Down the garden
This is not a typical "English country garden", being neither formal nor particularly well-kept. It includes areas which were previously a working yard near farm buildings, part of an old farmhouse garden, and part of an old cherry orchard. The soil is fairly heavy, as the garden lies within the High Weald area of Kent (an area identified by soil and topography, typified by heavy clay soils, naturally acidic particularly on the higher land). The site is at an altitude of 115 metres (377 feet) above sea level, gently sloping towards the North. Although this means that it is a cold, relatively late site, the sloping land means that cold air drains away, so frost damage is less common here than on some warmer sites.
In some parts of the garden, the lie of the land allows good drainage, and deep cultivation over the years has resulted in soils which produce good crops of fruit and vegetables. In other areas, groundworks in the past have left the subsoil almost exposed. The poor soil here is not suitable for gardening, but is ideal for the establishment of wild flowers which might otherwise be smothered by grasses.
We have tried to take advantage of these variations within the garden, whilst taking a fairly "low maintenance" approach to gardening. We grow fruit and vegetables; various traditional "cottage garden" flowers grow themselves; a range of wild flowers are now doing the same (following some initial encouragement). As a bonus, a wide range of wildlife are also attracted by this - and we have tried to improve the habitat to help some of the less common types.
All these photographs were taken in or from our garden or house.
This page shows only the plants and animals from our garden - but we've also found several interesting artefacts in the garden, which now appear on a separate page.
You can click on any of the photographs to see a full size version (NB some browsers fit the resulting image to their window, a further click may be necessary to view the image full-size).
Update - We have recently added various new species (and links to photographs), mostly in the list of species at the bottom of this page. If you've not looked for some time, you may find something new of interest. Please Let us know if you think we've incorrectly identified any of these photographs.
New - as the photos of wildlife from the garden were heaping up, and we didn't have time to identify all of them, or add them into this page, we've used web album generation software to collate them onto a couple of pages. One page is of those species we've identified, the other is of photos we've not yet got round to identifying. Please let us know if you think there's anything particularly unusual in these.
In the photo, you can see part of the base of the hedge with field maple and dog rose. In front of the hedge is part of a bank covered in rough grass. We have put prunings and other sticks, a few logs and occasional small heaps of grass clippings in this area to provide a habitat for invertebrates and small animals.
We filled a large plantpot with soil, ensuring that several different soil types, with and without dead leaves and other debris, were present at the surface in different parts of the pot. The caterpillar was placed on the soil, and a piece of fabric fixed over the top of the pot to prevent the caterpillar escaping. By the next day, the caterpillar had buried itself and started to pupate. We left the pot in a cool, shady place for the winter. Some hard frosts midwinter froze the surface soil and appeared to freeze the pupa, but we left it in it's pot.
When the weather warmed up the next spring, we moved the pupa into a fabric cage indoors (in a smaller pot of soil to ensure that it didn't dry out). Then, after a week or so.....
This photo shows a view of the moth from the front. It was strong as well as large - John commented that it's claws were quite painful when it was on his finger. After watching it for some time, we released it in the garden in some dense undergrowth near to some nectar-bearing flowers.
After pupating, the wingless female emerges, and remains on her coccoon. The males find the female by her scent before mating. She then lays eggs on her coccoon, then dies. When the eggs hatch, the young caterpillars first eat the eggs, then disperse on threads of silk (hence the name "vapourer").
Humming bird hawk moths hover in front of flowers to feed, and fly during the day. They are very strong flyers, and their rapid, darting flight (as well as their feeding habits) are reminiscent of humming birds. We tried unsuccessfully several times to photograph them in the garden - but their eyesight is too good, and their reactions too quick. This one had accidentally got into the house, hence the rather unnatural setting.
The limiting factor for insect life in grass habitats such as this is the availability of pollen and nectar as energy sources. The idea of planting these wild flowers is that not only do they look pretty, but they should also encourage a range of butterflies and other insects. Another flower which is particularly important as a source of pollen is wild carrot, which later curls in on itself to form seed heads.
Here is a closeup front view. We have also seen a pair mating on the lawn and a female laying eggs on ivy.The egg is beautifully sculptured.
This is the largest of the wasp family found in the UK, but it is also the most docile and is moderately rare. A nearby colony discovered the overripe fruit on this Laxton's Fortune apple tree. The fly next to the hornet gives some idea of scale.
The commonest species of wasp in the UK is the common wasp (Vespula vulgaris) (known in the USA as "yellowjackets") but two new species are now spreading through the UK. The median (or German) wasp (Dolichovespula media) is now common in many areas, and is more likely to attack people due to its habit of making its nest in shrubs and undergrowth where they are more likely to be disturbed. It is slightly larger, and often has somewhat darker colouration than the common wasp.
The garden spider is also known as the cross spider - for obvious reasons. It is one of the commonest orb-web spiders in our garden.
A relatively recent introduction to the UK is the wasp spider (Argiope bruennichi) - it is believed that this species was probably introduced from continental Europe early in the 20th century. The egg sacs are fixed to long grass, so this species can only thrive on undisturbed grass.
Slow-worms can live for 50 years. We have one or two very large, old individuals down the garden. Here is a photo of one - the dead leaves in the photo are beech leaves, it is probably about 50cm long. Here is a closeup view.
Harlequin ladybirds can vary enormously in colour and pattern; guidance on recognition is available at www.harlequin-survey.org/. If you find one, kill it!
If you have a venus fly trap, it is very easy to keep if you follow these rules: (a) Don't water it with tap water or bottled water, only use rainwater. (b) Don't use any plantfood. (c) Keep it permanently standing in 1-2cm of (rain)water (d) Put it in the sunniest window in the house (South-facing if possible). (e) Don't feed it with lumps of meat etc - it will catch enough flies by itself. That's it - simple!
If you want to grow Venus fly traps from seed, this is again very easy. Allow an existing plant to set seed on one or two flower shoots (remove the rest so they don't weaken the plant too much). As soon as the seed pods have turned black and started to split, collect the seed and sow immediately. Fill a pot with a mixture of peat (not a peat-based houseplant compost), sand and a little finely crushed charcoal. Water well with rainwater and allow to drain. Sprinkle the seed on the surface and very lightly water (rainwater!) to settle the seed into the surface. Allow to drain, then put the pot into a sealed plastic bag and put it in the fridge for 14 days. Remove, leave it in the bag and put it on a warm, sunny windowsill. Once the seedlings have germinated and started to establish, open the top of the bag, gradually allowing more air in over several weeks. Water with rainwater to keep the pot standing in 1-2cm of water. That's it - easy!
Please also look at the page of interesting objects we found when digging in the garden.
Some of the species we have seen in (or above) our gardenWe update this list from time to time, and have also recently started making links from some entries on the list to our photographs - but have many more still to do, so please check back again in a few weeks. Again, all these photograps were taken in our garden or house.
Please Let us know if you think we've incorrectly identified any of these.
- Bluetit (Parus caeruleus)
- Great tit (Parus major)
- Coal tit (Parus ater)
- Long-tailed tit (Aegithalos caudatus)
- Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula)
- Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs)
- Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) (link shows goldfinches and siskins together)
- Greenfinch (Carduelis chloris)
- Blackbird (Turdus merula)
- Song thrush (Turdus philomelos)
- Robin (Erithacus rubecula) (on nest)
- Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes)
- House sparrow (Passer domesticus)
- Hedge sparrow (Prunella modularis)
- Siskin (Carduelis spinus) (link shows goldfinches and siskins together)
- Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)
- Nuthatch (Sitta europaea)
- Goldcrest (Regulus regulus)
- Greater spotted woodpecker (Dendrocopos major)
- Green woodpecker (Picus viridis)
- Magpie (Pica pica)
- Jay (Garrulus glandarius)
- House martin (Delichon urbica)
- Swift (Apus apus)
- Swallow (Hirundo rustica)
- Wood pigeon (Columba palumbus)
- Collared dove (Streptopelia decaocto)
- Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus)
- Canada goose (Branta canadensis)
- Sparrowhawk (Accipiter nisus)
- Grey Heron (Ardea cinerea)
- Pied Wagtail (Motacilla alba)
- Sputincendia mitchellii rafoides
Amphibians, snakes and reptiles
- Common frog (Rana temporaria)
- Common toad (Bufo bufo)
- Common newt (Triturus vulgaris)
- Grass snake (Natrix natrix)
- Slow worm (Anguis fragilis)
- Common lizard (Lacerta vivipara)
- Hedgehog (Erinaceus europæus)
- Brown long-eared bat (Plecotus auritus)
- Common pipistrelle bat (Pipistrellus pipistrellus)
- Fox (Vulpes vulpes)
- Grey squirrel (Sciurus carolinensis)
- Brown rat (Rattus norvegicus)
- Wood mouse (Apodemus sylvaticus)
- vole - probably Field vole (Microtus agrestis)
- Next door's cat (Felix domestica)
- Children! (Homo sapiens)
Insects, spiders etc.
- Peacock butterfly (Inachis io)
- Red Admiral butterfly (Vanessa atalanta)
- Painted Lady butterfly (Vanessa cardui)
- Comma butterfly (Polygonia c-album) and showing "comma" on underside of wing
- Small tortoiseshell butterfly (Aglais urticae)
- Speckled wood butterfly (Pararge ægeria)
- Gatekeeper butterfly (Pyronia tithonus)
- Meadow Brown butterfly (Maniola jurtina)
- Ringlet butterfly (Aphantopus hyperantus)
- Holly blue butterfly (Celastrina argiolus) adult , egg closeup , egg and early instar larva and late instar larva
- Common blue butterfly (Polyommatus icarus) male , female and female underside
- Small copper butterfly (Lycaena phlaeas)
- Large white butterfly (Pieris brassicae)
- Small white butterfly (Pieris rapae)
- Orange tip butterfly (Anthocharis cardamines)male, , male underside and female
- Small Skipper butterfly (Thymelicus sylvestris)
- Elephant hawk moth (Deilephila elpenor)
- Eyed hawk moth (Smerinthus ocellata)
- Humming bird hawk moth (Macroglossum stellatarum)
- Vapourer moth (Orgyia antiqua) male and female
- Cinnabar moth (Tyria jacobaeae) and larvae
- White Plume Moth (Pterophorus pentadactyla)
- Emmelina monodactyla a plume moth, known in N.America as the Morning Glory Plume Moth.
- Amblyptilia punctidactyla (a plume moth)
- Green arches moth (Anaplectoides prasina)
- Setaceous Hebrew Character moth (Xestia c-nigrum)
- Nemophora degeerella, a longhorn moth
- (Adela reamurella), a longhorn moth (with a bit of dandelion fluff caught on one of it's antennae!)
- Small Magpie moth (Eurrhypara hortulata)
- Garden Carpet moth (Xanthorhoe fluctuata)
- Yellow shell moth (Camptogramma bilineata)
- July belle moth Scotopteryx luridata
- Shaded broad-bar moth (Scotopteryx chenopodiata)
- Herald moth (Scoliopteryx libatrix)
- Small phoenix moth (Ecliptopera silaceata)
- Pale Tussock moth (Calliteara pudibunda)
- Orange moth (Angerona prunaria)
- Brimstone moth (Opisthograptis luteolata)
- Swallow-tailed moth (Ourapteryx sambucaria)
- Common White Wave moth (Cabera pusaria)
- Grey dagger moth (Acronicta psi)
- Light Brown Apple moth (Epiphyas postvittana)
- Brown dotted clothes moth (Niditinea fuscella)
- Pyrausta aurata.jpg
- Blood vein moth (Timandra comae)
- Light Emerald moth (Campaea margaritata)
- Riband wave moth (Idaea aversata)
- Small fan-footed wave moth (Idaea biselata f.fimbriolata)
- Acleris cristana
- Angle shades moth (Phlogophora meticulosa)
- Silver Y moth (Autographa gamma)
- Sallow moth (Xanthia icteritia)
- Barred Sallow moth (Xanthia aurago)
- Satellite moth (Eupsilia transversa)
- Six-spot burnet moth (Zygaena filipendulae)
- Cinnabar moth (Tyria jacobaeae) , side view and larvae on ragwort
- White ermine moth (Spilosoma lubricipeda)
- Buff arches moth (Habrosyne pyritoides)side view and dorsal view
- Diamond-back moth (Plutella xylostella)
- Leek moth (Acrolepiopsis assectella) damage on leek, larva from within mine in leek leaf, pupa in coccoon and adult
- Uncertain - possibly a Nomophila species?
- Halesus radiatus (a caddis fly)
- Green lacewing (Chrysopa perla) (but more blue-green than some other species!)
- Moth flies, possibly Psychoda grisescens photographed on horse manure
- Scorpion fly Panorpa germanica
- Large bee fly Bombylius major
- Large red damselfly (Pyrrhosoma nymphula)
- Azure damselfly (Coenagrion puella)
- Beautiful demoiselle (Calopteryx virgo)
- Common darter dragonfly (Sympetrum striolatum)
- Golden-ringed dragonfly (Cordulegaster boltonii)
- Migrant hawker dragonfly (Aeshna mixta) and closeup of eyes
- Violet ground beetle (Carabus violaceus)
- Lesser stag beetle, male (Dorcus parallelipipedus) and female
- Poecilus cupreus (previously known as Pterostichus cupreus)
- Sexton beetle (burying beetle) (Nicrophorus vespillo)
- Maybug ( or cockchafer) (Melolontha melolontha)
- Spotted longhorn beetle (Strangalia maculata)
- Stenurella melanura (a longhorn beetle) (female) and male
- Grammoptera ruficornis (a longhorn beetle)
- Fat legged beetle (Oedemera nobilis), male and female
- Red-headed cardinal beetle (Pyrochroa serraticornis)
- Soldier beetle (also known as the bonking beetle) (Rhagonycha fulva) (the orange legs distinguish this from the Cardinal beetle above.)
- Common malachite beetle (Malachius bipustulatus)
- 7-spot ladybird (Coccinella septempunctata)
- Cream spot ladybird (Calvia quattuordecimguttata)
- 14 spot ladybird (Propylea quattuordecimpunctata)
- 16-spot ladybird (Tytthaspis sedecimpunctata)
- Orange ladybird (Halyzia sedecimguttata)
- Heather ladybird (Chilocorus bipustulatus)
- Pine ladybird Exochomus quadripustulatus)
- Harlequin ladybird (Harmonia axyridis)
- 22 spot ladybird (Psyllobora vigintiduopunctata)
- Thistle tortoise beetle (Cassida rubiginosa)
- Rosemary leaf beetle (Chrysolina americana)
- Asparagus beetle (Crioceris asparagi) and larva
- Scarlet lily beetle (Lilioceris lilii)
- Ragwort flea beetle (Longitarsus jacobaeae)
- Anthrenus sp., probably A.verbasci, the varied carpet beetle
- Hazel leaf roller weevil (Apoderus coryli)
- Garden spider (or cross spider) (Araneus diadematus)
- Wolf spider (Paradosa amentata)
- Wasp spider (Argiope bruennichi)
- Tegenaria species (probably T.gigantea, the giant house spider)
- Daddy long legs spider (Pholcus phalangioides)
- Crab spider (possibly Misumena vatia?)
- Flower crab spider (Misumena vatia)
- Steatoda bipunctata
- Nursery web spider (Pisaura mirabilis)
- Jumping spiders
- Honey bee (Apis mellifera)
- Buff tailed bumble bee (Bombus terrestris)
- Red tailed bumble bee (Bombus lapidarius)
- Common carder-bee (Bombus pascuorum)
- Red mason bee (Osmia rufa)
- Leaf-cutter bee (Megachile spp.)
- Hornet (Vespa crabro)
- Common wasp (Vespula vulgaris)
- Median wasp (Dolichovespula media)
- Ruby tailed wasp (Chrysis ignita)
- An Encarsia wasp, probably Encarsia inaron, but possibly E.tricolor (a parasite of brassica whitefly)
- Large rose sawfly (probably Arge pagana)adult and larvae
- Solomon's seal sawfly (Phymatocera aterrima)
- Speckled bush cricket (Leptophyes punctatissima) (This photo is of the nymph stage)
- Garden snail (Helix aspersa)
- Garlic snail (Oxychilus alliarius)
- White lipped snail Cepaea hortensis)
- Field slug (Deroceras reticulatus)
- Black slug (Arion ater)
- Yellow slug (Limacus flavus) (NB this was previously identified here (incorrectly) as a leopard slug (Limax maximus) - thanks to Heike Kappes at Universität zu Köln for the correction)
- Primrose (Primula vulgaris)
- Teasel (Dipsacus fullonum)
- Common sorrel (Rumex acetosa)
- Meadow buttercup (Ranunculus acris)
- Creeping buttercup (Ranunculus repens)
- Lesser celandine (Ranunculus ficaria)
- Birdsfoot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus)
- Oxeye daisy (Leucanthemum vulgare)
- Knapweed (Centaurea nigra)
- Wild carrot / Queen Anne's lace (Daucus carota)
- Lady's smock (Cardamine pratensis)
- Garlic mustard (Alliaria petiolata)
- Salad burnet (Sanguisorba minor)
- Great mullein Verbascum thapsus
- Lady's bedstraw (Galium verum)
- Cleavers (Galium aparine)
- Thyme-leaved speedwell (Veronica serpyllifolia)
- Little Robin (Geranium purpureum)
- Herb Bennet (Geum urbanum)
- Primrose (Primula vulgaris)
- Common toadflax (Linaria vulgaris)
- American willowherb (Epilobium ciliatum)
- Great Willowherb (Epilobium hirsutum)
- Broad-leaved willowherb (Epilobium montanum)
- Rosebay willowherb (Chamerion angustifolium)
- Scarlet pimpernel (Anagalis arvensis)
- English Oak (Quercus robur)
- European ash (Fraxinus excelsior)
- Rowan (Sorbus aucuparia)
- Holly (Ilex acquifolium)
- Common Hawthorn (Cratægus monogyna)
- Blackthorn (sloe) (Prunus spinosa)
- Field maple (Acer campestre)
- Hornbeam Carpinus betulus)
- Dog rose (Rosa canina)
- Common blackberry (Rubus fruticosus)
- Beech (Fagus sylvatica)
- Guelder rose (Viburnum opulus)
- Spindle tree (Euonymus europæus)
- Buckthorn (Rhamnus cathartica)
- Elder (Sambucus nigra)
- Annual meadowgrass (Poa annua)
- Yorkshire fog (Holcus lanata)
- Cocksfoot (Dactylis glomerata)
- Field woodrush (Luzula campestris)
- Stinkhorn fungus (Phallus impudicus) and the early "egg" stage
- Trametes versicolor, sometimes called the "turkey tail fungus"
- Fawn mushroom (Pluteus cervinus)
- Honey fungus (Armillaria mellea)