Monday 4 December 2023




'The wonder of  the world  

The beauty and the power  

The shapes of things

Their colours, lights and  shades 

These I saw

Look ye also while life lasts'


Those evocative words, carved on a gravestone and written by an unknown author, encourage us to observe the wild places and wildlife that surrounds us. They also imply the need to nurture as best we can. 

So when two of my close friends died, I was asked to provide a eulogy and these words, spoken with a tear in my eyes, perfectly described what they had achieved throughout their lives. They were both champions of the need to save our world.


Autumn can be a moment for reflection, remembering those who’ve left us for a more peaceful world and there’s no finer time to remember them than this season, when the countryside becomes a kaleidoscope of colour, a celebration of the past, the present and the future. 

Every year, Sue and I marvel at the glorious colours that our garden  provides and though we had to wait a while for the show to start this year, our patch is as beautiful as ever. 

We’re always blown away by the explosion of colour and as sharing is a vital part of our life, I’m afraid you’ll have to put up with yet another pictorial celebration of this magical season. 

All these happy snaps have been taken within the last three weeks and we're becoming increasingly aware that there are so many more seasonal overlaps in our plants now, so we're assuming this must be reflecting our changing climate. I won’t use those ‘climate crisis’ words as it sounds like bad news and with all the madness going on in the world right now, we’d rather not be reminded. 

We treat our two acre garden as a sanctuary, for both us and our wildlife, the birds, butterflies and bees, the fish in our ponds and the dazzling dragonflies and damsels, the grass snakes and foxes. It's a refuge for us too, an escape from the ever more crowded life outside. So enjoying our garden in all it's seasons provides a welcome relief. 

It was my boyhood hero Sir Peter Scott who said “The most effective way to save the natural world is to cause people to fall in love with it again."  And by loving our gardens and caring for its huge variety of animals and plants, each one of us is doing our bit to save the planet.

Of course, we have to thank the Plant Hunters of old for the huge variety of colour that we enjoy today and surprisingly, even in 2,000 BC, the Pharaohs were collecting plants.

The artisans who painted the Pharaohs tombs had their own small tombs and would paint the walls with pictures of useful plants to take with them to the after life. I filmed some of them for the BBC in the '60's but this picture isn't a good example of their simple beauty.

Alexander the Great’s expeditions established the ‘Silk Roads’ to the Far East and we probably have him to thank for some of our glorious maples.

Aristotle’s collecting even led to the establishment of botanical gardens, so places like Kew and the RHS have long roots.

The famous expedition of Lewis and Clark in 1804 to’06, travelled from St.Louis across America through native American lands to the Pacific Coast, and back. They collected plants and artifacts while ostensibly looking for the legendary North West Passage and all this was an eye opener to the world.
They were exploring a new frontier and were helped by local Indians while collecting yet more colourful and interesting plants.

And maybe it was them who brought Calacarpa, the American ‘beauty berry’ to our shores. The purple berries are loved by birds, thus distributing the seeds, and we wish they’d do this more often as it looks so exotic in our sunny Dorset garden.







The genus name of mahonias derives from one of the plant collections from the Lewis and Clark expedition and it’s one of the earliest flowers to appear in the growing season. But ours are coming out earlier each year and we wonder if our invertebrates can adapt quickly enough. This was photographed in early November and surely indicates a changing climate? The berries look tasty and the bees appreciate them in the early spring but I can’t remember ever seeing a blackbird tucking in, maybe because if we eat them, it makes us throw up! 

Witch-hazel [or hamamelis if you want me to be smart,] also originates in America but one species is from Japan and one from china [h.mollis]. We have Wikipedia to thank for assuring us that the name doesn’t mean it’s a practitioner of magic but means ‘pliant’ and ‘bendable’. It can though be made into a cream to treat nappy rash!

I do enjoy learning where our garden plants originate as it reminds me of filming expeditions to far off lands and though rhododendrons aren’t in flower this month, many of the cultivated varieties we have in our garden come from the Himalayas, this one photographed on a high pass as I climbed my way up towards Everest.

I love our beautiful fuchsias because my Gran grew lots when I was a child and I vividly remember their exotic colours. They are natives of Central and South America, even as far south as Tierra del Fuego, thriving in the cool temperate climate. Their colours attract hummingbirds that pollinate them. 


The little birds whizzed about the Torres del Paine National Park in the high Andes while I filmed mountain lions but I never had time to snap them as they flew by too rapidly.

Another of our garden treasures are hydrangias, a genus of more than seventy species, native to the Americas and particularly to China, Korea and Japan. They flowered well into autumn this year and we love their range of colours.

They are pink when growing in alkaline soil and blue in acidic earth and luckily we have pockets of both, so they thrive in our damp and birch shaded garden. 

So too our autumn joy, the Japanese maples, developed over centuries of breeding, their fine tracery of spreading branches, some weeping or cascading, others with finely divided and lacey foliage are always a delight.

Adding to our collection is dangerously addictive but luckily we’ve virtually run out of space, so our piggy bank doesn’t suffer like it used to. 

We have our local nursery to thank for our enjoyment each year, Barthelemy & Co., close to Wimborne. They supplied our beautiful collection and they grow taller and more colourful every year,  reaching for the sky between the birch trees.

They were late providing our firework display this year but in the end they delivered in spades. Do you like our kitchen window display?

Sue and I do hope you have a wild Christmas and that the new year is kind to you all. We’re praying that all our wildlife survives and hoping that the delegates at Cop28 do the right thing and make meaningful attempts to start saving our planet, before it’s too late. 


There are so many alarming indications of climate change, even in our garden, with salvias still in full flower in late November. The bees are pleased, but shouldn't they be hidden away now?


And while thinking about our changing climate, how about our summer flowering pond side iris, frosted but still in flower on Dec.1st, the first official day of winter. The colours are a joy but I’m off to find my thermals. It's snowing now too.