A poem for Peony: The Wild Peony Forest; cycle of change from March to May, paeonia broterii,

Dverse poets have suggested a prompt based on ecopoetry. Do check out this inspirational poetry group at  Dverse  . The poetry bar is open and serving up so many different ideas most of the week. Ecopoetry seems to be a different term being introduced by groups such as Green Spirit and Resurgence. Alice Oswald is also mentioned and I find her a fascinating poet who has such an observant style that also brings out deep emotions. I’m not sure I want my own writing to be put into a category and I had never come across this term before but I certainly seem to be focused on my own and others relationship with the natural world at this point in time.

Trevor organised a nature course here some years ago and it was led by the botanist Teresa Farino. This started my inquiry into the plant kingdom. I was also given a mother’s day present of the Alice Oswald anthology, Weeds and Wild Flowers.  I loved the Snowdrop one ,’ A pale and pining girl,head bowed, heart gnawed’ ……. ‘ her wildflower sense of wounded gentleness’

I wrote this poem early on in blogging inspired by the wild peonies here at Navasola and in the Sierra Aracena. It is January 2016 now but on our return from our special birthday trip to the Azores within 10 days there have been changes. The invasive mimosa is out in its bright yellow headdress, the almond blossom is delicately feeling for the early bees, and the peonies are beginning to thrust through the cold ground. Some are near paths so I stick sticks around them so we don’t forget and tread on these wild sisters of the many cultivated ones.

 

A Poem for Peony and all those wild loving sisters

Ms Peony Broterii

Wild genes live dangerously

Not cultivated carefully

Like your gardened sisters.

But your barb is in your poisonous roots,

Anchored, aching deep in chestnut groves,

In the shade of veteran friends, long standing,

Bringing you your strength, uprightness, roots rooted.

Unlike the myriads of visitors ready to be satiated

In your open sensuous bloom.

Bringing a light touch on velvet petal,

A rubbing of stamens, a staining of pollen,

Buzzing bodies beating,

Intoxicated with your nectar.

They stay only for their own satisfaction.

You may have some regrets, a sense of loss

As petals fall and breezes betray your beauty.

But your thrill is in your seed pod,

Ready to ripen, always ready,

To begin again, always hopeful

To survive into another Spring.

Only the danger of the human mind
Can threaten you.

Georgina Wright

 

 

Wild peony forest January/February

Mid May
Mid May, seed pod, ripening and hopefully fully fertilised by an amazing range of insects that have loved being inside this peony!
Part of peony forest in full bloom - April to May
Part of peony forest in full bloom – April to May
Early May
Early May
Pollination
Pollination, fully open to the sun and all insects!
The first Peony bloom in Navasola East, by an old chestnut, attracting insects.
The first Peony bloom in Navasola East, by an old chestnut, attracting insects. April.
Wild peony forest January/February
Wild peony forest –  Early March.
Peony Plot in Kew gardens. Over 30 different types of peonies and now reclassified!
Peony Plot in Kew gardens.
Over 30 different types of peonies and now reclassified!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Link to Dverse   For the ecopoetry prompt  January 2016

With thanks to the poems by
Alice Oswald, Weeds and Wild Flowers ( Faber and Faber ) and to the peonies and photos taken at Navasola among the ancient chestnut trees.

Originally written in 2013 and posted then.

Walks on the wild side: caminos near Navasola in the Sierra Aracena

I have now had the opportunity to take some local walking routes near our Finca Navasola. With two friends, one a neighbour and the other from Sheffield we explored some short routes between Fuenteheridos, Galaroza, Castano de Robledo and Alajar. We were trying to find a reasonable circuit before it got too hot. Suffice to say we did call in the back up and got picked up but let’s say it was because the dog had walked too far! A very sturdy Tibetan Terrier who was not unlike us put off by steep climbs!

We used a walking guide and map put together by an english couple. And it is very useful. It is true to say that signposting isn’t always clear and a compass and sense of direction helps. There are also many private paths to fincas but it was not too hard and each walk took about two hours to our destination. Any route with Castano at the end point must mean a climb up the valley and the peak of Castano is one of the highest point in the Sierra at about 700m.

Again at present it is the small things underfoot which have caught our attention and some of the black pigs growing freely in fields but destined to become expensive Jabugo ham! Below are pictures of Tibetan Terrier, Spanish Festoon butterfly, oil beetles and a nosy black pig!

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May Day : spring flowers, insects, beetles and attempts at botanical drawing

imageHere on the first day of May it must be the first public holiday in Spain I am experiencing this year which does not have the link to holiness. Unless of course it is unholy, unhealthy, or not wholesome to treat work and workers unfairly.

There are too many flowers out for me to draw as it takes a long time and real concentration. However there are at least two that I have found out more about by close observation and looking up in my Collins Wild Flowers of the Mediterranean Guide. Am still practising my drawing skills and it is part of my new work to try and pay really close attention to the natural world !

Tassel Hyacinth; the top part is sterile but the buds below will carry the genes forward!
Tassel Hyacinth; the top part is sterile but the buds below will carry the genes forward!

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Halimium atriplicifolium, a yellow rock rose, whose flowers like the cistus will fall each night and other buds are ready to open the following day. Some of the leaves have 3 clear veins on the non flowering part so can’t be seen on this sprig!

The tension remains between keeping the wildness and cultivation. I have been busy and with some help am creating a place to grow vegetables but the wild boar need to be kept out or they will dig it all up. Hence an anti boar fence but small mammals can pass through. One of the better park directives. Sadly some white cistus also got dug up. One of the photos shows how this plant defeats lack of water. Every day a flower comes and then falls at dusk. The next day a new bud comes out and is ready for the bees and insects which help in pollination and life goes on. But not if we humans pull out all the wild and kill off the insects which are all part of a complex Eco system!

White cistus in flower, bud and stamens showing from previous day's flower all together on one branch.

White cistus in flower, bud and stamens showing from previous day’s flower all together on one branch.

Green Cities: Life under the flight path to London Heathrow. People need green cities and wildlife too.

For all of my life and bringing up my children I have lived under the main HeathroSutton Park, West London, Green suasage shape from planes landing and on North side.w flight path as for all those who live in West London near the River Thames and the Great West Road. On my brief return to West London for the course at Kew Gardens I walked around many of the green spaces and streets I have known well. Spring was out with a blossoming vengeance. I took some photos on and early evening walk around Heston.

The first is from Sutton Park which can be seen as a green sausage from planes flying into Heathrow when quite low, only a few minutes to landing. Here this vast green is surrounded by houses and seems to be loved by the Heston Starling community. I saw quite a few in the trees and Starlings like grassy spaces but could adjust to city life if they scavenge more.

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The street trees were full of Cherry blossom and the particular street shown was where we first lived. One of the first notices to come through the door was a tree preservation order. visited a friend and cut a small twig to draw on my course! The magnolias were also out and though short lived there are still many in gardens. It made me think how beautiful Heston could be in the Spring but also how stunning it must have been when everyone cared for their gardens and there were no drives. Heston was developed from orchards in the 1920s into a  garden suburb for those who could afford to move out of the crowded terrace streets of inner London! Now every bit of open space is under pressure for new housing.

Two places and people close to my heart are of course my daughters and many memories of Barnes Common and walking through with my daughters and dogs. This is a borrowed one!Barnes Common is a historic green space kept as common land for all us commoners but now it is not sheep but dogs, people and varied wildlife that need this open space

 

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And the photo below is  the cherry tree in the Brentford and Isleworth Quaker Meeting House garden, a sacred space from the 1700s.  And my daughters under the tree on Mother’s day.  I am now back at Navasola in Spain and miss some aspects of my London life, but not work! ( Also not sure why I had to copy the images instead of adding them and photos not so sharp) And the last photo, now working again and not having to copy is of  a Seville roof garden, from the amazing wooden sculpture of Mushroom design above  the Plaza Encarnacion. A place for great views of Seville.

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Kew Gardens, Botany, Illustrations and a visit to the Herbarium

 

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The Tropical Palm House, Kew Gardens, March 2014
Willow sculptures at end of day, Mach 2014
Willow sculptures at end of day,Kew Gardens March 2014

It has been an intense two weeks at Kew on the botanical illustration course and although it was daunting to work along side trained artists there were also some beginners similar to myself. The aim was to learn some of the skills needed so that I can try and draw some of the wild flowers at Navasola ; to keep a record and to learn to identify plants more. My memories of Kew do go back a long way as we lived nearby and as a family would visit often when it was about a penny or an old threepenny coin? I also did a weekend job waitressing in the restaurant near the Temperate House and saved my pennies and tips for my trip to India! Its now quite expensive to visit Kew Gardens so it is worth being a member and the work that Kew does is so much more than just having a really amazing collection of plants and trees and the cost of just the upkeep of that. Conservation and saving endangered plants, horticulture, Plant studies, DNA, diseases and more….

A member of the Zamia family I had an attempt at drawing and a robin came and watched me with a critical eye!
A member of the Zamia family I had an attempt at drawing and a robin came and watched me with a critical eye!

Our teacher, Lucy Smith is a professional botanical illustrator and specialises in palms. I visited the palm house at lunch time as it was warm and a break was needed ! The  first photo of the Palm House and daffodils was taken at the end of a hardworking day drawing leaves in Museum No 1 near the famous Palm Glasshouse. The shapes of the palms looked grand and ghostly against the stormy evening sunset. I also found a lot of information about Paeonies in the horticulture gardens and a lot of examples of plants we find in Southern Spain.

Poster in Herbarium about the range of activities supported.
Poster in Herbarium about the range of activities supported.

A lot of work behind the scenes goes on at the Herbarium and we were given a fascinating tour by a long serving Mexican botanist whose specialism was in the vast leguminosae or pea family. The Herbarium is a library of plant specimens and it is vast. Kew also promotes a lot of art work and installations.

Plant studies in the Plant Library; The Herbarium at Kew Gardens.
Plant studies in the Plant Library; The Herbarium at Kew Gardens.

Last year I joined again because of the David Nash wood sculptures and this year there are some fascinating willow sculptures. Kew always has such variety and this year I found all the different varieties of flowering cherry trees. Kew works hard to conserve wild plants and the seed bank has been set up and attempts are made to propagate endangered species like the Madagascan palm that Lucy Smith had illustrated.

One of Kew's famous historic trees, the Stone Pine or Umbrella Pine which there are so many of in  parts of Southern Spain and Portugal. This one grew its different shape as it was kept potted for so long in the 1800s!
One of Kew’s famous historic trees, the Stone Pine( Pinus pinea) or Umbrella Pine of which there are so many  in parts of Southern Spain and Portugal. This one grew its different shape as it was kept potted for so long in the 1800s!
Photo from Cabanas and seen in Kew with its name!
Photo from Cabanas and seen in Kew with its name! Retama  sahaerocarpa,  Family Leguminosae  papilionoideae.

 

 

have just about survived the course and will add some more details of that later and the beauty of suburban London in the Spring. Maybe a Spring poem is needed along the following lines and in memory of Robert Browning’s famous Oh to be in England, now that April’s here……..

Oh to be in London when the daffodils are out

And the streets with cherry blossoms…….

Hide the gardens turned to drives!

 

White on white, deadly and dangerous, white cottoncandy floss on trees, butterflies and moths, caterpillars and dogs,

imageI am trying to post every week but a little delay with finishing this one as I flew to London for my course at Kew Gardens. Much more on that at the end of two weeks here with Spring really in full blossom.

The sun has been out more in the Sierra and there are more flowers beginning to emerge. These daisies were on the old threshing part of Navasola central with a few small white butterflies enjoying the nectar. Other butterflies seen  have been clouded yellows,  large tortoiseshells,  and red admirals. There are a few more flowers but mainly in the warmer and sunnier parts at present. The temperature did shoot up on Thursday but there is at times quite cold breezes.  In Portugal we saw the caterpillar in the picture below. Quite striking and can be dangerous as its long hairs cause itching, irritation and there can be strong allergic reactions. I read a sad story in the Portugal News about a  small dog that had been sniffing around in some pine woods and collapsed with toxic shock. Even with medical support the dog died. N.B. Really important to get the dog to a vet if  there has been contact with the processionary pine moth caterpillar. As yet this creature has not reached British shores but we saw its cotton like bags high in the trees along the road from Aracena to Fuenteheridos. It is quite common in Southern Europe but the beautiful bird, the Hoopoe eats it below the pines. We do usually see Hoopoes on the ground below the pines in the area by the fort at Cabanas.

Pine processionary moth's caterpillar, hatched and ready to eat pine needles.
Pine processionary moth’s caterpillar, hatched and ready to eat pine needles.

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Although there is still yet no fruit tree blossom on our side, the north side of the Sierra, the climate on the south side has certainly helped the trees and many more plants to flower. This is a view from a beautiful finca along the south road to Aracena from Alajar.

And in London I am overwhelmed by the daffodils and the blossoms on the street trees, magnolia and camelias in suburban gardens. And the warm sunshine after all the floods. At the finca I had decided to move some celandine from where there might be some building disruption. I carefully put some around the pond area and up by the house. On returning to London there was plenty of celandine to greet me. A weed or wild, certainly self seeded along the path and around the trees in the back garden! Loads of it! More on Kew Gardens and my course to follow when I’ve recovered from a five hour working day learning to draw plants! Today was spent on the exact and precise drawing of a leaf. Tomorrow we branch out with some branches…….

Daffodils and celandine on the path of the front garden in London.
Daffodils and celandine on the path of the front garden in London.

Nature needs Nurture

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