Lavender Love and Pretty Pollinators

The lavender has been glorious this summer, flowering just after our heavy rain earlier in the month and with very little rain since.

The dry and hot weather suits these shrubs best. And I am not alone in admiring them either… here are a few of the visitors to my garden who love lavender too…

Vanessa cardui – Painted Lady

Inachis io – Peacock Butterfly

Ochlodes sylvanus – Large skipper

Pieris brassicae – Large cabbage white

Polygonia c-album – Comma

Melanargia galathea – Marbled white

Argynnis paphia – Silver-washed fritillary

Gonepteryx rhamni – Common brimstone

Macroglossum stellatarum – Hummingbird hawk-moth

Bee 🙂

Here is the long view of the south-facing rockery – some of these lavender shrubs are ten years old or more and have been cut down hard at some stage. I try and stagger the cutting back, so that I have plenty of shrubs flowering well every year. The white ones will be cut back this autumn and next spring. Others are cuttings or self-seeded plants.

Do you see any of these pollinators in your garden? And if you grow lavender, what visits it most frequently?

Here is a slideshow of these beautiful creatures. 😀

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Happy Summer!

In a Vase on Monday: Classic

It’s a beautiful day, the birds are singing and it’s Monday! That means I am joining Cathy at Rambling in the Garden for her weekly meme, where we plonk things from our gardens into vases to share with the world! 🙂

This week I kept it simple and classic – what could be more elegant and modest than roses and lavender? Add some Alchemilla mollis (not too much) and a few strands of grass and voila! No more fuss and ado.

The light was not quite so harsh and I was able to take the photos on my patio with the top of the south-facing rockery behind.

The grass in the centre is Calamagrostis acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’ and I am in love with this plant. Its feathery flowers opened this week and transformed the rockery.

Here is a picture of it taken from the patio…

The sun was hiding behind a humid haze when I picked these flowers and I took the opportunity to harvest a few bunches of lavender before the flowers get burnt and lose their intensive perfume. When I looked back at these photos I realised the vase completely mirrors what is in the garden behind it!

Oh yes, and the other grass on the left is Melica ciliata, which I first saw growing wild in a nearby deserted stone quarry and knew it would look good in my rockery.

The pale pink rose is ‘The Fairy’, but the deeper pink one was inherited with the garden and is therefore nameless.

The scent of peonies has faded, allowing the lavender to take over, although you have to rub it to notice. The strongest scent out there right now is in fact the wild strawberries. Perhaps I will post about them another day!

What smells good in your garden today?

Have a good week, and don’t forget to visit Cathy and the Monday Vase crowd for some inspiration and smiles!

In a Vase on Monday: A Summer Breeze

As it is Monday again (how time flies and what happened to May?!) I am joining Cathy at Rambling in the Garden for her weekly meme, where we gather materials from our gardens to arrange in a vase.

It is hot again today, and a breeze would be welcome… instead I shall have to settle for this vase of breezy, summery, lemony flowers and foliage!

A slice of lemon and some lemon thyme at the foot of my carafe will remind me to chill some water and add a sprig/spritzer of each for later in the day.

The yellow day lily always catches me unawares when it opens… whatever made me buy a yellow lily? But as the pastels of the Aquilegias fade and the grasses, poppies and foliage take centre stage I am relieved to find they do actually fit into the picture. Hemerocallis citrina supposedly smells of lemon, although I personally cannot detect any citrussy scent.

The foliage on the left is the Goat’s Beard (Aruncus dioicus), which I love best before it flowers. It is so elegant and makes a beautiful structural feature in the garden for a few weeks. A shame it tends to get frazzled and needs cutting back by the end of June.

The variegated Vinca is also looking fresh still, although it has drooped a little in the photo above after being cut in the strong sun. The flowers have almost all gone over, but as ground cover it will remain attractive for some time I hope.

At the centre I just had to use another of my lovely white peonies – Festiva maxima – even though the pink tinge to the petals doesn’t really fit in with the colour scheme! They are going over rapidly in our heatwave. (30°C forecast for today)

But it is surrounded by the lime green of the Aruncus leaves, some Alchemilla, ferns, and a pretty Euphorbia seguieriana.

Well, May has come and gone and we have had another very hot month… despite some heavy thundery showers it is still dry. I wonder what June will bring?

For certain some roses… 😉

Have a good week!

In a Vase on Monday: Refreshed

We finally had a short rain shower on Thursday night, and when I got back on Sunday night from a weekend away the garden had changed noticeably. And my surprise Iris had flowered!

As you can guess, it had to go in today’s vase, to join Cathy at Rambling in the Garden for her lovely meme. 🙂

The contents of the vase on the left were actually in the taller carafe to begin with, but I started fiddling and fussing and eventually the stems were all too short and I started again! It consists of Irises and Moon Daisies, with the addition of Aquilegias and an early deep red peony.

I had no qualms about cutting another iris, as the hot weather is ensuring short lives for everything this spring. So, on the right is another of the lovely surprise irises which rarely flower. It must have been planted in the former water feature before we came here and for some reason only flowers every few years. I was extremely surprised this year as the ground is so dry. And I was also surprised at its scent. Mmmm! It is accompanied by some Siberian Irises, Moon Daisies, Vinca foliage, white Geranium phaeum, some white Dicentra, a few wild grasses, Hosta leaves (still intact before the slugs and snails discover them!) and a couple of sprigs of Aruncus dioicus flower buds – I love them best at this stage!

The bright sunlight and strong wind outside made photography difficult today, so I resorted to indoors in front of our fireplace…

It has just started to pour with rain as I write, with rumbles of thunder all around us, making my chosen title even more suitable! Rain! At last!

Top Ten Flowers for April

Every month Chloris at The Blooming Garden shares her favourite ten flowers…. and often a few entertaining anecdotes or snippets of information too! We are encouraged to join her and, since I now finally have something flowering in my garden after a very cold March, I am pleased to join in the fun this April and share my top ten!

First off, the Hepatica – usually a March flower, but the ones in my garden didn’t really get going this year until early April.

These magical little blue flowers have such intense luminosity. They show up on nearby roadsides and at the edges of woodland even in poor light. In fact, they really are magical as the violet petal colour is able to transform light into warmth, thus protecting the flower from hard frosts. You can see an older post I wrote on Hepatica here. On occasions I have caught a whiff of their elusive fragrance. Like violets, it seems to disappear as soon as you have smelt it, and I thought I was imagining it until reading about this phenomenon in ‘The Secrets of Wildflowers’ by Jack Sanders:

‘The blossoms may or may not be scented. Naturalist John Burroughs, who called hepatica “the gem of the woods”, wondered about this oddity in several of his essays. “This flower is the earliest, as it is certainly one of the most beautiful, to be found in our woods, and occasionally it is fragrant,” he wrote in A Bunch of Herbs. “Group after group may be inspected, ranging through all shades of purple and blue, with some perfectly white, and no odor to be detected, when presently you will happen upon a little brood of them that have a most delicate and delicious fragrance.” Elsewhere he wrote that more often than not the scent will be found in the white flowers, but that one year after a particularly severe winter almost every blue hepatica he came upon was scented – another of the little unexplained peculiarities of wildflowers that make them so fascinating.’

Another favourite in April is Pulmonaria. I have several in varying shades of pinks and blues. Here are some of the prettiest…

 

Number three is my little ornamental cherry ‘Kojo-no-mai’. It never ceases to produce a gasp when I open the blinds one morning and there it is in full bloom!

Fourth: Geranium phaeum, which often doesn’t flower until May

I love the delicate chocolatey coloured flowers, somewhere between maroon and brown, and the foliage mottled with matching brown markings. This plant seeds itself profusely, loves warm dry spots with poor soil and can cope with heat well. It will go on flowering until it gets too hot, then I shall cut it back and it will come back again. 🙂

Fifth: Pulsatilla pratensis

The blue ones grow on our open chalky hillsides but this pinky red one (possibly ‘Rote Glocke’) lives in my garden and is cherished not only for its gorgeous flowers, but also for the fluffy seedheads which stay looking pretty for many weeks and are perfect as fillers for arrangements in vases. 🙂

Sixth: Violas

Some have self-seeded in the path, and others are thriving in pots planted in March…

 

Seventh: Viburnum ‘Aurora’.

The scent of this is simply gorgeous, but this year the mini heatwave mid April shortened the life of the pretty flowers. My bush has put on lots of growth this year though, so I will no doubt start picking some for vases next spring! 😉

Number 8: Epimediums

Two reliable ones in my front garden are a yellow E. ‘Sulphureum’ and the orange ‘Orangekönigin’, but my favourite is this orange one – ‘Amber Queen’ – with spiky petals making it look quite elf-like, or perhaps UFO-like? Chloris also featured this one as a favourite for April.

 

My last two favourites are from trees…

Number 9: This may sound strange, but these teeny weeny flowers always inspire wonder when I see them – mostly on the ground after a strong wind has knocked them down – the larch flowers. They are only about 1cm in diameter and are usually too high up to see with the naked eye.

 

And finally, my tenth flower for April is the Japanese Maple. As soon as the tiny flowers appear the bees are there! The tree also emits a musty aroma which always reminds me of fried food – not unpleasant, but a bit weird!

Thanks to Chloris for suggesting we share our favourites each month – posting about them is extremely useful as a personal record and reading about other people’s favourites is not only fun but also very informative and inspiring. 🙂