Garden Views-08-August 2019

August started with a stunning sunny and warm day on the first, which gave us an early annual Welsh fifteen moment, when we saw more than 15 butterflies around the Buddleia bushes, for the first time in the year.

It reflects a constancy, for now, of life lived here and captured beautifully in 1995 by my brother Mark’s poem, written at, and about Gelli Uchaf. Though the actual date of this seasonal marker is very variable – in 2012, it wasn’t until August 28th.

Extract from ‘In Translation’ by Mark Wormald :

‘The butterflies were out around the buddleia; a welsh fifteen,

Geese down the lane were squinting in goosed rage,

at some Cyclops in the brambles, unseen. ‘

In fact by the end of the day, there were probably well over 50, with masses of Peacocks, Aglais io, a smattering of Red admirals, Vanessa atalanta, and Small tortoiseshells, Aglais urticae, and then at last dozens of Painted ladies, Vanessa cardui, in what has been billed as the best year for these immigrant butterflies in over a decade, though these seemed to prefer the Common knapweed, Centaurea nigra, and Lysimachia clethroides.

The garden in August moves into another lovely phase with more Hydrangeas – the panniculatas and aspera/villosa types – beginning to flower, as well as the oregano and marjoram on the magic terrace.

Rain and sunshine continued through much of the month, but in a sufficiently benign way for us, since water supplies and the stream were at last restored to normal flows. As the first Cyclamen hederifolium flowers opened around mid-August, we held a pop-up garden opening, and with a typical pre-opening bit of titivation on our part, our visitors enjoyed a wonderful day of breezy sunshine, with a lot of interest in both the garden and the meadows.The day was heralded by a fabulous rainbow curving over the shepherd’s hut at 7.00 am, and the first few wax cap mushrooms popping up, dotted around, particularly in the upper hay meadow.

The August bank holiday was, unusually, wall to wall hot sunshine, for our family visitors, with butterflies galore, grasshoppers, and a huge thrill for me in such halcyon conditions was getting glimpses, and even a couple of blurry photos of a kingfisher, Alcedo atthis, on our stream, for the first time in all our years here. At last too, we had swallow chicks flying, and filling the yard with excited chatter as the warm weather filled the air with swarms of flying ants.

The rain and fall in temperatures at the end of the month seemed to trigger a wonderful crop of waxcaps. On August 31st, within the confines of our mown upper hay meadow path, I counted 492! Mainly the beautiful orange red fibrous waxcap, Hygrocybe intermedia, but also a few other species.

Less good news was that by the end of the month we were back to just 2 functioning honeybee hives. The original National mother hive had indeed been robbed out in spite of my best efforts to prevent it, towards the beginning of the month.

Around August 24th, when the remaining hives ejected drone bees, as they tend to at this time of the year. I then realised activity was dropping off in the second swarmed hive, and simultaneously wasps were entering.In spite of my best efforts to narrow entrance holes and put out wasp traps, within just a few days all worker activity had ceased, so I opened the hive up, and was able to salvage some honey, but the presence of large numbers of empty drone cells indicates that the queen of this hive had probably died a while ago, and workers simply continued to lay eggs, which being un-fertilised, could only develop into non productive drones, and as existing workers died through natural causes, the colony petered out.

But it did allow an (unobstructed by bees), glimpse at what the bees had managed to build on the frames I’d knocked up for them, some of which were my own simple willow and wire design, plus an idea of the range of different coloured pollens which they’ve been collecting.

A late burst of sunny weather brought the butterflies out in huge numbers.

Total rainfall for the month was 165.5 mm, and the PV inverter total was 414.2 KWH, so overall a benign and quite pleasant late summer month.  A comparison with last year shows more rain in total in 2019 (150 mm in 2018), yet nearly 20% more light, as measured by the PV read out. (340 KWH in 2018).

Light levels and sunshine clearly influence gardener mood as much as they benefit plant growth.