In a Vase on Monday: Alma and Co.

Each Monday I join Cathy at Rambling in the Garden for her meme, which encourages us to find suitable materials from our gardens to put in a vase. This week I am cheating a little…

My first vase is actually from early last week. With a severe storm forecast I picked some of the Aster ‘Alma Pötschke’ just as it was beginning to open so that I could enjoy the flowers indoors…

The buds all opened in the warmth of the house and are looking at their best today, five days later. 🙂

Alma is a tall aster, flowering from the end of September/early October and the bees and butterflies love it on a sunny day. I actually cut some of these back in May, hoping to avoid them getting too leggy, but the shorter ones almost caught up with the ones I didn’t trim.

The second vase contains flowers that are not in my garden, but were picked for me by my Man of Many Talents from a field in the countryside. Sunflowers, Phacelia and various other wild flowers are sometimes sown after the main harvest in August, as food for the bees I assume, and to be ploughed back into the soil in late winter as a natural fertiliser. (Being skeptical as I am, I fear EU subsidies are the motivation for farmers to do this!)

The sunflowers grew so quickly in this field, and flowered in record time.

The Phacelia smells wonderful, filling the room with its sweet scent.

Do you see wild flowers in fields near you so late in the season?

Now go and visit Cathy and see what she and others have found to put in a vase this Monday.

A Tiger or a Bear?

I am very pleased that this Buddleia has recovered after freezing back completely last winter, but was then doubly happy to see these two butterflies resting on it the other day, as they are quite unusual…

The English name is Jersey Tiger, but in German they are called ‘Russian Bear’… interesting! Another name used in both languages is ‘Spanish Flag’. I wonder what the Spanish call it!

When resting you cannot see the bright orange part of the wings, so here is a Wikipedia photo to give you an idea of the flashes of bright orange when they flutter away – too quickly for me and my camera!

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In southern Germany they can often be seen, but only near the woods or on shrubby grassland. They apparently like raspberry or nettle leaves, both of which are abundant in the nearby woods and hedges.

Have you seen this butterfly? And which name would you say is more apt – Tiger or Bear?! 😉

Freeze-Froze-Frozen

One of the major inland waterways for freight carried across Germany, the Rhine-Main-Danube Canal, is currently closed to traffic…

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It has been below freezing point for several weeks now (apart from a couple of days around Christmas), at times reaching -17°C and frequently staying at around -9°C during the day. I have seen the canal freeze over once before, but it never freezes completely, being built into the bed of a slow-flowing river. Last Monday it was officially closed to traffic, as the locks froze up and no ice breakers could get through.

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The canal links up the North Sea (Rotterdam in the Netherlands) with the Black Sea, and millions of tonnes of heavy building materials, grain and coal are transported via this route on long deep barges each year. Passenger cruises also regularly use this route, the most popular trips being from Rotterdam or Nurenberg, down past us to the Danube, and then on to Vienna and even Budapest. This part of the canal near to us was the last section to be built, involving high costs to reduce the environmental impact and secure habitats for wildlife. The completed canal is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year.

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Today it is a balmy +1°C, with +3°C  forecast by the weekend. Still cold at night though, so it will take a while before we see boats coming this way again. In the meantime it is pleasantly quiet…

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Have you seen local waterways freeze this winter?

Stay safe and warm everyone!

A Very Happy Christmas!

The beautiful countryside around us has been shrouded in thick fog and covered in layer upon layer of frost for most of December. When I heard the lovely carol “In the bleak mid-winter” the other day I found it quite apt to describe our surroundings here – the earth is hard as iron (although it has thawed a little in places in the last 24 hours) and the water in the bird bath is hard as stone again. But no snow still. (Sigh)

So I’m afraid I cannot post any pretty photos of frost covered pine trees, glittering in the sun with a blue sky beyond…. but I can offer a glimpse of our black and white world instead.

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And I can wish you all a very Happy Christmas too!

I hope you have the opportunity to relax over the holidays, spend time with loved ones, read a good book or just chill out in front of a warm fireplace with a hot mug of tea…

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Many warm wishes to you all!

😀

 

Germany’s ‘Flower of the Year’ 2017: the Field Poppy

Each autumn the Loki Schmidt Foundation in Germany announces the flower they have chosen as ‘Flower of the Year’. I was pleased to hear that for 2017 it will be Papaver rhoeas, the Common Poppy, or Field Poppy as I know it.

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We are fortunate to see it growing wild in corn fields and around the edges of agricultural land near us. But in some regions it has all but died out. The intense use of fertilisers, pesticides and herbicides, along with other modern technology in farming methods, mean the conditions no longer exist in which this wild flower can colour our fields and roadsides.

A couple of years ago this was the view just beyond our garden gate.

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Not just poppies, but sweet peas, chamomile and cornflowers were mixed in with the crop.

And this summer several farmers started sowing strips of wild flowers along the edges of their crop fields to encourage wild bees and other pollinators, insects and wildlife. This is subsidized by the EU – I only wish they would offer subsidies for NOT deep plowing, fertilising, and spraying chemicals or slurry on the land year in year out!

The idea of this Flower of the Year campaign, called ‘Blume des Jahres’ in German, is to draw attention to the plight of certain flowers which are slowly becoming endangered in our countryside. I hope it helps with awareness, as it would be tragic to lose more of our beautiful wild flowers.

Which wild flower would you miss most of all? The poppy perhaps?

In a Vase on Monday: Buttermilk

Cream, yellow and white seem to be predominant colours all around us now, with the hedgerows alive with St John’s Wort (Hypericum perforatum), Queen Ann’s Lace (Daucus carota), golden grasses and Yarrow (Achillea millefolium), to name just a few.

I picked some wild flowers from the edges of a meadow that has not been cut at all this summer, and plonked them in a vase. But for Cathy’s meme I decided a ‘proper’ vase was needed and gathered more creams and whites and yellows for my milk jug. This was also inspired by the roadsides and hedges, and by the jug itself.

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The Leucanthemum daisies and yellow Achillea ‘Parker’ were the starting point. Then Alchemilla mollis and some yellow Fennel were added, along with some Feverfew, Clematis seed heads, a white Heuchera flower, wild Yarrow and some white airy wild flowers that look a bit like cow parsley, but I don’t know what they are…. Milk Parsley perhaps?

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I love the sunshine effect this vase created when I brought it inside. 😀

And here was the first vase from the meadow. I may not have identified everything correctly, as there were a few things I recognize but have never named…

There is a large stem of Artemisia in there too, as well as various clovers, some Agrimony and some wild Yarrow (Achillea).

Our host Cathy at Rambling in the Garden is having a party with Annabelle today, so do drop by for a share in the celebrations! 😉