Thursday, 22 August 2013

Wallflowers (22 AUG 2013)

Anyone paying close attention to this blog may remember that I’ve already written about wallflowers a few times this year, starting from winter when their long-awaited buds emerged at the same time as the hellebores. Their velvety red petals complemented the tulips and then the poppies through spring, and in summer their orangey, yellow hues competed with the marigolds.

I even experimented with them, inserting them in a wall to check if they had been named correctly, which failed unfortunately. However, I was more successful when I tested their robustness by using them to plug holes that the fox had dug out in a dry bed. I didn’t have to water them, but as the months progressed, I was less inclined to even if they had needed it.

I can’t remember exactly the point when I maxed out on wallflowers. I used to think that I would never throw a healthy plant away as every flower is precious and there are always bare patches in the garden that need filling, but eventually the big sprawling mess had to go. The final straw was when they threatened to sow seeds over the patio cracks to spawn another yearful.

Thinking that I had aborted the next generation, I took time to smell the roses and other non-wallflowers. Then the other day I was inspecting my propogation pot where I had sprinkled magnolia, delphinium and romano pepper seeds with the hope that at least one plant would germinate out of the three, when I recognised wallflower seedlings which seemed to have hibernated since the year before. More annoyingly, each leaf was in perfect condition whereas the leaves of my single remaining broccoli seedling were covered in tiny holes.

I knew that wallflowers and broccoli were both in the brassica family. This summer I learned that nasturtiums are in that family too after identifying caterpillars which were shredding my flower basket display.
I didn’t mind the sacrifice in exchange for being delighted by the sight of cabbage white butterflies feeding on wildflowers and fluttering about in pairs.  

The thought did cross my mind to suggest to the caterpillars that my wallflower seedlings could be a potential food source. I was toying with the idea when I found a stray seedling which had grown into the wall of my house, by my seat on the back doorstep, and noticed for the first time that its flowers were like little butterflies in flight ...

Today I'm linking up to the Grow Write Guild : This Plant is Driving me Nuts!

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Thursday, 1 August 2013

Goldenrod (01 AUG 2013)

This golden rose is called Absolutely Fabulous – and is to me. However, the pollinators don’t seem so fussed with it …
 whereas this plant is literally a-buzz.
At first, I thought it was a mutant wild aster without petals, which wasn’t too far wrong, as it is actually Goldenrod which is in the same family. Apparently, British gardeners originally introduced it as an ornamental, even though it’s an American native often growing at roadsides. It is known to be invasive there, but is behaving itself in this flower-bed near London.

There is a story attached to this plant which, as an engineer and gardener, I found fascinating. Following the First World War, three friends Ford, Firestone and Edison had a shared interest in manufacturing cars. They discussed the options for producing tyres without relying on raw materials from abroad. Edison tested 15000 plants and found 1240 which yielded rubber - goldenrod produced the best quality. Ford presented Edison with a Model T with tyres made from goldenrod rubber, however it turned out not to be commercially viable in the end.
Until this year I had hardly seen butterflies, but maybe summer’s late start allowed the caterpillars to fatten up for a bit longer and the current heatwave caused all the chrysalises to crack open at once. They’re everywhere, especially flitting about amongst the goldenrod, their wings substituting for fancy petals. Of course, they disappear by the time I get my camera out – except for one.

The Gatekeeper butterfly can be distinguished from the similar Meadow Brown by the two white spots in the “eye” of its wing, which is supposed to distract predators away from its vulnerable body. The latter only has one spot. The female’s upper wing is bright orange apart from the eye and brown edging; the male’s is crossed with a dark band of scent glands. They have relatively short proboscises which may explain why they are partial to the small florets of goldenrod.

I was honoured to spend some time with this little creature. It convinced me to plant a tuber of goldenrod in a dry patch in my own garden which wouldn't have been my first choice before.


©Copyright 2013 b-a-g. All rights reserved. Content created by b-a-g for
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