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Tuesday, 9 December 2014

The last of the pretty leaves and flowers

Frost has come and turned the nasturtiums to mush, although a few hardy annuals are still clinging on - there are odd blobs of orange and yellow here and there from calendulas and a few tough perennials still with flowers. Overall though the garden knows winter is almost here - although I wish the weeds were less hardy as I don't have the energy to do any tidying up right now. You should see the state of my veg patch (no, I'm not going to show you)! Darn chickweed everywhere. If there was some way to herd the hens in there I would, but when I let them out of the run they are off in the other direction as they like scratching around in the wild woodland areas, and under the conifer trees in amongst the fallen needles. 

Most of the pretty leaves have gone now but I got out with my camera a few times in the last week or so to get these pics before the frost. I've even found a few more insects which I'll save for my next post along with some fungi.

One of my variegated Dogwoods, name forgotten offhand.
I feel I have a great excuse not to bother looking up plant names right now
as my brain has turned to mush. ;-)

Although there are no beech trees growing naturally in my local area, I do have this little stand of about half a dozen near the pond which have been growing slowly over the years - I imagine they came from some bird pooing out the seeds. Some are now about 6 foot tall and they grow in the shade of taller hazels and other trees. I really need to thin them out, but they look so lovely at this time as beech does have pretty leaf colour, and the leaves stay put for a long time. I just don't really know what to do with these trees as there's nowhere to transplant one to allow it to grow to a majestic tree (in about 100+ years' time) without taking out some other trees.... yet another thing I'll worry about some other day or year. ;-)

Little beech trees.

With the pond in the background.

At least I'm assuming they are beech.....!

Back to the Liquidambar, sorry to bore you but it cries out to have its photo taken! :-)

I just couldn't stop taking photos of it. It's been an absolute joy and still has a few leaves left.

Here you may have a glimpse into the veg patch of dewy dill
impersonating a Xmas tree, with purple curly kale and PSB
in the background making good bokeh.

Now for a few flowers - the top is an Abelia which has pretty variegated leaves
but tiny flowers, and bottom are roses growing up against the house walls.

One of the Calendulas, also known as Pot Marigolds.

Corn Marigold peeking through the veg patch fence. Mush now!

Believe it or not the self seeded flat leaf parsley is still flowering!

Nasturtiums at the top, bottom left is Feverfew which is just about clinging on
after the frost, and bottom right I've forgotten again, but it's still fine after the frost!

A close up of inside a Nasturtium, showing those seeds forming which will self seed again next year.

These next two photos are for Ian - they are a couple of my experiments with ICM (Intentional Camera Movement) of my silver birch tree. This was the first time I tried with a zoom lens on so I had a lot of fun(!!) trying to shoot whilst turning the zoom, rather than moving the camera to get the impressionist type of effect. I'm sure I did both as I found it very similar to rubbing my tummy whilst patting my head.... I liked both effects so here they are.

My friend who taught me about ICM (yes, you, Marianne!) does some great effects with Christmas lights, and I've found a house in my village which is all lit up like something out of National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (it's actually the house of a retired electrician and it used to be his shop). So one evening I'm going to stop by there to have a bash at photographing it. There are two more houses up a country lane which are lit up American style too - I still find it very amusing to see as this was not a trend when I lived in England (although I understand it's far more popular these days), especially when the houses are in the middle of absolutely nowhere, but some French people seem to enjoy decorating the outside of their houses and as my hospital appointments seem to be early evening these days it gives us something to look at on the tedious journey, as it's dark early now. And on that subject, only 10 more sessions of radiotherapy to go. :-)

Monday, 1 December 2014

Still a November post even though it's December now....

I seem to be getting into the habit of posting photos that are about two weeks old, but I'd rather post them than not at all. All these pictures were taken around the 20th November, but now it's looking a lot more bare in the garden. Friday and Saturday were reasonably mild and I saw a Comma butterfly on Friday, but I haven't been outside as much as I usually would for obvious reasons. Now it's turning cold and having had a mild autumn and only really got around to putting away summer clothes like shorts a few weeks ago, I haven't actually even got out any winter ones; just wearing long sleeved T-shirts and fleeces - so it may be time to get out the woolly jumpers and long johns! I think it'll be goodbye to the last of the annual flowers this week and then I can start composting nasturtiums and the like, although I suspect the jungle of weeds/plants that is now the veg patch will not get much done to it this winter. But that's just how things go and there's no point worrying about it.   

The two ornamental cherries by my lake don't hold their leaves very long
but the spindly one in the foreground (Prunus subhirtella) already has
some blossom, which is normal for it at this time of year,
although the main blossom season is spring, of course.

Looking across the lake at the poplars and alders
(and a couple of ducks).

The big old cherry tree's leaves turned a lovely bright yellow for about a week.

For a brief period my Dogwood 'Midwinter Fire', which has amazing
orange stems in winter, also had fabulous orange leaves.

The foreground is my green Smokebush which looks lovely in autumn
and the good old Liquidambar in the background on the left.

This is Smokebush 'Grace', which has more colourful leaves in autumn than the
very similar 'Royal Purple'. This is the shrub I planted on Smokey's grave.

Liquidambar leaves looking colourful amongst the more dull fallen leaves.

Intentional Camera Movement photo of my Liquidambar - I think
people either love or hate this kind of image but I think it's great fun trying!

A fungi of some kind and a droplet reflecting the oak leaf
(if you can open it full size and are looking on a reasonable sized screen, that is).

Second wave of fungi appearing in the bark chippings in the veg patch paths - but this time
I have no idea what are the spiky things which appeared before the little 'shrooms.

French or Papillon Lavender - now this plant was a total surprise as it just appeared
growing beside a small Perovskia which I transplanted last year -
even more surprising that it is still flowering right now on 1st December!

And now some cat pictures..... looking at the field from the veg patch.

Harry the ginger has finally grown into his feet - he always had the most enormous paws!

I was calling them trying to get them to look at the camera -
Hallie did but Harry's obviously seen something more interesting.

Meanwhile Bertie was having a bit of a half snooze and wasn't in the mood to look at me either.

I've now had 2.5 weeks of chemo and radiotherapy with another 3 weeks to go. I'm feeling quite up and down which I guess is to be expected, so when you see a blog post from me you know I am feeling OK enough to get my photos sorted and posted! The most annoying thing last week was going to the hospital on Friday for the last 'zap' of the week at 6pm, hanging around for half an hour wondering what was going on, only to find out that the radiotherapy machine had broken down. I've actually felt reasonably well 3 out of the last 4 days, so cross fingers for more 'good' days...... and getting out with my camera! :-)

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Probably my last buggy post of the year

These pictures were all taken in early November, when I noticed that my 'Ivy tree' out the front of the house was absolutely buzzing with insects when the sun was shining. I didn't manage to capture any butterflies on it but I could see out of the window that some were flying either towards or away from it, so I had to take my camera out for a bit of a look see. Ivy only flowers when it's in a sunny situation so whilst I've got tons of it growing in the woodland, it isn't of much use to the pollinating insects as it rarely flowers in that situation. But because it flowers so late in the year it is an important food source for late flying bees, butterflies, hoverflies, wasps, flies, well basically anything that will eat pollen and nectar. And the critters who will eat those insects..... mwahahahaha!

An Eristalis sp. hoverfly - there were loads of these about.

Clockwise from top left: Honey bee, an extremely tiny unknown hoverfly,
an unknown solitary bee and an Eristalis hoverfly.

Ivy flowers.

Dock Bugs (Coreus marginatus) are still around, although I'm a bit unsure as to where it's
hiding its head as its antennae appear to be coming from under the seed head!

Droplet hanging off one of the flowers turned seed head.

As usual, where there are flying insects there are spiders.......

Suitor no. 1 in the middle didn't get lucky - he's a bit stuck in the web. This doesn't seem to
be putting off suitor no. 2 on the left. I think these are Metellina segmenta and as you can see,
the female is quite different from the males. 

'Ivy Tree' growing over an old tree stump which we cut off about 5 foot high.

It was just as well I hadn't totted up my 2014 garden butterfly count as on 30th October I finally saw a Small Copper butterfly, but just like the dragonfly photo here, as I was creeping closer and closer trying to get better close up photos, both insects flew off - due to cats suddenly appearing and wandering past them! Aaarrggh!

I've still seen some butterflies this month but only on the sunny days, including a Clouded Yellow in the middle of the month, and another Western Willow Spreadwing (a damselfly) on the 11th November, which is quite amazing.

Very end of October - a Speckled Wood on the left, a Ruddy Darter (I think)
top right and a Small Copper bottom right.

The pond level kept getting higher and higher and finally submerged
the wildflowers that grew in the pond bed during the summer months.

"We want to go in the veg patch!"

Or maybe not - they suddenly realised Bertie was in there
creeping up on them on the other side of the fence!

A few starlings zoomed in on - so many of them around right now.
I hadn't noticed the one bottom left so I didn't chop him off on purpose!

Harry sunning himself in what at that time remained of the pond bed. (It's full again now)

Of late I've been busy going to the hospital five days a week - but at least I'm getting out and about because the countryside is looking glorious. Mid November seems to be the optimum time for great autumn colour and this year seems particularly magnificent. I think that with the rain coming just in time after the dry September and then mild weather with only one frost and no other cold nights since then has helped. I can't get photos as we are driving along main roads so it's impossible to stop (not that I have a camera with me or really the inclination or time to take photos), but it makes what could be a monotonous journey rather enjoyable. I've had to content myself with taking photos at home, and did get a bunch more photos a few days ago. There are still quite a few flowers left and the occasional bees and hoverflies making the most of them, and fungi springing up all over the lawn. There's always something interesting when you stop to take a little time to look. And I'm making sure I get fresh air and a good walk around every day no matter how grotty I'm feeling!