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Posts Tagged ‘Gardening’

Although the weather here has been reasonable – not actually warm let alone hot but fairly bright and with light winds, the moth visitation level has dropped right away. In terms of number of individuals and variety of species things are way down on the halcyon days of June and July.

That said the occasionally new species is turning up to stretch the list of this summer’s visitors – and as I am up to my ears in ‘real’ work I’ve been able to fill time amply without swatting up on moths half the morning.

One of the moths I’ve been seeing in numbers this week is a new one for me – and though I’m going to name it as the Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing (noctua janthe) that species is practically indistinguishable from Langmaid’s Yellow Underwing. I’ve gone with the common moth rather than the migrant.

Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing (noctua janthe)

Lesser Broad-bordered Yellow Underwing (noctua janthe)

Which brings me to a musing on the word migrant in entomology. Given the inflammatory connotations perhaps entomologists should abandon it in favour of ‘tourist’? Moths have enough bad press without the BNP getting on their case too…

I thought I had a Turnip moth but I was mistaken. It  has been identified for me as a Dark Sword-grass (agrotis ipsilon), a member of the same noctuid sub-family but a migrant species. This is a quite large and imposing moth, but it is still astonishing to think of anything so small and fragile making the hop across the channel.

Dark Sword-grass (agrotis ipsilon)

Dark Sword-grass (agrotis ipsilon)

Among the macro moths, the Willow Beauty, Cloaked Minor, Setaceous Hebrew Character, Silver Y, Dusty Small Wave, Brimstone Moth and Bright-line Brown-eye are also still making occasional appearances. So too the Double-striped Pug.

Of the micros, most are as yet and probably will remain unidentified – I regret not picking up the book on pyralids when I had the chance a few weeks ago.

The main exception is the Mother of Pearl which has made its first appearance this year. It is a very large micro moth, far larger than for example the Small Dusty Wave or any of the innumerable and tiresomely difficult to distinguish Pug moths. The name is a bit of oversell in my opinion; the moth isn’t nearly as attractive as might be suggested. Nevertheless it is a species I’ve seen before and it is good to know that it is still around:

Mother of Pearl (pleuroptya ruralis)

Mother of Pearl (pleuroptya ruralis)

Two other readily identifiable micro moths: phylctaenia coronata is about again (or still about, but it seemed there was a bit of a lull) as is pyrausta aurata. The latter posed a particular problem as the specimen in the bathroom was a particularly faded individual no longer purple and gold but brown and yellow. [See previous post – for an idea of the colour when fairly fresh, and note the difference even a few days makes.]

pyrausta aurata

pyrausta aurata

The other notable micro moth is the returning Small China-mark (cataclysta lemnata). I had an almost pure white (male) specimen in the house earlier this year. A couple of females have been about this week, so much darker I debated whether they were in fact Brown China-mark specimens instead. The underwing is quite beautiful and the giveaway only given a glimpse of:

Small China-mark (cataclysta lemnata)

Small China-mark (cataclysta lemnata)

And so to the great out doors. I shall be digging out my recipe for green tomato chutney, I fear. Yet again the bulk of the crop won’t ripen, and this is said to be one of the five driest parts of the UK.

Sadly, though the fruit harvest this year has been extraordinary (though I haven’t lost a branch from a Victoria Plum – others are reporting this) there has been no great upsurge in the butterfly population. Just one drunken Red Admiral flopping about from windfall plum to windfall plum. The hoverflies are enjoying one prolonged drunken orgy out there. In the meantime the lack of really hot and sunny weather probably spells doom for the fruit on the olive trees. They are there, alright and some of the getting quite large. But without prolonged warm sunny weather they cannot ripen and the likelihood is that in the next fortnight the weather will turn appreciably autumnal.

 The pinot blanc grapes are possibly in a better position – more advanced, quite swollen in fact and almost at the point of needing just to ripen.

The other grand accomplishment of the week is a cranberry bed. In a moment of inspiration I co-opted the old disused pond, filled with rubble and several years garden waste. Soil testing has suggested this will be a good spot and I’ve cut back overhanging trees to improve the light. Now I just need cranberry plants to go in it. If I’m here in spring next year…

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I have been waiting, and waiting and …. last night at dusk (admittedly light poor) no sign. Look what I found this morning:

Olive tree in flower

Olive tree in flower

This is the first buds on the olive opening up. Next step tiny little fruit.

And only the subject of tiny little fruit, these are grapes – this lot are pinot blanc.

Grape (pinot blanc)

Grape (pinot blanc)

I still haven’t plucked up the courage to pot up the trays of asparagus ‘seedlings’ but in the time since I last mentioned this particular procrastination the single fronds have developed into little clusters of fronds suggesting developing crowns beneath and I’m feeling more confident about handling the plants. Might well get this job done this weekend.

Tomato plants have relished the warmer weather, strawberries are almost done.

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My status as a hapless housewife is in serious danger. In the past twenty four hours I have hoovered (everywhere), dusted (most places), washed (walls of bathroom and kitchen plus some windows,) shaken (soft furnishings), re-hoovered (near soft furnishings) and sorted the cutlery drawer.

I’m slightly overcome and concerned that Insecta will prove an insufficient distraction  – therefore I’ve devised a new game to improve sidetrack traction. Tentatively the game is called What on Earth is That (Plant), and it is inspired by my unanticipated ability to work out that the plant which has sprung up by the back shed in the area cleared earlier in the year of rubble is a member of the Epilobium genus known commonly as Willowherb. I’m pacing myself and will let you know later which member of this genus it is – and that won’t be before I know.

It will probably turn out like the virginia creeper and I will in that case come to hate it, but in the mean time a number of other mystery plants have emerged.

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Stupid

If today was not the warmest day of the year so far then it certainly felt like it. Right from the start the day had very faintly that particular stillness that is the hallmark of a truly unseasonal warm to hot day. Not a cloud in the sky and barely a breath of air. The seedling cages are all wide open and I’m upping the water. All but the asparagus are ready to move on now, which is as much an adventure for me as it is for them.

The asparagus are a new one for me and candidly I haven’t a clue what I’m doing. What I know is that the seed has germinated well, which is a good start. Happily I won’t have to do anything much at this stage and everything else should be off my books before I have to work on the asparagus. Even then it will be another three seasons before they’re producing spears for harvesting. What an odd thing. This is why I’ve never bothered before.

 The next thing will be a big bed for cranberries, just of the sheer hell of it. That will be hard physical work as I’ll need not only to excavate but also line and in effect create a bog. What the hell am I thinking when what I really want to do is sell the place and go home. In the meantime though the idea of a cranberry crop has caught my imagination.

Like a lot of things it is something I’m going to have to do now, or not at all. Today’s work has left me with swollen hands which worries me slightly.

The other odd thing that has struck me is how easily I slipped into the groove and evaded the temptations of the wildlife. The only company I noticed I had today were squadrons of butterflies – large whites and probably small whites too far away to id and distinguish one from other. I’m still awaiting my first dragonfly sighting of the year.

And they don’t ever come into the house – or at least they haven’t yet. Why stupid? Because I didn’t think to slap sunblock on – went out in just a strappy vest thing and now have red shoulders. Idiot!

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