Wednesday, 30 March 2011

A Creative Plant Photography Workshop

Back in the depths of last summer I attended a most enjoyable creative plant photography workshop at Bluebell Cottage Gardens/Lodge Lane Nursery in the fair county of Cheshire. The gardens and nursery are in the excellent hands of Sue Beesley. I blogged about the morning session here and promised to come back with what happened after lunch. Well here at long last with apologies for the delay is the second installment. The afternoon session was a chance to be practical and to get out in the garden and take photos. Andrew Williams, the workshop leader suggested that we might like to come up with a theme. I had a few ideas floating around but eventually decided to focus on the various sitting areas that are dotted about the garden. Looking back on it now I would have approached this slightly differently and would have taken some close up shots too. Whilst we wondered round snapping Andrew caught up with everyone individually to discuss our proposed shots in more detail. This was most useful for me and was a welcome chance to get to grips with some of my camera's bells and whistles. Here are some of my photos on the seating theme ~ 


Gardener at work ~ 


In the shade ~


Two's company ~


Mirror images ~


Pondside ~


Finally the best seat in the house or should I say garden ~ 


It was rather hot in the garden, so it was pleasant to eventually get back indoors, where we were invited to share a few of our photos with the rest of the group. We were all I think slightly reluctant to do this but in fact it turned out to be most a constructive exercise.

I left feeling enthusiastic and eager to put what I learned on the day into practice. We were provided with a comprehensive reading list, which I hope to make my way through in time as I certainly want to learn more about this subject.
Books
Plants and Flower Photography
Photographing Flowers' - Sue Bishop

'Garden Photography - 'A Professional Guide' - Tony Cooper. I have been unable to find an online U.K. source for this out of print book. However  I bought a copy very recently for the grand total of £2.00 from the Chester outlet of Publishers Book Clearance.

'Photographing Plants and Flowers' - Paul Harcourt Davies

'The Art of Flower and Garden Photography' - Clive Nicholls

I have yet to read any of the above apart from the last title which I came across in our local library. Another book not on the list as it is a new publication is 'Better Plant And Garden Photography' by Philip Smith. I am keeping my eyes open for this one.

Macro Photography 
'Close Up Photography' - Michael Freeman

'Close up Creative Techniques for Successful Macrophotography' - John Brackenbury

'Close - Up and Macro' - Robert Thompson

The book list also included recommendations under the headings of creative photography, landscape photography and panoramas which I can forward if anybody is particularly interested.

I would thoroughly recommend this course or a similar one to anybody who would like to get to know their camera better and to take photographs in a garden setting with a professional at hand. There are courses at Lodge Lane this May, June and September - full details are here. You can search for other RHS recommended photography courses over at the RHS Event Finder.

I be back shortly with a final installment on the practical hints and tips that I picked up on the day, including the lowdown on equipment. This time I mean shortly!

Friday, 25 March 2011

Tales Of The Hellebore Bank


I have been engaged in a little bit of guerilla gardening this week as we have enjoyed some perfect for gardening weather. I am usually a law abiding citizen but now and again I do stray from the straight and narrow. Our garden is bordered on one side by a surface water stream - on the other side of the stream there is a sloping bank which rises up to meet the main road. This area is about 500 square metres and contains some twelve mature trees which were there before us. I am on a mission to give this area some interest during the early part of the year before the leaves are out on the trees. I planted some snowdrops some time ago, which are slowly clumping up and being added to. Now I am bringing hellebores into the mix which as you know can be relatively expensive plants to purchase. A couple of years ago I decided to take pot luck and I acquired some hellebore seedlings via Ebay. Some of these flowered for the first time last spring and after seeing them in the flesh as it were I purchased a few more last year from the same seller.

They have all lived in pots until their first flowering after which the majority of them are destined for the bank. One or two are earmarked for the garden. I planted the first few last year on the bank and was disappointed that with one exception they did not flower this year. However they are very much alive as there is healthy new foliage appearing so I suppose they are just biding their time. In the meantime a solitary hellebore (a seedling from the garden) probably planted about four or five years ago has now made a decent sized plant. Next year it should have some company including this trio ~ 




Now what do I do about the uncultivated field behind us? Food for thought.

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Frothiness

J IS FOR?



JUMPING FOR JOY!

~ is what I have been doing this week as spring has well and truly arrived bringing with it much frothiness of blooms including cherry blossom . "Just perfick" as Pop Larkin would have put it.

You will find more on the letter J over at ABC Wednesday ~ I jest you not!

Sunday, 20 March 2011

'The Lullaby Of Spring'



In celebration of the welcome arrival of the vernal equinox ~ one of my favourite songs ~

"Rain has showered far her drip
Splash and trickle running,
Plant has flowered in the sand
Shell and pebble sunning.

So begins another spring,
Green leaves and of berries,
Chiff-chaff eggs are painted by
Mother bird eating cherries.

In the misty tangled sky
Fast a wind is blowing,
In the new-born rabbit's heart
River life is flowing.

So begins another spring,
Green leaves and of berries,
Chiff-chaff eggs are painted by
Mother bird eating cherries.

From the dark and wetted soil,
Petals are unfolding.
From the stony village kirk,
Easter bells of old ring.

So begins another spring,
Green leaves and of berries,
Chiff-chaff eggs are painted by
Mother bird eating cherries.

Rain has showered far her drip
Splash and trickle running,
Plant has flowered in the sand
Shell and pebble sunning.

So begins another spring,
Green leaves and of berries,
Chiff-chaff eggs are painted by
Mother bird eating cherries."


~ Donavan Leitch

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

A Garden Festival In France

I IS FOR?

INTERNATIONAL GARDEN FESTIVAL!
Inspirational, invigorating, individualistic, innovative ~ all that and more were the impressions we took away with us after visiting the International Garden Festival at Chaumont - sur - Loire in France last July. 

This garden festival was unlike any that I have visited in the U.K. The event it does not last just for a few brief days. Instead once installed the gardens are left to mature over a period of six months. The exhibits are selected from entries from all over the globe submitted by landscape architects, garden designers and artists. Entries interpret a different theme each year. In 2010 the theme was 'Body And Soul'. There were over 300 applications for last year's show but only a small number were selected for inclusion. The displays were also illuminated for some special evening openings. This year the theme will be 'Gardens of The Future Or Happy Biodiversity'. There are also permanent features including 'Vallon des Brumes' or the 'Valley Of The Mists', 'Sentiers des Fers Sauvages' or 'The Wild Iron Pathway' as well as patches of permanent planting from previous festivals. The event has run since 1992.

On a practical note admission charges were most reasonable especially in comparison to the prices involved in visiting the major Royal Horticultural Society shows. There were a couple of restaurants but like a lot of visitors we enjoyed a picnic taking in the views from one of the plentiful benches. Although busy it never seemed unpleasantly crowded. There was very little in the way of merchandise for sale apart from a shop on the way out which sold some horticultural sundries, books, stationary, calenders and a few plants. In itself this made for a pleasant change and allowed visitors to concentrate on and think about the gardens.

Before we reached the festival itself we savoured the castle, various outbuildings and the idyllic setting. Arriving early in the morning I followed in the footsteps of himself the intrepid expedition leader. You can see that by the end of the day that he had the idea to indulge in some idle contemplation..

All in all there were some 25 individual gardens to wend our way round in what were ideal conditions for such activity ~ dry with sunny intervals and a slight breeze. There was of course what struck me as the weird and wacky entries but I will save them for another day. Instead in this post I am concentrating on what we were enchanted by ~

Finally a few images of the gardens that made the most impression on me of the day which included  a most imaginative and simply breathtaking floating garden as well as a decidedly quirky vegetable plot. For me this visit from beginning to end was the ultimate in self indulgence!

If you would like to investigate the letter I  further you are invited to visit ABC Wednesday forthwith.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Lurking With Intent



Spring has definitely been lurking with intent for some time but this weekend I felt that it is definitely knocking loudly on the door. The snowdrops are now going over and hellebores, irises, little daffs, pulmonarias and primroses are now stealing the show. The ducks are paddling and quacking on the little surface water stream that borders the side of the garden. I have spied bee and ladybird. At long last the autumn flowering cherry ~ prunus subhirtella autumnalis has a sprinkling of flowers. This has never failed before to blossom both in autumn and then again in the following spring. This autumn ~ zilch! The bitter early cold snap in November cruelly frosted the flowers just as they were emerging, so they are even more of a welcome sight than usual.

I had my first proper session of the year at the allotment. I know that it's nearly the middle of March but I must confess to being a fair weather allotmenteer. The site lacks basic facilities which I can put up with during the summer months but not in the depths of winter. Hopefully this situation might be rectified in the future, as the allotment association intends to apply for funding to install a composting toilet. With a growing number of women and young families with children on the site achieving this has become an important priority. My first task was to do some much needed tidying up. Hopefully I will return later in the week to plant my garlic which I have started of in modules at home and also to plant shallots. The perimeter fencing is still to be completed. Although I am not keen on its appearance it has dawned on me that it has potential as support for climbing plants which could be a blessing in disguise.

This year I am making a deliberate effort to try to reduce the volume of seeds that I grow. I do not really need thirty plus tomato plants. So far tomatoes, sweet peppers, nicotiana mutablis and dahlia 'Bishops Children' have germinated. These firstlings are now spending their days outside in the greenhouse but are stil resident in the house at night. I have sown broad beans, 'Kelvedon Wonder' peas and beetroot in modules in the greenhouse. I plan to sow leeks, parsnips, chard and spinach later this week and something else which escapes my memory.

I have been fiddling about with my blog this week and would welcome feedback about the size of photos. Are they now too big? I am undecided.

Finally a big  thank you to everyone for their ideas and hints on looking after my reptilian like hands. There were some excellent suggestions, which I think that I will try to knit together in a separate post at some time in the future. I was surprised to find out how many of you are fellow eczema sufferers so I would like relate this information back to you.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

'Brief Encounter'

I had a voucher for 15% discount from a DIY store which was valid for this weekend only, so this afternoon I hotfooted it there for a good mooch round. The gardening section is quite small but I was pleased to come away with a couple of always useful pots and a little African violet. The assistant tucked the African violet in the pot for me to take away and I was taken with the combination. It was but a short lived acquaintance as the violet is much to little to reside in the pot just now but maybe one day in the future......


This is a slightly belated entry for Blooming Friday at 'Roses and stuff' which is kindly hosted each week by Katarina. The theme for this week is 'Feeling Blue'.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

The Hands of A Gardener

H IS FOR?


HORROR SHOW!

Yes it's that time of year when my hands begin to take a hammering and my battle with eczema starts its yearly cycle. They are already the victim of years of neglect. My mother's advice to protect and moisturise has gone unheeded and now I look down at them and don't recognise them as my own. They are more horribly wrinkly ~ crinkly than any other part of me. I hate wearing gloves to garden - I think that they can be a hindrance. I dislike the feeling of barrier creams. There is also the additional complication of the eczema which with age seems to be hitting my hands. As a child it was the back of my knees and the inside of my elbows that caused me endless grief. The condition  hindered me from swimming once I got into my teens and became more self - conscious.

I am sure that I have worked my way through every possible cream, lotion, potion and ointment known to the medical profession and the pharmacy counters. With the passage of the years the condition has cleared up somewhat and since finishing work my legs are symptom free. I put this down firstly to less stress but more down to the fact that I no longer wear tights everyday. However the hands still hurt so any tips, recommendations for relief from fellow sufferers would be more than welcome ~ please let me know what works for you.

To ease the horror I photographed my hand near a hellebore. These beauties are just coming into their own and had H been a week or two later they would have had the upper hand.

P.S. Contact with hellebores can cause allergic reactions but I assure you that my hands were not harmed in the course of taking this photo.

Hop over here to ABC Wednesday now for more on the letter H.

Friday, 4 March 2011

'I Don't Care What The Weather Man Says'


~ well I do really. Following a Twitter conversation yesterday with Patient Gardener and Yolanda, I realised how fond I have grown of my little weather station, which himself insisted on treating me to last year. We did not go out with the intention of buying one but it leapt up at us from the depths of a certain well known German supermarket.

It sits in the dining room where it records a myriad of information which keeps me fascinated. Temperatures both indoors and outdoors, maximums and minimums, a uncannily accurate weather forecast, atmospheric pressure, time, date and phases of the moon are all conveniently delivered in the blink of an eyelid to a most compact screen. I suspect that my yearning for additional information such as wind speed and direction as well amount of rainfall is a little greedy. I will have to resort to the old handkerchief in the wind technique and perhaps come up with a makeshift rain gauge.

However this marvellous machine in danger of being usurped in my affections - it now has a serious rival competing for attention - yet again a visit to the aforesaid store was responsible. This time a little camera came home with us - initially designed to get close up views of a birds feeding table but himself has adapted it to fit in a nesting box for robins. The box has been put to good use before when it hung up in what we called 'The Temple', where it was immersed in a tangle of ivy. 'The Temple' is no more and we are not sure whether the new location will attract occupants. However it's a case of wait and see. We have robins in the garden and are avidly watching so far still life shades of grey images on a small television screen with bated breath. Real sitting on the edge of your seat stuff! I am not sure whether the novelty will wear off soon if there is no action. Will keep you posted. Meanwhile the outdoor temperature here last time I looked was 3.2ยบ centigrade and rising .........

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Garden Bloggers' Muse Day ~ March 2011

G IS FOR?




GARDEN BLOGGERS MUSE DAY

~ when garden bloggers from all over the globe gladly get together to post muses on matters seasonal and green. My offering for this month is this grand poem by Eleanor Farjeon, 1881 -1965 :

'First Gathering'

'Child, take your basket down,
Go and find spring,
Earth has not lost her brown,
Nor wind his sting,
But in the morning
The thrush and the blackbird
Sing to the sleeping town,
And the waking woods,
Sing:
       take your basket down,
Go and find spring!


Now where the ground was bare,
Only last week,
Now where the flower was rare
And the hedge bleak,
Reach for the catkin
And stoop for the primrose,
Seek if you want your share
Of the first gathering,
Seek,
        where the ground was bare
Only last week'


Garden Bloggers' Muse Day is hosted each month by Carolyn Choi over at Sweet Home and Garden Chicago.

Go over to ABC Wednesday for more on the glorious letter G!