Black and White Photo Study

The intimate nature of a Gunnera leaf

Here are a few black and white photos I took last weekend. What do you think?

A mallard duck paddling into the distance
A mallard duck paddling into the distance
Close-up of a chunky post
Close-up of a chunky post
Gunnera leaves
Gunnera leaves
Eryngium alpinum flowerhead and bracts
Eryngium alpinum flowerhead and bracts
Backlit head of an Umbellifer
Backlit head of an Umbellifer
Gunnera leaf with rain droplets
Gunnera leaf with rain droplets

Black and white photos can be so soothing. Not all photographs will work as black and white but I think these do. They are particularly good when there is texture involved and that texture has many shades of grey.

Do you take black and white photos?

Annette

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What’s Looking Hot in Gardens in July (UK)?

Digitalis purpurea - the common foxglove

Gorgeous things in full flower at the moment (mid July) in Scotland, UK (or is it….)?

 

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Digitalis ferruginia
Thalictrum flavum - Yellow Meadow Rue
Thalictrum flavum – Yellow Meadow Rue
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Himalayan lily – Cardiocrinum giganteum
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Dactylorhiza sp.
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Lupins of varying shades
Aconitum napellus - Monkshood
Aconitum napellus – Monkshood
Iris sibirica - Siberian Flag Iris
Iris sibirica – Siberian Flag Iris
Lavendula - Lavender
Lavendula – Lavender
Eryngium alpinum - Sea Holly
Eryngium alpinum – Sea Holly
Lychnis coronaria - Rose Campion
Lychnis coronaria – Rose Campion in white and pink
Linaria purpurea (pink version) - absolutely loved by bees
Linaria purpurea (pink version) – absolutely loved by bees

 

Salvia officinalis 'Purpurascens'
Salvia officinalis ‘Purpurascens’ – Purple-leaved sage

There are of course many more things but these will at least inspire you.

Annette x

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

9 Ways to Help Change How You Photograph: Part 1

White-edged leaf hosta in black and white

As I mentioned previously some friends and I recently went on an evening after work taking photos. I thought I would share with you some of my top tips when it comes to taking photographs and how I consider different aspects of a scene. This will be Part 1 of 3, so I hope that you will also join me for the next parts on Monday and Wednesday.

The idea is, if you’re just getting into photography to suggest some things to think about to change how you take photos and for those more seasoned experts, maybe some inspiration. In my opinion none of these images are going to win any competitions but they were all taken within a couple of hours and they demonstrate perfectly how photographers can see things differently.

One: Frame the photo with something

Leaves, a window, a building, a fence – it provides focus.

Seaton Park - The formal garden with view framed by leaves
Seaton Park – The formal garden with view framed by leaves.

Two: Zoom in – try and find things in the distance.

Zooming in changes the perspective and makes things seem closer together than they are.

The formal walkway showing plants - zoomed in view
The formal walkway showing plants – zoomed in view.

Three: Get down low

Look at what’s happening under your feet. A low perspective emphasizes size and scale differences.

Daisies and buttercups low view
Daisies and buttercups low view.

Four: Aim up high

Point your camera upwards or get a higher vantage point. It can give the impression of things towering above you.

Dappled sunlight in the canopy of a beach tree
Dappled sunlight in the canopy of a beach tree – looking upwards.

Five: Be quick to act to changes in light

Lighting is around 90% of a photo in my opinion so be quick to act when the light changes. Have locations in mind that you would like to return to when the light is better. Generally evenings and mornings are best but it depends what you want to photograph – cloudy days are better for flowers.

Cocksfoot grass
This Cocksfoot grass would have been boring had the evening sun not come out and back lit the stems.

Six: Look for unusual colour combinations

Sometimes the light or a different view can change the colours of things completely. Find a colour combo you like and try different angles to highlight them each in different ways.

Bronze-leaved sycamore
This dark-leaved sycamore at first looks bronze but the light shining through leaves made them look glorious yellow.

Seven: Go black and white

Black and white looks best where there is good contrast across the image. Red and green will look the same shade of grey hence why colour blind people can’t tell the difference.

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Black and white version of the bronze-leaved sycamore.

Eight: Use lead-in lines

Lead-in lines do just that – they lead your eyes into the frame of the photograph and leave to wondering what lies beyond them.

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Lead-in lines formed by the edges of the path. Also considers point ‘Three.’

Nine: Try an easy ‘fake’ infra-red filter effect 

If you are lucky enough to have photo-editing software, try converting your photo to black and white and lightening only the green tones in your image. What you get is a really easy way to make a ‘fake’ infra red effect which is where all the plant foliage goes white.

Easy fake infra red effect using photoshop
Easy fake infra red effect using photoshop

Want more ideas? Check back tomorrow!

Annette X

Cocoa Tea – Chocolately, Healthy Warming Goodness!

If you haven’t tried cocoa tea, then now is a good time to start. I tried a wee sneaky bag at a friends house and it was so good I went and bought a tub as a special treat to myself (my OH just got his new job so it was deserved, for him, honest…..!) Anyways. This stuff is from Hotel Chocolat and it’s so good, and completely vegan too unlike a lot of their other oh-so-tasty chocolates. As I have hinted at, it isn’t cheap, working out at £10 for 18 tea bags. Enjoyed in moderation though it is worth it. The smell when you open the tub is almost worth it alone anyway….

It’s a bit like ‘watery hot chocolate tea’ if that’s how I would be asked to describe it. I’m perhaps not completely selling it there but hopefully you get the idea. Sometimes hot chocolate can be really sweet and sometimes you want that chocolate hit without the calories. Well, your prayers have been answered. OK, I’d be lying if a bar of delicious chocolate wasn’t better….but it’s a step in the right direction at least.

All in all I really like it.

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Chocolate Tea
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Hotel Chocolat Cocoa Infusion Tea with Vegan Brownie

Add in my favourite vegan chocolate brownie recipe so far: Kris Holechek’s (modifed) Ultimate Brownies and you’re sorted. The one in the photo is from The Minimalist Baker.

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Vegan brownie from The Minimalist Baker

Featured flower today is Clematis ‘Marjorie.’ She is very beautiful and absolutely covered in these wonderful double blooms with a cream centre and pink edges around June time. Most pictures I have seen don’t do her justice.

Laters,

Annette x

Plant Focus: Meconopsis (Blue Poppies)

On a recent visit to the Scottish Plant Hunter’s Garden (The Explorers Garden) in Pitlochry I was lucky enough to see their famed Meconopsis collection pretty much in full bloom. This post was a few weeks in the making as I had a few more photos to add.

Although also know as Blue Poppies, they actually come in many colours. Generally Meconopsis like cool, fairly moist, sheltered conditions and as such I’ve never had much success in my sandy, slightly windy garden. Some are monocarpic – that is they flower once and die, others will form perennial clumps. I should also note that the trusty Welsh Poppy (M. cambrica) also belongs to this group and is an easier one to grow.

Unfortunately I didn’t see too many labels, which, in a genus plagued by naming difficulties was a little disappointing. This could be because they were hidden or because I missed some. I thought I might be able to name some of them post photograph but there’s nay chance!

So you will pretty much have to mostly enjoy photographs of them which is fine because they are so beautiful!

Meconopsis napaulensis - yellow/cream version
Meconopsis napaulensis – yellow/cream version
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Meconopsis napaulensis – pink version
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Meconopsis ‘George Sheriff Group’ Crewdson Hybrids
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Dark blue against the stone wall
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I think this one was Meconopsis ‘Dalemain’ if my notes serve me correct!
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Meconopsis ‘Inverewe’
Meconopsis x sheldonii
Meconopsis x sheldonii
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Meconopsis baileyi ‘Alba’ (aka M. betonicifolia ‘Alba’)
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Such a beautiful range of shades on this Himalayan poppy. This is probably my favourite photograph.
M. grandis (2)
Meconopsis grandis – check out all those anthers!
Meconopsis Huntsfield 1
Meconopsis Huntsfield 1
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Gentle nodding head of a Himalayan Blue Poppy

It’s also worth looking at other parts on the plant in detail. Some have furry stems, others smooth.

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Furry stemmed. It’s amazing how many colours there are.
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Smooth-stemmed ‘Alba’ form

 

Plus how cute are these seed pods with their little waistline belts and furry jackets?

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Meconopsis seed pods

There were a couple which hadn’t yet flowered which is always interesting to know if you’d like to extend the season.

And some which are over such as Meconopsis quintuplinervia – how many times do you think I had to check that I had spelt this right?

As usual I like to give some ideas of what to plant them with.

Here’s some planting ideas mostly from the Scottish Plant Hunter’s Garden:

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They look fantastic under trees.
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I couldn’t get enough of these blue and white forms against the mossy stone wall.
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These Meconopsis were interspersed with Primulas.
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Meconopsis planting which looks straight out of a show garden.
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Look fantastic with bright yellows which highlight the rich orange anthers.
Meconopsis napaulensis and Aquilegia vulgaris
How lovely does this M. napaulensis look with these purple wild-seeded Aquilegia vulgaris?
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This Meconopsis was standing tall against a Tibetan Cherry Prunus serrula. Note the self-seeded Foxgloves behind too.
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A late-flowering Rhododendron makes for a great backdrop for these blue and purple poppies.

I hope that this inspires you to grow some if you have the right garden or why not have a go and find out. If not get along to the Scottish Plant Hunter’s Garden in Pitlochry to have a look. Also the National Collection is held by Holehird Gardens near Windermere in the Lake District – now would be an excellent time to see them!

 

Annette

Candelabras and Hostas

Dark pink Candelabra Primula

Candelabra Primula and Hosta form a perfect enlightening planting combination for a cool, damp and shady spot in the garden. These two plants together will really lighten up a dark hole. Fend off any slugs which can munch away at these plants using a nature friendly homemade garlic repellent spray.

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Pink and Yellow Candelabra Primula
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White-edged Hosta great for damp shade
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Pink candelabra Primula of various shades
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Many different types of variegated Hosta planted en masse
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Lilac and yellow whorled Primula
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Dark pink and yellow candelabra Primula
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Light pink with dark pink centres and a Hosta in the background
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Hosta make great ground coverage for shadier spots.
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Hosta and Candelabra Primula planted together alongside a path.

Have you tried this planting combination?

Annette.

Visit: The Scottish Plant Hunter’s Garden

Candelabra Primulas

I have been wanting to visit The Explorer’s Garden (aka The Scottish Plant Hunter’s Garden) for many years but have never found myself around Pitlochry to make that visit. It was made better therefore on the day I was able to visit, that the OH wasn’t there to be bored while I walked around. And finally what was ideal was that it was at the time of year when the Meconopsis, for which this garden is well known, were in full bloom. Excellent! Oh and on another note – it was not raining!

Camera at the ready I paid my £4 to enter which I regarded as an excellent price. I was fully expecting to pay over £10. There is not much you’ll get for less than a fiver nowadays.

So off I set with my map…after a brief hello to the cat.

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Map for The Scottish Plant Explorers Garden

The first section was a lovely little landscaped section planted up with Saxifraga sp. whose frothy white blooms complemented the grey slate coloured organic forms well. In fact there were many lovely planting combinations throughout the garden.

There was also some lovely Aquilegia and Alchemilla mollis planting as you walked under the trees towards the main section of the garden.

There was a strong Himalayan theme throughout the garden, despite many regions being represented, probably because many of these plants suit the Scottish environment very well. Most of the Rhododendrons were past but there was one I spotted in full bloom. At first I thought they all had a bout of rust on all the flowers but looking closer I saw that it was part of its design – nice up close but not so much from a distance! Some of the Rhodies had shed their flowers in recent days and formed these wonderful pink carpets underneath. A little reminiscent of Japan perhaps?

Dotted around the garden were works of art, all of which I though went well within their chosen settings. I love outdoor art when it works in harmony with the surrounding landscape and planting. I particularly loved the Perspex mobiles with the names of plants and skeleton leaves incorporated into them along with the wonderful pagoda roof.

I also loved the composting toilet! It was a little space age when you went into it. Next door to that there is a lovely little room which would be amazing for a small wedding. On the day I went they had a photography exhibition from someone who had gone on a recent expedition to the Himalayas. I left feeling that I know that region of the world just a little better and also how magnificent the Meconospsis look in their native environment.

Speaking of such, they didn’t fail to disappoint! They were in full bloom. I couldn’t get enough of them against the wonderful stone dykes they have built there. The colours are so beautiful. I was however slightly disappointed that there weren’t many labels about (although looking through my photos I realised there was a section I missed, sob). There were a few which I spotted but I would have liked to have been able to see more for my next Plant Focus: Meconopsis. Many more images will be available in that post to come later. I’ll also do another post with more flower images as I have so many! Here is one to whet your appetite….

 

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Meconopsis close up photograph

 

I’d say the garden is definitely at its best at this time of year or earlier when the Rhododendrons are also out. I’m not sure what would be out after around the end of July. It’s open April-Nov, every day 10am-5pm and well worth a visit if you’re near the area. There’s plenty of information boards around which tell you all about the parts of the world the plant explorers visited to bring back many of the plants we have in our gardens today.

 

 

Hope you enjoy your visit.

AnnetteX

Co-ordinating Garden Colour

I love this time of year when everything is fresh and green and bright, vibrant, colour is exploding everywhere. Here’s some of my favourite combinations and colours in my garden at the moment.

 

Now for some spicier colours.

 

 

These Nasturtiums are just outside my back door and as long as I keep watering and feeding them they’ll keep going crazy and shouting “HELLO” everytime I go past.

 

Annette x

Some spring garden flowers

Now that it’s starting to warm up a little things are really starting to take off in the garden. This is what’s looking good in the garden at the moment.

I got these gorgeously coloured and hugely-flowered pansies from Dobbies a few weeks ago. To be honest their flowers are a little too big and floppy, but they weather really well which is great.

I’ve planted them here with white Petunias and a Limnanthes douglasii (Poached Egg plant). These should produce some really nice colour over the summer.

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It’s been so mild this year that my Dahlias which I left out over winter have survived. I was going to redo this tub but decided just to freshen up the compost. The white Petunias and Limnanthes douglasii will go really well with this white-edged Hosta. If I remember correctly the Dahlia in here is dark red – super contrast! Looking at this picture now I think a white Dahlia would have been better but the red will pack a punch.

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My Clematis cartmanii which if I can remember I think is ‘Avalanche’ is filling the greenhouse with the most wonderful fragrance. It didn’t flower much last year, partly because it got attacked by aphids but this year it’s covered in pale greeny flowers. I love the cartmanii Clematis‘. They are only hardy to -5°C so you really need a greenhouse but if you do I really recommend that you get one. They aren’t cheap to buy but worth every penny for the show and scent they put on at this time of year. I got this one at Gardening Scotland a good few years ago and it was wonderful the number of comments I got from people as I walked around with it!

 

Pulsatilla‘s also look great at this time of year. Calendula also pretty much do not stop flowering in my garden. They go quiet around February but generally they will show a happy face most of the year. I just allow them to seed around and they come up in various shades of yellow and orange plus some have light centres and some dark. Chuck a few seeds around and they won’t disappoint. The same goes for Honesty as well. They move around the garden growing where they please. Foxgloves are also going that way in our garden too. These are all welcome travellers because they are all great for wildlife.

Keep an eye out for sleepy bumblebees at this time of year. Those sitting under flowers often overnight can get cold and hungry. Often all they need is a quick sugary pick me up. You can help them out by dissolving a little bit of sugar in some water on a teaspoon. They’ll slurp it up and be off in no time. If they aren’t taking it, pop them on a Dandelion (they love these and they are everywhere) and pour some into the flower. They’ll soon start drinking as it’s a more natural way for them to realise that it’s nectar. I found one today which had gotten stuck in the greenhouse. It was glad of a very long drink.

It was a glorious afternoon here today. I hope that you have managed to get out and enjoy your garden too.

 

Annette X

Plant Focus – Galanthus (Snowdrops)

This week’s Plant Focus falls on Snowdrops. Despite the first blooms being reported back in early January, for the most part they are in full bloom at the moment (in Scotland) and showing no signs of stopping soon. Many will be familiar with the term ‘Galanthophile,’ i.e. one that spends a considerable amount of one’s time on one’s knees trying to get a better glimpse of the underparts of this group of plants. Well that’s what I was for a few hours yesterday.

Snowdrops or ‘Galanthus‘ fall into the same family as daffodils and appear from their bulbs usually from January to March. They are typically planted ‘in the green’ which means planting in March with the leaves still on the bulbs once the flowers have died down. Hence now is the perfect time of year to think about where you would like them.

I’ve collected together some images of a few varieties of snowdrops so that you may remain thoroughly vertical and comfortable in your chair.

I must admit, I felt a slight sense of inappropriateness while I was pulling back the petals of the flowers so that we may sneak a glimpse behind that soft, white curtain.


 

Galanthus ‘S. Arnott’

 

This is Galanthus ‘S. Arnott.’ growing well amongst some leaf litter on a corner plot. This has quite large blooms in proportion to the greenery present and was probably one of my favourites. It’s also easily available.


Galanthus plicatus ‘Durris’

 

This is Galanthus plicatus ‘Durris’ also growing well amongst leaf litter in a slightly more open spot. It has small blooms on very tall stems with thicker leaves.


 

Galanthus ‘Hybrid Double’

Galanthus 'Hybrid Double' (1)
Galanthus ‘Hybrid Double’
Galanthus 'Hybrid Double' (2)
Underneath Galanthus ‘Hybrid Double’

This snowdrop, a hybrid double, I assume of dubious origin reveals a thickly packed underskirt of petals. This one was growing under conifer litter and wasn’t doing quite so well, but did have a nice spot where it caught the dappled winter sunshine. You can buy various types of these easily.


 

Galanthus ‘Atkinsii’

Galanthus 'Atkinsii'
Galanthus ‘Atkinsii’

This little one, I found nestled amongst some Rhodendrons. It’s Galanthus ‘Atkinsii’ and I get the impression this small clump hasn’t been there long as I’m led to believe it’s quite vigorous. Still the foliage looks healthy but it’s location meant I would have had to encounter the gardeners’ wrath if I wanted a sneaky peak underneath.


 

Galanthus elwesii ‘Fred’s Giant’

 

This was a very robust grower, with large elongated flowers held proudly over lucious, daffodil-green foliage. This is Galanthus elwesii ‘Fred’s Giant’ and is a lovely plant. Granted it doesn’t have the daintyness associated with other varieties, but this is a sturdy beast as its name suggests. This is a signature plant of the Cruickshank Botanical Garden, being bred there in the 1980s, and it’s a little tricky to get a hold of, but if you can, it’s well worth it.


 

Galanthus woronwii

 

With thick, shiny bright-green leaves and small flowers both of a squat nature, Galanthus woronwii does brighten up a dark corner of the garden. It isn’t one of my favourites but it is quite different from the rest and would easily add variety to any collection.


Galanthus ‘Lime Tree’

Galanthus 'Lime Tree' (1)
Galanthus ‘Lime Tree’
Galanthus 'Lime Tree' (2)
Underneath Galanthus ‘Lime Tree’

Galanthus ‘Lime Tree’ has more yellowy-green markings on the flowers. The white petals stick out at a wider angle than the others mentioned here which I assume is where the ‘Tree’ part of the name came from. This variety, I would say, is ‘architecturally’ interesting! It seems to be growing well in quite a sunny spot.


 

I was hoping to come across Galanthus ‘Grumpy,’ it being so wonderfully named and fully appropriate to the little face which we would find peering out at us, but alas I did not find it. One for next time.


 

What to plant Snowdrops (Galanthus) with?

I found some wonderful planting combinations on my trip. They work really well with most other low growing spring flowering plants, I think. They work well with the subtle coloured crocuses, Helleborus, primroses and cowslips and I think equally well in great contrast with vibrant coloured hybrid primulas, irises and crocuses.

Here’s some pale, muted planting options:

 

And now prepare yourself for the more vibrant colourful ones:

 

Snowdrops are such humble plants, not asking for much, not being particularly showy or demanding and they both blend in and stand out. However, most importantly, they appear in some of the coldest months of the year and subtly signal that spring is just around the corner and for that, we are forever grateful.

Do you have a favourite snowdrop?

Plant focus – Hammamelis

This is my fist ‘Plant Focus’ post. I hope to cover an area each week which is relevant to what is looking good in gardens right now. This will be plus or minus a good few weeks depending on where you are in the country. I was hoping to call it ‘Focus Friday’ but I missed it for last friday and am too excited to post it so….here we go. My first plant is the Hammamelis genus or Witch Hazels.

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Growth habit for Hammamelis

At this time of year Hammamelis are covered in frost tolerant pale to deep yellow to vibrant orange-red flowers along bare stems and have a strong scent. Hammamelis molis has a stronger scent than Hammamelis x intermedia ‘Pallida’ but I would argue that the latter is more attractive. The cultivar ‘Pallida’ has an RHS award for garden merit (AGM) due to its wonderful pale glowing yellow blooms and easy growing habit. It looks fantastic against the morning sun.

Hammamelis x intermedia 'Pallida' 3
Hammamelis x intermedia ‘Pallida’ against the morning sun
Hammamelis x intermedia 'Pallida' 1
Close up of Hammamelis x intermedia ‘Pallida’

 

They can be planted in autumn to winter and look good as a specimen plant or mixed in with other shrubs at the back of a border.

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Hammamelis mollis as a specimen plant
Hammamelis x intermedia 'Pallida' 2
A young Hammamelis with snowdrops
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Another specimen Hammamelis which has a fantastic growth shape

Hammamelis can also look really good against other winter foliage. It looked particularly good against the dramatic lines of a variegated phormium – this could be a great winter planting combination. They also show up quite well with pines and firs as their glowing flowers brings the evergreen foliage to life in an otherwise not-as-exciting-as-summer month.

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Hammamelis against Abies procera
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Hammamelis against a variegated Phormium (New Zealand Flax)
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Hammamelis against a yellow variegated holly
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Showing up against winter shapes

 

So once I get round to replanting my garden, I’m going to put one of these in. I’m not sure which variety yet but possibly an orange-red one like Hammamelis x intermedia ‘Diane.’ I think choosing one with scent will be a definite. Check out the RHS page for more information on growing and pruning etc.

Do you have any Witch Hazels in your garden?

Gardens dressed for Valentine’s Day

I set myself a challenge for my next photography outing – ‘Pink.’ I thought this was going to be a very challenging subject since most things are varying shades of brown and beige at this time of year. But once I got my eye in there were a whole lot of flowers which are out at this time of year along with a smattering of graffiti I found along the way.

 

So with Valentines Day approaching, I though that pink, the colour of love, would be a highly appropriate subject to talk about.

 

It’s definitely worth going out photographing with a limiting factor, be that forcing yourself to work with one lens, aiming for a subject or working towards a competition or within a time limit. It forces you to focus your mind and skills in order to make the best of your options.

 

If you look for it, pink really sticks out at this time of year but it can also be easily overlooked. There are subtle hints of pink everywhere..

 

I really enjoyed my outing this morning in the spring sunshine. I encourage you to get out and have a look too. Set yourself a challenge and see what you can find – you may need to get imaginative!

 

Annette X

My Own Piece of Lost Paradise

I guess any good blog on gardening and lifestyle should start at home, and while I may give the impression that my garden is a beautiful, well-kept haven, well it’s definitely not. Over the last 6 years or so I have made efforts to improve upon its neglected state but it certainly doesn’t currently warrant any special attention now. In fact at the moment it’s probably confined to the one on the street which the neighbours shake their head over and consider it to be a bit of a mess. I’d be lying if I said they were wrong. It’s not entirely through lack of previous effort, more a lack of consistent effort.

I’ve put in a pond, extended the patio, made some paths, made raised vegetable beds and erected a pretty large (awesome) greenhouse. In my embarrassment and current shame in taking photos of it, I am just showing the before photographs of the work I’ve done. Keep tuned for the current mess or use your imagination….! It’s my aim to have the full story.

 

Now it wasn’t perfect then, but now that the pond didn’t quite work out (you can still see the black edges 3 years on), the raised beds are now rotten and form architectural mounds of weeds, the greenhouse is currently a wood drying room (albeit more of a winter use) and couch grass is exceedingly rampant everywhere, I’ve decided that it’s time something was done about it! I mean, really, a bit of decent weeding, strimming and pruning would be a good start – a little again to the tune of uncovering your secret garden but that’s what I did to start with and I don’t really like what I left in from when we moved. So if I’m going to redo this garden – with your help – I’m going to do it properly!

 

 

Wish me luck! X