Tuesday, 11 August 2015

The Holly And The Ivy

Is a song that drives my husband mad. This is mainly due to the complete absence of any mention of Ivy apart from the first and last verses (and the last verse merely repeats the first). All the rest of it is devoted to praising Holly. He feels the title is misleading and should be changed to 'The Holly'  which is a deal less Romantic and I feel Somewhat Pedantic.
However I suppose the creators of the song could be held to rights under a False Advertising Claim similar to the one that L reliably (and gleefully) informed me last night saw Red Bull settle a $13m payout to customers who didn't, in fact, sprout the promised wings.

I point out (when this discussion inevitably comes round every winter-time and I start singing it loudly all round the house), that the trees are symbolic, chosen to represent life surviving winter as they are both evergreens, and that the song is, in all likelihood, a remnant of a far older pre-Christian time that has suffered the ravages of the years and emerged somewhat denuded as a result. Perhaps there were once entire verses devoted to the Ivy and the title is all that is left of that.

This argument doesn't cut the mustard, so I content myself withing singing the song as often as possible because it affords me enormous (childish) amusement to see my normally calm and unruffled husband ruffled over a song :o)

Ivy gets a bad press today, doesn't it? Folk chop it down, cut it back, generally bemoan its presence in their gardens as a voracious coverer of things they would rather not have covered, and a puller-out of bricks too for Good Measure.

And yet ivy is very important for our wild creatures, being one of the very few plants to bear nectar over the cold winter months when less hardy green people have tucked themselves up to snooze the dark months through, many of them retreating underground into the comfort of the earth and the security of their roots and tubers to do so.

Ivy can mean the difference between life and death for our early bees, and for insects temporarily lured out of their winter sleep by the promise of January sunshine.

It is also the food plant of choice for second-generation Holly Blue flutters.

Holly Blues like Holly (no prizes awarded for that deduction) and this is where you'll find them when they first grace our countryside in late March/ early April. They are the first Blue Flutter to emerge in the Spring and one of the earliest new emergers of all our native species (ie they don't overwinter as an adult but as a pupa).

Yet the second generations that are emerging about now eschew Holly, choosing to swap their allegiance and lay their eggs on Ivy. I had read about this, but I hadn't been fortunate enough to actually witness it in action until last week, when a very beautiful and delicate small silvery-blue fluttery person arrived in our garden and began to lay her eggs on the buds of ivy flowers in our hedge.

 
She was very gracious about the whole business and allowed me to stand very close and watch her, turning her little head to look at me just as directly. Afterwards I found the eggs (tiny, tiny little blue/ white circles, laid one per flower bud) and counted three. There are probably more as she was also laying high up in the hedge, but I couldn't reach those.


 It is entirely possible that this line of Holly Blues has been laying eggs in our hedge for years, but if that is so I have never seen them here before. So, I am counting her, along with the Painted Lady and the Silver Washed, as new members of the Countryside Tales family.

M has been drawn into this fluttery net and has agreed not to cut the hedge back until late September to make certain any eggs have hatched and any pillars pupated, which they do on or close to the ground (mind you, it's usually October before we do that anyway, just in case any bird people happen to be laying late- Ted's pigeons for example). The pupae will then remain there until the Spring when we should get HBs emerging in the garden again, and flying off in search of Holly. I should perhaps also add that we leave sections of the Ivy to flower and provide essential food during the hungry-nectar-gap of the winter months.

HBs are unusual in the Blue Family in that males and females are both blue (often the females of Blue species are brown). The female HBs are distinguished by the black stripe to the wing which is wider in second generation individuals as per my pic above.


The Holly Blue is a Good News Story. It's extending its range Northwards and is generally a Least Concern Species, although populations fluctuate, typically building up to large numbers over a period of years only to crash. This is thought at the moment to be due to a parasitic wasp Listrodomus nynthemerus. As it's a natural cycle, the populations recover.


We've also had an influx of Brimstones back in the garden this week. They are sharing the everlasting sweetpeas with the Leaf Cutter Bees. They did this the year before last but there seemed fewer of them last year- again, probably a natural cycle as we've got them back in droves now....






A few other folks from round the garden...a Mystery Shield Bug, probably an instar but if you know who he is please shout....


A Lead Cutter Bee busy collecting pollen on his tummy....


Our Sunflowers are coming out :o)


Ted having a snooze....


A Soldier Beetle on a Poppy in the wildflower patch...


And our Comma, still hanging upside down pretending to be a nettle flower, but about whom I am becoming Increasingly Concerned because he shows no signs of actually pupating...


I'll leave you with a Small Dog missing her dad and watchfully waiting for him to come back home after cycling... I didn't have the heart to tell her off for the sofa-misdemeanour having listened to the plaintive whistling and witnessed the downcast wandering about the house that preceded it :o)



Hope all are well?

CT.

41 comments:

  1. So we won't mention Ivy to your husband! Beautiful photographs of the butterflies and I love the shots of your dogs.

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  2. Perhaps the Holly and the Ivy were penned by a Canadian...no ivy to be seen here in the winter!
    Oh, that baby girl is a heartbreaker.
    Jane x

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    1. Haha! That would explain it... I think Poppy knows how to make herself look especially adorable and woebegone :o)

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  3. Did I say 'were' penned?
    Oh, dear.
    Jane x

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  4. I have Holly & Ivy in the garden, the ivy is still very small & I can never bring myself to pick the Holly at Christmas I leave it for the birds. Fascinating post about Holly Blues my dear I've learnt lots x

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  5. I love ivy. We have a beautiful one along our front wall and in the late autumn it is filled with berries.

    There is nothing to wring your heart more than a dog when it is left. If I go out and leave Tess at home I can't bear to look at her as I lock the door because here eyes are full of pleading 'take me with you.'

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    1. Wrens nested in one of ours last summer- the perfect hiding place.
      Our two are the same when left here- unbearable x

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  6. Lovely post CT, great photos.

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    1. Many thanks, Ian. Hope all's well with you?

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    2. All well my end thanks. Just playing catch up, reading the blogs I follow after being away from the computer lol.

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    3. Oh good, pleased to hear that. Have missed your pond catch-ups.

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  7. Ivy has it's place in our garden and that's along the back fence, I will use your notes to persuade hubby not to cut it back so much.

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  8. I'd say that's a mottled shieldbug instar.

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    1. Ooh thanks, louise- I'll look it up :o)

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  9. That was completely fascinating about the Holly Blue. They are usually the first butterfly I see in my garden and great to think the eggs were laid in the flowering ivy which I also have in my wild woodland patch. Poppy is so faithful.

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    1. How wonderful that you have them in your garden in the Spring. We need some Holly in ours now I think!
      Pop says thank you- faithful is a much better description than naughty, which is what she often gets! x

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  10. What a lovely post. I am also an admirer of the humble ivy. I love that shot of the Brimstones contrasted with the sweet pea - stunning. Your dogs are so adorable, is there anything more pitiful than a pups cry or as content as a sleeping dog? Xx

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    1. Glad you enjoyed :o) Yes, doggies curled up contentedly by the fire are a sight for sore eyes, and Pop whistling for whichever family member is out is a heart-wrencher xx

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  11. Such beautiful butterflies, especially the holly blue :)

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  12. Lovely photos of the Holly Blue and Brimstone - I never have much luck photographing HB's, A female was laying eggs in the ivy here earlier in the week. I constantly have to go on at OH about constantly trimming stuff like ivy!

    Loved your bag in the last post - wish I had the patience to sew! Hope you have a great holiday and enjoy Stratford.

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    1. I've done OK for HBs this year but really struggled last and only got one shot. It fascinates me how they all emerge at a similar time across the country and lay their eggs, they must be so much better attuned to the seasons than we are. x

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  13. Dear little Pops, I hope he didn't stay out too long. Perhaps he could write a couple of new verses about ivy. I'd definitely include them whenever I sing it. We have a lovely big ivy in the back lane, it almost has branches and things nest in it from time to time. Fantastic photos of the holly blue, and the brimstones as well, I do love the shape of their wings. Nice to see Ted has managed to fit in a little nap, I know how hard he works at keeping everyone in line. CJ xx

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    1. It felt like forever to Poppy, apparently. And then she wouldn't leave him alone when he got back :o)
      I have mentioned a request for ivy-related verses and he is working on it, just for you. I shall add them to my next post.
      I love the shape of Brimmie wings too- just like leaves. And Teddy says thank you- it is nice to know someone understands how much effort goes in to taking care of this family :o) xxx

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  14. You'll be pleased to know I've got holly AND ivy in my garden! There's also a photo I took JUST FOR YOU on my blog!!

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    1. Excellent! I have popped round- lovely Grasshopper. They are hard to photograph so you did well to get it :o) x

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    2. I only had my trusty phone with me!

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    3. Just shows- you don't always need a fancy pants camera :o)

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  15. Enjoyed seeing all your pictures. Love the green color butterfly.

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  16. Interesting, second flight brimstones are a rare sight round here. Second flight holly blues having a great summer, plenty of them around - but as you know, damn hard to photograph.

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    1. Praps you have less of the food plant? Buckthorn I think it is. I saw another HB in the middle of Romsey today-I think you're right, they are having a good year, bless them.

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  17. you know, i had never really considered the fact that the ivy gets short shrift in that song!

    i have a teeny ivy plant -- it was actually part of an arrangement from our wedding -- it's been planted, replanted, uprooted and moved-house umpteen times and only since we moved here has it finally started to thrive. not bad for a 15 year old cutting! i just went out and checked on it -- it being right in the middle of the carnage left by TFT and it's actually the only thing which has survived....which is something of a metaphor for the fact our marriage only barely survived TFT *grin*

    what gorgeous flutters those are! and was there ever a more forlorn and despondent creature than wee Poppy looking out that window!! oh my! how heartless to leave such a sad soul behind!!! ;)

    xo

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    1. I love your ivy story. It must be happy where you are. Thank God the TFTs left it alone :o)

      Pops has recovered now, and is back to being naughty - phew! x

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  18. In a parallel universe (aka Australia) there is another dog sitting like Pops! Waiting, waiting and waiting some more!
    Our small delight x JR with Maltese Terrier is currently doing the same!
    Same squashed cushions... Same pose! Scenery just looks a tad different!
    Holly and Ivy both grows here... Holly bushes are around but rarely produce berries! Here we would sing the Banksia and the Plumbago!
    Loving your blog! Happy day! X

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    1. Oh bless! Some things are the same the world over... :o) x

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  19. Trying to catch up and I admit I have only looked at the photos. I hope your Comma cat is OK. Will have a look thru all your other posts but I probably won't comment on all of them..... I didn't look at any blog posts for a week or so and now there are gazillions of them, haha! xx

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Thank you for leaving a comment. I always enjoy reading them and will try my best to reply to every one. CT x