29 February 2012


Whilst in the throes of cooking dinner last night (Sticky Chinese Chicken) I glanced up and saw a ladybird stood bemused on a cupboard door. She appeared to be blinking sleepy eyes, wondering where the hell she was. She stayed very still until I picked up a camera, then suddenly conscious of her 'just out of bed' dishevelment quickly made for the dark of the cupboard interior. But I tricked her onto an envelope and papped her.

Today I looked at some Ladybird identification sites and am disappointed and a little shocked to find she may be a Harlequin, an invasive non-native species that only arrived in 2004 and is spreading rapidly north and west.  Apparently they are threatening our cute little native ladybirds; just as the grey squirrels dominate our red squirrels.  After I took her photo I put her outside, but I wonder if I did the right thing.  Should I have squished her?

I've reported her to the Harlequin Ladybird Survey but it appears the site was last updated in 2010, so I'm not sure anyone will notice.

Of course, her ladyship's appearance in my kitchen is really a message from Mother Nature:  a 'wildlife' garden must welcome all visitors whether native or not.

Image from Ladybird Spotter

See update on harlequins in my post 'Squish 'em!'

28 February 2012

Thinking of Future Visitors

I do like doing a good bit of research; cross-referencing is a kind of heaven for me. I've been thinking lately about how I would like the garden to develop. Japanese style order does hold a lot of appeal. I love the severely rectangular pond with its backing of airy bamboo that my mum and dad helped me make for my 40th birthday (what? you thought this blog was written by a young'un? No, middle-age and gardening are inseparable. But it may be time to accept I'm situated in dull and wet Manchester, 'The Sponge of Mordor', as I like to mumble under my breath. Hence, the logic goes, wouldn't it be easier and more naturalistic to plant plants that are native to this area, and therefore encourage vigorous growth and attract the local bees and butterflies that are apparently so in need of food?

The Natural History Museum holds a fantastic database of the plants local to your area: 'The Postcode Plants Database. Cross-referencing this list with one of the 100 best butterfly nectar plants from Butterfly Conservation, together with a report of butterfly sightings by the Cheshire and Peak District branch of Butterfly Conservation provided hours of endless fun. My desk is covered with spreadsheets and tables and scribbled notes.

You don't have to be in the garden to derive pleasure from it. But if I do work in it and plant the right plants perhaps The Gatekeeper would honour me with a visit.

Image from Butterfly Conservation

20 February 2012

Turning Over Old Leaves

This was the first day of gardening in 2012. The unseasonable, and slightly worrying, warmth brought me out of hibernation.  So I pruned, and chopped and cleared while hoping my actions weren't killing off any still hibernating insect.  Luckily for those left behind any further disruption was brought to a halt when the green bin became full.  The volume of a recycling bin measured out my first visit to the garden.

Green Bin from Janet Walsh on Vimeo.

To be honest it is so early in the year that Nature is still asleep. I uncovered a worm, and saw a couple of blue tits, but the usual robin didn't appear and the skies were quiet.  My only companion was a bold fly:

Fly image from Sas & Marty Taylor on Flickr