Book Review: ‘Lab Girl’ by Hope Jahren

I have just finished reading this great book, recommended to me by Sheryl at Flowery Prose last November and immediately put on my Christmas wish list. You can read her review here, but I will add a few words too.

Hope Jahren is a scientist with a gift for writing, and the book flows right from the start. She recounts her life in an enchanting and extremely readable way, mixing in fascinating information and descriptions of trees, plants and her work. The story is full of ups and downs, telling candidly, passionately, and often hilariously of her (sometimes unconventional) struggles to set up labs, her discoveries, her dedication to her research, and the dear friend Bill who accompanied her through it all. Her style of writing is fluid and amusing, but also incredibly poignant when we note the hidden comparisons between the lives of trees and those of humans.

I really loved this book and wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone with a vague interest in trees, botany or science in general who wants a good weekend read.

Take a look at Sheryl’s review – she can say it so much better than I can!



The Tuesday View: 26th September 2017

Autumn is my favourite time of year, and this September we are getting plenty of mild sunny days where the garden can be appreciated to the full. I have been focusing on this one view in my garden this year, and I am still noticing things I hadn’t seen before. It has been a wonderful exercise and will be a useful record for future reference.

The Acer is beginning to look really good, framing my Tuesday View on two sides: looking down, slightly to the left…

And looking across from the pathway that goes down behind the Acer…

Looking down to the right the Acer can be seen in the full, with the wonderful Helianthus still flowering like mad…

Aster ‘Lutetia’ is dead centre. Here it is a bit closer up with Hypericum behind it…

Looking back up from the lawn below you can see the Golden Rod on the left, now almost over…

These sedums have been smothered in butterflies when the sun has shone…

And the tall pink Aster ‘Alma Poetschke’ at the bottom of the rockery is just starting to open – nice and early this year…

I managed to catch some of the evening light in the Acer yesterday evening…

I can’t believe it will be October when I post my next view! What is looking good in your garden this September?

Have a good week, and Happy Gardening!

Tree Following: June 2015

I am following a tree this year – a Field Maple to be precise – along with Lucy at Loose and Leafy, and many others around the world. This month my tree is looking lush and leafy. 🙂

However, on closer examination there are very few seeds that have remained on the tree, most dropping at or just after flowering stage… and a lot of aphids earlier this month have made an ugly mess of many leaves too… Maybe it became susceptible due to stress caused by our very dry April?


But wait, what’s this? A strange orange and black bug…


And another one… chomping away!


I have identified them as the larva and pupa stages of the Asian Ladybird Harmonia axyridis, also known as the Harlequin Ladybird, the most invasive ladybird on earth!

It has the potential to threaten our native ones, eating both their food sources and their larvae. So I will be on the lookout for the adult now, to see if I can differentiate between it and our native ones. Not that I can do anything about it, but I’ll keep you posted anyway. A good website to help with identification of ladybirds, at least in western Europe, is the Ladybird Survey site, which has information on the Harlequin too. Here is a link to some Wikimedia photos of the adult Harlequin Ladybird.

Have you seen this ladybird? Do you see other ladybirds too, or did you in the past?

 Thanks go to Lucy for hosting this meme… I probably would not have learned that we have this ladybird in our garden if I hadn’t been watching my tree so closely!

Tree Following: May 2015

This year I am following a tree along with Lucy at Loose and Leafy and a whole bunch of other bloggers. The tree I chose is a Field Maple, Acer campestre. We had a very dry month of April, and I took some photos on April 27th (all the left-hand photos) – a very hot and muggy day – just before the rain arrived. Then I took some more photos on May 6th (all the right-hand photos) after a week of showers. See the difference!

The leaves unfurled slowly, revealing the flower…

Their shape has become more defined as they grow larger, although they are still quite pale…

The canopy I will enjoy when lying in my hammock in summer is also quite well developed now…

And all that happened within the space of 9 days!

We have blackbirds nesting near the house, and the male likes to sit in this tree and sing, even while we are sitting on the grass beneath it with our old doggie for a bit of shade… it’s her favourite spot in the garden. 🙂


Tree Following: April 2015

This year I am joining Lucy at Loose and Leafy in following a tree, and I am posting monthly about my Field Maple (Acer campestre) which stands at the bottom of our garden.



Look up, look up, at any tree!

There is so much for eyes to see:

Twigs, catkins, blossoms; and the blue

Of sky, most lovely, peeping through…

(from “Look Up!” by Cicely Mary Barker)


Despite some really warm days the leaf buds are only just showing signs of development. I can’t wait to see the leaves unfurl.


The other members of the Acer family in my garden are just as far on or even a little further ahead; the Acer pseudoplatanus (Sycamore)…


the Acer tataricum (Amur Maple)…


and the Acer palmatum (Japanese Maple)…


 Between the 7th and 14th of each month you can link in with your tree at Loose and Leafy. Dozens of people from all over are taking part, so why not join in!

Are you seeing any leaf growth yet?

The Ten Seasons of Phenology

Yesterday I looked into the meaning and history of phenology, but this is actually a very current topic here in Germany; the German Meteorological Service (Deutscher Wetterdienst) uses ten phenological seasons to observe and predict not only weather patterns but also climate change, pollen, late frosts for fruit trees etc.

I thought this might be of interest to gardeners in other parts of the world, where obviously there will be differences, but also very many similarities in the northern hemisphere. So here is a summary of the ten seasons they divide the year into here:

  • The hazel, snowdrop and winter aconite are signs that winter is over, and Vorfrühling (prespring) has begun. This season ends with the crocus, cornel and pussy willow coming into flower.


  • The Forsythia blossom signifies Erstfrühling (early spring), along with daffodils and wood anemones being in full bloom. Time to sow peas, give your lawn some feed and prune your roses. When the European Beech unfurls its leaves this season ends.


  • Vollfrühling (full spring) is characterised by apple and cherry blossom, the cuckoo calling and the lilac in full bloom. Later the raspberries also begin to flower and in central and eastern Europe the Ice Saints from 11th to 15th May are traditionally the days when the last frosts or at least cooler nights are expected. Then summer annuals can safely be planted out.

Wild Apple Blossom

Wild Apple Blossom

  • Frühsommer (early summer) is the season where the fragrance of elderflowers fills the air and dots of scarlet field poppies brighten up the countryside. The first hay can now be cut.


  • The next season, Hochsommer (midsummer), is characterised by the potatoes flowering, the gooseberries and redcurrants ripening and the linden (lime) trees coming into flower (another wonderful scent!).


Linden flowers, Wikimedia Commons


  • Spätsommer (late summer) is when the apples start to ripen, the rowan berries turn red and the golden rod glows; cereal crops are now harvested and the meadows can be cut for hay a second time round. The elder is just starting to ripen as this season draws to a close.


  • When the elderberries are ripe and being eaten by the birds, and when you see the first autumn crocus then Frühherbst (early autumn) is here. Most apples, plums and pears ripen in this season and a period of fine weather is very common. The swallows fly south for winter. Time to divide some plants and do some autumn planting!


  • Vollherbst (full autumn) can be recognized by the change in colour of the chestnut leaves and beech. Time to harvest the potatoes and many other vegetables too!


  • Autumn can no longer be denied in Spätherbst (late autumn) with the general falling of leaves and the autumn colours. The last bulb planting should be done, and any less hardy plants covered or brought indoors. The larch needles have started yellowing and as they drop the vegetation period ends.


  • And Winter (winter) arrives. Time for the gardener to relax (unless you have fruit trees to prune, that is!).


So now you know we don’t just have Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter!

Do you think it is helpful to look at the seasons in this way? Is there any particular sign from nature that you always look out for with regard to gardening jobs? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this!

Happy Easter everyone!

Special Flowers

Special flowers for a special person today… my sister!

Happy Birthday Susan!


I wonder if anyone knows what this is…


Maybe if you see it from a different angle?


And what about this?


An exotic cocktail fruit perhaps?


Well, these little red bobbles are in fact larch blossoms… sadly blown off the trees in the strong storm we had this week. But I think they look like tiny raspberries, so I brought some in to enjoy (and lament their fate)!

Our storm was the worst in 30 years, with hurricane-force winds uprooting trees across the country. But we were extremely lucky.

By the way, that first picture is a Ribes sanguineum – Flowering Currant, forced. Chloris at The Blooming Garden told me about how they open like this when forced – quite different to the later flower outside which is longer and pinkish red. Thanks for the tip Chloris. Mine have a hint of pink, possibly because I picked them so late?


They are so lovely!

(And my sister is too!)