Up close and personal

Ever since I began training as a Botanist and Plant Ecologist at University I have been fascinated by the intricate detail and sheer variation of different flowers. I found myself outside this week looking closely at flowers with the macro camera setting and thought that it would be nice to share a few close-ups as part of this week’s Six on Saturday.


One: Lilac

The Lilac is looking and smelling wonderful this year and the mass of flowers is a spectacle in itself. However, when you look closely at single flowers you can see that behind the outward facing four petals is a very long tube. Only insects with a very long tongue will be able to reach down to the enticing nectar at the base of this flower.

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Two: Perennial cornflowers

The perennial cornflower (Centaurea montana) is most common in the southerly mountain ranges of Europe. I find the highly dissected flower heads delicate and charming when you look at them closely. This particular variety (name long gone!) was purchased from Avondale Nursery and is absolutely gorgeous with its hint of dark lavender in the centre contrasting with the stark white surround.

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Three: Dicentra spectabilis

Believe it or not this plant sits within the poppy family (Papaveraceae). The flower construction is very different. It is one of those flowers where you can have great fun with the children. If you turn the flower upside down and gently pull the pink side petals it looks just like a lady in a bath!

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Four: Viola

The jolly faces of the small viola are very striking but when you look closely you can appreciate the complex markings that make up this pattern and the direction markings that attract pollinating insects. The hairs around the top of the ‘mouth’ are also visible here and presumably ensure that pollinating insects are well brushed and positioned as they enter the centre of the flower.

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Five: Long leafed waxflower

The long leafed waxflower (Philotheca myoporoides) is a native to south eastern Australia. Its aromatic evergreen foliage is supposed to smell of gin and tonic but I am not entirely convinced about that yet. At this time of year it is covered with these tiny white flowers which are about 1 cm across. The flowers are attractive en masse but each individual flower is beautiful in its own right. The stamens and buds are a very delicate apricot colour. The apricot stamens seem to be held in place by a tiny ring of white structures

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Six: Apple

Last but not least this week is Apple blossom which is so lovely when the orchard is in full bloom. Something to just stand back and admire. Each individual bud has a network of intricate pink veins that create that pink blush that is so characteristic of apple blossom.

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The Six on Saturday meme is hosted by The Propagator. Click on the link to be inspired by what other plant lovers are enjoying this weekend.

Tulip celebration – mixtures and combinations

The tulips are at their most spectacular at the moment and I thought that it would be appropriate to celebrate them as part of Six on Saturday this week.

I have pulled together pictures of six combinations and mixtures that have worked particularly well for us this year. All were purchased from Parkers and planted in the autumn of 2019.


One: Ronaldo and Grand Perfection

Tulip Ronaldo came out slightly before Grand Perfection but the latter has now caught up and grown to a similar height.

P1040065 Ronaldo & Grand Perfection


Two: Pink Blend

This is one of Parker’s off-the-shelf mixtures so I am not entirely sure of the names of each of the varieties included.

P1040068 Pink Blend


Three: Purple Prince and Princess Irene

Princess Irene was much later and shorter than Purple Prince and initially we thought that this combination was not going to work very well. However they have now grown to a similar height and are looking lovely together in terracotta pots backed by a perennial planter of blue-grey foliage and purples.

P1040067 Purple Prince & Princess Irene


Four: Merlot, Marilyn and Maytime

One of our own combinations that we have used over a number of years in the old rose garden.

P1040070 Merlot Marilyn & Maytime


Five: Van Eijk Mixed

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Six: Apricot Pride and Stunning Apricot

These are two varieties that we have not tried before and they have proved to be lovely together sitting amongst the blue forget-me-nots.

P1040074 Apricot Pride & Stunning Apricot


The Six on Saturday meme is hosted by The Propagator. Click on the link to be inspired by what other plant lovers are enjoying this weekend.

Six on Saturday – May Clematis

The late spring Clematis are beginning to flower beautifully.  Some scramble with enormous vigour whilst others are more moderate in their growth.  All are lovely however and exploit the vertical dimension of the garden to great effect.  Striking combinations of these delicate flowers with complementary foliage and flowers makes them really shine.  Here are my six for this week.


One:  Clematis montana ‘Odorata’

This delightful pink clematis has a a strong vanilla scent that fills the air in the garden behind the house.  Located close to one of our garden seats it is a lovely place to drink our morning coffee in the sun.

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Two:  Clematis montana ‘Tetrarose’

This clematis grows close to the house on a trellis in the patio garden. It produces masses of simple pink flowers in late spring.

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Three:    Clematis montana

This plant is extremely vigorous and needs a lot of maintenance to stop it overwhelming other trees.  It grows amongst a white lilac and a red leaved Prunus and it is this combination with the mass of  pink flowers of the Clematis montana that creates a wonderful show at this time of year.

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Four:  Clematis ‘Daniel Daronda’

One of the first blue clematis of the year.  We have two of these plants and they do not seem to grow with any great vigour.  However, they are very reliable returning without fail each year.

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Five:  Clematis ‘Nelly Moser’

‘Nelly Moser’ seems to be very happy growing on a north facing wall with very little direct sun.  Its large flowers, some 6-8 inches across, brighten up the shaded patio area behind the kitchen.  It also has attractive seed heads in the autumn that have a golden sheen.

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Six:  Clematis ‘Guernsey Cream’

This large flowered early clematis grows in part-shade and is really striking against the dark ivy leaves that cover the trellis.  It seems to be very reliable returning without fail each year.

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The Six on Saturday meme is hosted by The Propagator. Click on the link to see what other plant lovers are chatting about.

 

Native Bluebells – a walk in Hampton Wood in Warwickshire

The English countryside certainly has its spectacular moments and a bluebell wood in full bloom in the spring sunshine is just something to behold. This week we took time out after a busy Easter weekend to have a wander around Hampton Wood. Owned and managed by the Warwickshire Wildlife Trust this ancient woodland lies close to the banks of the river Avon (OS Sheet: 151; SP 254 600 Post code: CV35 8AS).

This wood and meadow is quickly becoming one of our favourite places to walk since joining the Trust last year. It is a delight. At around 12.3 hectares the reserve is not enormous but there is plenty to see and hear and try to identify.

Here are some photographs (taken on 23 April 2019) which try to capture some of the impact of these woods at this time of year. At first sight it is the mass of blue that takes you aback. However, as you look more closely the mix of other wild flowers create a series of beautiful cameos of contrasting colours and texture. Here are just some of the flowers and ferns we spotted in a short one hour meander around the reserve.

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The bluebell wood in all its glory
P1020622 Primrose - Primula vulgaris
Primrose – Primula vulgaris
P1020607 Greater Stitchwort - Stellaria holostea
Greater Stitchwort – Stellaria holostea
P1020620 Red Campion - Silene dioica
Red Campion – Silene dioica
P1020647 Green alkanet - Pentaglottis sempervirens
Green alkanet – Pentaglottis sempervirens
P1020636 Crab apple - Malus sylvestris
Crab apple – Malus sylvestris
P1020606 Lesser Celandine - Ficaria verna
Lesser Celandine – Ficaria verna
P1020605 Wood anemone or Windflower - Anemone nemorosa
Wood anemone or Windflower – Anemone nemorosa
P1020623 Ground Ivy - Glechoma hederacea
Ground Ivy – Glechoma hederacea
P1020630 Cuckoo flower - Cardamine pratensis
Cuckoo flower – Cardamine pratensis
P1020638 Fern croziers
Fern croziers
P1020595 Yellow archangel - Lamium galeobdolon
Yellow archangel – Lamium galeobdolon
P1020593 Common Dog Violet - Viola riviniana
Common Dog Violet – Viola riviniana
P1020594 Bluebell - Hyacinthoides non-scripta
Bluebell – Hyacinthoides non-scripta
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A view amongst the trees

We will of course be visiting again over the coming months to see how the flora and fauna change and develop during the year. We would like to be much, much better at identifying birds from their individual songs and calls and to help us improve we have signed up for a spring bird identification workshop next month. No doubt we will come out of the course full of enthusiasm but will it stick. Memorising the sounds birds make seems to be so much more difficult than identifying them from their plumage. Hopefully it will enhance our enjoyment of these beautiful wildlife reserves still further. If nothing else it will gives us hours of fun!