21 June 2016

Tree Flowers: June 2016: Norway Maple

The Norway maple, introduced in the late seventeenth century, have become a popular street tree due to the leaf shape and autumn colour. But before the leaves appear, the flowers steal the show.

In the Norway Maple they appear from March to April and can be numerous enough to make the tree look like it actually has leaves. I find the flowers attractive and the whole flower is yellow, including the flower stalks.

The flowers are in a cluster known as a corymb. This is where the flower stalks grow longer and try to ensure a flat-topped structure - with all the flowers forming a flat or slightly convex heard.

This is very similar, on the face of it, to another type of inflorescence called an umbel (think cow parsley). The main difference between the corymb and an umbel, seems to be that the flower stalks leave the stem at different points to form a corymb, whereas on an umbel all the flower stalks come from a common point on the stem.

These trees are tolerant of poor soils and can reach around 4 metres in 3 years. As the tree matures, the growth rate slows down. All of which, makes it a good tree for urban places, in my humble opinion.

The timber of the Norway maple is similar to that of sycamore and both are popular for making furniture. They are easy to work, making them ideal for mouldings as well as turning. However, they don't taint food, which makes them ideal for chopping boards and kitchen utensils. 

I was amazed to see just how many cultivars of the Norway maple there are. But when you look at the different leaves, from variegated to brown, from deeply lobed to almost fern-like - as well as the different tree shapes, I can see that each of the around 90 cultivars are diverse enough to be enjoyed for different reasons and used in nearly all situations.

I imagine that wherever you are in Europe or North America, there's a Norway maple near you - have you spotted it yet!?

Coombes, Allen J., and Zsolt Debreczy. The Book of Leaves: A Leaf-by-Leaf Guide to Six Hundred of the World’s Great Trees. S.l.: Ivy Press, 2015.
Hemery, Gabriel, and Sarah Simblet. The New Sylva: A Discourse of Forest and Orchard Trees for the Twenty-First Century. London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2014. 
Inflorescences. 2016. Inflorescences. [ONLINE] Available at: http://theseedsite.co.uk/inflorescences.html. [Accessed 21 June 2016].
More, David, and John White. Illustrated Trees of Britain and Northern Europe. London, UK: A&C Black, 2012.

13 June 2016

Photography: Topaz Glow

I've really been enjoying messing about with photography this year. In March, I wrote about my first attempts at focus stacking, which I use a lot for the tree flower posts.

I recently came across another piece of software call Topaz Glow. Basically, it's a piece of software that can add effects to photographs you've taken. I imagine, it's not for everyone - and certainly not for every photograph (I've tried quite a few). But, I find it to be a fun tool to use when there's a single subject.

As you can see in the screenshot below, the poppy can be slightly altered - or it can be highly stylised and sometimes unrecognisable.

Here are a couple of photographs that I tried and got results I was happy with:

Plane tree inflorescence. This is the original, followed by a collage of 4 different effects. My personal favourite is the bottom right.

Green shield bug. The original followed by the effect I really liked.

This application is simple to use, while you can change plenty of setting for each effect, such as brightness, sharpness, contrast, strength, etc, I've found little need to. When the effect works for an image, I like it to be bold and vibrant - this isn't a tool I'd use for making subtle changes!

It's not a tool I'd use too frequently, but I can see myself doing sets of photos with these effects just because it's interesting.

Have you used software like this or can recommend any similar tools? It would be great to hear from you in the comments.

06 June 2016

First look at the new garden

Regular readers will know that my family and I recently moved. We're still in Wiltshire, we just moved a town over to Calne. The garden that we've moved to has been well maintained and has awesome soil compared to our previous garden - a limestone rather than the Oxford clay that made gardening a thankless task. But it also leaves us with plenty of scope to make changes.

As you can see in the photograph above, there is a central area of grass with borders each side. At the end is an area with 4 raised beds - one with plenty of strawberry plants, some with fruits developing. Nearer the house, but obscured by the rear extension is a patio area and on the right is a grape vine.

 Starting at the patio, here are the potted plants that we brought with us - including the Magnolia stellata from the previous Tree Flowers post. Below is another view of the patio with our bench and the grape vine. Noah favourite place to garden (as much as a 13 month old can garden) is in that bare patch just before the grape vine!

We weren't sure which grape it was until yesterday when Lucy found the label that much have come with the plant. It's a wine grape called Marechal foch. I guess we need to find out how easy it is to make wine!

Moving along the path, there is a trellis with red jasmine, bleeding heart, roses, and fuchsias.

The garden has lots of roses, but I've not seen any labels yet, so I'll try to identify some at some point. Not having had many roses before I know I have a lot to learn with regards to rose categories and flower shapes - not to mention the the thousands of cultivars, I accept that I may never find the exact ones we have. Either way, I'm enjoying looking and smelling them!

There's also Aquilegia 'Black Barlow', which looks different to the aquilegias I've seen in the past.

At the end of the garden are the raised veg beds. Lucy has also been planting some salad plants and parsnip seeds. We've netted all the beds and are considering some slug control options.

The other day we purchased and planted a lovely bunch of poppy plants called 'Garden gnome'. They can bloom in a variety of colours and we think they look really lovely together.

Thanks for coming for a wander around our new garden! Have a great day.