Seen at The Festival of the Tree

...if you would be happy all your life, plant a garden ~ Chinese proverb

Friday, 6 March 2015

Against the Odds: Cotoneaster horizontilis

Picture of a Cotoneaster seeding growing the the tiny crack between 2 paving stones

We have several Cotoneaster horizontilis plants in the garden and just like the Unexpected Honeysuckle I wrote about for December's Blooms Day, I've never planted any of them.

Cotoneaster has had a bit of a bad press because it features in many a public planting scheme. It's tough as old boots and as you can see thrives almost anywhere. I suspect the pictured plant and the others at VP Gardens were brought to us by passing birds, possibly from the roundabout in the middle of the estate.

Another plausible explanation for the origin of the pictured plant is it's a seedling from the one which magically appeared in the large planter by the front door. Despite its proximity to our boots when we arrive home, it's definitely surviving against the odds.

I think the photo reminds us of its virtues. It has glossy green leaves and an attractive habit. In the spring it bears a profusion of creamy flowers which the local honeybees love, followed by bright red berries which the birds fight over in autumn. Its survival strategy is sound.

Whilst last week's Cotoneaster was a different species, the emergence of this week's example from the tiniest of cracks hints at how little space is needed for just three plants to thrive and grow to clothe a house.

Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Some Thoughts on #TheDress and Gardening

The colourful garden at Wildside, Devon
Keith Wiley's colourful garden at Wildside on a rainy day in July.
It's here I learned the importance of how green can provide balance in a colour scheme. 

A photograph of blue and black dress which looked gold and white to some caused a storm of controversy and a top trending #TheDress hashtag across social media last week. It even made the national news.

I put my thoughts to one side on how camera and computer settings, plus viewing angles can alter what we see, and had a think about the use of colour in our gardens.

My interest in this subject started not long after I'd met Threadspider. We were looking at a piece of turquoise cloth one day, which she clearly saw as green and I as blue. In that instant I realised how a simple difference in our eyes could alter our perception of the world. This was also discussed in relation to #TheDress, particularly how the number of cones * in the eye's structure can alter the range of colours we can see.

Apparently Christopher Lloyd was colour blind ** and he was often criticised for his combination of particular shades of pink and yellow at Great Dixter. I wonder how much his colour blindness altered what he saw in that combination. I hope it wasn't as drastic as it was for my red-green colour blind colleague, who always saw my pink and yellow checked dress as a muddy brown.

Over the years I've learned to keep any criticism at bay whenever I flinch at what I see as a particularly gaudy colour scheme, or the use of a colour I don't particularly like. After all, who's to say I'm right?

* = if anyone has a better written article on this subject, let me know. For example, the remarks about bees aren't accurate, and the accuracy of the online test shown can be affected by computer settings, but the general points made in this article are valid.

** = thanks to Catherine Horwood for the information.

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I wrote about Colour Theory in Garden Design for BBC Gardening many moons ago. I realised then just how vast this subject is and how many factors affect what each of us sees. They include: our education; what's in fashion; our cultural background; the impact of light, the weather and seasons; where we are in the world; our mood and other psychological factors; our experiences; our age; and a whole host of other things. It's endlessly fascinating and I'd love to make a full study of it sometime.

Sunday, 1 March 2015

GBMD: Snowdrop

Snowdrops at Welford Park and extract from a poem by John Armstrong called Snowdrop
Snowdrops at Welford Park, late February 2015. 

I discovered the above poem recently when I visited Hodsock Priory - John Armstrong wrote it especially for Chelsea Physic Garden. The poem's last 2 lines seemed fitting for today's Muse Day, seeing we've just entered the the first month of spring.

Today's the day when many of the snowdrop gardens close their doors for the season and we'll have to make do with our photographs and memories until next year. But then there are crocuses and daffodils peeping out the soil in greeting, and so our gardening year moves on to other delights.

Friday, 27 February 2015

Unusual Front Gardens #21: Cotoneaster

Photo of 3 cotoneaster shrubs clothing a building on Corsham High Street

When your door opens directly onto Corsham High Street and you have very little space for planting, how on earth do you have a front garden?

Close-up of the cotoneaster showing leaves and berries
I'm not quite sure which species -
C. franchetii perhaps?
The solution in this instance is to go vertical and clothe your house with an evergreen plant. When I was writing my post on Pyracantha last year, I remembered this place and sallied forth to photograph it as an example of how the shrub could be used. It was only when I went to take a close-up photo of the plant that I found it was Cotoneaster, not Pyracantha. Durrrr.

However, whatever plant it is, I think it still adds interest to the building. It'll provide some extra insulation for the cottage it clothes and the spring flowers will be a magnet for bees.

It's amazing to see what can be done with just 3 plants, though I'm itching to clip it into some kind of shape. I see the beginnings of some rabbits leaping along the top there, don't you?

A parade of pushchairs go past a house clad in Cotoneaster in Corsham, Wiltshire

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