First there were rocks…

I am a botanist. I studied taxonomy, I learned all about plant ecology, I spent days looking at pollen grains under a microscope, I became a master of identification keys. Life made me deviate into horticulture, or shall I say, the art of understanding how to keep plants alive in cultivation. There is however one…

Danish day

I was invited earlier this year to talk at a brilliant conference in Malmö, Sweden (more about this later). My travel plans made for an early arrival into Copenhagen, Denmark (different country but only 20 minutes train apart). First glimpse of Scandinavian design at the airport, with this stylish church-like terminal building: As I had…

Borneo memories – Kinabatangan river

This blog post is going to feature a trip I made in 2010 to Borneo’s Kinabatangan river. What could prompt me to go so far down memory lane? The answer is a campaign launched on Twitter to save this Bornean biodiversity heaven from destruction. English naturalist & TV presenter Steve Backshall and his wife, Olympic champion rower Helen…

Plants in blue for Blue Monday

If you’ve spent five minutes reading the news yesterday, you have probably been unable to escape stories about the mysterious “Blue Monday“. “Blue Monday” is a rather poetic name given to the third Monday in January, deemed to be “the most depressing day of the year”. This claim is supported by a range of serious-looking…

Mistletoe mysteries

On January 1st, I have put up mistletoe on my front door. …now it is time to exchange kisses under this bunch of greeny-yellow stems and leaves, and wish each other a Happy New Year. But why on earth do we do that? European Mistletoe, known as Viscum album in latin (due to its sticky, white berries),…

Behind the monoculture

I have recently moved to North East France, my home region. Around here, most fields at this time of the year are filled by wheat, barley, rye or oats, making wonderful golden tinted pictures in the sun. But in some fields cereals are all that can be seen. Not a single weed in sight, not the…

An ode to the unsung heroes of spring: buds

Ask ten people what they like about spring, and half of them will probably mention flowers – lovely bright daffodils, carpets of multicoloured primroses, streets filled with cherry trees… Gardeners wait eagerly for shrubs and trees to emerge from their winter sleep and become covered in tender green leaves. But before that, there’s a very short,…

Austria, from Christmas markets to alpine flora

A trip to Austria’s 4th largest city, Salzburg, in mid-December, surely this means spending days in Christmas markets, tasting bretzels and buying baubles? Truth is, we did try a fair number of mulled wines (and even better, Glühmost, made with apple cider and many spices…hmmm). We enjoyed the sparkling lights, the hearty food, the joyful music and the…