Tuesday, March 31, 2009


Can some kind soul in Blog-land tell SomeBeans and I what this plant is? It was flowering at Ness gardens at the weekend but was unlabelled. It seems to have strawberry-like leaves and has lime green flowers. Thanks in anticipation of your help!

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Epimedium x warleyense

Saturday, March 28, 2009

The Green Man - out on the streets

VP at Veg Plotting has been running a series on public planting called Out on the Streets. Whilst I'm not normally organised enough to carry a camera whilst out and about, I have finally entered the 21st century and had to buy a new mobile phone. Unlike my last one, which I had owned for around nine years and did all the important phone-based activities such as being able to make and receive calls, the new one can also take photos.

So, I find myself in Birmingham for work last week. The place we were working at had a rather impressive planting. Well, not so much a planting as a partly living statue. Made from stone and wood and living trees, behold the Green Man.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Wild? They were livid!

SomeBeans and I went to the zoo last week. It's chock full of exotic animals, from agouti right through to zebra. So, what rare and wondrous wild animals did SomeBeans photograph?

The crow is stealing a whole egg from the meerkat enclosure. The magpies are stealing mealsworms from the meerkat enclosure. The meerkats weren't happy.
We also met this chappy. Known in our house as the kimono dragon (you can imagine it strolling around in a silk dressing gown), this is a komodo dragon. Wonderfully written about here by Douglas Adams.
Whenever we go to the zoo, we also stop by to say hello to the tiny frogs that rule the world. At least, that's what they look like they are doing from their tiny lairs - a bit James Bond baddie style.
And a final 'hello' to the creatures that SomeBeans sponsors - the red eyed tree frogs. Or rather, the sleepy eyed tree frogs, as every time we see them they are just stuck to a leaf, asleep. I suppose we could have been conned and we have actually sponsored some stick-on rubber frogs.

We missed the orchid festival, but to finish on a botanical note, the acacia was in flower.

Monday, March 23, 2009

All your horticultural questions answered...

...for a starting price of only £4.99. However, if you need it quicker, it'll cost you.

Continuing with my current obsession with Pippa Greenwood (see Nominative Determinism post), I see that she has started an answer service for all your horticultural questions.

I would be interested to know what level of interest she gets in this service. After all, it appears to be an internet based service and the internet is itself a fantastic resource of free information. True, the information available freely in the net isn't necessarily from an ex-RHS plant pathologist, but there are a whole host of websites, blogs and forums available where you can just register and post a question, including photos of any garden nasties that you need identifying. Generally, within half an hour, you'll have several (and often several dozen) replies.

I suppose that the service that Pippa is providing is winnowing out the irrelevant and sometimes just plain bonkers answers you sometimes get in reply to your query on a forum, and giving you the definitive answer. I hope it works for her. Mind you, there is one thing I hold against Pippa - I note in the 'about Pippa' section, that she was gardening consultant for that appalling gardening/private detective TV series 'Rosemary and Thyme'. Oh dear.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Nominative Determinism

This phrase was coined by New Scientist magazine several years ago. It describes the tendency of people to gravitate towards jobs and careers that fit their surname. Whilst listening to Gardeners Question Time this afternoon, it struck me that two of the presenters display this tendency - Bob Flowerdew and Pippa Greenwood.

It started me wondering whether more gardeners display nominative determinism, or indeed whether any bloggers have gravitated towards jobs based on their names. Mind you, having racked my brain to think of more gardening examples, I've failed, so perhaps Bob and Pippa are the only examples.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Ceci n'est pas un billet*

Well, it is actually, but also so much more than that. It's an opportunity to gaze, to shop, to gain inspiration, to look at perfect flowers in awe, to covet plants, to wish I had a bigger garden, to learn, to make notes, to take photos and to enjoy a day out amongst thousands of other plant lovers.
It's the Malvern spring gardening show. And I have my tickets! Now I just have to wait six weeks...

(*'This is not a ticket', with apologies to René Magritte)

Monday, March 16, 2009

Watch the birdies!

My father is a keen amateur wildlife photographer, with an awful lot more patience than I have. Which is why I take photos of flowers, which have a tendency to stay still and not move out of shot, and he takes photos of birds, which have a tendency to stay not at all still and move out of shot and out of focus.

I will be helping Dad set up a blog of his own in the next month or so, but in the mean time I thought I'd stick up a few photos which I nabbed off him at the weekend. I particularly love the photo of the long-tailed tit. It's always a delight to see a troop of them moving through the garden, peeping to each other and minutely inspecting each branch of a tree for tiny delicacies. And before I saw this photo, I never realised that they had pink eyelids! What a sweetie!

Thanks for the photos, Dad!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

GBBD - March

The 15th of each month comes around with such speed. And so it is Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, hosted by Carol at May Dreams Gardens. Thanks, Carol!

I think Spring has at last arrived properly now. The sun is out, the days are stretching - soon I'll be able to potter about the garden after work.
The crocuses are nearly over. The anemones are basking in the sunshine.
Daffodils trumpet out that spring has arrived, and tulip buds are starting to show amidst the succulent leaves. I make no apologies for the number of photos of the daffodils - so much of their year is spent hidden underground, only remembered when you accidently spear one digging a planting hole for 'just one more' herbaceous perennial, then a brief fanfare of yellow, followed by a couple of months while you bemoan their untidy leaves. So, bring on the trumpets!

The trees and shrubs are just full of latent energy ready to explode into new leaf, such as my beautiful Acer 'Sango kaku'.

But, hiding their beauty by demurely facing down are the stars of the garden at the moment - our hellebores. The centre of each flower is a glorious confection, like a tiara or an exploding ivory firework.

Friday, March 13, 2009


Picotee refers to a flower whose edge is a different colour from the rest of the flower. It is derived from the French word picoté, meaning 'marked with points'.

It is also the name of a cultivar of Hippeastrum (or amaryllis, as SomeBeans prefers).

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Moss garden

Pottering around in the garden on Sunday afternoon, dodging hail and rain, I discovered that the garden had something in common with Japanese Zen gardens.

Not the air of calm and tranquility which encourages meditation. Hardly - we're close to a hospital, and you soon learn to tune out the ambulance sirens. Nor the careful and thoughtful placement of the elements within the garden. Hence the name of the blog - inelegant rather than contemplative.

No - it's the moss. Over the rather wet winter, it's made a bid for the borders and succeeded in establishing itself. That'll teach me for not aerating the lawn and eliminating the stuff.

Moss is an interesting type of plant. I've always remembered the name of one type since my university days - it's very impressive to be able to say "Oh look - that's Polytrichum" when faced with what most people would consider just some green moss stuff. Or perhaps I just hang around with easily impressed people. That's more likely.

So, perhaps I should just go with the flow and live with the moss. After all, it can be extremely beautiful. And, if you really learn to love moss, you don't just have to restrict it to the garden.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Narcissus cyclamineus

Sunday, March 01, 2009


A trip to Ness Botanic Gardens at this time of the year is a chance to admire the snowdrops. I used to think that a snowdrop was a snowdrop was a snowdrop. This sort of thinking would have me hounded by galanthophiles - those people somewhat obsessed by the genus Galanthus.

I'm a big fan of the bog standard Galanthus nivalis, especially en masse. These snow piercers are simple and elegant. Before spending a couple of hours peering at the different varieties growing at Ness, I'd not really noticed the diversity between cultivars. And, whilst it may well take a real galanthophile to notice and adore the infinitessimal differences, even a mere amateur can admire the more obvious differences.

Galanthus 'Silverwells'
Its rather long 'ears' (sorry -not a technical term) remind me of Droopy
Galanthus 'Ketton'
Introduced by plantsman E.A. Bowles

Galanthus 'Hill Poe'
One of the more 'frilly knickered' cultivers, which are a bit too elaborate for my tastes.

Galanthus elwesii
Elegant and shy.
Galanthus 'Galatea'
A tall snowdrop, which somehow seems wrong, but with gorgeous, delicate flowers.
Noel Kingsbury's post on snowdrops suggests that there are 1000+ cultivars! I'm ashamed to admit that we currently have a grand total of zero snowdrops in the garden. We had a couple, but thay haven't come up this year. This will be remedied as soon as possible, but I think I'll limit myself to plain old Galanthus nivalis - I wouldn't want to invoke the Siadwell Principle, as so excellently explained by the Garden Monkey.
(Photos by Somebeans)

Dydd Gwyl Dewi Dedwydd! *

The first of March - Saint David's Day.

With daffodil Tete a Tete bursting into bloom throughout the garden, I thought I'd be contrary and write about that other emblem of Wales - the leek.

During the summer on the allotment I tend to frown at them a lot - they take up a lot of space for a long period of time. They take forever to get from chive size to anything resembling the pencil size that they are supposed to reach before transplanting. But when little else on the plot is providing us with a harvest, the leeks come into their own. Last year I grew Bleu de Solaise, which looked good throughout the mild winter of 07/08 but rapidly flowered as the spring came. The flowers were spectacular, but made the leeks inedible. This year, I have Bandit. Very good, very tasty and not yet starting to send up flowers. we've got quite a few of them - just as well I love leeks. They've been added to pretty much everyting we've eaten over the past few weeks (apart from the parsnip cake, though they may well have improved it!).

There is a British Leeks website which has a range of recipes and a competition. Wikipedia will tell you about their history and use as a Welsh emblem.

A couple of the simplest ways to cook leeks are either roasted with a small amount of butter (just wrap the leek and the butter in some foil and put in the oven) or cook sliced leeks in butter until softened, wait for them to cool, then add some balsamic vinegar. Lovely.

I could only find one quote relating to leeks, but it seems quite apt:
Le poireau, c'est l'asperge du pauvre. -Thibault (leeks are the asparagus of the poor).

One final reason why I love leeks - who couldn't like a vegetable whose roots look like the moustaches of a walrus?

Oh, OK - here's a picture of that other Welsh emblem too...

Allegedly, it is illegal for a Welshman to enter Chester before sunrise or after sunset. Difficult, seeing as nowadays some parts of Chester are now in Wales.

*Happy Saint David's Day (apparently - apologies if I've not got it quite right).