Spring arrives…for 3 hours

self sown hellebore hybrid

The aim was to do a once weekly post – more than this, and I run the risk of being accused by Fiona of becoming obsessed with this new blog thing. More to the point, when can I snatch computer access time, to upload or write it? On this latter topic, my answer is sneaking on first thing in the morning after preparing and resizing images last thing at night, to stretch the days, and not eating into valuable outside time when it’s dry. But I decided it was worth slotting in another blog after a lovely sunny period yesterday, when the temperatures rose into double figures, the wind was light, and the garden decided to stir itself after the recent cold. This won’t be real spring, we often get snow in April, but with the sun higher and the days longer, it confirms that the worst is behind us. But enough words, at last some pictures of more colour in the garden. The Hellebores (hybridus or orientalis ), we’re not that fussy with names, are en masse stunning at this time of the year and quite easy to grow from seed in an area with part shade,

self sown hellebore hybrid

self sown hellebore hybrid

and lots of leaf litter. I know that most hold their flowerheads down, but even from that angle they’re beautiful. We really can’t have too many, and I even tend to shift them around into colour groups, choosing wet weather at this time of the year to do so :

self sown hellebore hybrid

self sown hellebore hybrid

I started the day by burning 2 bonfires of piles of garden prunings, and the top growth of a Scot’s pine that had fallen across our access track with the heavy weight of snow on Boxing Day. As the flames took hold, and dense white smoke rose from the pine needles, before the temperatures rose, a moth struggled out from the tangle of shifted branches. I was able to help it on its way to safety – one of my favourites, a beautiful leaf like Early Thorn Moth.

Early Thorn Moth… One of my favourite images of it

After the fires were dealt with, I made a point of walking round the garden. On our visit to Monet’s garden years ago, I remember reading that he had a routine of walking round the garden at least 3 times a day. There’s always far too little time to get all the jobs done in a garden, but I’ve tried to do this type of garden walk, at least daily from spring to autumn, since it’s often at these times that you pick up on early changes, first blooms or signs of disease, which would otherwise pass you by. Yesterday on this walk I was delighted to see about a dozen worker bees visiting the largely fading snowdrop flowers.

gorgeous orange snowdrop pollen from Galanthus nivalis

The picture shows that there is still obviously a lot of bright orange pollen available as a resource within the blooms. The fact that we’ve now had honey bee visitors on Crocus and Snowdrops early in the year, means that I shall have another go at tempting bees to take up home in my hollowed out log later in the year (more of this in a later blog, I think).

Turning round after photographing the bees, I saw the first butterfly of the year, a Peacock, and was able to get a quick photo of it resting on the soil, before it took off and flew between the bars of the field gate, in a typically wandering flight. However about 15 yards into the field was a small exposed stone, lying on the grass with one face angled almost exactly in a Southerly aspect, at about 20 degrees to the horizontal. With little hesitation, the  butterfly dropped down, and rested with wings held down, tight to the stone’s surface.

The year’s first butterfly on 16th March – a Peacock

Of course, one could imagine the extra warmth that it was gaining from having found this resting place, but what occurred to me later was how it was so quickly able to home in on this one location. I guessed that it wouldn’t have been able to detect actual temperature change from a height of perhaps 2 metres above the stone, but later checked on line that in fact butterflies and many other insects, including moths, can actually ‘see’ much better in the infra-red range of the spectrum than most mammals, so that this stone would stand out as clearly to the butterfly perhaps, as if for our eyes, it were painted red.

I now have to finish with returning to snowdrops to firstly mention 2 varieties which extend the season in our garden well into March with big flowers, low to the ground, and broad grey leaves. Firstly Galanthus ‘Imbolc’, named after the ancient Celtic festival of spring – pictures perhaps next year, and secondly this clump of Galanthus plicatus ‘Washfield Warham’,

Galanthus plicatus ‘Washfield Warham’ only just flowering on 16 th march

which is only just opening with us now, in the middle of March. You might also be able to appreciate that as well as having late, and large flowers, it often produces more than one flower per bulb, and seems to be a good doer, as well. What more could you want?

The blog will finish with a series of images of more moths photographed inside snowdrops the other night – at least half a dozen were seen.

snowdrop flower sheltering moth

And some questions:

Why have I never seen them on snowdrops before? Is it because the snowdrops are in bloom later this year after the severe winter, or have they lasted longer, or have I just been unobservant previously?

snowdrop flower sheltering another moth !

And in view of the snowdrop thermogenesis issue raised in my first blog, and the point about insects’ ability to detect infra-red radiation, are the moths picking the snowdrops out from a distance as being warmer objects to rest in?

snowdrop flower and yet another sheltering, or possibly ? feeding moth

Whilst the photos aren’t that clear, having been taken at night in a brisk wind, there aren’t any where the moth’s extended proboscis is apparent, unlike the moths on the Daphne laureola, in a previous post, which are obviously feeding from the nectar.

A favourite Narcissus, just beginning to flower on March16th – N.’Jetfire’