The Orange Tip

mattcollinsgarden.co.uk

Tag: nature

Central Oregon

Verbascum

My preoccupation with the landscape of western America has grown steadily over the years, beginning in 2014 with a pivotal road trip through the Dakotas, Wyoming, Montana and Oregon. Articulating the West’s magnetism for naturalists – why it remains a draw for environmentalists and gardeners alike – is a task better left to professionals: Jonathan Raban (journalist and Englishman moved to Seattle) summarises it perfectly, writing in Granta Journal back in 2008;

“In the dry and lightly populated West, for all the ranching, farming, logging, mining, damming and city-building that have gone on for the last century and a bit, (…) Americans have altered the land less immutably than the Romans, Saxons and Normans altered the face of England. Most of what has been done here still looks like a recent project, a work in early progress, that could yet be stopped..

(…) here, where the lust for the antique is no less keen than in Britain, the true antiquity is wilderness. Old mining towns, chasing tourist dollars, deck themselves out with false storefronts, wooden boardwalks, faux shoot-’em-up saloons, but nobody’s fooled. The real thing – the pricelessly antique antique – is deep forest, the river running wild, the open prairie. There is no second nature here to fall back on, only an either/or choice between nature as it was before we came and the dreck we’ve piled on it in the recent past..”

The concept of ‘Second Nature’ explains it all for the European, whose natural world appears wild, yet reflects centuries of human alteration. In the West, however, primal Nature remains visible just under the surface.

I have passed through central Oregon three times now, each time more enthralling than the last. Here are a few photos I took, with my dad’s old Canon 35mm, during the last, all-too-short visit.

Boardman road

Oregon Diary

Smith 1

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Toast Travels

I’ve started writing monthly articles on plants and Nature for the lifestyle and fashion brand, Toast. The first piece looks at the wildflowers and wildlife of Caldey Island in Pembrokeshire, South Wales: Island Growing

Beach 5

Caught By The River

Ivy Cities cover 2

The good people at Caught By The River wrote a lovely review of my journal, Ivy Cities. You can read it here: Review: Ivy Cities

The journal has had a limited print-run, and copies are available for purchase here.

Caught By The River is a wonderful blog that chronicles the many wonders, challenges and surprises of the natural world.

Suburban Hawk

LimeHawkMoth
Every now and then one spots something in the corner of the eye when walking; something taken to be immobile, inanimate. Only, in that same moment the mind registers life, and it sends a bizarre kind of shock down the spine – this object is a living thing, despite what your eyes are telling you.

I’m fond of these moments, however unnerving the surprise and infrequently they occur. The shock is a thrill, like plunging into cold water. Spotting a lime hawk moth sat motionless in the road in front of me today brought the same chilling excitement as that which accompanied the stag beetle on my desk, the eagle in the acacia, the grass snake in the pond.

Caldey Island

Beach 2

Three nights on Caldey Island, Pembrokeshire, West Wales. More information and images on the ‘Away’ page: away

Wood 3
Soft light

Wild Columbine

Aquilegia

Pond’s Eye View

image

Hornet

Hornet
I found a hornet, crawled into the letter box for its final days on earth. Five pence for scale..

The Rising Wilderness

We’re now entering the period which, last year, as a head gardener I found terrifying. The bulbs die back to a yellowish pond-weed green, the safety netting of once-forceful blue forget-me-nots dries to a scraggly grey, and seedlings of all forms blanket every inch of soil. Cow parsley and Alkanet tower over each other competing for sunlight in every shady spot and the lawn is quickly filling up with clumps of plantain and ranunculus. The pots must all be changed over too and I’m completely dependant on whatever has managed to successfully grow on enough in the greenhouse to take up the spaces. It’s a disastrous frenzy. Or at least, that’s how it seemed to me last year.

This year however, I’ve decided to calm down, breathe, and enjoy the beautiful elements I previously passed off as irritants. Replacing worry with  statergy, I’m moving through the garden more sensibly in a slower and more appreciative manner. This began by getting to the pots early and removing the bulbs just at the point of going over, rather than after a month of steady decline. Even if this meant simply getting the lilies in, and getting to the under planting later, it’s most of the job taken care of. I’ve been applying the same principle to the cutting beds; removing bulbs before they look ill and sowing the replacement cut-flower annuals directly. Plants sown last Autumn in the greenhouse that have made it through the winter are only a few in species, but include; cornflowers, oriental poppies, euphorbias, sweet williams, brizas, nigellas, and scabiosas. I’ve lined these out already (ignoring talk of more frost) and slowly the gaps are filling up. The real lift will be when the dahlias are ready to come out. But this won’t be for some time.

For the rest of the borders it’s now a case of steadily going through and pulling up the forget-me-nots, removing spent tulip foliage, weeding out unwanted seedlings and re-homing self-sown plants into more desirable locations. I’ve found that the rogue scabious, Knautia macedonica, is a particularly prolific self-distributor, delivering many new clumps each Spring. The temptation last year was really to leave everything to flower right until the last possible moment which, at such a critical transitional period in the flowering year, was ultimately my mid-season undoing. Although, conversely, it is a good principle for the later Summer flowerers. Half the benefit of plants like the verbenas, sedums and echinops’ is in their formation of architectural and wildlife-encouraging seed heads.

As for the wilder fringes of the garden, my attitude this year has been just to leave it all be. Save for a few paths strimmed in through the mass in order to get in close to the wilderness, it’s much nicer to, for now, simply let nature get on with things and watch as the colours change.

Hatched 2

Switching on the television this morning in the shed I was surprised to see that the eggs had all hatched over night. Really pleased. Baby blue tits are not pretty. I’m glad that they all made it though. I’m now enjoying my tea breaks to the sounds of chirping and regular parental feeding intermissions.