Seedheads and Sunshine

A few straggling seeds still holding on after Storm Arwen. They look like they have been hand-painted by woodland folk!

The seedheads still offer a refuge for insects, but there is little left in the way of food for birds.

Fading glory.

About to face the wrath of Winter.

A visit to Kew Gardens

Intro

The Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew in London is a spectacular place. It is the largest botanical garden in the world – 300 acres of it to be precise. It is a UNESCO World Heritage site and houses some 50,000 plants. It is a beautiful oasis of calm in a busy city and is also home to a lot of wildlife. There are many attractions and you can never see it all in a day. We decided just to go with the flow and wander, taking in a few ‘must sees.’

We started with the Rhododendron Walk or Dell. There are colours of rhododendrons in every conceivable colour and size, but interspersed along the walk are all manner of plants. Here the soft light emerges through the canopy of a large acer tree.

Among the damp, coolness of the dell were these beautiful yellow irises.

What I really like are the little paths leading off the main one, where you can have an adventure and make new discoveries. It is like a giant secret garden. There are many areas that have wildflowers too. Such as this cow parsley meadow.

The Giant Pagoda was built for the founder of the gardens – Princess Augusta and was completed in 1762.

In the Japanese Garden, there was a Peacock strutting about enjoying the attention.

I think my favourite place has to be the Temperate House. There are all kind of beautiful plants inside. We didn’t go into the Palm House on this visit, but that too is an amazing place if you can stand the heat!

The Temperate House was looking more established than our last visit. Here is a view of part of the giant glass house from the inside.

Did you know that ferns appeared on earth over 360 million years ago? Long before the dinosaurs...

A beautiful Bird of Paradise flower.

Back in the garden, a Eucalyptus tree grows lazily across a path at a 45 degree angle.

More cow parsley.

The tulips were still out at the end of May, following the coldest May in 25 years.

One of two lions overlooking a lake.

A view of the lake.

Wildlife.

The Waterlily House contains the giant Amazon waterlily. In Victorian times, children were photographed sitting on them.

Finally, this sculpture caught my eye. It is called Leaf Spirit by Simon Gudgeon. It almost seems to merge with the trees when the light shines.

We walked almost 6 miles. If you are a keen garden enthusiast or botanist and want to look in detail at everything, you probably need to spend a few days there!

Experimenting with photography

I have a new lens. It is a manual one but attaches to my normal, automated camera. I am still figuring it out… It does not record normal camera data, such as aperture etc, which feels strange, because unless you write it down, you will never know what combination of settings you used for a particular shot! However, you do have to set the ISO on the camera beforehand. I experimented with it yesterday in the countryside after a rain storm and also in a garden. I think it helps you to visualise using manual settings and what they can do, more so than just moving a small dial on the camera, it is more clunky and solid.

I have an old camera which uses film and I am hoping that it will improve my understanding of that. I must also remember to use my tripod with it for extra sharpness! How funny that photography is taking me in a backward direction with old technology.

In terms of post-processing, there was very little to do, other than perhaps resize images.

Cow parsley.
Pink campions in the evening sunlight.
A leaning tree with young leaves.
Pink geraniums
White lilac
Pale purple lilac

Wildflowers, plants & lichens

Today there was an article in the Guardian that said only 3% of the world’s natural ecosystems remain intact. That is quite a scary prospect. 

This leads me to some pictures I took recently of some wildflowers and plants. In recent years in the UK there has been a small movement to not spray grass verges with chemicals, or to have a small patch of land where it can be left fallow, or to grow ‘insect friendly’ or indeed wildflowers in your garden to encourage more biodiversity.

In lockdown, I noticed lots of little plants that I had not really taken much notice of before. Although still considered ‘weeds,’ they are quite beautiful if you stop and look at them closely. Here are some I took with a macro lens. 

Many wildflowers, plants and lichens have been used historically to treat various ailments and some hold the key to unlocking future medicines such as antibiotics. Which is why it is so important to hang on them!

NB Some of the plants are quite difficult to identify and I am still learning their names, so they may not be all correct!

Lesser Celandine
A Red deadnettle.
A Wood anemone
Clematis vitalba
Xanthoria parietina. Future uses may include antibiotics and sunscreen.
Cow parsley.
A Field speedwell.