Sunday, March 24, 2013

My First Plant

My home town, Swansea in South Wales, was badly bombed during the Second World War, in fact it was bombed forty-four times and most brutally in February 1941 when three days of continuous bombardment reduced it to a desert of ruins. Swansea was for centuries a boomtown of the Industrial Revolution and an important seaport and so the target of the bombing was the docklands that shipped coal and steel to the rest of Britain and the World.  However in those terrible days and nights it was the city centre and residential areas that took the brunt of the attack, leaving it a burnt out core and leaving 219  dead and 260 seriously injured.
My mother and me standing in a bomb site around 1949.
This was the world that I was born into at the end of the war in 1945.  Life in those post-war years was very austere, I realize that now, but as a child it was all that I knew and was excited as I saw the  rebuilding of the town around me. I had no idea of the losses that the town had taken and was delighted at the newness of the reborn city centre.  The highlight of my week was going to town to spend my pocket money and it was on one of these trips that I first encountered a new, very smart florist, it seemed then to by the most luxurious thing imaginable, filled with colour and fragrance. There were flowers and plants that were on the whole very familiar, but on one occasion I found  something extraordinarily exotic, something I had only seen on television, something that was definitely not local, it was a cactus! I had to have it, of course, and the tiny plant in an equally tiny pot was carried home with pride. My parents were horrified at the cost of this little treasure, but allowed me to place it in the living room window. But with little encouragement from them, I allowed this plant to go the way of so many houseplants, it became "wallpaper", disappearing from my everyday consciousness  and slowly became a desiccated shell.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Cut Flowers

I'm not a great fan of cut flowers, and unless something breaks accidentally in the garden, I rarely bring flowers into the house. The exception being at this desolate end of the Winter when something snaps inside me and I just have to  see flowers in bloom. 
It's for this reason that I  couldn't resist picking up a bunch of  flamboyant Parrot Tulips to go with the snowdrops, Eranthus, Hellebores and Pelargoniums that sit in the kitchen window looking out into the greenhouse. 
It all adds up to a mixed bag of flora, some hitting your eye as soon as you walk into the room and others, small and more subtle have to be viewed close up to get the full effect of their intricate beauty.

Charles Darwin presides over this little arrangement of flowers.

My taste ranges from this blazing Parrot Tulip.... this tiny Pelargonium flower.

Temperatures way below 0C, but this Eranthus opens up indoors.

These Galanthus elwesii have been lurking
 around all Winter, get a jump on Spring indoors.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Crowned in Snow.

One last look at Hamamelis x intermedia 'Jelena', its flowers are starting to drop, but not before being crowned with snow after a light flurry this morning. The temperature is just above zero, so Jelena kept on blooming just as it has for the last 6 weeks or so.
Hamamelis dusted with snow.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Hamamelis x intermedia 'Jelena'.

I have a large twenty-odd year old Witch hazel, which at this time of year is a wonderous sight. It's limbed up to about 6 feet and must be close to 12 feet in height. It has been in flower now for over a month and with a few degrees of sunshine, glows in the winter garden.  I only wish I could take a picture that would capture extraordinary beauty;  Why isn't it more popular in this climate where January and February seem endless?
A close-up look at the flowers of Hamamelis x intermedia 'Jelena'.

This was taken today and shows the scale the witch hazel.

I took this last year when it was illuminated by a late afternoon sun.

Friday, March 1, 2013

The Eccentrics

A few weeks ago my friend Gayla wrote about the fascination she has with odd looking plants. She spoke specifically about the Euphorbia family, but I know that, like me, her interest spreads many other genera that seem to enjoy experimenting with their own shape and form.  There are many reasons for these changes from the norm, but I like to think of these differences as Nature's attept to try something new.
An Opuntia with wavy pads,
 that give it the look of a Frank Gehry building.

Opuntia subulata cristata.

Close-up of Opuntia subulata cristata.

 Agave potatorum 'Shoji- Raijin'.

A fasciated Echeveria agavoides with a  wavy band of congested leaves.

A close-up of the same Echeveria.

Fasciated form of Echerveria runyonii ''Topsy Turvy'

Fasciated form of Pachyphytum.