Showing posts with label Capel Manor. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Capel Manor. Show all posts

1 Nov 2015

Autumn, you're looking good

Wisteria seedpods replacing the ubiquitous golden and red leaves of autumn. Gorgeous, aren't they?


This post has been a while in the writing.  I got a bit stuck because when I went looking for autumn, it just wasn't there. My mid-October trip up to Capel Manor gardens to meet up with friends provided me with lots of late summer planting inspiration but, apart from lots of acorns underfoot, autumn hadn't yet got started; trees were in full leaf, flowers were blooming and the sun was shining. Then we had the clocks going back which, although being a publicly devised event, seemed to be a signifier for the season to change. The ornamental cherry I can see from my second floor window has obliged by turning gold.


Also last weekend, as I went through my Capel photos and prepared to write a 'late summer' post, I was taken aback by a British gardener on Instagram writing "Winter's coming. Autumn's last days." Already? Surely not! The sun was shining and people were picnicking on Primrose Hill in t-shirts. Not a cosy cardigan in sight.  And besides, I've always thought of autumn as occurring between September and November, with fading summer at one end and the slow transition into the shorter and colder days ahead at the other. Winter months are then December to February (makes sense, no?) and, in March to May (Spring!), the garden starts to wake and we prepare for the year ahead. Anyone agree?

So here we are, a week later, and it seems that the tipping point has been reached.  We are now properly into autumn here; leaves are dropping and the veg patch's summer produce is winding down.  My creative brain is looking out for fallen leaves of all colours for a future arty moment, and thinking about evergreen foliage for festive wreaths, while my gardener's eye spots seeds to collect all around the neighbourhood.  Little brown paper envelopes are filling up with seeds of deep red salvia, maroon and pink hollyhocks, Cerinthe, Calendula, fennel, sweet rocket, sweet peas, Cavolo Nero and Achocha (the South American peppers that I grow). My chilli plant has optimistically been brought indoors.

This morning there was a deep mist hanging over north London after yesterday's sunshine; it didn't last as the sun burnt through to give us another day of clear blue skies. I have quite a bit to do in the garden still so I'm going to make the most of the dry weather while it lasts, particularly as I spent last Saturday digging out concrete posts in a friend's garden in constant drizzle! And for the rest of November I'll be enjoying autumn and prepping the garden for the winter months to come.

What are your thoughts - when does winter start for you? Have you wrapped up the garden or still enjoying a few lingering moments of summer glory?


As I don't want to just dump the photos that I took at Capel to the depths of Flickr, let's celebrate what could be growing in your gardens at the moment.

Magnolia bud, Passionflower, Ornamental ginger (Hedychium densiflorum 'Assam Orange') 

All these are perfect for late season pollinators:
Salvia cacaliifolia, Geranium pratense 'Mrs Kendall Clarke', Aconitum

The Daisy/Asteraceae family: Rudbeckia, Dahlia, Calendula

More daisies … and, hopefully, more bees!

Sunshine colour from  evergreen Libertia peregrinans, muted tones of Hydrangea 'Dark Angel' and I have no idea what this last plant is.  All suggestions welcome! 

Looking good at this moment: Shortly to slump Sedum, Callicarpa aka 'Beauty Berry' in its one annual moment of glory and Leycesteria formosa, boring all year but lovely seed pods in autumn. 





24 Nov 2014

The Barometer Effect

Fading leaves of Cotinus coggygria 'Royal Purple'


I wish I was a bear.  Not the cuddly fluffy kind but the sort that slopes off to the bunker to hibernate through the dark, wet, winter months. Such an appealing thought but the real world beckons so stuff has to be done. The weather isn't even that cold yet but I find that I'm increasingly drawn to snuffling under a cozy blanket on the sofa after dark … perturbingly, that's about 5 pm.

I'm often outdoors and have become a weather watcher, looking at the skies for signs of rain or, better, patches of blue. I find the isobars on the tv weather infinitely interesting as are cloud formations (so informative).  My dad was a helicopter pilot when younger and reading the skies was an essential skill for his work; it's from my dad that I learned the basics of cloud watching. Then there's the old oak barometer in my parents' hallway which has fascinated me for years, tapping on the glass to see if it changes. I found it utterly magical as a child, in the way that it could forecast the weather. See? Even back then.

In the same way that we're supposed to be influenced by the phases of the moon (if you believe such things), my body barometer has been affecting my energy since the weather changed at the beginning of the month. Up and down in tune with the weather. When it's grey and overcast, I'm challenged to structure my day into anything useful. Apart from a little bit of sweeping and tidying in the garden, I have done virtually nothing. (And, yes, I still have bulbs to plant having taken advantage of Crocus' half price allium sale.) Instead, I have been indoors sewing, cleaning, decluttering and redecorating. There's also been a bit of recipe research and I've made jars of delicious no-suet mincemeat for mince pies, blog post to follow. The dark evenings herald a return to the cave (sofa) and I can't seem to get through the evening without a quick snooze!

In fairness, I haven't been totally slothful. I've been redesigning a small front garden for a client, a job that came out of the blue after I was recommended.  I've no idea who by but, gosh, what a lovely confidence boost! It's been a joyful project to do and I'll share when I've finished.

One very dark and wet evening a couple of weeks ago was particularly challenging.  I'd been invited out to the Garden Museum and really dithered about going. Why? Because it was dark, because of the fifteen minute walk in the wet, because of the rush hour tube journey, because of what to wear, because of Waterloo or Vauxhall, both dismal areas at the best of times. What a wimp!  But I gave myself a good talking to and went - luckily. It was a get together to celebrate the publication of The Flower Farmer's Year, a book by Georgie Newbery of Common Farm Flowers about growing cut flowers for profit or pleasure. I enjoyed a fabulous evening, bumping into old friends, making new ones, some delicious canap├ęs and several glasses of wine quaffed in an atmosphere buzzing with floral love, chat and laughter. Utterly worthwhile.  Thank goodness for my swift kick up the backside.  I will, of course, be reviewing the book very soon as it's a keeper and flower growers might want to add it to their respective seasonal wish lists.

On the upside, with even a small improvement in the weather, my energy is boosted and away I go.  On one such day, I drove down to the south coast to visit my parents. I went via the Meon Valley, cutting south through the beautiful Hampshire countryside, and just caught the sun setting over the Isle of Wight as I drove round the bay to my parents' home.



Weekends there used to be about long walks on the beach, gardening and shopping in the outlet stores in Portsmouth; now the time is more usefully spent sitting quietly reminiscing, encouraging eating and drinking, looking after but not looking too far ahead.  My mum (dementia sufferer) sometimes forgets the words she wants to use or what she's saying but she holds firm on her delight in having her children visit. My dad (Alzheimer's) is less forgetful but stooped and tired and nevertheless pleased to see us.  I find it quite moving to see how these two go-getting globe trotters now sit quietly together, rarely moving outside the house but carefully looking after each other in their dotage after decades of devotion. There is a sense of the sun setting indoors as well as out.


Acer leaves in the Capel 'woodland' area.

As I write this on Sunday afternoon, it's pretty much been raining for 48 hours here so it's uplifting to look at photos taken last week when I popped back to Capel Manor to check out a few plants before going on to a couple of nurseries. I was on familiar territory and it was a clear, bright day - perfect for a stroll around the grounds. It felt good just to be able to wander, taking photos, and seeing what was going on. I wanted to have a look at edible hedges in the Which? trial grounds and happened across a very tasty evaluation of late November raspberries … but I think that had better be another blog post as well.

Only a tiny twig of a tree, but Oh My! what a lot of crab apples



16 Mar 2014

An early taste of summer and tree following

No wonder British gardeners are obsessed with the weather! This time last year there was snow on the ground, yet this past week has been dry, sunny and, at times, hot enough for (a British) summer.  I even watered the veg patch yesterday evening - can't have my germinating seeds drying out.  I took a risk and outdoor sowed spinach, lettuce, broad beans and beetroot last weekend, just on the off chance that temperatures weren't going to dip anytime soon, but I have a roll of fleece on standby just in case. If weather forecasts are to be believed, it seems London might have rain and lower temperatures by the end of next week - more 'normal' for this time of year but who knows what that is any more?

This week though, there have been lovely things: a chance find of Skye Gingell's book 'A Year in My Kitchen' in a charity shop (flavourful recipes for seasonally grown food), a gift from same charity shop of some Mottistone lettuce seeds and a wonderful spring walk around the Capel Manor grounds before settling in for a study day in the library.  Mindful walking + books always feels good to me. Clubcard points have been converted into a subscription to Garden Answers mag so there's something to look forward to - the postman's knock is so much more exciting when the delivery includes a gardening magazine.

~ Early morning walk around the Capel Manor grounds ~

Some good ideas caught my eye at  Capel: spring onions sown to line a path (love the shed!); willow canes woven together in the walled garden - I'm guessing for a bean or pea hurdle; canes tied to hazel poles for dahlias to grow through and a random selection of vintage cloches to protect growing veg.  Just lovely.


I sowed a tray of sweet peas a few weeks back, they've germinated at different rates but are now 80% through. Unsurprisingly, the newest seeds have all come through, strong and healthy.  I've been leaving them outside on my balcony during the day and even left them out overnight last night. One more set of leaves and they'll be pinched out and then planted shortly after, weather permitting. I've bought a large bundle of dried and lacquered willow sticks from Ikea - sold for indoor decoration but perfect for wigwams and cheaper than bamboo canes.  In the garden, there's enough Cerinthe available to pick a few stems for a vase, here paired with flat leaf parsley from a huge mound that flourished throughout the mild winter. Home-grown flowers indoors really herald spring for me.


There have been some not so lovely things - my teenager has been off college with a flu-like illness for over a week (now better and every tissue in the house used up) and my computer keyboard was also ailing - the delete and space bar keys stopped working. Bit tricky that, but I've been making do with my iPad. All is well though as the keyboard was still in warranty and the Apple Store just swopped it over … with no waiting! That put a smile on my face.

The one thing that I really meant to get done (and didn't) was to write up a post to link to Lucy's tree following on her blog, Loose and Leafy.  It's taken me ages to decide which tree to focus on; living five minutes from Hampstead Heath (humungous weeping willow) and visiting Capel Manor gardens (Wych elm, Amelanchier, Acer and crab apple) every week has given me quite a choice, and then there's my own fruit trees, plus a gorgeous potted nectarine in the Which? trial gardens  … I've been thinking it over all week, made my decision, took photos and then missed the deadline for this, the first month.  The information won't be wasted as I'll write it up anyway so that I can refer back to it next month, on the 7th.  And now for a teaser: I wonder if anyone can guess which tree I chose to follow?

22 Jan 2014

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday & GBFD


Stunning, isn't it!  I can say that without boasting as these plants aren't mine.  I'm blatantly taking advantage of Garden Bloggers' Foliage Day being hosted by Christina over at her blog to show you my Capel Moment from last week. I'd popped into the manor house walled garden to see if the irises were coming through (they weren't) and walked back past the greenhouses.  These coleus (correct me if I'm wrong), etc, were suddenly lit by a ray of sun, the colours so glowing I had to pop inside for a photo.  It's like autumn all over again and makes me (almost) wish I bothered with houseplants! 

14 Dec 2013

Capel Moments .. A winter's day

Dew-berries Capel
Surreal: so still that the droplets of thawed frost just hung there - not one of these fell!

The icy fingers of Jack Frost have not yet touched the veg patch garden so I was super excited on my drive up to Enfield yesterday to see frosted allotments at the side of the road as I knew this meant it would be proper frosty in the gardens at college, at least at the start of the day.  Crystallised plants have a novel beauty at the beginning of the winter and I wasn't disappointed.

Frosted rose.


Proper frosty. Frozen grasses.

By lunchtime, a light mist and perfect stillness hung over the grounds; so peaceful in the walled garden, it was hard to believe that the traffic of the M25 was zooming around the north perimeter of the college.  A pale winter's sun added to the ambience and made it a perfect day for a lunchtime walk. (That's when the berries were photographed.)  I thought that would be the end of my photo opportunities but by 4 pm, the end of the college day, one last treat lay in store - a low lying mist hovered a few feet off the ground at sunset. I just managed to grab a few shots with my iphone before dark settled. (And wished, not for the first time that day, that I'd thought to bring my proper camera with me!)

Field of mist


Back in the veg patch this morning, it's quite mild but nonetheless I've popped a cloche over a couple of the more tender herbs. I say 'cloche' - actually, it's an upturned clear plastic storage box which did the job perfectly through the last year's winter and ensured the vigorous survival of the French Tarragon, a herb widely known for keeling over in the bitter cold. Herbs that need protecting in my garden are lovage, blackcurrant sage (still with beautiful bright pink flowers!) and french tarragon.  All the others are tough as old boots and come back year on year without my help: fennel, mint, oregano, horseradish. Flat and curly leaved parsley, lemon thyme and sage are still going strong and being regularly used by me and my neighbours which encourages the plants to keep producing and stay healthy.

And the work goes on: I love being outdoors, particularly this week as I have a heavy cold and feel so much better for being outside! I'm gradually getting more raised beds built and filling them with spring plants and strawberries for now - white violas, polyanthus, saffron crocus and dianthus - all edible flowers that will have lettuce sown into the gaps in late spring.  And the next big push will be to decorate the garden a little bit to mark Christmas and the year end.  More next post.

Going home through evening mist.

22 Nov 2013

Capel Moments: Going, Going ....

We've had some really blustery and cold days this week, yesterday being one of them. I did wonder whether it was just too windy to be able to get any good photos at college this week and, frankly, with the skies being overcast, a Capel Moment was not looking promising.  I was happy to be indoors in the morning,  drawing up garden planting plans in the studio, as it was more than a bit chilly outside. When I looked out of the window at lunchtime, though,  the skies had cleared and fresh air beckoned.

I headed round to the walled garden by the manor house with an ulterior motive of collecting fallen 'quince' fruit from a Chaenomeles shrub but it's also useful to see what's still coping with the weather at this time of year.

There are, of course, masses of shrubs covered in plentiful berries but the veg beds have been cleared ready for spring with only a few leaves and some rhubarb under forcers in evidence.  The roses are still blooming (just) and I was very taken with this pink beauty, especially with all the abundant hips on the same bush.  I'm seeing rose petal and rosehip jelly when I look at this! (But will, of course, leave it for the birds.)




I wandered over to the north wall and saw Chinese Lanterns (Physalis alkekengi) with their bright orange skins turning to lace ...

Not long now before these are just bare twigs in the earth.

But, as a gardener, the moment that really caught my eye was the barrow piled with seasonal tools and boxes of bulbs waiting to be planted - the morning's work finished and the afternoon's work still to come.  I didn't see anyone else about so assume the gardener had nipped back into the warm indoors for a spot of lunch. It's a very comforting thought that as one season slips away, the next is being prepared for.  The work goes on. 



17 Nov 2013

A Capel Moment: Autumn gold

I don't want to jinx future Thursdays but I'm tempted to say that we've been very lucky with having dry weather on the day I go up to college!  It makes getting out for a walk round the grounds so much more pleasant - and, of course, the colours are more vivid for taking photos!

Being indoors more at this time of year really highlights the beauty of autumn when I can get out so I had two Capel moments this week.  On the way back to the design studio after lunch, the sun popped out momentarily to highlight the beech walk (actually, the trees may not be beech, I'll find out)  - I had to tell the others I'd catch them up as I whipped out my phone for this photo! (Yes, I do tend to lean to the right!)

Autumn afternoon


The second moment was during the ident walk.  Last year, without fail, the class went out every week for a 'plant ident walk'; this is a quick stroll around the grounds looking at and discussing that week's chosen eight plants.  Doesn't sound much, does it?  But by the end of the year, we knew - and, more importantly, could identify - over a hundred and forty plants.

This year, studying 'plants and planting' for Garden Design, the ident walks have been increased to learn ten new plants each week. I'm finding that many of these are old friends from last year but a few of my classmates studied elsewhere before so aren't so familiar with the Capel grounds. It makes me realise, yet again, how fortunate I am to study with access to 35 acres of planting. 

This week we were told there would be only eight plants to learn;  as our tutor put it "there's not a lot going on out there".  Excuse me?  How about this:

Autumn colour!

The gold leaves are an Acer palmatum 'Sango-kaku' - even without the red berries (and I have no  idea which leafless shrub they're growing on!) and the ceanothus flower, the Acer is stunning. Of course, it will all be over in a few weeks but Acers are very slow growing trees so for a small garden this would be ideal for a splash of autumn colour.

The above photo was modified slightly by Instagram, even so here's the tree in situ:


Like having a little bit of sunshine in your garden!

9 Nov 2013

A Capel Moment: Japanese Niwaki Pruning

Cloud pruning in Japanese Garden

There's so much autumn colour around this week but still, on my way to the library, my eye was drawn to the intense red of the Acer japonicum leaves against the red bridge in the Japanese garden.  Moving into the garden for a closer look (and photo!), I was struck by the intense concentration of the gardener carefully pruning and shaping the Juniper into neat layers with one handed shears.

Cloud pruning, as it's become known in the western world. This is when branches of a young tree are trained and cut to resemble cloud layers as it grows. In Japan, pruning (Niwaki) is to enhance the plant and work with nature, often echoing the shapes of the landscape - all traditional Japanese gardens have clipped shrubs or trees but they're not necessarily pruned in cloud layers. It's a style that lends itself very well to English gardens; in my mother's garden, I've pruned and clipped an extremely unruly Forest Flame (Pieris) bush in this style, as well as a Choisya ternata. It's a lovely thing to do and the results are stunning.

I stopped to watch and soon a conversation was struck up. The gardener had initially trained at Capel but then spent time over the years in Kyoto learning the art of Niwaki. In Japan, I was told, it takes years to learn the art of pruning and is taught by having a master gardener as a mentor. We talked a little about Jake Hobson who has mastered this art form and taken it on into 'Ornamental Topiary' to be used in English gardens.  At Capel, small trees in this particular garden are cloud pruned to enhance the Japanese ambience.  Elsewhere in the grounds, ornamental topiary has been used to shape a Cotoneaster lacteus  and Osmanthus x burkwoodii into a mushroom shape. Really eye catching and, of course, small semi-shade loving plants, eg Arum italicum, Geraniums and ferns, can be grown underneath.

But, cloud pruning aside, here's what really caught my eye: the juxtaposition of the brilliantly red Acer leaves next to the glaucous (blue/green) scale needles of the Juniper.  Even on a gloomy, grey skies kind of day, the colour in this planting combination was stunning!

Acer and Juniper

26 Oct 2013

A Capel Moment

Crab apples
~ Malus x robusta 'Red Sentinel' in the Which? trial gardens ~

Thursday's glorious weather coincided with my day at college and provided the perfect opportunity for an extended walk through the Capel Manor gardens in my lunchbreak.  Access to the gardens is one of the great attractions of studying at the Enfield site; there are 35 acres to explore: gardens, trees, woodland, ponds and the walled manor garden as well as the Which? trial gardens. After studying there for over a year, I'm still finding new plants to look at or revisiting more familiar plants as they change with the seasons.

As a food grower at home, I've noticed a few edible plants tucked into the gardens. Some are replanted after a trial has finished, such as the excellent and delicious Brice raspberries I found two weeks ago when I sat to have lunch behind a bank of Gaura lindheimeri (helloooo pudding!), others are grown as ornamentals. There are some gorgeous plump (false) quinces on a Chaenomeles x superba 'Red and Gold' at the moment and I found medlars and a mulberry tree in another of the gardens a few weeks ago. I checked back and the medlars are still there, untouched.

Medlar

And then we come to the spice and herb selection:  The conicle flowers of a large Rhus typhina tree could be dried and ground to make Sumac - but I'd need a ladder to reach them! The spice is commonly used in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cooking, imparting a tart lemon flavour that also lends itself to salads. The flowers can also be used to make pink lemonade and beekeepers can use them to smoke their hives (or so I'm led to Wiki-believe).  There are herbs dotted throughout the gardens: low hedges of rosemary or lavender, bronze and green fennel in the borders and, in the 'kitchen garden' of the manor ruins (a concept garden to tell the history of the site), horseradish, thyme, mint, marjoram and more fennel. There are even edible berries on shrubs such as Cornus kousa and Cornus mas (Cornelian Cherry) although personally I think those are best left for the birds.

My route from the design studio to the restaurant takes me past many of the ornamental show gardens so I see those regularly; yesterday I fancied a wander further afield around the trial gardens. It's always interesting to see what the Which? gardeners are growing before reading about it in the magazine.

Fallen apples

I've never found the orchard before and I was appalled to see so many apples and pears lying on the ground just rotting.  What a waste! I know there's a lot to be done at this time of year but I couldn't help thinking that surely the time could have been found to gather the apples before they fell? There was a couple left on one tree, one of which became part of my lunch - an extremely crisp and juicy green apple, I can't name the variety as I couldn't find a tag by the tree but it was delicious!

Wandering on, I was stopped in my tracks by the sight of a glorious crab apple tree which I remember as Malus x robusta 'Red Sentinel' from last year's plant knowledge (photo at top).  I also remember fruit dangling off the bare stemmed tree in January, another harvest left to be, as with all the crab apples in the ground.

Even the walled manor house garden is not immune - there I saw Cavolo Nero kale popped in among the cosmos which I thought was an idea worth copying! There's certainly no shortage of inspiration or food on a Thursday college day!

Kale and cosmos






10 Feb 2013

Currently inspired by ...

Galanthus 'Magnet'
Snowdrops at Cambridge Botanical Gardens.

I really wanted to be outside today, playing with a recent purchase of a new cloche, but it's raining so there's no gardening to be done - too muddy, too cold, too wet. This time last week I marvelled at the colours as I wandered around the winter garden in the Cambridge Botanic Gardens (a college field trip); on Friday, it was the yellow crocuses on the lawn in front of Capel Manor house and tiny deep blue Iris reticulata in the walled garden that brightened the view.

Crocus x luteus 'Golden Yellow' So today I'm indoors, cup of tea, slice of cake, sitting in the warmth and thinking about work for my garden design course. We have a big test next Friday to make sure all the plant science stuff has been understood - revision will have to be bedtime reading.  In the meantime, I'm having fun sketching.

I've just handed in a big drawing assignment on garden graphics, now I'm building up my sketchbook. It's another assignment but, as ever, laying down good habits for future design planning.  It started with sketching at the V&A but now extends to include plants, hard landscaping and whatever else inspires us. At last, a valid reason to browse Pinterest and read endless garden mags!  I'm trying to do a little bit every day, although that works better in theory than in practise.

For the big horticulture test, we've been learning the science behind how plants function; words like xylem, phloem, cortex, stomata, transpiration and photosynthesis trip lightly off the tongue when in the classsroom.  Sounds dull?  Not at all.  It's why dark green leaved perennials usually prefer to grow in the shade and why variegated leaves are much brighter grown in the open with good winter light.  Plants such as Chimonanthus (Winter Sweet), Sarcococca (Sweet Box) and Mahonia use their fantastically perfumed flowers to attract early pollinators towards their nectar, a symbiotic relationship that ensures survival for both. (Who would have thought the insect world was keeping busy in this cold and dreary weather?)  Cyclamen seeds are moved around the garden in late winter by ants, the wide dispersal giving the plants a greater chance of survival.

And what an eye opener this week's lesson on plant nutrition was!  This brought me full circle back to the veg:  learning why (and when) plants need extra NPK (nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium) and other minerals was invaluable. Potassium hardens the cell walls in a plant, hence its importance for roses and tomatoes.  Brassicas with yellowing base leaves (chlorosis) need more nitrogen; with rotting stem centres, they're lacking boron (fortunately quite rare but helped by a seaweed feed) - and dead.  When plants get sick (as in they're nutritional needs are not being met), they're more susceptible to pests and disease; with a bit of knowledge, the situation becomes retrievable. I've always suspected that any success in the veg patch was due to more luck than judgement. It seems that the more I know, the more I realise how little I knew before.

I hope all this college work will leave me enough gardening time this summer.  I'm reading Anna Pavord's book 'The Curious Gardener' (highly recommended) and her advice is not to be in too much of a rush to sow seeds of annuals: "Those that are sown in April quickly catch up with those sown in March." Despite this good advice and my own resolution not to yield to impulse seed buying, I bagged packets of cornflowers, poppies, loads of sweet peas and nasturtiums for £2 after popping into my local Poundstretcher for a pop up garden waste bin. The colours on the seed packets were so inspiring! I'm looking forward to growing them - the nasturtiums will be trained up the apple trees - and have kept them in the kitchen for now to remind me that spring can't be too far off. For now, I'll console myself with planting broad beans if it ever stops raining.

Seedy temptation

A few jobs to do now:

Last chance to prune apples and pears, if needed.
Hard prune autumn fruiting raspberry canes and mulch.
Plant broad beans, garlic and onion sets, if not already done.
Start to chit potatoes.

30 Sept 2012

Capel Manor: Naming of names

Ricinis communis
My favourite image from last Friday's course:  The Castor Oil plant (Ricinis communis).
(Not to be confused with Fatsia Japonica, the false Castor Oil plant!)
So, back to Capel last Friday and this week we got going with the good stuff.  Plant identification builds week on week so that, with practise and a well-exercised memory, my fellow students and I should be able to confidently - and correctly - identify at least 150 plants with their Latin names by the end of the year.  Sounds quite a task to me but I imagine that most of us gardening folk know quite a few plant names already without realising it.  Or maybe that's just me being a bit of a plant geek and having a penchant for being able to spout the Latin names of my favourites;  I find it helps to monitor how many of my brain cells have apparently died; I frequently find a complete void in my memory where peoples' (and plant) names and significant events used to reside.

This week another 8 plants have to be instilled in my memory bank before next Friday.  It's said that the best way to learn is to use several senses at once: students get walked (in all weathers) through the maze of gardens to the relevant plant, told all about it (type, aspect, soil, habit, role in the garden, features, etc), have a quick line sketch and/or photo, touch the plant (well, I do) and - whoosh! - onto the next one.  I was so absorbed in sketching the Sedums that I momentarily got left behind and lost the group, thereby missing out on fascinating titbits about Japanese windflowers.

The rest of the morning was spent having our eyes opened as to the meaning of plant names, how and why they're constructed (grouped) and a short potted history of the Binomial naming system.  The tutor is excellent - and, believe me, I've sat through some real duffers.  She's friendly, passionate, interesting and interested; pretty much what's needed to get the message across.

So, if you'll just bear with me while I get my visual reminders in place, these are the plants that I have to remember for next week:

Sedum 'Herbstfreude' aka Ice Plant. (You either love them or hate them. I'm with the first lot.)
Sedum 'Herbstfreude'  Sedum

Abelia x grandiflora (a bit of a misnomer as the flowers are tiny!). Domed shrub.
Abelia  Abelia x grandiflora

Dahlia 'Bishop of Llandaff'
Dahlia

Anemone x hybrida 'Honorine Jobert'
Anemone x hybrida  Anemone x hybrida flower

Macleaya microcarpa 'Kelway's Coral Plume'. Large perennial.
Macleaya microcarpus  Macleaya plume

Ricinis communis (Castor Oil plant; fab leaves, highly poisonous, large)
Ricinis leaf  Ricinis communis

Stipa gigantea ... as the name suggests, a large grass with golden oaty plumes.
Stipa gigantea  Stipa oat plume

Stipa tenuissima ... a short grass with fluffy plumes
Stipa tenuissima  Stipa T plume

I'm a visual learner so looking at the information on paper then matching it with my photos seems to be working ... so far. (I'm putting more information about the plants with the photos on my Flickr page for those that may be interested.)

The afternoon was equally absorbing; we spent much of it drawing upside down! (Not the students, the image. I had a sudden mental image of 15 students hanging, bat-like, from the rafters with pencils in hand!) It's a creative technique to get the right side of the brain to dominate during sketching activities - or, as I would call it, walking before you can run. It's taken from the book "Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain" which has spawned a decade of workshops in New York.  I had a quick look at their website and, especially, the 'before and after' gallery, from line sketch to tonal sketch with most of the self-portraits seemingly of desperados from a John Wayne Western!   Luckily, for homework, we can have a go at doing our line drawings the right way up!

It's another dry day here in London so I'm going to spend a couple of hours in the veg patch - my spaghetti squash has formed another 2 fruits, only 4 inches long at the moment, and growing among the branches of the plum tree. If these grow to maturity that will make FIVE spaghetti squashes!  I've had another Sicilian courgette from my balcony plant but the peppers are struggling - I'm likely to bring those indoors to ripen up. I keep having to remind myself that the green pepper on my balcony is really an Orange Bell pepper!

If I have time, I also need to remember that NOW is the time to be planting bulbs for spring, as well as broad beans, onions and spring onions, and a host of flowers for an early display next spring (marigold, cornflower, nigella, nasturtium).  I've had the first of my seed catalogues (Thompson and Morgan) so I should be thinking about what to grow next year;  how about everyone else?  Keen to put this year behind you and plan for next year?
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