Having a December birthday means winter seasonal visits, including gardens where possible. Inevitably, most gardens are not at their best at this time of year but this does not put us off visiting and today we have made the acquaintance of the University of Bristol Botanic Garden. The garden largely consists of carefully planned educational displays all with a clear theme, the four core collections being plants that illustrate evolution, those from the Mediterranean region, useful plants and rare and threatened plants from the Bristol area and south west peninsula; sadly a December visit did not provide much of decorative value and many of the less hardy foliage plants were wrapped up for the winter, but the educational emphasis was obvious with clear signing and explanation throughout.
I was, however, pleased to see my first Iris unguicularis of the season:
The ground under this ginko tree was most attractively carpeted in fallen leaves, completely undisturbed:
Over 250 herbs are grown in the Chinese Medicinal Herb Garden, created in partnership with the Garden and the Register of Chinese Herbal Medicine, enhanced by an affiliation with the Nanjing Botanic Gardens and other Chinese contacts. Very much a teaching garden, the herbs are arranged in the traditional Chinese categories of diagnosis and use, with the yin and yang qualities also attributed to specific organs:
Signs were helpfully explicit:
In the glasshouses my camera lens quickly steamed up:
Apart from these photographs and a wider knowledge of herbs to improve certain bodily functions I also took away a little pile of medlars, fallen from the elderly tree in front of the buildings on site, now used as student residences. This is the first time I have been confronted with medlars and was surprised by their size – over an inch in diameter – as I had assumed they were smaller. I know they have to be ‘bletted’ before they can eaten, allowed to go soft and brown after ripening, but I haven’t a clue what they taste like and whether I should bypass the tasting process altogether and make medlar jelly instead…