Dear Readers, as you might remember there are two cemeteries within easy walking distance of my house. One is St Pancras and Islington Cemetery, with its many wild spaces, and the other is East Finchley Cemetery, which is a lot more manicured. Both are splendid places for a walk when everywhere else is jammed – parks and the seaside are full to busting this year, what with people not being able to travel abroad very much. During our hour’s visit, we probably saw no more than a dozen people, and two of them were strimming the grass.
We saw this insect dangling above a patch of bramble, and very fine s/he was too, with the sun glinting off the little triangular patch at the base of the wing covers. I suspect that this is a Dock Bug (Coreus marginatus). Apparently it mostly eats dock (as the name suggests) but this one was advancing along the stem of some sorrel. The other member of the family that you’re likely to see is the Box Bug (Gonocerus acuteangulatus), which I spotted in the other cemetery a few weeks ago. It’s funny how once you’ve spotted a particular kind of plant or animal, it seems to pop up everywhere.
Last time I was here, this patch of hedgerow geranium was just coming into flower. Look at it now! it was abuzz with bees, in spite of being in a relatively shady spot. Every UK wildlife garden should have some species geraniums in it, I’m convinced.
And I was much taken by this lovely little tree. We used to call this a Spanish Chestnut, but according to my tree book it’s a Red Horse Chestnut, a cross between Red Buckeye (Aesculus pavia) and a standard Horse Chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum). The tree guide calls it ‘an abundant plant of rather endearing ugliness’. Hah! I obviously have strange tastes, because I think it punches well above its weight in terms of spectacular blossom.
By the way, has anyone ever noticed how the flowers of ribwort plantain look like tiny solar systems, with the planets all orbiting around the central sun? Or maybe it’s just me.
Then we headed off to the crematorium. What a splendid Italianate building this is! It is owned not by the council, but by the London Cremation Company, who also own the crematorium in Golders Green, which is also very fine.
We weren’t expecting this though!
Sadly no one was at home when we visited. Though this might seem like a most unpleasant place to nest, most birds have no sense of smell (with kiwis and turkey vultures being two notable exceptions), and also some birds used cigarette ends to help to remove parasites, so maybe it wasn’t such a terrible idea.
And here is another splendid tree. I’m thinking this could be Yellow Buckeye, yet another member of the horse chestnut family, but no doubt my North American readers can put me right if not.
And finally, my eyes were drawn to this bank of wallflowers from several hundred metres away. I’ve never seen them in such bold colours, they were so bright that I’m sure they left a shadow on my retina, as if I’d looked at the sun for too long. The bees didn’t seem to mind though. As with geraniums, I think that wallflowers are not always given the respect that they deserve as plants for pollinators – they flower for a long period and, in my garden at least, the bumblebees are always hovering around my Bowles Mauve wallflower, which is two years old and hasn’t completely stopped flowering for a single day in all that time. Sometimes, plants are popular for a reason, and I daresay there are things I’ve planted that were much more expensive that haven’t done as well as my ‘cheap and cheerfuls’.