Saturday, December 7

Glow Winter Illuminations at RHS Harlow Carr

I mentioned in an earlier post, that, the last time we visited RHS Harlow Carr, preparations were being made for a winter event. Lights were being put in place around the gardens to illuminate areas in the central part of the garden. We thought that it would be interesting to visit and test the capabilities of our cameras, and indeed that of the photographers behind the lenses. Martyn, has just acquired the same camera as I use, and so was keen to give his new camera a test run.

We had been waiting for a dry day and had earmarked Thursday evening for our visit. Of course the weather forecast changed on Wednesday night and it seemed that the dry day we had hoped for was not going to materialise. During Thursday, Martyn monitored the rain radar. Patches of rain teased us as they crept nearer to Harrogate where Harlow Carr is situated. After much deliberation we decided to set off on the 45 minute journey and just hope for the best. If the weather was poor when we arrived we'd just turn around and head back home.

At intervals along the way, spits and spots of rain fell on the windscreen so we were not too hopeful. On arrival the only sign of rain was moisture in the air so we headed to the entrance. There we found that we were 30 minutes too early so we decided to pop into Betty's coffee shop which is located on the same site.
By the time we had finished our cappuchinos (or should that be cappuchini), the event was opened.

Cameras at the ready we headed out anticipating a chiaroscuro of colour. At first that was just what we were greeted with.
However, looking beyond the trees in the foreground all we could see was darkness punctuated by colored floodlights. It seemed that we were going to be disappointed.

Then something magical happened. I pointed my camera towards a group of trees that were faintly coloured and saw quite a different world.
The difference was amazing. The trees and shrubbery glowed brightly green, red, blue and gold. The camera saw things that the naked eye couldn't.
The only downside was that the flood lights produced flares of light that spoiled the effect but given that without them there would be no effect to spoil, we couldn't complain too much.
I overheard one woman complaining that her flash didn't fire which surprised me as use of a flash would wipe out rather than enhance the coloured lights.
Obviously lots of people were not there to take photos but I couldn't help thinking that they were missing out, as the camera transformed the scenes. I found myself, as well as using it to take photos, using the viewfinder just to see what was hiding.
Another aspect of the display was that lots of the lights were on a rotation with trees and plants changing colour so photographing the same scene could give very different effects. 
It was another thing that made obtaining a sharp image difficult along with the fact that quite a strong wind developed.

When we headed home, Martyn and I each had over a hundred photographs to sift through but one thing was certain - we were glad we went.

If you want to see more photographs, I have posted some on my Flickr page and Martyn has created a slideshow in YouTube.

Wednesday, December 4

November in Pictures

Monday, December 2

Twenty icy fingers, twenty icy toes

I have a shocking confession to make - we try to avoid visiting garden centres once everything gardening related is pushed aside to make way for fairy lights, grottoes and all things festive.
The problem is that this seems to be happening earlier and earlier. No sooner had the last sparkler faded than the snowmen and glittery trees were moved in.

I really wanted a couple new houseplants, to replace ones that had faded once summer had passed, so we bit the bullet and made a visit to a particular garden centre that usually has a good selection of plants suitable for growing indoors.

We negotiated all the twinkling lights and came away with a couple of cyclamen.
It was really cold last week. The miserable gloom gave way to some brighter conditions and a clear blue sky. As usual, at this time of year, there was a price to pay and the temperatures dropped below freezing. 

We needed some fresh vegetables, so we wrapped up with plenty of layers and headed to the allotment looking as though we had each gained a couple of stones in weight. Although it was the middle of the afternoon frost still lingered.
As well as harvesting some vegetables, we decided to make a quick video. We post an allotment tour on our YouTube channel at the end of every month. Despite the freezing temperatures the birds provided us with some lovely background 'music'. It amazes me that such tiny creatures can survive in winter, their little feathered duvets must be super effective.
Inside the greenhouse the tiny spinach seedlings are making a slow but valiant attempt to grow. I'm guessing that it will be some time before we are harvesting any leaves.
Our harvest was typical for this time of year. A couple of the cabbages were masquerading as giant sprouts. The Savoy cabbage was a reasonable size although icy droplets were caught between several layers of outer leaves.

We also seemed to come across a batch of carrots that the slugs had actually missed which was a bonus.
We've tried for ages to grow swedes that actually have swollen roots so, even though the one that we harvested had been attacked and was sporting a fair number of holes, we counted it as a success. Hopefully we will manage a taster from what the bugs have left.

I managed to quickly pull out some dead hardy annuals but, other than that it was too cold to hang around so we headed home to bring some life back into our fingers and toes.

Wednesday, November 27

RHS Harlow Carr

Monday, November 25


Last week we made one visit to the allotment which again was primarily to stock up on vegetables. It was rain free and, although it was very cold, the sun was shining. At this time of year the sun makes walking in certain directions rather difficult. There is a tall row of conifers along one side of the site which means that for much of the winter half of our plot is in shade but as we walk towards the shaded half the sun peeping over the top of the hedge is blinding. The shaded half of the plot is often colder and frost lingers longer there, often for the entire day.

Due to the conditions photography is challenging as you can see if you watch the videos that we took on Monday

As usual the first thing we do, on arriving at the allotment, is to have a wander around. 

The contrast between two of our hazel bushes was startling. They are side by side and enjoy the same conditions, however the leaves of the one that we coppiced this year are only starting to lose the green colouring, whereas the one that wasn't touched this year is a glowing yellow.
One of the roses  - Elmshorn- was still flowering. The flowers are produced in small clusters and seem to stand up to the poor weather well.

I also noticed that some of the fruit bushes had already produced buds. The ones below belong to a blackcurrant bush.

Rather than just gather some vegetables and leave, we tried to get one or two jobs done.

Martyn, decided to turn over part of the old strawberry bed - top left of the arrangement below. As it is still very wet, it wasn't going to break down but the hope is that in this state the weather may do a better job of breaking the clumps up so that we can plant potatoes in this area next year.

Whilst he did that, I cleared the dead French beans from the bed on the top right. As it was wet and I didn't want to step on the soil, I had to get into some rather strange positions and managed to strain my back in the process. Thankfully after a few days it is almost back to normal, but a lesson had been learned.
As I was incapacitated, Martyn was left to take down the second sweet pea frame and pull up the remains of the cosmos plants - bottom photo. I did give a little assistance cutting the string that bound the frame together as that was an upright job!

Before I 'injured' my back I had popped all the dahlia tubers into potato sacks. The temperatures were forecast to drop below freezing the next day and so we wanted to get the tubers home and into the garage for some extra protection.

 It was just as well we managed to do this, the forecast proved to be correct as the temperatures dropped to -3.2C (26.2F). 

We spent a couple of hours in the afternoon on Tuesday at RHS Harlow Carr and some of the ponds still had a covering of ice.
However, the ducks managed to find enough water to keep them happy.

It was a case of dodging tractors as the staff were busy setting up for the light show that is being staged for the next month or so.
Some of the lights were already lit, probably being testing. It will obviously be far more effective when it is dark so we will be back one day at a later time.

I mustn't forget to report on our harvest. Again it is typical for this time of year, although one addition to previous weeks is a bunch of beetroots. The ones sown in open ground had the tops munched away by slugs and so I sowed some in a crate. As these were sown much later the roots are quite small but some are an ideal size for pickling. 

We cut another couple of cabbages, one being a Savoy. Once all the damaged leaves were removed they were both very small but the Savoy was big enough for a couple helpings each. The other cabbage went into a batch of coleslaw which we eat most days with lunch.
We dug some good sized, regularly shaped parsnips in contrast to the motley collection of carrots. The carrots just haven't done well in the conditions this year and many end up straight on the compost heap. Usually they keep us supplied over winter but this isn't going to be the case this year.

You just never know what each year will bring when you grow your own do you?

Our complete monthly harvests are listed here.

You can view a video of our Novenber birds' eye view here

This week I am linking to harvest Monday hosted on 

Dave's blog Our Happy Acres

Thanks to those who responded to my invitation to make a comment. I appreciate you taking the trouble to say hello. I know I get lots of visitors who never comment and I'd love to know who you are - unlike the annoying spammers who can't seem to grasp that their comments go straight into my spam folder and never see the light of day I am getting lots of Anonymous spam comments which go straight into the spam folder and then deleted as there are far too many to check through so I'm afraid that if you comment anonymously this may happen to your comment.

You don't have to have your own blog in order to join in conversations. It may seem that everyone who comments knows one another but bloggers always welcome new commenters, after all that is how we all started. 

Copyright: Original post from Our Plot at Green Lane Allotments author S Garrett

Wednesday, November 20

Just hanging on

Monday, November 18

A plotless week

We didn't visit the allotment at all last week. As we can only do damage trying to work in soggy conditions, our main reason for visiting the plot is to harvest some vegetables. Last week we had plenty of fresh vegetables to get us through the week and so didn't need a harvesting visit.

The weather continues along the theme of cold and wet days with some occasional breaks, when rain and drizzle takes a rest to recharge the clouds and start again.

We were fed up of being stuck inside, so we decided to brave the weather and have an afternoon at the Yorkshire Wildlife Park.

As we headed there the weather didn't look very promising, but we thought that at least we could have lunch in the restaurant if it proved too wet to walk around.
There has been quite a bit of flooding in the park with the worst affected area being the tiger enclosures. The platform on the left is the walkway that divides the enclosures from a natural wetland area.
The water level  in the wetland area had risen considerably spilling over into the enclosures. In the photo below the bridge that can be seen on the right will eventually link the existing park to a new area which will just about double the overall size.
The tigers would be quite happy in the water but the electric fencing wouldn't and so the tigers were temporarily moved to a smaller enclosure which is set aside as a nursery for when the big cats have cubs.
Some of the animals, like this okapi braved the conditions.

The lions were also out although, Maria seemed as fed up of the rain as we were.
Others had disappeared indoors whilst some like this family of baboons took shelter just as we were doing. We had a large umbrella whereas they made other arrangements. Can you spot the tiny baby between mum and youngster?
The meerkats watched from indoors thinking that we were crazy to be out in the rain.
 One seemed to wave goodbye as we headed for the exit
With lots of the enclosures devoid of animals it wasn't a good day for the visiting schools but we had a walk and a tasty lunch so we were happy if a bit soggy.
The rain held off on Sunday so we managed a bit of steam engine filming  but other than that it was a week indoors.
Let's hope the weather is set fine this week - well we can hope can't we?