I wilt faster than my plants in the heat, so I haven’t been spending much time in the garden during this heatwave. Most nights we get the hosepipe out and water, to stop plants shrivelling from drought. We haven’t had any significant rain in weeks, and there’s none forecast (although we might be treated to a light shower on Friday!). The weeds are thriving without water, though – how do they manage that?

This morning dawned overcast, breezy and cooler than it has been of late, so I decided it was time to get some gardening done. I put up a wigwam and planted out some climbing bean seedlings that have been on the windowsill for so long that they were starting to grow around the ornaments. I’ve planted them en masse since they were tangled together, and tied them into the wigwam. They may not come to anything, but they’ve got a better chance outside than on the windowsill!

I’ve been talking a bit lately about why I garden organically, and how to encourage wildlife into the garden. This morning we got a big thrill when I discovered this magnificent beast in the garden:

Elephant hawk moth caterpillar

That’s a hawk moth caterpillar – from an elephant hawk moth, I think. We wouldn’t have disturbed it, but it was down to the last leaf on its stem and there weren’t any other nearby. It was about to land on the hard path, so we moved it to a new clump of weeds. There are quite a few stems of this one – which is a willow herb – in the garden, which I now have a good excuse not to tackle! I assume it’s rosebay willow herb, since there’s a big stand of it down the road which looks impressive every year:

Rosebay Willowherb, Chamerion angustifolium

The specimens in my garden are nowhere near that large!

I found another caterpillar later on:

Elephant hawk moth caterpillar

I left that one be, as it was close to more of the same weed. It has moved on now, I have no idea how something that large managed to disappear. Hopefully they will survive and become moths, as the elephant hawk moth is large and colourful, and it would be wonderful to see one in the garden. I’ve never seen one in person, although I did snap a privet hawk moth in Didcot a few years ago:

Privet Hawkmoth

Want your own elephant hawk moth caterpillars? The easiest way is to leave a few weeds growing, as they eat willowherbs, Himalayan balsam and bedstraw. You may also find them on your fuchsias. If you do, let them be! They’re not going to do much damage, and how many people can say they’ve found an elephant in their garden?

Seeing pink elephants...