Year of Grace Day 164. The magic of wisteria and clematis

Wisteria and clematis are two of my favourite vines. Every spring I eagerly await their blooming. Here they are, magically  transforming the grim and forbidding façade of a derelict building, apparently a former air-raid shelter from World War II.  At least once a year, this unsightly structure is endowed with breathtaking grace (and scent too). These photos were taken in my old neighbourhood of Dottendorf, on Quirinusplatz.

Year of Grace, Day 141. In praise of the fritillary

The other day I was checking out the incipient buds on my little clump of fritillaries (Fritillaria meleagris) whose exquisite flowers I have been anticipating with delight for weeks. To my dismay, they had disappeared! Had a vole decided to have them for a snack, I wondered?

I had purposely planted them inside a tough, rustproof metal screen buried into the ground to deter vegetarian voles. The other burrowing residents in my garden are moles, and the metal cage was meant to deter them as well. Though they are carnivores and aren’t likely to eat plants, they do dig tunnels and are likely to damage bulbs and roots. (The way to distinguish whether you have voles or moles is the type of exit hole. A mole leaves a surrounding mound of earth around the exit, like a volcano, whereas a vole doesn’t – its exit is a neat cavity. So where does it put all that excavated soil, I wonder? And another tip: voles are vegetarians, moles are meat eaters.)

Or could the culprit perhaps be a slug or snail? My heart had fallen at the loss, as these damp-loving lilies have the most fascinating, complex pattern ever. And they are one of the flowers that I most look forward to in spring. Straight lines and squares do not occur in nature, or so goes received wisdom. But have a closer look at these snakeshead fritillaries (another name for them) and you will see a checkerboard pattern, which is why they are also known as Schachbrettblume (chessboard flower) in German. These are not the hapless fallen ones, btw, but ones I photographed years ago in a garden in my old neighbourhood of Dottendorf.FRITTILARY perfect

Going closer to investigate any telltale trails left by a snail, I noticed the fallen buds lying on the ground. Dismay turned to hope. There was no snail or slug slime on them. I rushed them into the house and plunged them at once into water, hoping to revive them. One of the buds was showing a bit of pattern, the other was still pale and colourless. At least I could photograph them, I thought.

Imagine then my joy when the larger of the two opened up later that evening! And the other one – the tiny pale one  – also began to look like its namesake, a mini snakehead.

So here they are, my lovelies – these fritillary lilies whose complexity and beauty never fail to arouse inspiration and awe in me. The only quality they are missing — if one could be unkind enough to say they lack anything – is scent. But that would be gilding this exquisite lily. It is absolutely perfect as it is.

FRITTILARY watery zoom vvg_7393 FRITTILARY floating vg_7385

I am still puzzled though as to how their heads could have been snapped off so cleanly. A bird perhaps? Or the furious gales we had a few days ago? No matter. They have survived their ordeal, and recovered sufficiently to provide me with boundless delight, and for me to be able to share their loveliness with you.

The bud on the far left really looks like a snakeshead, with sinister eye and mouth slightly agape. Photographed at a florist on Bonner Talweg.


Year of Grace, Day 132. Spring’s succession of colours

I find it interesting that the earliest of spring flowers to bloom are white and blue, then yellow, followed by pink. I’ve often wondered why that is so. I would venture that it is co-evolution at work here — the pollinators of these precocious spring bloomers dictate the succession of colours, and vice versa. Which came first is difficult to say. I say “venture” because at this hour of the morning, I am not up to doing any research, online or otherwise. But please feel free to write in and share any relevant scientific explanation — this (momentarily) lazy but always curious gardener would be very much in your debt.

At Bonn’s Botanical Garden, following on from the white snowdrops and blue crocuses, tiny blue stars are blooming at the foot of shrubby peonies, mingling with white and pale pink wind anemones. Although these are not as spectacular as English bluebells, nevertheless they are equally lovely, and from afar, look like slices of sky flung randomly about.

When I lived in Dottendorf, there was a flower bed lovingly tended by my neighbour under a huge Kanzan cherry tree, and I looked forward eagerly to it every spring. Her design began as strictly blue and white, and I admired it very much. Over the years, she added yellow accents. I miss the joy of seeing this enchanting spring flower bed. I could never be as rigorous in limiting the colours in my own garden.  But I do love and admire how other gardeners can be so disciplined.