Sunday, 18 January 2015

Fabulous Topiary, Not dead but berried, Nerdy Gurdy Man, Outer Magnolia and is THIS the way to Amaryllis plus a bit of Kracow.

Ever since this blog has been called what it is we have never had a picture of  Amaryllis so its time to put that right. I  have never really thought of amaryllis as cut flowers  but I was given a bunch of this  fabulous  dark red variety for Christmas and boy were they good. They came as tight buds  and gradually blew out to these huge, rich, powerful blooms. Had I given this picture a bit of forethought I might have moved the tray of eggs and the plastic shampoo bottle but take a look at the shape of that yellow gourd and hey the  browns and blues of the egg tray do a nice job of complementing  the  jugs and teapot. The teapot is a salt  glazed pot by Toff Milway and it is a great shame it is hidden by the  plastic bottle so take a look at Toff's pots here.


Succulent berries from outer space..... well of course they are not really from outer space but they look like they could be from an alien world.The plant is a common enough Dogwood, Cornus alba 'Spaethii',  grown for its brightly variegated foliage; any berries are a bonus.

....and while we are on berries let's hear it for the Cotoneasters or at least until the birds get to them. The large leaved  evergreen and semi- evergreen species including C. salicifolius, C.bullatus, C x watereri and C. frigida all make large shrubs with very good berries. 

No name on this Sorbus but the leaves are too big for S. vilmorinii and the fruits too small for S. cashmeriana. Name or no name Sorbus are great value for money with  good flowers, bright berries and  very often  rich autumn colour.

These fleshy delights always look so tempting  hanging in straggling strings through  the dankest of  hedges in winter.In summer the flowers are small and unremarkable but the heart shaped (heart shaped  if you have a pointy heart that is.)  foliage is unbelievably shiny like a coat of spray-on lacquer. Black Bryony, Dioscorea communis is a  poisonous, hardy herbaceous climber which crops up as  a wild plant in hedgerows across the UK and Europe. It is never recommended as an ornamental plant but it is very shade  tolerant and I am happy to let it grow through the hedge under my old willow tree.    

I don't really grow this climber  for its berries which are a small bonus in late summer. I grow it for its magnificent foliage which is aptly  describes by its specific epithet, Ampelopsis megalophylla. The leaves are 30 to 60cm long and split into several leaflets. They are deeply veined and shiny. It climbs by means of grasping tendrils  and really need quite a bit of space in fact far more than I allow it along my garden fence and I have to cut  great lengths off it in the autumn. It roots quite readily from hardwood cuttings taken in autumn.  

I took this picture of what looked like elderberry fruits on a low growing  plant near the Olympic Park in London. It is not an elderberry but I don't know what it is. Any ideas?

This is supposed to be a garden slanted  blog  so I have to fight hard against myself  to stop me putting  non gardening stuff in and particularly  holiday snaps. 
However it doesn't always work and sometimes I lose my battle against me. 
We went to Kracow in Poland for a few days recently and there were so many opportunities for   good photos that I couldn't resist sneaking  a few in here. I am  big fan of patterns so these old doors were irresistible. The door with the gold flowers was at  the university where Copernicus studied in the 1500s. Copernicus realised the planets all went around the sun rather than the earth. Some of his  original instruments were  on display -  brill!

Cathedral  door.

...more door

Nerdy Gurdy Man

I find it hard not to notice the practical and the mundane particularly when they  are as good as this. These are cables that run from the surface straight down  a hundred or so metres  to the bottom of the salt mines we visited in nearby Wieliczka.  A hundred metres of heavy duty cable is going to weigh  an awful lot  and obviously you have to have then clipped to the wall  for tidiness and safety so what  if you can  devise a clip that not only holds them neatly against the wall but also takes the weight  of on each clip and grips more tightly the more weight is put on the clip. These clips do just that. The tapered design of the pegs and brackets causes the cables  to be gripped by the wood  and so support  the weight. 

 Many intricate and detailed carvings have been made in the  rock salt  during the mines seven hundred year history.  

A huge amount of heavy duty timber was  brought into the mine over the years to support  some of the larger galleries. The  timber workers were held in high regard because  the safety of the mine workers depended on their skills. In case you were wondering, yes the chandelier is a recent addition. 

Depending on the geology of different parts  of the mine not all galleries  needed support. For scale you can see the railings along the walkway at the top right of the picture. Could have been a  set from the latest Hobbit film.

I am fortunate enough  in my work to visit various private gardens a surprising number of which have some  very exciting features. The garden as a whole may not be particularly special but  many have a particular detail  that stands out and that   the owner can rightly be very proud of.  I recently came across this fantastic piece of topiary in the Cotswolds.  What I particularly like  is that  rather then the  usual rounded 'cloud' style of clipping this has been clipped, at least this year, with  flat facets which  raises it way above the ordinary. 

Suggestions of the Guggenheim  in Bilbao?

Very often  old topiary can be seen to have come from say a couple of old box plants  or, if the plants are in a line, the remnants  of an outgrown old hedge  but these seem perfectly random

Below is another garden I visit and  if the drive was a canal you  could easily be tootling along the cut in another country, France perhaps, or is my imagination getting a bit too stretched? 

Outer Magnolia.

The botanists tell us that Magnolias are fairly primitive plants and were one of the first plants to develop flowers, flowers which it would seem did their  job well enough for them not to need to evolve into anything more  complicated,.  Whatever the case this Magnolia grandiflora produced some large, dramatic flowers which were followed by these  beginnings  of seed pods. Kinda  cute and cuddly ain't they?  

Just as cute and cuddly is this seed pod of a climbing plant which I am guessing is part of the cucumber family and was flowering in yet another garden I visit. Any ideas what it is?


That's it for a while.


  1. Wonderfull places and fotos serie, greeting from Belgium

  2. Hello Paul, Glad your resolution's holding up. An interesting and amusing blog you produce. Maybe the tree is S. koehneana?

    You may not remember me Paul but we fished together with Pete Escritt many moons ago from KE VI days.

    Keep up the blog.

    Graham Teece.

    1. Well,well,well , hello Graham. Yes I do remember you and the the fishing trips. Happy days they were. I don't get up to Penkridge now I have run out of parents up there so I don't get Pete Escritt's news which I used to get from his mom.

      Thanks for the name of the tree. That started a tiny bell ringing way back in my memory that you became a tree surgeon, is that right?

      When I first started this blog the idea was to privide a good read and have the occasional 'guest' expert contributors which I did in the first few posts but it tailed off, so if you are doing tree work and fancy doing a bit with some tree pics, be it great old trees , pests and disease, whatever fires you up we can put it on . Of course if that is not what you are doing then ignore the idea.

      Very good to hear from you and hope you are well.

  3. Yes I did become a tree surgeon. Started out on an horticultural route but I thought that girls may be more interested in a rough, tough tree man. Never quite went to plan :-)

    I became very interested in veteran trees and 'veteranisation' of younger trees ie coronet and fracture pruning to mimic storm damage and the creation of cavities for bird and bat habitat. Exactly the opposite of college days! The problem is finding understanding tree officers and clients who are willing to let trees be 'mutilated'. I've been very lucky to have worked on some of our notable trees.

    I tend to do less tree work nowadays and fill in my time with hedge laying (3rd in National Champs this year) , some chainsaw sculpting and finding vintage bits and pieces.

    Your offer of perhaps contributing something to the blog is interesting. Thank you. I shall have a think on something that may be suitable.

    Keep up the blog and the great photos that accompany it.