Red Scourge

Miss France
Miss France

I’ve been growing Oriental Lilies in containers in my garden for quite a few years now. My first 3 bulbs were a variety called “Miss France” which I think would be called dwarf, growing to about 50cm. tall with mid pink flowers. A few years later I acquired a handful of bulbs in each of four new varieties, all of the giant kind, which grow to well over a metre, up to 150cm. These are “Stargazer” (deep speckled pink), “Casa Blanca (pure white), “Legend” (yellow fading to white) and “Willeke Alberti” (pale pink). They have all been prolific bloomers, year after year, proving to give excellent value for money, especially as most of them were thrown in as free gifts with an order of mail order plug plants. In July, at the peak of their blossomy beauty, the stems struggle to bear the weight of such bountiful blooms, so I have taken to supporting them from an early age (about mid-May) with a bamboo frame. At my previous address, no.9, the most worrisome pest  I had to deal with was a grey squirrel which I caught digging up my lily bulbs and trying to steal them away from their pots. Here at no.39 it is bug life, specifically the Red Lily Beetle, more specifically lilioceris lilii.                              

…thanks to RSPB and Telegraph for pest pics…

This bright red beetle, about the size of my smallest finger nail, has been in my garden for a couple of years now, initially undetected but, this year and last, enemy number 3 (number 1 and 2 are snails and slugs in any order you wish). The beetle, if allowed, will  chomp its way through lily stems, leaves, flower buds and petals, happily destroying my horticultural pride and joy almost overnight, breeding and depositing its larva as a pulsating, oily gobbet of what resembles black bird poo surrounding a gold coloured grub which will gaily continue its parents work to a devastating degree. Adult beetles seem to have a human radar, enabling them to sense one’s hand approaching, at which point they will drop to the ground on their backs, exposing their dark undersides and therefore virtually invisible to the human eye. Policing this pest has become a daily task, along with slug-eviction and the catapulting of snails over the fence (not into my neighbour’s garden I might add, but into a small play park on the other side).  Close inspection of all lilies from all angles takes a good five minutes every day, sometimes twice a day, with any interlopers removed and dispatched to lilioceris heaven forthwith. At the end of autumn I’ll be replanting all my lily bulbs into new pots with new compost which will foil any beetles planning to over-winter beneath the soil and so gain a headstart on me next spring. The gloves are on, red beetles, and you cannot win. *invincible pose* …click on any pic to view large…

Greening

Today was such a beautiful spring day here in North Devon. I took my camera on a stroll along the river – all these images were captured within 3 minutes of my house. The warm sunshine was encouraging the buds to burst open and the leaves and flowers inside to unfurl before my eyes. It’s certainly a joyous time of year (particularly since I have two weeks off work!)

willow
willow
sycamore
sycamore
bluebell
bluebell

 

blackthorn
blackthorn
pool
pool

Encounters with war games

SWCoastPathIt’s half-term holiday here in Devon, and as the weather is so beautiful, my colleague and friend, Lorna, and I decided to meet up for a walk along a part of the South West Coast Path which happens to be right on our doorsteps. This marked path runs right around the coast of SouthWest England for 630 miles from Minehead in Somerset to Poole Harbour in Dorset and is a popular destination for walkers on everything from a day’s stroll or week’s walking holiday to their life’s work.

In 2012 Mal Law ran the entire path in 16 days, 9 hours and 57 minutes. An averagely fit walker should complete it in about eight weeks. Most people take their time and walk a section of the path at a time, completing it over the duration of several years. It takes you alongside some of the most breathtaking scenery the UK coast has to offer, through protected landscapes and areas of special scientific interest and outstanding natural beauty. In my opinion the cliffs of North Devon and Cornwall are amongst the most beautiful coastal features in the world.

NDevonLorna set off from Woolacombe and I joined her in Croyde for the next leg. We fortified ourselves with Marmite sandwiches and tea at Down End, Croyde, then set off. Large chunks of the cliff here have collapsed into the sea following the supremely heavy rain we’ve had recently, and we were interested to see the construction of what seems to be an “underground” house being built into the hill at Oyster Falls. I will have to keep an eye on that. Climbing up and over the headland the vision of Saunton Sands stretched out before us – miles of pale sand and sparkling ocean. It was hard to believe this was February.

It was disappointing to see that the wonderful driftwood sculpture I came across last summer (see my blog post here) had succumbed to the recent Spring Tides and was now on it’s side, disshevelled, and resembling nothing more interesting than a bonfire waiting to be lit. coastal path 011By way of recompense, however, half a dozen Royal Marines in full combat gear suddenly came charging out of the sand dunes on dune buggies, roared up the beach and started doing some tight manoevres in the sand which was quite surprising but entertaining. Only one guy managed to tip his vehicle over on a tight bend (which was also quite entertaining).

Although Braunton Burrows is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, bizarrely the army is allowed to use the area, drive all kinds of vehicles through the dunes and use it as a combat training ground. To be fair, in all the years I’ve been walking there, I’ve only come across them 3 or 4 times, but when they are there they certainly make their presence known.

After a long 3 mile saunter along the sands we left the beach and headed over the dunes (Burrows) towards Braunton. The SW Coast Path actually avoids Saunton Sands and instead trails through the Burrows; we had made a slight detour to experience the cooling sea breeze. Just before leaving the Burrows we encountered more army guys with their camp, guns and surveillance equipment and bunches of grass on their helmets. It felt quite surreal to be walking along with our sunglasses and water bottles through a bunch of guys in the midst of their war games – I didn’t really know where to direct my gaze and at one point found myself looking straight down the barrel of a gun (hopefully loaded with blanks!)

Now we were on the home straight and could see Braunton nestling into the hills before us, we both started to feel our feet and joints complaining. Lorna walked for 15 miles; I think I walked 9 and am certainly feeling it now!  click on pic to view large ….

Saunton Sands revisited

On a rather grey and blustery afternoon, today I went to the beach and found the driftwood sculpture I came across in July and described in Burrows and Rabbit Holes. It has grown in stature as more wood and found items have been lashed on.  An entire mammal skeleton now forms part of the whole, as well as many crabs. Other notable additions are a bamboo flag pole formerly used to mark a crab/lobster pot, a plastic poinsetta garland and a construction worker’s hard hat.   click on pic to view large…..