• Blog stats

    For a long time I was driven by stats to keep writing this blog. The more I wrote the more hits I received. Around 2 months I basically stopped updating the blog. I would have expected the stats to go down - less visitors but now they are climbing month by month - March was the busiest month ever, and April is looking to be even busier so the less I post then the more people visit the blog.
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    ummm what is that telling me - nothing. It just shows how delusional I was about get trying to get the stats up.

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    Just so that this post isn't totally self centered here are a couple of photos from my trip to Kuwait last week.
    It is dry - very dry - and yet it rained on each of the days I was there. I can't see myself living in a place like this - desert all over - and these are pictures from a public park where they are trying to display the best of botanical in the country - nope, can't see it happening - not a s a resident (living there).
    I spent three years in Libya but that was rotating - 4 weeks in Libya and 4 weeks in Aberdeen and loved that but I couldn't stand to be without significant greenery for so long.
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    In terms of nature the highlight was a good sighting of a Hoopoe bird - one that had been on my bucket list and had once caught a glimpse of in Libya. Now I have an even better sighting of the spectacular bird and can definitely tick it off the list.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hoopoe

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  • Hmmm new way to share photos?

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    Hmmm I may have found a new way to share my photos - via Flickr - which means that I don't need the 3GB of storage on this blogging site which means that I don't need to pay the 39 euros a year which means that I don't feel the pressure to post (self-induced pressure in that I have already paid for the site so I need to make use of the money) which means that it could become more enjoyable to post and less of a chore.

    Tyurns out that when I said Goodyeeeeee in the last post the number of people reading the posts went up over 200 people a day. Strange - very strange. Maybe it was all the you tube links in the last post.

    Anyhow I thought I would see if I could post via Flickr - and here it is. If you are reading this you on yon t'internet anyhow so it doesn't really matter where the picture is - the page stiull has to go away and bring it from somewhere else.

    By the by - above is our latest crop of Hellebores - not too attractive this year as I moved  them from the tubs last year and into the ground - or rather onto the ground - I jnust dumped the entire tub on top of the ground then built a raised bed around the dump. The raised bed doesn't look too attractive at the moment but then i didn't know if the transplant would work. Initially something was eating all the hellebore leaves - I'm looking at you bunny mowers - so I dropped a cage over the top - a used veggie basket - and that seemed to cure their lust for baby hellebore leaf salad. However we havenit yet had any flowers so maybe it will take another year or two to get back into flowering. As the tranplanting seems to have taken I will now endeavour to improve the appearance of the raised bed if I ever get back to Tipperty with some time in hand.

    And with the pressure off I may do the odd post - at least until I do move to the middle east or reach 1000 posts. We shall see.

  • Time to move on - Goodbyeeeee and Enjoy Yourself

    Well I cancelled my pro subscription - 39 euros a year - as it was becoming a chore at times. That means that my media space has reduced from 3GB to 300mb. As I am already at 1.9GB I am well over the space. Therefore I can't post anymore photos and I don't even know what will happen to posts with photos over the maximum space. 

    I think, after 5 years and 950-odd posts it is time to move on - I may be moving to a new job/country soon which is not garden friendly (one of the arid gulf states) so now is a convenient time to stop here. 
    I leave you with two of the great songs - Goodbye by Peter Cook and Dudley Moore above and Enjoy Yourself by Prince Buster and by Guy Lombardo and by Louis Prima.

    Enjoy Yourself - it's later than you think.

  • Rabbits in Tipperty?

    This video is almost what it is like in Tipperty at times - almost, except ours are a bit more wild and a lot more timid. I hope that Jiurie hasn't ideas about feeding our bunny mowers.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/17/rabbits-on-okunoshima_n_4804907.html?utm_hp_ref=weird-news
    According to the huffington post:
    "During World War II, eight rabbits were brought to the Japanese island of Okunoshima, where they were used to test mustard gas.

    Okunoshima is now known as "Rabbit Island," and tourists just love to feed the many wild bunnies."

    However Wikipedia disagrees - and I am more inclined to believe Wikipedia.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Okunoshima

    Many rabbits live on the island. When the island was developed as a park after World War II, these rabbits were intentionally set loose. Many rabbits were used in the chemical munitions plant to test the effectiveness of the chemical weapons during World War II; however, those rabbits were killed when the factory was demolished. According to Murakami, the former director of the poison gas museum, the current rabbits have nothing to do with those that were involved with chemical weapon tests.[4] Hunting these creatures is forbidden and dogs and cats may not be taken onto the island."

    Okunoshima also has a Poison Gas Museum - mmmm sounds... interesting?

    This story is also interesting in that the original tourist video was posted on you-tube. The you-tube poster has made it private so you can't watch it on you-tube anymore (unless you are that person's friend). However it is available at several other places - e.g. Yahoo where the original link at the top is from. This video has been released into the wild and is spreading. If you post it on the net then you lose control of it - video, photos, blogs everything.

    I won't comment on the other yahoo rabbit videos and the cute, cuddly vermin scum that rabbits are.

    Having said that - they do make good bunny mowers and keep down the grass.
    Below is a (not too good) picture of the difference in the grass with and without rabbits. Even a couple of weeks without rabbits (or guinea pigs - this is the guinea pig run outside) is enough to produce luxurious bright green grass. Rabbits do have their limited use turning grass into flesh.

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    https://www.thedodo.com/the-story-behind-the-bunnies-o-434570004.html___##3##___ Here's a follow up piece about the island and the bunnys and the video - basically it is a lot of photos of "cute" bunnies with a little bit of interesting info re the water on the island.

    “The interesting thing about the bunnies is that the groundwater -- and some of the soil -- is still so toxic from the chemical weapons stored there during and before the war, that humans can’t drink it,” Krauss said. “All water is bottled water imported to the island for humans -- and then people put out water for the rabbits around the island as well.”
    I don't think our rabbits in Tipperty drink much water - there is plenty of juice in the grass and all my expensive plants. We definitely won't be putting out water for them - especially not this year where I suspect that an overabundance of water - rain water- is the problem even up here in relatively dry Tipperty.

  • La Gomera - flowers from home - almost

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    During our holiday last month (1 week on La Gomera) there were a few plants that were familiar from Tipperty - the tree heathers as previously noted and one roadside flower that has a brief twinge of recognition - the wee purple flower above - 1000ft up at the side of a road is herb robert. They are annual geraniums found all over Europe and North Africa including Tipperty and La Gomera whichare at two ends of the distribution range - almost the two extremes. It is always nice to find a familar flower in an exotic place.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herb_Robert

    Then, further up the mountain, I had another twinge of recognition (after the big WOW! moment of the tree heathers) when the yellow flowers below began appearing at the side of the road. Hawkbeards!!! We have Hawkbeards in Tipperty - big four foot tall Hawkbeards every year. And there were big four foot tall Hawkbeards. Result!

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    Only these are not just any Hawkbeards, therse are La Gomera Hawkbeards. 

    The best information I have found was not on the internet (for onjce) but on a sign in the La Garajonay display garden.
    "The Hawk's beard is a woody robust  looking bus that can reach a height of up to 3 metres differentiating it from its continental relatives. It's large lobed leaves form a sprig with the bright yellow flowers growing from these sprigs in bunches. It blooms in February and March. In summer it loses all its leaves. Its habitat runs from 300 metres above sealevel up to 1500 metres and it is frequently in open forested aand in rock wall communities. 
    This bush is endemic to the three westernmost of the Canary Islands; El Hierro, La Palma and La Gomera."

    As it is endemic it is found nowhere else on Earth (naturally - definitely be in Botanical gardens and escapees etc elsewhere by now.). You can see by the middle picture below that it is quite a weird plant in someways. There is a long woody stem that seems like it can stretch to thee or four metres eventually. On the top is a great tuft of dandelion leaves. basically it is a big dandelion stuck on the end of a broom pole - very strange looking to us Brits.

    The information plates were around the central hub of the National park - the Laguna Grande (lovely restaurant - highly recommend the Canary potatoes with Mojo sauce - our favorite Canary Island delicacy - and the fried pork, a local speciality) where they have a small display garden as seen in the bottom picture. My wife picked out false sage before even looking at the signs - getting good, Jiurie, getting good. I should have taken even more pictures of trees and flowers but we just flitting through that day - scouting out the whole island before we (I) planned to return. Trouble is that the time ran out before we got back to the magical forest - there was just too much to see in the 5 days we were in La Gomera.
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  • Spring is definitely sprung.

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    Well Spring is definitely sprung in Tipperty and it is pretty early even compared to last year. Two and three years ago we had bad winters (not US bad like this year but UK bad). Down south it has been the wetest winter for 250 years but relatively mild in Aberdeen - very wet in Southern Scotland and even more so in England. The weather has moved south by a couple of hundred miles because of the polar incusions in the US. In other words the rain and weather from the warm fronts that usually hit us in Scotland (especially North of us and up to Orkney and Shetland or pass relatively harmlessly through the gap between Scotland and Faroes and Iceland)) are hitting England and Northern France. England is getting more of a typical scottish winter but they are suffering because the land is flatter (so floods more easily) and warmer so it is rain and not snow. 
    At least that is what I am seeing.

    Outside in the garden I am seeing very early signs of spring - greenery and flowers returning. Snowdrops and cyclamen of course - they come through the snow so this is easy for them. And then the primroses and lupins above are getting into leaf  nice and early before the slugs are up and running for the year. 

    Now can you identify the two buds that are breaking out in the bottom photos?

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    I
     think the colour of the stalks and the single visible - though out-of-focus - leaf in the picture will tell you what they are. 
    Rhubarb you say!

    And rhubarb you are correct. It looiks like we will get a good crop this year (if the snow doesn't come) and hopefully a bumper crop as I split a couple of the huge root rhizomes. The split roots struggled a little last year (due to the cool summer) but I am very hopeful that we can successfully spread the stock around the compost heap / cuttings/ over the fence into the semi-waste area. If they look like they will establish then I'll give the place a good weeding: plant then weed - that's my way round - the oppositre way to the boots but much more pragmatic. 
    Rhubarb will be one to watch in 2014.. watch and eat stewed with crmble and lots of custard. And now I am hungry...

  • La Gomera - the dry side

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    When we were in La Gomera last month (in the Canary Isles) we stayed in the main town - San Sebastian - at the Parador Hotel. This is one of a chain of hotels through out Spain. Anywho the hotel was well above the town in a converted monastery. It had a well tended garden full of succulents, cacti, and typical sub-tropical garden plants like bougainvillea, rubber plants and Canary island palms. It was well worth a stroll through the gardens every now and then. Above are a couple of the displays in the front (sorry about the dark piccies) showing the succulents, barrel cacti, and echiums. The trade winds come from the north and North East so this side of the island is in the rain shadow of the high central plateau. It still managed to rain one day while we were there. The dry climate means scrub land, cacti and succulents. Once you were out of the town things got even drier as there was no-one to water the land of course. There were occasional patches of Opuntias cacti but the many many goats meant that even the cacti and succulents struggled to survive or to rise as seedlings. Most of the very steep valleys were reduced to scrubby dry grass, worn goat trails and practically nothing else as you can see in the pictures below. Not the most inspiring landscape botanically but different to what we are used to seeing at home and it means that you get great vistas and miradour viewpoints all along the road. The land is so exposed that Jiurie spent much of the steep drives with her eyes closed or leaning in from the door with her gaze fixed very firmly on the road ahead. She remarked that some of it looks almost biblical. I guess she meant the steep dry hills, the grass and the goats, and the dusty vistas reminded her of scenes from "the Ten Commandments" or "the Greatest Story Ever Told" or one of those other biblical epics from the fifties and sixties. I don't think that she meant that I reminded her of Charlton Heston in Ben Hur but you never know...
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  • Primroses and rabbits

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    Primroses seem to be fairly rabbit resistant... or perhaps it is mice resistant. I use the word "seem" advisedly because these pictures expand the idea of resistant.
    You can see above two primroses side by side - planted the same day last year - one with chicken-wire cage and one without.
    Can you see a difference?
    The pictures below are the same plants. Now you can definitely see a difference.
    The non-protected is chewed to... bunnery - I guess that is the right word.
    The soft green parts of the leaves and the tender heart where the flowers come have both gone. The plant should survive - primroses are very tough and they have growing points all over the plant - but I bet it doesn't give as good a display as the protected one. Bloody bunny mowers.

    It could be mice- we have them - or rats - but I don't think the chicken wire would keep out mice while it will keep out rabbits and rats so something big is making the difference.

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  • Tree heathers

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    We've just had a week in La Gomera - the second smallest island in the Canary Islands. It is a magnificent place - small but a lot of variety and loads of very steep roads. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_Gomera

    The Southern part is very dry - a land of aloes, cacti and scrubby grass while the Northern parts are damp and wooded - not lush but definitely green. The top of the island is the Garanjonay national park. You drive up the side of the very steep valleys on double track roads with a thousand feet drop on side - sometimes both sides, until you get to the top which was almost permanently shrouded in fog so dank yet warm. it is very noticeable that the plant life suddenly changes from dry to wet as tree suddenly appear along side the roads. And then you drive, and drive and suddenly - blam - it hits you! the 6 meter tall trees you are driving by are heather trees! Tree heathers 20 foot tall! That was when all the woh! and aws! started.
    We soon got out and took a look round, still amazed by the tree heathers and the moosy magnificance of the cloud forest.
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    Part of the amazement is that we have been growing tree heathers Erica arborea for the last five years. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erica_arborea
    Ours are only 60cm/2feet high as the cold winters have chopped back the ends each time it snows but the last winter and this (so far) has allowed them to start flourishing and growing taller. They are certainly a splash of colour along the top of the heather rock garden this time of year - bright yellow and green against the fence.
    Still I couldn't imagine that they will ever get to the height of the full trees. Even though I had read about them and the height - the reality was still a gasping moment. Definitely one for the memory bank and to warm the cockles of my heart in my old age.

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  • The Botany of Desire - PBS

    Above is a link to the preview for a PBS documentary called "the Botany of Desire".
    I have already speculated on a couple of the topics in the documentary such as "Why are Flowers Beautiful" but I must admit that I haven''t watched the full documentary yet - it is two hours long (link below to full presentation) but I will give it a go tonight.

    I have read the book "Flower Confidential" by Amy Stewart whi is shown in the preview. The book is which is an excellent exploration of the flower trade - that multibillion pound trade that is dedicated to something so useless and yet so wonderful but which has damaged so many people and had such ecological damaging effects on parts of the world where they grow flowers for us in the rich world - Kenya, Columbia particularly come to mind.

    I am also interested in the co-evolution of plants and people although not of the way the presenter discusses it in the trailer - he makes it sound almost a conscious decision by the plant. That made me dismiss the concept initially till I considered all that work on the co-evolution of flower and insects. Over millions of years species have evolved together so that flowers are suited to particular insects and not too others and vice-versa. Are we co-evolving with flowers? Certainly flowers and plants are being selectively bred to favour what we like, but are we also changing so that we like certain flowers more than others? Are people who like certain sorts of flowers more successful (evolutionary - i.e. more kids and more genes in the next generation) than people who like other flowers or who don't like flowers at all - or vice-versa. Probably with the great boom in population numbers I don't think there is any selective pressure for flowers - or none that shows up in a few generations - now there's an idea for a story.

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