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To garden is to let optimism get the better of judgment.
-Eleanor Perenyi

Prickly question

Times were when we effectively closed up our garden for the season, cutting everything back so that nothing other than typical  winter garden plants remained upright. Areas of browning seasonal leftovers were viewed with the disdainful  implication that such untidy exteriors were proof perfect of a midden indoors. With the pendulum swinging the other way, an autumnal chop of shrubs and perennials almost warrants social exclusion now,  amidst accusations of wilful wildlife neglect.

7 spot ladybirds on thistle seedhead

seedhead shelter

Without taking things to excess, leaving some decaying herbage has its merits. Anna @Green Tapestry blog rightly reminds us how ‘some plants die disgracefully‘  and deserve to be cut back whilst others can be appreciated for their colour and structure, with and without winter frosting. Aside from aesthetics, dessicated plant remains are  food and succour for wildlife, as exemplied in these seedheads.

If dense fruitings of berries supposedly signify a harsh winter, these clusters of Coccinella drupelets makes me wonder if the old wives tale applies here too. The 7-spot ladybird (Coccinella 7-punctata L.) is probably our commonest variety but it was still heartening to see them so obviously thriving, given that we are inundated with stories of alien Harlequins munching their way through them, like cannibalistic vacuum cleaners.

hibernating ladybirds thistle seedhead

Coccinella clusters

uk native ladybird on dry thistlehead

ladybird shelter

Carried away with capturing the numbers of ladybirds on each seedhead, I did however fail to make a note of the  host plant!

berkheya purpurea thistle bud

Berkheya purpurea thistle bud

Evidently it’s some kind of thistle and with Berkheya purpurea having come to my attention this year, I half-pinned  the ID down to this. Otherwise known as the South African thistle it is an immensely prickly but rather pretty lavender daisy flower. Whilst obviously non-native, it has the benefit of being drought-tolerant and thus in keeping with the climate changes we are being coerced, nudged, encouraged to consider when planting for the future.

ladybirds thistle seedhead

natives on exotica?

Ultimately I have my doubts about Berkheya although these images  were taken in a  grand Victorian gardenesque setting; a period which eschewed the natural and native in favour of context-contrasting exotica. More of that to come  in my next post- meanwhile the local ladybirds are obviously drawn to the protective shielding of seedheads, whatever their native origins or genus.

Think you can answer this prickly question? ID answers on a postcard please or leave your comment below.

Hint: You can click to enlarge images for ease of id

©Copyright 2011 Laura Thomas.
All rights reserved. Content created by Laura Thomas @PatioPatch

17 comments to Prickly question