Dear Readers, it’s been a long, long time since I’ve taken a leisurely walk around the County Roads in East Finchley, and I’m not sure why – it would have been a logical thing to do during lockdown, but somehow it seemed as if walking in the local woods or hanging out in the garden was safer, and once a habit has been put in place it’s very hard for me to break it! But on Monday I was happy to have a little walk around and see what was happening, and I was instantly rewarded by this gorgeous, well-loved front garden – it just goes to show how a few well-loved pots can cheer people up.
But the wild plants are very cheering too. I am trying to learn the difference between the two different kinds of bellflower that pop up around these parts. I am fairly sure that this one is Trailing Bellflower (Campanula poscharskyana) – my Harrap’s Wildflower Guide describes the petals as ‘widely spread into a star shape’ so I am feeling fairly confident. It is popular with the bees and seems to grow everywhere, but it came originally from the Dinaric Alps in Serbia.
And then there’s Adria Bellflower (Campanula portenschlagiana) – the flowers are described as ‘funnel-shaped’ (much longer than wide). This plant comes from the Dalmatian mountains of Croatia originally. I think the one below fits the bill, though the photo isn’t great for ID purposes. In botanical circles the plants are known as ‘posh and port’ which is a lot easier than getting your tongue around the Latin names. To add to the confusion there is also a Peach-leaved Bellflower (Campanula persicifolia) but I haven’t stumbled across that yet. All three are garden escapes which have happily set up home in the crevices and pavements of North London, and I for one am delighted to see them.
So, what else is going on? Well, in one front garden I see some scarlet pimpernel, the first time I’ve seen any in East Finchley although I was positively tripping over them when I used to go to Dorset. I wonder if a packet of wildflower seeds was involved, or if it got here under its own steam?
There was a truly fabulous large-flowered clematis – I normally think of them as not as good for wildlife as the more discreet, small-flowered types, but there was a honeybee collecting the pollen on this one. And it’s difficult not to smile at those flowers.
Bees were hard at work on some hardy geraniums as well – these were a lovely veined pink. I am still campaigning for more species geraniums in gardens, as you can see – they flower for ages and you can cover most of the spring and summer-flowering periods if you pick the right ones.
I was happy to see that lots of people are growing red valerian(Centrathus ruber) too, though I’d like to put a word in for our native white valerian(Valeriana officinalis), which I shall be having a go at once I can find a spare square inch that isn’t already covered in plants. I have seen hummingbird hawkmoths feeding from red valerian, so if that isn’t a reason for growing it, I don’t know what is.
And how about this rock rose (Cistus) (I think)? Never was a plant so happy in full sun.
And here’s something else I want to grow – some Columbine, another plant that is popular with bees in spite of its complicated flowers. I really like the smaller-flowered dark blue and pink ones, though I have seen some truly spectacular varieties. Who knew that it was a member of the buttercup family? Not me for sure.
And finally, I lingered in the church yard of All Saint’s Church in Durham Road to watch the sparrows. At this time of year they eat not only the young chard leaves of my dear friend A, but also nectar (I watched them pecking at the flowers on an indigo bush) and, most especially, insects. I am fairly sure that this female sparrow was pecking the aphids off of the roses. If only she would come round and do the same on my buddleia I would welcome her with the proverbial open arms.
Which just goes to show how much there is to see in a walk around my local streets. I heartily recommend it if you’re feeling a bit uninspired or fed up.