If we go down to the woods today. . .

It’s that time of year, if you are lucky and live near a bluebell wood, to go strolling through one of Mother Nature’s more enchanting realms. Delicate English bluebells form carpets of violet-blue beneath deciduous trees tinged with the palest of lime green.

I remember several childhood ‘bluebell’ walks. A couple were through the woods near Little Baddow, in Essex and another was an occasion when my family visited the woods near Butley Priory in Suffolk, decades before the remaining gatehouse was restored into a wedding venue.

But what if you live in the middle of a town?

A glade of bluebells, Holywells Park, Ipswich

Well, Holywells Park, Ipswich, does it again. The wooded area of the park may not be vast nor the ‘Bluebell Walk’ exactly long, but they are there, delicate, bluebells nodding gently in the breeze.

The Woodland Walk, Holywells Park

The Woodland Walk partly runs along one side of the park. On the other side of the high, brick boundary wall there’s Bishops Hill, also known as the A1156, busy with traffic. Yet as you walk on down into the peace and quiet of the park you could be forgiven for thinking you were in the middle of a large country estate complete with a wildlife pond.

Springtime in Holywells Park

Blackthorn-in-flower

Although I have finally moved into my permanent house and I do have a small backyard it will be some time before I can start to think about making a garden. Priorities have been sorting out my work and studio space, the main reason for moving, and trying to create a little order from the overwhelming chaos.

Springtime-in-Holywells
I think Holywells Park is my favourite.

Without a garden visiting the local parks has been very important to my sanity

and they are also a great resource.

Blackthorn-flowerDrooping catkins, bursting buds and the early blackthorn flowers are all potential motifs to be worked into a silk scarf design.

Winerack
The Winerack, the skeleton building on the horizon beyond the wintery, skeletal trees of Holywells Park.

It’s not just in the parks there’s plenty of new activity, but down on the Ipswich Waterfront building work on the skeletal ‘Winerack’ has begun after standing unfinished for over a decade.

Work-in-progress
Securing the site and painting all the boarding ‘Ipswich Town Blue’??? The Winerack, Ipswich Waterfront.

It will be interesting to watch the framework finally become a fully, functioning building. Perhaps it will be a stunning, remarkable piece of architecture, but however it turns out I suspect the good folk of Ipswich will probably always refer to it as The Winerack.

 

Golden times – inspirational plants

RudbeckiaRecently, just before the first full, proper frost I took some photos in the local park of the classic warm golds of autumn. Drifts of rudbeckia capped with their rich, dark brown top-knots looked fabulous in Holywells Park and they’re also very useful in a domestic garden.

Personally, I am not a fan of grasses in my own garden spaces but, I think that in larger grounds, when they are planted in graceful drifts, they work very well. And,

then there are the autumn berries. Another plant that I don’t have in my garden due to its inch long spines is pyracantha. I can understand its value in some situations as a ‘deterrent’ plant whether that is to deter persistent, destructive wildlife or feared burglars. If you need the long spines you also get the bonus of clusters of vibrant, orange or red berries. These berries of pyracantha ‘Orange Glow’ fairly zing. Quite inspirational.

Orange-and-golden

 

October Park – still looking rather green

Magnificent-oakLast weekend I took my camera with me on a walk round the local park to photograph the seasonal changes.

Beginning-to-turnSurprisingly, autumn has been slow to arrive. I am used to living further inland, but here in Ipswich, on a clear day from the ninth floor, you can see Felixstowe down on the coast 11 miles away.

Holywells-Park-OctoberI have concluded that being closer to the sea has kept temperatures slightly warmer in the local park and hence without a run of adequately cool nights the leaves are still to significantly change colour.

So far the most noticeable change is seen in the horse chestnuts. The leaves have turned crispy and brown, and many have dropped already. Sadly, I suspect the trees are suffering from bleeding canker disease caused by  Pseudomonas syringae pv aesculi.

On a more positive note there’s still plenty of colour in the wildflower meadow drifts.

Still-bloomingAnd, self-seeded here and there, the umbels of wild angelica brighten up the shady areas edging the bottom lake.

Wild angelica (Angelica sylvestris)
Wild angelica (Angelica sylvestris) found edging the bottom lake in dappled shade.

I wasn’t the only industrious individual stalking the park, the squirrels and jays were busy collecting autumn berries and acorns.

Jay-with-acorn

Park life – planting for bees

Chicory-succoryThink of a traditional civic park in the UK and regularly mown grass criss-crossed with paths and dotted with formal bedding schemes springs to mind. A vision surviving from our community minded forebears, the Victorians.

Wilding-the-parkBut in the 21st century planted civic spaces in many towns have moved away from this formal interpretation. Perhaps this is partly due to the labour intensive nature of seasonal bedding schemes and therefore the greater expense.

Nowadays we find hole areas of parks have become very informal with a move to include the introduction of more natural, conservation areas.  Plants are being chosen to support the indigenous wildlife and there’s even a hint of re-wilding some areas and a hands off approach to weeding.

Meadow-wildflowers-clump
Meadow wildflowers. Bee friendly clump of wild chicory, upright hedge-parsley, teasel and common thistle.

Of course, look closely and there is a fine balance between allowing nature to flourish yet not become entirely overrun with the more thuggish weeds. Weed or not, the bees are only too pleased for the odd flowering thistle and the butterflies such as Painted Ladies, Commas, Peacocks, Small Tortoiseshells and Red Admirals all love a healthy patch of nettles. (Sadly, when I was in the park I only spotted a couple of Commas, it doesn’t seem to be a particularly good year for butterflies, possibly due to the recent heavy downpours.)
Busy-beeIt isn’t just the annual and biennial wild flowers that are important for bees, as in the autumn, when there are fewer blooms around, ivy flowers provide a very important source of nectar. And, this is where the large, venerable park trees supporting their heavy old cloaks of ivy are so important as only established, mature (arborescent) ivy flowers.

Woodland-cool-Holywells
Large old tree clad in arborescent ivy in the woodland area of Holywells Park, Ipswich, Suffolk.

Finding some floral magic

Local-park-flowersSo far it’s four months since I packed up my home and said good-bye to the flower garden and I am most definitely missing some summer floral interaction! These photos were taken in the local park, Holywells Park, a five minute walk from my temporary home.Park-terracesIt isn’t a huge park, but it is a most welcome sanctuary of green only five minutes from the very busy Ipswich Waterfront and less than a 20 minute walk from the city centre.

The Winerack from Holywells Park Ipswich
Through the trees, just visible, is ‘The Winerack’ the skeletal structure of a half-finished tower block located on the Ipswich Waterfront.

The park is spread across 67 acres and features a variety of wildlife habitats including ponds, woodland and meadow areas as well as more than enough space for humans to walk their dogs.

For a gardenless person like me, there are also more formal plantings. Borders full of flowers, mostly lavender and alchemilla mollis, that soften the edges of the terraces between the old buildings. visiting-beeWe have had some hot weather during the last month and only a couple days of any rain, and I think that the phlox has bolted and is running to seed, but it is still providing plenty of food for the bees.

It was a very pleasant space to spend a quiet half hour during the early morning and I couldn’t believe the noise and pollution that hit me as soon as I ventured back out into the morning rush hour! At least these beautiful lilies bring the scent of a summer garden into the flat.
Lilies