Saturday, 20 October 2018

Hutewälder am Edersee, Germany

A weekend with photographer friends took me to Edersee, a reservoir in the northern parts of Hesse, two hours from Frankfurt. Some people call it "Hessian Kongo" because it is sparsely populated and has been forgotten by industry in the past sixty years, no motorways pass the mainly rural and heavily forested area. It is all the more interesting for tourists - this summer the more so because due to the extremely dry weather here in Germany, the reservoir Edersee is at its lowest level for decades. Villages and bridges usually covered with water are reappearing.  

The Dam and reservoir were built around 1910 to provide water to the nearby shipping routes on Mittellandkanal during the summer months. The dam gained sad fame when during WWII the British in 1943 tested a new "rotation bomb" on the dam which tore a huge hole in the wall. The resulting flood wave killed 68 people further downstream and caused a huge destruction in the valley. 

The village Berich reappearing

a boat is still cruising

At Asel bridge further upstream the Eder is reduced to a small rivulet.

Close-by the "Hutewälder" of Bad Wildungen are photographically interesting. They consist of oak and beech forest with century-old trees where farmers' pigs used to run loose to mast on the fallen acorns and beech-nuts in autumn. We set out to photograph these old characterful trees.

the innards of an old beech tree

After an early dinner we spent several fun hours in the dark forest with torches and head lights trying the technique of light painting. The camera is fixed on a tripod, with low ISO and a long expore of up to several minutes while a helper shines a torch light at the trunk and whereever you want the image to be exposed.  It is a fun experiment and you can never predict how the picture will look. I tried  to shape the old gnarled trunks and give them a personality with a "Rubens"-like effect of stark contrasts. 

For this image I used a high ISO  of 800 and a 25 sec exposure to get a glimpse of the starry sky in the background

 in black and white

Here we had planned to give the trunk a silhouette - when the torch inadvertently shone right at the camera, we thought that the exposure had been spoilt. However, this picture has turned out quite perfect! With this technique you never know the result until you see it on your screen. 

There is so little light in this area that even the milky way can easily be seen on such clear nights.

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

The Garden in Heat and Drought

This summer is an unusual one in Germany. Warm weather and sunshine for months is making us feel relaxed like on a summer vacation to Italy or Spain, no rain for weeks. This spell started at the end of April and has not left us yet. Warm days, cool nights, and for the first time in my memory, I have been leaving cushions safely outside on the patio chairs for weeks without fear of finding them soggy in the morning.  We rest during the day to bake in the sun and leave all serious work for the the early mornings or possibly even autumn which will surely come. 

I thought it worthwhile to take stock of the garden and see how the plants under my charge are faring.  Taking a stroll through the garden with a garden hose each day though requires some nerves.  Some plants cope surprisingly well, others falter even with  regular watering. The few drops of rain that we had each month evaporated before they reached the soil.

My lawn looks like this - but as I was never a fan of green lawns, I don't really care and  don't water it; it will surely return with the first rains. 

only the little violets' leaves are still green

Maples are very susceptible to drought: a few days with no water and they start crumbling from the tips.

Luckily one red maple decided to return when I watered it extensively and is showing fresh young red leaves between the crumpled mess. 

Hydrangeas are usually among the first to go. One species kept up surprisingly well though: 

Hydrangea quercifolia (Oakleaf hydrangea)

Viburnum plicatum lost all its leaves; the white Euonymus fortunei next to it and the ivy behind have no problem, same with Abelia grandiflora, which is as happy as ever with its shiny leaves and scented white tiny trumpety summer blossoms.

Even my Rhododendron luteum has given in to the heat despite intensive watering

Some ferns have given up, 
my beautiful Japanese Athyrium niponicum metallicum 

others thrive unexpectedly:

Dryopteris purpurella

Polystichum setiferum "Plumosum Bevis" - as beautiful as ever

I was very disappointed about Heuchera. Green or purple kinds, they could not keep up and have nearly disappeared

Dwarf astilbes (A. pumila) always leave in summer except in the wettest. This year they are making at least an effort to keep up some flower spikes although most leaves are gone. 

My day lily "Stella d'Oro" although supposedly sun loving found the heat or drought too much and reduced her leaves to hay. 

My Echinaceas have been disapppointing as well: 

While Polygonum (Bistorta) amplexicaule "Firetail" thrives without my help,

 its small relative Bistorta affinis has given up.

All the roses  hold out well - and so do the camellias. Whether they will flower next year remains to be seen, as the flower buds are produced in autumn. 

Ghislaine de Feligonde

One little plant that I love for its striking blue colour but was always a bit unhappy in my garden is making a show now: 

Ceratostigma plumbaginoides. 

In recent years it sometimes failed me completely in spite of rain.  It seems that it does not care about rain or sunshine, it likes hot temperatures. I love the Ceratostigmas, there is another great one called Ceratostigma willmottiana,  and I hope to grow them all in my spanish garden next year.

Some Bergenias do surprisingly well, although they are supposed to be shade loving 

Very disappointing are the Meconopsis cambrica that used to lighten up areas under rhododendrons and have been self-seeding freely every year - I should have recognized from their name, that Welsh Poppies don't enjoy dry heat.

Alcea has delicate leaves and flowers that look as if they would get sunburn, however she does not seem to mind neither heat nor the lack of water, another pleasant surprise. 

Alcea rosea

Ophiopogon "nigrescens" enjoys the summer as well

  Polygonatum verticillatum, the local variety, keeps better than the normal garden varieties
The blue leaved hostas seem to be better able to withstand drought and heat than the green leaved cultivars. 

No problems here : the small spring-flowering shrub Exochorda 

 The huge leaves of Macleya don't mind neither heat nor drought. Their hungry roots are very invasive and find food wherever. 

  Lilium martagon is settings seeds

Seeds of Paeonia mlokosewitschii

Same with all the peonies. With their tuberous roots they seem well prepared for drought. 

Sun-loving Helenium (Sun's Bride)

My potted oleanders thrive like never before and fill the terrace each evening with their vanilla scent

So for the moment I continue my regular two-hour evening trip through the garden with a long hose and try to determine how much water each plants needs to give each individual what they require. It is a very unsual feeling here in Germany, of times that are changing, to be waiting for rain that we only know from different climates. 

Nevertheless - this seemingly endless summer is great and we enjoy it! And if it is to be repeated, we will surely know how to cope and have installed some automatic watering system.