seem to love it there; I've got Rosemary, Mint, Apple Mint, Sage (my favourite herb), Thyme, Lemon Thyme and Chive. I've cooked some lovely chicken breasts stuffed with fresh herbs and we've had lovely potato salads with home-grown chopped chives. They've come on really well anyway and are finally starting to look like they're filling out the herb bed areas I've made. I'm getting there with the gardening anyway and it's certainly very therapeutic pottering around in the garden, I hope to plant lots more next year.
One of my herb gardens
Finally, I'd just like to share a couple of photos of my Dahlias. This is my first time growing these and they really are stunning. I am however angry at the Black Fly that seem to over-take the white Dahlias in my garden. Thankfully they've left these pink ones alone!
Hopefully I'll have some more gardening updates for you soon - nothing too spectacular as we only have a humble little garden at our two-bedroom terraced house, but I'm making the most of it nonetheless. Start small and work your way up is what they say... :-)