Are the Fairies ‘Singin’ in the Rain’?
Unusually, for early June it has been raining a lot recently but when out and about, it seems to me that many of our wild animals don’t seem to mind this too much and some creatures and plants positively thrive in the damp, cooler weather. I have watched on an almost daily basis as flocks of swallows, up to fifty at a time have been thronging the farmer’s field in a feeding frenzy, chasing swarms of midges and other small flies as the cows stand patiently, unfazed and unmoving in the drizzle.
Blackbirds, Jackdaws, Bumble-Bees & Butterflies
Blackbirds, Jackdaws and other worm-hunting birds are happily hopping about in the wet grass finding plenty of food for their growing chicks and Bumble-Bees seem to be able to fly in the gaps between the drops of rain as they are busy collecting food without appearing to get wet. Of course, this is all relative as there comes a point where the rain falling too heavily will of course affect these creatures and it is clearly too cold and wet if you happen to be a Butterfly.
Yesterday, whilst we were dismantling a derelict chicken coop, we realised that we had disturbed a bumble-bee’s nest. Fortunately for us it wasn’t a wasp’s nest, but we did feel rather sorry for these gentle bees as we had created an obvious hole in the roof of their nesting area and the summer weather is far from ideal. We managed to cover over the largest gap with some board and then with judicious placing of a length of corrugated iron sheeting we were able to give them a state of the art roof repair that also allows them ‘in’ and ‘out’ channels for flying to and fro with their nectar and pollen supplies for the nest.
Location, Location, Location
It is not common to find such a nest as they are frequently underground, or, as in this case, under a shed but we could see that they were already repairing any damage and settling back into a routine as we left them to get on with their child rearing. They had picked an ideal spot, under an apple tree – just finished flowering, beside the raspberry canes which are now flowering and not far away from some lime trees which will be flowering in about another month. Perfect planning for a steady supply of food for their growing colony.
Fleeing the Nest
By June, most of our wildlife is busy hatching and raising chicks or rearing tiny rabbits, fawns and fox cubs. It must be stressful for all these parents as their young have to learn quickly how to take their first steps, make their first flights and fend for themselves. Clearly one of the first things they learn is to respond to the alarm signal and it’s not uncommon to see young rabbits running hither and thither trying to remember which way they should have gone to reach the safety of their family burrow. One such poor young bunny made a major mistake and actually ran inside the House when the family scattered. Finding himself alone and unable to get back home he sensibly hid behind the fire in the Main Hall.
Bunny Prince Charlie
Fortunately, he was only there for one night but by morning, cold and no doubt hungry he seemed to settle quite quickly when Jim, one of our volunteers, managed to catch him and by cradling him safely in his warm hand our homeless bunny was almost asleep in no time. As we felt that he was too vulnerable to release back out into the garden and worrying that he might be dehydrated a decision was made to take ‘Bunny Prince Charlie’ to the SSPCA at Fishcross where he will be cared for until he is old enough to be released back into his wild kingdom.
So, having talked about our animals and insects in June, what of our flowers? Well, there are Fairies at the bottom of our garden or, more precisely, Fairies have been busy on the walls of our Garden. Parts of the walls are covered with flowers hanging out of cracks and crannies as if by magic. Such dainty, delicate designs, it seems only the Fairies could have done this gardening.
One sunny section of the ancient wall has been seeded with ‘Fairy Foxglove’, (Erinus alpinus), a tiny flowering plant that creates a big impact as cushions of rose-pink stars hang all along the stonework. Nothing like the woodland foxglove flower in shape, it looks a more like miniature Aubretia– a well-known garden plant found on many walls and rockeries in carpets of mauve and violet blue in Spring.
Erinusis rockery plant, in fact an Alpine plant and it will grow happily in a sunny, well-drained spot giving the bees and the gardener an early summer treat.
Then there are rosettes of ‘Ivy-leaved Toadflax’, (Cymbalaria muralis) a rather clumsy name for such a dainty little trailing plant. It is thought to have been introduced into gardens prior to the 17th century and records exist from 1640. It has small, purple and yellow snapdragons and glossy, wavy-edged leaves making it a very popular ornamental plant. It has multiplied over the centuries because there were many walled gardens built on which it could thrive and spread.
On another part of our wall we have Welsh poppies (‘Meconopsis ‘cambrica’). These flowers are definite ‘Marmite’ plants – you either love them or can’t abide with their cheerful yellow or orangey, delicate, poppy-shaped blooms. Personally, I love them. I love the acid-yellow luminosity of their simple flowers, marvel at their fragility and all too quick a life cycle and cannot help but smile when I see their upturned faces imitating the sun as they flower in full sun or in some of the shadier corners of the garden. They may be weeds but they are glorious weeds.
The name Meconopsis comes from the Greek ‘Mekon’ – poppy, ‘opsis’ – alike, so it means ‘poppy-like’ and the family includes many beautiful flowers among them the legendary blue poppy of the Himalayas, the National Flower of Bhutan. In 1926, the Mallory expedition attempting to climb Mt. Everest, brought back seeds of these amazing blue poppies to the RHS. There was huge excitement when they were displayed at the RHS flower show in 1926 and they have acquired a legendary status amongst gardeners ever since.
Blue Poppies or ‘Meconopsis ‘Lingholm’From the Japanese Garden in Dollar
You can have Fairies too . . .
Being native to the Himalayas, they will only grow in certain climates and fortunately, in Scotland, we are blessed with a climate that is similar to this mountainous region. If you can, why not try and visit some of the gorgeous Scottish gardens which have a display of these stunning flowers or better still try and grow some of your own from seed. I’m pretty sure you won’t be disappointed, and you might even find that you have Fairies at the bottom of your garden too.
Blog written by Margaret from the Gardening Team