SEARCH (there is a lot more) - plants, beasties, atmospherics, and Wellington's south coast
Keep in touch with the good earth
Wednesday
Jan212015

Bee watching on a sunny summer evening

One of those special times - a balmy summer evening when the sunlight is bright and low in the sky and thus providing light at an interesting angle.  It was illuminating a profusion of oregano flowers growing by the verandah, making a bright halo around them.  The vision was not just attractive to me.  Several honeybees were busily feeding. One of the bees caught my eye.  It seemed rather tiny and very determined.  The backlighting made its abdomen appear to glow.It fed, buzzed, landed, fed - appearing very focused...the epitome of the busy bee, reaching ever more of the flowers. Oops, acrobatics were required when one of its feet appeared to get hooked in the plant.But it was only seconds before its balance and feeding resumed.

I was happy drinking in the pleasure of watching this little bee, in turn drinking what I hope was good nourishing nectar.  Bees are so precious now - we keep identifying more hazards, arising from our impact on the environment, the way bees are used and exposed to pests, the use of poisons on the plants they visit.  At least I do know that the herb plant had not been sprayed and there were no neonicotinoids used in that area.  This is a plea to all who read this - do take care of the environment so that bees can recover and flourish.

Sunday
Dec282014

A vibrant sight - pohutukawa in flower

The end of the year is nigh.  Christmas has been celebrated and the pohutukawa - Metrosideros excelsa, the "New Zealand Christmas tree" - have been blessing us with their beautiful rich reds, ranging from crimson to scarlet.  This one is at Greta Point, but it seems that everywhere you look here in Wellington they are adding their vibrance to the bright summery weather. Although they did not naturally grow in Wellington they have been used a great deal in amenity plantings in the city and in the suburbs.  They thrive almost too well here (as they do to the point of being weeds in places like Spain and California) and there is a cooling down on their use.  Instead we are encouraged to plant a relative that grew here naturally - northern rātā, Metrosideros robusta. 

But when the pohutukawa are in full flower the rich redness is appreciated and welcomed, not least because it is associated with a festive time.  Judging by the number of cameras and smartphones that I see being used, I am not alone in my delight.  And although picturing the pohutukawa flowers is a seasonal cliche, I am happy to celebrate them and with them the pleasures that summer and the end of year can bring.

Wednesday
Dec172014

High cloud at sunset and a light and colour show

Yesterday Wellington had a lovely summer's day that was actually warm (24 degrees!) and sunny with clear blue skies and almost no wind.  As the day ended, halo phenomena became evident in the high cloud that had developed.  I could see what looked like one side of a halo, with the rest hidden by the headland at the southern end of Island Bay.  I think the bright spot (which is in line with the position of the sun) was a parhelion or sundog.  Here the arc of light is seen reflected in the calm water of Island Bay.  Some divers in the water, the rocky shore, and the island Taputeranga are all in silhouette as is the misty outline of distant mountains in the South Island.  The arc of light appeared brighter than in the photo, and you can just see the characteristic reddish tinge on the inside. 

The sun was low in the sky.  It was too bright for me to try and photograph its position in relation to the arc of light.  As the sun continued to set the halo was less evident and the colours of sunset started to take centre stage.  First a soft golden light contrasted with the rocky shore, coast road, and South Island in the distance. Then the colours warmed up - pinks, apricots and gold, and the sky darkened - seen from a vantage point further from the beach.But it didn't stop.  A feature of high cloud is the way it captures colour after the sun has gone down - and sure enough, the wait was worthwhile.  A fiery red was the finale. Now I am accustomed to the idea that a red sky at night, "shepherd's delight", signifies good weather the next day.  So I was surprised to read that high cloud like this, which colours red at sunset, can be a sign that the weather is going to deteriorate, that there may be an approaching front of a depression bringing rain in the next day.

Sure enough, mist and rain today.  Oh well, it was lovely while it lasted!

Saturday
Dec062014

Photographic play & the beauty of waiuatua, Euphorbia glauca

I love the colours of waiuatua - Euphorbia glauca, New Zealand sea spurge.  It is often included in amenity plantings along Wellington's south coast, so even though it is endangered ("in decline") in nature, we can readily enjoy its beauty - this photo was taken by the car parking area at Princess Bay.Looking down on the blue green leaves and the red/purple flower structures - they contrast strongly, but the overall effect is quite gentle.  I have further softened this with the magic of digital postprocessing in Lightroom by reducing mid-tone contrast using the "clarity" slider. 

A huge number of photos are taken and shared these days - capable cameras are readily at hand, able to do all kinds of things for us.  Even though maybe quite a proportion of the photos taken are quick snapshots, and are processed using presets, I nevertheless appreciate the way that photography involves some degree of attention, awareness, experimentation and discovery.  I find that taking and processing images can be meditative and it can be playful.  All of it deepens my appreciation of the complexity and interest in aspects of the natural world which can otherwise be so easily overlooked.  And it strikes me that if we slow down, take time, and really savour the process, photography can be a delightful kind of awareness practice.

Thursday
Nov272014

Lilies everywhere - New Zealand style

At this time of year - late spring/early summer - rengarenga or rock lilies (Arthropodium cirratum) seem to be everywhere - masses of little white flowers announce their presence, lighting up the often difficult places where they tend to be planted - they cope with a wide range of conditions.  The clumps of long mid-green leaves can look handsome in their own right, if they haven't been feasted upon by slugs and snails.  But the sheer profusion of flowers is something else.Close-up you can see that they are not just white - the stamens are white and purple, and have yellow bristly brush-like anther tails, and the buds have a purplish flush. It is endemic to New Zealand.  The significance of rengarenga to Maori as outlined in this RNZIH paper has been considerable, a food source also used for medicinal, spiritual and other cultural purposes. 

From a wee lily to a tree lily...the flowers are again small but large in number.  Ti kouka, ti, or cabbage tree (Cordyline australis) is another endemic New Zealand plant.  The distinctive spiky tree shape is seen on farm paddocks, on the margins of bush and in gardens through the country, although it has been decimated in some areas, especially Northland, because of a disease appropriately named Sudden Decline.  Fortunately there seems to be a lessening in its severity in recent years.

Looking down on a mature tree in flower -And looking up -The flowers are sweetly scented and followed by numerous berries.  The native pigeon, an impressive large bird, loves to feed on them. 

One of the largest tree lilies in the world, it is also very resilient.  Ti does well as a coloniser on bare ground and is often used in restoration plantings.  It has a deep taproot that holds fast to the ground, fire resistant bark, and is easily propagated from seeds or cuttings, even bark cuttings.  Ti has also flourished in gardens in the Northern Hemisphere and has acquired the name "Torquay Palm" in its travels - Torquay in the south of England is a long way from home! 

But despite attempts to appropriate it, we tend to regard it as an iconic tree, a symbol of New Zealand.