Sunday, 18 February 2018

The Weather

Last week was a time of opposite extremes of weather. On the few good days, it was cold, but sunny and pleasant.

We took a works trip to Kingston Lacy House, a National Trust property close to home, where they have several displays of Snowdrops within the grounds.

It was a lovely day, and i took a particular liking to this feature in the gardens, a dry stream with stepping stones.

The following day we cancelled work, as gardening just wasn't going to happen, and so Rebecca had a study day, and we headed down to Sandbanks to take in the weather.....and what weather it was!

Saturday, 27 January 2018

Oh, Mr Orchid!

It's Saturday morning, and it's raining yet again. I wonder if the UK is ever going to be dry again. Amanda has been rough all week, and now it's my turn. The worst part is the sore throat, something that I always struggle with the most. It's a lazy day on the sofa for me, and before I finally crashed down, I checked our various orchids for watering. Predictably, nothing much had changed from last week, as it's that time of year for them, and they don't require much anyway, but they have made me think as I once again gave them a close look.

They are nothing if not overtly sexual in appearance, resembling the female of our species in quite graphic ways. The petals, once formed to encircle and form a lower platform for the pollinator are called labellum, from labium, meaning lip. The other similarities are just as strikingly obvious.
The name orchid is derived from the Greek word orkhis, meaning testicle, and the tubers of the plant explain why. 

I never used to be an orchid fan, but over the years we have been given many, and as time has passed they have grown on me (forgive the pun), and we now have many spread to different parts of the house. Apart from a few exceptions, they are tough plants, and extremely easy to grow, and so don't be put off by the tales of expertise needed in this particular field. They are epiphytic, and grow throughout all the continents except Antarctica, and so are tough little cookies. There are endless varieties available now, obtainable from garden centres to supermarkets, and all require nothing more than light, and very occasional watering. 

We have had many of ours for years, and once flowered, they are just left where they are, watered very sparingly, and then a few months later they flower again......and again....and again.

The tendrils are particularly fascinating. Not roots in the true sense as we know them, they are used to anchor the orchid to the host plants, and like the leaves, absorb water and any nutrients from the surrounding air. This one in our bathroom looks as though it's about to start walking, in a 'War of the World's' kind of way.

Orchids are a complex group of plants, with more than 25,000 species, beaten only by the Aster family, and have a huge variety of interesting facts throughout them. I'm on the sofa still, and it's raining......still, and so here are a few.

They often offer the pollinator the promise of sexual favour, by mimicking the pollinator, such as this Bee Orchid (Ophrys apifera), and scientists have discovered that the pollinating bee is so aroused by the experience that it actually orgasms, while the plant is covertly depositing pollen on it's back.

Some orchids rely on their surroundings a little bit too much, such as the Western Underground Orchid (Rhizanthella gardneri). Named after the farmer who discovered it while turning over his ground and smelling the fragrance. It's a leafless plant, with a white flower about two centimetres across, and lives below the soil surface. As if this doesn't make it fragile enough, it relies entirely on nutrients and water from any nearby Broom Honeymyrtle (Melaleuca uncinata), and if THAT isn't enough, it can only get this by connecting to the Broom Honeymyrtle via a fungus called Thanatephorus gardneri. PHEW! Not one of natures most secure success stories, especially now that the Broom plant in question is dropping drastically in numbers.

Vanda tessellata, a pretty little thing. The delicately frilled and spotted petals surrounding the mouth, with an exquisite purple tongue for the pollinator to stand on. Found around India, the flowers produce a chemical with the very romantic title 2,7,7-methyl bicyclo [2.2.1] heptane.

Impressed eh? You will be more so when you learn that if a man drinks an infusion of the flowers, the effect on him will be the same as Viagra.

The next time you enjoy a bowl of vanilla ice cream, think of this little yellow beauty, Vanilla planifolia, the source of the vanilla pod.

Of course, not all of hte orchids appear to get it correct as far as trying to entice a suitable pollinator goes. Monkey Orchids are a pretty graphic example.
Orchis simia looks like a cluster of playful monkeys playing in a tree.....

....while Dracula simia is just freaky!

So, if you want to grow an orchid or two, and have been too scared for any reason, do give it a go. You don't have to have a specialist glasshouse unless you become too addicted to them. A windowsill will do. If you have any questions then drop me a line and I will do my best to answer.

Who also has an orchid in their home?

Thursday, 18 January 2018

Relaxing and Recycling

 We have been back at work for about a week now. It's another year, and with it comes a new set of challenges. The results may be good, bad, or result in things staying the same for the immediate future. It's a stressful game nowadays, and long gone are the heady days of every moment being easy and peaceful. Now, one has to actively seek ways to calm the mind and spirit. For me, this will mean art school to pursue my drawing that has been left on the back burner. Archery is also in the pipeline, now that I have a bow, and some guitar lessons with a tutor accompanied by my grandson who is also about to learn. The motorbike is now fully rehabilitated, and she is going to provide many a soul freeing ride. Amsterdam and The Hague beckon this year as a long ride. Later, we return with the family to St.Davids. The year is going to be a rollercoaster of a ride, but we like a challenge.

The state of the world bothers me. There is greed, conflict and destruction happening globally, and I fear that we have now passed the point of no return. The natural world is of huge importance mostly, as without it nothing else matters, and we try to do our bit to help. Amongst other stuff, we try to reduce our own consumption of plastic by purchasing thing's that come in as little, or no packaging wherever possible, even if it means spending more to do so. Our household waste is carefully recycled wherever possible, with the vegetable waste being through onto the garden borders as soon as it is made, and then hoed in to add to the quality of the soil. 

Every piece of unwanted paper that we have in the house is shredded, and this is then taken to one of the properties that we look after, where a resident is a fastidious composter, and welcomes our large bags of paper waste to mix with leaf mould and grass clippings that we produce throughout the year. The resulting compost is then spread on to the garden borders.

We produce about three hundred tons of garden rubbish a year, and this, by law, now has to be taken to a recycling centre based near Bournemouth International airport....thankfully. It's a very expensive part of our business, in fact the single biggest expense, but once deposited, along with the entire garden waste from every other garden trader, tree surgeon and household in Dorset and Hampshire, what amounts to hundreds of thousands of tons annually, it is formed into huge piles, turned and temperature regulated, sifted and shredded, until it comes out the other end as a re-saleable compost. Tree surgeons wood is chipped and sold on, and they now even handle food waste, which is processed using anaerobic digestion for heating

Our little contribution always seems so small, but along with hundreds of others it makes quite a large amount of rubbish.Do any of you recycle, and if so, how, and with what? I am always looking for ways to improve our own methods.

To end, can I just say how sad it was to hear of the death of Dolores O'Riordan of The Cranberries.

Sunday, 14 January 2018


Over the last week we have gone back to work, and I have become 57 years old rather suddenly. 
On Friday evening after dinner, we spent a nice and quiet few hours, and then decided to watch some television, as there was a 1970's music reminder show on. It was excellent, and took us both down memory lane. The next program was much of the same, but of 1980's music, which just reminded us both of how much dross there was around then, except of course for the Two Tone bands making a name for themselves. let's face it though, apart from these, and the good old stalwarts such as Bowie, the Stones, Elton John etc, there wasn't much around with any real chutzpah. Then there was a music documentary on the English bands that made it big in the USA.

It had passed our usual bedtime, and yet there was more to keep us locked in. A documentary on David Bowie which was superb, and then more blasts from the past, until 1am came. We were tired, and we were all music and dance moved out, but then a documentary on the Northern Soul scene, something that Amanda knows well, and has a collection of records that we regularly play. 

My wonderful wife has always been the much better groover than me. She can move endlessly to just about any beat

That was it, the whisky came out and we settled in for the duration, and it was almost morning when we finally went to bed, tired but feeling groovy. 

Hobie had been asleep on our bed all day and night, and when we awoke at about 10.30am like a couple of students, he was still there. He is very old now, according to the vet about 105 years in human terms. He doesn't walk well, he has to struggle and heave to pull himself onto the bed, and rather than attack intruder cats, just pees everywhere to try and deter them. He is a wonderful old friend though.

Staying up into the early hours doesn't mean that we can't eat though, and we needed some food for today (Sunday), and so headed to Wimborne, and a rather good veg shop, where we stocked up on all sorts of fare. As you may notice, there is a record shop next door, and so how could we resist? We have a huge music cd collection, but have only recently been given a new record player, and so are keen to add to our vinyl collection, as we haven't really played records for a while now. 

I suppose that it's Two Tone artists and Ska that have always been most influential to me. I was introduced to it many, many years ago by a young apprentice that worked alongside me at work. He dressed Two Tone, and always carried a cassette played and tapes of the stuff, and we would hear the music in the van for at least a couple of hours a day. The Specials, Selector, Bad Manners, are among some favourites (although Amanda positively hates 'Lip Up Fatty' sung by Buster Bloodvessel.
My all time favourite though is 'Mirror In The Bathroom' by The Beat.

The Beat - Mirror In The Bathroom

There is something way more satisfying shopping for vinyl records than cd's. They have substance, texture, have to be looked after carefully, sort of nurtured in a way. There are pictures, sometimes biographies, lyrics. We chose two albums each, as they are somewhat more expensive now. Amanda found, not surprisingly for her, Aretha Franklin 'Greatest Hits' and Paul Weller 'Stanley Road'. The latter is to keep her satisfied for a few weeks until we see Mr.Weller perform live in February. 

Me?.....'ChangesOneBowie' by Davis Bowie, and a special edition 'Purple Rain' picture album by Prince, a nice little catch that has already been played far too loudly.

The man is a skilled artist, song writer, guitarist, AND he rides a motorbike! Probably my all time favourite song......or perhaps it's Wonderwall.......or.......oh who knows, maybe there are too many eh?

Prince - Purple Rain

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Amandas Blog

Amanda has decided to have her own blog, for one year. Her opening statement explains why, and what it's all about, so please do take a look here: Amandas Blog