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  • Choosing late season food plants for wildlife

    Miranda Hodgson on 27 Jan 2014 at 05:29 PM

    This year I’m going to put in more herbaceous perennial plants to extend the food season for wildlife. There are already late-flowering plants in the garden – Hesperantha coccinea (previously called Schizostylis coccinea) flowers reliably in late summer and autumn, while Sedum spp were still going strong in mid-September. In a mild autumn, Calendula will flower until the first frosts and Penstemons in sheltered areas can keep going till late. This year, however, I want to reliably fill in the gap between late flowering perennials and winter flowering plants – they must provide pollen and nectar, then go on and provide seed for birds and they must pretty much look after themselves apart from being watered sometimes and divided every few years. It would be pleasing if they’re attractive to humans as well. Not that much to ask, really. Looking back at the photographs I’ve taken during the last several years, combined with giving other people’s gardens a good look over late in the year, I’ve got a list of five plants that I hope will extend the season for as long as possible. Two of them have been in the garden for some time, but this year I’ll bulk them up for a larger display. One of the two is tall, wiry Verbena bonariensis with its clusters of tiny purple flowers. Bees and butterflies love the flowers and after flowering the seedheads attract Goldfinches (Carduelis carduelis) who pick out the seeds with their sharp beaks. The other plant already here is Common Evening Primrose (Oenothera biennis) with its big yellow flowers that often open late in the day. It provides large amounts of pollen and attracts, amongst others, hoverflies. Once flowering is done, the seed capsule is broken open by birds who eat the seeds. Interestingly both plants are more scented after dark than during daylight.

     A female hoverfly, possibly Criorhina asilica, on Evening Primrose. Read More...

  • A new spider comes to visit

    Miranda Hodgson on 05 Jan 2014 at 04:04 PM

    During the recent stormy weather, I haven’t been outside much and have instead been looking at garden wildlife out of the window. You can’t see a lot that way, but the birds seem pretty active and the sparrows, if anything, are noisier than ever. Living in an old stone converted stable block with mature trees and gardens nearby means that a fair bit of wildlife comes in through the windows, so there is the (possibly dubious) advantage of examining some of it close up and without getting rained on. We get woodlice aplenty, moths, daddy longlegs, a few flies, wasps, bees and a great many spiders. Close-up spider images follow the one below...

     

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