|Nettle, taken on 1 June 2020 at 20:00 hrs|
Home Patch Nettles
A slight breeze from the east ruffled the broad brim of my hat as I turned to inspect our 'sting' of nettles this morning. I had started the season with high hopes that this straggly clump in a shady corner would attract more biodiversity into my home patch. If gardeners notice a wilting Petunia in a pot, they check for greenfly and attempt to revive the specimen with water and plant food. Nettles in private gardens are not usually afforded horticultural intervention of this kind. And yet the nettles in my patch are failing to thrive. Perhaps a good splash from the watering can will help.
I live in a dry part of the country and lack of moisture may indeed be part of the problem, but there could be more to this situation than meets the eye. When I look for information, the sites I find focus on how to eradicate these potentially useful weeds rather than on how to preserve them. I have checked the serrated leaves frequently in the hope that I might find butterfly larvae or eggs, but there have been no signs of either to date. I have yet to see a weevil. I have searched for ladybirds, and particularly for the native 7-Spot: this species appears to be absent from this part of the garden, although I have encountered a couple in the adjacent triangle of long grass during the last couple of days.
Edward Thomas, a favourite poet of mine, wrote a short poem called 'Tall Nettles' in which he showed how a particular patch in a farmyard had engulfed old bits of machinery. My nettles are poor specimens in comparison. What had I hoped for? Well, many years ago I was served a gourmet nettle soup, but growing nettles for the cooking pot was not part of my current plan. My aim was to attract Small Tortoiseshell and Peacock butterflies, as both species are noticeable by their absence or infrequency on my Butterfly Conservation Garden Butterfly Survey for 2020. The situation may yet improve, perhaps when the nettles are joined by Buddleia blooms. Back in 2016 Northumberland-based CONE ran a ‘Be nice to nettles week’. Perhaps it is time to revive this enterprise and raise awareness of these versatile plants, plants that risk extermination in our manicured gardens.
1 June 2020
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This post was written in response to Dr Miriam Darlington's 'Nettle' prompt on Facebook for Day 1 of #30DaysWild.