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‘Colours are the smiles of nature.’ Leigh Hunt.

Stories from my Sketchbook . . . 

If that statement is true this tree is as happy as they come . . .

The rainbow eucalyptus or Mindanao gum is one of those trees that you don’t really believe exists until you see it for yourself.  The  bark is the tree’s most distinctive feature. Patches of bark are shed annually showing a bright green inner bark. This then darkens and matures to give blue, purple, orange and then maroon tones. The previous season’s bark peels off in strips to reveal a brightly colored new bark below. The peeling process results in vertical streaks of red, orange, green, blue, and gray.

A very smiley tree . . .

 
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Posted by on October 10, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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‘Art is born of the observation and investigation of nature.’ Cicero.

Stories from my Sketchbook . . . 

When I take the girls for their walk in the late afternoon Maudie and I often play ‘ball’ with one of the many banksia seed pods that litter the park floor.  It started because I never remembered to take an actual ball with me when we went out (getting three dogs out of the house with them and me still intact is often enough of a challenge) and continues now because Maudie really does seems to enjoy chasing the pods.  They bounce around at weird angles, are (apparently) eminently chewable, and, if she loses sight of the one I threw, there are plenty more of them lying around to start the game over. (In case you were wondering—Mabel and Molly are above all this sort of nonsense and tend to watch these antics from a disdainful distance.)  

Apart from our game I can’t say I had ever really given the banksia pods much more thought.  When they are lying on the ground amongst the other leaf litter, they don’t seem all that special.  They’re kind of dark and dingy and unremarkable looking.  But, when doing some reading last week about seeds, I also came across some amazing photos of seed-pods and this really opened my eyes to just how extraordinary these banksia pods are.  And beautiful. They have have all sorts of cool nooks and crannies and weird little nobbly-bits . . .

. . . and it’s not just banksias.  I have discovered there are so many amazing seed pods out there (see here for some amazing pics) . . . and it seems completely obvious to me now that I have spent the last 58 years of life walking around with my eyes shut!  How could I not have known about all these gorgeous things before?  And how could I not have sketched them?  Well, Spring’s finally here . . . so no more excuses . . .

(Fair warning.  You may be inundated with sketches of seed pods from now on.  I am completely enamoured . . . )


 
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Posted by on September 1, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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‘All the flowers of all the tomorrows are in the seeds of today.’ Indian Proverb.

Last weekend, while transferring a packet of bird seed from its rather flimsy plastic pack into a more manageable kitchen container, I also managed to pour a significant amount of the seed onto the kitchen bench . . . and then, in a (futile) attempt to stem the flow, threw a good deal more of it onto the floor.  ‘Rats!’ (or words to that effect.)   As I began the (seemingly endless) task of cleaning it all up (I am still finding odd seeds around the place nearly a week later) I was also forced to notice how many different varieties of seeds there were just in that one small packet . . .

Anyone who knows me knows that I am not a great gardener.  I know what works in my own garden (succulents) and I have a lot of them, but I still don’t know what any of the different varieties are called.  I tend to refer to them simply as the ‘spiky one’ or the ‘furry one’ or ‘the triffid’ . . . and I am okay with that.  I don’t feel the need to learn all their scientific names.  But while pottering around my garden earlier this week (and after the seed explosion in my kitchen) it occurred to me that I had never seen a succulent seed.  At least I don’t think I have.  I have always purchased succulents as whole plants and propagated them (look at me—using a gardening term!) by using the babies they throw out.

So I had a look on-line to see what succulent seeds looks like and . . . well, they pretty much look like a lot of other seeds . . . which is fascinating in itself considering the variety of plants these small insignificant-looking things grow in to.

Then I started to wonder just exactly how many varieties of plants (and therefore seeds) there are in the worldand the answer, my friends (without being too precise) isLOTS!!  Lots and lots and lots.  And, I am happy to say, I also discovered there are plenty of people out there working very hard to see that this remains the case.

It seems there are a number of seed banks around the world dedicated to the storage and preservation of the world’s seeds.  The largest of these is the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in Norway.  This vault (also labelled the ‘doomsday vault’) holds upwards of 850,000 seeds from thousands of varieties of plants, all stored at a constant temperature of -18 degrees Celsius.  The ‘disaster proof’ vault was deliberately built in its remote location, high up a mountain, ‘to survive rising sea levels, power outages and other calamaties that could affect the seeds’ (The Crop Trust)  and almost every country has deposited seeds there.

(Unfortunately, this year this seemingly impregnable vault appeared more fallible than originally thought. Extraordinarily warm temperatures during the winter (no such thing as global warming huh?) sent meltwater rushing into the entrance tunnel.  The water then froze within that tunnel and had to be manually hacked out. Luckily, the seed vault itself was not breached and the seeds remained safe. This time.)

I wonder if there are any succulent seeds being held in Svalbard?  I know this vault and others like it are primarily concerned with preserving those seeds which might keep the world fed (corn, wheat, rice, vegetables, etc) should something cataclysmic befall us rather than the tiny treasures from our own little patches of dirt, but I’d like to think they still had room for a few tiny succulent seeds to be safely tucked away.  And daisiesI like daisies.  And roses.  And geraniums . . . and love-in-a-mist . . . and bird-of-paradise . . .

But, just in case no-one in Svalbard has given much thought to preserving these particular lovelies, I guess there is nothing to stop any of us from creating our own personal seed vaults and filling them full of our particular favourites is there?  Perhaps people are already doing that, and I (as usual) am way behind the times.   At any rate I am thinking about it now.  I seem suddenly overcome with an urge to go outside and search for succulent seeds!

And here’s a thought.  I could also add a few of those random seeds I am still finding around my kitchen floor.  I have no idea what any of those seeds are but that could be part of the fun.  Who knows what manner of gorgeousness any of those tiny things might one day produce . . .

 
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Posted by on August 25, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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‘Save the trees? Trees are the main cause of forest fires!’ Billy Connolly.

Stories from my Sketchbook . . . 

treehuggerThe trees in the park at the end of my street took a bit of a battering last year.  They were set on fire (deliberately it would seem) in two separate incidents, both times in the very early morning . . .

As you can imagine, it is somewhat unnerving to open your front door in the early morning to see bright orange flames climbing skyward and what appears to be a whole park on fire.  (As it turned out the whole park wasn’t actually on fire—it just looked that way from where I was standing . . . )

(For the benefit of my overseas friends . . . The trees in this park are nearly all gumtrees (eucalypts) which although native to Australia can now be found all over the world.  These trees have adapted to survive—and even thrive—after a fire.  When their leaves fall they create dense carpets around the base of the trees and the trees’ bark also tends to peels off in long streamers, adding to the flammable ground cover.  The eucalyptus oil contained within these trees is also highly flammable.  When these trees catch fire, they really catch fire . . . )

We were lucky.  Both times our local fire brigade had the fire under control very quickly and very little damage was done.  The scrubby undergrowth was completely burnt away (hopefully whatever little critters were in there managed to get well away too) and the trunks of the trees were seared and charred  . . . but they were all still standing.

Months later the undergrowth has completely regenerated, the little critters have returned and the only reminder of the fires are the blackened scorch marks reaching high into the trees.

I am happy the firemen saved the trees. I’ll be even happier if they catch the bastard that set them on fire in the first place . . .

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Posted by on February 28, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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