Cleaning Bamboo

Phyllostachys aureosulcata ‘spectabilis’

It is always good to have your approach or views challenged and sometimes those challenges creep up on you unexpectedly. This weekend, having been encouraged out into the garden to take some photos for my Six on Saturday post I found myself pottering around for an hour accompanied by the under-gardener.

One of the jobs I wanted to tackle was trimming the stems of the Phyllostachys aureosulcata ‘Spectabilis’ or what I call the Zig-Zag bamboo. It’s a practice I adopted a couple of years back so that the wonderful golden zig-zag stems of the bamboo are showcased.  It’s a fiddly job and best done in the winter as the new shoots start to appear along the stems; if you catch the new shoots early enough you can reduce the amount of knobbly bits and have cleaner stems.  I have to admit it’s quite a satisfying job and ideal for a cold day when the ground is too cold for digging or planting.  After a bit of work you can clearly see a result for your work.

I also remove the leaves from hellebores  and cut back epimediums (not the Japanese ones) in January in order to allow the flowers to show.  Of course in nature this doesn’t happen and it is purely a human intervention in order to show off a plant.  Interestingly, I was surprised some time ago to discover that some gardeners remove the flowers from hostas as they grow the hostas for the leaves and they felt the flowers compromised the effect and I have always smiled at those who pressure wash the stems of birch in the winter to show off the white bark. So there is no consistently in my approach.

While I was snipping away at the bamboo stems and admiring the sea of honesty foliage growing around the bamboo I started to wonder where the idea of removing the shoots had come from and given how much tidying up I had to do in the garden why was I spending time undertaking a purely cosmetic task.  My questioning continued when one of the commentators on my last post described the joy of hellebores with the flowers hidden amongst the leaves and this really got me thinking.

I suppose it comes down to what effect you want to achieve in your garden and what is more important to you.  Do you grow the plants to focus on one particular element: flowers, stems, bark, leaves? Or do you grow the plants to create an overall impact? Or, like me, do you have a more random approach picking out those plants which are maybe more important to you or actually those you can see best from the living room window!

Rainy Day Flowers


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I have treated myself to a new camera  – a Canon EOS 100D.  It was bought on a whim which is unlike me as I normally labour over such investments but I am in that sort of mood at the moment and I had the funds so why not.  It is my very first DSLR and I am determined not to rely on the automatic settings but learn to use the functions properly.  The biggest stumbling block is that as soon as someone starts talking about aperture, shutter speed and exposure my mind goes blank, just like when I was learning fractions at school.  There is nothing there, just the sound of the wind whistling around the void!!  It is this reaction which has stopped me buying a DSLR for some years but I have decided to overcome this and get a grip.

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None of the photographs in this post have been taken on automatic, some are on manual and some are using macro and I am rather pleased so far.  I have done some research on line and I have found some information written in a non-techy way which is slowly beginning to make sense.  One of the bits of advice I read was that you can always improve a photo using photoshop or some other form of software.  The camera comes with software which I have uploaded on my laptop but the editing in these images was done using the simple photo editing software that comes on my laptop and I am rather pleased.

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My youngest, the design whiz, has been showing me how to tweak the colour intensity etc and applied some cropping to the photos.  He did the allium and I did the other two.

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Then we really messed around and turned the cat into a tiger.  She thinks she is a tiger so we made her more orange.  She is roaring as she doesn’t like the sound of my new camera especially as it has been pointed at her so much!!

Happy Birthday – Maise

It’s a year today since I got our cat.  I have never owned a cat before – a dog yes but a cat no.  It was a spur of the moment thing, well as much as you can get a cat on the spur of the moment with all the checks the animal rescue people do.  But it was one of those moments when I just couldn’t shake off the idea and I am a greater believer in listening to your instincts/heart over your brain.  Anyway here we are one year on and none of us can imagine not having Maisie living with us.

My sons (19 and 21) were sceptical about a cat.  Cats are boring, why can’t we have a dog.  However one year on they are completely besotted.  I suspect part of the reason is Maisie’s character.  She is opinionated, out spoken, independent and loving – on her terms only – bit like her owner.  I have never come across such a vocal cat but I am told that Tabby cats are often quite talkative.

She thanks you for opening the door, she  rants around the house when she is grounded for tormenting mice, she has a strange deep growl like noise that she makes when she is hurtling round have a funny five minutes.  She hides behind doors and chairs and leaps out at you saying – ha ha got you.  She is quite mad.

She isn’t a cuddly cat, she won’t sit on your lap.  The most you get is her sitting on the back of the sofa behind you head butting you or she will give you a wash in the morning.  She will spend hours playing chase in the garden with the boys after some bit of stick or up and down the stairs chasing a ball – I often wonder if she thinks she is a dog.

She is also a very successful hunter not something I am too keen on but I suppose it is in her nature and having been abandoned with kittens I presume her instincts were brought to the fore.  Although she has had kittens the vet thought she was only about 2 when we got her and there is definitely a kittenish quality  about her still.

My biggest relief is that she doesn’t rise with the sun anymore as she did last summer and I don’t get woken at stupid times.  She sleeps on my bed on her own blanket – the only time she will sleep on the blanket and despite the odd midnight wander to look out of the window she doesn’t get up until she hears me click the alarm clock off.  Fantastic.

We dont know when she was born so the 23rd June is now her birthday.

We love her dearly and I am so glad that this time last year I didn’t let my sensible rationale head overrule my heart.