Monday, October 31, 2011


This is, maybe, a good segue from my earlier post on 'growing on stone', since the first picture is of a large colony of moss growing on the roof of a building in Hay-on-Wye. It was taken on the main street of this little town on the Welsh/ English border (on the Welsh side) which is one of the major centres for the antiquarian book trade in Britain.
We were visiting on a very sleepy Sunday afternoon, and with the attention grabbing food festival going on in the neighbouring town of Abergyvenny it was practically deserted.
After lunch I was happy to find the bookshop specializing in garden books, only to find the owner on the point of shutting up shop. "You're the only one to come in all day" he said. "I was just about to go home".
Not wanting to keep him any longer than necessary, I grabbed what looked like a vaguely interesting book from the 50% off table and left the bookseller with his only sale of the day. Luckily, my quick choice turned out to have been a good one, it was a Swiss published book on alpine plants by Prof. C. Schroter, F.L.S. (retired) and with charming illustrations by L. Schroter. Inside there are dried samples of Silene and Saxifraga and five beautiful postcards with photographs of alpine plants.

Hay-on-Wye (I can't remember there being that many people around that day).

Hay-on-Wye market, deserted and raining!

Alpine Floraby Prof. C. Schroter.

Postcard of Crocus vernus.

Postcard of Senecio dronicum.

Postcard of Sempervivum arachnoideum.

Postcard of Anthyllis vulneraria

Postcard of Anemone sulfurea.

Interior of book showing illustrations by L. Schroter.

Living on Stone Walls

This the last of my travel pictures of plants and stone, these are plants growing on and sometimes in stone walls. There were many examples in great variety, Kenilworth Ivy, English Ivy, Kentranthus, Linaria, Buddleia to name a few. Some took over and enveloped the wall, others were beautifully miniaturized by the lean living conditions.

A fern and campanula kept in check by their lean conditions, and forming this lovely miniature garden.

Boston Ivy has taken on the shape of this crenellated Wall in Aberglasney Gardens.

At the top of this wall a small ivy finds a root hold.

On the bottom of the same wall a Euphorbia finds a home.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Living on Stone

It has been acknowledged for many decades that air quality has a direct effect on the survival of lichen, so much so, that the pollution present in most cities has eliminated them from the urban environment creating a veritable 'lichen desert'.
So as a city dweller, I rarely have the chance to enjoy the fascinating patterns of lichens on trees and stone. However on my recent visit to Wales I had lots of opportunities to make up for this loss and was able to take pictures of these curious living forms ( don't ask me to define them more accurately than that, I'm no lichenologist). I have tried to identify them in these pictures with the aid of Oliver Gilberts' 'Lichens'.

This is the celtic high cross outside Nevern Church in Dyfed. It is one of the best examples of early-celtic crosses in Wales and unlike the Irish ones, its superb carvings are geometrical, with no human figures.

It is over 7' high and covered in bright orange patches of lichen.

Architectural detail of red sandstone covered with Leconora rupicola.

A rich community of lichen.

Caloplaca aurantia on a stone wall near the coast in Pembrockshire.

On a tombstone at Capel-Y-Ffin, the fine texture of a Lecanora species.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Stone Flowers

This September when traveling through the Gospel Pass on the way back from Hay-on-Wye to Abergyvenny , we stopped to visit Capel-Y-Ffin.
In a remote valley it is a curious sight, described by the Revd Francis Kilvert ( in the 1800's) as 'squatting like a stout grey owl among its seven great black yews'.
It was built in 1762 replacing an older 15th Century structure, and it is said that before that it may have been an even earlier religious site. The ancient yews may even pre-date these both these structures and it would be nice to imagine them as surrounding a Druid place of worship.

In the church yard , the majority of the grave-stones were from the 19th century decorated with lovely representations of flowers . The quality of the carving was very skillful and the flowers were recognizable as roses or lilies as well as many other botanical subjects.

One of the ancient yews enclosing the chapel.

On this stone there are roses and (maybe) Forget-me-nots.

A lily and roses.

Roses and a wheat-sheaf and sickle.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Vitis 'Brant'

Last month I was lucky enough to visit Dyffryn Gardens a lovely edwardian garden near Cardiff in South Wales. It is soon to be under the care of the National Trust and has already undergone a considerable amount of restoration supported by a private trust fund. Dyffryn has impressive vistas as well as a series of interconnected, enclosed gardens designed by landscape architect Thomas Mawson in 1906. These were commissioned by John Cory a relative of Cedric Morris.

V.'Brant' is a popular ornamental vine in Europe valued for it's spectacular Fall colour, but frequently mislabeled as V. 'Brandt'. In fact this was the case two years ago when I visited Dyfferyn Gardens. So at that time I left a lengthy note leaving the details of Brant's history and I was delighted to see at this visit that the labels had been corrected. Yeah! a victory for Canadian horticultural history !

V. 'Brant' was hybridized by Charles Arnold in Paris Ontario in 1860. Paris Ont. is in Brant county the home of Joseph Brant the famous Mohawk military and political leader, after whom, I like to think, this vine was named.

Joseph Brant portrait painted by George Romney in 1776

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Hortus Conclusus

It's been difficult to decide on what to post after five eventful weeks of travel, but I finally decided to start with my most recent experience. On the last leg of my journey I spent four days in London, which as it happens, was during a record-breaking October heat-wave.
On the recommendation of a friend I visited the temporary pavilion, which is commissioned every year by the Serpentine gallery in Hyde Park. This year it was designed by Swiss architect Peter Zumthor and featured a garden by Piet Oudolf. It turned out to be a spectacular experience, the building itself was a black rectangular box with an inner corridor running around its outer walls with openings into the interior. Inside was a courtyard open to the sky and containing this wonderful garden which in contrast to the matt black surface of the building glowed in the hot autumn sunshine.

See this link to the Serpentine Gallery

The unassuming exterior of the structure.

A close up of the surface of the structure.

Inner corridor leading to the courtyard and garden.

The spectacle as you enter the courtyard.

Open to the sky.

Details of the planting.

More detail.