Autumn: Extract of Fungi

Mushrooms appear along the vegetable bedsBrick Tuft Hypholoma sublateritium (I think!), growing from the edge of the oak board veg beds. Continue reading


Espaliered tree person thing and real umbrella trees (!)

Pallant House Restaurant Courtyard, Chichester

I spotted these weird sculptures through a gate of Pallant House courtyard in Chichester. It seems to be a variation on the green-man, but this ‘tree person’ has been espaliered! Continue reading

Pasqueflowers re-bloom in August

Purple pasque flowers unexpectedly emerge for a second flush in August

Pasqueflower, Easter flower or Meadow Anemone (Pulsatilla vulgaris), is one of my favourite plants. Almost every stage of its flowering is interesting:  The large flower heads emerge in spring (close to Easter) along with the foliage, all of which is covered in fine silky hairs, and look striking especially when backlit by low spring sunshine. Continue reading

Morning Light

Morning Light

6:00 am. The view from the house this morning. Extraordinary quality to the light. The rain clouds have only just lifted a chink and the sun is sneaking under, low, acute, glancing.

The greenhouse greets the dawn. The white lavender is shining in shards of reflected light. Beyond large heads of white dahlias wait for their turn in the sun. Over the hedge Alliums snake skywards. The distant landscape isn’t awake yet.

An Enigmatic Apple

This apple tree is a bit of a curiosity. [Update: mystery solved – see end of post]

The label from the nursery said “Discovery”. I don’t think so! Discovery is an early-season apple, ready to eat in July or August and with a distinct red blush (see here for comparison). Whereas this one is distinctly unripe and bright green in late August. Hmm. It looks a bit Granny-Smithish to me.

Another odd thing is the way it came to me. It was sent by accident along with several other fruit trees which were supposed to go to someone else. When I informed the nursery of their mistake they promptly sent me the correct trees, but kindly let me keep the mistaken order.

In keeping with this tree’s enigmatic status I decided to train it into an unusual form…

Ladder Form

The tree was supplied as a 2-year-old double cordon. But the two uprights of the ‘Y’ were an unnecessarily long way apart. So as I trained it up the fence I filled in the central space with alternate horizontal branches, creating a ladder shape (left). As its only a few years old the branches are still very thin, so in the photos below the form is not very distinct yet. But over the next few years the permanent framework will thicken enhancing its striking form.

The structure is clearest in the winter or spring, as above.

Here it is in late summer 2012.

Update: October 2012

During september the apples changed colour – clearly they are not Granny Smiths as I suggested above… interesting. I decided to get some help identifying them, so…

Last week I went to ‘Apple Affair’ at West Dean Gardens, their annual apple extravaganza where expert apple growers display hundreds of different varieties. Two veterans provide a free apple identification service – the main reason I had gone! What was so impressive is that when I showed them one of my enigmatic apples they were pretty sure they knew what it was a t first sight! Before they revealed what they proceeded to poke and prod it – first they cut it in half, briefly examining the core in cross-section – each apple variety has a distinct star-pattern made by its seeds. Sage nodding…  They then gave it a good sniff, looking at each other – yes, it had the tang of its daughter the famous Coxes Orange Pippin. I was eager to know what it was, but they were not finished yet – they cut a slice and tasted it, frowning disapprovingly – it wasn’t at its peak of perfection! I’d picked it too early. A bit unfair really as I’d brought it for identification not for eating!

So what is it? Well, it’s a Ribston Pippin don’t you know? Apparently, an 18th century variety from Yorkshire which is best kept for a month before eating. Interesting eh?

Incidents & accidents

Many plants self-seed in the woodland garden – a sign that they feel sufficiently at home to start a family. They often pop up in surprising places – perhaps inconvenient and needing to be pulled out, but often they choose a spot with considerable charm that could not have been devised. Along with these happy accidents I am increasingly seeing hybrids appear – not only are plants reproducing but they are interbreeding and creating new forms – very exciting! Finally there are the all-new arrivals – plants that have somehow mysteriously found their own way here. I’m not referring to the inevitable weeds but woodland plants that are actually rather beautiful and garden worthy.

Hybrid (false) Oxlip

This lovely butter-yellow hybrid appeared in a corner of a bed, tucked under the box hedging.

It is almost certainly a false Oxlip, the offspring of our native cowslip and primrose – both of which I grow in the garden.

From its primrose parent it has inherited the large flowers whilst its tall stems and rich colouring with the darker orange eye comes from the cowslip.

If it had been a commercial Primula sold in a punnet at the garden centre I wouldn’t have given it a second glance, but as it has arrived unbidden I treasure it. Wouldn’t you?

Red Primula

I was very surprised when this little self-sown seedling’s flowers opened, as I had not grown any primroses with red flowers before. Where had it come from?

Perhaps it got its genes from the deep blue primroses I planted as bedding to fill gaps last year, or perhaps a bee brought pollen from another garden. Who knows!

Unlike the commercial primrose hybrids its colouring is a little less brash – the red is a crushed strawberry – but to my eye it has a naturalness that makes it very welcome here.

Silver bells (Ornithogalum nutans ?)

 Where these came from I do not know. I didn’t plant them that’s for sure! But they are delicate in their sombre white and grey-green tones, and of all the ‘Star of Bethlehem’ bulb family one of the most naturalistic to my eye.

 They only throw up two or three flower spikes each year, but I always make a point of noticing them tucked away next to the far more showy oriental hellebores.

I think they would prefer a little more sun than they get in this corner and I suspect they are gradually fading away. C’est la vie!

Wood spurge (Euphorbia amagdyloides)

This native wood spurge can be seen growing in woodlands a few miles from here. Somehow its seeds arrived and planted themselves in a great spot in one of the woodland beds last year, at the foot of one of the blueberry bushes. Coincidently, I planted the garden variety E. a ‘Rubra’, which has distinct purple leaves, at the same time. Perhaps they will hybridise…

It has grown into a strong clump of twenty stems over 2′ (60cm) tall in just one year. The mass of flowers this year is considerable.

The photo shows it in early April before the lime green flowers have opened, but while it still has the distinctive red-brown tones in the stem and leaves. It’s strong upright unfurling growth is somehow both dramatic and subdued.