my latest obsession

I was going to do one of those wordless Wednesday posts, but then I realised that wordless isn’t really my style, and I have stuff I want to say about these poppies.

The top photograph was taken last week, probably this time last week, and the one above is how they look now, a week later. I love the way that the petals open out, almost flat, rather like those funny little paper parasols used in cocktails. Over the week the colours don’t seem to change, they simply intensify according to the light. 

The furry little coats* (the correct botanical word eludes me just now, which is pretty shaming as I have just come in from the final day of my course and the exam is less than a week away) that protect the petals are particularly charming and the girls, of course, have pressed them into service as fairy boats, beds, mixing bowls and so on according to the size of the fairies in question (apparently fairies, like flowers, are many and varied – I am particularly intrigued by the Tinker fairy, which they talk about a lot).

I picked this little group this afternoon and decided to use some old Orangina bottles as stem vases – I’d stashed them away for just this sort of thing. As you can see the light isn’t very good, even though we have glorious sunshine and electric blue skies. But that’s because of the arrival of this …

The scaffolding has gone up, and a decision on the colour for the back of the house has been made. But I’m going to save that for another post. Guesses on what colour we chose would be a welcome diversion from my studies though.

The poppies, however, are Iceland poppies, Papaver nudicaule ‘Party Fun’

* They’re sepals, of course.

a cat, a goose and a declaration

I spotted this cat on a windowsill as we drove back from the allotment, its bright yellow eyes having caught my attention. It was a second or two before I noticed its companion.

Just round the corner from the cats, this local landmark, the two-headed goose, looked particularly peculiar and wonderful against Sunday’s clear blue sky.

And finally, though this may not be the best bit of graffiti on Stokes Croft (in fact I can assure you that it isn’t), I think you’ll agree that it has a certain charm. And it’s certainly one up on the usual so-and-so loves so-and-so 4ever.

P.S. The last episode of Botany: A Blooming History is on tonight, BBC 4, and the first two episodes are only available for another week on i-player. If you are remotely interested in plants do watch them. I was so touched by the idea that early botanists believed that plants ate soil in order to grow; stunned by the extraordinary names that plants were burdened with before Linnaeus streamlined the system; and this morning my first thought on waking was about tomatoes tasting sweeter when grown in a factory’s waste carbon dioxide. That all sounds rather nerdy, I know, but trust me, the series is brilliant and Timothy Walker’s enthusiasm will carry you along.

creative ways with revision

Whilst I know knitting* could never count as RHS revision (even though I was knitting flowers and leaves), I did watch five episodes of Gardener’s World back-to-back on i-player at the same time. I then managed half an episode of Timothy Walker’s brilliant botany series, Botany: A Blooming History, happy in the knowledge that it was definitely revision. The i-player, however, didn’t agree and cut out. No amount of re-booting, plug agitating or swearing could get it to restart. I’ll try again tonight and see if I can get through episode two as well, which is all about photosynthesis. None of this is directly relevant to the exams I am sitting next week, but it’s botany and it’s fascinating, and better than going mad with frustration at my inability to concentrate on the finer details of planting plans for hanging baskets.

My alternative approach to my revision also included a wonderful afternoon down at the allotment. A sorry looking potato plant was accidentally lifted by a keen novice weeder (Joe) and treasure was found lurking in the soil below. In the end we decided to take out a second plant at the same end of the potato bed to make space for the runner beans. Although hidden in forests of weeds – my books have made me neglectful – the garlic is doing surprisingly well, and certainly looked better once it had come into focus again after a good half an hour’s weeding. The same was true of courgettes and sprouts. I sowed some beetroot seed, aware that I was not really doing any of this by the book, but rather in the way that I’ve done it in the past, which is by eye, and plenty of fudging.

And this sideways approach to revising continues this afternoon. Once I’ve drawn up a plan of planting times, latin names and rotations, I will head out to what must be the craziest garden centre in the world (to be written about soon), to buy some plants from the Hairy Pot company (ditto). I’ll also pick up an old tin bath that I spotted in a junk shop, and get to work on combing the plants and bath whilst memorising plant names.

* This tea cosy is from Jane Brocket’s “Gentle Art of Knitting”, the flowers and leaves are from an Usborne children’s knitting book, “How To Knit”.


Our decorator rang to say he’d got his dates all wrong, and was on holiday so he wouldn’t be coming for another week. Hurrah! Let the paint angst continue.

Panic levels on other fronts are peaking again – my second lot of RHS exams are looming, and I’ve got page upon page of plant names, planting distances and site requirements to learn. Despite my love of plants I have no enthusiasm for this part of the course – I’d much rather be outside with my nose stuck in a rose rather than a text book. Ferdinand Pichard, above, is about to flower, and at the end of the garden, behind the Buddleja, Clematis ‘Madame Julia Correvon’ is in full bloom, looking lovely intertwined with a neighbour’s Jasmine – a happy accident.

blogging as revision

I have managed to find lots of revision displacement activities over the last three weeks or so. Blogging and photography are probably the ones I indulge in most frequently. Today I have artfully combined my favourite distractions with my revision.

So what might at first appear to be simply a photograph of some lovely supermarket tulips, is in fact a study of a monocotyledon. All flowering plants (angiosperms) are either monocotyledons or dicotyledons – a term that refers to whether they have either one or two seed leaves. Bear with me, this is going somewhere. Tulips, along with irises, daffodils and many grasses, are monocotyledons, and this group is further characterised by having flower parts that appear in multiples of three. The interesting thing about many flowers in this group, including tulips and lilies, is that although their flowers may appear to have six* petals, say, they really only have three, the others being sepals (outer leaf-like organs that protect the bud). As these flower parts are indistinguishable, and it is confusing to talk of petals or sepals, they are called tepals, which I think is rather lovely.

And sticking with the flowery theme, I have been struck by the words used to describe the various ways in which flowers appear on their stems: racemes, panicles, umbels and corymbs, all of which are poetic-sounding flowery clusters or inflorescences.

Time to get back to my books.

*Six for this example, though clearly not in the case of my tulips!