Honey-locust – Gleditsia triacanthos

Honey-locust trees are not native to North America’s west coast, where I hail from, and as I haven’t spent much time in the eastern or central US, I hadn’t seen one in the wild before. I first came across a honey-locust tree at the the Botanical Garden of the University of Hamburg (Botanischer Garten der Universität Hamburg) in Germany.

It is an imposing thing, with its tall, monolithic bole, many thorns swarming around the trunk in fiendish clusters. They are long, rigid, cruelly sharp, and difficult to break off. Certainly not a tree I’d like to stumble into unawares! Continue reading “Honey-locust – Gleditsia triacanthos”


Hyacinth Orchid – Bletilla striata

I first encountered hyacinth orchids at a friend’s house in southern California. The air there has little humidity with which to retain temperature, so even in summer the evenings are cool. Her house had a wide patio with broad terra cotta tiles that radiated heat long after the sun had set. An outdoor oven held a prominent position near the center of the patio, and I spent many a night sitting round a fire there, conversing in low-key contentment. The back garden was home to several large ponderosa pines (Pinus ponderosa), whose fragrant resin perfumed the air as headily as any incense. Continue reading “Hyacinth Orchid – Bletilla striata”

White Bryony – Bryonia dioica


One sunny day last year, I was standing on a carpet of freshly raked out wood chips in a clearing at Wrest Park. Wrest Park is located in rural Bedfordshire, England. It is a very old garden, dating back to at least the 13th century, and it was owned by the same family for over 600 years. The last of that household, the DeGrey family, sold the house to an American diplomat in 1917, after which it changed hands serval times. It is currently owned and operated by English Heritage, a nonprofit organization which is perhaps better known for its historic stonework (including several castles and, notably, Stonehenge). However, they also run some very interesting gardens – Wrest Park being a particular example. Continue reading “White Bryony – Bryonia dioica”