Saturday, 30 July 2011


Tomorrow morning I am heading south, as next week I'm completing a placement at Great Dixter in East Sussex. There is no mention whatsoever of interweb connection on the b&b website, so I will definitely not be updating the old blog in this time! In the interim, here are some early morning images of the gazebos. Cheerio!

Burnet Moth

Recently I spotted a large group of the day-flying Burnet moths feeding happily on Ragwort (Senecio jacobaea). These chaps are pretty distinctive, and quite possibly had all recently emerged from pupation!

Burnet tucking in

The hurly-burly of the ragwort stem

Another fan of Ragwort is the Cinnabar moth, the unusual caterpillars of which feed exclusively on Senecio species.

Cinnabar caterpillar

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Rehmannia elata

The Chinese Foxglove, seen flowering in my parents’ garden. I don’t see this plant about too much, but it flowers all summer, is reasonably easy to grow and looks jolly splendid. Also, like our native Foxglove before it, the bumblebees go cuckoo-bananas over it!

Bee Garden

My meadow in front of the hives is coming along at the moment, with my bees the old soaks spoiling themselves rotten! There has been lots of cheering feedback from visitors to the garden and a huge amount of wildlife on the scene, ranging from common frogs to Small Tortoiseshell caterpillars. This site deliberately points toward the morning sun, as the bee books recommend this for positioning hives (I think to encourage the bees to get out of bed and get busy, lazy swines). Well a consequence of this is that the mornings here have become a real haven for all the good insects we see about, particularly the butterflies who generally do their feeding ack emma! All the butterfly species recorded about the garden have also been spotted feeding here too at some point, including some of the Peacocks we released recently. Plans for next year are already afoot, with biennals germinated in trays for planting out in the autumn after the whole thing is chopped down.

Vipers Bugloss, our only native Echium species and a real insect magnet!

I dug up ten large Thistles from the adjacent farm field and transplanted them to a place where they can be appreciated

Phacelia tanacetifolia, this is often grown as a green manure but is also extremely attractive to bumblebees

Another of these panoramas giving a wider view

Monday, 25 July 2011

Old Garden

The Old Garden is near to the manor house and comprises several large herbaceous borders, all of which are jammed to the gills with old-fashioned cottage garden style plants. There is a definite air of romance here, and an almost endless stream of interesting blooms!
Hibiscus syriacus 'Bluebird'

Sidalcea malviflora 'Sussex Beauty' - also seen in use at Wollerton

Clematis heracleifolia var. davidiana - another shrub clematis!
Red Admiral basking on Everlasting Sweet-pea

Papaver somniferum ‘Paeony Flowered’ - self-seeds like billy-o!

Rosa ‘Felicia’ mingling with Leucanthemum. This rose has been exciting a lot of comment recently on account if it’s magnificent scent!

Eremurus stenophyllus

Sunday, 24 July 2011


Ringlet butterflies are a hardy bunch, and will often be fluttering about in cloudy spells when most other butterflies have called it a day! These chaps are not rare, but I had not seen them in action until this year; being active on damp grassland they are very prominent on the fields surrounding the garden (Hidcote area is on heavy clay). Although not perhaps as visually arresting as the likes of the Peacock butterfly they are nevertheless fascinating, particularly the caterpillars which are nocturnal and only feed during the night! The foodplants are rough grasses such as meadow grass, and the caterpillars overwinter not entering pupation until the following spring.

Younger viewers please look away now! Ringlet hanky panky.

Thursday, 21 July 2011


Two of these chaps are dominating the Plant House currently, with their huge drooping flowers and wonderful scent! We are not certain of the species, but the common name is definitely Angel's Trumpet. These plants were a standard of the famous old glasshouses of Victorian England, and apparently the ladies while taking tea would hold their cups underneath the blooms. The nectar that dripped down into their brew acted as a mild stimulant, and doubtless livened up the conversation between those haughty old dears!

Angel's Trumpet

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Plant ident

One of the regular features of our trips to college are the plant identification tests, which take place each week of the fortnight blocks we spend up there. Twenty plants are presented to us on the Monday, then we have a few days to sort ourselves out before the test on Friday morning! Occasionally the plant list can be terribly dull, a recent 'houseplant' test immediately springs to mind, but generally there are quite a few good specimens on offer that you could easily be talked into planting yourself back home. During the last college block we had a real humdinger of an ident, focusing on roses and some herbaceous bits & bobs. Here are the best plants from that test;

Geranium Patricia 'Brempat'
Knautia macedonica
Phlomis russeliana
Rosa 'Charles Austin'
Rosa 'Compassion' - this has the heaviest scent I've smelt on a rose
Rosa 'Crimson Cascade'
Rosa 'Eyeopener' - this is a from of groundcover rose
Rosa 'Maigold' - favoured by bees!
Rosa 'Mary Rose'
Rosa 'Nostalgia'

Monday, 18 July 2011

Insect activity

The wasps are very busy at the moment, stripping wood from fences for their nests and hunting small insects to feed to their larvae
Self-seeded poppies are held in high regard in the bumblebee community
Scarlet tiger moths (caterpillars thereof posted about previously) are now active and are certainly generating interest amongst staff and visitors! Beautiful things
A day-flying moth on Echium vulgare
Classic summer scene! Red Admiral on Buddleia 'Black Knight'
The fifth Peacock released so far!

Saturday, 16 July 2011

Packwood House

A few weeks ago on a Sunday drenched in glorious sunshine, we set sail for Packwood House; a reasonable 45 minute journey from Hidcote. Packwood is just over the border from Gloucestershire in Warwickshire, and is probably most famous for its giant topiary. These were jolly impressive but the real splendour here is the borders and plants!

A stark entrance gate (potential for clematis ahoy!)

Clothed in rose glory

Nigella damascena mixing amiably with Geranium (‘Patricia’?)

Cephalaria gigantea

The Sunken Garden, a unique feature with a wealth of ‘hot’ plantings

Rose beds

Long border spilling over the wall

Long border detail, excellent use of Verbascum olympicum

The Yew Garden, topiary mayhem!

Friday, 15 July 2011

Butterflies at Hidcote

This year I’m rearing my own butterflies at the garden, in a project aiming to encourage our visitors to plant more butterfly friendly species in their own garden! This is taking place in one of the gazebos atop the Red Border steps (probably best seen during sunset) using strictly native species of butterfly known to be already active at Hidcote; Comma, Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell & Red Admiral. The whole thing is visible to visitors, with some information boards indicating what the blazes is going on and what plants might be worth planting, i.e. Buddleia, Scabious, etc. The butterfly life cycle starts with tiny eggs that hatch out into miniscule caterpillars (larvae), which then feed voraciously on their chosen food plant! For all of the above species, Urtica dioica (the Stinging Nettle) is the preferred menu, which is then chomped through at a rate of knots. Four moults then take place, with the larvae shedding its previous skin and getting larger each time. After about three weeks of gorging themselves they crawl off from the other caterpillars and find a quiet corner to settle down and begin pupation, which again can last about three weeks depending on temperature. At this point the beastie becomes a beauty, with a living soup of caterpillar cells inside the pupa case reforming as butterfly cells. This miraculous occurrence ends with them breaking out from the pupa, and spending about two hours unfurling and pumping up their new wings. At this stage the wings are actually still wet, and a splash of excess dye can be seen underneath each new butterfly! Then we release them into the garden, to the delight of myself and the assembled visitors, hopefully for them to go on and indulge in a bit of hanky panky and do their bit for the local population numbers!

Gazebo converted to butterfly house

Comma caterpillars

Netting prevents parasitic wasps turning up and spoiling the party

Peacock pupae

A peacock butterfly just emerged, wings still curled up

Wings still wet

Just prior to release into the garden and the first flight

This weekend the Big Butterfly Count begins, lasting from 16th July to the 31st. This worthwhile cause involves counting butterflies for 15 minutes and submitting your observations online. Please, see here, for more information!
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