Purveyor of Bollocks to the Crowned Heads of Europe
Monday, 21 July 2014
Butterflies or Georgian Bath
Sir Richard Attenborough has asked all us Brits to count the butterflies this Summer, so I had a go one lunchtime last week, out at the rural workshop, not having a garden here in central town.
I got up to four Cabbage Whites and one coloured one before I began to suspect the one of the Whites was doing the old schoolboy trick of running from one side of the panoramic camera to the other so as to be counted twice.
We considered capturing each butterfly and ringing it for identification before releasing it back into the wild, but decided against it - life is too short, especially for the butterfly.
If there is one plant which evokes a long, hot Summer, it is Buddleia - possibly the butterfly's favourite plant. I love almost everything about it - the colour, the smell and the abundance of long-lasting blossoms, and it's ability to survive - thrive - on the meanest of soils. It chooses places like bomb-sites as a favoured habitat, but thankfully we are relatively free of those in this part of the world at the moment.
I say 'almost' everything about it, because there is one negative attached to Buddleia which is directly associated with its ability to thrive on virtually no soil. Miraculously, one seed will drift through the air and settle in a tiny crack in the mortar of the masonry of a building, and take root very firmly indeed.
The roots will travel through joints of no more than one-eighth of an inch thick, then somehow suck out enough nutrient to produce a massive bush of flowers high up on the side of a Grade One listed building, as if feeding on the air alone. This is good news for butterflies, but bad news for the architecture.
Buddleia loves rocky, alkali places, and you can't get much more rocky and alkali than Bath.
The roots creep in between impossibly tight places in buildings, then exert tons per square-inch pressure in an outward direction, pushing the blocks apart and carrying out a slow demolition process.
Whenever you see a healthy-looking Buddleia high up on the side of a building, you know you are also looking at neglected masonry in danger, which is why I pulled these young plants out of the footings of the pub yesterday before they had a chance to flower, and before I would be too weak to be able do it.