30 Days Wild – Day 29 – Fine Crop of Flowers on the Lottie

It’s Day 29 of 30 Days Wild and since I didn’t get home until quite late and it was raining when I did, the choices for today’s “wild thing” were a bit limited. Fortunately my friend was still staying and I’d promised to show her the lottie, so we headed up there to see what we can find. Although not everyone at the allotment site gardens organically, enough do that there are plenty of wildflowers to see amongst the deliberately planted plants.

First thing we spotted was Pineapple Weed (Matricaria discoidea). I’d never noticed it before but my friend identified it and got me to crush a flower – it really does smell like pineapples! Does what it says on the tin!

Next up was Herb Robert (Geranium robertianum), a pretty wild version of Geraniums.

Another new one for me was a member of the Bistort family, possibly Redshank, but my dodgy rainy photo wasn’t good enough to be sure.

Next one we were a bit more confident about – Green Alkanet. The blue flowers were almost glowing in the rain. All these plants (weeds in some people’s books) were growing along the path as we walked down to our plot.

These pretty daisy-like flowers were actually Feverfew. As the name suggests, this plant has been used in traditional medicine to cure all manner of things. Like the bindweed photobombing in the corner!

Another medicinal herb growing around the plots was this St John’s Wort.

It had been a few days since I’d been down to the allotment, so it was really nice to see how some of the deliberate plantings had come along. The runner beans were going great guns – hopefully we’ll get a good crop.

Really chuffed to see one of our sunflowers was out despite the complete lack of sun today.

As is so often the case we had a surprise on today’s walk – we found 3 huge puffballs. Thought at first they were footballs, but they were way better than that – giant fungi. Seen here with a foot for size comparison! If it hadn’t been so wet we might have been tempted to take it back to try fried puffball steaks.

So even on a unpromising wet work night, there was still plenty to see and enjoy if you get out and about. Get your wellies on and get out there!




30 Days Wild – Day 23

TWT 30 Days Wild_countdown_23Day 23 of 30 Days Wild and it’s starting to feel like we’re on the home run – only a week to go! Once again the car is in the garage, so I was restricted this afternoon to the home turf – quite literally. I decided to get down and see what we’d got in the grass! Not being ones for a pristine lawn, our “grassy areas” are far from a uniform monoculture of one species. We do mow them occasionally, so I’ve at least got somewhere to sit with a glass of wine, but generally they are left to do their own thing.

So first the grass itself – when I got down on my hands and knees and started looking at it properly, it is really rather beautiful. Because we’ve let it grow quite long, much of it is currently in flower – delicate and dainty grass flowers blowing in the wind. I’ve no idea whether the 3 photos below are different species, or the same species at different stages.

Grass 1

Grass 2

Grass 3

The grass is of course by no means the only green thing in our lawn – in fact I doubt it’s even the dominant plant. Clover covers pretty much the whole area. I know some gardeners do their best to rid themselves of it but why bother? It’s green, you can sit on it and the bees like it – that’s all I really require of a lawn, so if the clover fulfils this rather than the grass, it’s not the end of my world!

Clover 1

Clover 2

The clover itself is merely another layer, beneath which lies the moss – a lot of moss. The lawn almost feels like a mini forest with the grass providing the upper layer or tree canopy equivalent, the clover providing the intermediate bushes and the moss the low growing ground cover. Moss is not easy to photograph though as I discovered today, it grows at all angles so the camera struggles to focus (honest it’s the moss’s fault not mine for the poor photo!)


As well as the “green stuff”, there are of course flowers mixed in too. For some reason we don’t seem to have any daisies in our lawn – no idea why, I’d be quite happy to see them? But we do get Self Heal – a low growing plant with the reputation for healing wounds. It’s actually prettier than this photo indicates, but I couldn’t find any flowers that were properly in bloom yet.

Self Heal

Slightly more obvious are the large flat florets of the Catsear leaves, with their bright yellow dandelion like flowers sticking up.


I was surprised to find a patch of small mushrooms. Only small and presumably not edible – I certainly won’t be risking it. No idea whether they were “magic mushrooms” but they did look vaguely magical – sort of ethereal against the grass – the stuff of fairy tales perhaps!


The mini jungle that is the lawn has its fair share of fauna too. As I grovelled about trying to take photos – tiny grasshoppers were pinging left, right and centre.


The other animals leaping about were froghoppers – tiny little insects that can jump (or hop I suppose) a long way compared to their body size. It took several attempts chasing one round the grass to get this one even roughly in focus. They can be very brightly coloured, although this one is a more muted species.

Leaf hopper

Ants nests are a common feature of our lawn, but like the moss I found the ants virtually impossible to take photos of. Never realised how fast they moved, until I tried to focus in on one!


So that was my mini grass safari. Really interesting to get down to that level and see what you can find. It wasn’t all lovely though – I did come face to face with a mummified frog and quite a lot of hedgehog poo, but even that I suppose shows we’ve got frogs and hedgehogs in the garden, so I should be pleased!


Fox and Cubs 30 WEEDSAnd finally today’s weed for 30 Lazy Garden Weeds – the intriguingly named – Fox and Cubs. It is apparently called this because the unopened flowers (the cubs) hide behind the fully opened ones (presumably the fox). It’s a type of Hawkweed and related to the dandelion. We only seem to get it in our front garden for some reason, growing up through cracks in the paving. It’s a cheery looking little flower though and one of the few orange ones we get, so I’m happy for it to stay.


30 Days Wild – Day 18

TWT 30 Days Wild_countdown_18Day 18 of 30 Days Wild and we’re Malvern bound as the car is in for its MOT, so no grand excursions today! So I decided to spend a bit of time in the garden and review how my “wildflower meadow” was progressing. Meadow is probably a bit of an exaggeration as it is very small – more of a meadowlet on what used to be one of our veg patches.

Back in March this is what the old veg patch looked like. We were rubbish at growing veg as we didn’t water or weed regularly enough, so we figured we might as well turn the patch into something more wildlife friendly.

Meadow before

And this is what it looks like today. Shame it wasn’t a sunnier morning for photographs, but it’s amazing what a difference a few short months have made.


Meadow 2

The “meadow” is still maturing – some flowers are at their peak and fully open, while others are still a way off. I’m not great on flower ID, but even worse when the flowers aren’t actually out and I’ve only got leaves to go on. So I’m not sure of all the species we’ve got. But here are a few I can manage. The first is the Bladder Campion with its unusual “swollen” flowers. This is supposed to attract froghoppers, although I’ve not actually seen any on it. It’s fragrance is apparently stronger in the evening and attracts moths – I must check it one night.

Bladder Campion

I think the next is Phacelia, which as you can see is already attracting plenty of bees.


Bee on Phacelia

The Poached Egg Plant is a real cheery addition to the meadow. I bought this as I read on someone else’s blog (sorry I can’t remember who, but thank you whoever you were!) that it was particularly good for hoverflies. Not seen that many of them on it yet, but it’s only just come into flower and the weather’s not been great since then, but hopefully it will live up to its promise soon.

Poached egg plant

The corn chamomile has spread and formed a large patch which has been attracting hoverflies. Sod’s law being what it was though there weren’t any on it this morning – but if you sow it they will come!

Corn chamomile

The Borage is looking good and just starting to open its flowers and will hopefully be pulling in the bees soon.


The next two haven’t really opened up yet, but I think they are a Cornflower and some kind of Poppy.

Cornflower bud

Californian Poppy

The Nasturtium wasn’t really planted as part of the meadow, but I’ve left them there as they’re good for insects too. We had a go at companion planting with them a few years ago and as they tend to produce masses of seeds, they’ve been popping up everywhere since!


There are a few other things poking up through the meadow, but I’ll have to wait until they hopefully flower to work out what they are. I’m really pleased with the results so far though, so much better than a scruffy, ill-maintained veg plot!

Poppy 30 WEEDS

And finally weed No. 18 in my 30 Lazy Garden Weeds is this Poppy. They are so delicate and ephemeral – each flower lasting barely a day, but that makes them all the more special. They pop up everywhere from cracks in the drive to the flower beds and remaining veg plot. Collecting seeds from their rattly seed heads reminds me of childhood – not that there’s really any need to collect the seeds – they’re doing a pretty good job of seeding themselves!

30 Days Wild – Day 7

TWT 30 Days Wild_countdown_07Day 7 of 30 Days Wild and after what for some reason felt like a long day at work, I thought I’d just chill out in the garden for a bit (much better than sitting in and looking at the housework!) The garden is looking particularly colourful at the moment and I thought it would be nice to celebrate the natural palette of colours you get when you just let whatever wants to, grow in your garden. While still pondering this, our first Painted Lady of the year flew into view, so I thought I’d include some animals in this too.

The childhood rhyme for remembering the colours of the rainbow has always stuck in my head – Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain, for red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. Not sure this selection of 7 colours really has any foundation in optical science, but it seemed a good enough basis for today’s blog. Of course what would have been really good would have been an actual rainbow appearing at this point – but all I got was drizzle! So:

RED – Well the Red Valerian is pretty much dominating the garden at the moment. The flowers do vary in tone, from deep pink to this slightly redder version I found this afternoon. For a red animal it had to be a ladybird – I spotted (no pun intended) this lovely little 2-spot ladybird last week – first one of the year and nice to get a British one rather than the all conquering Harlequin ones.

Red - ValerianRed - Two Spot Ladybird

ORANGE – We’ve got these really striking orange poppies – I think they may be Californian Poppies. No idea where they came from, but they are a gorgeous deep orange colour. Today’s Painted Lady provides the animal orange – it was a slightly faded specimen – but then given how far it has probably travelled, I can forgive it a bit of wear and tear!

Orange - Californian PoppyOrange - Painted Lady

YELLOW. These bright yellow lilies have gradually been spreading round the garden. We make sure they’re nowhere near our cats as lilies are toxic to felines and they may be one plant that I do try and control for that reason. But they are beautiful and very definitely yellow. I would have liked to include a yellow Brimstone butterfly, but although we get them in the garden, they never pause long enough for a decent shot. So instead here’s a wasp – perhaps not as popular with some people as the butterflies, but they are to my mind quite stunning when you see them close up like this.

Yellow LilyCommon Wasp

GREEN. Well obviously there’s no shortage of green plants in the garden, but I’ve gone for one with a green flower – Petty Spurge. It’s easy to overlook this little plant with its nodding green heads of flowers, but I quite like it. It pops up all over the place, often between the cracks in the paving, so must be fairly adaptable. For a green animal, it had to be my favourite – the Swollen Thighed Beetle. Not only a fantastic name (only the males have swollen thighs by the way), but a glorious shiny green colour and there were loads of them flying around today.

Green - Petty SpurgeGreen - Swollen thighed beetle

BLUE. The blue in the garden seems to be giving way to other colours now, but there are still small patches of my favourite Forget-me-nots cheering up what should be the veg patch. For an animal – well it had to be the Blue Tit (Holly Blue butterflies might have got a look in here if only they’d slow down a bit too).

Blue - forget me notBlue Tit trail cam photo

INDIGO. Now this is the point in the nursery rhyme where I started to struggle a bit. For a start I’ve never been quite sure what colour indigo is. I’m kind of hoping no-one else does either, so I can use a bit of artistic license. I’ve also got the problem that it’s really hard to find an indigo animal! So for the flower, I’ve gone for the Aquilegia’s which we get in a vast array of colours in the garden. I’ve picked one that is as close to indigo as I can imagine – I stand to be corrected though. For the animal, well I’ve just had to cheat and assume that a) indigo is close enough to Purple and b) that a Purple Thorn moth would count even though it’s not really purple!

Indigo - AquilegiaPurple - thorn

VIOLET. Well this would have been easier if the Viola’s were still in flower, but I couldn’t find any. So I’ve gone for a chive flower as we’ve got lots of those right now and they’re sort of violet coloured. The animal – well I’m really stretching the point now – you do get Violet Ground Beetles, but sadly none have ventured into our garden that I know of. Closest I could find a photo of is an Elephant Hawkmoth, which I’m trying to convince myself is a pale violet colour – I know it’s really pink, but am hoping that the beauty of the moth will outweigh my colour-blindness on this count.

Violet - ChiveViolet - Elephant Hawkmoth

So that’s my slightly contrived rainbow of colours from the garden. It was a very pleasant way of spending an hour or so pottering round the garden admiring the colours and thinking of possible (or impossible) animals to match!

Dandelion 30 WEEDSSo to finish with the latest weed in my 30 Days of weeds series – the Dandelion. Loathed by many, but loved by bees and other insects. I’ve never quite understood why they are so despised – bright and cheerful and an early nectar source in the garden. There’s been a bit of a campaign this year not to chop them down, which is great – they’re certainly thriving in our garden.





30 Days Wild – Day 1

30 days forget me nots

TWT 30 Days Wild_countdown_01Today is the first day of the “30 Days Wild” challenge, the idea being to do something WILD every day during June. Fortunately they don’t have to be big “somethings” – so I don’t have to climb a mountain or swim the channel each day. Just incorporate something that connects me to nature every day for a month.

How hard can that be? Guess I’ll find out by the end of the month! 30 Days Wild is organised by the Wildlife Trusts and they’ve set up a page with links to lots of other bloggers doing the challenge. So if reading my ramblings isn’t enough, then check out the others at http://www.mywildlife.org.uk/30dayswild/30-days-wild-bloggers/

For Day 1, I thought I’d go and look at the oldest living thing I’m likely to find anywhere in Herefordshire or Worcestershire – actually it’s pretty much the oldest living thing I’m likely to see anywhere! Peterchurch in Herefordshire’s Golden Valley boasts a Yew Tree that is reputed to be about 3000 years old. I’ve never got up close and personal with a Yew Tree, let alone one that old, so the 30 Days Wild challenge seemed the ideal opportunity to do so.

General View

The Yew Tree was pretty easy to spot in the churchyard, which was itself conveniently located next to a pub. As Day 1 coincided with my weekly Wednesday outings for a pub lunch with my 84 year old Dad, my venerable parent got dragged round too – the aged meeting the aged! Here he is looking slightly bemused next to the tree.

Dad & Yew

The tree stands in Peterchurch’s churchyard and was previously thought to be only about 750 years old, but recent studies by tree experts have determined that it is probably at least 3000 years old. This means it dates back to Neolithic times and due to the Yew’s supposed association with religious sites might suggest that the Norman church could have been built on the site of a much earlier ceremonial place.

The tree is hollow and seems to be growing out the way from its centre, presumably expanding its girth each year (aren’t we all!) There is a lot of charring on the inside of the tree which, while terribly sad that anyone would want to set fire to such an amazing thing, in a way adds to the mystique and atmosphere.

Burnt Bark

I did something I’ve certainly never done before – stood in the centre of a tree and looked up its trunk to the sky! It didn’t feel at all like I was in a tree or a living thing, more like a beautiful vaulted cave.

View Inside

The bark alone was a work of art,  like a gnarly sculpture or a giant piece of driftwood, beautiful and very tactile.

Bark 2

Bark 1

New shootAlthough the bark looked like tough, old (and to be honest) dead wood, incredibly there were new shoots growing out of it.

It was amazing to see a tree like this, knowing it has been on this spot for 3000 years. I can trace my family back over 500 years in Herefordshire, but to think that this tree had already been standing here for 2500 years before the earliest known Rowberry trod the Shire is quite incredible.

While there I had this “brilliant” idea to  video the tree as I walked around it – thought it would give more of a feel of this ancient being. Turns out this is not as easy as it sounds! Cue shaky footage while I stumble round the tree trying not to trip over gravestones, with my Dad talking in the background (my fault – I should have made it clear to him beforehand that the video would record sound too!)

ThrushesThe video makes it sound as if the churchyard was a lot noisier than it actually was. It was really very peaceful and full of birds (including this pair of thrushes that were doing their best to pretend we weren’t there). Just realised something as I write this – I forgot to hug the tree. If there was ever a tree that deserved to be hugged, Peterchurch’s Yew Tree must surely be it.

It wasn’t exactly a day basked in sunshine today (it had been chucking it down in Malvern earlier), but I think it would be lovely to go back to Peterchurch on a really nice hot day and just sit and contemplate life under the Yew Tree for a while. I’m hoping 30 Days Wild will bring more such revelations – finding things, places, activities that I enjoy this June, then mentally bookmarking them for future enjoyment too.

I’d originally got the idea of visiting the Yew Tree from Herefordshire Wildlife Trust’s suggestions for 30 days wild. What a great suggestion it was – if anyone else is looking for inspiration go to: http://www.herefordshirewt.org/30-days-wild

Forget me not 30 WEEDSAs a bit of a side-line to 30 days wild, I thought I’d showcase some of the “weeds” that flourish under the Too Lazy To Weed regime (assuming a regime can be a system of having basically no system). So a different weed every day for 30 days. First up the Forget-Me-Not – I’m not sure which species we get in the garden – possibly a hybrid. Whichever they are, I’ve always loved their bright blue cheery little flowers. They’ve been a favourite since I saw a whole meadow of them on a childhood holiday. They flourish in our garden and have seeded themselves pretty much everywhere. They are quite delicate though and after flourishing in a patch one year will easily be superseded by some of the tougher bigger weeds. Why anyone would want to weed these out of their garden is a mystery to me – they are so much prettier than any cultivated exotic plant. And of course the insects love them – pretty and functional – a Win-Win Weed!