Oca – OK?

There’s a fashion at present for re-visiting South American vegetables that were rejected in favour of the Potato back in the day. Oca is an Oxalis, the leaves are a total give-away and when they flower it’s even more obvious. The tubers are on the small side, can be eaten raw or cooked up like tiny potatoes, the ones you would normally throw away. One of the top qualities of Oca is the variety of tuber colours, they range from yellow through gold to orange, pink and red. In my cold clay garden Oca does not perform well, a lot of work for a few tiddley tubers but in a sunny garden on good soil, who knows, they might be worth some space.  Folks who want to avoid eating Solanaceous plants will find Oca a good alternative to potatoes.

Oca roots, just harvested in November.
Oca roots, just harvested in November.

Teasel tease

Green flowers on a teasel – not really, the seeds germinated in the seed head. All due to the moist warm Autumn the seedlings had enough moisture to develop to this stage without drying out. This was last year; I watched to see what happened and the seedlings all perished when the severe frosts arrived, probably dessication by freeze thaw rather than cold killed them. This was a six shot focus stack, just enough to get a decent depth of field and isolation from the background. This year we have the same phenomenon but in a different species, I’ll show you that one in a couple of days.

Teasel seeds germinated in the seed head.
Teasel seeds germinated in the seed head.

Short shoots

Not a brief photo session but a scientific term for the stubby little leaf bearing twigs that some conifers like Larch and Cedars have. It’s a clue to the antiquity and ancestry of Ginkgo, although deciduous and not needle bearing it’s a Gymnosperm along with that huge raft of evergreens like Yew, Juniper and all those boreal ‘Christmas tree’ types. Short shoots are the main leaf bearing twigs and they grow very, very slowly. Another very different twig type allows for extension growth, in the case of Ginkgo biloba these are rather random, unruly shoots that head off in all directions….a primitive character if there ever was one. Ginkgo is best know for two contrasting features; the most lovely maidenhair foliage that turns butter yellow in Autumn and outrageously stinky ‘fruits’ that sadly put some people off growing the tree, oh and there is a third less well known attribute, they produce motile sperms, that is ones that can actually swim their way to the female gamete. Sterile, quite tidy upright forms of Ginkgo have been selected that qualifies them as a good street ornamental, it’s good to see them, after all they’ve been  around for about 270 Million years.

Ginkgo short shoots


Ginkgo biloba against a backdrop of conifer foliage.
Ginkgo biloba against a backdrop of conifer foliage.

Phoenix tree to be?

Almost a year ago I visited Knoll gardens just after the extreme gales. The massive Eucalyptus up by the pond had just blown over and Neil was debating what to do about it. I’m so glad Neil decided to allow the tree to stay and have the chance to become a Phoenix tree. Today I saw that although this magnificent specimen was well past 45% from vertical it is alive and well with no epicormic growth showing, I guess that means the tree is in such good health that it is carrying on regardless and has not been shocked into shooting from the trunk. The most striking features of this recumbent giant are the curtains of shredded bark and the swirly clusters of leaves on all the branches. This is an iphone photo with some treatment to simulate Australian bush: bright sky and a slightly unreal light.

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Candle snuff

You can find them any time of year but mostly in late Autumn on dead branches and old coppice stumps. They tend to occur on wood that is already well rotted, other fungi having had the first munch. These are less demanding and can get nutrition from wood that is already part decayed. These fruiting bodies are supposed to be slightly bioluminescent but don’t them expect to see them glowing unless it is very dark or you have night vision equipment. Their latin name is Xylaria hypoxylon, they aren’t edible, no surprise there.

Stacked Lichen

Getting in close is fun and revealing but depth of field can be a problem, especially with very three dimensional subjects. Poor light means wide apertures and lens physics makes the DOF shallower the closer you get, as result you can find yourself with just a few millimetres in focus….unless you use focus stacking.

The first of these images is compound shot of 12 exposures in rapid succession each with a different focal distance. The result is a very wide DOF, all the Lichen ‘fronds’ are in focus BUT in this case does it really make for a better picture?

With focus stacking on the left, without focus stacking on right

Content aware and the Lady’s Slipper

Deep in a shady mixed woodland in the Dolomites we found several glorious clumps of Cypripedium calceolus. Most of the flower heads were rather randomly orientated, there was not much we could do about that without excessive gardening, however, Photoshop has dealt well with the peripheral blooms that were ‘photobombing’ the shot. Content aware fill in CS6 is a very simple way to eliminate unwanted intrusions in this kind of image.

This is how the top left corner of the shot looked before Photoshop you can see parts of three different flowers intruding into the frame.

The process is as simple as roughly selecting each intrusion in turn with the lasso tool then edit/fill/content aware and let the defaults work their magic. Even the lower flower of the three that overlaps a leaf was removed very effectively with no trace.


Lady's Slipper Orchid
Lady’s Slipper Orchid


Fuchsia ‘Whiteknights Blush’

OK, so Fuchsias are out of fashion, but these aren’t those tarty. blowsy types so popular back in the 70’s. These are delicate little things just a whisker away from the ‘wild type’.