Sunday 8 June 2014


At the end of May, when we returned from holiday, the OTT garden had changed character. Whilst the mild weather had encouraged the docks to grow, they were no longer the tallest plants in the garden. To our surprise, that honour (if that's the correct terminology) went to a crop of an agricultural-looking Brassica species.

Photo courtesy of Our Lass
Photo courtesy of Our Lass
During the past week, I have been weeding an area at the front of the house. It's where we tend to sit in the evenings, perhaps with a glass of wine, watching the world and its wildlife go by and monitoring the sun on its trajectory to setting (which, at the moment, is after 22.15). Hidden amongst the more invasive plants have been some real wildflower gems, such as Common Ramping Fumitory and Hemp Nettle (ID thanks must go to John Crossley, the Orkney plant recorder, whose helpful advice is absolutely invaluable).

Common Ramping Fumitory, Fumaria muralis. Photo courtesy of Our Lass
This morning dawned bright and clear, with a warm sun and the lightest of breezes. Washing up after breakfast, it was fantastic to look out of the kitchen window and see loads of butterflies nectaring around the garden. Later, we went out to investigate, and discovered that they were mainly Large Whites and Red Admirals, but with plenty of Silver Y moths as well. It struck me as odd that most of the insects (also including the bees and flies) were visiting the Brassicas rather than the as-plentiful Buttercups. 

The unloved Buttercup patch
Brassica Central
Our Lass pointed out that none of the surrounding fields had any Brassicas as a crop, so she recommended that I had better leave some available for the insects, as opposed to ripping them all out of the ground. And so our first bit of garden design 'happened', partly in response to these insights, but mainly due to the insects voting with their tongues. Let's just say it's an evolving design. The south western corner has been designated as a 'no weeding/no mowing' zone. This nectary triangle also contains a large clump of nettles, which should cater for the life cycles of several species of butterfly.

The majority of the remaining area at the front of the house has now been mown. The mower was put on its highest setting and I prayed fervently that I missed any stones or rocks. It is never going to be a pristine lawn, but it will be interesting to see if anything else interesting grows, now that the larger plants have been cut down to size. As I write, House Sparrows are dust bathing in some of the bare areas of soil, before fluttering off into the Brassicas to try and catch insects. They're about as successful in their efforts as I am in ID-ing the mystery plant.

Mystery Brassica being photo-bombed by a Red Admiral. Photo courtesy of Our Lass
For now, let's just say it shares some, but not all, of the features of Charlock, Oil-seed Rape, Swede, Wild Cabbage/Turnip and White/Black Mustard. It's a Brassica.


Martin said...

If you are encouraging wildlife in that corner you could consider trying to seed Teasel in the area too to feed the fluttering birds and attract more. Ditto Budliea if it'll survive the winter winds.

Imperfect and Tense said...

Teasel's a bit rare up here and I'm not sure there's any Buddleia. Of course, the Docks will provide plenty of seed :o(

Martin said...

Obviously you'll have to investigate the Orcadian* regulations over introducing foreign species of plants before just planting some.

* ps. I wonder why it isn't Orkadian not Orcadian... Maybe, one is from Orkney and the other lives in myths and legends?

Imperfect and Tense said...

Yeah, the local botanists are a bit concerned that the Orkney variants of several species aren't wiped out by foreign invaders. And this time it isn't the Vikings.

Re your other question... must be all the Killer Whales?!

Fay McKenzie said...

Lets just say its an evolving design. Now that's a phrase I'm borrowing with your permission.

Wild yellow mustard or Charlock - your brassica?

Sinapsis arvensis?

All coming along bonnie though. Well done!

Imperfect and Tense said...

Could be! Whatever it is, there's plenty of it.