May is monstrous, in a good way. An unstoppable surge of green enveloping everything, gunnera leaves fighting their way from the earth like zombies and the croziers of tree ferns unwinding like the kraken from sea water. This beast like energy is on our side, scaring away spring and winter back to the past where it now belongs, the power of nature is never felt more intensely. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “there is potent blood in modest May”. (more…)
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’.
By Jacqueline Campbell
Marvellous muddy mesocosms
|Mrs Turner, Head of Biology at Red Maids’ School, studying
|The mesocosms in this image are just a few hours old.
Images are taken every two days to track and record the changes
Bacteria of many colours
|Students have seen the pressure within their ecosystems
increase over time thanks to the highly visible levels of
respiration occurring within the sealed environment. A range
of different coloured bacteria are also now present.
Dr Jacqueline Campbell has a PhD in physics from St Andrews University and twelve years of editorial experience working for the Institute of Physics Publishing and as a freelance journalist. She now works as a science technician at the Red Maids’ School.