Thursday, 31 July 2014

Mystery in the meadow

The season of plenty has come  a month earlier this year.........much to the delight of this young blackbird spotted in the meadow.

Rasberries, blackberries, blackcurrents, elderberries are all  ripening early this year, together with bumper crops of seeds and nuts seen draping from the tree branches. Hopefully this means everything will have enough food to over winter.

The wildflower planting throughout Ness gardens has been a great hit with wildlife and visitors.  It is now time to consider mowing the meadow and scatter seeds in preparation for next year.  Meadows need managing so that single species do not take over and crowd out variety. The more species we encourage the greater range of insect species are attracted and the more birds will visit and so the chain moves on.

Over the past few weeks a mysterious plant has appeared in the meadow that is baffling all the experts far and wide.  

It is a species of sedge that no one appears to have seen before. Several specialists have been consulted but to date no definitive answer can be found.  Is this a first in Ness ?

Friday, 18 July 2014

Season is changing


The season definitely has a feel of change in the air.  Since the Summer Solstice the days have become imperceptibly shorter and the nights a little cooler. The gloom is alive with bats and moths. My uncontrollable  Virginia Creeper is adrift in their soft white presences  floating in the gloom.

                                                Carpet Moth
I have decided I am in love with Moths as they are so overlooked by most of us and have so much beauty to share.

Cinnabar Moth
Some of the birds who did not find mates will already be departing for their winter grounds over the Equator. Those still here are mainly silent now except for the odd quiet mutterings in hedgerow and copse.  Having said that the Greenfinch, Goldfinch and Chaffinch seem to have taken advantage of the silence to let rip and it is a great opportunity to brush up on finch song identification. 

Starting next January the "Wilder-Ness" project will introduce regular bird surveys throughout the gardens to discover how large the species collection living here is.

It is now the season for looking rather than listening as colour takes charge. Butterflies are bigger and brighter as are the wildflowers.  Tall purple spikes of  Giant Thistle, Knapweed,  Rosebay Willowherb and Loosestrife are towering in the long grasses and hedgerows.

Himalayan Balsam

July is also one of the best months for hunting out wildflowers as the early ones are now nodding heads with the bigger brash ones such as Carrot, Lady's Bedstraw, and Bugle Many insects are very fussy about what they like and can be totally species specific.

Lady's Bedstraw 

This time of the year July/August is the best time for spotting varieties of butterflies.  More wildflowers, means many more butterflies, bees and insects.   With the planting and encouragement of wild areas at Ness we have been rewarded with a wonderful show  this year.


There is no need to go looking as clouds of them will dance before you in the sunshine.  Folded identification charts  published by NHBS originally purchased for the 'Bioblitz' event are  now available in the  bookshop.
These proved very popular as they are easier to handle that a book.
Painted Lady
Large Skipper

Friday, 27 June 2014


Having survived the event of Bioblitz the records of which continue to flood in,  after a long gestation the team are now finalising the publication of the Wilder-Ness Nature Trail which will be launched very shortly in the Garden Centre .  This attractive publication  and map will lead you through the wilder parts of the gardens and provide a detailed insight into the extensive biodiversity of species  to be found there.
Please click  'here'  for download version.

The team have also been sourcing the timber and builder for the much heralded Bee Hotel, which will be constructed using historical construction processes in keeping with the environmental ethos of the Wilder-Ness  programme.


 Now the longest day (June 21st) has passed and the nights are 'drawing in' the birds have gone silent whilst they go through their annual moult. It must be a very hard time for them following the exhaustion of bringing up their young to go through the trauma.  They are very vulnerable from predators at this time so hang low out of sight and try not to draw attention to themselves.  Occasionally you can hear mad clicking of Robins, chunnering of Blackbirds and sizziting of House Martins and the screaming of swifts but nothing as melodic  as the symphonies of May.

The meadow is now blossoming with a new set of summer wildflowers whilst the earlier blooms are now turning to seed.  You may see the 'Wilder-Ness' team prancing gaily around the wildflower meadow helping the process along  by manualy  scattering seed.

Acrid Buttercup

Rosebay Willowherb
This is the month for bites and stings of all shapes and sizes.  Seemingly human females are the most tasty so it is sensible not to wear anything perfumed when visiting the gardens.


The summer influx off butterflies will soon be breaking out to populate the meadow, as these healthy Peacock Butterfly Caterpillars show.  In the meantime there has been a record number of Meadow Browns recorded over the past few weeks.

Friday, 6 June 2014


We are delighted that Ness Gardens has recently received  'The Liverpool City Region Award for Sustainable Tourism 2014'  as 'Wilder-Ness' was a contributable factor in the bid.  It is wonderful to be recognised for all the hard work done by everyone.

The Wildflower Meadow and Spinney including many other areas of the gardens are becoming vistas of wonderful wildflowers. Selective mowing has allowed many hither too  hidden varieties to blossom. (Below Corn Chamomile)

The scarlet red poppies are doing wonderfully well and provide contemplative vistas where they have been successfully planted.

Sea of yellow in the meadow.

In late Summer 2009 Prees Heath kindly allowed us to collect Yellow-ratle seed for the Wild Flower Meadow here at Ness Botanical Gardens. Five years on the fruits of our labour has now become quite extensive. Why did we feel it necessary to do this?

Yellow-ratle (Rhinanthus minor) a member of the Broomrape (Orobanchaceae) family is a hemiparasite, meaning it derives most of it's nutrients from other plants namely the grass family. Because of this parasitic nature the grass is kept in check resulting in the sward being more open and therefore allowing light and air to penetrate the vegetation, this aids in a richer diversity of plant life to exist. The English name presumably derives from when the seed pod inflates allowing the ripened seeds to rattle inside when the wind blows and consequently the new generation is then being dispersed for the following year. 

The ponds are alive with darting, flitting and dashing as the Darters, Chasers , Dragonflies and Damsel Flies all erupt from below the surface in the hot warm weather.

Damsel Fly
Four spotted Chaser

Recently seen butterflies :
Female Orange Tip

 Large Skipper
Speckled Wood