Saturday, 25 April 2015

a home fit for holly

There's a local butterfly I've never seen - the Holly Blue (Celastrina argiolus).

The Butterfly Conservation East Midlands tells us that 'spring generation females lay their eggs on Holly buds, whilst the summer brood lay mainly on Ivy'

We've got holly. And ivy...

But I need you to suspend your disbelief for a mo'....

Brooding figures rise from a boiling green sea: one mysteriously cloaked in gold. Glowering, 'The Mesters' (for that is their name) guard a challenging stepping stone path that weaves through the breaking waves. 

Ok. You've had enough.

When we first came to Cordwood, we discovered a patch of native ivy growing beneath one of the towering Atlas Blue Cedars giving a distinctive character to this part of the garden. A visit to Biddulph Grange in Staffs showed us just how effective a ground cover ivy can be. Which is fortunate as it's great for wildlife and even better if allowed to grow vertically when, in what is called its arboreal state, it flowers and produces berries. The ivy flowers are amongst the last of the nectar sources for insects as they prepare for winter and so are especially prized.

But its value does not stop there. 

The Northumberland moths site tells us that some of our prettiest moths need ivy for their larval stage (caterpillars):
the stepping stone path
  • Yellow-barred Brindle (Acasis viretata) 
  • Willow Beauty (Peribatodes rhomboid aria) 
  • Swallow-tailed Moth (Ourapteryx sambucaria) 
  • Old Lady (Mormo maura) 
  • Dot Moth (Melanchra persicariae) 
  • Double-striped Pug (Gymnoscelis rufifasciata). 
So our native ivy packs a real punch for wildlife and I'm keen to do all I can to help it.

Pat and I had a great session clearing ground and sinking sawn pine logs vertically into the soil during the autumn. I named them 'The Mesters'. The ivy will grow vertically and flower. I must say that I thought we had a great time - haven't seen him since!

Since then we have encouraged the ivy patch to grow and have  worked to remove brambles, nettles and elder that have punctured the vista. When our pal Jan was with us we set too to remove these thuggish intruders. It's amazing just how one extra pair of hands can make such a difference. Jan inspired me to transplant rooted ivy cuttings into bare patches and to create the stepping stone path from sawn logs.

Our pals Pete and Jan chipped in with the gift of a golden ivy which I planted up one of the vertical logs.

In coming months the ivy will be encouraged to cover more ground so that this part of the Cedar Walk path is surrounded on all sides by the 'Ivy Sea'. I have some more hefty logs that will need erecting to extend 'The Mesters'. And the native holly that has grown around the area will be planted in this area and shaped into spheres to contrast with the vertical sawn logs..

And then there'll be a fluttering of blue butterfly wings.....

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