The love of gardening is a seed once sown that never dies. Gertrude Jekyll

Annie's Little Plot

Annie's Little Plot

Sunday, 24 February 2013

To a snowdrop

What is it about the snowdrop that so excites the gardener, probably the fact that it flowers in the depth of winter and yet is so delicate and beautiful a flower that you just prize it for its presence. When I moved to my current house it was the flower that I was most excited to see poking out of the ground that first winter, I'd never had any of my own before! I don't know what variety it is but it seems to like where it is as its spreading.
They are gaining some notoriety now for some of the mania around the different cultivars which maybe to the untrained eye can be different to tell apart. It seems that certain features get people very excited, such as those with some yellow rather than green at the top of the flower and green tips. I can certainly see the attraction and would like to know more. A phenonomenum has been spawned of Galanthophilia, but this is not a new term as I first thought it was, E.A.Bowles (1865-1954) the gardener and writer was said to have coined the term when writing to a fellow snowdrop admirer. Snowdrops do tend to capture the imagination of the media and there has been much in the news recently due to the record bidding wars for rare bulbs. Last year Thompson & Morgan, the seed company, paid £725 for Galanthus woronowii ‘Elizabeth Harrison’. This has a striking golden yellow ovary and yellow markings on the petals. The previous record was £360 for a single rare bulb of Galanthus ‘Green Tear’. Just thought I would have a quick look on ebay and you can snap up a bulb of  Galanthus 'Green Tear' for a bargain price of £227.22 though it ends in 22 minutes so be quick*.
Snowdrops are a favourite topic for garden bloggers at the moment and who can blame them there are not many plants to highlight at this time of year. Anyway every year I say I'm going to visit a snowdrop garden and every year so far the time has passed and I've missed out but this year I had the opportunity to visit Hodsock Priory, near Retford. What a treat on a most glorious sunny day and its certainly popular amongst visitors who flocked there in their thousands to view this humble flower.
Here they really gear the whole visitor experience to the snowdrop, with themed events, guided walks but there is also a food and drink fairs and a cafe. Plus importantly a plant sale so you can buy some of the plants that you see in the garden. Though it was busy you could escape from the crowds if you got there early and headed for the woods.

A carpet of snowdrops there for all to see, snuggled up in a duvet of beech leaves, you have to be quick to take photos and avoid taking shots of people scrabbling on the ground taking closeups! Never seen so many bottoms in the air! This garden was more about the mass of snowdrops rather than individual varieties and specific cultivars, there were relatively few labels on plants which I quite liked as sometimes they can be too intrusive and take away from the actual beauty of a garden. So its not a snowdrop garden for the real cultivar enthusiasts but maybe I just didn't see all the different varieties.
There is an open-air cafe in the glade when you can get a good cup of tea and a cake and sit round a bonfire to keep warm. It was a cold day but was a clear blue sky and sunshine and gave me a much needed boost.
Moving on from the woodland and you head to the more formal garden which has some amazing winter flowers.

Above is the Fan lawn where they also have events in the summer like theatre productions, all garden now seem to have to diversify to keep going.
It was also a good time to see that other highly prized winter flower, the aconite.

A stunning Witch Hazel.
 Hellebores and Irises.

Cyclamen and snowflake.

 A huge Garrya ellipta, with long long tassels next to a row of sweet smelling Christmas box, Sarcococca confusa.
A lovely specimen tree of Parrotia persica (Persian Ironwood) with dark red Witch Hazel like flowers on the bare stems.
The whole garden was a delight from start to finish and I think it is developing all the time. It will be interesting to visit at another time of year and see how its looks as a garden. I think the snowdrops are followed by bluebells later in the year.

This part of the world is actually where my mums family are from and all my brother and sisters have really strong memories of visiting my mums sister, my Aunty Lily (here is a fact about my mums sisters they are all names after flowers, Daisy (my mum), Lily, Iris and Violet. How great is that, its no wonder that I'm mad about plants and gardening, its in my genes). Aunty Lily lived near a farm and had a gorgeous garden, had chickens even a goat at one time and I have oh so many happy memories of visiting her and my Uncle Wilf. So while I was here I went to see her old house, sadly they are no longer with us, but it didn't look the same, though it was good to reminisce. Lily is buried at Babworth Church so I went to visit her grave is in a corner plot which backs onto fields almost overlooking where she used to live so a lovely spot.
The churchyard itself was full of snowdrops and in a few weeks time it will be a mass of daffodils.
Finally, William Wordsworth - To a snowdrop.

Lone flower, hemmed in with snows and white as they
But hardier far, once more I see thee bend
Thy forehead, as if fearful to offend,
Like an unbidden guest. Though day by day,
Storms, sallying from the mountain-tops, waylay
The rising sun, and on the plains descend;
Yet art thou welcome, welcome as a friend
Whose zeal outruns his promise! Blue-eyed May
Shall soon behold this border thickly set
With bright jonquils, their odours lavishing
On the soft west-wind and his frolic peers;
Nor will I then thy modest grace forget,
Chaste Snowdrop, venturous harbinger of Spring,
And pensive monitor of fleeting years!

* Actually I took so long writing the post that the sale finished, the bulb went for £330.01!

Thursday, 21 February 2013

The Good Life part 2

Following on from Flightys recent post. Like him I was saddened by the news last week that Richard Briers had passed away. I was born in the early 70s and do remember The Good Life when it was on or at least the repeats and I still always try and watch it if they show it again now. I know it's cheesy and all a bit twee but I think it definitely struck a chord with me and certainly lay dormant until I had my own place and then the gardening urge took over. 

Flighty posted a clip showing Margo's muddy moment and it really did make me chuckle, especially her harvesting the beans one by one.

I was trying to think which clip to show and as we are all starting to chit our spuds and getting ready to plant them out, I thought the one where Tom invents a contraption called the non-stoop goodoscope to help with the planting was appropriate. Trust Barbara to notice the flaw in the design! Here they are busy with all the Spring planting jobs.

So did it really inspire a generation of "Good Lifers" maybe not, but it certainly inspired me.
It led me to get an allotment and my first one looked like this that first winter.
But with a bit of trial and a lot of error I managed to get a reasonable harvest.
This was my first allotment in Disley, Cheshire looking out towards Kinder Scout. I only had it for a couple of years but I really learnt a lot on that plot.
Then my more recent plot here in Huddersfield.It was fairly blank when I first started as many allotments are at this time of year.
But again a bit of dedication and hard work and it can soon get transformed.
Its nice to look back at your pictures as it just shows how things change, its encouraging especially at this time of year when everything at the plot looks so bare and bleak.
I'm certainly not self-sufficient but my plot provides me with plenty of seasonal crops, it gets me outdoors and it keeps me sane. I really recommend anyone to give 'growing your own' a go. Live your own good life.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Yorkshire Sculpture Park

Before the snow arrived Martin and I spent an brisk and breezy afternoon at Yorkshire Sculpture Park in West Bretton in Wakefield. Its a fabulous open air gallery with over 60 sculptures outdoors and an ever-changing exhibitions in the galleries. At the moment there is a display of Miro sculptures and drawings. But if you want to blow the cobwebs away get over there and get walking round the park, walking boots or wellies are recommended, there are a couple of circuits that you can do which take you past some of the main pieces of art, including pieces by Antony Gormley, David Nash, Andy Goldsworthy, but probably the most well-known sculptures there are by Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth.
As you walk down from the visitors centre the first sculpture that you are drawn to is perhaps the most famous here, Draped seated woman (affectionately named Old Flo) by Henry Moore. It has been in the news recently as it is 'owned' by Tower Hamlets council who want to sell it. If you want to know more about the background to this sculpture read here. Anyway I love where it is at the moment, she looks like she is enjoying the amazing view.
This is her view.
There are a number of other Henry Moore sculptures close by.

What I love about the sculptures here is that you can admire them from afar, close up and you feel free to touch them and I think they need to be touched and stroked but maybe thats just me, part of the appeal to me is the different textures of the pieces. You don't feel you can do that when they are tucked in a museum.
From here you can walk round the lake, or do a longer walk up towards Longside gallery. We didn't do the long walk this time but it is to be recommended.

 The Seventy One Steps is a recently commisioned piece by David Nash. Last time we came there was a big exhibition of his work.
Bretton Hall, lies in the centre of the estate.
Walking this way we came across some beautiful shaggy beasts.
Then your eyes are drawn upwards. Clearly Antony Gormly's work.
This is Invasion by Michael Zwingmann
There are a few bizarre ones. Sitting by Sophie Rider.

Ten seated figures by Magdalena Abakanowicz, impressive under a gorgeous Cedar tree.

I'm a big fan of Barbara Hepworth sculptures after visiting her Trewyn studio, which is now a museum, and scuplture garden in St Ives many years ago. She was born in Wakefield and so its only right that she has a collection here. She felt strongly that her work should be "allowed to breathe" outdoors and so I think the setting of her Family of Man sculptures here in YSP is most appropriate.

 In the stark winter landscape sometimes the trees were competing as pieces of art!

Just one word of warning, its free to get in to the park, but the car parking charges have recently gone up and the system has changed so that though you can pay any time there are different rates for how long you stay (up to £7.50 for all day) but you must remember to pay for the correct amount as there is vehicle recognition on the gate as you come in, so you will be charged much more if you get it wrong. When you put in your car registration it doesn't tell you how long you have been and we couldn't remember exactly what time we got in and paid for 2 hours and then were worried that we had gone over that time. Its a charity so its vital that people pay but it all seemed a little bit confusing. That said that was the only slightly negative thing and its definitely worth a visit.