Glowing Embers

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

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!

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

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

Alluring Alstroemerias

More flowers from Fullers Mill Gardens this week – and I’m glad I have these to post because my own garden is looking frazzled and sad after all the heat and drought. I just hope that most of my plants will survive.

Alstoemerias (Peruvian Lilies) are gorgeous flowers that I would love to grow in my garden. I had thought of buying a couple of the plants earlier in the year. However, I decided to leave it for a while because I already had other plants to find homes for. (Like many gardeners, I tend to buy plants and then wonder where I will have space for them.) I’m glad I delayed, because it has been difficult to keep the garden watered this hot summer and they might not have done well.

Although they look exotic, alstroemerias are reasonably hardy. They just need a sunny, sheltered spot in decent soil that doesn’t get too wet in winter. (Otherwise the tubers may rot.)

Next year I’ll plan to have somewhere ready to plant an alstroemeria or two. I’ll even make sure to reserve some of the best of the contents of the compost heap for them. (It’s very much needed in the soil here!) Then I should be able to grow some beauties like these, and photograph them too of course. My main problem might be deciding which of the many colours to go for…

Alstroemeria flowers
Alstroemeria flowers come in a range of colours, from bold and bright to the more delicate.

Lilies: Deadly Beauty

You may wonder why I’ve gone for such a dramatic-sounding title, especially as lilies don’t pose us a threat. But if you own a cat (or it owns you), you’ll probably know what my reason is. Lilies, especially their beautiful, golden-yellow pollen, are a deadly threat to cats.

If a cat gets lily pollen on its fur, perhaps while brushing past the flowers, and then licks it off, the cat can suffer severe kidney damage which can be fatal. (The other parts of the lily plant are also highly toxic, but less likely to be ingested by a cat…unless it has a habit of nibbling plants.)

Lilium regale – the regal lily – is tall and beautiful.

When I had my first two cats, I had no idea about the damage lilies could do them and I did actually have some lilies growing in a large tub. They were Lilium regale, which is tall, so the cats didn’t get close to the flowers. Even so, the thought of what might have happened if some of the pollen had fallen on them makes me shudder!

Other members of the lily family are equally toxic to cats. Daylilies (Hemerocallis), Lily of the Valley (Convallaria) and Peace Lilies (Spathiphyllum) can all cause damage that needs to be treated by a vet immediately to try to save the cat’s life.

We have two cats here, so I don’t grow any lilies in the garden now. But if I see them growing in gardens I visit, I love to photograph them. The lilies you see here were growing in Fullers Mill Gardens. (Just a few of their lovely collection.)

Leopard Lily (Lilium pardalinum)

Cool Thoughts: Frosty Memories

I’d like to thank tanjabrittonwriter for the idea for this post…we felt that some of my frosty photographs may bring a suggestion of coolness to these over-hot summer days. (The temperatures are still higher than normal in the UK and, I believe, in many areas elsewhere.)

Snow is infrequent in our winter in Suffolk now, so the Japanese anemone seedhead, with its tiny cap of snow, (top photo) is a rare image for me. Frost is much more usual in our winters, so I leave seedheads to see if they will become interesting subjects to photograph. The frost can make something magical out of the most ordinary plant remains, as you can see from the photo below. The honesty seedheads were long past their best and getting very scruffy, but with a bit of frost and some sunshine, they’re suddenly delicate and attractive.

frosted honesty seed pods
The remains of honesty seedheads look much better after the frost.

Bronze fennel tries to take over my garden by spreading its seedlings everywhere but I resist the temptation to clear away the seedheads and I leave it intact for the frost. This plant never disappoints me when it’s frosted, and it can become most decorative, especially when the sun adds some sparkle.

frosted fennel seed head
A frosted fennel seedhead looks decorative in the sun.

If the frost is early, it can catch plants that are still in flower. The echinacea below was a new plant and had come into flower much later than normal. It was an unexpected sight one morning, to see it completely frozen through by the first frost. (It hasn’t happened to any of the echinacea flowers since.)

Echinacea purpurea – frozen through by an early frost!

A few flowers, such as the yellow winter jasmine, the pink-flowered shrub Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’ and this winter-flowering iris (below) have flowers through much of the winter. They look especially appealing with a touch of frost (although that shortens the life of the individual flowers).

winter-flowering iris
Iris unguicularis – a winter-flowering iris that frequently has frosted flowers.

I’m glad that the roses in my garden right now haven’t got any frost on them though! Zepherine Drouhin sometimes has a few flowers left just as the frosts are starting, so I always look to see if they’re in good enough condition for a photograph. Of course, when the frost melts, the flowers are left looking wilted and they won’t survive the damage the frost has done to the petals. But a photograph preserves the memory of them.

Rose 'Zepherine Drouhin', covered in frost.
Rose ‘Zepherine Drouhin’

Cool Whites

To me, white flowers with green foliage have a lovely fresh and cool look…something that would be welcome in all the recent hot weather. (Fortunately the temperatures have dropped a bit, but it’s still hotter than normal.)

The climbing Hydrangea petiolaris in the top picture has recently finished flowering. During June and early July its airy white flowers looked graceful alongside our shady seating area. It’s going to get too big for its space, so I ought to prune it back now the flowers are over. However, I like to leave some of the flowers to dry out so that I can photograph them in the frost. It’s hard to imagine frost right now, but it does look deliciously cool, as you can see below.

Frosted climbing hydrangea
Frosty flowers of climbing hydrangea, photographed in winter 2019.

We have just a few white flowers in our garden. It’s still a little early for the white Japanese anemones. These struggle a bit in the heat and do need watering to keep them going, so I’m not expecting great results from them this year. And I haven’t grown any of the white cosmos this year, so I’m rather missing it.

The white geranium below was originally planted years ago but has now managed to spread itself around the garden by self-seeding. It’s very welcome, so I hope it will continue it’s journey around the garden. Most of my geraniums form spreading clumps but this one seems so far to be much more compact. That’s great, because it means that it doesn’t cause much disruption to other plants and can fit itself into gaps quite easily.

white hardy geranium flowers
A white geranium (name unknown) that seeds itself around.

A plant that I’ve only started to notice recently is Gillenia trifoliata. The plant below was growing at Fullers Mill Garden, and being able to see it close up – rather than in a photo or on TV – made me realise how pretty and delicate the effect of the tiny white flowers is. If I can find space I’d like to grow it, but there’s already a list of plants I’d like to find room for…

Gillenia trifoliata flowers
Gillenia trifoliata (Bowman’s root)

The Gillenia makes me think of the flowers of Gaura lindheimeri, which are just starting to come out in my garden and will last into the late autumn. Gaura is great here because it doesn’t take up a lot of room and the flowers weave themselves through and around the other plants. I’m looking forward to seeing their flowers dancing in the borders like little white butterflies very soon.

Flower of Gaura lindheimeri
The flowers of Gaura lindheimeri are just beginning to open.

Too Hot!

Flowers with bright, hot colours feel particularly appropriate to post after the hottest week I’ve ever experienced. The temperatures have been hotter than I could ever have imagined in the UK, reaching over 40C in a number of places. (Here in Suffolk it was a couple of degrees cooler, but still very difficult to cope with.)

We were lucky. Using fans to keep ourselves and our two cats reasonably cool worked. (Although there were a couple of panicky moments when the electricity went off. Fortunately it came back on both times, after just a few minutes.)

Elsewhere in in England (mostly in the London area) there were those who were desperately unlucky. In several places people have been made homeless as houses and possessions were burned to nothing but ash by wildfires. And I’m sure we’ve all seen the news about the dreadful wildfires that have been causing huge destruction across Europe.

Surely there cannot be any doubt that our climate is changing massively from what we are used to. Now is the time to do everything we can to care for our environment, our world and all that lives upon it. The changes we individually make may be small, but they all count. Together they help.

Daylily (Hemerocallis)
This photo: Daylily (Hemerocallis) Top photo: Leopard Lily