The Very Best of 2012 – A Year In Pictures

Lichens, Chapel Porth Valley, Cornwall 2012

Where has 2012 gone? Despite so many memorable occasions – the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, the Olympics, our trip to beautiful Burma, the birth of this blog (!?) – the year has flown by and is almost at an end.  Reflecting on 2012 provides a precious reminder of how lucky we are to have our health and the resources to enjoy life to the full.

These pictures sum up some of my highlights of 2012.  We didn’t really come out of hibernation until early April, when we had a brief holiday in Cornwall.  The photograph above was taken in the valley that leads to Chapel Porth, a beach on which I spent every August in my youth and which is still as beautiful and unspoilt as it was 30 years ago.   Needless to say it occupies a very special place in my heart.  In this image, I love the contrast between the beardy silver lichen and the coral pink sycamore buds, ready to burst forth.

On the same trip we visited St Ives, a Cornish town which bathes in the most extraordinary light.  I honestly know of nowhere else like it.  On the quayside a local grower offered generous bunches of sweetly scented daffodils – the essence of springtime.

Daffs on the quayside in St Ives, Cornwall

The Frustrated Gardener was born as something of a personal challenge in June 2012.  During a week off, I thought I’d give blogging a whirl and here I am seven months later.  My first ever post contained this photograph of my all-time-favourite spring bulb, Fritillaria imperialis “William Rex”, brightening up the steps leading to our front door.  These regal plants are equally beloved by lily beetles, so require vigilance in order to avoid them being chewed and gunged by these horrid red bugs.

Fritillaria imperialis "William Rex"

The summer that followed was one of the busiest I can remember, peppered with visits to wonderful gardens, including Goodnestone Park in Kent, below, where the walled gardens were crammed with old fashioned roses, alliums and lavender.  In the background sun-loving Carpenteria californica.

Alliums in the walled gardens at Goodnestone Park

No summer in Kent is complete without a visit to Sissinghurst, the legendary creation of Vita Sackville-West, now in the care of the National Trust.  Despite my escalating dislike of heights, it’s always hard to resist the climb to the top of the Tudor tower to enjoy the view of Vita’s “Garden Rooms”.  Below, looking towards the cottage garden with its fiery-coloured planting scheme.

Sissinghurst Castle Gardens, Summer 2012

No reflection on 2012 would be complete without a mention of the weather.  Whilst the USA endured the hottest year it’s ever known, the UK suffered the wettest year since records began.  Living in a town that’s founded on chalk we have drainage which is probably the envy of gardeners elsewhere in the country.  The warm and wet summer has been a gift for our arch-enemies, slugs and snails, so much so that the National Trust have named 2012 “The Year of the Slug”.  Next year, a little more sunshine please!  Rain did however contribute to one of my favourite snaps of 2012, this one of Hydrangea macrophylla “Merveille Sanguine”, pictured at The Garden House in Devon.

Hydrangea 'Merveille Sanguine'

And then, of course, there was London 2012.  Well done team GB, Lord Coe and the amazing Games-Makers – you made us all very proud to be British.  Apart from the sport, one of the highlights for me was the Olympic Park, with its acres of native planting and borders representing the flora of the competing continents.  Below, a profusion of flora from the southern hemisphere.

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I so rarely get time to go to the RHS London shows (note to remedy that next year), but managed to slip out of work for an hour in early October to see the Autumn Harvest Festival Show at the Lindley Hall.  Only in the UK would you still find Dukes entering fruit and veg into a horticultural competition, and hooray for that.  Congratulations to the Duke of Devonshire on his prize winning Citrus ‘Lipo’, an Imperial lemon which is actually a cross between a lemon and a grapefruit.  Who knew?

Duke of Devonshire's Citrus 'Lipo', Oct 2012

We both love to travel and a dream came true when we got to visit Burma this Autumn.  This emerging country delivered on every level – beautiful scenery, fascinating culture, friendly people and good food.  We hope and pray the journey towards democracy continues unabated and that Burma will become a better place for its people.  Visiting the flower market outside Mandalay was an unforgettable experience – I can still smell the Chrysanthemums now!

Mandalay Flower Market, October 2012

On the way to Burma we squeezed in a few hours in Singapore with our friends Rick, Louise and Archie.  In its quest to become a city in a garden, the authorities have invested millions into The Gardens by the Bay project.  What the gardens lacked in elegance they more than made up for in sheer, jaw-dropping ambition.  The cool, misty cloud forest environment was one of my highlights of the year.  Below, futuristic Supertrees in the foreground with Marina Bay Sands in the background.

The Gardens By The Bay, Singapore, October 2012

So how to sign off this epic post?  Well, I’ll say it with flowers.  2012 wasn’t the best year for many flowers in our garden, but what did flourish were the lilies and the gingers.  I was so proud of these wonderful Lilium ‘Golden Splendour’, which have been building up in size for the last 3 years.  We enjoyed several of these enormous sprays of flowers, so heavy that they needed multiple bamboo canes to keep them vertical.  The perfume was incredible – rich, spicy and exotic.  Let’s hope we get a repeat performance next year.

To all my followers, thank you for sticking with me!  I wish you a very Happy New Year and a frustration-free 2013.

Lilium 'Golden Splendour', Summer 2012