With the wetter and colder months approaching, we caught up with Margaret Pollock to find out what’s happening in the Bannockburn House garden:
We have been lucky with our butterfly population this summer. The hot and relatively dry months have produced a bounty of these beautiful flying insects with their delightful names such as the ‘Small Tortoiseshell’, ‘Red Admiral’, ‘Ringlet’, ‘Peacock, ‘Brimstone’ and ‘Comma’.
We can accept a little bit of caterpillar damage to our green plants if the resultant butterfly is the special ‘Painted Lady’.
‘Painted Ladies’ or ‘Thistle Butterflies’ originate in Africa and migrate north during the summer months, sometimes reaching as far north as the Arctic Circle before returning back to the southern regions – an incredible round trip of 9,000 miles.
The butterflies feed on nectar and this high- energy food allows them to fly at incredible speeds approaching 30 miles per hour. They can cover up to 100 miles a day and the ‘Painted Lady’ is the only butterfly ever to be recorded in Iceland.
The butterflies breed en route and it is these successive generations that complete the massive migration returning to overwinter in Africa six generations later.
You can find out more about butterflies here and if you want to help their survival you can always go to Iceland ( the supermarket) and buy their “Bonny the Butterfly” cake; unlike other supermarkets which have well-known ‘caterpillar cakes!’
Our garden is beginning to look a bit tired in places as the fruit, flowers and vegetables wind down their production in the shortening days.
One heavy frost will finish off our courgettes, squash and nasturtiums – anything with soft, fleshy stems – so it was great to see the sunflowers still standing tall and important-looking after some pretty strong winds last weekend.
The bees have been busy pollinating the many tiny flowers that make up the large centre of the sunflower head and as a result it is now swollen with hundreds of seeds. The greenfinches will have a great feast this winter so long as the mice don’t get there first!
GRASP THE NETTLE
We are busy preparing the Enclosed Garden for the planned path-building work and since we didn’t grow anything in the soil there this summer, the weeds had free reign. Large parts of the garden had been covered with carpet to keep weed growth down, but even so, nettles, buttercup and other successful weeds have been gradually taking over.
Nettles are incredibly good weeds! Many insects use them for food, they can produce strong cloth and dye and they make brilliant fertiliser. If you have ever wondered why nettles are so successful and create such dense, impenetrable clumps covering large swathes of barren land then have a close look at this photo.
I’ve included my foot at the bottom of the shot so you can appreciate the extent of the root system and the clever way that the plant sends out runners, seeking a route to the surface where it can then grow leaves, flower and produce seeds. The yellow strips are roots and the pink ‘runners’ are actually underground stems each one capable of producing a new plant.
So, if you need to get rid of nettles, I suggest you try digging them out as you will need to remove all the pink stems under the surface as well as the top plants.
You can always use the nettles to make beer so they’re not such awful weeds after all. Good luck!