February: In The Monochrome Garden

P1030162 - Copy (3)Petasites fragrans   winter heliotrope

These are the leaves of winter heliotrope, a November to February flowering evergreen that originated in North Africa, and is now considered a wayside weed here in the UK. It has a great tendency to spread and form carpets. On the other hand it does flower when other plants are busy hibernating.  Also the flowers – a fleshy, purple pink – smell of vanilla, and track the sun’s course during the day. And all I can say to that is, this year winter heliotrope must have really had its work cut out. Sun. What sun?

Sometimes the plants make no flowers at all. There were certainly none to be seen on this clump, but then it was growing in deep shadow. The other fascinating thing is that the male and female characteristics appear on entirely separate plants, and it is usually the male flowering variety that we see in the UK.

I must also confess that I’ve learned all this just now. When I took the photograph yesterday in the gardens of Benthall Hall, I thought it was butterbur, a plant that grows in like fashion and has many other similarities of leaf and flower.  It was only when I was editing the shot, that I noticed the leaves looked too smoothly rounded and heart-shaped for butterbur. Next came a quick check on Google, which in turn led to realizing that this was an entirely new plant for me. So thank you, Jude, for setting this particular challenge – and the proposition of using both monochrome and looking for patterns in our chosen garden subject. It was the heart-shaped leaves that attracted my attention. I thought they would make a good design for Valentine’s Day.

For more about this challenge, please go over to Jude’s garden photography blog:

February: Monochrome

And now here is a shot of Benthall Hall, caught before a squall sent us scurrying to the car. P1030167

This sixteenth century home of the Benthall family is just a mile or two up the road from my house in Wenlock. The land on which it stands was once part of Wenlock Priory’s extensive domain, but now the house and grounds belong to the National Trust.

I hadn’t visited the house for years, and this weekend was its first opening of the year. For me, one of the property’s  most fascinating stories is the fact that in the late nineteenth century, the plant hunter, botanist and co-founder of Maw & Co, the world famous decorative tile works, George Maw was a tenant. He planted the gardens with his botanical treasures, and in particular crocus of both the spring and autumn varieties. Botanical images of course inspired many of the Maw’s tile designs that graced public buildings across the world during the Victorian era. Today part of that heritage, including original design catalogues, is on show not far away at the Jackfield Tile Museum in the Ironbridge Gorge. It is well worth a visit if ever you are in Shropshire. But one thing is certain, we will be back to explore George Maw’s garden as the year progresses. Please expect further reports.

copyright 2016  Tish Farrell

28 thoughts on “February: In The Monochrome Garden

  1. Lovely introduction to this NT property, Tish. I have added it to NT places to visit when we’re in the area. We look forward to further posts and the progress of the garden.

  2. Love this plant ,unknown to me until I saw your post, and love the photo you published!
    Thanks for this share dear Tish (I’m going to browse into Wikepedia to know more about the house …..)

  3. Oh, wow Tish! This is a beauty. I don’t quite know how you have processed these images, but the heart-shaped leaves are excellent – they look all shiny and silvery. And I didn’t know the plant either, so thank you for introducing me to it. I have been to Benthall, early March I think it was, and the grounds were a little barren, but I noticed that I took practically the same shot of the house as you have, though yours looks much better in monochrome. https://smallbluegreenwords.wordpress.com/2015/03/19/benthall-hall/
    Have a nice day! Don’t get blown away!

    1. It is blowy isn’t it? As to image, I just played with light and shade in the histogram, and then added a sepia finish. I also have a very blue version! I think wisteria time would be a good time to revisit Benthall.

  4. Beautiful Monochrome images, Tish, and an interesting story. The Benthall house looks amazing. It must have once been really magnificent. Love the Heliotrope leaves. The B&W really brings out the texture. 🙂

    1. The house is grand from the outside, but inside there are many intimate rooms and window spaces. It has been lived in by the same family for 500 years, including the current tenants who live in small parts of it. The book shelves are filled with books that reflect their interests down the centuries. Modern art works sit beside ancient collecting cabinets. And yes indeed, we are lucky to have such places to visit so handy.

  5. At first glance I thought it was some sort of fungus Tish till on closer inspection I saw the veins and lovely leaf texture. What an interesting place the Benthall Hall is. Fancy having one family living there for 500 years, amazing. The up keep and maintenance costs must be huge, no wonder they gave it over to NT

    1. Yes, that’s how the NT ended up with much of their property, although these days they don’t take on places without some other means to bring in extra revenue – say from forestry on the estate, or cottages to let.

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