We are wildlife.

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.
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The return of an old friend

After winter, the ground slowly wakes up in increments; snowdrops and hellebores in January, crocus in February. By March we’re looking up at magnolias and cherries, down at daffodils and forward to longer days and warmer temperatures. The old spring favourites quicken our heartbeat, but I’m going to talk about an understated gem at the Botanic Garden. This is a plant that I look forward to seeing every year; you could easily walk its path without noticing, as it produces flower low to the ground while everyone is looking elsewhere. One of those plants that when you’ve seen it one year you look out for it again, until it becomes like greeting an old friend who always seems happy to see you.   (more…)

March of the Magnolias

Magnolia campbellii subsp.mollicomata ‘Lanarth’.

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…)

Magnificent May

How did it get to be May already? It seems a very short time ago that we were looking at the low sun and listening to the lone robins sing, bare earth and branches waiting for a temperature hike. Well, the Garden has plumped up with leaves and life, almost fluorescent in its vibrancy. It’s a wonderful time of year, even when it rains you can almost see the plants growing. 

While the rain is soaking into the May soil, it also threatens the flowers of one group of plants in our Chinese Herb Garden. This year we have completed our peony garden, a unique display here in the west country, and on Sunday 12th May we’re holding a day dedicated to peonies in celebration. One thing we’d like for people to see in this area is of course the flowers of peonies, and the weather was doing its best to rain on our peony parade. So we decided to pamper these plants with an umbrella each. It might seem over the top, but it’s a treatment that some of them are accustomed to. In days gone by the gansu mudan peony has led a life of privilege; ancient China knew it as the Emperor’s flower and law decreed that it was only grown in his gardens. Specialist growers were tasked with cultivating it for use in the imperial borders, but if anyone got ideas above their station and sneaked some in their own garden, well, they were executed! So some of these peony flowers have the air of ‘an umbrella is no more than I deserve’.

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