Note: Clicking on the photos will give you a larger, more detailed view.
One of my favourite places is the Great Glasshouse at the National Botanic Garden of Wales. I feel happy and relaxed as soon as I walk in. There’s something about the atmosphere; light, airy, warm and scented by flowers and the essential oils and resins from the plants. The dome protects plants from Mediterranean-type habitats on five continents, so there is always plenty to look at. Sparrows and robins come in through the open windows and nest in the walls. There is a little café and a seating area where you can have something to drink and eat while you feast your senses and the birds will come to tidy up any crumbs you may have dropped.
I especially love it in April, because the Sweet Broom Teline stenopetala is flowering and the scent from its glorious display of yellow flowers fills the glasshouse.
It’s in the lowest part of the glasshouse in an area of laurel forest, with water trickling down cliffs into a pool. I stood for about a quarter of an hour beneath the flowers, breathing in their scent, looking at them, stroking them (very soft), watching the fish and birds.
At the top of the cliff, a Tenerife Bugloss Echium wildpretii ( I think) had sent up a flower spike like a tower of rubies.
Some of the Puya sp started to flower in April this year. These members of the bromeliad family are native to the Chilean Andes. The rosettes of long, viciously spiky leaves form offsets, growing into large, dense clusters of plants. The spikes are angled backwards; apparently birds and small mammals unlucky enough to get caught in a clump can become trapped and die, their decaying bodies providing nutrients for the plants. I couldn’t find a handy gardener to ask what they’d been feeding the plants to make them flower. Perhaps an unwary visitor had gone too close and been grabbed.
Puyas are slow growing and may take years to flower. Once a rosette has flowered and seeded, it will die, but what flowers! The flower spikes are at least 2 m/6’ tall, topped by a great head full of flowers.
I couldn’t get very close to the yellow Puya chilensis flowers, partly because of the rosette leaves and the height of the spike, and partly because of clumps of students.
However, the Puya berteroana was also flowering and I could get a closer look at the flower spike. The flowers are a sort of steely blue in bud, opening turquoise-green-teal with bright orange anthers, arranged in clusters around the base of pale green sterile bud spikes.
I was fascinated by the colour combination of pale green, steel blue, jade/turquoise/teal, orange, and golden beige. The lilac flowers from a member of the mallow family (didn’t catch the name of it) looked lovely beside it, too. I recently bought a bead mix which turned out to have a high proportion of orange beads. Much as I love copper tones, orange seems to clash easily and I was looking for examples of how to use it as a contrast colour. It’s so eye-catching, the orange glows out from the centre of each flower in the spike. Best in limited quantities as an accent colour, perhaps.
I took lots of photos of other plants as sources of inspiration and reference (although my project list is long enough at the moment!). Just looking at the photos brings back the sensual experience and the happy, relaxed feelings of being there.