Thursday, 6 April 2017

Mindfulness? Barton House Kale and Sprouts, Ricin and Iran

If you just like pictures you can skip this word heavy intro.

I hope this does not sound like pretentious twaddle  but here goes.
 I think no matter where you are  if you have your eyes open when you are out and about then there is going to be something that  should be looked  at with more than  just a glance. Obviously there will be times and places that offer more than others  but it has to be a pretty bleak sort of  environment that  does not offer something that is visually exciting  or that brings to mind an 'I wonder why or how'. The visual is very closely connected to the tactile and often subjects that are  visually stimulating are begging to be touched. These visual stimulants do not have to be on the grand scale, in fact they are often on the small  and  mundane level- a bit of twig pressed by a boot into some soft mud -  a plastic bag, caught high, flapping  in the bare branches of a  tree like a trapped bird  desperate to  free itself or  abstract  mud splashes on a  rendered roadside house rivalling Jackson Pollack  a persistent  drip from a broken  gutter staining a wall, a conjunction of  different roof angles all in  one tiny part of  your field of vision . It is all there to be noticed  and then  properly seen by working thorough the detail of what it is that pleases you.It can be the contrast of shapes, the play of light, an incongruous juxtaposition,   a satisfying blend or contrast of colours, a cloud formation or something inexplicable that fills you with a feeling of awe, wonder,  amazement, intimacy  or contentment   - seek these things out. It is not laborious, your mind will think  all these things through in micro fractions of a second.  It is these, very often tiny, visual excitements that can lift  any day above the routine and can make the whole of life more satisfying.  

Many of these highlights  go by each day  and  mostly only you will have enjoyed them. They happen to me all the time  and mostly 
 they are impossible to record  and if they weren't  they  would probably mean little to anyone else because it was the moment as much as the subject  which gave the satisfaction. However sometimes I have the camera  with me  ( no camera on my phone) and manage  to  record some of the  bigger events. They are immensely satisfying to me  because I have had the  pleasure of the experience  as well as being able  to look  back  at the  pictures  but,  at the risk of  slipping into undue  introspection  I am never really sure  why I feel the need to put the pictures and some explanation  on a blog. Is it an attempt at getting a message across? Probably  not  because no matter what message I want to send the number of followers I have  is  not going to get that message out to more than a very few. Is it ego, is it the need to communicate ( a need  which  the smart  phone seems to have us in its non-stop thrall. ), a desperate need to share (another recent phenomenon?) or is it the sheer challenge of trying to get noticed and if I had a million followers would I just give up?
I  enjoy communicating but surely  there are easier ways than  this  typing with two fingers stuff. It could be ego  though the number of visits to this site will tell you that that is not being satisfied . Is it a need to share? Well someone who posts so occasionally can't be that desperate to share and surely Facebook would be  more effective  though I do feel that sharing is a  part of it. 
I enjoy getting things down on paper, it helps to organise  and understand your own thoughts, I do enjoy sharing and communicating and I do enjoy seeing images with some text that shows a bit of insight so maybe this is just my  harmless selfish indulgence   and getting  one or two extra followers  now and then  means perhaps someone  does indeed share my  way of doing things  and they are  my  occasional  bits of icing on the cake.        

Having read the first part of this text back to myself the word mindfulness  came to mind so I looked  up what  mindfulness  meant and it was not a million miles away from what I was trying  to say  but rather than calming the mind I would encourage you to get excited over the visual  detail of the  mundane and  overlooked and that  might in some way actually be a benefit  by  distracting you from the  heavier problems that are bearing down upon you.  

Phew, lighten up Williams!

New posts tweeted on @pwhorticulture



I live in South Warwickshire, its very southern tip, and  a few minutes down the road  we are in Gloucestershire  and  in the Cotswold AONB . It is sheep country and ideal sprout growing country, Brassicas such as  cabbage, kale, broccoli, cauliflowers and  sprouts like limey soil,  at least growers like limey soil because its high alkaline pH  helps keeps the fungal disease club root at bay.
This colourful field caught my eye when I was  driving past  and I happened to have the camera so I pulled in. 
I thought it was  red cabbage at first  but as the  owner happened top be on site  he explained  it was a red kale and that several varieties of kale filled the bottom end of the field . Sprouts grew at the top.  
So with permission I  trod carefully  to take a look.  

If you are thinking the two pictures below show  what a lovely misty  morning it was  and how atmospheric it must have been  early that  day .......... 

..........then you might be disappointed to know that  it was simply that having left the camera in the van all through the  previous frosty night  that when I brought it out into  the relative  warmth of the afternoon the  lens steamed up and I had not noticed. After a   few minutes of   acclimatisation the same  picture  became  far less wistful and quite a bit more dynamic as you can see below

These crinkly kale were the best. With a bit of imagination  you could see yourself looking down on the treetops of a tropical forest,  albeit a very organised one. ( or possibly  the back end of some over primped  creatures at Crufts.) 
Some of them still held a touch of frost which  added to their stiffness to the touch and  gave them  just a hint of sparkle. 

Harvested kale looking like some tropical storm has ripped through the north Cotwolds and laid  waste to the forest trees. 

 Great Colour

Bluey grey brassica leaves were a perfect foil  for their  purple red counterparts. It is a colour scheme that also  works well in the ornamental garden perhaps even with the same plants.   

Narrow leaved kale looking as tough as I have always found it when it comes to cooking it.

 Walking between the spouts I was surprised to see so many on the ground. These had been the first picking which had been discarded when they were seen to have been to be damaged by the diamond back moth. The moth is a pest of all brassicas  and though the  first sprouts were hit the  kales seemed to have  escaped.  Much higher than usual  populations of the moth coming across from Mediterranean countries during the  summer  combined with  pesticide resistance and a fast breeding cycle  meant the moths were able to do considerable damage  in some regions

The small caterpillars can bore into the  sprout as well as strip leaves down to the  veins . 
It looks like I have an E.T./ Kermit/Ninja Turtle hybrid by the back of the neck  here

 I have just been sowing some of these Ricinus seeds and I could not resist a picture. They must be some of the most   beautifully patterned seeds around and they are definitely amongst the most poisonous seeds if not the most poisonous. Be careful. 
The grown plant makes a fantastic  and dramatic foliage plant for large  annual


Barton House, Barton On the Heath.

I was invited to take a walk around Barton House last year just before one of its open days. Quite quirky mix of styles, plants, history and sculptures. Well worth a visit,  next opening 28th May. 

This is not the way to punish your children.

A follysome pavilion

A stem bent wooden bench by Gaze Burvill in front of ................
a thicket of shrub I could not figure out, it might be hazel and ...........
two  South American stone figures or are they Eastern? Anyway they are playing rounders.

Like I say , Worth a trip in May, If you happen to be down that way.


I went to Iran in February. 
Great country, great people, incredible history.
Great  trip with  Uppersia
More pictures next time.

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Bananas, Pots, Fun guy, Kiss me Quick, Grubby plants.

A wet and cold day at the office. I have just emptied the camera and here are today's pictures

Between  the downpours I was up a ladder  doing some late  pruning of a climbing rose and turned back to look over the  Whichford Pottery display yard.Everyone is getting ready for the Big Half Price Sale . 


We have several pots of banana species at the pottery  and all are overwintered in an unheated poly- tunnel. If it gets  very cold the plants are swaddled in  fleece.
They have been getting taller over the years and it was time to cut them back. The growing point of bananas is set deep in the bottom of the plant  and what looks like a trunk is just a build up of long  leaf bases and  though it may seem brutal and a bit scary they can be cut back very hard which  gets rid of the  pseudo trunk  and leaves you with a  shorter  and neater plant. 
These had their tops chopped off  a week ago.   

This growth had popped up within a couple of hours.

By today, a week  after being cut back, they had shot up several inches.  

Big cells,succulence, and interesting patterns in this cross section of the banana stem.

Here's a fun guy to be with. Geddit?
The setting sun in the bottom right corner is the edge  a one penny piece just  to give you some idea how small these  li'l cuties are. They were growing on the compost of some dying plant in the greenhouse.


Does this plant say to you 'Please kiss me'? No? Then it must be just me who is a bit weird. 

No invitation to kiss here. 

Oxalis siliquosa

This photo does very little justice to the exquisite colour and character of the Oxalis siliquosa 'Sunset Velvet'.  Even without its yellow flowers it is a delight  with pretty leaves of lime  and reds and every blend in between.  It needs a bit of heat  through the winter  and  makes a good house plant. Cuttings root very easily and  small plants can be used in container plantings. They will make  plants  20 - 30 cms across during the summer .
The different colours of the foliage means they will complement a wide range of other colours.  

Bush Tucker?

These succulent looking grubs  came from amongst the roots of some Liatris spicata grown in pots. 
I don't know what they are yet but their size was pretty scary. Let me know if you recognise them.

 Grub's up!

Friday, 29 April 2016

M'aidez M'aidez - plant ident. Solanum ? Pelargonium? The Court House. Mystery picture - win a shilling.


Big, fat, red tulip.

Planting and styling by Miki Tanaka, the Japanese powerhouse. 


Water droplets on an Echeveria I had just watered. No photoshop or editing but quite unreal . Long live nature. 

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

It's the 40 th birthday of the  pottery  this year and a big celebration was organised for the 4th March , food, demonstrations and general merriment in a marquee. A great time was had by all particularly the staff who had a shindig in the marquee after the visitors had gone home. Just as it was getting dark and out of the blue or black it started to snow and in a few minutes of big fat snowflakes it was starting to look very Christmassy.  

The Lonesome Pine.

Mystery Picture

Here's your chance to win another shilling.Any guesses what this is a picture of. It is surprising how  intriguing the mundane can be.Here's a clue, its is not an egg custard, crème brulee or  the surface of the sun. Answer way below.

Next opening 24 July

I visited his small, unsung  gem of a garden in what should have been the peak snowdrop time but  with the winter  being what it was they had all finished but  despite the  lack of snowdrops  and grey cold weather there was plenty to  be excited about. The use of  beech  as hedging and yew columns  as markers in the hedge   gives good winter effect and with the  near silhouette of the  pines  it makes  a shapely arrangement.......

............ and throw in a wire fox for an initial look of surprise  which gives way to a smile.

I haven't seen this Ribes for  a long time  but here it was trying to disguise itself as a fuchsia on a sunny wall. Ribes  speciosum  is a very close relative of the gooseberry  but more prickly making it  a devil to tie in and  train along the wall.   

A bit of less is more here.

Gnarled standard wisterias and formal box in the walled garden

A pollarded Salix alba var. vitellina 'Britzensis' with  evergreen purple Pittosporum.

The winter garden looking very good

A handsome house with a rocket to the left waiting to launch. 

Try to get and visit on the 24 July if you can, there  is a lot of  well designed detail. 
Open under the NGS 

Pieces of Aeonium  left on the  greenhouse bench  for a couple of weeks  started throwing out roots. Plenty of will to live.

M'aidez M'aidez
Two unidentified tender plants  below, any ideas what they are.
The first looks  somewhat like a pelargonium  and the other is a Solanum but which one? 

Pelargonium specie?

Solanum specie?


Who'd have though a slug could look so lovely with its cheery smile and its camouflage pattern?

Mystery Picture
The mystery picture was  burnt  toast crumbs scraped off into a washing up bowl in the sink.