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…

A glimpse of Victorian Scotland

A change of scene (and country) for my next posts, which will be taking you to Scotland. The first stop on our trip is the Isle of Bute, a tiny piece of land located 30 miles West of Glasgow. Bute is usually reached by a ferry which arrives in the delightful town of Rothesay. This is the…

Ten days in Vietnam part 4: Mount Fansipan, 2250m to 2800m

After at light lunch at the first camp, we set back towards the second camp where we will spend the night. The sun comes out, and makes the mountain look magnificent: In open areas, we start noticing more and more bamboo species, some compact and shrubby, others much larger and spreading. Trees include large Magnolia, red-petioled Daphniphyllum…

An island of flowers – Part 4: Madeira Botanical garden

Reached by a short drive from the centre of Funchal, the Jardim Botanico, located 300m above sea level is a relatively recent botanic garden (opened in 1960), but full of surprises. We start our visit by the spectacular Succulents zone, with the orange flower heads of Aloe striata and red ones of Aloe plicatilis : As…

A New Year filled with flowers?

If you’ve read my previous post on Plant Hunting in the 21st Century, well, don’t be surprised, this is a different kind of Plant Hunt! Organised by the Botanical Society Britain and Ireland, aka BSBI, the New Year’s Day Plant Hunt, now in its third year, is quite simple in principle. These were the rules: 1….

The Fruit gardens of Laquenexy – from mirabelles to Maoris

Do not trust the name. The “Fruit gardens” of Laquenexy, in North-East France are much more than a fruit garden. Created in 1904 by German scientists (that part of France, Alsace-Moselle, had been annexed by the Germans in 1870) to trial new grape varieties, the gardens diversified and evolved into a renowned horticultural research center…

Of grasses and orchids

The area around Guildford is mostly made of chalk grasslands, which are just looking marvellous at this time of the year. Here are some pictures of a quick walk I did in a small reserve overlooking Guildford, Merrow Downs which is also home to Guildford Golf Club. As the name states, this is above all a…

Car Park botany

As some of you might know, I work for a plant conservation charity, Plant Heritage, which manages over 640 National Collections of plants, or, as we like to call them, “living plant libraries“. Some are collections of popular ornamentals such as tulips or yellow daisies, some hold incredibly rare species brought back by adventurous plant…

How much biodiversity on a roadside?

I have been obsessed by roadbanks and escarpments since travelling to South-East Asia. Walking in the rainforest, you can’t help but be amazed by the diversity of plants, invertebrates, birds, and mosses living on these slopes. Here in Mount Kinabalu, Borneo, this ranged from blue spikemosses like this Selaginella uncinata, to jewel orchids with iridescent leaf veins (Anoectochilus…

Chalky Guildford

Having settled comfortably in my new town, I decided to have a look at the (wonderfully made) website of Surrey Wildlife Trust, which manages dozens of nature reserves in the county, to find walk ideas in the area. The first reserve we decided to visit, located on the South-Eastern boundaries of Guildford town is called…