I don’t know how we originally came to have teasels – none of the immediate neighbours grow these giants, but the seeds must have blown in from somewhere (and we may not be popular as they blow out again each year!). They have become a bit of a fixture in our garden and a very welcome one for all sorts of wildlife.
They start off as fairly non-descript plants, forming low growing rosettes that look like they might turn into at most a thistle type of thing. They only flower in their second year, so I’m hoping the ones below, that I think overwintered, will flower this summer.
When they do put on their growth spurt, they are easily taller than me (I only manage a mere 5 foot 1 on a good day!) Their flowers are irresistible to the bees in the garden, which is the main reason we let them grow every year. These ones below are full grown ones from previous years
The stems and leaves provide homes for lots of other insects too, with water tending to collect at the base of each leaf.
We always leave them once they’ve finished flowering, as they still provide benefit right through the winter. For us humans they provide structure and interest in the garden.
The teasels themselves are packed with seeds that the birds love. Goldfinches are well-known teasel fans, but we’ve seen several other species such as this Coal Tit making the most of them too.
Of course we do eventually have to chop them down, if only to provide space for next year’s crop. This year we decided to save some of the hollow stems and turn them into something useful – a Bug Hotel. The RSPB are running a “Give Nature a Home” campaign, so a pile of teasel stems and an empty squash bottle later and we have hopefully made one small home. With a bit of luck we’ll be able to post photos later in the year of some new residents.
So that’s the life of the teasels in our garden – the plant that keeps on giving to wildlife – even when it’s chopped up into pieces!
Finally this week, the frosty morning I’ve been waiting for! Jack Frost had visited my beloved teasels leaving them glinting in the early morning sunshine. The asparagus fronds (long overdue for a haircut) took on an almost ethereal blue hue, making them far more attractive than they are in their non-wintry state.
The cold snap didn’t last long though and last night was mild enough to put out the moth trap, although I didn’t hold out much hope. But I got up this morning to the triumphant catch of one moth and one caterpillar!
The caterpillar turned out to be that of an Angle Shades moth – one of my favourites (I’m conscious of sounding a bit like Bruce Forsyth now “You’re my favourite” to every moth I find!) The photo of the caterpillar was taken this morning; next to it is an adult Angle Shades moth snapped in warmer months.
The moth turned out to be a Common Quaker – quite early in the year for this species, which I guess just shows how mild the winter has really been here in Malvern at least. In hunting round to find a suitable leaf for my Quaker to sit on for his photo shoot, I also found this teeny, tiny snail. It was only a couple of millimetres long, so apologies for the less than perfect photograph. I think it may be a Common Chrysalis Snail (Lauria cylindracea), but it was so small and I’m so not good at mollusc identification, that I can’t be sure. If anyone has any other ideas, I’m happy to be corrected. There are probably lots of other species of mollusc lurking in the garden – I clearly need to rummage around in the leaf litter more!
One final random fact – it is apparently a Wolf Moon this weekend. Not expecting too many wolves to be baying at the moon in Worcestershire this weekend, but I like the idea that each full moon of the year traditionally had its own name.
I’ve been waiting for the winter to bring cold, crisp mornings to get some nice frosty shots of the garden. No such luck. The damp December has given way to a cold but dull January – the garden bathed in grey mist not sparkly white frost. So it was a welcome relief when something eventually flew into the garden worth photographing. A flash of gold this afternoon as a lone goldfinch finally decided that the giant teasels I had so lovingly grown were worthy of his attention.
I’d grown the teasels (or more accurately just left them to grow and do their own thing) specifically for goldfinches as they’re supposed to be one of their favourites. But despite them being munched on by other birds this is the first time they’ve attracted their target audience – result!
Unfortunately the grey day (and lack of stealth on my part) prevented me getting any really good shots. But the birds still looked stunning and were a very welcome flash of colour on a dreary January day.