Sunday, 18 June 2017

Byfield Gardens

From time to time some gardens in Byfield are open to the public. This is not an annual event nor are the same gardens always open. Anyway yesterday, 17 June, they were open so Chris and I, together with our friends Ann and John Pimm, decided to have a look around. It was blisteringly hot day with temperatures around the 28-29 degrees mark so we proceeded in a sedate manner and missed out on a couple of the gardens.
In about three hours of wandering around we saw one butterfly - a peacock - but as a compensation I found Rosemary Beetle, Chrysolina americana, in Geoff Broad's garden, where a few were going about their business on a lavender bush. Despite the name bestowed upon it by Linnaeus, it is not an American species but is native to southern Europe. This beautiful beetle appears to be one of the insects moving north in response to climate warming.
The beautiful Rosemary Beetle, found in a Byfield garden. 17 June, 2017
Not all insects were so welcome. A garden in Church Street one of many places where the Solomon's Seal Sawfly, Phymatocera aterrima, was wreaking havoc. Solomon's Seal, Polygonatum multiflorum, is closely related to the False Spikenard, Maianthemum racemosa; we grew this interesting perennial when living in Byfield but fortunately it does not seem to be affected by the sawfly.
The larvae of Solomon's Seal Sawfly - not a pleasing sight for a gardener!
Church Street, Byfield. 17 June, 2017
We visited the gardens of many friends and saw much of interest but for the 'plant of the day' we had to wait for the last call of the afternoon, when we strolled around the small but very neat garden of Val Egan. She was growing the yellow foxglove, Digitalis lutea. This is native to much of central and southern Europe but surprisingly has not established itself in the wild in Britain. It is a magnet for many insects.
Digitalis lutea, a small yellow foxglove in Byfield. 17 June, 2017
Of a similar colour but less commonly seen is the Yellow Wolf's-bane, Aconitum vulparia, sometimes referred to as Aconitum lycoctonum, subspecies vulparia. Although not a British native, this unlikely member of the Buttercup family has become naturalised here and there in dappled shade beside streams.
Yellow Wolf's-bane, Fessey Road, Byfield. 17 June, 2017
Despite being extremely poisonous, as are all Aconitum species, with its curious flowers and deeply dissected leaves it was, for me, the find of the afternoon.
The oddly-shaped flower in close-up.

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