The unstoppable flowers of Spring

Small white tree blossom of Prunus incisa, with small water droplets.
Prunus incisa, the Fuji cherry

By Andy Winfield

Winter has had its grip on us for a what seems like ten months here in Bristol. The temperature has stayed low for the West Country and we’re all looking forward to those early Spring sunshine days and the first warmth on our faces; winter dissolves into the past when that happens. Winter is not without its beauty, but leaving the thermals at home is a marker for warm days ahead. In the Garden plants are keeping to the spring timetable, the light levels prompting early flower. (more…)

Altered carbon: the catastrophe of coal

Old black and white image of a coal miner in shorts and vest drilling a seam of black coal.
Coal mining in the UK in 1942.

By Andy Winfield

In early November this year, myself and my wife went to the Welsh National Coal Museum also known as the Big Pit. It’s a great visit, looking at the working practices over the years of digging up this material that’s been locked underground since the Carboniferous period. Part of the experience is to go down into the mines, down in the lift, and look at the coal seams. The walls of glittery blackness were shimmering under the light of our head torches. We learned how coal is hard to get to, it requires a lot of ingenuity and effort to get it back to the surface; a surface that it hasn’t seen for many millions of years. Due to its importance in feeding the insatiable monster called progress, coal was a huge industry for many years; an industry we now know with certainty was a driver in changing the planet’s climate. But what is coal, and why is it so bad? (more…)

A tree from across the sea

Four men are holding a cross pole; the pole is attached to a large tree which is being lowered into a planting hole.

By Andy Winfield

This month an extraordinary thing happened; a man called Joerma Biernath and his team sailed a World War 2 training boat containing a tree (and a barrel of gin, naturally) 600 miles from Hannover in Saxony to the UK. This tree now has pride of place here in the Botanic Garden, planted by the sailors themselves, North Sea salt in their hair and now Bristol soil under their fingernails.

The tree is Cornus mas or Cornelian Cherry, a rare plant in Lower Saxony; the sailors have planted it outside our Welcome Lodge where it will live as a symbol of the bond between cities. In early spring it produces small bright yellow flowers at a time when flashes of brightness are such a welcome sight after a long dark winter. (more…)

Bluebells take the stage

The nodding heads of bluebell flowers

By Andy Winfield

In April everything becomes green again. Leaves are bringing colour to bare branches and a skip to our step.  Spring bulbs are almost at the end of their moment; leaves on trees mean darkness under canopies, but there’s still time, just before the leafy curtains are fully drawn, for one of the most joyful sights. Bluebells. (more…)