In a Vase for Monday: Thinking Outside the Box

RhubarbWhen I firstly expressed an interest in joining Cathy’s In a Vase for Monday meme, the Garden Rambler understood my dilemma of only being able to find flowers in the cottage garden for a few months and encouraged me to “think outside the box”. So while wandering around the garden and looking at early dwarf narcissi, muscari and scillas which were past their best, I spotted a magnificent flower spike in the corner of the herb garden.
I  had a vision of a large rustic earthenware jug  full of sprays of creamy white and pale pink flowers surrounded by crinkly vibrant leaves. That was a mere apparition, reality proved more difficult to achieve for this novice, ham-fisted, posy maker. The stems were too bent and thick to stand in the jug and leaned at very drunken angles. Not at all elegant and I very rapidly became impatient and grumpy, so it was back to the “stick it a jug style” again.
Rhubarb2 Flowers still interest me more than the arranging and I was fascinated by the contrasts in texture between the flowers and the leaves. Perhaps not a success but an interesting experiment? In fact the more I look at it, the more of a clumsy disaster it becomes – nice jug though.Rhubarb3

I do not have the temperament or the time to become a flower arranger and I’m far too impatient to fiddle about with the arrangers paraphernalia. The vision is there in abundance alas the skill is absent. However, I will stick with it (unless Cathy tactfully suggests that I try something else) and there is a faint possibility that I may improve. I like having garden flowers in the house and participating in the meme has encouraged me to look at the flowers I grow in more detail and from a different perspective. It also gives me a opportunity to practice my photography, where there is also room for improvement.

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Uncertain Glory of an April Day

which now shows all the beauty of the sun, and by and by a cloud takes all away….
Shakespeare Two Gentlemen of Verona

Charlie's Beach Eriskay

A tropical island, the Caribbean, South Africa, the Mediterranean? No Charlie’s Beach on Eriskay (an island at the south end of South Uist and a ferry ride away from Barra). White shell sand glistens and shimmers, clear turquoise water invites, seals bask, gannets dive and sea eagles languidly move across the bay casually looking for the unwary morsel. Not even a zephyr of wind, only the gentle shush of waves to ripple the senses. When the wind drops, the sky clears and the sun appears I am in paradise once again.
Although a long way from “phew what a scorcher”  Easter Monday was warm enough for an old-fashioned nature ramble and a picnic. The temperature was certainly not tropical, but it was warm enough to amble along without a coat, sit and dream, and eat fruit cake without risking hypothermia.
A change of wind direction often brings clear skies and a respite from the westerly winds and rain which accompany the Atlantic depressions. It heralds the annual outbreak of spring fever as we toil to finish the winter garden maintenance, juggle plants and seedlings, entertain visitors and get the holiday cottage running smoothly. So time to play truant and head for Eriskay. It may seem perverse to drive for 45 minutes with a picnic, all the naturalists’ paraphernalia (cameras, tripods, binoculars, maps, notebooks, and assorted  accoutrements) and the “just-in-case” extra coats, fleeces, hats, gloves, waterproofs, to another island; when we have an equally good beach and wildlife on our doorstep. However, the traditional Bank Holiday expedition to the seaside would not be complete without loading the car with assorted miscellanea and the ritual of making a picnic. So a trip to Eriskay is our version of a “day at the seaside”.
Further south spring has dressed the countryside in verdant green and adorned it with flowers whilst the islands keep Hebridean time, lagging behind at leisurely pace. The first wild flowers: dandelions, daisies, primroses, violets and creeping willow, provide sustenance for the early butterflies and bumblebees, but most of the insects wait for the warmer days of May before emerging. Botanising in the early spring is challenging and often frustrating as identifying plants before the flowers appear is not for the faint hearted novice.

Each year we set ourselves a different challenge and this summer I’m brushing up my botanical skills and teaching myself how to identify ferns. Following in the footsteps of generations of botanists and standing on the shoulders of giants I am devoting my summer rambles to “sekyng of herbes and markynge in what places they do grow” (William Turner 1512-68). The fieldwork for the next botanical atlas of the British Isles has to be completed by 2019 and on South Uist there is a lot of ground to cover by the handful of botanists of the newly formed Uist Botany Group.
A gardener is often a botanist in disguise, so if you would like to get involved in recording wild flowers or just learn more about our native flora visit the Botanical Society of British Isles or Plantlife websites.

Save The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew

Petitioning the Rt Hon Mr Owen Paterson MP to Urgently reverse existing, proposed, and further cuts to RBG Kew’s annual operating grant in aid

The Royal Botanic Gardens, with sites at Kew Gardens, London and Wakehurst Place, Sussex is a world-leader in conservation and botanical science, with over 250 years of historical excellence in these fields.
It now needs our help to ensure its globally-important plant and fungi collections can continue to be used to support plant and fungal science and conservation around the world.
In 1983, 90 per cent of Kew’s funding came from the UK Government as grant in aid. The current amount has dropped to below 40 per cent as of this year. Funding was reduced by £0.9M in 2009-10, £1M in 2010-11, and by an extra £0.5M year-on-year thereafter.
Kew has now been told to expect further cuts of at least another £1.5M before the end of 2016.
Under the 1983 National Heritage Act, the UK Government committed to ensure that Kew is adequately resourced to fulfill its statutory obligations, which include: research; providing advice and education; plant-related services including quarantine; caring for world-renowned scientific collections, as national reference collections available for study; and as a resource for the public to gain knowledge and enjoy. The UK Government is no longer fulfilling its role to allow Kew to meet these obligations.
Kew has been dramatically increasing income from non-government funding streams through the work of their partner charity Kew Foundation, and via commercially generated income, consultancy work, and research funding. Although there are plans to extend these efforts, they are no longer able to keep up with the rate of cuts in government funding and many areas of Kew’s work are not easily resourced externally.
Due to the cuts, Kew has announced that with a £5M deficit for this year, over 120 posts will be axed. The majority of posts will be lost in the areas of science and public engagement. Kew will lose dedicated, expert staff, and whole areas of work are likely to be halted.
A petition may have little effect on government policy, but it can demonstrate that a significant number of people value this institution and that work it carries out. You can sign the petition by following this link.

Thank you

In a Vase Monday: Blue Poole

Muscari Blue Magic

Muscari Blue Magic

It was very tempting to photography another posy of dwarf narcissi with Aquilegia leaves as the delicate flowers seemed to be dancing in the morning sunlight. Instead I chose a handful of Muscari in a small Poole Pottery pot. Not as elegant but the intense colour of the blooms is striking.  I particularly like the knobbly texture of the flower heads, although I’m not sure that the contrast of the ferny leaves of the caraway is quite right.  Most bulbs produce fairly boring strap-shaped leaves, so I’m struggling to find foliage for my posies.
I’ve photographed the arrangement from above because this little pot of flowers invites you to bury your nose in the blooms. These tiny flowers produce a heavy perfume that is rich with honey. No wonder they are a favourite with the early bumblebees!