Showing posts with label nature. Show all posts
Showing posts with label nature. Show all posts

28 Jun 2017

Almost Wordless Wednesday: Plot poppies

Yesterday I dashed up to the allotment. With the threat of rain from heavy grey clouds, I thought to tidy up the plants on my balcony but couldn't find my trowel. I've had a lot on my mind recently and have noticed a tendency to forget things or flit from one thing to another. To be honest, I do that even when I haven't got a lot on my mind. It's not good.

My trowel is a particularly beautiful copper one that I've had for years & love; I would be distraught to lose it so I racked my brains as to where I might have used it last.  I have a very good visual memory and could picture it in my hand as I weeded at the plot last weekend. I had to know if my vision was correct so a quick visit to the plot ensued as the first tiny drops of rain started.

It's such a magical place though (I must do a video one day) that, once there, time stood still & the rain stopped, briefly. I found my trowel, still buried in the soil where I'd been removing weeds from around the broad beans. I dug out a few more weeds, wandered a little, munching raspberries as I went, sat awhile on the bench and then slowly walked back along the paths to the gate.

These self sown poppies were battered by winds last week but more flowers had opened in the sunshine. The metre long strip of tissue paper thin flowers and seed heads lit up the path on an otherwise rather monochrome day, adding to the magic of the place.

I'll be keeping an eye on those seedheads & gathering a few to sprinkle around next year - 
which flowers are brightening your life at the moment?

20 Apr 2016

Nature in the City: Wildlings Wednesday

Nature is all around us and I can get my daily dose from nearby Hampstead Heath but, try as I might to ignore it, there's also a lot of bricks and mortar around.  That's London for you. Some of the architecture around here is brutal - in a modernist way - the local secondary school for example -while elsewhere in the neighbourhood there are parks and turrets, canals, domes and houses with lovely old walls and neatly planted front gardens. The contrast of old and new, concrete and nature is a daily sight potentially more so here than in the countryside.

Even in this all-embracing environment there are sights that just don't fit and one of these is the ability of plants to self seed into the most obscure places. It's awesome. Photographer Paul Debois held a similar fascination for this subject which he captured in his 'Wildlings' exhibition a couple of years ago.

The definition of a wildling is a plant that's escaped from cultivation.  I like that, the idea of a plant planning on how to tunnel out of a tidy garden or leap over the boundary wall - or just the thought of plants having a secret desire to live life on the other side.

Some wildlings are welcome - purple campanula is a regular sight growing out of walls around here, as is Corydalis lutea - and a memory of the lily of the valley and mint that crept into my mother's garden under the next door neighbour's fence has just come to mind. But around here, I'll take what I can get.  These for example, spotted on a sunny spring walk - gives a whole new meaning to the phrase 'a weed is only a plant in the wrong place'!

2 types of fern and herb-Robert | Polystichum setiferum | railway bluebells 

Clockwise from top left:
Calendula on the railway embankment,
Feverfew, Brunnera, Herb Robert (Geranium robertianum) all growing amongst stone pavers.

Random facts:
Apparently fresh leaves of Herb Robert can be used in salads or to make tea and are said to repel mosquitoes if rubbed on the skin.  

23 Oct 2014

Days Like These

I'm so fickle.  When snowdrops and daffodils burst into life, I declare that I love springtime. But I like to move with the times so, as the weather gets warmer and flowers and veg grow strongly, summer is my new favourite.  Autumn will always win my heart over with vibrant displays of colour.  Truth is, I just love everything about being outdoors in nature and its moments of beauty.

Walking round the 'hood in the aftermath of gale force winds and sporadic lashing rain, this is what I've been spotting this week:

Looking up ...

Big London skies above Parliament Hill Fields

And  looking down:

Who's spotting who?
I only saw the squirrel in the long grass when his bushy tail appeared as he moved. He was oblivious to people passing by as he rummaged around almost undetected but popped up to face me when he heard the camera on my phone. It was one of those moments.

Still looking down, I saw autumn in puddles … which made me think of the beauty of fallen leaves.

Every autumn I'm completely obsessed with colours and patterns as leaves turn from green through all the yellows to red. There are some great leaf shapes falling and now is a good time to go leaf collecting with children - either for making leaf mould in sacks for the garden or to collect colours and shapes for creative work.

(They call me) Mellow Yellow

(I've started my collection already … )

Ready for pressing between heavy books...

I'm totally energised by blustery and bright weather and just have to be walking outdoors - and that's when colours really start popping out at me. Even after years of knowing about the beauty berry plant (Callicarpa bodinieri), I'm still awestruck by the vivid purple of its autumn berries (bottom left).

These photos were taken over several days out but even after all this awesome loveliness, it was still thrilling to see the mind-blowing colours of the nasturtiums in the garden and one of the poppies is about to flower for the third time this year! 

I have some time off work next week so I'm hoping to get to RHS Wisley. The autumn colour there should be amazing - I'm looking forward to seeing the spindle (Euonymous europaeus) and liquidambar trees. I'd better take a bag for collecting some fallen leaves, I've a feeling there will be more days like these.

16 Dec 2013

A Christmas Garden: perking up your plot and a competition

Rowan berries and ivy
Pink Sorbus berries where they'd fallen onto ivy - I'll use these plus more in a wreath.

Is it really only 10 days until Christmas? The veg patch garden is still being treated to resolutely mild weather so I'm able to potter around getting ready for next year but I can't ignore the festive lights in trees along local avenues or the buzz of people preparing for christmas.

Those lovely people over at Plant Me Now have provided the kickstart to think about extending seasonal decorations into the garden with their Christmas competition on Facebook. I'm giving the heads up on this one as the prize is £100 to spend in their online shop and let's face it, who wouldn't want to win that!  Their plug plants were well reviewed by Helen over at Patient Gardener this year and I'm always happier with a personal recommendation. Personally, I've fallen in love with a gorgeous dusky rose coloured delphinium that I'm coveting for my flower patch next year, middle bottom of this link.  (Oh, be still my beating heart!) You've only got one week to enter as the deadline is next Sunday, 22nd, (take a photo of your decorated garden, 'like' their FB page, upload your photo); it's worth a shot as, so far, there's only a few entries.

Although bright sparkly lights are good for jollying things up on a commercial level, I prefer something altogether more subtle in my own home - and that also extends to the garden. I love the simplicity of cinnamon sticks and dried orange peel tied onto a swag with a bit of ribbon. For  me, colours should harmonise with nature: think wood, robins, nuts and cones, stones, grey skies, white snow and icicles. Wonderful. Nature offers plenty of inspiration if you look around and that's what I went in search of.

Here's a robin I saw earlier.  I love that this photo has the feel of a Rob Ryan print (in my humble opinion!)

On Saturday I went for a little wander, bag over shoulder, secateurs in hand (just in case!). In the York Rise gardens I found rose hips, cornus stems, juniper branches, rosemary stems and ivy leaves. Walking in the Capel gardens, I'd already foraged fallen crab apples and - to my extreme delight - the fallen pink berries from the Sorbus hupehensis tree (Rowan). The purple berries from Callicarpa would also have been wonderful, as would the fluffy tips from a Miscanthus grass but I'm loathe to take something that nature isn't quite ready to part with.

Crab apple decorations
Fallen crab apples tied with florist's wire and hung on a christmas tree.

Walking through the woods, I spied a sheath of branch tips lying on the ground; they look like silver birch and I presume a child had gathered them up while walking and then been told to leave them behind. As I picked them up and rolled them into a circle to fit my bag, it occurred to me that they're so fine and pliable, they would be perfect as a base for a door or tree wreath. Bizarrely, I couldn't find any pine cones, despite large numbers of pine trees up at Capel but I did find plenty of acorns and their cups which were added to my goody bag (inspired by the acorn babies in the collage below).

So now I'll be crafting in the evenings in the week ahead, making decorations from my nature finds that will find their way into the garden. If you've thought, however briefly, about jollying up your garden for the forthcoming holidays, here's a few things to inspire or be aware of:

• Real christmas trees. I absolutely hate to see all those sad, brown, rootless trees dumped after christmas. If you must have a real tree, please buy one with roots, plant it properly in a deep pot of soil with good drainage, by all means decorate it but put it outside where you can see it. Your tree will thank you for  it and you'll be happy as you won't have to clear up thousands of pine needles. Leave it in the pot, well watered throughout the year, and you won't find yourself with a 40ft tree outside your back door in ten years time but will be ready when christmas comes round again.

• Let your garden have a holiday. Don't go mad sweeping up leaves and tidying the garden. If you've done a bit of pruning or have logs for the woodpile, great. Leave them in a heap for hibernating hedgehogs, if you're lucky enough to have them. Ladybirds and other beneficial insects like bees need somewhere sheltered and safe to over-winter and will still be in your garden in spring if they find a welcome there in winter and nectar when they wake up. Birds too need food and water. I like the look of these apple decorations but would hang them outside for the birds rather than indoors.  And put out home-made fat balls, recipe from Fiona at The Cottage Smallholder.

Image from my Pinterest page.
• Embrace the great outdoors. Wrap up and get outside to breathe fresh air! Look around and see the potential in found objects. Take a leaf out of my book (not literally, I need them for my collages!) and take a bag with you to collect interesting finds. (I have to warn you, this becomes a very addictive hobby!)

Acorn babies!  Decorated rakes! Loving Pinterest at the mo … 

• Take time out from festive fussing. Make decorations and cards from your found objects. Relaxing, therapeutic, calming - and, for kids, you could even work in a bit of anti-consumerism through baking and craft. (You see what an optimist I am?)

Images from my Pinterest 'Christmas Garden' page but … loving those candles tucked into hagstones! 

• Connect. Next Saturday is the Winter Solstice. (Interesting Yule facts and the story of mistletoe through the Solstice link.)  It's a day that I always observe with quiet contemplation as the world starts to turn towards spring and renewed life. The days will start, imperceptably, to get longer; we may not notice but the plants will.  It's a day to connect with nature, neighbours and family - perhaps over tea and cake.

• Dream.  Look over the bare bones of your garden and plan for next year.  I love this time of year for looking through catalogues, reading gardening books and visiting public gardens - the structure of the garden without its summer dressing is revealed and there's a lot to be learned from that.

• Decorate your garden!  Bare branches of trees are perfect for adding ribbons, nut or fruit garlands, stars cut from recycled milk containers or, if you have time, laminate little messages of hopes, wishes  and thanks for the year ahead and the year behind us and hang them up with pretty ribbons.

I hope that this post will inspire people; if I have time, I'll post about the crafts I make … and don't forget the competition!

There are fairies in the garden!
Seen at Capel: Mushrooms and fairies in the garden!

7 Oct 2012

Foraging on an Autumn morning

Grass seedhead macro
~ Dew be-jewelled grass seedhead ~

Given the leaden skies and storms we've had over the last week, I'm treasuring every sunny day as it happens.  We had a beautiful day yesterday but I was indoors at a workshop all day.  Grrrr.  Luckily, the sun is also shining today (my one free day this week) and I was determined to go out to find rosehips as I've spied some beauties as I've been walking around the parish - and there's a delicious sounding recipe for Rosehip Jelly in this month's Grow Your Own mag.  (And I've run out of home-made rosehip cordial.)

So, off to Parliament Hill Fields on Hampstead Heath first thing this morning, having already gathered a half kilo of hips from bushes overhanging the streets of Kentish Town at dawn.  It was still early so I wore wellies as I knew the long grass would still be wet.  What I wasn't expecting was how beautiful everything looked in the sun.  There were a few runners and dog-walkers about, other than that I felt I had the heath to myself;  an extraordinary thing in the middle of London, and very peaceful. I was completely in the moment, camera in hand, focussing on the tiny details and enjoying the warm sun on my back.

With the light bouncing off the camera screen, it was hard to see my photos outdoors;  back inside an hour later, I was very pleased with several of my shots, especially the one above.  I've been a bit of wreck this last week (strep throat, eye infection, cold - all now nearing the end) and that's affected my photos. They've all been a bit uninspired.  Today, though, I feel I've started to get my mojo (whatever that is!) back.

With the dew to inspire me, I photographed glittering grass stalks, thistles that look like sea anemones ...

Dewy thistle heads

... and the sun shining through grass seedheads:

Parliament Hill Fields

Finally, I reached the bank of rose hips and set to work.  This is the first year that I've foraged for rose hips and I'm amazed at how many there are!  Is this normal, I wonder?

Rosehip branch

I gathered a kilo of hips by cutting carefully;  there were so many, both single hips and in bunches, it hardly looked as though I'd taken any!  I took my secateurs to reduce being scratched (mature hips have very effective protection by way of their thorny stems!); they're also handy for reaching branches slightly too high!  Even with using these, my fingers smelled of rosehips on the walk home, a reminder of the goodies to come.

Rose hips 7 Oct

I'm saving the task of removing the stems until later in the day as I want to make the most of this lovely sunshine to get into the veg garden.  I have to dig up the strawberries on ground level to make room for some rhubarb plants that I've grown from seed.  I'll save a few strawberries as I want to give them their own raised bed next year but all the others will be .... ssshhh, say it quietly! .... composted.

I'm a bit off strawberries after this year (who knew that slugs were so fond of them?) but the children enjoy them. I hoping my redcurrant bush will fruit next year (its third year) and I want to get a couple of dwarf apple trees and some blueberries for the veg patch.  Some of the herbs will be relocated in this process - something I'm looking forward to as I love to move things around!

Hopefully I'll have time to post the results of my kitchen efforts with the rosehips fairly soon;  I'll certainly be posting again later today with my Capel plant ID - I only knew one of the plants this week, the cardoon, so will have to work hard for my full marks this week!

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