Although it's been quiet on our blog recently, we have been busy elsewhere preparing for and hosting important events, two at the start, and one at the end, of June: our annual Bat Festival (in partnership with the Bat Conservation Trust), the Open Garden Squares Weekend, and the Wildlife Gardening Forum conference this week.
And naturally we’ve been busy in the Garden itself sowing seeds, potting on, planting, caring for new plants, removing invasive plants ... as well as observing and monitoring our wildlife. Spring stunned us with a spectacular show of woodland flora, making up for the slow start to this year:
Spring woodland in our Wildlife Garden
And now the buttercups are blooming. Three species are flowering amongst other early summer species in our meadow and chalk downland habitats, woodland glades and along paths.
Buttercups on our chalk downland. © Derek Adams
Gardening with native flowers is full of surprises: certain species that we thought had disappeared reappear with renewed vigour. So is the case with buttercups and it’s been an especially good year for the buttercup family so far. The first of the buttercup family to appear was lesser celandine (Ficaria verna) on 13 March.
Small clumps planted over the years have spread tentatively, until this year, when they exploded into brazen golden clumps announcing the already late spring. After several disappointing years, wood anemones (Anemone nemorosa) exceeded our expectations this spring with their generous covering beneath silver birch and oak from March to early April.
Wood anemone (Anemone nemorosa). © Derek Adams
Later, marsh marigold (Caltha palustris), our third member of the buttercup family to bloom this spring, appeared around pond edges and the fen.
Marsh marigold (Caltha palustris). © Derek Adams
A few plants of columbine (Aquilegia vulgaris), a less obvious member of the buttercup family, are still flowering along the hedge boundaries to the north of the garden and are a subtle addition in parts of our woodland areas.
Columbine (Aquilegia vulgaris). © Derek Adams
But the buttercups that are currently shining in the Garden are meadow buttercup (Ranunculus acris), bulbous buttercup (Ranunculous bulbosa), and creeping buttercup (Ranunculus repens).
Meadow buttercups in meadow. © Derek Adams
Although superficially very similar, there are a number of features that distinguish these three species, including:
- Bulbous buttercup is in bloom slightly earlier than meadow, and creeping buttercup. It has a grooved stem and its sepals are reflexed. It also has a swollen (bulbous) base to its stem
Under side of bulbous buttercup showing reflexed sepals. © Derek Adams
- Meadow buttercup has rounded stems and more deeply cut leaves than the other two species, and sepals are spreading beneath its petals. It also generally grows taller than the other two species - the tallest in our Wildlife Garden stands at 1.30 metres.
Meadow buttercup - note the sepals under the petals. © Derek Adams
- Creeping buttercup, has grooved stems, spreading sepals and, true to its name, a creeping habit, spreading by means of runners - disliked by most gardeners!
Creeping buttercup: a demonstration of its creeping habit...
As well as brightening our meadow areas, the buttercups also bring a special glow to the hedge banks and pathway verges.
Hedge bank. © Jonathan Jackson
Buttercups attract a variety of insects and can be seen below hosting a honey bee and ladybird.
So, this is an exciting time of year for we gardeners with different species of flowering plant coming into bloom in rapid succession (including other members of the buttercup family).
P.S. Another big event in the Wildlife Garden is approaching, with Big Nature Day on Saturday 13 July