Verbena Bonariensis Beds

In April 2012, I added two new beds at the Priory.

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Spot the robin

I cut the turf from either side of the path-to-nowhere and planted with a mix of Nepeta ‘Six Hills Giant’ and Verbena bonariensis.

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September 2012

And it was OK but not a resounding success.

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June 2013

Nonetheless, I stuck with it for another year hoping for a big ‘wow’ improvement.  Fat chance.  Disappointed, I winced a little, shaking my head despondently as I walked past.

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September 2013

At the far end, these beds become standing pools in winter and the nepeta sulked.  You can see the plants are smaller towards the box.

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April 2014

This year, I decided to Take Action.  As I’ve been keen to experiment with block planting, I ditched the nepeta altogether, smothered the beds in my sweet-smelling, crumbly, chocolatey, sweet-tasting (not really), rub-in-your-face compost and just have verbena.  Very simple but I thought it would work.  It was cheap too; free actually.  Verbena self-seeds wantonly at the Priory and I had far more plants than I could possibly use.

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May 2014

With a little trepidation I sat back, supped Earl Grey, flicked through ‘Hello’ magazine and waited for the results.  I was curious.  I hadn’t seen beds filled only with VB.

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June 2014

I edged, I weeded and I hoed quite regularly.  These beds are home to oxalis, pearlwort and. encroaching from the lawn, opportunistic yarrow and creeping-bleeding-buttercup.  I thinned some VB and transplanted more to fill any gaps.

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July 2014

And for once, the gardening gods smiled indulgently and patted me on the head.  I think the result is pleasing.

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At whatever time of day

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it catches and holds the eye.

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It shimmers in sunlight and waves gently in the breeze

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but doesn’t block.

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It is, of course, also hugely popular with bees and butterflies.

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But what I do need is a far stronger, larger focal point at the end of the path-to-nowhere.

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Small box hedging, paving covered in creeping thyme, a handful of potted succulents and a crumbling bird-path filled with desultory sedum isn’t enough.  The path ought to lead the visitor and the eye to something more substantial.  It ought to be a path-to-somewhere.

Big Butterfly Count

The charity Butterfly Conservation is holding its annual Big Butterfly Count – the biggest butterfly survey in the world.

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Hummingbird Hawk-Moth. The Old Forge, July 2014

Starting today and running until 10th August, this is an easy and fun opportunity to help butterfly and moth conservation in the UK.

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If you’d like to take part, simply wait for a sunny spell and spend 15 minutes either on a walk or sitting in a garden, wood or park with a mug of tea (not compulsory) and count any butterflies and moths you see.

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Tortoiseshell, The Priory yesterday

You can download a smart phone app for the count from Butterfly Conservation or be retro-groovy and just jot down what you see on a sheet of paper.  (But you’ll need to re-join the real world to enter your results online).  You can do as many counts as you like, on different days and from different locations.

Marbled White, July 2012

Marbled White, July 2012

Please do take part.  The information you provide will help chart population trends and might even save certain species from extinction.

Meadow Brown, The Priory yesterday

Meadow Brown, The Priory yesterday

There is further information, an ID chart and that app (iOS or Android) at the Big Butterfly Count websiteAnd if you could re-blog, tweet, like this on Facebook, tell your family and friends and help promote the count in any other way that would be great.  Obviously, the more people taking part, the better.

Butterfly Conservation are also running an online raffle.  Tickets are £1 with a top prize of £500.  Further details – here.