Friday 27 May 2022

Flower Fairies

Cicely Mary Barker, an English illustrator, was best known for her series of fantasy books depicting fairies and flowers. When I first learnt to read my parents gave me some of her Flower Fairy books, which I now believe may have been partly reponsible for my love of flowers. I remember that the letter "R" in her alphabet book did not stand for my namesake or even a Rose, but for a rather obscure flower called Ragged-Robin. The flower was unknown to me at that time, but her illustration made me determined to discover them growing in the wild. I found the clues to Ragged Robin's location in her poem.

The Ragged Robin Fairy

In wet marshy meadows

A tattered piper strays -

Ragged, ragged Robin;

On thin reeds he plays.

He asks for no payment;

He plays, for delight,

A tune for the fairies,

To dance to, at night.

They nod and they whisper,

And say, looking wise,

"A princeling is Robin,

For all his disguise!" 

Some of the flowers currently catching our eye in the garden are the many free Foxgloves that simply turn up, from who knows where, to visit us?

Bumble bees love foxgloves, this one was enjoying an early morning forage. It has an incredibly tousled fluffy head - I name him "Boris". He is probably a male Bombus humilis, Brown-banded carder bumblebee, but if you know better, please let me know.

Foxgloves - Digitalis with their tall spires of thimble-like flowers rising from rosettes of soft downy leaves, have always been a popular choice to have in our gardens.
Arriving in various different hues, this one has a pretty pale golden interior, some have white, cream, or palest pink.
There are a host of myths, legends, and stories surrounding foxgloves which although beautiful can be deadly - they have the power to cure but also to harm.
"Foxglove, Foxglove,
What do you see?"
The cool green woodland,
The fat velvet bee;
I've honey here for thee!
"Foxglove, Foxglove,
What see you now?'
The soft summer moonlight
On bracken, grass, and bough;
And all the fairies dancing
As only they know how.
 Cicely Mary Barker

Friday 13 May 2022

May's Magical Moments in our Garden

Paeonia lutea ludlowii - yellow peony tree

This tree is named in honour of Frank Ludlow, a British Naturalist. He discovered this tree whilst on an expedition through the Tsangpo Valley in Eastern Tibet during 1936. Before this date the tree was completely unknown in the West. It has very large black shiny seeds which it sheds around the base of the tree. We must have grown at least 20 trees from them which have all been given to friends who tell us how much they enjoy them.
This luscious red peony tree is our pride and joy - Paeonia delavayi, named after Father Jean Marie Delavay, a French Catholic missionary in China, who collected plants. It is endemic to southwestern China, where it is limited to Sichuan, Yunnan and the very South-East of Tibet. It does not produce bountiful seeds like the yellow tree but is much rarer. It is listed as endangered by the China Plant Red Data Book where it is under threat. This is as a result of the people digging out its roots for medicine on a scale that is not adequately controlled.
This a Lutea Hybrid Tree Peony - Paeonia 'Alhambra'. We had a similar one in ballerina pink, but the deer have trampled on it and smashed it into smithereens.
This shrub hails from the
Himalayas - Piptanthus nepalennsis - Nepal Laburnam. It has lovely very dark green shiny stems which gradually turn black and thus form a stunning contrast with its citrus yellow pea like flowers.
We have given the small walled garden a bit of a revamp this Spring. It used to have lots of ornamental grasses which had become rather thuggish, so they have been removed. For the moment we have filled the cleared beds with cheap and cheerful pansies.
Lots of Alliums adding splashes of purple all around the garden.

The Cercis siliquastrum - Judas Tree - with its pretty heart shaped leaves is looking a picture. I want it to stay just as it is for as long as possible, but I know the blossom will drop before I am ready to let it go.
I have brought a small branch of the Judas Tree into the kitchen so that we can continue to admire it whilst indoors.

Friday 6 May 2022

Our Sons -----

Eldest son has a doctorate in Geology but deep within his heart he is a poet. Youngest son is a Special Needs teacher. He has a reputation for having a great affinity and understanding of his pupils, and is particularly succesful at getting the very best out of each of them. However, like his brother, deep within his heart he is an artist. Over the last few weeks eldest son has written 40 poems concerning the daily ongoing situation in Ukraine. He has also helped to raise money at a special Poets for Ukraine event held recently in London. Jonathan and Nick have now compiled a book together of Jonathan's poems complimented by Nick's linocut illustrations. They form a diary text of events covering the first weeks of the invasion.

The linocuts done by Nick show scenes that we are all now familiar with having witnessed them on a daily basis. As I write, the book is already with the publisher. Costing £10 each, it is being limited to just 100 copies. However, I am delighted to report that every book has already been sold prior to publication. All of the money from the sale of the books will be donated in full to Ukrainian refugee charities.