Thursday 25 February 2016

The Awakening

Snowdrops have been nodding their heads for weeks in our gardens - finally mother nature has caste off her winter mantle and rubbed the dust out of her eyes. She has opened wide her paint box and splashed yellows, pinks and blues around our land.
Blue skies, brilliant sunshine, an early morning nip in the air all succeeded in tempting us out for our first picnic of the year to The Weir Garden, Herefordshire. 

A garden sitting high on a loop of the River Wye as it meanders from Wales through the Herefordshire countryside before journeying on to the Bristol Channel and out in to the Atlantic 
A musical cacophany of bird song filled the air, chirping Robins protecting their territory, the mewing of six large Buzzards as angry nesting Rooks chased them away from their tree top eries, whilst across the river two Bean geese honked at us before taking flight to breed in Scandinavia. 
The garden is managed in a natural way to create a varied habitat for wildlife. There is very little formality apart from some large topiary domes, and structures which give interesting walks, and steep steps to explore up and down the river bank. 

A garden of many pathways to explore

Ancient woodlands - excavations have shown that there once was a multi roomed Roman residence complete with columns and mosaics thought to have belonged to a Roman official from nearby Kenchester

Glades filled with naturalised flowers

but always acccompanied by tantalising glimpses of the River Wye as it merrily travels on its way

Monday 22 February 2016

Voting is Over

I tentatively broached the subject of asking for your help in connection with Encephalitis Awareness, and your responses were heartfelt and filled with kindness - thank you♡
I am delighted to be able to inform you all that My Daddy made by our dear little friend Nicki came 2nd in the film category - it is a wonderful result. There were four categories overall including 'Digital Art', 'Photography', and 'Wild Card'.
Later in the year all of the winners will have the priviledge of seeing their work being displayed for a fortnight in the Education Centre of the Saatchi Gallery, London - a world renowned gallery which has previously hosted work by Andy Warhol and Damien Hirst. 

Friday 19 February 2016

My Daddy

Two years ago on returning from a trip abroad a friend and neighbour became desperately ill. Eventually he was diagnosed with encephalitis. It is known that this disease can be caused by either a virus or a bacteria but there are also many unknowns connected with the disease.
His journey has been very long and slow, and his memory greatly affected. Recently he had more tests in the renowned John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford, and even they seem to be unsure as to the best way forward for him. He had great difficulty explaining to us what had happened during his week in Oxford even though he had only just returned home - his memory completely lets him down. Although he is in his early 50s it is now very unlikely that he will ever be able to work again.
Nicki, his 13 year old daughter, has made this moving little film about 'My Daddy', and the consequences for their family. It would be wonderful and much appreciated if you felt you could vote for her in connection with World Encephalitis Awareness Day here. It would be lovely for the family if she won.
If you do vote you will be sent an acknowledgement email saying that you will be put on the Encephalitis mailing list, but there is a section on the email where you can cancel and opt out of this. The results will be given on the 22nd February so time is very short - thanking you in anticipation.

Thursday 18 February 2016

What was the flower?

The plant is Gomphocarpus physocarpus - synonym Asclepias physocarpa - common names: balloon plant, swan plant, hairy balls, family jewels tree - a species of milkweed. The plants main claim to fame is playing host to the Monarch Butterfly.
lavae/caterpillar via               butterfly via
Monarch butterflies cannot survive without milkweed; their caterpillars only eat milkweed plants so the butterflies need them to lay their eggs. The leaves of milkweed are poisonous to most animals as they contain chemicals called cardenolides which does not affect Monarch caterpillars. They store the chemicals in their bodies which makes them poisonous to other animals. When the lavae turn into butterflies the cardenolides remain, protecting them too.  
It can grow up to 2 m tall - a slender perennial erect shrub.
It has these extraordinarily large distinctive prickly pods - I wondered what was inside
Until I saw this split pod packed full of seeds. Each seed wore a luxurious silky white flowing parachute
Whilst doing some research I discovered that there are over 100 species of milkweed and all of them are quite different from one another. Some have bright orange flowers in clusters, others come in shades of white through to yellow, pink, purple and red. Only Gomphocarpus physocarpus and a sub species Gomphocarpus fruticosus appear to have these large round hairy seed pods. However, most milkweeds do have extraordinary seed pods. It is worth taking a look at them on google images here.
Congratulations and well done to Celia Hart and Rod Lutes who both identified the flower correctly.

Monday 15 February 2016

It's Guess the Flower Time Again

Several of you enjoy my flower quiz but I have yet to be successful at catching you out. At least one of my blogging friends always manages to identify the flower shown..... but I live in hopes♡ Sometimes I show just part of a flower, or take a micro shot, but today I am generously giving you a whole flower spray.

This flower is completely new to me. I spotted it during our Christmas holiday in Paris. It was growing in a municipal roadside flower bed near to where our eldest son and family live.
The flowers are small, creamy yellow - my first impression was that they are rather insignificant, but on closer inspection they were prettier than I initially thought. The leaves are strap like resembling those of the Oleander. One clue is that it has very extraordinary seed pods, details of which I am saving until I give the answer!
We bought some seeds home with us which we may well live to regret!!!
As usual I shall turn comments moderation on to give everyone a fair chance, and will post the answer on Thursday 18th February.

Sunday 14 February 2016

Happy Valentine's Day♡

A big thank you for all the lovely comments left on the previous post whilst I was away from the computer - I am very happy to be back again and also relieved to be able to add "mission accomplished"

Thursday 4 February 2016

Time Out

It's time for me to stop putting off until
tomorrow what must be done today
I'm not leaving town
nor country
 But duty calls
I must knuckle down

Sort things out 
Get my affairs in order
Have lots of fun whilst I'm away
You'll hardly have time to miss me
Keep on blogging
I shall be so happy
when I return
and all the work is done