Tuesday, 29 September 2009


One of the best things about the house I moved to last December is the view of the sunset. There is an open view of the sky, and this summer, especially in the past two months, there have been amazing sunsets. These are four skies that caught my eye enough to warrant running down three flights of stairs to grab the camera - I think they were worth the effort...

Sunday, 27 September 2009

A recent project

These three images, taken from the same spot, show the development of a simple and easily-maintained garden. The garden when first seen (bottom) was an almost impenetrable mass of overgrown conifers and scrubby shrubs, the shrub layer ailing in the dark and dry conditions created by the trees. What had once been lawn had become a patch of scruffy and uneven grass with a weaving line of loose bricks and rubble holding back the soil from a slightly higher level at the far end of the garden. The proximity of the trees to the house closed off the rear part of the garden and blocked light and views of the nearby cathedral.
By clearing the garden of everything but the one cherry tree that had any merit, the space has been opened up to allow for a gravel terrace at the far end, positioned to catch the evening sun. A light screen of the wonderful Himalayan birch (Betula utilis var. jaquemontii 'Doorenbos') permits views of the cathedral whilst giving a sense of privacy. The change in level has been formalised with a brick step across the site, and the remaining planting, shown one month after completion (top), uses dramatic blocks of evergreen shrubs and grasses to provide contrast and further define the space. Within a couple of years the clipped shapes of the yew and laurel will provide a graphic counterpoint to the sea of soft grasses from which they emerge. The remaining ornamental planting relies on scented drought-tolerant varieties, including herbs of both decorative and culinary value.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Looking good at the moment...

Arum italicum 'Marmoratum'
The foliage has died back by this stage of the year, but this arum lily, like the others of the genus, extends the season of interest with a display of vivid orange fruit, clustered around the remains of the flower spike. Coping well with dry and shady conditions, the plant is ideal for brightening a dark corner in the autumn and early winter months - as here under overhanging shrubs. This plant is one of my favourites, and one of the most hard-working in the garden: by early spring the new leaves, a gleaming dark green with creamy veining, are emerging for their six-month tour of duty.

Monday, 21 September 2009


As we enter autumn in Britain, here is one of my favourite images of the summer. Taken in early June in Andalucia, it shows wild grasses in the hills behind the coast, backlit by evening sun. Although we have had a good deal of fine weather this summer, we have had very few predictably hot and sunny days - the sort of days that we remember a summer for, and which I hope this photo reminds us of...

My submission for the SGD Student of the Year failed to impress the judges sufficiently to gain me an award, but I am delighted that my work was considered good enough to be included in the first place. I'm even more pleased for my friend Sarah, who has scooped the first prize - very well deserved and a great testament to her talents and professionalism.
Here's to autumn...

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

A Billion Painted Ladies

A bumper year for the Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui). Conditions were so favourable in the early summer this year that much larger numbers of this migrant butterfly were recorded arriving in the UK. After two washout summers in which butterfly populations fell dramatically, entomologists predicted an immense hatching of the Painted Lady in particular - estimates were for a billion of these salmony-orange butterflies to appear in mid- and late August. Certainly the lavender in the Fellow's Garden at Merton College had a good covering, including this pristine specimen, feeding in the sun.