Summer days: butterflies, blight and Banksy

Guide to common butterflies in Belgium

Things are rarely entirely good or entirely bad, and so it is with summer in Belgium this year. On the bad side, we had the terrible weather and the terrible flooding in parts of the country. The clean-up is going to be long and expensive. Plus, we still have the confusion and uncertainty over how and when we can get to the motherland for our longed-for visit to see friends and family, and just imbibe our culture for a while. I want fish and chips, and a dip in the channel, and a lazy Sunday morning with the papers.

A Red Admiral on Buddleia

The garden brings its share of good and bad too. The sad news here is that, perhaps unsurprisingly given the unprecedented wet and humidity of previous weeks, blight has struck. I’ve got to this point in my gardening life without ever having had to lose a tomato plant to this fungal disease which can devastate entire countries, as happened during the Irish potato famine. So it was with a heavy heart that I pulled out several plants and binned them before the problem got any worse. I also had to harvest all the potatoes rather too early, they were also affected. I’ve left the tomatoes with the best-developed fruits, removing most of the leaves, to see if they can ripen nice and quickly. Has anyone dealt with Blight successfully? Am I doing the right thing? Advice appreciated.

Tomatoes ripening

Good news in the garden includes:

A frog has moved into our new pond (bad news: the cat has discovered this and has to be repeated chased off with the hose…grrrrr).

The great tit family has successfully reared its young and they have fledged the nest. The youngsters are hanging around the garden excitedly chirping as their parents teach them how to survive in the big, bad world (bad news: the cat is harassing them, grrrrr).

Butterfly counting has commenced. A local charity is asking members to identify and count those that visit their gardens. They have sent a helpful identification guide which I’ve pinned to the fridge (bad news: French common names for butterflies are nothing like the English ones. Good news: my French vocabulary is expanding into yet another new area).

A Red Admiral

It’s good to see Red Admiral (French: Vulcain) and Peacock (French: Paon du jour) visiting the Buddleia davidii ‘Black night’ that I planted specifically to attract butterflies.

Peacock butterfly and a Red Admiral feeding

The cabbage whites (French: PiĆ©ride du Chou – at least that’s easy, as chou is cabbage) are also here, quite a lot of those. They are particularly enjoying the lavender and oregano, and also like the flowering privet. Luckily I don’t grow cabbages.

A Cabbage White butterfly feeds on oregano

As well as a month for butterflies, July is also the month of the sales in the shops. My son and I have been fully inoculated against these after visiting a Banksy exhibition in Brussels recently. One of the key messages of the British street artist is that worshipping at the altar of consumer capitalism is going to get us into an awful lot of trouble. A better occupation might be to count the butterflies.

A work by Banksy

Here’s to flower power.

A work by Banksy: one of his most iconic images

Finally, here’s a little slideshow of what’s flowering well this month in the garden.

Are you also counting butterflies in your garden or out in the countryside? Have you noticed numbers going up or down, or fewer types than before?