Secret smoker?

Not smoke but water vapour evaporating from a mossy tree trunk on a cold frosty morning. The volume of water vapour was considerable, it was billowing from this sunlit Oak tree, I must have seen it just as the bright morning sun fell upon the soggy wet mosses and rapidly warmed them driving off the ‘steam’. This little phenomenon, was like so many natural treats only visible with backlight.

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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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’.



Galanthus nivalis

Galanthus nivalis

As the New Year begins to gain speed the Galanothophiles start to swarm – Snowdrop fever takes hold. Variants of the common Snowdrop change hands for  hundreds of pounds and photographers stalk these modest, yet delightful little flowers, after all what else is there to photograph in the depths of Winter.

This is the common, ‘wild’ Snowdrop and my favourite – hard to improve on.


This image came second in the IGPOTY Macro project 2013.

The fertile parts of Hemerocallis flowers have been photographed endlessly, they are bold and always fresh due to the short life of the flowers. I wanted to push the abstract approach as far as I could yet still have a recognisable image for those who know the plant.