Cacti are interesting plants and a bit strange; some look like they could hoik themselves out of the ground and lumber around with spiny arms flailing, and others like they’ve just landed, and a door will slowly hiss open unleashing a thousand tiny aliens. They used to be something we only saw in Western movies, an indication of an arid landscape, usually accompanied by a lone rider with chapped lips shielding eyes from the sun. There’s been a resurgence in recent times, a lot of care and love is being heaped on these fascinating and unusual plants in houses around the country. It’s about time they received the attention they deserve; they’re one of the plant world’s many success stories, settling comfortably in the harshest environments with ingenious adaptations. (more…)
When we think of conifers many things spring to mind. The tall straight evergreen woodlands, North American giants, a festive winter addition to the house or Cypress punctuating Mediterranean skies; pinecones sitting in the crook of a tree or resinous smells drifting in a cool still air. These are all true of conifers, but let’s give some love to deciduous conifers, some of the shining stars of autumn. (more…)
Did you know that most birds stop singing in August and into September? They’ve done all their brooding and nesting and concentrate on building up strength for any future journey, no territory to mark. This month has always felt different, but I’ve never put my finger on why exactly; it can be as warm as any summer month, but the absence of that excited chatter and bustle of birds give it an atmosphere of its own. I think we’re all effected by the ebb and flow of the seasons, consciously or subconsciously the natural background ambience has an impact, from high summer to the darkest winter day. It’s taken a few hundred years for Western society to push nature to the boundaries, convincing ourselves we’re an exceptional species that is no longer part of natural systems, but the inescapable truth is that we are very much part of nature as much as the birds and the plants.
There’s nothing like watching nature mark off the times of the year, like familiar landmarks of a train journey to a favourite place, we know we’re moving away from winter when we see magnolias flower. The last time they flowered we couldn’t have known the year we had in store until they bloomed again, but here we are a year later and there they are with a comforting familiarity that the seasons bring, but for magnolias, they’ve seen it all before. (more…)