30 November 2012

S173 Plants and People - Conclusion

One of the amazing illustrations from my notes!
Before I got bogged down with lots of other study, you may remember that I was studying and writing up some notes from the Open University Plants and People module.

Well today the result came in and... I passed!

I really enjoyed the module and it was definitely a benefit to this beginner in the study of plants.

I've now completed 6 of the 10 point modules which means I have now achieved my undergraduate Certificate in Contemporary Science! Wahay!

If you want to read some of the notes and see what the module it all about, see the first set of notes here.

Hogweed - Heracleum sphondylium

Date Photographed: 23/06/2012
Location: Wiltshire
Resources: http://www.first-nature.com/flowers/heracleum_sphondylium.php

29 November 2012

Tales from the Wild Wood

Takes from the Wild Wood is a BBC series about one man's year long journey to turn a derelict woodland into a healthy and financially viable woodland.

It's a series that I found quite inspiring because for many years now I've wanted to own my own bit of woodland and have spent many an hour looking at the woodlands for sale on websites such as http://www.woodlands.co.uk/ and http://www.woods4sale.co.uk/. While I doubt I'll ever be able to afford to buy a piece of woodland, I think it's wonderful to have a television series that shows that it is possible to make ours woodlands our way of life once more.

For those with the initial money, time and confidence; skills can be gained, relationships forged and time can be well spent learning the way of the woodland. No only can we go back to how we used to manage woodland for traditional products such as charcoal and furniture, but we can embrace the modern activities that take place in woodlands such as mountain biking and perhaps even Geocaching.

It is inspiring to was Rob (the man on the journey) arrive at Strawberry Cottage Wood with few skills, but bursting with enthusiasm and over the 6 episodes (1 year) grow in skills and confidence as he works the woodland making it not only a healthier ecosystem, but a place that will pay for itself.

The programmes are still available for the next month or so and the clips will be available for quite some time. If you can't access them via the BBC website, then it may be worth checking YouTube as the BBC have their own space there.

28 November 2012

Sharpening Garden Tools

It's gotten to that time of year where if you're like me, it's definitely time to give your tools some TLC. I've gotten better over the years and now tend to wipe most of the dirt off my tools after each use, but as I have quite cheap tools I do tend to 'forget'.

The other day I spent an hour just sorting out my tools. This included using some sand paper (I've run out of wire wool!) to clean off any dirt and rust. I also sharpened the blades on the secateurs, axe, gardening scissors and knife with a sharpening stone. I also removed damage to the edges of the secateurs and spade where indents have appeared. I still need to apply some linseed oil to the stem of the fork, but I did apply some lubricant to the secateurs and gardening scissors and they're in much better condition now.

Here's a video below that seems to me to be the best on YouTube! There was some good advice from Monty Don from BBC Gardener's World the other week - mark the bevel of the blade with a permanent marker pen. This allows you to see where you've sharpened and allows you to sharpen evenly and not concentrate unnecessarily on one area of the blade. The video below is just for tips as I'm sure a lot of you, unlike me, have your own routines well in place.

27 November 2012

Parasitic Plants

Parasitic plants can get a bad name for themselves, in fact some of the most detested 'parasites' aren't parasites at all.

Take, for instance, ivy. Ivy often has a bad name because people thing that it's parasitic on trees and can kill them. Ivy isn't parasitic as it can photosynthesize and has it's feeding roots, that provide nutrients and water, in the ground. However, ivy does throw out 'roots' that provide the superglue-like adhesive that allow it to stick to the tree - or house! - to get it to a height where it can change from juvenile to adult. So it can be easy to make this mistake.

True parasites are either Holoparasites or Hemiparasites: 
  • Hemiparasites contain little or no chlorophyll and therefore cannot photosynthesise. They reply completely on the host plant for nutrients, fixed carbon and water.  
  • Hemiparasites can photosynthesise and therefore normally just rely on the host for water and nutrients.
They attach to their host either at the host's stem or root.

The parasitic mistletoe is a classic hemiparasite that attaches via the stem. In the UK mistletoes are now being encouraged due to worries that they may disappear from our landscape in the near future. They are commonly grown on trees in orchards, like the example below that was photographed at The Courts Gardens in Holt that is run by the National Trust. As mistletoe doesn't require too many resources, the tree isn't badly affected by the presence of the mistletoe and will do just fine.

Here's another example of mistletoe, this time in The Netherlands. Mistletoe seems much more common there than here - and is obviously abundant in the photo above. I have visited this part of The Netherlands over the past 28 years and always remember the balls of mistletoe in the area, which is testament to the ability of the trees to cope with this sort of parasite.

To the left is the hemiparasite, the purple toothwort. As you can see it has no leaves or other green parts and therefore has no chlorophyll to photosynthesise with and relies on the perennials that it parasitises, including trees, via their roots to survive.

Another example of a hemiparasite is the common broomrape. However, which this parasite attaches to the root of host plants, it parasitises plants similar in size to itself. While purple toothwort attaches to perennials such as trees, the common broomrape attaches itself to the roots of clover.
One can only imagine how many attachments it requires to nearby clover plants to throw up these impressive flower spikes.

It's easy to see why parasitism is an attractive way of live, in fact there are around 4000 species of parasitic plants identified to date. However if the parasite puts too much of a drain on the host, then when the host dies, it may die too. To combat this, root parasites can attach to the roots of many plants and will only be affected when wider environmental aspects come into play.

26 November 2012

Decluttering and Minimalist Websites

I found that when I started getting into decluttering and then minimalism reading other people's blogs was a great help. They helped me to stay aware of my goals in this subject and to make sure that I'm not being minimalistic for the sake of it or getting rid of things that do have value in my life.

The first blog I started reading was Clutter Busting with Brooks Palmer. Brooks is a clutter busting professional in the US and I've been reading his blog for around 3 years now. He blogs about his adventures in helping his clients declutter and how he helped them think in a way that allowed them to confront their clutter issues.

This year I found a website that provides access to a decluttering calendar. This is ideal because you can either print it out or where possible import it into your email application and receive reminders. I imported the calendar into Outlook and find the reminders helpful because they are just short tasks that I can read, decide if they're things that I need to do, and quickly get rid of the reminder.

Here's another great web resource for decluttering and slowing down your home. This blog concentrates on simplifying your life and slowing down the pace. It also has a fab bootcamp set of emails to get you going!

These are two great minimalist blogs. As a minimalist I should probably only have put one blog up on here! But I enjoy reading both blogs and think that if you want to find out more about minimalism without feeling like you have to live with fewer than 10 items, then you probably will too! Miss Minimalist shares stories from her readership that can be inspiring and show that we can all be more aware about stuff at any point in our lives.

Hope these are interesting for you. Happy reading!

25 November 2012

Riband Wave moth - Idaea aversata

Date Photographed: 25/07/2012
Location: Melksham
Resources: http://ukmoths.org.uk/show.php?id=4171
Notes: The experts at Wild About Britain advise that this is a very variable moth.

23 November 2012

BTCV Conservation Task - 2007

Now here's a project we were involved with a long time ago! The task was a weekend away in Whichford with the BTCV (now The Conversation Volunteers) and involved clearing out an old moat which had become clogged with reeds; as below:

As reeds propagate using underground rootstocks (or rhizomes), it wouldn't be enough to just grab them, yank and hope for the best. We had to get up close and pull the reed as low down as possible, otherwise next year would find the moat in the same condition as we'd found it as the rhizomes would have sent out many new shoots.
Such fun!
 Everyone really got stuck in and we were able to get a lot of reed out of the moat. We created piles of the stuff in the hope that it would provide a temporary habitat for wildlife while it rotted down and gave back to the soil.

King of the reeds

By the end of the weekend I think we all needed to go back to work for a rest! I think we all did a fantastic job and you can judge for yourself with the 'after' shot below.

22 November 2012

The RHS, Wisley and Orchids

We took some time out on our way home from a weekend with some of Lucy's family by popping in to Wisley.

Firstly, we didn't get chance to see the shop last time because it was Easter Sunday, but we did this time - TWICE! It was awesome, so many books that the hoarder in me wanted to buy just to have them on my bookcase!

Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, Wisley told me some really cool facts about Orchids.  For a start there over 25,000 species of orchids, it may not be surprising then that there are some orchids that grow as far North as Norway (although it was to me!). Around ,000 hybrids are added to the current total of 110,000 hybrid each year. The RHS seems to be very involved with orchids and manages the Register of Orchid Hybrids and releases information about the new orchids each year in The Orchid Review.

The fact that perhaps most surprised me was that vanilla extract comes from the seed pods of an orchid. A quick look online told me that the extract is from orchids of the genus Vanilla (who knew!?) and mainly from the Mexican species, flat-leaved vanilla.

Anyway enough of the facts, let's have a look at some of the orchid displays at Wisley.

21 November 2012

The Relaxation of Raking

I've always enjoyed raking. It's one of those tasks that give immediate gratification because every pass you make with the rake shows you the positive affect that you're making. Whether it be those pesky autumn leaves that look beautiful with their rusty colours up in the tree; but that can look like a mass of brown sludge when fallen, or grass or indeed the gravel of a wonderful Japanese garden - everything looks noticeably better when the raking is done.

I'd never noticed before, how raking allows your thoughts to be free and wander through a garden of their own making. Because raking can be carried out on auto pilot, this freedom can be accessed immediately - often with results in the mind that mirror the results of the raking.

Now I've recognised this added benefit of the simple task of raking, I look forward to it more and more. A big part of the task for the Living Churchyard Project that we're a part of is raking up grass and it's what I'll be doing again this coming Saturday followed, I'm sure, by a lovely cup of tea! I'm looking forward to the thoughts that will flow freely through my mind during this time as much as I'm looking forward to the task itself. Such is the wonder of gardening; such is the wonder of nature.

19 November 2012

Frog Spawn; Part the Second

Once upon a time I wrote a blog post about frog spawn. I'd never seen it - ever - in real life, but this year managed to not only see it, but follow the journey from frog spawn to froglet that these amphibians make.

It was interesting to see how developed the tadpoles become within the spawn.
Lots of tadpoles where hiding from predators in the grassy shallows of the pond.
By mid-June the majority of the development was done. This froglet has just a small amount of tadpole tail left, but other than that it is a frog.

06 November 2012

Book Review: Tales from Titchmarsh

Here's a nice easy going book that I loaned from our local library. It's a compilation of Alan's articles in the Gardener's World magazine.

Now with all authors that write about themselves, it takes me a while to decide if I like their writing style and to some degree, if I like them. But with a third of the book gone and the rest on its way to being devoured, I decided that I do like this Titchmarsh lad. I thought I did, after seeing him on Gardener's World and Ground Force for all those years, but now I know for sure.

The book is chaptered off in months, I assume it's to group the articles into the month they were written! It starts in January with Alan talking about gaining wisdom in the garden as we age and ends in December with Alan talking about Christmas during his Parks Department days.

I think you've got to get on with Mr. Titchmarsh if you're to read this book, because really it's a sort of diary. We come across some of the same topics a few times in the book, for instance, those Parks Department days, and the 'sons and daughters of the soil' line, but it's a nice easy read about a topic I enjoy: gardening. There are a couple of fun articles about the meaning of flower names and a brilliant one about his mum and the Duchess of Devonshire, simply entitled 'Mum'.

There are some nice line-drawn ilustrations that head the article titles, these are rotated through the book and don't always correlate with the topic, but are a nice distraction if you need a break inbetween readings!

If you can get it at your library, then I'd suggest giving this a read. It's not going to blow you're mind with life changing revelations, but I don't think the book was compiled for that. It was compiled to give one man's view on the state of affairs that come with gardening. It helps that he's a good writer and adds a dash of humour every now and then. Overall a nice easy read inbetween deeper reading material!

Own or Loan:         Loan
Read Again:           No
Recommend:         Yes for inbetween heavy books
Overall out of Five:3