Landlife is an organisation that has been promoting the use of wildflowers to enhance urban environments sine 1999. It has been an important trailblazer in creative conservation and has also worked as a wildflower farmer, growing and supplying native seeds that they sell through their Wildflower Shop at www.wildflower.org.uk . It is hoped that some parts of the organisation will be saved or relocated, but in the meantime we can all help in a small way by buying some of their wildflower seeds online. #savelandlife
On our way back from New Zealand we spent a couple of nights in Singapore – for the second time in three years. It was the hot and humid rainy season (34° and 90% humidity) but nonetheless it is a fascinating place to visit and having discovered how cheap the taxis were, we only walked (slowly) when we chose to. It is the greenest of cities, so although there is an ever-growing array of tall buildings, they are set amongst, or incorporate, an abundance of tropical foliage and flowers.Coincidentally, we were in Singapore on the day that Planet Earth 2 aired in the UK, so while David Attenborough was talking about Singapore’s green credentials and filming from Gardens by the Bay, we were on the spot amongst the tropical vegetation and walking along the gantries between the Supertrees. I’m not a great one for gantries, so I can’t say I found this a relaxing experience, I much prefer admiring these structures from ground level where I can wander amongst the spectacular flowers and the lush foliage. Entry to the gardens is free, but visiting the Supertrees, or the Biomes (we did this on our last visit) are charged for. It has to be said that the catering isn’t great, but if you are into plants it is a wonderful experience.
We also found time to visit one of the ‘wet’ markets where Singaporeans go to buy all their food. They are called ‘wet’ because the floors are constantly washed down to keep them clean. Lacking any need to buy any of the intriguing looking vegetables, dried or fresh fish, or flowers, I found a spice stall and bought black peppercorns.
The street food of Singapore is delicious and perfectly safe to eat, although only the most adventurous (not me) will try deep-fried fish heads, or frog porridge. But there is plenty of less-alarming food to choose from and eat at the communal tables in the covered streets of Singapore’s Chinatown. This experienced is further enhanced by the Tiger Beer ‘Aunties’ – women of middle years, dressed in bright red, who take orders and deliver Tiger Beer to your table – it’s the only thing to drink in the heat and humidity.
Visiting a place where the conditions for growth are near perfect is always exciting. Plants find their niches and growth is many-layered with climbers twining through trees and every nook and cranny – even a tree trunk – provides a home for opportunistic ferns.
We had been admiring the snow clad Southern Alps for some days as we travelled around and were greatly looking forward to the literal and metaphorical high point – our visit to Mount Cook.
The evening before the sky was deep blue and cloudless, the morning after equally so, but on the day itself as we drove towards New Zealand’s highest mountain, it became apparent that Mount Cook’s famously variable weather was not going to cooperate. The closer we got, the murkier and more miserable it became and my ideas of strolling through alpine meadows admiring the unique flora of the area were not to be.
Undaunted, we put on every possible layer of warm/waterproof clothing and set off to see what we could see. Mainly we saw torrential rain, with occasional hail, enlivened by gusts of wind that threatened to blow us off the path. We barely left the valley floor and it quickly became apparent that it was more of a feat of endurance than a pleasant stroll, so after an hour of tramping (as the New Zealanders call moderately challenging walks) we turned round and headed back when we heard a crack of thunder – actually this may have been a section of the Franz Josef glacier detaching itself and crashing into the lake below – but we weren’t going to hang around and find out.
Sadly we didn’t see the famous Mount Cook Lily, a stunning large white buttercup, and although we saw the leaves of Celmisia, the Mount Cook Daisy, the only one I saw in flower was a different member of the Celmisia family in a garden in Omauru. We did spot a tiny orchid with flowers no larger than the nail on my little finger growing under trees next to the path. It may be Lyall’s orchid but it wasn’t out fully enough to be sure. There were hebes in their natural habitat, gaultherias in full bloom, Dracophyllum not yet in flower and the strange low-growing Raoulia, known – once it matures – as the vegetable sheep because its white foliage and lumpy outline it looks like sleeping sheep. It is worth looking it up online. The one I photographed was still a very tiny lamb!
But even here, there were non-native plants to be seen, aquilegias in amongst native ferns, raspberries, gooseberries and currants. I suspect the fruit bushes arrived here courtesy of the Kea, the parrot that lives in these alpine regions.
It’s always disappointing when the weather interferes with plans, but it certainly made the Mount Cook visit memorable and was just one of the factors that has us considering a return to New Zealand before too long.
There’s so much more too see – including the Mount Cook Lily.
I suppose that given that we were not far from Middle Earth – or so the map indicated – I shouldn’t have been surprised to happen upon a garden that gave every indication of being created by a hobbit and a very industrious hobbit at that.
Not only had he planted this extensive hillside garden, he had also built the house which I was given a tour of as part of the admission – and if anyone is after somewhere extremely quirky to stay should they be in this area then this is definitely your place.
The garden climbs the hillside with planting that is abundant and informal – roses weave in amongst cordylines, cardiocrinums tower above surrounding plants, multi-stemmed shrubby echiums buzz with bees as paths weave in and out of the planting, all framed by arches, moon gates and rustic artworks created by the presiding genius.
Hundreds of lilies will come into flower in the next few weeks, spreading their perfume across the garden, but at the moment it is the scent or roses that permeates every corner. I did notice a For Sale sign so I’m not sure how much longer this garden will survive, but I am so glad that I had the opportunity to visit it. It’s a bit bonkers, very beautiful and must represent many years of backbreaking work – Mr Hobbit I salute you.