Crocosmia Lucifer

Amazing what plant breeders have done with the smaller Montbretia we used to have in our garden around 50 years ago. Crocosmia Lucifer is around 4-5 feet high, with strongly coloured flowers.

Eyes in the back of my Head

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There it was, flowering in the garden. Familiar-looking and vermilion, but I couldn’t remember what it was called and ended up asking my far more knowledgeable neighbour. “Crocosmia” she said. I was none the wiser.

But I took a photo of one virile, prehistoric-looking budding stem because of reminded me of a dinosaur’s head – maybe a pterodactyl?

Fast forward a few days and we were talking again, me and Mrs Greenfingers next door, and she dropped into the conversation the other name for this flower, which I remembered right away. Montbretia.

I couldn’t help thinking that naming this version of the flower Lucifer was rather appropriate. It’s light and bright, and has a devilish look to it when seen from the angle  photographed.

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Here today…

The other day I was entranced by the pink and yellows of the grasses and flowers on Knutsford’s Small Heath. The fuzzy pink of the grass seeds offsets the yellow of the profusion of dandelions and buttercups. With only smartphone to hand, these were the pictures I took.

Sadly, this beauty is no more. The next day the grass cutters came and all was mown down, a rather dramatic illustration of the transience of nature’s beauty, and of the insensitivity of bureaucratic timetables.

Allium – another week on

Another week on from my last look, the petals on the now-huge allium flowers are losing or have lost colour and almost faded to nothing. The seed heads are full and bulbous. And still there is that amazing cluster of stems emerging from the apparently lit-up centre.

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The speed at which these changes take place unnoticed by us is truly remarkable. The more you look, the more nature has to give.

 

Allium Revisited

It’s only just over a week since my post on Allium. Now the heads of flowers are bigger than my hand. Here are two pictures at the extremes of focus, each with a story to tell.

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The petals are beginning to wilt, and the seed heads are forming – three pairs of bulging seeds corresponding to the three pairs of petals/sepals.

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The interior focus shows a wonderful pattern of huge numbers of inner stalks that hold up the flowers/seed heads. The light seems to shine out from the centre!

My Panasonic TZ200 has a superb feature that makes this different focusing very simple, even handheld – it’s called post-focus, which takes a number of shots at different focus points and then lets you choose which shots to save.

 

Allium

The beauty of nature is all around. We tried planting allium bulbs in the garden for the first time this year. Late May they were looking promising (see featured image.)

But now look how they’ve now developed – long stems with huge heads, several inches across, comprising gradually emerging flowers with striking geometrical patterns.

Double click for more detail.

I’m intrigued that there are 6 petals on the individual flowers, which is not one of nature’s preferred Fibonacci numbers – but perhaps they are 3 pairs, and 3 is a Fibonacci number.

And if you look at the picture on the left, it’s impossible to count accurately, but there are over a hundred individual stems in the head, each of which will develop a flower. Since the situation is so dynamic you could not expect this to be an exact Fibonacci number, but it’s somewhere on the way between 89 and 144!

Cotinus Raindrops

This red/purple cotinus on our deck (variant rhus cotinus) and its largely spent flowers become particularly attractive just after rain, and we’ve had a lot of rain lately. Not good for most photography, but great for raindrops!

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Rhus Cotinus is also called ‘European smoke bush’, presumably because the large groups of flowers on stems can look a bit like a smoky edging to the plant (see above Wikipedia link).

Note to pedants. No they’re not the actual rain drops, but the varied effect of splashes, joining together, streaming, viscosity, surface tension, etc! That’s why some of the drops are rather large and some are very small.

 

 

Old Man’s Beard

Another feature of the otherwise dead early February vegetation in Anderton Country Park is the opportunity given for these fluffy balls of nothing to show themselves off. My companion knew from childhood that this was ‘old man’s beard’, otherwise known as ‘traveller’s joy’ or clematis vitalba.

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Of course, clematis is a climber and can be quite vigorous, as I know from having similar variants growing in the garden – all the better for disseminating seeds in the wind.

Catkins

There’s not much apparently going on in the vegetation of the English countryside early February. Most of it is pretty dormant, apart from the odd flowering gorse and some early bulbs coming up. But we did come across these beautiful catkins in full glory in Anderton Country Park.

catkins

Catkins are actually flowers, with inconspicuous or no petals. They occur on a number of different tree types. This BBC Earth post suggests that these photographed are probably of the hazel tree, which has catkins late autumn, which then lengthen and turn golden with pollen towards the end of January.

Here they are close up.

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Sea Buckthorn

I was intrigued to know what was this colourful plant amid the marram grass on the sand dunes at Southport.

A bit of research shows that it is sea buckthorn. It is the plentiful berries that are so colourful, lit up by the low November sun. Like the marram grass itself, sea buckthorn has an extensive root system that is able to cope with the extreme environment of the sand dunes (which also helps to stabilise the dunes).

The featured image shows the berries, leaves and thorns closer up.

Chicory

Nearly 30 years ago it was Alf who brought to my attention these patches of blue flowers that are frequently seen by the roadside in France and Spain. They are common chicory, a member of the dandelion family (it is also known as blue dandelion). The individual flowers are actually quite beautiful, they last but a short time, with new flowers appearing daily.

chicory flower

Roasted chicory root is used as a coffee substitute or additive, found in some types of French coffee. Interestingly, the salad leaf endive is of the same family, also sometimes known as chicory.

Thistle

The common thistle (cirsium, I think this is) is often disregarded because of its spiky attire, and also because it is somewhat common, probably because the spikes make it difficult for grazers to eat. Take a second look and it can be rather beautiful, both in the heads, intertwined with delicate silky threads…

thistle heads

… and in the flowers that emerge therefrom.

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It helps to be using the Panasonic TZ200, a step up in capability from my TZ80, probably largely due to its increased sensor size and enhanced macro capability.

Buttercup meadows

Much of the area to the north east of Northwich town centre was industrial wilderness for a long time. It was like a grey ash-covered wasteland when I first visited Northwich in the late 1960s. But the land is now very much being restored. It was pleasing to recently see these buttercup meadows in full flower in Furey Wood (old tip) and Anderton Country Park (old industrial land).

Yet there is a long way to go. Great biodiversity there is not. The buttercup is the great surviver and coloniser. Like the silver birch tree, it does a great job on reclaimed land. But this is a long way from the incredible richness and biodiversity of the glorious meadows, such as I first witnessed in Switzerland in the 1960s.

Like much of the British countryside, centuries of industrialization and increasingly large-scale farming have taken their toll. This is an over-exploited landscape. There is still a long way to go.

Dandelion Clocks

It’s that time of the year in UK, where dandelion clocks appear in abundance, to the great delight of children, who love to blow the seeds away. I must admit to tending to take them for granted, but when you really take a good look, how amazing are these crystal-like spheres suspended over the grass.

They’re also not that easy to photograph close up with an instant camera. I managed the following with my Panasonic TZ80 travel zoom by using the ‘post-focus’ facility, whereby you can select the best from several frames taken at the same time.

dandelion clock

As a child I once had a project to take dandelion clocks into school for the lesson in the morning. Sadly it was a very windy that morning, and I don’t think any clocks arrived at school intact! Rather traumatic for us children!

Wild Parsnip

On our recent visit to Devon we saw lots of these yellow flowers that look otherwise like the white cow parsley, wild carrot etc. A bit of web research suggests that this is wild parsnip.

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Although the root of wild parsnip is edible, the shoots and leaves should be handled with caution as their sap contains photo-sensitive chemicals which can cause a reddening, blisters and burning of the skin. It is regarded as an invasive species in parts of North America.

It occurs to me that I have a similar looking umbellifer in the back garden, a fennel plant, but fennel does not have such poisonous attributes and flowers much later in the year.