Category Archives: Nature

Ewyas Harold Arts Fest 2017 @Temple Bar Inn

Once again I was kindly invited by Gill Jinman of the Temple Bar Inn, Ewyas Harold, to display some of my photos in  their cracking exhibition space which is also used for get togethers, wild parties and other stuff – the all purpose meeting place for the local community, in fact.

It was all over in a flash but while we were there it was great fun – setting up and taking down is all part of the exhibition merry go round and as much fun as the actual ‘show’.

       

        

       

Last time I was there it was a straightforward exhibition of ceramics, glassware, paintings and photos. This time the whole village was involved at 5 or so different venues dotted about the place and it became obvious that there is a lot of artistic talent in this neck of the woods !

Visitors were treated to a shuttle service provided by Dore Community Transport, whose drivers tirelessly ferried people from one end of the village to the other.

The local children were involved in a scarecrow building competition and on the ‘scariness’ scale they didn’t disappoint! I only captured a couple of them but here they are

The next two images show the beautiful facade of our venue –  the restored Temple Bar Inn, with a scarecrow on sentry duty (albeit sitting down on the job!) (in the right hand corner, in case you think that’s a local a bit the worse for wear!!).

This event took place over the 3 days of the Bank Holiday weekend, coinciding cannily with the Hay on Wye Literary Festival, which is a stone’s throw away. Graham Powell kicked off with the opening ceremony – one of his last duties as a local councillor,  and here ably assisted by Gill’s husband, Peter, chairman of the parish council.

During our exhibition, the theme of which was  ‘Inspired by Nature’, local water colour artist, Richard Bavin, unveiled a  four metre painting of Lea & Paget’s Wood, created with public participation during h.Art 2016.

Figuring out how to hang a painting this big, so that it draped well and looked resplendent, called on the ingenuity of those involved and Richard enlisted the help of Jill Barneby, printmaker and owner of the Print Shed in Madley where the painting took shape on the grass outside the workshop. Over a hundred volunteers (and one dog, apparently!) worked on it, each adding a little bit of magic, to create this stunning piece which Richard is hoping will raise lots of dosh for the Herefordshire Wildlife Trust – maybe by the time of writing this they will have achieved their aim – I hope so!!

See http://www.herefordshirewt.org/ for information.

So after the opening ceremony and the awarding of prizes to the scarecrow creators (everyone’s an artist in this village!!), proceedings being monitored by some local llamas whilst they chewed contentedly on some hay (there is a llama farm just up the road in Walterstone where if you feel so inclined you can load up your llama with packed lunch, waterproofs etc  and take a tour of this picturesque landscape)

http://www.oldkingstreetfarm.co.uk/llamatrekking.html

our visitors wandered this way and that to enjoy a fantastic display of arts and crafts, ranging from weaving to glass blowing to textiles to painting to furniture making.

The weather was mixed but that didn’t matter – there was good food on offer throughout the venues, live music at the Temple Bar Inn, story telling and lots of other activities going on. Below is a shot of  a talented duo called the Pyschedelic Hearts Club Band, who performed a mixture of Beatles’ covers and their own material – they were great! a real treat.

The Ewyas Harold Festival of Arts was very well attended, particularly on Bank Holiday Monday. It was made possible by a fantastic group of people who care deeply about their local village and community and were prepared to go the extra mile to make the event a success.

I am  delighted to have been invited to participate again and marvel at the spirit and energy of the locals – they must have two bowls of porridge for breakfast!!

Here is some of the work on display at this year’s event from these artists and makers: Julian Stanley (furniture maker), Sally Guest (oil painter), Jacky Edwards (glass ware), Jill Barneby (printmaker) Richard Bavin (water colourist) and Sue Fernández (photographer)

                     

     

Here’s to the next one!

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Homage to the Dandelion

The grass and fields and hedgerows around where I live are awash with dandelions –

– they resist any attempt to eradicate them, keep the pesticide industry going almost single-handed and seem to mock us as they pop up on our manicured lawns, flaunting their bright yellow petals.

The name ‘dandelion’ comes from the French ‘dent de lion’ or ‘lion’s tooth’ , used to describe the marked indentations along the edges of the leaves and the ragged appearance of the tips of the petals.

But why do we so begrudge their presence?

Every part of this plant can be used:

the roots can be ground and roasted to make a caffeine free beverage, although more palatable to my mind are dandelion and burdock (or dandelion wine for an extra kick!)  made from the petals. The leaves can be blanched or sauteed in a similar way to spinach and added to salads and soups; the dandelion is also used in herbal medicine for liver infections or as a diuretic. It is even used as a dye, although the resultant slightly muddy brown colour (called ‘caramel’ by the more charitable) is disappointing, given the original glorious yellow of the petals.

Its colour alone would persuade me to rebrand it! It’s a flower! Let’s cherish it! We love the colour yellow! All the best things in life are yellow! Gold! Saffron! Buttercups! Butter! Egg yolks! Sunshine! Submarines!

Think how many songs have the colour yellow in their titles – you should be able to think of at least TEN. This is one of my favourites

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ICkWjdQuK7Q

My dad was never a gardener. His idea of keeping the place tidy was to sally forth, scythe in hand, once the grass was knee high.  Dandelions thrived! And so did lots of other pretty things like these:

And so did dandelion clocks – the fascinating, spherical seed heads which appear after the flowers and use the wind (or excited little children ! – the hour is however many puffs it takes you to blow all the seeds off the ‘clock) to scatter those seeds to the four corners of the garden, producing masses more dandelions the next year! So Dad was nurturing a wild life garden long before our present  ‘crop’ (oh!dear!) of TV celebrity gardeners advocated them!

But the real reason they are there is for these little guys:

……….the army of pollinators, buzzing busily from bloom to bloom – they don’t care whether we think it’s a weed or a flower!

‘When it’s Spring again, I’ll bring again tulips from Amsterdam.’

When it’s Spring again I’ll bring again
Tulips from Amsterdam
With a heart that’s true I’ll give to you
Tulips from Amsterdam
I can’t wait until the day you fill
These eager arms of mine
Like the windmill keeps on turning
That’s how my heart keeps on yearning
For the day I know we can
Share these tulips from Amsterdam

Ah……  Max Bygraves knew the way to a woman’s heart!

Tulips…….they herald the spring time  like no other flower – with their beautiful forms and colours, unmistakeable bowl shaped petals and bright primary colours.

These days growers have developed so many varieties the choice is dizzying, and even the ‘not very horticulturally minded’ recognise a tulip! It has become a favourite in English gardens, parks and floral displays up and down the land. Of course, tulips are synonymous with Holland and horticulture there is big business:

A few wikifacts:

  • Holland has a 44% share of the worldwide trade in floricultural products, making it the dominant global supplier of flowers and flower products. Some 77% of all flower bulbs traded worldwide come from the Netherlands, the majority of which are tulips. 40% of the trade in 2015 was cut flowers and flower buds.
  • The sector is the number 1 exporter to the world for live trees, plants, bulbs, roots and cut flowers.
  • The sector is the number 3 exporter in nutritional horticulture products.
  • Of the approximately 1,800 new plant varieties that enter the European market each year, 65% originate in the Netherlands. In addition, Dutch breeders account for more than 35% of all applications for community plant variety rights.
  • The Dutch are one of the world’s largest exporter of seeds: the exports of seeds amounted to € 3.1 billion in 2014.
  • In 2014 the Netherlands was the world’s second largest exporter (in value) of fresh vegetables. The Netherlands exported vegetables with a market value of € 7 billion.

       

The Keukenhof gardens in the Netherlands are a paradise for tulip  lovers – as their website boasts: ‘Keukenhof, the best day out among the flowers! There are more than 7 million bulbs in bloom this spring, with a total of 800 varieties of tulips. A unique and unforgettable experience!

Besides the spacious 32 hectares of flowers you can enjoy the spectacular flower shows, surprising inspirational gardens, unique artwork and wonderful events. Do not miss the Tulpomania exhibition in the Juliana Pavilion.’

At Keukenhof they recognise the importance of engaging with the next generation. Their website states:

‘Keukenhof is also one big party for children. They will have a blast with the treasure hunt, petting farm, maze and the playground.’

Who can resist? Don’t forget your camera!

Istria – or Slovenia and Croatia to you and me.

I’ve just returned from a trip to the Istrian Peninsula – and learnt a lot!  The Peninsula looks like a triangular pennant suspended in the Adriatic just below Trieste.  A horizontal strip of land at the top of the triangle now forms part of Slovenia and the rest belongs to Croatia. Our visit included some of the towns along the West coast of Istria from  Portorož down to Pula, with its stunning amphitheatre,  at the southern tip of the triangle.

istriamap

So first  stop – Portorož (Port of Roses) This turned out to be an attractive strip of  hotels stretching in a ribbon along the seafront – no ‘beach’ as such, more pebbles and ladders straight down into the water – would bathers disappear without trace?  Well, no, the water only seemed to be waist deep in most places so perfectly safe, if a bit chilly!

Portorož has been established as a health spa since the late 19th century and boasts some fine architecture – one example of this is the Palace Hotel, built around 1912 in what was known then as the Austrian Riviera. It was extensively renovated around 2008 but retains its magnificent facade and is testimony to the popularity of the area as a health resort back in the day.  There is a real Art Deco vibe about the place and lots of magnificent black and white photographs on the hotel walls illustrate the grandeur of a bygone era, which inspired me to take some sepia photos on my walk along the sea front towards Piran.

Every hotel in Istria has a Wellness Centre, indeed Slovenians and Croatians place a lot of emphasis on healthy living. On our tour I struck lucky every time – my room was right next door to the Wellness Centre! This meant that, unlike other guests who had to make their way along endless hotel corridors and into and out of lifts dressed in their fluffy white hotel robes to get to these facilities, I only had to pop out of my room and round the corner and there it all was – the plunge pool, the sun terrace, the jacuzzi, the  salt water swimming pool and all the wondrous treatments on offer – like mud baths, Thai massage with myriad combinations of lovely infused oils, facials – etc!!

As a linguist I was also interested in trying to pick up some phrases in Slovenian and Croatian – and was encouraged by the fact that all the road signs were in Slovenian or Croatian first and then Italian, and sometimes German too.  As I speak Spanish, the hop over to Italian is not so far – but the next hop over to Slovenian proved more of a chasm – didn’t get much of a toe hold, although the girl welcoming us in to dinner tried to teach me a few things – ‘dobro jutro’ (good morning) ‘dobra večer’ (good evening) ‘volim te’ (I love you !! – that should come in handy!) ‘hvala ti’ (thank you)  ‘molim’ (please) ‘račun molim’ (the bill please) and on the hotel television I even caught an episode of Gardeners’ World with Monty Don dubbed in Croatian.  Even so, progress was slow!!

Back to being a tourist.

Piran is a small town at the top of the Istrian Peninsula. Its links with Italy through the salt trade are evident. On the walk into the town we came across some curious buildings which turned out to be disused salt warehouses, now being used as exhibition spaces and the like.  

Views out to sea from the city walls were beautiful and the town itself is very picturesque.

 

 

 

 

 

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We were taken on a trip to the salt pans and a museum where we learnt how the salt panners lived and worked.

           

         

Our next trip was to Groznjan, which is inland. Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t very good but we could still appreciate the beauty of the countryside and sample some delicious truffles and mistletoe brandy – not sure about the brandy! We also learned that Istria has several symbols – one is the goat, one is the dolphin and ……the other will come to me in a second!

 

The climate as you go further south turns more Mediterranean, with lots of vineyards and olive trees and for the first week of our holiday the weather was pleasantly warm – around 25º. But things changed dramatically en route to our second destination of Poreč – in fact, there was a terrific storm and when we got to the hotel they were busy mopping up – leaks had sprung everywhere – outside the main entrance a little man in waterproofs was standing knee deep in water, pumping out and inside they were juggling guests whose rooms had water running down the walls – mops and buckets everywhere!

Built along the lines of a giant Butlins holiday camp – I don’t think these hotels will stand the test of time – more ‘Lego’ in construction – definitely the cheap and cheerful end of the market.  This conglomeration was built around several lagoons just outside the town of Poreč, which, once the hordes of weekend visitors had died down, felt much more welcoming. As luck would have it, the storm (which was bad enough to make the national television news) had abated by the next day and we were able to see a  medieval fair which they had postponed – so ‘every cloud has a silver lining’ as they say.

Pula, in the far south of the peninsula, boasts a magnificent amphitheatre, with the usual gruesome history of gladiators and blood and gore. Nowadays, the arena is used as an open air concert venue, attracting the greats of the musical world such as Andrea Bocelli, Norah Jones, Tom Jones and José Carreras.  Personally, I found the Roman artifacts in the museum below the arena every bit as interesting as the arena itself.

We barely had time to see Pula and even in late September, towards the end of the holiday season it was very busy. The Venetian influence is evident in its buildings and I loved the little alley ways down to the water’s edge which seemed to drop straight into the sea. Definitely a place to go back to.

    

To Bee Or Not To Bee

I’m not a scientist or a botanist, or an ornithologist, come to that, but one thing is clear even to me, a casual, lay observer – there are far fewer birds and bees around – a walk around my garden or the fields and hedgerows near home tell me that.

Years ago I had a dilapidated old garage at the bottom of the garden with a sagging flat tarpaulin roof – not so good for the car, but it made an excellent bird bath and I could sit upstairs and watch the antics of all sorts of birds as they splashed around and preened to their hearts’ content.  Now the garage has a new roof,  but it still collects enough water to form a 5 star bird bath – only thing is ……. the bathers are always pigeons or magpies – either they’ve seen off everything else or there IS nothing else!

 

I don’t want to sound alarmist but I saw this post from Greenpeace on Facebook the other day and it really makes you think.

Changes in agriculture have meant that farmers now go in for larger fields and less variety of crops – we no longer see the beautiful patchwork quilt of small fields that typified the English countryside – it’s not economically viable, but tearing up the hedgerows and planting vast swathes of rape or wheat – or, as in this area, potatoes – has had a drastic effect on the little creatures whose habitat we’ve destroyed- dormice, voles, small birds. And it also turns out these changes are detrimental to the health of pollinators.

    

Of course, most decisions come down to money – it makes financial sense to work bigger fields which have been sprayed with pesticide and fertilizer to yield more per acre. We, the customers, should be happy because our food is more plentiful and costs less.

But most people have now realised that this is short sighted.  There is a hidden cost and it could prove very expensive in the long run and – worse still – irreversible. The wild animal population  dies out either through loss of habitat or toxins in pesticides. The bee population is no exception. There is also in the bee world a phenomenon called CCD – or Honeybee Colony Collapse Disorder. This is when the worker bees decide to just take off and leave the hive, never to return. No one single thing has been blamed for this phenomenon. No one is sure why they leave the queen in the nest, with enough food and some nurse bees to look after the other immature bees. It could be one of a number of things, for example,  disease, loss of forage, or habitat, adverse weather and/or intensive apiculture.

So ……..  what to do ?  Well, it turns out there’s a lot we can do, as individuals or organisations.  We aren’t all suddenly going to become bee keepers, but we can all build little oases into our gardens to give pollinators somewhere to thrive – little bee ‘hotels’ in a pile of wood, more areas left to grow wild, grass cut longer so that we don’t disturb nests, more flowering plants. Of course, if you do want to keep bees, either commercially, or just as a hobby so that you can collect some of that delicious honey to spread on your toast or sell at the local farmers’ market, there’s lots of advice from professional bodies like the Bee Farmers’  Association or the British Bee Keepers’ Association.

A bee’s physical appearance is a godsend for campaign organisers –  children love the stripy yellow and black jersey they wear, so designing a  logo for a ‘Save the Bee’ campaign which will engage children is ….well ……. child’s play!

bee2

Lots of initiatives have been launched by any number of agencies – DEFRA, the National Trust, the Forestry Commission, the Soil Association, the RHS, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, the Wildlife Trust, even Waitrose,  have all succeeded in galvanizing volunteers, businesses and the public at large to join forces and save our bees before it’s too late. We humans always seem to leave it till the ‘impending disaster’ stage to actually do something – but do something we must!

I know one thing: If I was a bee I would be tempted by any of these hedgerow jewels:

     

      

Ah, here’s one!

bee

Butterfly, Flutter By

As well as the natural attractions of the landscape of the Wye Valley, at Symonds Yat  there is a butterfly zoo.  A tiny piece of steamy, tropical forest, recreated indoors where conditions are simulated to mimic the natural habitat of tropical butterflies.

Palms and vines compete for space with lilies and milkweed, as these beautiful creatures flit from plant to eye catching plant, looking for food.

In the wild a lot of tropical butterflies eat rotting fruit (just the job!) and here in the zoo the staff had thoughtfully put out platefuls of overripe bananas – yum!

You can see why the striking creature below is  called the Owl Butterfly.

The markings on its hind wings provide it with excellent camouflage.

In fact, it is said to be more moth-like in behaviour as it is crepuscular i.e. active at dawn and dusk, whereas butterflies would normally be seen in the daytime – here it was certainly the most static and easiest to photograph!

The Blue Morpho, native to South and Central America, proved the most elusive, hardly settling at all. It was the biggest butterfly in the collection and in the wild can have a wing span of between 13 to 20 centimetres. It was a stunning sight, and the iridescence of its shimmering blue wings is said to confuse its predators as it has the effect of making it appear and reappear as the light catches them.

morpho1

The Malachite, which ranges from the southern United States down to Peru, Argentina and Bolivia, is much smaller, with a wing span of 8 to 10 centimetres.

The next butterfly is I THINK! a Wood Nymph. I say ‘think’ because, although we were given some pictures to help us identify them, a butterfly can look very different with its wings folded as opposed to outspread! And another confusing thing is that some appear to be known by several names – this being a case in point – is it a Wood Nymph or a Paper Kite? Or something else entirely!

What is interesting is that the Wood Nymph, from South East Asia,  feeds on milkweed, those tiny yellow and red flowers, and they contain toxins. The butterfly fills up on the toxins to put would be predators off eating it for supper – clever, eh?!

For such fragile creatures, some of the butterflies seemed to be carrying damaged wings  – this swallow tail, for example,

damage

or, even more noticeable, this Owl butterfly. 

I don’t know to what extent this would affect them, perhaps they’re tougher than they look!

It was a joy to be so close to these lovely creatures and to see the colour and variety, not only of the butterflies themselves, but also the sweet shop colours of the exuberant, outsize tropical vegetation that they call home.

 

 

Another year, another River Carnival on the Wye.

The stretch of river that runs between Hereford Rowing Club and the Victoria Footbridge was once again the setting for the main attraction of the Hereford River Carnival –  the parade of a dozen or so colourful floats.  For reasons I am not privy to – but probably to do with access points along the bank – the floats first have to be towed upstream along the same stretch of river before they set off downstream again. There was nothing for it! The crews had to brave the water and it looked pretty cold!!  Then it was a case of just pulling against the current – and let’s face it – carnival floats aren’t usually built with good handling in mind! The more unwieldy the craft the more resistance it put up,  but the crews were having none of it! The river was not particularly high, but weather conditions weren’t ideal –  a wind had got up and rain clouds were gathering – again.

Amongst those organisations represented  were the Alzameimers Society (I’ve forgotten how to spell that) , Aspire, Harrison Clark Rickerbys, Hereford Food Bank, Hereford MIND, Newton Farm Community Association, the Sea Cadets, Strong Young Minds, Horizon Training, local health food shop, Fodders, Sheila’s Wheels,  and two local pubs, the Barrels (representing aforementioned Wye Valley Brewery) and the Vaga Tavern.

I positioned myself on the footbridge and watched as our water babies slogged slowly upstream to take their starting positions. It looked like hard work!

castle

The support dinghies and canoes were manned by members of CHAR (the River Wye Charity Raft Race organization) and local sea cadets  (always seems strange to me that a landlocked Midlands county, as far away from the sea as you can get in the UK, should have a unit of the sea cadets, but we do – I suppose water is water!) Anyway, they were out in force, expertly manoeuvering their kayaks and dinghies to escort, aid, and lend support and encouragement where needed.

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castle3

Ever get that sinking feeling?  A few sticky moments here for the castle.

The green and yellow craft below looked tiny in comparison with some, but maybe small is beautiful in these conditions.

fodder

She hugged the bank and made her way quietly up to the start.

Then came  ‘the Fried Egg   (I’m assuming this was Hereford Food Bank)

friedEgg3

All the crews did whatever it took – towing, pushing, pulling, wading through the water tmentalHealthogether.shirleysWheelsThe efforts of the Wye Valley Brewery crew were nothing short of heroic  – I have to say the design of their float didn’t exactly help – It looked heavy with 4 barrels on a square platform – it was always going to be a handful!  barrels8Eventually they towed it under the footbridge on the first part of its journey upstream – our hero had hold of the rope attached to the support boat and manfully hung on!

Only a mile to go!

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Eventually he could hold on no longer and decided to attach the rope under the raft. Success! And applause from the crowd above! Away they went. Further upstream another snag – the brolly started to catch the breeze so they jettisoned that and at last disappeared into the distance.

barrels5When the floats finally started to reappear on their way back, as I looked down the length of the river it struck me that they were bunched a bit like horses in a  race – some hugging the near bank,

parade

some the opposite bank

jam

and some coming straight down the middle.

parade2

Whether they were following instructions, or just being carried along by the current I don’t know. As they moved falteringly along, the escorts were still doing a grand job, weaving through the water, ever watchful, ever ready to move in , and giving much needed reassurance to our wobbly wayfarers.

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harrisonClark

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It was easy to see that coming downstream is a doddle compared to going up!

castle4 And relax!

cygnet2A cygnet in tow! Cute!

downstreamTime to tip our toes in!

downstream2 This is more like it!  Shame the sun’s not out! Could work on my tan!

swan I’m gonna get there first!

Now, you see that? It’s a stone pillar! Paddle round it! bridgeInSight Okay, boss!

intheWaterNot sure what’s happening here but I bet he’s glad of that wetsuit.

And – under we go……….

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All using the same technique – no collisions – and the end is in sight.

pillar3

pillar4

 

For the trip back downstream the ‘Fried Egg’ has acquired a sharply dressed captain!underBridge

This wasn’t a race, but I believe there was a prize for the best float. I don’t know who won.  You be the judge. Here’s a reminder of the gallant participants in the 2016 Hereford River Carnival Parade.bananaMan

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bridgeInSight

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harrisonClark

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I am a Tree Hugger – but if I could be a tree…….

It’s starting to feel like Spring and what better way to celebrate than getting out into the fresh air to hug some trees! Nature has a way of persuading us to leave the comfort of a warm sofa and brave the elements – the first sighting of Spring lambs, for example – aahhh!! ,

and the promise of some stunning country views and the trees – there they are again – they just seem to weather anything winter throws at them.

     onDiag

roots1  stream2

After Spring comes Summer, for some of us a chance to sit under a shady tree and do a spot of fishing,

   

     

while others prefer to  sit outside  and contemplate the trees in the far distance, or silhouetted against a glorious sunset.

 

 

 

 

treeline

Photography makes you more observant – it’s a fact! You start to see everything in a new light (no pun intended!) – new angles, interesting juxtapositions, the way shadows fall, including your own! and how colours  interact.   Old hands tell you to look carefully, but not just in front of you. No! Look up!  Look down!  Look around! And this is never more important than when you are photographing a tree. Some have exposed roots at your feet, then there’s the lacework of leaves swaying overhead. Some are laden with nuts and some have nests tucked away in the upper branches. I always feel I should be able to identify more trees. Can you identify a tree from its bark? or its shape in the distance?

   

Ah, but what if I were a tree? Autumn would be the season I would enjoy most. Bedecked in that stunning autumn foliage  – it must be like getting ready to go to the ball – and to choose from that palette of  bronzes, gingers, rusts, corals, ochres and russets. I don’t understand those evergreens – they just refuse to get dressed up !

  

leaves

Trees are there for us all – human or not – kids climb them, big cats use them as pantries, small cats stalk along their branches to hunt birds (as if!),  people sit under their shady branches,  lovers etch their initials in the bark, they provide us humans with food, timber to build a house, firewood to keep us warm – and for the animal kingdom it’s much the same – cover, habitat, stores to see them through hibernation.  Quite apart from all that, trees are beautiful to look at at:  whether it’s a solitary oak spreading its branches in the middle of a field or a whole forest, dense and mysterious and a bit scary. Dense forests have been the setting for fairy tales and stories with speaking trees, trees with magic powers, trees that walk and scare us to death! Very often you can look at part of a tree and see in it someone or something – and some are just so old and gnarled they seem to have their life story written into the bark for us to read.

What do you see here?

dragon

 

And so to Winter. Trees make an excellent subject to photograph in winter – the images you capture can be really atmospheric – bare branches, stark against the winter sky. Even a fallen tree has a beauty to it – the way it is slowly but inescapably being reclaimed by lichen, forest ferns and fungus and decomposing back into the soil that once nurtured it.

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There is such a variety of trees.  Gardeners say there is a tree to suit any garden, whatever climate it is subject to and whatever size it is – so no excuse! we could all have one!

 

And if I were a tree?  Maybe an oak but I can’t really be a tree so I’ll do the next best thing and plant one.

March Sunshine – time to take stock of the garden

15 º !!  The late March sunshine has drawn me outside for a stroll round the garden. Things are coming to life – well, some of them are! My garden is small – just as well, as I think the novelty would soon wear off if I had acres to cope with. What I have in the front garden is a motley collection of shrubs  such as this mahonia – we’ve come to an uneasy truce – it has agreed not to get out of hand if I agree not to try and dig it up – whatever I do to it makes no difference, anyway – it is indestructible – I quite like it really – it provides some winter colour.

mahonia

and this plant – cant remember it’s name, but it’s supposed to smell of chocolate. It doesn’t, but it has nice yellow flowers so it can stay.

chocplant

Along the side which edges the public footpath I have a giant currant bush which deflects errant footballs , litter and the many dogs which come this way on their daily walks. And last autumn I put a few mixed daff bulbs in which have been flowering away for weeks now. daff

But it’s the back garden where I conduct my annual experiments – it’s a bit of a sun trap and secluded enough for me to sit out and read the newspaper or just  admire my horticultural handiwork in the summer. I don’t have much luck with the herbs I grow in pots as you can see :

mint   rosemary   sage

– especially rosemary, but this year it is thriving – look at this – it’s even flowering!

The chives are making a comeback and so is the fennel

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chivesand I can rely on the permanent residents to provide interest whilst the newcomers get established.

To provide some seclusion and added height my son put a sturdy trellis up along one fence, but because the things I grow along it have to be in pots I’ve had varying degrees of success. I’ve tried clematis which I find quite a contrary species – since doing some research I have discovered the best ones to choose for exposed positions are the little bell shaped ones – I have one so I need more of the same.

The rather exquisite Princess Di clematis with waxy red flowers,  bought at a local garden show,  gave up almost straight away, then came back, then disappeared again (seemed as unpredictable as its namesake)  and then there’s the one with glorious white flowers like dinner plates – the plant re emerges every spring but only produces a couple of flowers now – perhaps I need to nurture it more!

I found a local clematis grower with hundreds of varieties like the evergreen winter- flowering armandii, I had great plans for it – was going to let it weave itself up through the plum tree, which it did to be fair, but I discovered it didn’t like exposed, windy conditions and it, too, eventually perished – a shame as it was very different from the rest! These pictures are from previous summers

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA   2012EvergreenInFlowerOct10

But back to March. What else is stirring?

It’s exciting walking round my little patch, spying something else just coming back to life – the climbing rose, rose72bought the year before last), the photinia , drastically pruned  last autumn a quarter of its original size, but flourishing,

photFlowers

the honeysuckle  – well, impossible to kill that off , patio pots of aubretia, and the ubiquitous nasturtium,

           aubretia      honeysuckle

 purpleClemTrellis      photinia

And then there’s the prospect of filling my little veg patch with carrots, onions, strawberries, tomatoes and peas.

At the very bottom of my plot there are two fruit trees – a plum and a pear – which always provide me with enough fruit to make jam and pickle for the following winter, but the patch of ground they inhabit is a forgotten bit of land and plants which don’t thrive in the main garden tend to get transplanted down there – and you know what? most of them start to flourish – out of defiance, I think!! such as this euphorbia, which got uprooted when a new fence was put in out the back. Now that’s the sort of plant I like!