Plant of the Month: September 2021

At this time of year, the colchicums are at their best, spreading out (usually under trees) in Cambridge University Botanic Garden in an apparently effortless, though brief, display. Come to think of it, I am not sure if I have ever knowingly seen a colchicum leaf? Once the flowers have done their autumn thing, the plants go dormant until the leaves grow up the following spring, by which time they are not very noticeable among the other burgeoning greenery.

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Titian in the Malverns

We recently had a very few days in Worcestershire, Herefordshire and a tiny bit of Shropshire, a lovely wallow in nostalgia for me, and a bit of a revelation of the counties’ beauty for Him Indoors. (A further revelation was that when the iPad map failed (having us still approaching the A14 north of Cambridge while we were in fact lost below Northampton), a 1996 road map of Britain was not a helpful substitute.) There was sunshine, warmth, and beautiful landscapes, houses, gardens and castles, all just as I was expecting and hoping – but also the completely unexpected sight of a purported Titian in the church of St Michael and All Angels, Ledbury.

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Plant of the Month: August 2021

When I was at school, a sign that autumn (and therefore the end of the holidays) was on its way was that buddleia started flowering – i.e. the end of August to early September. These days, it seems to start flowering in early July, and all the flowers at the side of the rail tracks to London (to which I have gadded twice in the last fortnight) are already starting to wither and brown. Is my memory at fault, or is this another manifestation of global warming?

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An Instance of Polyonymy

Jan Gossart, Jan Gossaert van Mabuse, Jan Gossaert van Mauberge, Jan Gossart van Mabuse, Jan Gossart van Mauberge, Joannes Malbodius, Jan Mabuse – and indeed Jennyn van Hennegouwe – are all names of the same painter (born c. 1478, died 1 October 1532), though Jan Gossaert and Jan Mabuse are possibly the most famous ones. (It was only quite recently that I found out that these two are indeed the same person.) ‘Jan Gossart’ seems to be the most used these days, on the ground that he was Flemish and Gossaert is a Dutch spelling – whatever those two ‘nationalities’ meant at the beginning of the sixteenth century – but in fact he spoke French, so ‘Jean’?

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Posted in Art, Biography, Museums and Galleries, The Netherlands, Uncategorized, Venice | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Plant of the Month: July 2021

It’s ages (November 2020, to be precise) since I did one of these, and I’m not sure whether to blame lockdown apathy or too much to do in the garden, but I got my mojo back (never quite sure what that means …) a bit when I came across this spectacular bed of that well-known spelling-trap, Eschscholzia californica, on my way round to collect the dry cleaning.

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The Duke of Argyll’s Tea Tree

In a recent stroll around the Systematic Beds in the Botanic Gardens, I was intrigued to spot this label:

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Mr Kick and Mr Frankcom

Mary Capel (1630–1715, also spelled Capell), was the daughter of Arthur Capel, first Baron Capel of Hadham, Herts. (1604–49). He was already, by inheritance, a very rich man, but by his marriage in 1627 to Elizabeth Morrison, heiress of Cassiobury, he became one of the wealthiest people in Britain.

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Posted in Art, Bibliography, Biography, Botany, Gardens, History, London, Museums and Galleries, Natural history, Printing and Publishing, The Netherlands | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

St Jerome

One of the Christmas gifts which I most appreciate every year is a diary from the National Gallery, donated by family members who understand that, as senility advances, I really do need to write down what (if anything) I have done every day, so that I have evidence when memory fails, as it increasingly does.

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Virtual Knowledge

Now that The End may be in sight (touching wood, not counting my chickens, not jinxing it by booking holidays, etc. etc.), I’ve been pondering what, if anything, about life in lockdown I might actually miss. It is of course much easier to think of things that I won’t miss, notably backache from crouching over my laptop computer in a very non-ergonomic posture, and cooking – in the Old Normal, I was by myself Monday to Thursday and tended to graze on pasta and salads, but for a year now I have been churning out more-or-less proper (but incredibly repetitive) meals all week.

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The Dunnock

In my distant youth, the dunnock was a hedge sparrow, a rare and exotic visitor to a garden in which the (totally boring) house sparrow predominated. Sixty years on, I get moderately excited at the arrival of house sparrows, whereas a day rarely passes without the dunnocks moving purposefully along the fences – they were not even put off by the recent major upheaval in the garden.

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