Barnacle Geese and Hybrid, Cleethorpes Boating Lake, 28th January 2016

Cleethorpes seems to have the answer to the ubiquitous Canada Geese that plague parks all over Britain for they are simply not evident at the small Boating Lake by the sea front. However Greylag abound and in the distance we saw what we first thought to be Canada Geese, but after a few visits realised that it was actually a flock of Barnacle Geese spending the winter with us. I know of thousands that winter in my home county of Cumbria by the Solway Firth but did not realise they were to be found on the East Coast of the UK. I wondered about this and discovered an article in the Grimsby Telegraph, dated August 2012, and the following account from a reader: “Originally a pair of barnacles arrived and the following year they returned with three goslings – the following year there were 11 and so it has gone on over the years. The last time we counted them there were well over 40.” I estimate there are double that amount now and two others. One is a Greylag that was noted by the correspondent in 2012, and has always been with the flock since we paid attention, plus another hybrid, again identified in 2012, that may well be the result of a pairing with the North American “Ross’s Goose”. Given that Barnacle Geese spend over six months of the year as far north as Svalbard I suspect the solitary Greylag and hybrid have interesting lives.

Afternote: I received word from Steve at Birdguides explaining this population of geese appears to be a feral flock and therefore not truly of interest to the organisation. “Feral” suggests birds that have escaped from domestication and then bred freely. Now we don’t want another Canada Goose or Grey Squirrel population do we? Certainly not but I will make an exception in this case.

Galanthus plicatus "Trymming" & "Percy Picton"

Here are two snowdrops supplied by Matt Bishop in September all the way from Devon. Galanthus plicatus “Trymming” and “Percy Picton” are  planted in the same pot as there is no confusing them in flower at least. Due to Matt’s generosity with the bulb(s) “Percy Picton” has thrown up no fewer than four flowers in its first season, large and showy, hanging from long pedicels. It was named in 1999 in memory of the owner of Old Court Nurseries in Malvern, known for his rare and unusual plants. Indeed I have bought saxifrages from his sons. I believe “Trymming” originates from a seedling selected by Alan Street from Avon Bulbs in 2007, the parent being “Trym”. The photographs give an indication of size and also demonstrate just how bold are the green markings, punctuating the curved petals. For those requiring the bold and the modern, “Trymming” fits the bill. As for bills, green blotches cost more than the pure white.

Galanthus "Alison Hilary", 27th January

I purchased Galanthus “Alison Hilary” as the make-weight in another more prestigious snowdrop purchase. Well “South Hayes” became my most expensive failure as it failed to flower the first year and died this. And I have discovered that “Alison Hilary” is a little gem. There are more technical descriptions of the flower but let me simply say that the thin outer petals reveal an inner dark, striking green causing the flower to stand out in a crowd. Certainly it attracted the attention in 1996 of Joe Sharman, owner of Monksilver Nursery and a noted plantsman, when he discovered the bulb in the grounds of Sutton Court, just outside Hereford. There is a neatness about “Alison Hilary”, a very smart selection named after the wife of Sutton Court’s present owner. In the photograph below “Trumps”, another wonderful plant, is matched for style I think.

Galanthus plicatus "Diggory"

Discovered in 1993 in a Norfolk garden, Galanthus plicatus ‘Diggory’ is often described as being instantly recognisable due to its puckered bowl shape, the petals staying in shape throughout the flowering period. It could be considered the ugly duckling of the snowdrop world or the scene-stealer. In my mind it is an undoubted beauty and stands out well in the photograph below set amidst some other classics. The gardeners who found the snowdrop, Rosie Steele and Richard Hobbs, named it after their late son, Diggory, a fitting tribute for they provided us with one of the stars of the winter garden. My original bulb did well last year, as I reported last February, and has again multiplied. I look forward to soon having my own full bowl of this spectacular snowdrop to draw gasps of admiration from visitors ……….

Galanthus "Little Ben"

The second of the promised Mighty Atoms, this time Galanthus “Little Ben”, photographed this morning and judged by some, Matt Bishop for one, to be the best of the group. I’ll decide that myself in a few years but for now, “Little Ben”, with his even littler ben beside him, is a great little fellow with a long drooping flower that looks even better falling from an extended arching pedicel. It was purchased in late February last year so the extra bloom is a welcome extra. I always keep receipts of my purchases (living so long in Yorkshire) and this was £12 and, as ever, an impulse buy though with an extra smaller bulb that has prospered. These giant flowers on dwarf plants make a great sight in the garden especially when, as with mine, they stand in pots on a stand.

Galanthus "Mighty Atom"

Visiting Brodsworth Hall three or so years ago I was drawn to a small clump of over-sized snowdrops at the front of their rockery. The gardener told me the name, I nodded sagely and promptly forgot it. Until in November 2014 I remembered and purchased the snowdrop. Galanthus “Mighty Atom” is well named though detonating only in the imagination. It is one of the family known as Mighty Atoms, on account of their being small of stature and big of flower. The bulb originated in the well stocked garden of John Gray, being collected in 1952. A number of seedlings have stemmed from that discovery and I have a few including “Bill Bishop” and “Little Ben”, to be featured shortly. The globe-like flowers of “Mighty Atom” are most fetching even given a solitary flower sticking out of a clay pot, though the thickening foliage indicates more for next year! The flower will develop as the days progress and I intend to retrospectively add images to show this.

Galanthus "Ophelia" , 25th January 2016

My receipts indicate I bought two bulbs of the Greatorex double Galanthus “Ophelia” for £3 each in February 2009 and they have been divided up around our garden ever since. “Ophelia” is early and reliable, a cross between plicatus and the double form of nivalis originating from Heyrick Greatorex in the 1940s, his snowdrops all named after Shakespeare’s female characters. Were it in a hanging basket or on a banking perhaps it would be possible to see the underside petals, but mostly we view the flower from on high. Even so the green markings of the full inner petals are striking. It is, in short, a most distinctive and pretty snowdrop, definitely a lady, and beating some expensive modern forms hands down. Ophelia never spoke of snowdrops, but much on flowers: There’s fennel for you, and columbines. There’s rue for you,  and here’s some for me. We may call it herb of grace o’ Sundays…. Once upon a time I used to teach “Hamlet”. Sad girl, Ophelia.

Galanthus "Wendy’s Gold" (Year 3)

Yellow cultivars are very popular among snowdrop lovers and “Wendy’s Gold” is one of the best. My own was purchased three years ago and has now four flowers, perhaps more. I have read that it needs a sunny spot and takes time to develop the strong yellow. Well mine obtains a little sun in winter months and has certainly improved its depth of colour this year. The clump will be transferred from pot to flower bed for next year. I have noticed that some on sale on eBay have had their colour “accentuated”, let us say. The images below are au naturel. There is really no need to bring on the filters for the flowers are delightful. I have quite few yellow snowdrops including one that is very rare indeed. I’ll feature it and them as they develop.

Salford Docks Decline and Rebirth as Media City, Saturday 16th January 2016

I remember Salford from the days when my grandmother took me to see the Manchester Ship Canal. The canal connected Manchester to the sea and its terminal or starting point was Salford. It was in decline even then. The final dock closed in 1982. Reborn as Salford Quay it is now Media City writ large with the BBC and  ITV basing a sizable chunk of their operations there. Money seems to have followed with a multitude of apartment blocks and retail outlets, not to mention spin-off companies and a theatre complex containing the unmissable Lowry Museum. It was a day when the snow burst through just after I took the photographs. Colour had drained from the concrete, glass and steel edifices and yet they possessed a beauty in their reflections in the water. The spots of colour that existed were appreciated. Pity we were two of very few to enjoy the spectacle.