Glowing Embers

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Here we’ve gone from unusually high temperatures to autumnal chills in a very short time. I’m still wondering how the summer disappeared so quickly. (And hoping for some more gentle sunshine that we can enjoy rather than be baked by.)

Late summer flowers have become a memory too. These heleniums (aka sneezeweed) are in colours that remind me of that summer heat. They are fiery and glowing and demanded to be gazed at and photographed.

The heleniums in the top image were in a garden I visited. I wouldn’t plant this particular helenium in my own garden because I’m not keen on its combination of colours. However, the flowers made a good picture anyway, so I was pleased to be able to photograph them.

The flowers in the bottom photograph were in my own garden. (Unfortunately the plant didn’t come back this spring – but I think it would have struggled to survive this dry summer, even if it had.) The colour here is much redder than the other plant and makes me think of the hot embers of a fire. Maybe I’ll try to grow it again in the future.

helenium flowers

It’s all in the Detail

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The detail of plant structure has always fascinated me. When you think of the different forms of flowers and plants it’s mind-boggling. Just in the plants you might see in the UK (never mind all those in countries over the rest of the world) there’s an amazing variety, especially in our gardens.

In my own garden, I can, for instance, see the flower of a daisy near a passionflower. Or a rose and the lavender growing by it – such a range of shapes, textures and colours. These differences make for a more appealing garden and they make photography more interesting too.

The individual details of flowers entice me to capture them in a photograph. Here, with these zinnias, it’s the tiny yellow ‘disc florets’ that have opened in a ring around the flower centre (the ‘eye’). If you look at the photo below, you can see, tucked deep among the curving red bracts (‘paleae’ or chaff) there are more yellow disc florets waiting their turn to open. Each red palea is like a tiny flag, with a fine tip and a jagged-looking edge. They add an attractive texture and contrast to the other parts of the flower head.

centre of zinnia flower
The ‘eye’ of the zinnia flower head, showing the ring of disc florets and the red paleae in the centre.

As the zinnia matures, the shape of the centre of the flower head becomes more conical due to the growing seeds within. (As you can see in the top image.) The ring of open disc florets advances towards the tip of the cone as the older disc florets finish and the new ones open. This gives a different look from the flatter head of the immature zinnia and new photographic possibilities.

The photograph below shows a variation I hadn’t expected. This flower head has developed fasciation due to abnormal behaviour of the growing tip (perhaps because of damage, disease, genetics or environmental factors). As a result, there are two conjoined flower heads instead of the normal single. It just shows that you never know what you’ll find when you take a wander around a garden!

Zinnia with fasciation
Zinnia with fasciation

Pink Profusion – or Not!

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There are fewer flowers left in our garden than usual this autumn. That’s partly because I didn’t plant any annuals this year. But the main reason is because of the effects of heat and drought on the plants here.

There are still a number of Japanese anemones – even though they too have suffered from the lack of rain. Usually the anemone clumps would be bigger and would have more flowers. Many of the flowers are smaller, presumably because the plants have been able to take fewer nutrients out of the dry soil. So this year this anemone hasn’t been able to live up to its name – ‘Hadspen Abundance’.

In case you’re thinking that these anemones look OK, I need to tell you that the photographs are from last year. I haven’t got much left to photograph in the garden now, so let’s hope they’re a bit more abundant next year!

Japanese anemone 'Hadspen Abundance'
Anemone hupehensis ‘Hadspen Abundance’

Into the Jungle: Henstead Exotic Garden

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Last weekend I went to visit Henstead Exotic Garden near Beccles in Suffolk. The weather was still very warm, so it was a great pleasure to spend time in a garden that provided plenty of shade.

That precious shade was provided by the many trees, shrubs and bamboos growing in the garden. Amongst these are around 100 palms, giant yellow bamboo that can grow a foot a day (plants grow fast in the warmth here) and beautiful red-leaved bananas.

Henstead Exotic Garden

The garden has been established for less than 20 years, with its owner, Andrew Brogan, having moved to Suffolk in 2004. It is not what you might expect to see in Suffolk. This garden survives winters here because many of the palms and other exotics are actually quite hardy and due to its sheltered site, surrounded by a belt of older trees. (These include yews and oaks, some of which are up to 300 years old.) Additionally, the garden is only two miles from the coast, which protects it from having prolonged frosts.

Henstead Exotic Garden

The deep shade created by the lush growth of the plants at this time of year made trying to photograph it very tricky. It was very dark in many areas. (But, oh, I did enjoy the cool!) I tend to prefer not to use the higher ISO speeds on my camera, but this time I really had no choice.

It was so much easier when I emerged from under the leafy canopy into the nursery area. Here there was a large open area that allowed me plenty of light to photograph some of the plants in containers. (The nursery area is packed with all sorts of serious temptations, many at very reasonable prices…easy to spend a long time at this bit!)

Henstead Exotic Garden

I reckon I’ll have to return to the garden earlier in the year in future, so that I can photograph some of the lovely garden features that were hidden in it’s dark depths. There were ponds and an artificial stream that would be easier to photograph at a time when the canopy above hasn’t yet filled out.

There were interesting buildings too – the main one being a large tropical-styled summerhouse, which must be an inviting place to spend a relaxed hour or two. There was also a ‘Thai pavilion’ and viewing area which visitors clamber up to via some rather deep steps – an exciting viewpoint up close to the trees and bamboos! I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to this very different garden – I’ll be back!

Henstead Exotic Garden