An Instagram retrospective of August & September 2017
Hydrangea petals are crinkling and browning now, still attractive, but you can almost see the colour drain out before your eyes. It wasn’t like that back at the beginning of August, when the fresh greens, whites and creams of Hydrangea 'Annabelle' were at their most inviting.
Instagram gives me a terrible case of synaesthesia. Specifically, I find I can't look at photography that relies on detail and texture without thinking of food (I've been boring poor @backburner_journal rigid with my edible comments on her pics for weeks!). So to me, this is an image of some magical, delicate sorbet concoction, perhaps a tangy kiwi fruit or green tea flavoured variety on the right, with a jasmine scented lychee effort on the left. Tongue tickling, melt in the mouth stuff. Full marks to the chef for presentation, look at those petals. Just like a Hydrangea. 🌿 . #mystoryoflight #peninpractice #olympusuk #tostandandstare #fb
The word ‘daisy’ conjures mental images of pretty, dainty, insignificant flowers. Which just might be excusable when referring to the daisies in our lawns, but never those in our flowerbeds, and particularly not echinaceas. These flowers are tough – thick, hairy stems that wouldn’t dream of snapping and, while the colourful petals might be the most vulnerable part of the plant, the central parts of the flower are quite a different matter, almost teasel-like with their rigidity. You could kosh someone over the bonce with one and probably be had up for assault. I make no excuse for photographing them continually over the summer.
I think I mentioned a few days ago that it was big daisy time in the garden. Here's echinacea, or coneflower, a key member of Team Big Daisy. Just look at that, orange and pink, shouldn't be allowed, but it works so well! And even after the petals fall off (which though do rather attractively as autumn fades to winter) the russet coloured central part of the flower remains nodding about on long stalks, for as long as you care to leave it, which is great for keeping some structure in the borders over the colder months. Talking of which, the winter on heavy soil can be a bit of a pig for killing off a hibernating echinacea, so if your garden gets very soggy and the water doesn't drain quickly, best think of having these in containers or raised beds. Oh, also available in white! 🌿🌸💕 #mystoryoflight #iphoneography #tostandandstare #fb #thepinkstagram
Having been banging on about pink echinaceas and white echinaceas in my post the other day, I completely neglected to mention that coneflowers are now appearing in all sorts of colours. A couple of years ago I bought a bright red one called 'Tomato Soup'. It decided it didn't really like the soggy winter that followed its planting, and promptly tanked. Probably just as well, it was a bit loud. These beautiful peach toned ones in the high garden @greatdixterofficial are fabulous – I'm not quite sure of the variety, but wouldn't at all be surprised if they're from the Big Sky™ series, probably Sundown (aka 'Evan Saul'. Just remember, full sun, and well drained soil. ✨🌸☀️✨#mystoryoflight #peninpractice #olympusuk #tostandandstare #fb #rhsphotocomp
Of an altogether more delicate nature are the pelargoniums. A combination of domestic set-up and natural ham-fistedness means I’d not be anybody’s first choice as a custodian of a collection of tender perennials – particularly over winter – nonetheless, I continue to build a collection of these antipodean beauties, which I tend, propagate from, nurture and then expose to the brutality of my hibernal plant provision, so that only the very toughest will survive to see the next spring. I’ve got good compost this year, so I’m feeling confident, but who knows what will survive the chilly dark and draughty house? Whatever happens, I’ll always have the pictures of them in all their summer glory.
If all goes to plan, I'll be visiting the home of pellies, @fibrex_nurseries, at the weekend, along with a muddy-knee'd army of gardening types. This little stunner is a stellar pelargonium (that's actually a type, I wasn't just being complimentary) 'Vectis Allure'. I do love how the top two petals of a pellie have the prettiest crows feet ever. Laughter lines. 🌸💕🌸. how many 'e's in "knee'd"? Technically it must be three, though I don't think anyone's ever had the mental strength to include them all in print, hence why you always see it with an apostrophe to mark the excision, which is silly since it's the same number of characters. It's just that three 'e's in a row is a bit "cracking cheeese, Grommit!". . #mystoryoflight #peninpractice #olympusuk #tostandandstare #fb #thepinkstagram
A hasty dash through the messy garden this evening as the light went. Pelargoniums temporarily dumped in the wonky birdbath in their way back to the greenhouse. They're not all getting put away at night yet – there's still some summer to go – but a few like the pampering. Actually, they'd all like the pampering, but there's not the room. And I like being able to see them from the kitchen. Here's my dear favourite 'Shannon' (pink flower) with the tiny, deep plum toned petals of the species P. sidoides just about in view. A pellie tangle. 🌿🌸💜#mystoryoflight #peninpractice #olympusuk #tostandandstare #gothictonic #fb
The patio table is presently covered in pellies, including this pink flowered one with possibly the daftest name, Pelargonium 'Jips Bunjy'. I'm not usually one for the fancy coloured leaf varieties, but grey and cream with a line of pink highlighter all around? Yes please! Lady Plymouth looking on stolidly from the right, with the red flowers of 'Friesdorf' top left. All from the lovely folk at @fibrex_nurseries. 🌿🌸#mystoryoflight #peninpractice #olympusuk #tostandandstare #thepinkstagram #fb
The flowers of #Pelargonium 'Appleblossom Rosebud' are so delicate and exquisite, wouldn't you expect the plant which they adorn to be similarly shy and retiring? Don't you believe it. This variety formed the centrepiece of the #RHSHampton Court display for @fibrex_nurseries in July, and since bringing a tiny specimen back to darkest Kent it's grown like a BEAST! Love it. Soon time to prepare it for winter, take a cutting or five, pop it in some nice reliable loamy compost, and bring it somewhere light and frost free for the next few months. It's only going to be better next year! 🌸💚💕#mystoryoflight #peninpractice #olympusuk #tostandandstare #fb
Fully aware of my tendency to kill any plant in the house, I’ve been banned from ‘looking after’ the growing succulent collection.
Though you may notice creeping into the odd internal shot the leaves of one of the rex begonias I’ve bought myself. Surely I can’t destroy them? I do hope not, they’re spectacular.
I've been thinking a lot about #photography over the past year or so. I've enjoyed it since I was a nipper with my first little 110mm film camera, and then some giant Russian SLR built like a tank, but with the blog, and then Instagram, I guess I've found another outlet. And it's lovely to get positive feedback on what you put out there, isn't it? But I know I've got it in me to be better, and in a way, that's frustrating. I mean, just how do you push through into that next stage up? Practice? Mentoring? Courses? (I've become a little wary of the last of these lately, for one reason or another. Tell you over a beer. Or cake.) So I was pleased to find this book by @davidduchemin, which doesn't seem to be all about f-stops and ISO, but rather about looking. Or rather, seeing. And then communicating what and how you see in your photos. I'm just getting started. Will report back. 📷#iphoneography #tostandandstare #fb
Two weeks off in summer is not a thing I’ve done since becoming a self-employed gardener. Getting to spend the first week very close to one of my all-time favourite gardens was a real bonus, as was re-discovering flowers I remember fondly from my childhood.
The back garden of the house I grew up in was mostly tidy, but not notable for its flowers, so the few perennial bloomers snigger are easy for me to call to mind. There was a deep red paeony, a tiny blue campanula on the rockery, and martagon 'Turk's Cap' lilies in the side border. These last were perfectly positioned to brush anyone passing with the deep orange pollen from their long anthers, which leaves an indelible mark. It was a treat to see my old friends again at @greatdixterofficial, although here in the peacock garden someone had sensibly placed them far enough back from the path to keep the clothes of the passing admirer stain free. 🌿✨🌿#mystoryoflight #peninpractice #olympusuk #tostandandstare #fb
Of course, one huge benefit of working for yourself doing a job that you love, is that it’s never too hard to come back from holiday.
First day back at work is actually quite pleasant when you're self employed doing something you love. Today after a morning gardening in the mizzle, and an abortive session of invoicing at my desk, I went plant shopping. Now I really need to get those invoices done. In the meantime, new stock is sitting in the courtyard, making friends with my pellies and ivies and ferns, and reflecting what light there is about the place under this gloomiest of skies. 🌸🌿 #mystoryoflight #peninpractice #olympusuk #tostandandstare #fb
Coming back to my gardens after two weeks off – in summer! First time I've done that. Growth usually begins to slow a bit in the garden in August, most things looking a bit tired and parched. Not this year; it's all gone mad, though among the weeds and the dead flower heads there's the occasional self-sown gem, like this late white foxglove. We'll allow her to stay a while longer. 🌿🌱🌼#mystoryoflight #peninpractice #olympusuk #tostandandstare #fb #gothictonic
And by the end of August, I was seeing the effort put in earlier in the year with the dahlias begin to pay off.
The mature dahlias are looking fabulous now, bursting with flowers you can cut by the armful. These are the product of the magnificent fat tubers I lifted last winter, and split this spring. By contrast, the plants from the new tubers we bought this year are looking a bit pathetic – typically most of these are in my garden rather than my clients', though I suppose that's the best way round! The emphasis for those is on fattening up the roots for next year, rather than flowers. This here is one of my favourites, Eveline. Isn't she a pale beauty? 🌿🌸 #mystoryoflight #peninpractice #olympusuk #tostandandstare #fb
What could be better than a massive bloom of Dahlia 'Penhill Watermelon', I asked myself the other day? (Well, I didn't really, but let's pretend I did, or this isn't really going to work.) TWO massive blooms of Penhill Watermelon! Actually, now I feel a bit like the Count from Sesame Street… ⚡️🌩Anyway, lovely pink dahlia. Still going strong. 🌸✨#mystoryoflight #peninpractice #olympusuk #tostandandstare #rhsphotocomp
At some point, I decided that we need more hydrangeas at home.
I find it hard to resist a blue #hydrangea at the best of times. Give it deep black stems and call it Zorro, and it's coming back to my garden. I'm currently debating whether to plant it in a bed or a container – probably the latter as our slightly alkaline soil will turn its blue flowers pink in no time, and I can manipulate the pH of the compost more easily if it's in a pot. So that's the plan. 💙🌿#mystoryoflight #peninpractice #olympusuk #tostandandstare #fb
I took up the challenge to make ragwort look pretty...
"You've chosen the most beautiful #weeds to prettify", they said when I was playing around with shooting cut #wildflowers back in May. "Lets see you do it with something horrid and #yellow. Like ragwort." So I did. Am now doing my best Rik Mayall annoyingly self-satisfied dance. So, nerr. ;oP x 💛🌿The original blog post on The Beautification of Weeds is linked to in my bio just now, or easily navigated to on the blog. And the beautiful diamond polished porcelain bud vase is by my good friend the splendidly talented @eb_ceramics #mystoryoflight #peninpractice #olympusuk #tostandandstare #fb #gothictonic
...and continuing the small-flowered daisy theme, this time in a shady spot in the border.
This is the white wood or saltmarsh aster, now known to the botany boffins as Eurybia divaricata. But never mind that. It's a very pretty, short little daisy that appears right at the end of summer, and livens up everything at cankle height. Also Bill browsing height, though he tends to ignore it and pushes past it to munch on the rudbeckias, which he loves. Doesn't stop him trampling it though, so I have rescued a bit to grow in a container as a reserve. #borderterrier? Border terror, more like. Good thing he's so cute. 🌿#gothictonic #mystoryoflight #peninpractice #olympusuk #tostandandstare #fb #whpgreatoutdoors #mygardenrightnow
But soon, the year begins to turn. I don’t make myself popular by seeing signs of the approach of autumn all through the height of summer, but eventually, even the most resistant have to concede that it’s on its way.
Oh will you look at all the flowers going over already? It's all a bit previous this year, and while we can all admire a bloom's fading beauty, it's not exactly… uplifting, is it? Bit sombre (which I'm pleased to tell you my phone just tried to change to "sombrero", quite a different mood!). Still, today was fine, dry, if a bit windy, so I'm not complaining! Plenty of interest in this prairie planting all winter long. 🌸🖤#mystoryoflight #peninpractice #olympusuk #tostandandstare #fb #gothictonic
And once the Autumnal Equinox arrived on 22 September, I could mention the ‘A’ word without fear of reproof. As long as I tried not to look too happy about it.
It took some doing, but I think I found the last #Helenium with a full compliment of petals. This one is the reliable 'Moerheim Beauty' – reliable when the slugs aren't munching the young growth – and like most of these #prairie type #perennials looks just as good, though in a very different way, once the petals have dropped. Like so many dressmakers pins waving in the wind. Something to look forward to. 🌓 I didn't get round to wishing you a happy autumnal equinox yesterday (rude). We are now in the dark days, and you can't moan any more when I say it feels like #Autumn. Cos it is! 🍁🍂🎃 #mystoryoflight #peninpractice #olympusuk #tostandandstare #fb
In the last days of September, a cloud of Red Admiral butterflies settled across Instagram – growing up, it was always a rare treat to see one in our north London garden, but this year they were the most common sight.
Have you met Vanessa? She's the Red Admiral butterfly (Vanessa atalanta) fluttering about on so many @instagram grids just now. If she hasn't been to yours yet, I'm sure she will soon. Lots of red admirals around this year, surely more than usual (usually I see more tortoiseshells). It should do well in my garden, given the abundance of nettles, which as the preferred food for her caterpillars tends to be where V chooses to put her nursery. One of the last flutterbys to be seen before winter, she sometimes hibernates. Sleep well, old girl, though hope to have your company in the garden for a good few weeks yet. 🦋 🐛 🌿#mystoryoflight #peninpractice #olympusuk #tostandandstare #fb
Old containers out, new containers in. Time to refresh tired displays that have served well through the warmer months, and plenty of stock in the nurseries from which to choose. One of my favourite jobs.
I do love that time of year when the nurseries get in their autumn/winter stock, and everything looks so fresh and sparkling with the promise of crisp, bright days ahead. So starting to swap out summer container plantings for cooler season arrangements is a real treat. More plants to buy at the weekend, I'm running out. ✨🍁🍂🌱✨🌲#iphoneography #tostandandstare #fb
How was August & September in your garden? Let me know on twitter, or in the comments below.