Much as I love gardening with my daughter in tow, the time I catch out there after she’s in bed on summer evenings is very precious.
If I’m lucky, I get an hour or so of weeding, deadheading, watering or whatever jobs need doing. Totally uninterrupted.
The garden takes on a whole new personality in the half-light.
Some flowers seem disembodied from their plants – beacons to passing moths.
The borders are less defined; everything is a bit blurred about the edges.
But it has its own quiet beauty.
This week M asked me what ‘blissful’ means. I think pottering in the garden with the bats is as close as you can get.
Tonight I tried to capture it on film. These pics were taken around 9pm, just before the garden descended into darkness.
A couple of days ago we took part in Butterfly Conservation’s Big Butterfly Count.
You spend 15 minutes in a sunny spot, count how many butterflies you see, and submit your sightings online.
I knew the buddleia outside the kitchen would be teeming with nectar-lovers desperate for a late afternoon fix. But I couldn’t face spending quarter of an hour breathing its sickly scent. Instead, I set my almost-four-year-old up with her identification sheet between two borders stuffed with rudbeckia, dahlias, gaura lindheimeri and verbena.
Last year’s verbena bonariensis survived the winter and has come back as tall and willowy as ever. We’ve also grown verbena rigida for the first time. What it lacks in height (ours is about a foot tall) it makes up for with an intense, almost glowing purple haze of flowers. Both varieties are popular with butterflies. After watching closely for 15 minutes, you notice how they are repeatedly drawn to the same plants.
M thinks she counted 23, but there was a bit of doubling up as she’d count them twice if they fluttered off and back again. The true total (I think) was 10: 1 green-veined white, 1 peacock, 1 painted lady, 2 commas and 5 small tortoiseshells.
Her enthusiasm, and the fact that she completed the full 15 minutes without flitting off herself, made me think M might be ready to have a go at raising a butterfly from a caterpillar. We’re probably too late this year, but perhaps we’ll try next summer.
Plugging the hungry-gap
It was good to take some time out to look at the garden. The dahlias and verbena have been in full swing for a couple of weeks now, and seem to have plenty of life in them yet. There are lots of other nectar-rich flowers around the place too: cleome, cosmos, eryngium and sedum are all blooming – or about to. We’ve managed to close the hungry-gap between early and late summer.
If you live in the UK and want to take part in the Big Butterfly Count, it’s running until Sunday (10th August). Find out more here: http://www.bigbutterflycount.org/ .
At one time I had a hundred or so didiscus blue lace seedlings coming on in the greenhouse. It’s a half-hardy annual, so I chanced a winter sowing then did a second batch early spring.
It’s the first time I’ve grown them, so when the winter-sown ones stopped growing soon after developing their first true leaves, I thought maybe they were waiting for the weather to warm up. But when it did, nothing happened.
Before long the second batch overtook them, so the early ones were consigned to the compost bin.
Unfortunately it seems wild rabbits are rather partial to didiscus. When the second batch were ready I planted a row out in the cutting garden; they disappeared overnight. I put most of the remaining young plants on a bench outside the greenhouse; slowly but surely they also vanished.
I learnt the hard way that rabbits can jump pretty high for a favourite food.
In the end I had just one healthy plant left. Fearing for his safety I put him in a terracotta pot on the wall outside the back door.
He started flowering this week, and I think he’s quite lovely.