April Brights: Male Catkins

Male pussy willow: catkin with yellow pollen
Male trees produce yellow pollen

When I happened upon Salix branches strung with yellow catkins, they made me think that bright is relative: on a dull late afternoon, they seemed like tiny candles.

I believe these are either Goat willow (Salix caprea) or Grey willow (Salix cinerea). It’s not easy to tell them apart at this stage while the stems are bare of leaves. Goat willows have broad, round leaves with bent, pointed tips; Grey willows have oval leaves with blunt ends. Continue reading “April Brights: Male Catkins”

Magnolia x soulangeana

Magnolia x soulangeana

In the world of home decor, magnolia is a best-selling colour that outlasts every new craze because it is so easy to live with, but its biggest fan would not call it exciting. On the inside of the loose, cup shaped flowers held on a magnolia tree, the sheeny colour has all the allure you could hope for, especially when backed with pink, as here. Continue reading “Magnolia x soulangeana”

Trust The Great Beech For a Bold, Bright Winter Garden

Autumn beech leaves
Beech leaves dry to a striking bronzy-brown

In Phantastes by George MacDonald, a country maiden warns the hero, Anodos, to shun the Ash and the Alder, but says he can ‘trust the Oak, and the Elm, and the great Beech.’ Sure enough, Anodos meets a Beech tree with a voice ‘like a solution of all musical sounds’ who longs to be a woman. She invites him to cut lengths from her hair, and uses them to create a protective girdle of beech leaves for his magical journey. Continue reading “Trust The Great Beech For a Bold, Bright Winter Garden”

The Art Of Bonsai

Twin trunk style bonsai (Acer buergerianum)
Maple and fern | Mendip Bonsai Studio

Bonsai trees provoke mixed responses, although well grown, they can be as beautiful as one of nature’s giants. This Trident maple (Acer buergerianum), grown in the twin trunk style, is around 120 years old. Its eggcup sized companion is some kind of fern. Techniques to keep plants so small include wiring them into shape, then pruning roots and branches while restricting them to very small containers.

It’s tempting to see them and feel torn. Is it unnatural? If so, is going against nature cruel? Continue reading “The Art Of Bonsai”

Epiphytes In A Crape Myrtle, French Quarter, New Orleans

Billbergia nutans in a Crape Myrtle tree

If you were asked where is your favourite tree, and what kind of tree is it, what would you answer? This hospitable crape myrtle, growing in the garden of a purple house on Dumaine Street in the French Quarter of New Orleans, is one of my favourites. I am several thousand miles away, so can only think back fondly to the last time my sweetheart and I saw it. Continue reading “Epiphytes In A Crape Myrtle, French Quarter, New Orleans”

The Candle Tree, Parmentiera cereifera

Fallen candle fruit and flowers
Fallen candle fruit and flowers

My first and only sight of candle fruit hanging from a tree was at the Fruit and Spice Park in Redland, Florida. Their Parmentiera cereifera, a biggish, branching tree, frankly amazed me.

Flowers sprouted direct from the trunk and branches, held close to the tree on stalks no longer than the flowers themselves. They were like pale green ballroom dresses with burgundy veins, looking delicate but rather strange against the bark. Continue reading “The Candle Tree, Parmentiera cereifera”