I've been watching the cornfields close to the smallholding slowly turn from green to gold, until, last week, the wheat was finally harvested when a man thundered through the fields in a giant combine harvester. To be honest, there's not been much wildlife in these fields all summer - a consequence of modern farming. I might occasionally see an animal or two, but there are no wildflowers and very few birds and insects.
But the edges of the cornfields are full of life...
The local landowner has been encouraged (through payments) to leave some of the edges of the fields for wild flowers - and this has really benefited local wildlife. Here is the only place I've seen Painted Ladies this year, and I've also seen Peacocks, Whites, dozens of Ringlets and Small Tortoiseshells, Red Admirals and Small Skippers. I've seen bees and other pollinators, too - and dragonflies, damselflies and moths. And I've seen Goldfinches, Greenfinches and other small birds feeding on the flower seeds. I can see here, on my local patch, why the EU (and our own Government) must provide support for wildlife-friendly farming.
In the hedges and trees around the fields I've started to see a pair of young buzzards. Seeing buzzards is still quite special here, because they've only been in this area for the last five or six years. I hear this young pair calling all the time, but their sharp eyes mean that I can never creep up on them to take a good photo...
The Swallows, nesting nearby, are constantly swooping around the edges of the fields and this year they've had second broods (unlike last year when it was too wet and cold). Swallows are my favourite birds and I love to see them doing so well. Here is a young Swallow from a second brood waiting, on its own, to be fed...
I can usually hear Skylarks but I don't hear so many Yellowhammers now. I really miss their song as I walk across the fields.
When the wheat is cut and before the ploughing begins, the Geese fly in to pick up what's left...
Bee Flowers for a Dry Garden
I've realised that I'm not entirely happy with my flower beds and want to make some changes for next year. Some of my flowers are looking very tired and some are simply in the wrong place. It's been very dry here, especially during the heatwave, and although it might be years before we have another one of these, this part of the country can be dry in a normal year (you can see I'm not thinking about last year!) So I've been considering increasing the amount of flowers that thrive in a 'dry' garden. There's one condition, though, they have to be pollinator friendly to help my bees!
I thought I'd go to RHS Hyde Hall for some inspiration. Hyde Hall isn't really that far away, and there is plenty of planting for drier conditions in the gardens. My location isn't quite the same as Hyde Hall's - Hyde Hall is on a hill in a very exposed spot where the surrounding land is quite flat, so it gets very windy there. My smallholding, on the other hand, is enclosed by lots of trees and doesn't really get much wind at all; the air can often be very still. But the amount of rainfall and other weather conditions have to be similar. The soil is too, because I also have heavy clay here (although I know that at Hyde Hall they added sandy grit to their soil to help with drainage and improve soil structure).
So; I nipped over and had a look at what the bees were enjoying in the dry garden there...
|Eryngium (Sea Holly)|
|Tall Verbena (I've grown this before - it's time to plant some again!)|
I also noticed that the bees loved Perovskia 'Blue Spire', although it was too windy to take a pic of this on the day I visited.
In addition to Hyde Hall, I think I might also visit The Beth Chatto Gardens, too, for ideas - as they are only a little further along the coast.
Once I have a list together of the different flowers, I'll decide what I'd like to see growing here. I'll have to think of the right conditions for each, like sun/shade etc, but overall it would be good to have flowers in the beds that I can rely on in dry weather, and that I know the bees will love.