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Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Late February flowers

Amazing changes have happened in the garden during the last week! I felt like I blinked and suddenly spring had arrived. I saw my first butterfly (a male Brimstone) on 20th February and the same morning whilst it was still dark I heard a familiar bird song - yup, the blackbirds have started singing. Outdoors the birds have become very noisy and I can recognise Chaffinches, Song Thrushes and Blackbirds singing. Not long now and I expect our Chiff Chaffs will be back. I also started seeing bumble bees and the occasional buzz was a nice surprise.

Of course I'm still in winter mode and it's hard that spring has arrived so early when those of us who have had a really wet winter are struggling to get our garden jobs done, due to the wetness of the soil (and often, pouring rain!). My OH has thankfully taken over in the veg patch and has already got one of my 5 plots dug over and ready to rock and roll. I'm concentrating on flower beds which are full of dead stalks, moss and weeds. I've also managed to prune all the roses and we've between us pruned the three pear trees and the three best eating apples. I think the other apple trees will get forgotten this year - there is just no time.

I've still got another 10 days of my photography course to go which has also accounted for far less free time to spend in my garden! But yesterday I got my macro lens out (it's not being used very much for my course) and got pics of the flowers that are currently blooming. Daffodils are not quite out yet but another couple of days and they should be.

Japonica or Flowering Quince (Chaenomeles). What's unusual this year is that the one by
the pond is very behind this one in the garden, and it's usually the other way around!

Pulmonaria, commonly known as Lungwort.

I have quite a lot of Pulmonaria around the garden as it self seeds everywhere!

Pulmonaria again - so pretty with both blue and pink flowers together.

Hazel catkins were flowering a month early in January out in
the open areas, but my wiggly Hazel (Corylus avellana 'Contorta')
is in a semi shady frost pocket so is always behind.

Hellebores again. Now this plant is producing
paler coloured flowers as well as the dark ones!

This is another one with a paler pink one in the background.
They also self seed like weeds!

I was totally amazed to discover a Cowslip already flowering.
I thought these flowered much later in the spring!
A neighbour gave them to me so I am not sure of the exact species
but assume they are Primula veris, the common Cowslip.

This is too early, but my bright pink coloured Rhododendron
does have occasional buds early in the year.

And I only noticed that my Pieris japonica was flowering on Monday.
In fact some of the flowers are already going over!

The rest of the pictures are of various Euphorbias. I absolutely adore these plants as they are such good value from late winter through the spring and will give months of interest. Their flowers, or bracts, are such a bright zingy lime green it's just what I need after the gloom of winter. And they self seed too - like crazy!

This is my original Euphorbia Characias subsp. Wulfenii which has
already been looking good for a couple of weeks.

And this is one of its babies which is not as advanced yet.

Euphorbia Characias subsp. Wulfenii already attracting a tiny fly.

And here it is yet again, self seeded in a little gap beween
house wall and the steps up to the garage, with
low growing Euphorbia myrsinities above (also self seeded).

A self seeded wild one, probably Euphorbia amygdaloides, the Wood Spurge.

Another tall one similar to Wulfenii, but seeing those red bits inside the bracts makes me happy as this is most likely originally from my beloved Euphorbia martinii which died.

Next time I post I'll have daffodils blooming and already the forsythia has some flowers on. We now have to eat PSB (Purple Sprouting Broccoli) until we're sick of it as they are all sprouting like crazy, and I've got a load of winter veg to get through, like leeks and parsnips, because it's time to get the veg patch ready for the new growing season!

Monday, 17 February 2014

Chickens and some early flowers

After weeks and weeks of wet, windy and generally vile weather, this week's forecast is looking good. So somehow I'm going to have to juggle week 4's tasks of my course along with starting the apple and pear tree pruning. Mild weather is bringing forth flowers yet wet weather has meant I have done so little in the garden and then panic starts to set in. But at least I know I'm not alone and should be grateful I don't have a garden that's under several feet of water!

My hens, who don't often get a look in on my blog, were models for a photo shoot last week so I've taken dozens of photos of them. If chickens are not your thing then scroll down past them for some flowers!

The little red hens are difficult to photograph because as soon as I squat down at their level they come running up to me, but the two big girls tend to stand still and just stare at me. So they are much easier to photograph!

Marleen, my North Holland Blue.

See how wet it is and devoid of any vegetation apart from a new nettles?
The latter is their own fault for digging everything up!

I have to admit that of the two newest red hens I can't remember
which one is Carly and which one is Gaby!

This could be the other one or the same one as above! But they are both cute and lay well.

Here's Snowy, who is pretty ancient now at about 7.5 years old! She's a Light Sussex.

Marleen again. She's so huge and ugly but don't tell her I said so!

Flowers now. For various exercises (and due to wet weather) I've been shooting flowering houseplants indoors as well as the ones appearing outside.

African Violet - so nice to have houseplants flowering in the winter!

My orchid just keeps on coming back into flower
and these sprays of flowers last for months and months.

Outside the primroses are flowering including this pink one.

I have snowdrops galore and have started splitting some
clumps up and replanting, as whilst they are flowering
is the correct time to do it.

Hellebores are flowering away but this one was the first and now one of its
self seeded babies even has a flower bud on! Actually they self seed like weeds.

The same Hellebore, which I think is one of the Oriental hybrids.

A lucky shot where Bertie was just starting to leap off the planter.

I'm now feeding my rocket to the hens as the veg patch needs digging
and it has continued flowering all through the winter.

Guess what? I found a tiny caterpillar on one of my Primroses, but this was under my
Yucca and I got sopping wet knees as I had to half crawl under it to get a shot.
Taking bugs on manual settings without flash is something new to me!
This is the Drinker Moth caterpillar (Euthrix potatoria).

I've just totted up and have taken about 1,300 photos during the first half of my photography course!!

Friday, 7 February 2014

Photography course outtakes

Nearly finished week two of my photography course and it's been a steep learning curve and keeping me really busy. With very mixed weather many of my exercises have been done inside (but I learned how to use a tripod at long last so that's not been a problem). But every time I could get outside I practised on anything I could get my hands on. So I've a huge selection of rubbish photos some of which I'm going to share here with you! 

We were learning about shutter speed and capturing motion, either to freeze motion or to blur it. I practised on all sorts, including the chickens. Only I forgot to change back the white balance so this odd coloured picture is set on Tungsten! Hens, like cats, are not really ideal subjects as their movements are far too erratic but it was a bit of a laugh.

Andrea running away from strange woman with camera.

When the sun came out last weekend I had the bright idea to use my OH as my subject and wanted him to sit in a chair and wave his arms about, so I could try to capture him on both fast and slow speeds to see what effects I could achieve. However after setting up the tripod along came two nosy parkers who wanted to know what the chair was doing in the middle of the lawn. Of course they became unwitting subjects for me to practise on.

"Oooh a new toy!"

"No idea what mum is doing over there with that strange contraption, but let's play anyway!"

See? I can capture motion blur!

At this point I realised I didn't actually need my OH at all, but could set it on the timer
and use myself as my subject, thus officially creating my first selfie.
Here I'm waving at you and that blur IS intentional!

Capturing water - fail. First time I've used a hose pipe in February though!
Now what are those blurry green things top left?

Who else would use watering cans to do a depth of field exercise? :-)
Actually decided this was a total fail as well so did a much better one inside!
Arty though, non? OK, no. I agree.

Nothing to do with my exercises but I've noticed the boys have discovered the cat mint -
the poor plant is only about 1cm tall, but Bertie doesn't care!

Harry, just because he sat still for a moment. Can you see the reproachful look in his eyes?
"Mummy, you took my you-know-whats away!"

Hallie wanted to get into a picture too.
This sort of thing happens often when I'm taking photos!

Finally a picture I did submit as part of an assignment,
one of my PSB plants with a nice bokeh of purple curly kale.

I have taken loads of photos of flowers and just things around the garden today because it was sunny after 2 days of non stop rain, although of course it's started raining again and we're due for more storms this weekend! My gardening jobs are piling up and it's getting rather frustrating. But let's be positive here, all those photos I took today were in full manual mode! :-)