Even though this April seems to be going on the record for Spain’s coldest since 1974 , here in the south of Spain we have had glimpses of Spring. The variability and size of Spain means that there can be variation in the weather but this year the news is showing snow today in Cantabria and people sunbathing on the Mediterranean coast!
At Navasola we are lucky to have had so much rainfall after the drought that lasted throughout the summer and into the winter. Spring has brought much needed rain. One Spanish programme seemed to be suggesting that the reservoirs were now back to capacity. And there’s still some more rain due! These photos are from early April and at a friend’s finca on the warmer south facing side of the valley. Signs of butterflies, bees and blossom are always welcome.
The Easter celebrations went smoothly in the town of Aracena and it is amazing the dedication and work that goes into the Holy Week processions. The story of the Passion is brought onto the streets and is both a religious and cultural occasion.
Wakehurst Place is a large estate with a diverse range of trees from different areas of the globe. It is the country home of the Royal Botanical Gardens in Kew and there is the space for not only many trees but different botanical areas and the Millennium Seed Bank. Our visit in August gave us a glimpse of many of the flowering plants showing off the glory of their seeds in the garden areas. This seemed quite fitting as housed deep under some long glass barn shaped buildings is the Millennium Seed collection. This is part of the conservation work of Kew Gardens and involves collecting as many of the rare and endangered plant seeds and preserving those that can be kept at very cold temperatures. The aim is to protect the biodiversity of plant life as habitats come more under threat. It will also ensure future research into the amazing range of plants and their properties. The seeds I have taken photos of are in the lush gardens by streams and ponds.
Adopt a seed and save a species is a campaign set up by Kew. It seems that four plants a day are at risk of disappearing forever. At present Kew has stored 30,000 species. More info on www.kew.org/adoptaseed
The Seed Bank is already helping with conservation and an online seed list makes 900 collections of over 450 species available to organisations. These can then help in the conservation of other species.
Wakehurst Place also has many sculptures and art and photography exhibitions. We also enjoyed the labyrinth set up in the woods. And a finger one on the stump of one of the many trees lost in the 1987 hurricane that hit the south of England.I am determined to try a labyrinth shape in one of my fields in Spain! I must also try some more painting and sculpture. So much to do! Or just enjoy the close ups of the seeds themselves that provide plenty of sculpture and in many forms.
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….
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.
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.
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.
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……..
I 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.
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…….