Saturday, 5 December 2009

Scarlet Waxcap

Hygrocybe coccinea (Schaeff.) is edibble and common, growing on grassland (in this case Doleburry Warren in the Mendips). As always with mushrooms use several sources to identify them and unless 100% certain of your identification do not eat them. An excellent resource is Rogers Mushrooms as is the most excellent second edition of his book. A supperb and accessable book about collecting mushrooms as food (and not dieing in the process) is the River Cottage Handbook N01: Mushrooms.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Image of the week on Fennel and Fern

A photograph of mine has been shown on Isabel's Stylish Gardening Blog.

Cotoneaster bonsai progression

I collected this stocky little Cotoneaster horizontalis as a stump from the bungalow my wife's parents were converting. It may be more than 60 years old, it is very unusual to see cotoneaster bonsai with trunks of this girth. Cotoneaster horizontalis is an excellent subject for bonsai, it has small leaves, pretty pink flowers in spring, wonderful deep purple autumn leaves, tiny bright red fruit, very fine branching and it grows very vigorously.

This first image is a before and after shot from the trees first major styling.

Here is a virtual of the tree in a new pot (modified from a photograph of a lovely pot from Stone Monkey Ceramics... I will probably commission a similar pot).

This first image bellow was taken in January 2008, a few weeks after it was collected, I don't recommend digging up trees or shrubs in December in the UK but it had to be removed to make space for construction work and this was my only opportunity. Being unprepared to have collected this material it sat for some time in heavy garden soil. I was nervous to disturb the roots again so soon after its stressful collection but Walter Pall, one of Europe finest bonsai masters, was kind enough to give me the following advice: I would take the tree out of the wrong soil, shake the soil off and help a bit with a stick. I would not wash it off. Then I would plant it into a rather small container with well draining modern substrate. Now! Walter; thanks to your advice it survived.

Some gardeners say that a well established cotoneaster will not tolerate transplanting, what nonsense.

This is only nine months later (September 2008). It took a while to throw out the first few shoots but once I knew it had recovered from the shock of transplanting I started to fertilise regularly... resulting in really vigorous growth.

This is after its (very rough) first styling (November 2008), it was repotted at this new angle in spring 2009. One would not normally work on collected material so soon but I was encouraged to do so by its obvious vigor. The branches are left long to thicken as new leaders.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Saturday, 21 November 2009

Nire elm in winter

The lower branches still need to ramify further and extend in length but I am pleased with progress, nothing refined in bonsai is acheived quickly!

Here is the same tree in February 2007:

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Beeches and pines at Priddy

On a drive through the Mendips we stopped off close to Pridy Pools.

Growing amongst the Scots Pines (Pinus sylvestris) where numerous Russula caerulea (Humback Brittlegill)... at least I'm 95% certain that's what they are, thus I didn't collect and eat them; 95% certainty doesn't cut it when it comes to edibility in fungus!

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

Field maple re-wired

I will now concentrate on developing ramification of the branches and also developing the nebari (root flare), particularly at the front by approach grafting saplings to the trink base.

Nire elm shohin in autumn

Ulmus parvifolia "nire-keyaki" (see here)

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Boundary Yew of Leigh Woods

This wonderful yew (Taxus bacata) slowly absorbed the county boundary wall in Leigh Woods (Bristol) for many years, blocks of stone can be seen partly engulfed by the trunk. Relatively recently the wall has been reshaped to allow the tree room to grow freely and the trunk will continue to thicken. This tree might have been there before the wall was first built, maybe it was even treated as a boundary marker itself. It is very hard to tell the age of any living tree as their growth rate can vary considerably depending on genetics, climate, location, and health. However yews live to prodigious ages and there are yews in Britain estimated to be more than 5,000 years old. For plenty of facinating information about Britains ancient yews visit the site of the Ancient Yew Group.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Beefsteak Fungus

Before the Autum rains began I tried a speculative mushroom hunting expedition. It was really a fools errand because most fungus need plenty of moisture to produce their fruiting bodies. While some prefer medows, I like mushroom hunting in the woods.

Well the trip was a lovely days rambeling but resulted in few rewards appart from the discovery of this large Beefsteak Fungus, Fistulina hepatica (after the Latin fistula meaning pipe and refeing to its spore releasing tubes on it's underside that give it it's meat like texture and the Latin hepaticus or the Greek hēpatikōs refering to the liver like appearance of the flesh).

This large specimen was growing on the dead wood of an oak, though they are also to be found on the wood of the sweet chestnut. It was well out of reach and I could not safely climb to it (though that didn't stop me trying!) on my way up I found a smaller friut and satisfied myself with that!

The flavour is slighty bitter and it requires long cooking but I have a robust palate and rather like it!

Monday, 19 October 2009

Cockspur Thorn

Crataegus crus-galli is a native of North America but is occasionally grown as an ornamental in Europe. It is called coackspur thorn due to its very long spines (up to 10cm). This is the only specimen I know of in Bristol and last year I gathered a number of its big starchy berrys... it makes an excellent jelly for fatty meets such as duck or goose. Maybe I will again once the first frost has touched them.

Bonsai Bark

My Hinoki Cypress shohin bonsai is posted on Stone Latern's Bonsai Bark Blog... I don't expect to win the prize but it's just fun to join in.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Goblin Combe yew

This Taxus bacata gripping a the foot of the steep side of Goblin Combe really fits the name of the place... wonderful!

My wife spotted a leering face in the roots... can you?

Monday, 21 September 2009

Field maple bonsai

This is my Acer campestre... it's been in training for just a year and already I am very pleased with its progress. I have high hopes for this tree... the leaves will reduce in size as the branch ramification is developed. This year I have concentrated on rough branch placement and extensive carving of the trunk to give it the apearance of a grand old oak. The pot is not its final home and I will hopefully have one made to suit it.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Habitat restoration by cow

At Cape Corwall there is a project to bring back more native wildflowers... the solution; Highland Cattle. These docile little gramnivores keep the grass low and allow wildflowers to thrive, plus they are really rather cool! They don't object to the wild coastal weather either being bread for the Scotish Highlands.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Sedum and lichen landscapes

A happy time spent on the Pembrokeshire coastline taking macro-photographs of small worlds (click on the image to view full size... these are big files so you can share in my enjoyment of their beauty):

Have a look at the centre of this tiny flower... there's a pair of even tinier wasps!

Friday, 7 August 2009

Tsuga progress

I rewired my Tsuga heterophyla cascade (this bonsai is only 30 cm long from root to tip) I will leave the wire on as long as possible as the branches of this tree tend to bounce back easily to their former shape, too long and the wires will cut in as the branches gradually thicken and cause scars.

This is how it looked before the work

The foliage still needs developing into larger pads as shown in this virtual (a touched up image showing planned development)

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Parasol in July

While most associate mushrooms with woodland in Autumn one can even find edible fungal delights on the coast in July. This giant lone mushroom is either the Parasol (Macrolepiota procera) or the Shaggy Parasol (Macrolepiota rhacodes). I didn't distrurb it to find out which of the two candidates it was, the flesh of the M. rhacodes bruises red; though both make good eating, it was so beautiful nestled among the ripe grass that I left it for others to appreciete.

Another reason for turning down costal mushroom for breakfast is that I had left all my I dentification books at home and though I am confident of this identification I have promissed my wife that I will only eat fungus I have identified with 100% certainty using two different books!

Monday, 27 July 2009

Gorse parasitised by Hellweed

More usually known as Dodder, Cuscuta epithymum is a parasitic plant that lacks chlorophyll entirely.

Rhi noticed it parasitising Gorse (Ulex europaeus) on the coast of St. Brides Bay in Pembrokeshire.

I particullarly like the name Hellweed as it recalled to me H.G. Wells' description of the martian red-weed in his book "War of the Worlds".

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Bristols tube web

Segestria florentina is now naturalised in a number of areas in England, though according to the NHM web site it was only first described here in 1845. It was initially limited to port areas such as Plymouth and Bristol but there is some evidence that it is spreading. It can give a nasty bite (rare in a British spider), rarely medically significant but reportedly quite painful. They are also very fast and fairly aggressive, never the less they are quite beautiful and certainly fascinating. It is a good job I find them interesting rather than scary as they are common in the walls of our garden.

They sense vibrations along the radial "trip-wires" of their tubular webs, which are usually set into cracks in walls, and then they dart out at great speed, grab their prey and immediately envenomate, retreating to their lair with their dying meal.

During May and June they wander from their tube webs during the night and search each other out to mate. The males can be differentiated from the females by their pedipalps and their marginally smaller size.

Male S.florentina

Female S.florentina

Sunday, 12 July 2009

The Dumbleton Pear

About a month ago I went to the ancient village of Dumbleton in Gloucestershire. We were out there to study the geology and search for a little known fossil locality. Our route north of the village passed through the old manor estate which contains some fine old specimen trees including Cedrus libani and Fagus sylvatica Purpurea. On initially passing this tree I paid it little attention, thinking it an old stags headed Quercus robur however it's nothing of the sort, it's actually a huge European cultivated pear tree, Pyrus communis.

This tree has a trunk just over three metre in diameter and must surely be several hundred years old!

You can find it here:

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Cheddar Gorge trees

A couple of weeks ago my wife, Rhi, and I went for a walk on the southern side of Cheddar Gorge, in part of the coppiced woodland and limestone meadow area known as Black Rock Reserve. The gorge is the largest in Britain and was formed by regular meltwater events during periglacial conditions over the last 1.2 million years (i.e. the area was frozen, preventing water flow through the permeable limestone but not covered by a glacier).

Here in the first photograph is a view from the top with Rhi in the centre and directly beneath her on the cliff a specimen of, I think, the rare Sorbus anglica. Sorbus anglica, Cheddar Whitebeam, is an apomictic (asexually reproducing) hybrid between Sorbus acuparia (the Rowan or Mountain Ash) and Sorbus aria (the Common Whitebeam).

There are numerous wind sculpted trees on the edge of the cliffs, here is a common hawthorn, Crataegus monogyna.

There are also beautiful medow and downland flowers up here, which of course attract insects. Hre is a Five-Spot Burnet, Zygaena trifolii, a day-flying moth, feeding on the nectar of Thymus serpyllum, Wild Tyme.