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