Sunlight Attack II

Experimental picture taken looking up into a rose

The last few days, we’ve had enough rain to kickstart the process of re-greening the North of England’s meadows, and I started to feel a little celebration of sunshine might not go amiss. Isn’t that the way it always is?

My first is a decidedly strange (for me) shot of roses growing overhead – so high, they ruled out the little dead-heading needed for a conventional shot. At the time I took it, I was half-imagining some form of caption in the top left: a concise one like Dog Days or Wine & Roses. As the end result captures more of their spirit than I expected, I’m leaving it alone. For now.  Continue reading

Heleniums at Bluebell Cottage Gardens

Orange and yellow daisy flowers

We’d been meaning to visit Bluebell Cottage for a while and weren’t disappointed. There were some signs of flowers going to seed earlier than usual due to the long hot and dry spell, but the overall effect was glorious and the pollinators were having a field day – literally. I can hardly believe I managed to take this picture of the garden without a butterfly or bee in the foreground (there is a blurry bee a few rows back).  Continue reading

Beach Huts for Birds

Rows of colourful bird houses

These colourful birdhouses from the RHS Hampton Court Flower Show made me think of beach huts, each painted slightly differently to their neighbours, but all in keeping with the spirit of the place. I need to rein in my imagination at this point before I start twittering about birds emerging from their huts in swimming costumes, clutching beach towels, ready for a few hours in the sun… followed by a refreshing sand bath… see what I mean?  Continue reading

Rosa ‘Scepter’d Isle’ at Bodnant Garden

Pink rose with chalice shaped blooms

Rosa ‘Scepter’d Isle’ caught my eye during our visit to Bodnant Garden in Wales this week. The garden opens until 8 o’clock in the evening some Wednesdays during the summer (please check details online before visiting) so we could arrive fashionably late and still enjoy a (very) warm evening stroll.

We had planned to go a week or so earlier – given the choice, I prefer to catch the roses slightly before their peak when they are at their freshest, before the garden has time to need dead-heading. Winds gusting at 35-40mph put paid to that idea. Although the rose garden was a touch further on, it was still looking lovely, with rambling roses in flower on the many pergolas.   Continue reading

Sunlight Attack

Mossy bank with wild geranium leaf backlit by sun

Usually there are plenty of opportunities to pick an overcast day if we’re planning to visit a garden or, if not, at least chances to wait for a cloud. But this year is different. Unrelenting sunshine is not usually a big issue in northern England but Texan-style blue skies (with not a cloud in sight all day long) are all the rage.   Continue reading

Gate leading into wildflower field with foxgloves

Hay Time In The Dales: People’s Choice Award Winner At RHS Chatsworth

Chris Myers and I were chuffed to bits by the turn of events at The RHS Chatsworth Flower Show last week. We both had good reason. After a slow start (the judges’ Silver Medal theoretically rated it worst in show), the garden he’d designed was validated by the popular vote, being named the one the public loved most. Me? I’d been rooting for it!

Foxgloves and wildflowers growing beside a cottage

Naturalistic plantings were a theme of this year’s show, but his garden was a hymn in praise of wildflowers (or more of a folksong). I enjoyed lingering awhile, listening to the sighs of pleasure as people glimpsed Hay Time In The Dales for the first time and felt its emotional pull. I knew this garden would haunt me, and it already is.

I thought of it when our evening walk took us past a flower-rich hay meadow between Edgworth and the Wayoh Reservoir. Around its peak now, the wildflowers include buttercups, yellow rattle, meadow vetchling, red clover, wild blue lupins, and a blend of grasses. A public information sign beside the meadow explains this patch of land represents what is now one of the rarest habitats in the UK.

It all seems so normal, and that’s part of the problem.    Continue reading

Leaves And Branches

Taking pictures of tree canopies is not that easy with an iPhone, but blue sky, branches and tree leaves have a magnetic effect on my attention, so I keep on trying.

And I’m happy with this one. I have no idea where it was taken. Though I could hunt through my files and find out, it really doesn’t matter. It’s not about the place, but the feeling. For me, this tree neatly wraps up natural beauty, abstract pattern and an emotional experience all in one. It’s uplifting. It rewards the eye that lingers and traces out a few of the branches.  Continue reading

Playing With Lines And Colour

Buildings, people and cars reflected in a metallic surface

This week’s photo challenge is a strange one at first reading. It’s about a different style of portraiture:

Explore silhouettes, shadows, orientation, and other ways to mask your subject… Explore the use of anonymity to express both that which is common to all of us and the uniqueness that stands out even when the most obvious parts of us are hidden.

I’m not a portrait photographer so I planned to sit this one out, until I remembered this series of pictures I had so much fun taking.  Continue reading

A Visit To Harlow Carr Garden In Winter

Colourful Winter Garden

In January, dogwood steals the show in Harlow Carr’s Winter Walk

We set off for Harrogate on a whim, inspired by the weather forecast, and booked into a hotel within walking distance from the RHS’s most northerly garden, Harlow Carr, a favourite haunt. The idea was to wake up next morning to find an artistic covering of snow or a hard frost – the added winter garden ingredients only nature can provide.

The forecast had been an exaggeration but, luckily, it turns out that a winter wonderland doesn’t need snow: it can cloak itself just as wonderfully in reds, oranges, browns and greens.

Snowdrops in a winter garden with a sprinkling of snow

Early bulbs are starting to appear, including these snowdrops (Galanthus elwesii ‘Mrs Macnamara’).

We were too early to see the thousands of snowdrops, cyclamen, irises and eranthis hyemalis that will be at their peak in February and March. A small number of the advance guard could be spotted in flower in the woods, along the Winter Walk or sheltered in the glasshouse, giving a hint of the pleasure to come. But if you find yourself wondering whether a winter garden really has anything much of interest to offer in January, other than peace, you’ll find plant after plant lining up as if to say: ‘You misjudged me. You doubted there would be colour.’

Continue reading

First Wintry Walk Of 2018: To Darwen Tower

Brambles and moss, covered in frost

A New Year’s walk up to Darwen’s Jubilee Tower has become a tradition. I’ve been a little under the weather over the holidays (just a nasty cold), so when we finally took the plunge, it felt extra-good to brave the fresh, winter air and get out for some exercise.

Darwen Tower

Darwen Tower may look warm under the glow of late afternoon sun, but anyone who has ever made the climb will vouch for the wind chill factor up there, even on a summer’s day. Continue reading