Seen at The Festival of the Tree

...if you would be happy all your life, plant a garden - Chinese proverb

Monday, 22 September 2014

Postcard from Shropshire

We've just got back from a quiet week away in Shropshire, a place where time seems to have stood still for a while. This wasn't always the case as the county hosted landmark events during the Industrial Revolution. Here's a view of the world's first iron bridge as evidence.

Our whole week was steeped in heritage. It started with visits to the excellent Heritage Open Day activities in Bishop's Castle (where we were staying) and Ellesmere Wharf. We also learned how the Victorians farmed at Acton Scott and contrasted it with the town life of that time at Blist's Hill, part of the Ironbridge museum complex.

Our explorations also extended into the natural world. We visited Long Mynd, a long hill which is one of the oldest places in Britain as it is comprised of Pre-Cambrian rock i.e. rock with a minimum age of 541 million years. You can't get any more ancient than that.

Friday, 19 September 2014

My Miniature Garden

Sometimes gardens happen by accident, just as it did with my old birdbath. The result is a miniature garden which reminds me of those dishes seen in the children's section at local garden shows.

Here you can see my miniature garden in its context. For many years it was a successful birdbath, which I bought for a song at a local auction. Then one winter it got badly cracked and a subsequent repair with some polyfilla worked for a couple of years. Then another severe frost meant the bowl cracked again and snapped into two pieces. It's now held together by some wire just below the rim.

For a while I used it as an extra pot for seasonal bedding; violas or pansies in the main, then one summer I tried some mimulus for a change. They've self-sown themselves every year since, adding the splashes of red and orange you can see in the top picture.

Further neglect and poor drainage meant a moss garden was born. Just the effect I strived for elsewhere in the garden, but failed to achieve when done with a purpose in mind.

As well as the mimulus it's interesting to see what else has self-sown itself into the moss. An aquilegia provides an almost tree-like canopy and there's also a small strawberry plant. I wonder what else will appear in the future?

The cushioned moss also makes a superb medium in which to place my rain gauge. Its open aspect and position just a few short steps from our kitchen doors makes it a perfect spot for my weather observations.

I shall continue to enjoy my smallest and most accidental part of VP Gardens, especially to see how it changes without any interference from me.

What's happened in your garden by accident?

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Wild About My Garden

It's Wild About Gardens Week, so I thought I'd show you some of the latest wildlife photographs from VP Gardens. This year's theme is gardening for pollinators, so I've started with a common carder bee on Agastache 'Blackadder'. This has been in flower since May and is my number one bee plant this year.

I've enjoyed watching the lavender go 'sproing' when the bees land on it over the past few weeks. It's still warm enough to eat lunch and drink coffee on the patio so this has been great entertainment as the pot is right next to the bench where I sit.

Of course the mass descent of small tortoiseshells into my garden happened after the Big Butterfly Count finished last month. The red admiral butterfly always makes a late appearance here and I've yet to capture one with my camera...

I had a bit of a surprise whilst tidying up my tomatoes recently. I heard a kerploosh in the water tray below and thought I'd dropped one in there. About a minute later this handsome chap appeared instead. I wondered about the lack of slugs around my tomatoes, now I know why.

I've not really thought that much about the harvestmen in my garden before, but finding this one posing in my dahlia pot made me go and find out a little more. It's another of those unsung but useful invertebrates which help to keep our gardens tidy.

Warning... some of the more squeamish of you won't like the next photo, so scroll down quickly past it if you need to...

I always feel autumn is well on its way when these orb spiders appear. Later this month there'll be plenty of opportunity to take more photos with the webs sprinkled with early morning dew or raindrops. It's a magical time in the garden.

What's wild in your garden this week?
Other recent wildlife related posts you may be interested in:

Monday, 15 September 2014

GBBD: Salvia 'Hadspen'

Salvia involucrata 'Hadspen' is a new plant at VP Gardens. Karen gave it to me last year after we'd admired it on a trip to Bodnant when I went to stay with her. I rather like this early morning shot as you can see the autumnal orb spiders are starting to capture it for their webby schemes.

I've planted it in the top terrace bed, where it nods to my Salvia 'Amistad' across the way. Both are tall specimens (S. 'Amistad' is as tall as me this year) so they need plenty of space. S. 'Hadspen' has decided to splay out a little and its flowers make me giggle. They're such a girly pink - not like me at all - and they make me think of a row of bright lipsticks lined up along the stem.

Here's a closer shot of some of the flowers along one of the plant's bracts- see what I mean? And what about those ticklesome little 'brushes'? I need to find out more about the unusual staminal lever mechanism adaptation* salvias have for their pollination.

This salvia hails from Mexico and the leaves are very aromatic Thank goodness they're in the more acceptable blackcurrant-like bracket than the unpleasant cat-pee one some salvias have. It's a tender perennial - hence my placing it in the well-drained and protective walled part of my garden. This is another plant which will be given a Dahlia Duvet after autumn's first frost.

I'm delighted with this plant in its first year here. It's a reminder of good friends and happy times as well as being attractive in its own right.

* = Wikipedia's general introduction to Salvias, plus this scientific paper are a good start if you'd like to join me on this quest. There's an impressive lineup of papers to peruse after googling too.

Garden Bloggers' Blooms Day is hosted by Carol at May Dreams Gardens.
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