Calendula – a balm to soothe and comfort the heart. Sending love and a hug to anyone who is in need of it today.
Haven’t the spring bulbs been gorgeous this year. They seem to have loved the cold April temperatures. March was mild and brought them into flower early. Then the cold weather and lack of rain made them last for weeks.
This is Leucocoryne ixiodes purpurea -or purple glory-of-the-sun. originating from Chile, these are bulbous perennials with grassy foliage and umbels of star-like purple, white or blue flowers in spring. The flowers are 2.5cm across and scented. Plant 10cm deep in very well drained soil, or in containers with lots of sharp sand.
And the tulips have had the longest flowering time I can ever remember.
THE GARDEN PHOTOGRAPHY WORKSHOP
Andrea Jones (Timber Press £17.99)
The postman arrived to find me wobbling at the top of a step ladder, peering through a piece of black cardboard with a square cut out of the middle. “I’m composing photos of my garden,” I heard myself saying. Oh dear. How mad does that sound! I rather sheepishly climbed down and made him a cup of tea while he chuckled away.
Over tea and biscuits in the potting shed, I explained that my new photography workbook recommended using a piece of card to practise framing a view. It works close up, as well as for landscape views. I just had to learn how to squint through the cut out square- while up a ladder, and while keeping my balance. The postman declared it could all end in tears.
Anyway, as he continued his round, laughing as usual, I went back to my new book. Andrea Jones has produced a fabulous masterclass giving hints and tips on the best ways of capturing the garden.
Some of the ideas were a complete revelation. I had never heard of making a viewfinder to try out different angles. And I had never thought of looking down on my garden- or looking up. Most of my photos are straight shots, taken from a standing position. So I tried it out on these tiny species rockery tulips. Looking down:
I haven’t quite got the best shot. They are so tiny, I needed to move some of the stems out of the way. But it’s still an interesting view. I shall work on the idea.
And here’s another photo I took from a standing position. A glorious garden at Burghley House near Stamford, open for the NGS scheme.
Over the past 25 years, Andrea has built an international reputation for her photography of landscapes, gardens and plants. Among the many awards, she was voted Photographer of the Year by her peers at the Garden Media Guild. Her website for more information is andreajones.co.uk
Andrea suggests making a plan of action- rather than just casually wandering around the garden taking random shots (like I do now). Some of the best ideas I gathered from the book include:
Use a compass – a smart phone has a compass app- to get an idea of the light direction and potential shadows.
The best light for taking photos is the “golden hour” the first hour after the sun rises and the last hour of light before the sun sets. Use an online sunrise and sunset app to estimate the time.
Tripods make a world of difference for taking good photos. But if, like me, you are using a camera phone, a small piece of tack or Plasticine can be used to position a phone temporarily on a secure surface to avoid camera shake. I tried this on top of the garden gate.
If taking shots in bright, contrasty light, use your body to create a shadow and reduce the amount of light reaching the plant or subject of the photo.
Other headings in the book include: Photography in all Seasons, Photographing Pets and Wildlife, Working with Weather, Light, Macro, Micro, and Close-up, Essential Kit, and Catching the Moment.
I am working my way through the rest of the book. There are 10 inspiring gardens featured with step-by-step lessons on observation, storytelling, composing, and editing. Andrea’s book helps you take your photography to another level, whether you are using a smart phone like me, or have the latest DSLR. It’s a master course on capturing the magic of gardens.
Unfurling. My Black Parrot Tulip. A favourite this spring. Except, my foot is also in the photo. Sigh. I still have some work to do then.
Thank you to Timber Press for supplying The Garden Photography Workshop- in exchange for an honest review. I will leave you with my cat Grace who shares my home- and garden- and who sits very patiently while I practise my new photography skills.
Glistening in the sunshine, Euphorbia Mellifera stopped me in my tracks today. Such a strong honey scent. You feel you could almost spread it on toast! No wonder it is commonly called honey spurge.
Flowers: March to May
Soil: well drained
Hardiness: Needs winter protection. I throw fleece over the plant in January.
Best for: making a dramatic statement. An architectural or structure plant. Stands out in the border. Evergreen leaves with red edge and white central stripe.
Obtained from: crocus mail order
Warnings: not edible, despite the scent. Wear gloves as the milky sap is a potential irritant.
What’s looking good in your garden today?
Cold weather has held back the bluebells this year. They are still looking glorious. Last chance to visit Coton Manor tomorrow. Here’s some photos from our visit today. As usual, we started with a picnic. Spreading our rugs under the branches of some apple trees, we tucked into home-made bread and warming soup, followed by an array of cakes and shortbread. A great start to our garden visit.
Our little haven can be found at the far end of the car park. Funnily enough, we’d never noticed the orchard before. But full of blossom today, we could hardly miss it. Next we set out to visit the bluebells.
As you can see, the bluebells are at their peak of perfection. It’s a sight I’ll hold in my memory until next spring. That blue, with the unfurling lime green leaves, and the honey scent. Just glorious!
We found the dogs’ graves. What a peaceful resting place.
I wrote about visits to bluebell woods here mentioning Coton Manor and Hodsock Priory . For more information click on the highlighted words. Also look at the Woodland Trust website for bluebell woods all over the country. Be quick to visit. They are at their best right now.
First picnic of the season. We visited Hodsock Priory for the bluebells.
I wrote about Hodsock snowdrops here. Also a must-visit for bluebells. Last chance to see them this coming weekend 6th and 7th May, 10-3pm. I’ve shared more photos over on twitter @kgimson.
Do you have any favourite bluebell woods you like to visit? Are you a fan of picnics?
Quick peek in my Potting shed. These flowers have been such a joy. The scent is perhaps too strong for the house, but perfect for the potting shed. Drowns out the aroma of compost and tractor fuel. I shall be planting Paperwhites again in October for Christmas presents, and January/ February for spring cheer.
Finola. So graceful. Haven’t the tulips been wonderful this year. Such a joy at the end of a long, cold dark winter.
I love the creamy buds and green feathering on this double late, or peony-flowered tulip. We are all growing this variety in place of Angelique. Finola seems to be a stronger tulip. Grows to 50cm high and flowers in April and May. I’ve planted mine in a sea of blue forget-me-nots. Brunnera would be a good alternative if you are worried about the forget-me-nots seeding about. Good quality tulips and bulbs of all kinds are available from Bloms Bulbs and Peter Nyssen.
What tulips are you enjoying the most at the moment?
THE DECKCHAIR GARDENER.
Anne Wareham (Michael O’Mara Books Ltd, £8.99)
In my little potting shed there is a kettle, toaster, radio- and a small bookcase. Between potting and sowing, I dip into the latest books, all with a gardening theme.
So, picture the scene, I’m sitting here, listening to a storm outside. The overhanging beech tree branches are beating a tune on the roof, and a there’s a howling wind which sounds like the sea. It would be easy to imagine the potting shed perched on a cliff edge. Cold, driving sleet is thrashing the daffodils. There’s nothing more dispiriting than seeing spring flowers blown horizontal.
I’m feeling unusually glum, when our cheery postman (wearing shorts, of course) appears at the potting shed door. He’s in search of a hot cup of tea, and while he dips into the potting shed biscuit tin, I open the day’s post. And what I find is instant sunshine! Anne Wareham’s book gets us laughing from the very first page. The postman declares the Deckchair Gardener is the first gardening book ever written especially for him! I can still hear him laughing as he goes on his way. I, meanwhile, am happily ensconced with my new book for the rest of the day.
Subtitled, An Improper Gardening Manual, Anne’s book sets out to suggest 101 “cunning stratagems” for gardening avoidance, and sensible advice on your realistic chances of getting away with it. I love gardening, but I’m always after short cuts and tips, and Anne has many good ideas for basically giving yourself the day off to enjoy the garden you’ve created.
I loathe books that set out “five jobs to do today.” My heart sinks, as I’m set to fail and get behind. And there’s nothing worse than feeling the garden is getting away from you. But Anne delightfully lists “What Not to Do in Your Garden,” for spring, summer, autumn and winter. I could quite honestly kiss her.
One thing I won’t have to do now is dig the garden. Anne quotes advice from organic vegetable expert Charles Dowding on making compost, no-dig gardens and mulching. In fact mulching seems to feature quite regularly through the book as the answer to most problems. Also, I won’t sow lettuce seed every few weeks to keep the harvest coming. I’ll just pick off the outside leaves. The lettuce will apparently just keep growing through the summer. The secret is to pick, not cut the leaves, it seems.
It’s hard not to laugh at some of Anne’s mad ideas, but her book makes you think. Have I just been doing things the same way for years and years, when there’s a better tactic? I know I am guilty of doing daft things like growing vegetables I don’t particular like just because they are supposed to be in a veg garden in the summer.
I am still chuckling over her tips and witty observations. And I love the gnome pictures drawn by Kate Charlesworth. So I shall be taking Anne’s advice to “accept the challenge and be brave.”
Anne describes herself as a garden maker – at Veddw, an editor of thinkingardens.co.uk and on twitter, @AnneWareham, as “trouble.” The Deckchair Gardener is available from Michael O’Mara Books @OMaraBooks, and also as an e-book. It would make a perfect Easter present for anyone looking to put the word “fun” back into gardening.
Tiny flowers on trees grown mainly for their leaves. Such a spring surprise, and a treat. This one is Crimson King, Acer Platanoides. Also known as the Norwegian maple. Photo taken at Burghley House near Stamford.