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Puzzling tree

On my last visit to the Botanic Garden in Oxford, the monkey puzzle tree (Araucaria araucana) caught my eye, with its strange spiky branches.

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Resin was seeping from its bark.

Especially the dead one on the ground gave the impression of a branched snake covered with dragon scales.

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Orange clouds and red sun

It was the strangest of sights yesterday. From daybreak onwards, the clouds had an orange hue to them. As if a thunderstorm was continuously looming. Around midday, the sun was briefly visible and it was as red as you would expect it to be around sunset.

Apparently, the orange sky had to do with hurricane Ophelia raging over Ireland. In England, we had certainly no hurricane-like storm, but it was quite windy.

RedSky-3According to the BBC, dust particles in the air cause blue light to scatter, leaving longer-wavelength red light to shine through. The dust travelled a long way before it reached the West Midlands: it was brought in from the Sahara and the forest fires sweeping over Portugal and Northwest Spain.

RedSky-2Around 3 pm the clouds broke and the orange tint disappeared. But it returned in the clouds around sunset.

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Purple bells with black & green pods

On one of my last visits to the Oxford Botanic Garden, the Nicandra physalodes caught my eye. Apparently, the plant goes by a number of English names: shoo-fly plant, apple of Peru, apple of Sodom, and Peruvian bluebell.

I just like the way the plant grows: a single, bell-shaped flower followed by a row of pods. The pods – or calyces – reminded me of their better known, bright orange counterparts: Chinese lanterns.

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Concrete cathedral

How rare a sight this is: A big, bold industrial building surrounded by nature. And these two not clashing, but creating something truly remarkable.Radio Kootwijk-1Radio Kootwijk is such a site I think. The radio station in art deco style -nicknamed The Cathedral- was built in the early 1920s and rises like a monolith from the open field. The grey concrete and purple heather shrubs create a strong contrast, especially by the end of August when the heather is in bloom.Radio Kootwijk-6

 

 

I took these pictures on a warm summer evening. The rays of sunlight were filtered by thin clouds. You could look right through the building. In the glass pane behind the wrought iron door, you can see the reflection of the nearby water tower.

On Open Monumentendag, the Dutch equivalent of England’s Heritage Open Days, the radio station is open to the public (free entrance). I find the inside of this building designed by architect Julius Luthmann (1890-1973) just as striking as the outside, especially the tiled floor in the main hall.

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From the tower, you have a wonderful view of the surrounding heath and woods.

 

 

The architect had a sphynx in mind when he designed the radio station. Especially from the back, the building gives the impression of a resting animal.

 

 

 

 

 

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Green tunnel

You can find this little lane sheltered by old lindens in Vaassen (The Netherlands). It’s called ‘Kersendijkje’, Cherry dyke. (No idea though where that name came from. You won’t find any cherry trees along this dyke). The lane is right next to Cannenburgh Castle. I was told many teenagers in this village share their first kiss under these trees. It does make sense: the lane is totally sheltered from spying eyes. I just love the way the trees are leaning.

 

 

 

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Pink and purple poppies

On an earlier visit to the Botanic Garden in Oxford, I found mainly poppies of the ‘Ladybird’ variety. About a week later, there were still a lot of Ladybirds around. But pink, lilac and dark purple poppies were now towering over them. As before, bees were around as well. Flying from flower to flower to gather food.

 

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True tulip tree

Last week, I spotted a tree with white, tulip-like flowers in the Botanic Garden in Oxford. This weekend I discovered they have a true tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) as well. The name doesn’t give it away, but it belongs to the magnolia family.

The pale green buds and the flowers, light green with a bit of orange, are not always easy to spot between the leaves.

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Tulip-like magnolia

White tulip-like flowers sheltered by large green leaves. What type of tree is this?, I wondered. I had once seen a tulip tree (Liriodendron tulipifera) and this one evidently a different type of tree.

After a while, I spotted the sign: Magnolia sieboldii subsp. sinensis. Chinese magnolia in common English.

One interesting detail: the tulip tree belongs to the magnolia family as well.

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Tree full of hankies

Last week, in the Oxford Botanical Garden I came across a tree that seemed to be surrounded by used white handkerchiefs or tissues. Looking up, I found that the little white sheets had actually fallen from the tree.

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A sign by the tree identified it as a Davidia involucrata. It originates from China and is commonly known as handkerchief tree, dove tree and ghost tree.

It is a lovely sight, to see the bracts fluttering in the wind like white doves or pinched handkerchiefs.