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What a difference a day makes, Painted Lady and Martin's monster!

Date posted: Thursday 3rd June 2021

What a difference a day makes, Painted Lady and Martin's monster!

What a difference a day makes! Last week saw the end of the one of the wettest Mays on record; glad to see the back of the endless leaden grey skies and what felt like non-stop rain and, although rain was much needed after the cold, dry April, it all got the spirits down. So, Thursday dull, overcast and grey, Friday blue skies and warm sunshine, making a very welcome return and the insects and birds are making the most of it. The swifts returned a couple of weeks ago; those piercing high-pitched calls as they weave and wheel high across the sky is a delight!

There’s a new kid on the block and it’s a going to be a monster…! Martin’s kindly donated an Echium pininana, Echium pinnifolium, common names giant’s viper’s bugloss, tower of jewels. I’ve seen them growing in St James’s Park by the lake, tall thin columns of flowers covered with bees. It won’t arrive at it’s full height of 2.5-4m until 2022 so hoping it’ll get through until this time next year!

Meanwhile the Pollinator Patch next to it is attracting bees and butterflies, brought out by the sudden change in the temperature. The erysimum, ‘Bowle’s Mauve continues to flower abundantly and is popular with butterflies; a few days ago I spotted a Peacock and what I’m almost certainly sure was a Painted Lady. ‘A fairly large orange, black and white butterfly, the painted lady is a migrant to the UK from North Africa, the Middle East and southern Europe during the summer; sometimes it arrives here in enormous numbers. A frequent visitor to gardens, it will feed on Buddleia and other flowers. The caterpillars feed on thistles, mallows and Viper’s-bugloss, as well as various cultivated plants. This species cannot survive our winter in any form. The painted lady is mainly orange above, with black tips to the forewings that are adorned with white spots, and black spots on the hindwings and forewings. The small tortoiseshell is also orange with black spots, but has distinctive yellow spots on the forewings and blue spots along the wing margins.’ (

The white borage self-seeded in a large pot and the limnanthes patch on my plot are attracting many bees and the hoverflies are particularily partial to the poached egg plants. I had to fight my corner to keep this patch of self-seeded flowers as the Head Gardener wanted to take them out for his veg, but when he saw the bees all over them his inner beekeeper won out!