Friday, October 27, 2006


The plant I showed you in my previous posting is Nandina domestica - heavenly bamboo. However, it's not a bamboo, it's a member of the berberis family. Thanks to Mark Duffell, who is a horticulturalist living in Shrewsbury for a very quick identification.

George Black - please write again with your e-mail address. I tried to reply to your note and my e-mail bounced.

Sorry to post a personal note like that, but I have no other way of doing it.

Gotta rush - have to clean house for some more visitors. After they leave I'll post a more lengthy account of our doings over the last few weeks. There's lots to tell you!

Stay in touch, please!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

My problem child!

Hello all you plant experts out there! I need some help with a plant which is growing right outside my patio door. I have no idea what it is, and no-one who has visited and looked at it has any idea either!

To see more detail, you should be able to click on the pictures and expand them.

My first picture is of the whole plant. It has a woody stem and grows slowly during the summer putting out compound leaves. These leaves stay green through the winter and the bottom ones fall off after a couple of seasons (I think, I haven't been there long enough to know for sure). By the end of the winter the leaflets have reddened edges. The petioles are red where they join the main stem, too.

The plant is about 3 ft or 1 m tall at present, but I don't know how old it is. The pheasants have been digging around in the roots, so that's why we've put the stake in and surrounded the plant with stones.

My next picture shows the branched inflorescence and leaves more closely. I've been waiting for it to flower as the leaves seemed to look like pea-family leaves and I was expecting a pea-like flower. I was wrong!

The leaves are multiply compound and alternate or possibly spiral up the stem (they're definitely not opposite).

Now for the flowers! They are just blooming now in early/mid autumn. The "petals" (they could be sepals - I'm not a great expert) are white and very short lived. Once the flower opens up they fall off very quickly.

During the dry weather the "petals" seemed to recurve before falling off, but now in this very wet period they seem to lift up from the base and fall off the top of the pistil! The lowest flower in the picture is doing just that. I think there were six "petals" when I was able to count them before they fell off.

The petals open to reveal six very long, fat anthers which are yellow with brown backs and a fat green pistil.

I haven't seen any fruit yet. I don't think it flowered last year, so when we moved in (September 2005) there were just the dry shriveled remains of what appeared to be the previous year's berries. I suppose it could have flowered earlier last year, the drought has really messed up the timing for a lot of plants this year.

If you have any ideas, questions or comments please e-mail and let me know. I've spent hours going through books and can't see anything that is just right.

Thanks ..... Joan

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Boo hoo!

Yesterday we said a sad farewell to Frankie (I think John actually shed a tear as she drove off up the drive with Dolly!).

But, there's still lots of good things going on around here! On Tuesday, Julie and I went on a hack together. Doesn't Julie look small over there? I think it's a trick of the perspective, but Barney really is a VERY BIG horse!

See that wet concrete? Well, I couldn't get my leg over the saddle when we got back and I fell off Barney and landed on my butt - I'm still a bit sore, but we all had a good laugh and there were no bones broken.

The ride was lovely, across pastures and through the woods. It was very "atmospheric" (translation, foggy) which was a pity as we couldn't see the views, but the rain kept off and we enjoyed it.

We had a day in Ironbridge, too. Here are Julie and John on the actual iron bridge. This is the first iron bridge to be built anywhere in the world and this valley is the cradle of the Industrial Revolution. Now it's a pleasant, sleepy valley full of the ruins of blast furnaces and pottery kilns.

Stay in touch!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

A restful weekend

Well, we're having a lovely restful weekend. We've had lots of heavy showers so it's not been good for outside work and I've taken advantage of that. Here I am relaxing in the living room with a glass of wine and Frankie. I've been reading quite a lot, lately, too - a sure sign that the depression is lifting. The new drugs seem to be working, thank goodness.

It rained a lot last night and this morning the stream was running strongly. I don't know if it will keep going this time, it hasn't been flowing continuously for more than hour at a time since mid-July!

The rain is helping the badgers to find the worms, I think. The worms come up to the surface when it rains and so they don't have to dig up our lawn to find them. This explains why we rarely find worms on the paths in the morning like we used to in town.

This morning it was raining so hard that the squirrel couldn't climb up the bird feeder to steal the sunflower seeds. He'd get up half-way and then slide back down. In the end, the skies opened with a downpour and he took off in a hurry, making for the shelter of a nearby tree!

The rain doesn't seem to bother the pheasants very much. Sometimes the male comes out in the rain and just sits in the middle of the lawn looking miserable! One of our females has developed a new feeding technique which I have captured in the photo on the left. She is perched on a dish feeder about 3 feet off the ground and is taking seeds out of the tube feeder. These birds are more intelligent than I realised at first.

Unfortunately, this feeder became the breakfast buffet for a sparrow hawk. The greenfinches actually sit at the tube feeder and eat the seeds, they don't fly off with them as the tits do. This made it easy for the hawk to pick them off and we watched it do this several times. It lands on the ground with its prey and just holds the little bird down till it passes out. Then it flies off to consume it at leisure up in the trees. A few weeks ago we had crowds of greenfinches on the feeders, now we just have one or two.