This month out artist in residence, Shelly Castle, extols the glory of Devon’s wildflowers:

What a bonanza May and June were for wild flowers, and they’re still appearing all over the place with the frothy creamy white Bedstraw (Galium verum) and Betony (Stachys officinalis), lining the Devon banks.  Their spectacular variety and abundance has been one of the many things in the natural world that has lifted spirits during the recent pandemic.

I have a very small wildflower patch in my town garden, but the rewards of this little patch of wildness totally outweigh the limited size.  On the edge of this patch we’ve got a tiny pond, and this combination has provided us with huge  caterpillars as thick and long as my little finger; peacock butterflies; newts and frogs; damselflies and the odd dragonfly; numerous different bumble and wild bees, amongst many other wild things.  And, having gardened organically for the last 7 years, we have hedgehogs who return each year to nest.  This year the male has managed to virtually dig up our small Christmas tree in search, presumably, for some divine larval snack such as the Maybugs we have (these critters live underground for 7 years before their one summer out in the air as a beetle).  (https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/feb/10/plummeting-insect-numbers-threaten-collapse-of-nature)

Since the Flete Estate is a haven for wildlife in all its abundance, the story is much grander in scale with so many different habitats for wildflowers to thrive.  There are patches of woodland which are blanketed with early flowering purple orchids (Orchis mascula), Common Valerian (Valeriana officinalis), and Saw-wort (Serratula tinctoria).  And moving nearer the sea there are special flowers which are pretty rare: Prickly Saltwort (Salsola kali), Frosted Orache (Atriplex laciniata) and Ray’s Knotgrass (Polygonum oxyspermum ssp. raii).

Close to Mothecombe House, land has been dedicated to re-establishing traditional hay meadows with their abundance of native flowers and grasses. This new method of land management will overtime provide a beautiful safe haven for our declining insect and small mammals and create a breath taking landscape that fits in and connects with the beautiful Devonshire countryside that surrounds us. Although only in their first year, we have already seen an impact with barn owls now hunting voles and other small mammals for this year’s brood.

Plantlife are our National wild flower champions – they have a great campaign right now around road verges, one of the last strips for wild flowers after 97% of our meadows have been lost. For more information visit: https://plantlife.love-wildflowers.org.uk/roadvergecampaign

Worth checking out if you’re interested, and always worth considering handing a corner of a garden over to them.