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Cockoo-pint: A feisty little fellow

July 23, 2014

Arum maculatum is a common woodland plant species of the Araceae family and widespread across northern Europe. It is known as lords-and-ladies, devils and angels, cows and bulls, cuckoo-pint, Adam and Eve, wake robin and friar’s cowl among many others.

Many small rodents appear to find the spadix (flower bearing spike) particularly attractive and it is easy to find examples of the spadix eaten away. The spadix produces heat and probably scent as the flowers mature and it may be this that attracts the rodents.

In the past this plant has been used as a substitute for arrowroot when properly prepared. It should be noted however that the tissues contain calcium oxalate which can cause irritation to the skin and if swallowed lead to swelling of the tongue and potentially breathing problems.


Arum maculatum - common name Cockoo-Pint

Arum maculatum – common name Cockoo-Pint. A curious plant that needs a little respect.

Campanula glomerata – A stunning sight in summer

July 12, 2014

On your journey past the weir to the house you’ll encounter a striking and very attractive purple flowering perennial. Over the past three weeks the number one gardening question received by our visitor reception team has been ‘what is this plant and do we sell them?’.

The plant in question is Campanula glomerata. The genus Latin name (“campanula”), meaning small bell, refers to the bell-shape of the flower, while the specific name (“glomerata”) refers to the tight grouping of the flowers at the top of the stem.

Campanula glomerata is a stunning and compact perennial herbaceous plant.

Campanula glomerata is a stunning and compact perennial herbaceous plant.

Commonly known as clustered bellflower or Dane’s blood, the species is native across Europe and Japan. In Europe it is present almost everywhere. Generally it prefers calcareous well drained soil but will tolerate most garden soils and reliably flowers from early to  late summer. It readily enjoys and thrives in full sun.

These plants will quickly form a large clump, so allow plenty of space when planting. They are also easily divided in spring or autumn. Plants may benefit from a hard clipping back immediately after blooming, to maintain a low, compact shape.

We rarely have this plant for sale unfortunately but they are very easily propagated by division so a kind word in a green-fingered friends ear may prove fruitful.

In Russian folk medicine this plant has been used to treat headaches, rheumatic pain, coughs and epilepsy.

New life

June 30, 2014

Author: James Meikle

Around The Vyne, the reasons for all the earlier sound and frantic activity are beginning to appear. Young Mallard have been on the lakes for a couple of months and the fledglings of other species can be seen and heard.

This is often a time of confusion for novice bird watchers and sometimes for the more experienced! because young birds will often not sound or look like their parents. Young water birds in particular leave the nest when they are much smaller than their parents and have very different plumage but are often able to feed themselves straightaway. Land birds are often the same size as their parents when they fledge but have different plumage and tend to be dependent on their parents for food.

Greylag goose, Coot, Wren, Long tailed tit and mother Greylag goose and gosling.

Greylag goose, Coot, Wren, Long tailed tit and mother Greylag goose and gosling.

The Wren and Long-tailed Tit in the pictures are probably easily recognisable although the latter lacks the dark pink colouration seen on the adults. The young Robin is less recognisable. They are sometimes taken for female Robins but the plumage of adult male and female Robins looks identical (to humans at least!) and the young Robin will not get its red breast until it is 6-7 weeks old.

Juvenile Robin

Juvenile Robin

One way to identify a fledgling of is to look at the base of the beak. The join between the ‘mandibles’ will often have a downward turn (known as the ‘gape’) giving the bird a rather sad expression.

Ducklings and Goslings are fluffy, charming and neatly proportioned creatures. The pictures are of Greylag Geese – a pair with five goslings turned up on the ornamental lake in early May. Although they must have nested close to the lake the nest site remains a mystery. Sadly, their number reduced to three. The pictures were taken over a period of about one month – in the last picture you can just see the adult feathers emerging.

Mallard chic

Mallard chic

Baby Coots and Moorhens are nowhere near as cute (but at least their mothers love them!). They have nearly bald heads, scruffy down and enormous feet. They also have quite livid red marks on their flanks where their wings will later grow.

For some birds which only have one brood per year, the breeding season is pretty much over. Other species will go on to raise up to three more families. For some migrants such as Swifts and Spotted Flycatchers which only arrive in numbers in early May, breeding has only just begun.

Delightful Damsels

June 18, 2014

The Beautiful Demoiselle (Calopteryx virgo) is a common species throughout much of Europe. Here in the UK it’s a very common species which tends to occur in large numbers. It has a preference for fairly wide, slow-flowing and sunny streams and rivers with a reasonably good water quality.

Damsels are frequent visitors to the Vyne during May to September. The nymph stage of their lives is around two years and newly emerged males live for about two weeks.

Males compete on the wing for breeding territories. A territory owner will then court females by opening their wings and performing an aerial dance.

Adults generally feed on insects caught on the wing or plucked from off vegetation. As you can see below Damselflies make wonderful photographic subjects.

Common blue damselfly

Beautiful demoiselle © James Meikle

Another regular visitor to our gardens is the Banded demoiselle. In flight these two species can sometimes be difficult to identify.

Banded demoiselle © James Meikle

Banded demoiselle © James Meikle

Alluring Alliums

June 8, 2014

A spectacular sight in the Summer garden at this moment is our Allium – purple sensation. Essentially these bulbs are ornamental onions and they do very well in most soils that are free draining. They also have a long reliable flowering period from late spring to mid summer. Being a perennial you can enjoy them year after year in your garden. They also add a good structural element all the way through to late summer early autumn where just the skeleton of the flower head provides interest even after the flowers are long gone.

Allium - purple sensation at it's best in the Summer garden borders

Allium – purple sensation,  at it’s best in the Summer garden borders


Lupins and those pesky aphids

May 29, 2014

Around about this time year your Lupins will be about to spring into glorious flower, providing a veritable rainbow of colour to any boarder. Assuming you are a keen lupin fan then you are likely to have a few of these to create both height, colour and structure. However there is one fly in the ointment or should I say aphid. To be more precise North American aphids (Macrosiphum albifrons).  These arrived here in the 1980s and as any keen gardener will tell you it is the bane of their lives where lupins are concerned.

Neither ants or ladybird beetles are that fond of them which is unfortunate because these two insects act as great biological controls in other areas of the garden. Just to add insult to injury this aphid has a capacious capacity for reproduction and will munch through your lupins will relish before your very eyes.

We are always keen to encourage a green and sustainable approach to gardening and thus pesticides are out of the equation. So you may ask, what do I do about these pesky pests. Well, there are two approaches that I have found particularly effective. With large infestations simply running the stalks gently between your fingers and rubbing the aphids off is the most effective followed by a good spraying of the infected areas with water containing a few drops of washing up liquid. You need to repeat this several times to control the aphid numbers but it is worth it if want to have healthy plants with good blooms.

The second approach is to plant Calendula (marigold) to attract hoverflies and lacewings both of which feed on aphids.

Aphid hoards gorging on lupins are not a pleasant sight

Aphid hoards gorging on lupins are not a pleasant sight

Lupin splender in June/July

Spectacular lupins flower from June to September

Drones descend on The Vyne

May 15, 2014

If you happened to be enjoying the sun and tranquility at The Vyne on Thursday 15th May you may have heard or caught sight of an unusual object buzzing its way around the Tudor mansion.

The object in question was in fact a drone quadcopter complete with HD video camera and GPS all linked to a live video monitor as seen below and piloted by a specialist surveying team.

This is the 21st century approach to very effectively and efficiently obtaining survey information to help us assess the structure of the building and plan future conservation projects. As a charity we are always looking to new, innovative and cost effective ways of looking after our Tudor manor so that it continues to be here for everyone to enjoy and discover for generations to come.

The drone survey crew prepare for flight

The drone survey crew prepare for flight

Drone pilot guides the quad copter to it's landing in the sunken garden

The Drone pilot guides the quadcopter to it’s landing in the sunken garden

The drone quad copter hovers above the chimney stack as it videos the roof

Quadcopter hovers above the chimney stack as it videos the roof

Drone up close and personal

The Drone up close and personal


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