Documenting the seasons of coastal Dorset. I'm a complete amateur so don't trust I'm always right. If ever you see I'm wrong - whether with identifications or in anything else - do say!

Thursday, 13 July 2017


Well. Here we are in Halifax - the West Yorkshire version, not the bright lights of Nova Scotia. There will be a few more trips back to Dorset but after that we (my friend Esther, her husband Ming and their two children Worthing and Didcott) will be established in our new, urban home. Four storeys, no garden - but an allotment.

The allotment has already shown up our differences in approach, Esther and me. While Esther was testing how easily the 'weeds' pulled out and wondering whether it would offend anyone if she rolled up and threw away the carpet paths between the raised beds . . . . I was picking a bunch of wild flowers; willow herb and an array of flowering grasses plus some sturdy stalks of plantain and a big fern frond loosely bound with a ribbon of bindweed. Rather romantic, I thought.

But what has happened to the book I'm supposed to be reviewing? I had it in my hand while packing. I had all the books I've reviewed so far on one shelf, so I added this to them and packed them all into a box . . . which is yet to be uncovered. Or perhaps they've gone into different boxes. Because I've come across one on pest control which I didn't actually review but it's sort of in the same bracket . . . and think I saw the one about only spending half an hour a day on your allotment floating by but Growing Perfect Vegetables (published by Quarto) is . . . is . . . somewhere. Which means I'm not able to say anything about it except it's probably equally balanced between bright pictures and easy read text and I'm looking forward to finding it so I can be inspired to know when our fruit and veg. will be ripe. Esther has told me to stop looking for stray books because clearing the allotment and getting it ready for next year is our priority and that we will not be growing prickly pears anyway, whatever it says in the book. (She can be a grumpy friend. I hope this shared house lark is going to work!) Meanwhile, her husband has been eyeing up the rubbish scattered about our plot and planning his bonfire. One of the allotment organisers asked what we will be doing with the weeds. I began to explain how we are interested in the way one raised bed has solid ribwort while another has nothing but horse tails. Esther butted in rather abruptly to say we will be pulling them up, piling them up and burning them. It's fortunate the walk between the house and the allotment is only eight minutes because it was rather tense. Esther didn't like any of my ideas - like weeding round the ragwort instead of ripping it out, photographing slugs before disposing of them and maintaining ornamental clumps of wild grasses. I tried to lighten the mood by saying I wasn't sure the book actually says we should grow prickly pears but when to buy them but it didn't work - and I'm not sure it says that anyway.

There are other important things to decide too. Matters of life and death; like where will we re-locate allotment slugs in this part of town where houses are closely packed in terraces and where a small yard is a luxury and a garden almost impossible. And what will I do with this blog? A sudden change in theme from coastal Dorset to central Halifax might confuse later browsers. One thing is clear though. This area is jam packed with wild plants. They are in the kerbs, on the tops of walls and inside derelict buildings. (Yes, inside! It's a new one on me and I plan to show you.)

So . . . a bit more fiddling around rifling through packing boxes and making a 600 mile round trip to my old home to read the meters . . . then I'll get out my camera, find that book, start a new blog and persuade you to follow me on my next adventure with the plants no-body (except you and me) notice.

* * *
Square Foot Gardening: Growing Perfect Vegetables.
A Visual Guide to Raising and Growing Perfect Vegetables
Mel Bartholomew Foundation
160 pages, paperback.
Published by Cool Springs Press

Saturday, 20 May 2017


New honeysuckle growth and golden elderberry leaf
Honeysuckle beside golden elderberry leaf.
Here's a post where I place my feet somewhere and with at least one of them stuck firmly to the spot, look around to see what I can see. Mostly, I keep both feet 'stuck' but sometimes I wobble then I have to move one or I'll fall over. Once I did fall into a bush by trying to look behind it while keeping my feet in front of it. In some ways this is a meditative exercise. In others, an unconventional form of yoga. Either way, it's surprising what you can see if, for a moment, you stand still and refuse to move.

Today, when I plonked myself in front of a hedgerow, it was its leaves which caught my attention. There are flowers . . . but mostly we're in a kind of flower-lull. Being 'verdant' is currently the 'in' state to be. Or gold. This honeysuckle (above) with it's early reddish-ness is beside a golden elderberry bush. I've never known why some elderberry bushes have golden leaves when most are green. Is it a variety? Is it a deficiency? Is it a mis-identification?

Pale greeny-yellow snail on pale, greeny-yellow elderberry leaves

And here's another puzzle; did a golden snail decide to sit on one of the golden leaves because it would be a good place to hide? or did whatever turned the leaves gold turn the snail gold too?

Dead blackberries, new bramble leaves and new honeysuckle against a blue sky with a mass of brambles beneath

Hedgerow silhouettes have changed again. In winter they were a gathering of arches and spikes. Trees were like frost patterns. With spring they went frothy with blackthorn blossom, then blodgey with hawthorn, fringed with the floppiness of bluebells. Now they have filled out. At first sight they are a green mass, a unity. It's only when you peer in that you see how many plants go into the making of one blob. But the overall hedeginess is broken up here and there with spurts of honeysuckle between us and the sky and the stiffness of desiccated blackberries which somehow got stuck in time last autumn.

Blackthorn leaves against a blue sky.

Blackthorn . . . I think I've mentioned before how it begins the year dramatically then fades into obscurity during the summer and comes out of hiding in the autumn when people search for its fruits - sloes. It's funny that. Apple trees grow apples. Pear trees grow pears. Raspberry canes grow raspberries - but blackberries grow on brambles and blackthorn bears sloes.

Broken brambles and alexanders with fallen and still growing ivy after council mowing.

Underfoot, things are a bit . . . um . . . not very attractive. The alexanders have been mown down and all plants shaved to earth level. Now that cyclists rule the world, we pedestrians have to put up with views less interesting so cyclists won't suffer the inconvenience of driving over us when they come round corners.

A few years ago, it was very aggravating when the council shaved the bushes back as well. Since then, there have been flat sided elders and sheer walls of ivy. One gets used to it. Well, no. I haven't got used to it. Nature is not meant to be flat sided. Resigned may be a better description. No. That's not right. Morose. That's better. Brambles would like to take over the world. A certain amount of cutting back is necessary or we'll end up in a thorny mono-culture. And it is good to have a path to walk along . . . but all the same . . . Ah well, don't worry, green will return. It does.

High in the hedgerow - honeysuckle flowers before thier petals open.
Way high up - too high to photograph crisply -
honeysuckle buds are ready.

Some links.
Countryside Hedgerows: Protection and Management - the Government
Road Verges are a Refuge for Some of Our Rarest Plants - Plantlife
Plantlife's Campaign to Protect Wildflowers and Nature on Roadside Verges - Plantlife

If you too would  like to stick your foot somewhere and see what you can see - the link box for 'Stuck Foot Posts' will stay open till 7pm (UK time) on 25th May.