The Tuesday View: 25th October 2016

This will be the last regular photo of my Tuesday view for the year 2016, as it will soon be so dreary and bare that I will get depressed contemplating it. If it snows this winter I will definitely show a shot of it though! 😉 Here it is, around 3.30pm today…

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The Perovskia will be trimmed quite low this week, and the red leaves of the acer in the background are starting to drop. There is, however, still the magical Persicaria ‘Firetail’…

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… as well as the Golden Euonymus (which I tend to overlook as it is there all year round), providing cheerful colour on days such as this…

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Slowly the rocks in the rockery are becoming visible once again – I will have to show a picture of them later in the year. I would like to thank those of you who have joined me, observing a single view of your gardens through the seasons. I have very much enjoyed seeing the changes – both dramatic and slight – in your weekly photos. It has certainly been a useful exercise for me once again, and I hope for you as well.

And, of course, also many thanks to the rest of you for visiting!

🙂

Tree Following: June 2015

I am following a tree this year – a Field Maple to be precise – along with Lucy at Loose and Leafy, and many others around the world. This month my tree is looking lush and leafy. 🙂

However, on closer examination there are very few seeds that have remained on the tree, most dropping at or just after flowering stage… and a lot of aphids earlier this month have made an ugly mess of many leaves too… Maybe it became susceptible due to stress caused by our very dry April?

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But wait, what’s this? A strange orange and black bug…

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And another one… chomping away!

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I have identified them as the larva and pupa stages of the Asian Ladybird Harmonia axyridis, also known as the Harlequin Ladybird, the most invasive ladybird on earth!

It has the potential to threaten our native ones, eating both their food sources and their larvae. So I will be on the lookout for the adult now, to see if I can differentiate between it and our native ones. Not that I can do anything about it, but I’ll keep you posted anyway. A good website to help with identification of ladybirds, at least in western Europe, is the Ladybird Survey site, which has information on the Harlequin too. Here is a link to some Wikimedia photos of the adult Harlequin Ladybird.

Have you seen this ladybird? Do you see other ladybirds too, or did you in the past?

 Thanks go to Lucy for hosting this meme… I probably would not have learned that we have this ladybird in our garden if I hadn’t been watching my tree so closely!

In a Vase on Monday: Attention Seekers

Even when Cathy at Rambling in the Garden is rambling away from home, her meme continues and  Cathy herself has posted a Vase on Monday… So no excuses, go and pick some flowers and join in!

Today I started with my Rhododendron, which always looks as if it will be pink when in bud, but then pales to ivory with a beige centre. The Pulsatilla seedheads also have a hint of beige and pink, so by adding the red and white tulips I wanted to highlight these delicate shades.

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After placing everything in the vase I noticed each flower seemed to be vying for attention, leaning towards the front!

My parrot/fringed tulips are one of my weaknesses; I just love their shameless flamboyance…

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Destiny (formerly Estella Rijnveld)

… their downright cheekiness…

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Red Parrot or Fringed Tulip?

… and their feathery loveliness.

Don’t you love them too? 😉

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Although we have had showers the past week, the tree pollen is covering everything at the moment – I can even see it clinging to the Pulsatilla below…

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A bonus vase this week: some wild mustard appeared in my garden this spring, and although I love the flowers I do not want it to go to seed. So I cut most of it down and added a little Kerria japonica to jazz it up…

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And while taking some photos I discovered this little fella…

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Maybe not an attention seeker, but cute nonetheless!

What is seeking your attention in your garden right now?

A Hedgehog Cake

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Before you start wondering, no hedgehogs were harmed!

For my birthday I always make myself a special cake, and since hedgehogs have been on my mind a lot recently it seemed only logical to finally try out my hemisphere cake pan this time round…

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Cute! It was a lot simpler than I had thought – and it tasted pretty good too!

Hedgehog Birthday Cake

For the cake:

  • one 15cm/6 inch hemisphere tin and one 20cm/8 inch sandwich cake tin, greased and floured
  • 225g (2 sticks)  softened butter
  • 225g (1 cup) sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 215g (1 3/4 cups) SR flour
  • 1 tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 2-3 tbsps milk

Preheat oven to 190°C/375°F. Cream the butter and sugar together with a mixer until pale and fluffy. Whisk in the eggs, one at a time. Gently fold in the sieved flour, baking powder, cocoa powder and salt. Add the milk if necessary to achieve a “dropping consistency”, i.e. the mixture drops slowly off a spoon. Divide between the two cake tins and bake until firm to touch: the sandwich tin will take about 20-25 minutes and the hemisphere tin will take longer, between 35 and 45 minutes. Leave to cool completely on a rack.

For the buttercream/decoration:

  • 125g softened butter
  • 125g icing sugar
  • 75g milk chocolate, melted
  • 2 chocolate drops for the eyes
  • 1 glace cherry for the nose
  • jam for the filling (I used strawberry)

Beat together the butter and sugar. Reserve enough to cover the nose of the hedgehog. Dip the glace cherry in your melted chocolate and put to one side. Now beat the remaining melted chocolate into the rest of the buttercream. (Make sure the chocolate is cooled but not cold when you mix it in).

Forming the cake: Place the hemisphere on top of the sponge base layer, but at the back edge and not in the centre. Cut the base around the edge of the hemisphere at the sides but leave some at the front to form the nose… I think it will be clear what I mean when you have it in front of you. Put some jam between the base and the hemisphere to stick it together. Spread some white buttercream you reserved over the front and form a nose shape, building it up a little. Use a knife dipped in warm water to help smooth it. Then coat the hemisphere with the chocolate buttercream and use a flat knife to create the “spike” effect. Add the eyes and nose. Voila!

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This moist sponge cake stays lovely and fresh for several days – just store in an airtight container. It serves a crowd too!

Enjoy!

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🙂

 

 

A Butterfly Diary (September)

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Keeping a Butterfly Diary this year has essentially been an enjoyable pastime; the waiting and watching, running for my camera, clambering through the rockery in unsuitable footwear, or thumbing through my butterfly guide while lying in the grass on a warm summer’s day…

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But it has also been very educational. I knew very little beforehand, and was unable to name many of the visitors to my garden. And reading up on certain butterflies meant I learned about their foodplants, migratory habits, number of broods in a year, overwintering etc etc. Overall it has been a lovely activity, and I hope to repeat it next year. This will probably be the last butterfly post this season, with numbers already dwindling as the nights get colder and days shorter. We often get very foggy or misty days in autumn too, which prevent the sun from warming up the garden enough for most butterflies.

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So let’s celebrate these last visitors and in planning our future plant or bulb purchases, spare a thought for the butterflies’ favourite flowers!

Early September was warm but damp, humid in fact. The only butterflies I saw were the cabbage whites, red admirals that have been around most of the summer, and still the Hummingbird Hawk-moths (Macroglossum stellatarum, Taubenschwänzchen). These creatures are fascinating to watch! Here is one I observed in the middle of September. They are pretty fast – longer stops would mean their wing muscles would cool down too much…

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They return to the same plants at the same times every day – especially on warm and sunny days.

For more pictures take a look here, and for tips on attracting them to your garden look here.

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A single Common Blue (Polyommatus icarus, Hauhechel-Bläuling) turned up in the middle of the rockery mid-month, also on the Centranthus ruber. Can you spot it?

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I can’t stress enough just how valuable this plant is in my garden. Not only does it flower all summer, it attracts so many butterflies and insects too! You may have noticed that many of the  butterflies I have shown over the past few months have been on the Centranthus.

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So, for a change, a different plant is the background here for the European Peacocks (Aglais io/Inachis io, Tagpfauenauge), which always turn up reliably to relish on the Sedums and Michaelmas Daisies (see the photo I posted yesterday).

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Those colours are exquisite – I wonder if they have any idea just how beautiful they are! These markings are actually supposed to make predators afraid of them… see this lovely video here for an example.

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They are our most long-lived butterflies too, surviving for up to a year if a mild overwintering place is found.

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Then we had a Wall Brown (Lasiommata megera, Mauerfuchs) visit the Sedum too. The Wall Browns like to bask in the sun with their wings open, especially on rocks or (surprise!) walls. They are typical for stony or rocky hillsides like those around us, with various grasses as their foodplant.

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I also saw the first Comma since spring (Polygonia c-album/Nymphalis c-album, C-Falter). I don’t know why I didn’t see any in the summer…

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It has a very intricate outline and such rich colouring on the upper wings, but the underside of the wings resembles dead leaves – perfect camouflage.

Can you see the comma mark on the closed lower wing in the photo below?

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The Comma hibernates, and can usually be seen flying from April to November.

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Sometimes the German names are prettier than the English, sometimes the reverse: in this case the English name wins hands down: the Queen of Spain Fritillary  (Issoria lathonia, Kleine Perlmutterfalter)!

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This was one of the rare occasions I have actually seen butterflies on my Verbena bonariensis, despite what a butterfly magnet everyone says it is. The silvery edges to this fritillary’s wings may have contributed to it being given such a regal name.

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One of its larval foodplants is the wild field pansy. They fly in three or even four generations in Central Europe, overwintering here in the caterpillar form, but they may also be one of the btterflies (like the Red Admiral or the Hummingbird Hawk-moths) that migrate from warmer climates over the Alps in the spring. Amazing to think of such tiny creatures soaring to heights over 2500 metres in order to cross the mountains…

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That was it for September. If I see any different ones in October I will be sure to post about them.

In the meantime I have been looking back at my photos for the year and trying to decided which butterfly I love best: probably the Peacock – simply because it is familiar, colourful, and a reliable visitor in autumn – my favourite time of year.

I’d love you to tell me what your favourite butterfly is, and whether you have seen it this summer?

Some nice links: