Monday, 28 September 2009

Autumn Leaves: A stroll through the Arboretum.

Westonbirt Arboretum 2009

Euonymous alatus "Winged Spindle"

This week I decided to make the most of the changing seasons and took a trip over to Westonbirt, The National Arboretum. Westonbirt Arboretum covers an area of over 600 acres. It was started in c.1829 by The Holford Family and a number of the specimens on display today in the arboretum date back to this time.

Acer palmatum "Japanese Maple"

The Japanese Maples were just on the turn, but they were providing a beautiful display of colour even for a largely overcast September afternoon. They whole area was very atmospheric with matt's of moss covering the trunks of several of the trees. It made me wish I was visiting first thing in the morning so that I could see the early light reflected off the dew covered mossy trees.

Acer palmatum "Eddisbury"

The Acer palmatum "Eddisbury" was particularly striking with the ends of the branches turning a fiery shade of red and reaching towards the sky.

Acer palmatum "Eddisbury"

Acer palmatum "Matsumarae"

Acer palmatum "Purpureum"

Acer palmatum v. Heptalobum

Acer stachyophyllum

Betula lenta Cherry Birch

One tree that caught my eye was the Cherry Birch Betula lenta. Not only did it have striking yellow and green leaves, but pretty little catkins and deliciously smooth dark mahogany brown bark. Having done a little research about the tree it appears to have a wealth of uses from making beer from the fermented sap to making a tea from the twigs that can be used as a treatment for fevers, as well of course as being rather beautiful.

Betula lenta Cherry Birch

Betula lenta Cherry Birch

Cercidiphyllum japonicum Katsura Tree

When I first walked past the Katsura Tree I thought what a pretty, delicate heart shaped leaves it had. A young family were looking at the tree and there was a sweet smell in the air, I assumed that one of the children was eating sweets. On my return journey the area was deserted but the sweet aroma of candy floss was still wafting around my nostrils. On closer inspection I discovered that it was in fact the leaves of the tree that were producing the wonderful smell. As the leaves of Cercidiphyllym japonicum break down they release aromatic chemicals that smell of caramel or candy floss. I have to say I was rather taken with this tree. It is a native of Japan and China renowned for its beautiful colour throughout the seasons, but particularly in autumn.

Cercidiphyllum japonicum Katsura Tree

Cladrastis lutea Yellow Wood

The leaves of the Cladrastis lutea were a wonderful crinkly yellow brown and reminded me of doing brass rubbing's as a child. It is commonly known as the Yellow Wood tree as a yellow dye can be obtained from its heartwood. In June it produces wisteria like white flowers that are strongly scented of vanilla. I will be returning to Westonbirt next summer to investigate this.

Photina villosa

Fir cone

Cotoneaster wardii

As well as the wonderful displays of autumn leaves there was an array of bright colours on offer in the form of berries on many of the trees I passed including yews, hollies, Photina's and Cotoneaster's.

Picea abies Norway Spruce

The arboretum at Westonbirt is vast and it will probably take me several visits to see it all. It is definitely somewhere I will continue to visit throughout the seasons as there are so many interesting trees. I passed a wide range of people on my way from young families collecting conkers and pine cones, to people walking their dogs, those just enjoying the trees and numerous photographers with their tripods all after the best autumnal photo's. The car park was full on the day I visited, but it was still possible to wander off the main thoroughfares amongst the trees and feel that you were the only soul there. It was a most enjoyable way to spend a peaceful afternoon and I thoroughly recommend it to anyone in the area.

Taxus baccata

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Friday, 25 September 2009

Autumn Dawn

Now autumn is here we are being treated to those dewy, misty sharp mornings once again. This week I couldn't help but stop and take a few pics. I love the world at dawn, it is just so desolate and beautiful.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Gold! Gold! Everywhere the glint of gold!

Hilt Fitting from Staffordshire Hoard (image courtesy of the Staffordhire Hoard website).

Well this morning we are all dribbling over the wonderful images from The Staffordshire Hoard -the largest haul of Anglo-Saxon treasure found in Staffordshire. Sadly it is nothing to do with our company but an old colleague of mine is working on it and well you can't help but marvel at their beauty can you? :o)

Click for a slide show of the treasure Slide show

Staffordshire Hoard website

BBC online article

Independant online

Current Archaeology

The photo's

Fish and Eagles (image courtesy of the Staffordhire Hoard website).

Tuesday, 22 September 2009


Waterperry Gardens September 2009

An aster unfurling.

Last week I managed to slip in a flying visit to Waterperry Gardens, near Oxford. The garden was founded in the 1930's by Beatrix Havergal as a School of Horticulture for Ladies and has remained a well tended garden which was eventually opened to the public in the 1970's. I had hopped for a bit of late season colour from this visit and as I walked up the path to the garden entrance and saw a sign boasting that 42 varieties of Aster were on sale in the nursery I knew I was not going to be dissappointed.

Bee on aster flowers.

Herbaceous border.

The herbaceous borders were stunning. I spotted several red admiral, tortoishell and comma butterflies flitting about and there were the largest number of honey bees I have seen at any one time this summer feasting on the brightly coloured asters. Yellow and purple were definitely the colours of the moment.

Herbaceous border.

Rudbeckias and asters.


Waterperry not only boasts an impressive late summer/ early autumn display but also has many distractions to keep it's visitors happy. It still continues the horticultural traditions founded in the 1930's and offers a number of gardening courses as well as arts and crafts ones. It is also home to an impressively stocked shop, a rural life museum and a Saxon church.

Herbaceous border.

Bee on Cosmos.

Waterperry has a substantial nursery to browse and what is even better is that it has large nursery beds incorporated into the garden, allowing visitors to compare several varieties growing next to each other and choose which one they like best before visiting the shop and purchasing their favourite on the way out.

Nursery beds.

Toad Lily.

I could not help but stop and admire the clumps of toad lilies just inside the entrance to the garden. They were exquisitely beautiful and I have now added them to my list of must haves.

Island beds.

There is of course a tea rooms. I can happily report that The Pear Tree Teashop offers an excellent line in cakes and custom made teas. Sadly I arrived just after lunch desperate for a sandwich before I explored the garden but discovered that a herd of hungry garden visitors had stripped the place bare so I had to treat myself to an extra large piece of chocolate cake instead!

Colchicum autumnale.

Signs of autumn were on show across the garden. Some of the most beautiful were the autumn crocus'. A number of small trees had leaves tuning delicious shades of red, teasel and artichoke seedheads were glistening bronze in the afternoon sun and berries and hips were growing rosy.



Sea Holly.

Artichoke head with ladybird.

Autumn Leaves.

Waterperry strikes me as a garden with something to offer whatever the season. I was short of time, but enjoyed wonderful smell of the late roses in the Mary Rose garden, and carefully noted the NCCPG national collection of Kabschia saxifrages for investigation on my next visit. With eight acres of gardens there appears to be something for everyone here.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Out on the Streets in Ely: September 2009

VP over at Veg Plotting has been investigating public planting for a number of months now and has been calling for contributions to this months Out on the Streets. So today whilst visiting Ely I couldn't help but take a few pics of the public planting on offer.

There are brightly coloured planters at regular intervals all along the high street with a range of plants such as osteospermums, dahlias and bergonias in varying shades of red and orange.

Planter on High Street.

Planter on main shopping street.

The pubs have all joined in with the jolly display with some pretty impressive hanging baskets. I particularly liked the cannas in the baskets from The Fountain.

Front of the Lamb Inn

Side of the Lamb Inn

Minister Tavern

The Fountain

The Fountain

Flower bed outside the cathedral.

Even the wall opposite the local retirement home was laden with brightly coloured bergonias.

I have to admit I rather enjoyed Ely's floral display. It was vibrant and well maintained.