I’ve not done much around the holding this week because Douglas, our dog, is recuperating from an operation. This means I am spending much of my time in the house keeping him company, since he mustn’t do any running or jumping at present. Hopefully he will make a good recovery, but at the moment has some healing to do.
I have been taking our other dog, Dyson, out for intensive runs in the tree field to make up. The summer orchids are starting again to show their impressive flowerheads, and I am marking the ones near or on the trackways with sticks, to try and avoid them being trodden on or mown. However, this post I wanted to highlight some of the little, less showy wild flowers that tend to get forgotten about. Individually the flowers may be small, but often they flower prolifically and make the trackways look like a medieval garden lawn. Not all of these photos were taken this week.
The obvious one is the pignut, but that almost qualifies as a large flower, albeit made up of tiny ones, but I have posted about it before. Another that gives most of the field a golden brightness is the buttercup. I have both creeping buttercup (Ranunculus repens), and meadow buttercup (Ranunculus acris), in the tree field.
I may have the third UK buttercup, globe buttercup (Ranunculus bulbosus), since it does grow on Skye, but I have not identified it here yet. When the sun catches the buttercup flowers they are a delight, even if the creeping buttercup is probably my most annoying weed in the areas I am trying to grow things. Mostly because its leaves come away from the roots, which will then regrow. The fact it can spread about 4 feet a year is also a nuisance for a rather laid back gardener like me.
I would include white clover (Trifolium repens), in the small flowers category. The pink clovers quite often have such flamboyant flowers that they stand out alone. White clover tends to be a bit smaller and lower lying, although forms large swathes of blooms on the trackways. It is a food source for the common blue butterfly as well as a nitrogen fixing plant.
Selfheal (Prunella vulgaris) is rather like a tiny purple deadnettle. Sometimes you can see the bright purple of the flowers, and sometimes just the magenta flowerheads. I found one on the mound that had white flowers, but have not seen it since the first year of sheep eviction.
One of my favourite flowers, speedwell (Veronica chamaedrys), is definitely a small flower. I love the colour, an enhancement of the sky above (if not clouded!). Every now and then I come across a good clump of it and it brightens my day. It is a food source for heath fritillary butterflies. Although the flowers are tiny, the colour is so vibrant it is difficult to miss. They also change colour from pink to blue, as they age, which I find fascinating.
When looked at in detail the flowers of eyebright (Euphrasia officinalis agg) are just a beautiful as any orchid. Pale pink snapdragon flowers have a yellow landing strip for insects but are only a few millimeters across. They also only open one or two at a time on the flowerheads. Unfortunately being so small they are easily overlooked, like those of mouse ear (Cerastium fontanum).
One of the things I like about writing up my ‘blogs is that I almost always learn something by researching what I wanted to write about. For example another plant disliked by gardeners is cinquefoil. It was quite a nuisance weed for us on the allotment in Solihull, but didn’t seem to be such a pest for me here. The reason being the Potentilla we have here is tormentil: Potentilla erecta, as opposed to cinquefoil which is Potentilla reptans. Tormentil flowers usually have four petals (rather than five for cinquefoil) and the leaves are usually stalkless unlike cinquefoils leaves. There is quite a bit of this growing in the tree field. It is actually out-competing the grass in some of the areas where the soil is thinner.
Lastly for now I will mention thyme (Thymus polytrichus). A bit like heather it is ubiquitous in the highlands and I am always breaking out into ‘wild mountain thyme’ when the sun shines! Here it grows across the rocks and scree, and I am hoping it will take on my drivebank wall with some encouragement. It makes a great cushion of purple and often is found on the banks of the burn together with heath bedstraw, a tiny cousin of cleavers that forms a cushion of white.