I’ve spent the morning browsing seed catalogues and seed merchants websites, dreaming again of sunny days and Summer flowers … To be fair, our weather hasn’t been too wintry so far this Winter, though the wind has been rather wild this weekend.
As I’m browsing, I am also thinking about my New Year’s Resolution … to do whatever I can for our beleaguered planet. In choosing the flowers I will grow for Summer 2020, I intend to consciously choose varieties that actively support garden wildlife. I’m looking at nectar-rich blooms to feed our VIPs (Very Important Pollinators) – bees and hoverflies, butterflies and moths. But I am also looking ahead to the end-of-season seedheads that will enrich the diet of birds visiting the garden for food as the Autumn and Winter draw on.
Usually in the vegetable patch I am looking to keep most animals out – especially rabbits.But one animal I would love to encourage into the garden is one of my very favourite creatures, the hedgehog. And I know I am not the only one. Here in the UK there are now a whole lot of hedgehog supporters … over 620,000 of us on Hugh Warwick’s petition to Help save Britain’s hedgehogs with ‘hedgehog highways’!
Hedgehog highways are a very simple idea, but hugely important for hedgehogs. One of the main reasons that hedgehogs have become so scarce in the UK is because we keep fencing off more and more bits of the landscape into smaller and smaller pieces.
The ‘hedgehog highways’ petition has been seeking to bring housing developers onboard to make sure that new housing is hedgehog-friendly. Of course, it is not only new housing that needs to be hedgehog-connected. The more of our gardens that are connected, the better for hedgehogs. Our hedgehogs only need a 13 cm hole in the bottom of a fence or garden wall that allows hedgehogs to move freely between gardens so they can find food or find a mate. (That’s about the size of a CD … if you remember those 😉 )
If you’d like to join the growing band of hedgehog supporters, doing your little bit for hedgehogs, you might like to take a stroll down Hedgehog Street to find more about Britain’s favourite animal. There’s an interactive map too, where you can log sightings of hedgehogs (now also available as a phone app, which is very handy).
Whether it’s bees, butterflies, birds, hedgehogs, or any of the other creatures with which we share our gardens, I’ll be looking to incorporate ideas on gardening for wildlife and there are plenty of ways of “Giving Nature a Home” over on the RSPB’s website too.
We might have no Summer sunshine to share with you (at least not here in North East England!) but never fear, here is a Summer meadow filled with the sunshine of flowers for our Summer Solstice celebration.
While I’m sharing my Summer meadow flowers with you, let’s also be thankful for the bees, butterflies, moths, hoverflies and many more pollinating creatures that feed on our wild flowers – and garden flowers – and allow us to enjoy their beauty. Another blogging friend shared in a wonderful post that it has been Pollinator Week this week and she gave some great gardening tips on how we might all do our small bit for our pollinating creatures. You’ll find Woodland Gnome’s post on her Forest Garden Blog.
“When the dog bites, when the bee stings, when I’m feeling sad,
I simply remember my favourite things,
And then I don’t feel so bad.”
For Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week Cee has chosen the chorus of “My Favourite Things” as the theme. I’ve decided to share some of my favourite things that I have posted here on my blog during my first year-and-a-bit of blogging.
My regular blog visitors may have spotted my new blog header – beechwoods in Springtime are a great favourite of mine and we love to walk in the woods and enjoy the sights, sounds and smells of Spring. For my post header image I have chosen one of my very favourite Spring flowers, bluebells. I posted about the “Beautiful Bluebells!” in our woods last Spring.
I’m glad to say we’ve never experienced bee stings while spending happy warm Summer hours watching and photographing bees on flowers.
Here in Northern England we experience all kinds of weather conditions and we have learned to enjoy them all. A rainy day at the river in Spring is always an uplifting experience – you can read my post about this wet woodland walk here.
The old railway path through the woods is a path we have seen in all weathers, from sunny days to Winter snow. The Victorian railway bridge has featured several times on my blog especially as part of my great interest in history in the landscape. The image above is the bridge in colour from my post, “Old rail trails and a bear hunt”, and below it is in black and white for “Victorian railway bridges in black and white”.
Both of these posts were for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge, which has been my favourite weekly photo challenge here on WordPress. It was from creating the black and white images for the Victorian bridges post that kindled in me an ambition to try my hand at creating more black and white images and taking part in Cee’s Black and White Photo Challenge. I do enjoy taking part in the photo challenges and learning from others.
Wild roses are another of my very favourite flowers. I think I’ve probably said before, I have different favourite flowers depending on the season – there’s always something to look forward too … or in this case, look back at, after the Summer was done and the cooler days of Autumn were with us. I love my son’s photo of the wild Dog Roses. The roses appeared in my “Pastel pink wild roses” post last October.
Purple crocuses with their bright orange stamens are one of my favourite early Spring flowers. These one are in one of my back yard pots along with daffodils and some seedlings of one of our ‘wild’ edible leaves, Garlic Mustard. You can see more about my back yard gardening in “My Blooming Back Yard”.
As well as gardening outside in my yard, I also love indoor gardening too and I grow salad leaves and herbs on my window ledges. In the above photo are my first seedlings of last year – a favourite moment in my gardening year. Just today I was photographing my first salad leaf seedlings of 2015.
A Summer delight for me is picking wild fruit. These delicious raspberries grow in a small patch of woodland not far from our house.
Last Summer I had fun with an interesting vertical gardening experiment in my back yard. I made a jute and willow garden screen and then grew Sweet Peas in air-pruning plant pots to grow on the screen. I shared a number of posts about this project on the willow screen, the air-pruning pots and the Sweet Pea flowers. I was so pleased when my Sweet Peas finally flowered!
I couldn’t post about my favourite things without including a crochet project or two. The jute and willow garden screen was crocheted and my recent “Mending a Woolly Jumper Craft Project” involved several types of crochet too.
Turning a shirt collar is one of those old-fashioned mending tasks that I have always done to extend the life of favourite shirts. The shirt that features in my “Turn a shirt collar” tutorial belongs to my son. He is very fond of this shirt so when the collar began to wear, there was only one thing for me to do …
I decided to post a tutorial on the collar turning process and it has certainly been a favourite among my blog visitors – it is one of the most visited pages on my blog.
To complete my collection of favourites, I want to close with one of my very favourite things, a beautiful sunrise. I am lucky to see a lot of beautiful sunrises and I often share them in my Wordless Wednesday posts. You can see more of my sunrises if you click on the Wordless Wednesday tag on my tag cloud in the sidebar … a beautiful sunrise doesn’t really need many words does it?
I’ve had a lot of fun strolling through my blog photos choosing my favourite things – and I must say I have had to leave out a few too or this post would have gone on forever! Do take a look at what others have chosen for Cee’s Fun Foto Challenge this week for the chorus of “My Favourite Things”.
Natural textures don’t only reveal themselves to us through our eyes, I find. Sometimes they appeal to our sense of touch instead. An example of this for me is when I notice something new in the texture of tree bark. To really appreciate its beauty, I am drawn to touch it, to experience the tactile nature of the texture.
This week I have been working with what I call ‘real’ wool in a crochet project. This hand processed and handspun natural undyed wool is from the fleece of Jacob sheep. This wool yarn has a wonderful springy texture which is retained in the crocheted fabric as I work. In this particular project I am introducing a further texture in the form of a herringbone stitch pattern. The herringbone design dates a long way back into antiquity and I felt this ancient design seemed appropriate for this ruggedly natural wool yarn.
My second natural texture came as part of my recent experiments with natural ingredients for ‘tea’ type drinks. This week this led me to try out raspberry leaves. For me, natural ingredients are more likely to be found in the woods and hedgerows than in supermarkets. For raspberry leaves, I knew just where to look.
Picking raspberry leaves whilst balancing on the edge of a ditch makes you acutely aware of all your senses, it seems. As I stretched out carefully to reach some unblemished leaves, I was intensely aware of how soft and velvety raspberry leaves are on their dark green upper side whilst their pale, grey-green undersides are traced with prominent veins, plus one or two small thorns. Following a refreshing raspberry leaf tea taste test using a single fresh leaf, I am currently drying the remainder of my foraged leaves for future use.
Sometimes when searching through your photo archives for a particular shot you need for a project, you come across images you love but had almost forgotten. This shot of a Small Copper butterfly resting on the sun-warmed riverside shingle is one such image for me. I love the delicate softness of the butterfly against the stones. The stones themselves provide a wonderful variety of textures – from rough to smooth. Hiding away towards the top left of the picture I noticed a piece of rusty metal too.
I have enjoyed exploring the creativity of texture for this week’s WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge. I am always inspired when visiting other blogs to see how people have interpreted the challenge.
This weekend’s warm and sunny Sunday was the ideal time to kick-off our Big Butterfly Count for 2014. We made our first count on a patch of reclaimed industrial land right on the edge of our village.
In the past this land was part of the mineral railway line that carried coal from local mines. Now it is a grassy walkway bordered by trees on one side and on the other, a field area, part of which is kept mown by the local council and part of which includes a large patch of Rosebay Willowherb interspersed with several species of grass, the common Creeping Thistle Cirsium arvense, Broad-leaved Dock Rumex obtusifolius, Hogweed Heracleum sphondylium and some brambles.
Our fifteen minutes of sunny surveying netted us a reasonably healthy number of butterflies in this spot.
This year’s Big Butterfly Count runs from Saturday 19th July to Sunday 10th August. Many of the UK’s butterflies are declining in numbers and around a third of species are threatened with extinction. They need our help.
“… butterflies are a key indicator species of the health of our natural environment -if they are struggling, then many other species are struggling also. Every single person taking part in the Big Butterfly Count this summer can produce a statistic that is of real value as their records help build a picture of how butterflies are faring and how we can best conserve them.” David Attenborough
What is the Big Butterfly Count?
Anyone and everyone, old and young, can join in this easy-to-do survey of butterflies and day-flying moths here in the UK over the next two weeks. The Big Butterfly Count is an annual survey organised by Butterfly Conservation and supported by Marks & Spencer. The reason for choosing butterflies as the survey species is that they are very sensitive to changes in their environment and so are a really good indicator when changes occur.
Butterfly Conservation describe this annual butterfly survey as –
“taking Nature’s pulse”.
How do I take part?
We have been taking part in the Big Butterfly Count for a few years now and it really is a fun family activity but also a very worthwhile citizen science project.
You only need to spend 15 minutes watching butterflies in your garden, local park or other green space. You can either stay in one place and count the highest number of each species of butterfly you see during the 15 minutes. Or if you take a walk, just add up how many of each species you see during the 15 minutes.
Carry out your survey in bright or sunny weather – just like most of us, butterflies prefer to go out when the sun is shining, so if it’s sunny you’ll get a more accurate snapshot of the butterflies that live in your survey spot.
… and if, like me, you’re batty about butterflies – you can do as many 15 minute surveys as you wish during the two weeks of the Big Butterfly Count 🙂
Identifying your butterflies
If you need help with identifying the butterflies you see, Butterfly Conservation have a handy free Butterfly ID Chart to download from their webpage. There’s also a free App for iOS and Android that you can use for the Big Butterfly Count. You can take a look on the interactive map to see what butterflies other people in your area and across the country have found too.
What did you see?
After you’ve counted your butterflies don’t forget to log your sightings online, either on the website or directly via the App.
Why not give it a try? … help to take Nature’s pulse this Summer!