This summer we have at last been blessed with fine weather and extended spells of sunshine, heat and humidity. The joys of sitting in a garden eating alfresco in the evening sunlight, usually only achievable in countries well south of Britain, became at times almost routine this summer. The extended period of sunlit days and settled weather has brought to our garden a surfeit of butterflies, the very essence of endless sun filled days. Their appearance seems to be yet another manifestation of that indescribable feeling of well being that arrives with long sunlit days in this often grey and cloud shrouded land. Their delicate beauty and almost endless non stop movement has a cheeriness and optimism that transmutes itself to one and all. The large, bright and cheery eyes that show on the wings of Meadow Browns and Gatekeepers impart a feeling of optimism and hope. It is impossible to be downcast when looking at them blinking their wings as they delicately settle on the various garden flowers.
The manifestation of colours and variety in the various butterflies that are visiting our garden this year is a joy. Sadly this does not seem to be the majority opinion and I fear that in general we are slowly losing touch with our natural surroundings, becoming ever more detached from the natural world we share and with this loss of touch, sympathy and understanding our disjointed existence with the rest of the planet is made ever more evident. My garden, maintained as a natural oasis is, I suppose, a microcosm of the slowly losing battle being waged against the wider malaise that now affects virtually all the planet with the on-going destruction that is perpetrated in our own selfish interests. Anyone with an iota of intellect can see the folly in what is going on but we continue on a downward path of avarice, corruption and self interest, with rear guard actions being fought endlessly on a local and national scale, and I inwardly rage at my powerlessness to do anything about it apart from raise a candle in the wind of destruction by maintaining a garden that can be a home for wildlife, however small and localised.
Our village is surrounded on all sides by intensively farmed agricultural land, sprayed with huge volumes of pesticides and herbicides to ensure a maximum yield of whatever favoured crop is being grown to maximise the largest subsidy for the farmer. Our neighbour recently sprayed our shared drive with herbicide to 'kill the weeds' yet spends hundreds of pounds on improving their garden with often imported non native cultivated plants. The neighbour on the other side of us just covered their garden in concrete to save time and labour. It's not their fault, I suppose, they just do not comprehend. I refuse to use pesticides or herbicides in my garden as they are in my opinion an abomination and a symbol of our disregard for the natural world around us. My garden is and will remain as long as I occupy my house, a sanctuary for butterflies and other insects, and indeed any other wildlife that cares to take advantage of it. If the garden does not look neat and tidy so be it. Beauty comes in many forms and is in the eye of the beholder.
We have two buddleia trees in our garden grown from seed and nurtured specifically for butterflies along with other native wild flower species in our borders and this year, at last, after too many barren years due to inclement weather and unfortunate timing, we have the satisfaction of seeing them festooned with butterflies, bees and sundry other insects. Regularly ten or more Peacocks probe the purple scented flower spikes of the buddleias, complimented by numerous Small and Large Whites fluttering and feeding amongst the blue lavender spikes growing in the borders below. Comma's after a long absence are again in evidence, dashing to investigate us as we approach. The occasional Red Admiral tussles with the Peacocks for prime position on the buddleia heads. A Painted Lady, a migrant from the continent and far from home put in an all too brief appearance a few days ago. A second flush of Brimstones have now arrived and Meadow Browns and Gatekeepers are making their temporary home amongst the Thyme, Lemon Balm and Marjoram in our back border. They are all welcome. I sit in the sun at the back door with a glass of wine, watching their comings and goings and am at peace. Anxieties and worries temporarily stilled.
Maybe the sheer numbers of butterflies present are a reflection of the hostile environment surrounding our garden and the heady perfume of the buddleias draws the butterflies in from the surrounding area. Maybe it is just a good year for butterflies. It is of no consequence. Their jaunty lightness and fragile beauty enhance our home and bring a bittersweet combination of joy yet melancholy in the knowledge that like the long summer days they will be just a memory in a few weeks time.