The Magic of Dusk: Honeysuckle, Weird Moths & Other Garden Secrets
I’ve told you before about our summertime tea-in-the-garden obsession. It starts early May, even if I have to wear a woolly hat, and continues right through the summer. Every year I count how many meals we eat at our picnic table in the back garden. This year has been going particularly well [although I must say, the World Cup has slightly interrupted proceedings in the past few weeks as the matches are exactly at tea-in-the-garden prime time]. I just love being in the garden in the evening in the summer. I think it’s a magical time. In the early evening the sun is a special kind of golden, like melted butter. The buzz of the bees has slowed to a lazy murmur. Swallows and swifts and martins tear up the sky like elegant boy racers. Gradually the light fades and the dusk settles on the garden. The swifts become bats and the garden fills with the wonderful scents of dusky summer.
My ‘Evening Perfumes’ card design as all about this marvelous time of day and the sweet-scented flowers that come into their own in the evening. The honeysuckle is one of the most recognisable evening scented flowers. There are many different species of honeysuckle, including the native woodbine, that flower at different points throughout the summer. The honeysuckle in our garden is a June/July flowerer. It climbs vigorously up our fence and all of a sudden gives way to pink and cream and yellow blooms. It’s not by chance that the honeysuckle produces her perfume at dusk. She has a particular pollinator in mind for her long trumpet-shaped blooms and that pollinator is most active in the evening. Although bumblebees and butterflies also drink her nectar, it’s the moths that she is flirting with in the evening. One of the most extraordinary of the moths she attracts is the hummingbird hawk moth. This moth has a long proboscus that allows them to reach the nectar deposits that few others can. The hummingbird hawk moth is so called because of it’s startling similarity to a hummingbird. It’s a chubby fella, with wings that beat so fast they can make an audible hum. It hovers around the flowers sipping on the nectar by dipping in it’s ridiculously long nose-pole. (Here’s a YouTube video of a moth in action). The beautiful elephant hawk moth is another species to look out for in the garden in the evenings. Moths get a pretty hard time of it in the popular imagination – they are either feasting on clothes or dim-witted pests – but I think that we should take another look at the moth and begin to enjoy them for the fuzzy-bodied, colourful, wonderful creatures they are.
Of course, where there are moths there are bats. At some point in the evening the swifts retire and are replaced by bats swooping low over the flowers to gobble up moths. This is usually around the time the midges come out and a chill settles into the air. We head back in to the house to wash the dishes and domestic life continues but for a short while we had soaked up the magic of the garden full of secrets at dusk.
Other evening-scented plants include: Summer Flowering Jasmine, Evening Primrose, Sweet Rocket, Night-Scented Stock and Buddleia.