Sunday, 5 July 2015

A Byfield garden

A friend of ours is off to Canada and, in an unguarded moment, Chris and I said we'd keep an eye on the garden.

Great Mullein is a handsome plant but
can get out of hand. Byfield. 5 July, 2015

The garden is not unattractive and is potentially stunning, but the area is plagued with Great Mullein, Verbascum thapsus. The plants sometimes attract Mullein Moths, Cucullia verbasci, but this year I looked for its handsome caterpillars in vain. Something had created holes in the leaves but looking for the culprit proved a fruitless task. 

Mines formed by the larva of Amauromyza verbasci.
Byfield, Northants. 5 July, 2015

Instead I found that the leaves had been mined by an Agromyzid fly, Amauromyza verbasci. The map on the NBN (National Biological Network) Gateway web site shows relatively few records but in fact it is a widespread species, probably occurring over most of the country.

Heart and Dart. An attractive name for
a dull moth. Byfield. 5 July, 201

In uprooting the worst of the mulleins I disturbed a moth. It was a Heart and Dart, Agrotis exclamationis. Many a gardener has gone to gather a lettuce for tea, only to find it limp and wilted, its stem cut through at the base by the depredations of the Heart and Dart caterpillar, for it is among the worst of the so-called 'cutworms'. I should have killed it but...

Dotted Loosestrife in a Byfield garden.
5 July, 2015

The garden has a fine bed of Dotted Loosestrife, Lysimachia punctata. It is a popular garden plant from S.E Europe but is vigorous and a frequent escapee. Most gardens in Byfield seem to grow a patch, and once you have it, it persists. It is easy to forget that this rather coarse species is in the Primrose Family, Primulaceae.

Fox and Cubs in a Byfield garden. 5 July, 2015
Also from south-east Europe comes Pilosella aurantiaca, a cheerful plant with rusty-red flowers and leaves covered in rather long bristly hairs. It has a host of common names including Fox and Cubs, Tawny Hawkweed and Grim the Collier.  I plan to grow a patch despite the fact that it can be invasive. It too has escaped and is to be seen in many places around Byfield. I contented myself with a little dead-heading as part of my endeavours.

Procumbent Yellow-sorrel overwhelming part of a
flower bed. Byfield, 5 July, 2015

Many gardeners have found themselves overrun with yellow-flowered species of sorrel. One of the worst is Procumbent Yellow-sorrel, Oxalis corniculata. Our friend's garden has a worryingly large patch of the variety atropurpurea but, purple-leaved or not, it is very invasive.

Least Yellow-sorrel; a plant to avoid.
Byfield. 5 July, 2015

Least Yellow-sorrel, Oxalis exilis, is like a diminutive version of O. corniculata. We found it occupying cracks in the paving slabs and, if it would confine itself to that habitat, all would be fine, but it too is invasive. These sorrels (not to be confused with Rumex species also known as sorrel) were probably introduced accidentally with bought-in potted plants. Gardeners beware!

Popping up unofficially in a Byfield garden.
Opium Poppy, 5 July, 2015

This rather eye-catching Opium Poppy, Papaver somniferum, was also happily seeding itself in the flower beds. The latex, which is the source of opium, is obtained by scratching the still-green seed capsules, although I am told that garden varieties contain only limited amounts of the active ingredients. Some people gather the seed for sprinkling on bread rolls; imo these are delicious.

So, as is often the case, I found that the 'weeds' were the most intriguing feature of the garden. Lots of work will be needed to properly bring it under control, but would it then be less interesting? 

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