Butterflies

If I had to give a name to this week I think it would be Semana de las Mariposas – Butterfly Week. They have been everywhere, in carpets and in clouds, every shape, size, colour and pattern imaginable, from velvety regal peacocks to tiny dusty blues the shade of speedwell. None of them are easy to photograph, though, as they just don’t stop flitting around (and I’m still trying to get the hang of our new camera, which doesn’t help). I love the spotty black and white ones that flutter slowly like flying hankies – if I can just persuade one to land and spread its wings, maybe I stand a better chance of identifying it.

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Insects are such an important part of the ecosystem, we do as much as we can to attract them to the garden by providing food, shelter and places to breed.

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I’ve had mixed success with those ‘bee and butterfly’ seed mixes over the years, often preferring to buy or collect single types and mix my own; borage, phacelia, calendula, Californian poppies, poached egg plant, field poppies, cornflowers and mustard make a great basic mix for starters and can be relied upon to self-set for many years. Economical and efficient as well as beautiful!

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Of course, some of the visitors arrive hell-bent on destruction but that’s gardening for you – we expect to lose some of our crops to our co-inhabitants, that’s just how it goes. The benefits far outweigh the drawbacks, though, and on a purely selfish note pollination is what we’re after. I love flowers in the vegetable garden and have never understood separating the two; after all, if an insect comes in to visit sweet peas then the chances are it will visit the green peas, too.

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Where pollinators feed, crops will follow.

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Tiny cucumber

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Borlotti bean flowers .  . .

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. . . then the beans!

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Beautiful striped Italian courgette

Nature at its most remarkable in tiny six-legged forms. How simple but how truly wonderful. 🙂

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9 thoughts on “Butterflies

  1. By far our most popular plant with the bumblebees is catmint. It’s like a pollinator highway on there. Comfrey and dwarf comfrey are also very popular, especially early in the season, and lavender, sage and borage later on. I don’t think it’s necessary to sow a special mix. Particularly if you’ve got a sward rather than a lawn!

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  2. I totally agree, let nature do the work – those mixes tend to be pretty pricey, too. We tend to let a lot of things like broccoli, mizuna,and parsnips flower and go to seed and it’s amazing how much the insects love them. The coriander seems a great favourite with tiny hover flies at the moment. How do you manage to grow catmint with cats in your life? I gave up when we had family cats, they just trashed it every year no matter what I did to protect it!

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    • Our cats just like to hang with the catmint. A friend gave me a tiny plant and I planted it out straight away. The next year I split it. Now we have three huge plants needing to be split again. It’s so hardy I find it hard to imagine it could easily be destroyed! Time to try again – you might even make some more gato friends. The Spanish cats don’t have such an easy life… We also let almost everything flower in the spring when there isn’t much else around – kale, purple-sprouting broccoli, rocket etc. I think it’s much appreciated.

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  3. The only justification for the common oregano to be tolerated in our garden (in cooking we use the Greek one) is that it is so attractive to butterflies, bees and bumblebees. If only the blasted thing wouldn’t try to take over the whole herb corner…!

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  4. A grated seed mix (fennel, anise and caraway) is essential for our sweet-and-sour bread – but we don’t let our own fennel flower as a spicy salad fennel casserole is one of our favourites; so our fennel is not useful for butterflies (since you ask: we buy the seeds for the bread)

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  5. True, and I do actually love them both – just wish they weren’t quite so thuggish! Anise and caraway are on my list of new things to try growing next year – now that I’m confident we’ve dug enough garden – along with cumin (possibly in the polytunnel for that one?). As for catmint, I might give it another go, it’s one of my cottage garden favourites. I used to have to build willow cages to protect the new growth in spring as the cats would literally graze the shoots to ground level, if it did manage to grow they just rolled on it and hit some very scary highs! We have a little gata blanca who visits here regularly and patrols the garden for moles so maybe I’ll treat her!

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