Spring peacock

Having coffee in the spring sunshine today, on impulse I grabbed the camera to shoot some spring flowers. Then this over-wintered peacock butterfly presented him(/her)self, wings a bit raggy and faded, but still beautiful, first sunning himself then feeding on those very flowers.

Click twice to see those furry wings and body, antennae and feeding.

And who should come along to see what’s going on?

peacock dog

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


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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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.


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.

allium set2 2

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.

allium set2 1

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.



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!


We’ve always had a garden since our first house in Sandbach in 1968. There is always something to do in a garden, and yet if you go away for a while it usually survives – in our case often thanks to a helpful neighbour – although afterwards there may be more urgent things to do.

For me it just happens – a realisation of what is to be done next. Mow the lawn, stake things that are falling over, watering, weeding, feeding, managing the compost heap, planting, tidying, pruning, potting, picking fruit… The garden is a process, and I am just a part of that process, along with the weather, soil, plants, pond, insects, birds and so on.

It’s nothing special, our garden. Not too neat. A bit shaggy and unkempt. Fairly overgrown bits left for some creature or other. Occasional regret at uncovering a hiding frog or newt who makes a dash for the pond. Always wondering what to do with the odd snail – move it and hope a thrush finds it?

I avoid like the plague the plethora of chemicals that can be applied to the garden to kill this, that or the other. If things don’t like where they are or are susceptible to pests, then maybe they’re in the wrong place. Caterpillars can be a nuisance, but then are the moths and butterflies? So where would we be without them? And how do you know what you are killing with those chemicals?

Birds bring special life to the garden, so I like to encourage them with food, drink, nestbox and birdbath. What joy they bring! As does the squirrel, despite his pesky habit of getting at the bird food. We miss him now, and the field mouse, there are none currently around here. Where did they go?

In our years of having a dog, it was difficult to keep a gap for hedgehogs and frogs to move around from garden to garden. Now they’re rare, maybe because not enough gaps were left by people in their ubiquitous fences. But they’re part of a garden as well.

The thing about the garden – all is temporary, like sand sculptures. Beauty one minute gradually dissolves into dishevelment and occasional ugliness. So there’s always things to do.

There’s a modern trend to save labour in the garden through such as stone patios, decking and artificial grass. But then it’s not a living garden, part of nature; it’s part of the built environment – increasing the evident alienation with our essential selves, which are after all a part of nature. It’s the wrong way to go.

Better to just get out there and garden, a bit at a time, just to remember who and what you are, and just to be. You’ll often find a friendly robin comes along to keep you company.

Or if you really can’t find the time, employ a gardener!

The Perfect Lawn?

A neighbour’s front lawn is always perfectly manicured, like a bowling green, no weeds. What a shock the other day to see it with a large brown patch in the middle. What had happened?

It turns out he paid good money to get a local company to come and remove the moss. Obviously they used chemicals, something went wrong, and the brown patch was the result.

This reminded me of my late father’s lawns, bless him. He was always feeding and putting on weedkillers promoted to improve the lawn. Often bits got brown, so yet more treatment ensued.

Now, our front and back lawns are green. This is not to boast – if you examine them closely you will find moss, daisies and other plantains along with a fair amount of grass. But at least they look green, and the daisies add interest in my view. Apart from mowing, they get little attention – hopefully an annual scarify to get rid of some moss, a poke with a fork if they’re lucky, removal of the odd dandelion or buttercup that might take over, the odd sprinkle of grass seed on the resulting bare bit, and occasionally leaving the cuttings on to soak in some nutrients. Of course, we live in the north west of England, so watering is not generally needed. As a management method, it seems to work.

Indeed, the method even works for establishing a new lawn. At our first house in Crewe, we simply levelled an area of the back garden and started mowing it from time to time. Eventually it turned into a perfectly acceptable green lawn.

All this leaves me to ponder: what is the point of all those preparations sold in the gardening shops to improve lawns by feeding and killing weeds? Is it just part of our mindset that we have to control nature, rather than largely just letting it get on with things for itself?

And what happens to the herbicides – presumably they just stay in the soil or leach into natural water systems…

The only thing worse is the current peculiar infatuation with artificial grass, which is taking alientation from nature to rather extreme levels…

Feature image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Front Gardens

Whatever happened to front gardens in suburbia?

Front_garden_(9009725270)When I was a child, in the fifties, every front garden had its hedge and its flowers/bushes/trees and was well kept. You usually didn’t see vegetables – they were round the back.

The backdrop of pretty front gardens made the street an attractive place to be. You can still find them now in places  – particularly in terraces where there is no room for parking, and in well-to-do areas with big gardens.

But in many places, particularly in the cities, there has been massive change since then. First it was a space for the car and a run-in. Then a space for two cars. Then the ultimate – the whole area paved over. There was no longer time for gardening – and indeed, with the mad expansion of buy-to-let and rental, no motivation for the residents to keep the place nice for the future. Of course, also people get older so simply cannot do the gardening. Even houses without any run-in for a car have paved over their garden to remove any living thing that might need attention. The massive proliferation of wheelie bins has added yet more pressure for space.

Does it matter? Walk along such a street. Passing a tree, attractive bushes, flowers, insects, birds, even a neat lawn, the spirit rises. Passing a concrete or gravel mess, the spirit sinks, mind says ‘ugh’ and quickly passes on. At a practical level, when it rains the water rushes to the drains, rather being held by leaves and soil and gently released.

nantwich_front_gardensUgly functionality has gradually crept up on us, replacing the beauty that was there before in the manmade environment. Some people attempt to leaven the effect with geometric or artistic patterns of slabs – better, but the soul still cries out for vegetation. Some even use artificial grass to pretend there is vegetation – a travesty.

The outer reflects the inner. So the average person in these dwellings would seem to have lost some contact with, and feel for, the natural world – too embedded in busyness and the glamours of media and technology. The direction of travel will only change when our inner orientation changes.

Interestingly, technology may provide a way out. The ultimate driverless car, callable at the press of a button, could remove the need for all that parking in the front garden. What will we do with the space then? Reinvent the front garden?

First image by peganum from Henfield, England (front garden) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons.
Second is my own.