Turn Your Lawn into a Wildflower Meadow

Have you seen many butterflies or bumblebees yet this year? Butterflies in particular seem to be suffering, but there are things that you can do to help and RHS Harlow Carr has made a marvellous effort by instead of keeping their lawns manicured and consequently flower and insect free they have planted wildflowers which are great for insects, which in turn help to feed so called higher orders and of course these insects are great pollinators. There are numerous flowers amongst the RHS wildflower mix including ragged robin and yellow rattle, which is semi parasitic on grass species which can outgrow the wildflowers if you aren’t careful. It’s not just Harlow Carr who deserve our applause, however. Harrogate Council have allowed a small area of The Stray near Granby Church to grow without mowing. They haven’t spent any council tax payers’ money on wildflower seed and whilst clearly this is a step in the right direction the impact isn’t as great as Harlow Carr’s, but it does demonstrate what can be done and as long as the flowers are allowed to set seed before the autumnal cutting we can expect a better show of flowers next year, so well done Harrogate Council as well. You can do the same, instead of carefully manicuring your lawns and thus depriving our pollinators of a valuable source of nectar why not see what grows there or help it on the way with a wildflower mix. You will need to make hay after the seed has been set but you may be surprised how many more birds, small mammals and insects prefer your garden to the green desert next door. It’s well worth a try and whilst it might take a year or so to flourish, eventually your wonderful wildflower displays will become the envy of your neighbours.

Garden and Allotment Survey

There is an exciting new survey aimed at discovering new ways to encourage bumblebees into gardens and allotments. The survey aims to find out how abundant the eight most common bumblebees are in gardens and allotments and which flowers the bees are using for food. For more information and the link to the survey visit the project website (www.coventry.ac.uk and search for bumblebee survey). You can also use the Bumblebee Conservation Trust’s website to help you identify bees.

Purple Toothwort

George Marsden of Killinghall writes, “Lathraea clandestina is a very unusual plant, its flowers sprout straight from the ground without stalks, it does not ever have any leaves or green chlorophyll colouration as it is parasitic and totally dependent on tree roots, typically willow. The flowers are about 60 mm long (a bit like crocus) and grow in dense clumps typically 200-300 mm across. There are currently several clumps growing along the course of the Oak Beck (Harrogate), the most accessible being behind Pets at Home in Oak Beck Park, they have been in flower for over a month now but are more difficult to see now that other wildflowers are taking over. It goes without saying that digging them up to plant in a garden will definitely kill them as they are dependent on the host tree.” George tells me that unlike other parasitic plants such as mistletoe and common toothwort (Lathraea squamaria) which have little or no colouration purple toothwort has bright blue flowers and a heavy scent because it is pollinated by bees. Purple toothwort is probably an alien plant originating from Middle and South Europe. A third toothwort is the Rhodope toothwort which comes from that area of Bulgaria which is again almost colourless. In Pavel Ivanovich Melnikov’s “In the Forests” a Russian wise woman (znakharka) calls this plant Peter’s Cross and says it protects against devils but only if collected with a prayer to God.

Fearby Fauna

Pat Everest from Fearby has written about her recent interesting week, “We have had such an interesting week, so many things happening in the garden and fields around us. We use part of our field as an allotment, and a pheasant has been sitting on her nest in an overgrown area of it. She has laid 14 eggs and they have now started hatching. I saw the red kite again, this time being chased by an oystercatcher. I have heard the cuckoo, along with others in the village, which is great news. The oystercatchers have been flying low over the fields and garden all week, calling as they fly in groups of six and three, lovely to watch. The curlews have also been flying about, calling as they go. The swallows are back in our stable end, and we still have the two french partridge (red legs) in the garden every day along with our regular visitors. Lastly, we have a hedgehog coming in the garden again, which is good news.”