Tag Archives: magnolia

In search of the 287, two years later


I drafted this post two years ago, but for some reason never got round to posting it so, lacking inspiration currently (and wasn’t the weekend weather FOUL!), I thought I’d share today.  I’m not absolutely sure when I visited but I’m pretending it was still January.

As a ‘friend’ of Ventnor Botanic Gardens, I receive regular email updates and recently heard that this year’s new year flower count had totalled 287!  I’ve been meaning to visit since I’d heard and finally, on Saturday, during a long awaited dry afternoon, off I went.

I think it’s fair to say that a number of those 287 had exhausted themselves in the intervening month, but there were still many blooms to admire, not least the Magnolias, including Magnolia campbelli alba (above and below) and M.campbelli ‘Charles Raffill’ (pink).

Whilst Ventnor’s incredibly mild microclimate means they have avoided any frost damage, they have clearly been battered by both wind and rain, leaving a number rather strangely ‘naked’ like the one above.IMG_9950


The two below, still in bud, are in much better condition.  Perhaps the weather will allow these ones to flower in peace?

Magnolia x soulangiana ‘Triumphans’IMG_9954


Against a west facing wall another white flower, this New Zealander, 10ft tall Glory Pea or Lobster Claw, Clianthus puniceus albus.  It’s supposed to flower from April to June, but clearly hasn’t read the books…



A shrub I don’t remember seeing before is Buddleja offinalis.  I’m not a big Buddleja fan but this one is a lovely soft lilac and is scented and winter flowering.  Apparently it’s usually reserved for the conservatory in this country, but was thriving at VBG.IMG_9927

More shrubby interest was provided by this Cestrum fasciculatum ‘Newellii’, another plant ignoring the calendar to flower now.

I do love those arching stems, I wonder if they would last in a vase?IMG_9924

And anyone know what this one is?  It was covered in these pretty white flowers and growing in the ‘Australian’ area (hence the Eucalyptus in the background).IMG_9946


And to finish, Ventnor’s pride and joy, a little mirror orchid, Ophrys speculum.  I was lucky enough to see these growing in the wild in southern Spain last year (see post here).  They really are very special.

Don’t f-stop me now


Yesterday I was back at the Ventnor Botanic Garden to attend a photography course entitled “Get off Auto”.

Modern digital SLR cameras are so easy and effective on Auto mode that it is tempting to never stray, and just click away, rejecting any photos that don’t work.  And indeed that’s what I’ve done to date with the photos on this blog.  However, having had a father who was photography obsessed (pre digital, of course), I’ve always known there was a ‘non Auto’ world out there, and yesterday I took some baby steps to discover it, with the help of my two lovely course tutors Julian Winslow and Simon Wells.

We learnt about composition, aperture, depth of field and shutter speed.  And then, after a tasty lunch, got into even more detail with exposure (exposure level increments are measured in f-stops, hence the title) as well as light metering, white balance and ‘chimping’.


The two photos above of magnolia, both flower and bud, taken at VBG yesterday, were an exercise in the use of a relatively short depth of field, where the background was made deliberately blurry.  Conversely, the picture below taken at home this morning of the ‘Gentleman Bather’ sculpture by Denis Fairweather looking at my Prunus persica Mesembrine was all about exposure compensation, where I manually increased the exposure to ensure the Gentleman’s features could be seen.  I think I’ve rather overdone it as the peach blossom looks a little bleached, but I actually quite like the effect and it is heartening to realise I couldn’t have got a shot anything like it by leaving the camera on Auto, so I must have learnt something!


This particular tree is a nectarine with doughtnut shaped fruit (which I think I chose because I’d read that they ripen more easily than the larger spherical ones).  It grows in a large pot under a glass canopy, and not only does the canopy offer some protection against the dreaded ‘peach leaf curl’, but the glass warms the surroundings and thus helps to ripen the fruit.  Last year (year 2) we harvested just three fruits, but the flavour was stunning – unrecognisable from the bullet like nectarines we are offered by the supermarkets.  I think one of the reasons for the lack of fruit last year was some rather erratic watering, so I need to be more careful this year.  Also, I will need to tickle the blossom with a soft paint brush to ensure pollination of these beautiful flowers, as the bees are currently rather thin on the ground (or indeed the air).

And the last plant pictures are a mystery one from Ventnor (do you know what it is yet?) as well as a continued celebration of my Melianthus Major.  This has never previously got through the winter without being ‘frosted’.  I continue to cross my fingers.

Now whether the course will make any noticeable difference to the quality of my pictures  I don’t know.  What I do know however is that today I’ve been wandering round and round the garden taking the same picture over and over again using different settings and then uploading and critiquing, and then starting again.  Which is all very interesting and enjoyable, but it doesn’t get the seeds planted: