Category Archives: Gardens

The Temperate House, Kew Gardens. A four generation relationship with botanical biodiversity.

June in the U.K.has been glorious and for most of the time a bit warmer than the Sierra Aracena.It has been a busy time but we managed another trip to the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew. Often the gardens are just referred to as Kew Gardens or nowadays just Kew. However, the botanical part is the most important and Kew is famous for its historical plant  collections from all over the world and for its scientific, herbarium and conservation work.It is also a focus for many courses such as horticulture, botanical studies and art. There are incredible orchid displays in February in the Princess of Wales glasshouse and many other seasonal displays.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And also many famous vintage trees like this Stone Pine.

I grew up near Kew and began visiting with my parents and for a while did a Saturday job there. A job that helped pay for my trip to India, in my younger years, so much to be thankful for! So it was with great delight that I visited with my daughter and we brought my grandaughter Olivia for the first time to see this amazing place.
There are often a lot of activities for youngsters these days and at present there is the Blue Peter Dragon Trail.
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It’s often best to have a focus at Kew, as in previous posts, for frequent visits, membership and courses. Although my younger daughter put the cost of entry into perspective; it’s what people will pay for just one round of drinks! So it’s worth it as Kew has to provide so much more towards its research projects nowadays and to upkeep the famous Victorian glasshouses and the pagoda, which will reopen in July.

All life on Earth has depended and will continue to depend on plants. Kew has developed cutting edge knowledge of plants through past knowledge and current research. There’s more value in that than a round of drinks, surely? But it still seems difficult to get young people to visit or become members.

We headed towards the newly opened and renovated Temperate house. It has taken 5 years to complete and is home to over 10,000 plants, and 1.500 different species, many that are very rare and endangered. David Attenborough, the famous naturalist and broadcaster, opened The Temperate House in May this year. His words reflect on the importance of plants and Kew

Kew does all sorts of thing that nowhere else does….It’s the most important botanical institute in the world and occupies a very special place in the science of botany….. …..We depend for every breath of air we take, every mouthful of food we eat, upon plants. And plants all over the world are in trouble.” David Attenborough

Kew and The Temperate House create safe places to conserve species and have far reaching global projects to help protect plant diversity. Kew students and scientists study medicinal values that different plants have, plant diseases that affect crops we depend on or like such as coffee and cocoa plants.

The Temperate House has had to be replanted with the very rare plants that had to be removed while restoration took place. 200 rare species were grown from seeds collected by the Millenium Seed Bank at Wakehurst Place.( link to previous post) All plantings are now in situ and ready to grow into the dizzy heights of this glasshouse. I remember it being like a tall forest and climbing up the wrought iron staircase to the gallery to be close to the tops of the Temperate plants and trees. It may take a few more years for that but the plants are still stunning and with lots of new information panels and digital links.

 

 

 

 

 

The history of the Temperate House is shown in different ways on information panels and the history of common garden plants like the fuchsia. There has also been a lot of important conservation work on islands such as Madagascar and as shown here St Helena.
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Olivia had a lot of fun and the vast interior of the Temperate House gives a lovely backdrop.

Many of the newly renovated wooden windows were open as the temperature was pretty temperate hot outside. It seems 15,000 panes of glass were replaced, 5,280 litres of paint and 180 km of scaffolding was required. The floor is 4,880 metres squared and 69,000 individual elements were removed to be cleaned, restored or replaced. The Temperate House at Kew is the largest remaining Victorian glasshouse in the world.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We decided not to go into the Tropical glasshouse, The Palm House as it was far too hot outside!  That is best saved for a rainy or wintry visit!  The small Lily house is worth a visit though and only open during the summer. At other times there is a lovely collection of water plants in the Princess of Wales glasshouse.

There are also exhibitions celebrating the 10 th anniversary of the Shirley Sherwood Art Gallery for Botanical Art. I did a short course on botanical illustration ( botanical art) which gave me a lot of insight into observing and appreciating different plants but fear I lack the drawing skills needed! So I then turned to writing my novel on biodiversity and there is a visit to Kew for the bumblebee! I hope my words can create pictures.

 

We weaved our weary way back past the tulip beds from my Spring post. Now all resting. Past the almost familiar chestnut trees, but here tall and unpollarded, and cistus ( cistus albidus) so familiar from our Mediterranean climate, abundant on the finca in May and heads the top of my blog!
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For one new visitor sleepy but not wanting to sleep it was certainly a  weavy  path and full of songs. She loves Brahms Lullaby, it usually does the trick. But we passed a really knobbly mulberry tree so had to add that one in. Here we go round the MULBERRY bush or tree as it is here, on a glorious day in June.

 

With best wishes to all and as ever I hope to get back to more blogging. This, though, is still going to be a busy year as a house move in the U.K. is also imminent. Will do my best to keep following the faithful!

* All facts are from the Kew Magazine, Special Issue to celebrate the restoration of The Temperate House. And as always Kew is dependent on public support for all this ongoing work and conservation projects. http://www.kew.org
www.kew.org

Gardens and Butterflies 

David Attenborough is asking folk in the U.K. to help with a butterfly survey. The numbers of British butterflies seem to be going into a decline. There has been a lot of interest in gardening for wildlife and it was hoped that bees and butterflies could be recovering but there have been a range of factors affecting numbers and particular species.
Here are some of the butterflies I was fortunate enough to photograph at Navasola in May and June. I love the wild plants and flowers here and these seem to support a variety of wildlife but I have been delighted that my efforts in creating some small patches of garden have not only paid off with a range of flowers but also brought these beautiful butterflies close by.
Last year I was given some Sweet Williams by a friend nearby. These were planted last year and survived August heat and bloomed beautifully from the end of April to June. I hope these will self seed but I have collected seeds too. I may also be lucky and get a second show of flowers from the same plants next year. Seeing how these flowers have attracted a range of butterflies and bees means they are a must for any wildlife garden and nature lover.

Please let me know any hardy flowers that have attracted butterflies in your gardens and parks. Of course the eggs and larva also need very specific plants too and these are often wild ones that are seen as weeds. Enjoy!

Who is looking at who? A Cardinal in the Sierra Aracena.
A newly hatched Cardinal spreading its wings out to dry.
A fritillary we struggled to fully identify. Visited at same time as the Cardinal.
Swallowtail heaven!

A Meadow Brown keeping an eye on me!

All taken by me but with a LUMIX camera borrowed from my naturalist friend and artist.

100 Days almost of Blogger’s block!

April is here in Navasola and the warblers have arrived and in full song. There seems to have been so much happening that I have lost the routine of blogging but have often taken photos and thought of posts I could write! So here are some images of my nature journey at Navasola and nearby over the past three months. There have been other journeys and certainly there is a lot to think about in the world today and particularly for the environmental health of the planet we and so many other species depend on. But for now this is about the beauty of nature and perhaps this is a way for me to do some ‘warm up’ writing Continue reading 100 Days almost of Blogger’s block!

Pelican Puzzle poem. Donde Estamos? Where are We?

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Willow and Gingko

Am now in a very different place where there is sea all around and halfway between the USA and Europe. We are on holiday for Trevor’s significant birthday. However, this poem was written a little while ago  and was inspired by a walk in a famous park. I love many of the prompts given by Dverse poets prompts This one was about the surreal in the ordinary. The climate talks were also going on at the same time. It all felt quite surreal particularly as I recognised the Spanish words of a small child. I also wanted to do this walk in response to the blog  A Wildflower’s Melody.A wildflower Melody I love the serendipity of blogging. Also check out some amazing poems and advice, examples and interesting folk writing poetry for the Dverse Poets bar. http://Dversepoets.com I can’t keep up with it all!

 

Donde Estamos?   Where are We?  or  Pelican Puzzle Poem

 

Donde estamos a child says on a bridge

Crossing with his father near the edge

Familiar sounds in unfamiliar places

Familiar faces from high mountain passes

 

Donde Estamos?

Where are we?

 

Diverse ducks on rippling waters

Wild grey geese fly into land

Wild and tame take turns to feed

Clipped wings that long to be freed.

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Donde estamos?

Where are we?

 

 

 

 

Diverse trees some bare, some dressed,

With gilded leaves at some royal behest,

Weeping willow leaves green may last

Next to the far flung Gingko holding fast

 

Donde Estamos ?

Where are We?

 

Black fisher birds perched up on rocks

Herons looking down form weather cocks

Cottage house with surely, organic veggie plots

Fresh fish arrives in plastic pots.

 

Donde Eastamos?

Where are We?

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Great African White in grey December Park

Whose wingspan could rival the albatross

Grey squirrel on a grey man’s long grey arm

The wild we tame with foods ever constant charm.

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Donde Estamos ?

Where are We?

 

 

 

 

 

Wild eyed Pelicans look down the lake

Pink footed geese fly past their palace.

A dull sky with flights of fancy passes by

A skyline of roofs with power to make us cry.

 

Donde Estamos?

Where are We?

 

Overlooked by one all seeing Eye

Chopper birds also above us in the sky.

Surveillance city sees us all, weather indifferent

To human fair or peace for species in our care.

 

Donde estamos?

Where are We?

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A small sized beak cries out in hope

By a puffed up pigeon on a post.

Ancient birds with strange design

Greet us with a knowing look

Open up capacious beak that must be filled.

Talks and more talks, but act we must

Who are we to turn our backs?

 

Who are we?

 

Where are We?

Donde Estamos?

 

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Will be busy celebrating Trevor’s birthday and then travelling back from another rather surreal place.  Let us know if you know anything about where these Pelicans are or hopefully just enjoy the poem. Thanks again to Dverse poets for all their prompts and inspiration.

 

 

 

 

 

 

My Walk for the Climate Talks in Paris. Woodbrooke Quaker Centre. Bournville, Birmingham.

A wooden finger labyrinth in the Silent Room. An alternative to a walk outside in the cold!
A wooden finger labyrinth in the Silent Room. An alternative to a walk outside in the cold!

With the climate talks coming to an end I am posting one of my own recent walks for peace and climate justice to share with as many as possible.

We were fortunate enough to attend a conference at the Quaker Centre, Woodbrooke in November on Speaking up for Peace. For me, our relationship with nature, the soil, the air and the beauty of our blue and green planet is central to creating and sustaining peace. I also decided to focus on finding information from Syrian people involved in trying to stabilise their war torn region. I travelled through Syria and Lebanon in the 1970s and met so many hospitable and welcoming people. The human tragedy is unspeakable but needs to be heard somehow.

View from Holland house, Woodbrooke, Birmingham
View from Holland house, Woodbrooke, Birmingham

I wish we could all be able to have access to peaceful havens such as Woodbrooke and live in peaceful and tolerant communities.

Here are some of the photos of the gardens and lake in the grounds  of Woodbrooke and of my walk up to Bournville village and Cadbury’s World. The Cadbury family were Quakers and invested in  a village for the people who worked making chocolate. In the past being a Quaker meant being outside the mainstream of established society, often persecuted. Some found alternatives such as being botanists or making chocolate. I’m sure not all were perfect but a social conscience often emerged. Times have  changed and I wonder what the new global corporation of Kraft that now owns Cadbury Chocolate will give back to local communities and the environment. The Cadbury family also gave the house and grounds of Woodbrooke to be an educational centre for Quaker practice.

Quaker Meetings are held in silence and all are equal in giving some words or ministry if there is inspiration to share. Equality and ‘that of God in everyone’ has been the cornerstone of Quaker practice. Respect for all people and the environment are the way Quakers use ideas from over the past 350 years as testimonies to acting for Peace, Truth, Simplicity and Sustainability.

Reflection of Woodbrooke in lake
Reflection of Woodbrooke in lake

it is good to know that the major religions are also trying to stand up and speak out at the climate talks. Maybe rather late  but we do need to secure a better future for this planet. It is not just being idealistic to wish for this; it will be a matter of practical action for peace and prosperity  and  hopefully for all species. The talks in Paris seem to be constantly overshadowed by the politics of war, prejudice and now flooding misery for folk in the North West of the UK. More extreme weather and more extreme views seem to be dominating but my insights from social media and alternative journalism seem to suggest that there are more  people willing to take action to create peace with non violent and justice central to solutions for challenging problems.

Boat house by lake
Boat house by lake

 

View through to Cadbury World, Chocolate factory!
View through to Cadbury World, Chocolate factory!
Tourist information Centre and shop for Carilion visits in Bournville Village
Tourist information Centre and shop for Carilion visits in Bournville Village
Blue skies and tall pine for blue sky thinking!
Blue skies and tall pine for blue sky thinking!

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Holland House from walled garden, Woodbrooke
Holland House from walled garden, Woodbrooke

A Wild Welcome Back! All alive and well at Navasola! Or on the Verges of a dilemma. When to cut back ? What is best to help improve biodiversity?

Where to start? We were back at Navasola and nature had begun its takeover. We were greeted with abundance but not of our own making. As I walked around though I was astounded by the variety of wild flowers. Wild poppies, wild irises joined the wild gladioli and all mainly around the overgrown verges of the main tracks. In the rock garden I looked for my additions and was greeted by dahlia and lilies growing up through a mayhem of other plants. The Melissa had grown strong and high too. And I saw a beautiful small purple flower I had not noticed before. This intrigued me till I walked over to the veggie field and there it was in great abundance. The vegetable garden was overgrown to at least waist height with this variety of vetch. There was a slightly squashed trail and I followed it to the fruit patch and where our friend had planted some tomatoes and peppers for us. The following night we ate the habas beans that had survived so at least had some home produce!

Wild roses over my magical path
Wild roses over my magical path
Very vetching!
Very vetching!
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Wild poppy amid grown coriander

Priorities? Well, on with my botany as this was the time to really get to grips with all the extras that were on show. Over the other side of the Finca and up a more chalky hill there were carpets of pink. I had never seen so much of the silene last year. This and more beautiful toadflax. Unfortunately I didn’t take photos of this and when I returned to this South Eastern side a week later there were just a few remains of the pink spread.The weather had been hot and dry and this is the next stage for the Mediterranean flora. Grow well while you can and withdraw to reseed when it is hot and dry. During that week though I had been busy taming my veg patch with a scythe, and then having to tame hay fever which I hadn’t suffered from last year. There were so many amazing sculptures of different kinds of grasses. But there is only so much I can do and post. More on my attempts to identify the daisy and dandelion types and much more in future blogs. It seems the summer is the time to be out and to post about all the natural wonders. Another dilemma. Reading other blogs it is amazing the diversity around the world and so much to say and view at this time.

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Wild iris
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Phlomis
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Olives blossoming
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Pink centaury amidst a meadow of much more.

Navasola has quite a few wild meadows but a lot of the variety of wild flowers does seem to be appearing on the verges of paths and tracks. It was interesting to read an article in The Guardian about advice as to when to cut the public verges by roads in the UK. It seems that this is the last bastion of wild flower variety and good for pollinators. However a recent post by Jeff Ollerton seemed to suggest leaving the cutting to much later than July and August as there are so many pollinators that need those flowers then. And with changes in climate these creatures may need more time too. I have made a decision at the moment to do as little as possible in cutting down. I didn’t cut down the wild flower meadow on the Era last year, it is full of even more flowers now. However I did decide to reopen paths into the veg garden and try and use the vetch for mulching and compost. There are also areas where the grass might need to be kept back because of my allergy to it. I also get red skin if in contact with some forms of grass. Annoying as I want to be out and about. It seems to me that closely observing the interconnection between plants, insects and animal life is key to helping enable biodiversity. Any advice is always welcome and when I have more wifi I will try and explore some of those blogs which have such a wealth of information.

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Daisy family….possibly a mayweed.
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My favourite scarlet but blue pimpernels
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Bladder campion, named on walk with N.
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Small but adds to a very aromatic environment. Pitch.
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Wild and overgrown verges.
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Oat type grass: one of many rising high above.
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Overgrown rock garden but with lily ready to come out.
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Overgrown front garden but lavender, mint and winter jasmine all growing well too!
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Wild gladioli, hop trefoil and a campanula all brightening up the building site!
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Veg patch overgrown but strawberries and raspberries growing strong.
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More common vetch!
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Wild poppy, with flowering coriander and planted flowers behind.

Honeymoon Highs and Lows. A Garden trail at Woburn, Bedfordhire, UK. Ipad photos, Sequoias and smiles!

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View towards house from Japanese Gardens.

When finding myself magically whisked away up the M1 motorway to Bedford we were then happy to stroll along the river and old market town and just relax after some weeks of busyness in London. I was also pleased to find Woburn Abbey nearby which I hadn’t visited since a childhood camping trip with my parents on the trusty steed, my father’s Harley D and side car. My love of the countryside was born from many of these family outings. The highlights were finding ourselves on the garden trail of Woburn Abbey Gardens, the low, the light was overcast and a cold wind and no camera. But I decided to try the iPad. So the following are my attempts on a more tricky and slippery camera in low light conditions. Inspiration to post was thinking about the blog of GardenWalk and GardenTalk and being on the trail of many of her fascinating blogs based in the USA. http://gardenwalkgardentalk.com  There are so many wonderful gardens in wet and green old England and of course, Scotland and Wales. So here is a share on this one while in the UK. Woburn was one of the first stately homes to open to the public in the 1960s and the estate and gardens had been designed by one of the first and foremost landscape designers Humphrey Repton in the 1800s.  Another high was to see some ‘young’ giant redwoods, very tall and planted in the late 1800s when it became a fashion and they were named after Wellington.  Low down I found some of the wild dead nettles ( slightly different from my wild ones in Spain in earlier post) and a tiny cone from the mighty tall tree. This has set me off on some research on Redwoods. In 1999 I visited the Coastal Redwoods near San Francisco when I didn’t know much about John Muir or the different types of redwood. We enjoyed the cathedral of redwoods but I remembering wondering why they weren’t as gigantic girth wise as seen on old pictures! I now realise why.  On exploring these trees in the UK a few years ago we found an avenue planted not far from Windsor in memory of Wellington. His name was to be used in the latin and the trees in the UK are sometimes referred to as Wellingtonia but Sequoia  has prevailed. There is a fascinating website on Redwoods in the UK. This can help you find some of these great trees but at present none will achieve the width of the mighty ones in the USA. They can live for 1000s of years! The Kew Gardens website also helped me understand the differences between these species, leaves and cones. It is always useful for identification or confusion over names and of course Kew also has one of these giants. The walk through the gardens was fascinating and showed the love of plants and trees collected and planted out in different ways. Influences from China, USA, Japan, blossoms and Tulip trees. The ancient weeping beech grove, hornbeam maze and sculptures. We just managed to see the Camellias still blooming in the conservatory. A special day.

Sequoiadendron giganteum
Wild dead nettle and Wellingtonia cone.
Magnolia time
M Magnolia time
Where's the bee? There is one!
Where’s the bee?
Heather and blossoms
Heather and blossoms and IPad cover getting in the way and cold hands!
Humphry Repton
Humphry Repton
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Grove of weeping beech trees and wild cowslip
Camellia in Camellia conservatory
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Selfie in Woburn Abbey Gardens.
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Some Victoriana and shelter from the rain and chilly wind.