Friday, April 23, 2010

Prunus 'Tai-haku'

...Continued from last week's post.

Prunus 'Tai-haku' blossom

(Above and below) Prunus 'Tai-haku', (sometimes written Tae-haku) and also known as Great White Cherry. I wasn't sure about last week's tree because it seemed to be in flower too early. But this one is right on time.

[The usual 'Sato Zakura' flowering sequence is: 1. Shirotae 2. Cheal's Weeping Cherry 3. Hokusai 4. Tai-haku 5. Ukon 6. Kanzan 7. Pink Perfection 8. Amanogawa 9. Shirofugen 10. Shimidsu (aka 'Shimidsu Sakura', 'Shôgetsu')]

Prunus 'Tai-haku' - mature tree

This tree is one of the magnificent line of mixed cherry-trees along the A350 outside the hotel at Beanacre, near Melksham. (Shirotae, Tai-Haku, Kanzan, Shirofugen.) - photos taken 23/04/2010.

Prunus 'Tai-haku' - young tree
This, and the three photos following, were taken on 2/5/2013 at Shaw Village Centre, Swindon.

Prunus 'Tai-haku' - flowers

The unfeasibly large single flowers, as Viz would put it. Noticeably bigger than any other cherry.

Prunus 'Tai-haku' - flower buds
All the 'Sato Zakura' cherries have some sort of kinship to each other, which is usually expressed by reference to the putative parent species Prunus serrulata. That common kinship emerges in the long, serrated leaves. Also, the petals always have a bit of pink in them, even if, as in this case, it only shows in the buds.

Prunus 'Tai-haku' - emerging leaves
Another view, showing the emerging leaves, bracts, and sepals...


(Above and below) This tree is at the other end of Beanacre, outside Midway Farm. Wild Cherry (Prunus avium), showing the characteristic system of whorled branches, common in conifers but rather unusual in a broad-leafed species. Unfortunately, this handsome tree is showing a few signs of decline. On the right of the photo below, you can see a large "witch's broom", a hanging frond with crowded early leaves - caused by the fungus Taphrina cerasi, I believe, but arboriculturists may know better.


(Below) The next in sequence, Prunus 'Ukon', the blossom opening creamy yellow among brown leaves. A fragrant tree.

And Prunus 'Kanzan' is on its way...

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Friday, April 16, 2010

prunus patterns in white

(above)Prunus cerasifera (Myrobalan or Cherry Plum) when it's being floriferous. You can find other sprays in the shade with only one or two flowers among the new leaves.

(above)Prunus avium (Wild Cherry), raceme.

An ageing Prunus 'Tai-Haku' poking its head over a wall in Melksham. The older the tree gets, the more clustered its blooms become.  This is very spectacular, but it has to be weighed against other signs of ageing that are not quite so appealing, e.g. a thin crown, lots of bare branches and a lack of young shoots. (This tree has since been cut down.)

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Tuesday, April 13, 2010


There is a human right that was allowed to the most degraded members of medieval society - criminals, refugees and homeless vagabonds - yet which is denied to us. I am of course talking about sanctuary.

Well, I am probably idealizing. Sanctuary perhaps did not cut much ice unless you were well-born. Superior force might not choose to recognize it. It is said that at the battle of Tewkesbury in 1471, some of the despairing Lancastrians fled the Bloody Field to take sanctuary in the abbey: so they were slaughtered there instead. If Shakespeare knew of this story, he didn't use it (in 3 Henry VI); he had enough atrocity for his purposes in the killing of the young Prince Edward.

Sanctuary had been recognized in pre-Christian times. In Euripides' Ion, Creusa takes sanctuary at Apollo's altar after her plot to kill Ion has been discovered. The baffled Ion grumbles:

What a state of affairs! How terrible it is when the laws the gods have made for men are made neither well now wisely! The criminal should be driven from the altar, not granted its protection. It is an offence that something holy should be touched by criminal hands; only the just have this right. It is the victim of wrongdoing who should receive the privilege of sanctuary; the good man and the bad when they seek refuge should not be given equal treatment by the gods.

Ion's reasoning, as throughout the play, is fresh but naïve. The problem is that to vengeful pursuers the supplicant is always going to be a criminal, never a victim of wrongdoing. I suppose it would work if the gods actively intervened (perhaps they could give the true criminals an electric shock), but then their altars would no longer be sanctuaries as we understand them. In this play, sanctuary does everyone a service, because Creusa and Ion are about to find out that they are mother and son.

Read more »

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Friday, April 09, 2010

election time in Frome

Frome's version of Banksy has been out and about among the billboards at the end of the road:

I've never voted Tory before, but they'll protect theMSELVES.

I've never voted Tory before, but they'll sort out MPs' MOATS.

The campaigns are boiling up nicely. Frome is the UK's eleventh most winnable seat for the Conservatives, so we get daily literature through the door.

Pseudo-Banksy is playing the class card, but it's understandable. Our Conservative candidate is Annunziata Rees-Mogg, "financial journalist" and daughter of the former Times Editor; her brother Jacob ("investment banker") is standing in the neighbouring constituency of North Somerset, which A. considers rather sweet and interesting.

They drove a few miles north on the Buckland road, then tethered the jeep by Terry Hill, above Hemington, and trudged up, Jacob leading the way. A sweet smell of new grass came up off the footpath. The sunset, pale yellow, lay Bristolwards, and a light, chilly breeze touched the still-leafless trees.

"Well, here it is, Nance." The land of the muffled coalfields spread out northwards, Peasedown St John winking its orange lights. "Everything you can see, that way, is my country."

She laughed. "All right, Jake." She turned him round to look south, to the low undulations of subsiding Mendip, and the Selwood basin bounded by the high greensand ridge of Longleat, Gare and King Alfred's Tower. "And where we're standing, and every way south and south-west, is me."

"Gotcha. This means a heck of a lot to Dad, you know."

"It's getting late. Let's go back to the car." Companionably, arm in arm, they descended

This fairy-tale, or patrician pincer-movement, makes a less attractive impression on some (David Cameron wasn't too thrilled about it either, it's said; Dave's new look party is inconveniently Etonian already). Well, we know that toffs exist. They lead a weirdly stereotyped and atavistic kind of life, not like ours, and frankly I'd rather they were representing themselves in the Lords than representing me in the Commons. The Rees-Moggs are eminently local candidates - the family home is in Mells, when they aren't hanging out in London - , but there's a kind of localism which feels a little too much like proprietorship. (It has even been noticed that a William Rees-Mogg purchased a Somerset coal-mine in 1835.) I don't know if this is unfair. They are right-wingers and "Change", if they have their way (I am thinking of father William and brother Jacob, but I've no reason to suppose that A. thinks differently), looks only like reactionary change.

The incumbent MP, David Heath, is effectively fighting his campaign as an independent, since no-one has heard of Nick Clegg anyway*, and Heath's demotion following his defiance of the party line over Lisbon is presented to us as a distinct positive, mark of a man with great personal integrity. His campaign literature speaks much of his former life as a humble local optician, less of his former leadership of Somerset CC. I suspect the latter says more about his political-animalship; he'll need all of it if he's going to be re-elected.

Nothing in this ton of literature from Labour, unsurprisingly. The last thing they want is for anyone to vote Labour here. It's a straight fight between Lib-Dem and Conservative.

*nb written before Clegg's strong performance in round 1 of the televized debate between the party leaders.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Prunus 'Accolade'

I don't usually go around tearing off sprigs of park trees myself, so I owe these studies, probably, to some enterprising child who was at first entranced with her toy, then got bored of carrying it around and left it stuck in a flower-bed.

Cherry blossoms –
of years past.

(Bashō, tr. Lucien Stryk, with thanks to such stuff)

This is Prunus 'Accolade', and is the earliest cherry to show in spring, with the minor exception of the sparse all-winter floriage of winter cherry (Prunus subhirtella 'Autumnalis'). Winter cherry is in fact one of the parents of Prunus 'Accolade'; the other is the hardy N. Japanese Sargent Cherry (Prunus sargentii), which is also grown here but has single, not double, petals.

OK, (says the imaginary student who is always just one step behind me) that's all very well, I'm not worried about confusing this with winter cherry, but since the plum-blossom is already in flower, how can I tell the difference between plum-blossom and cherry-blossom? The answer is here:

Multiple cherry blossoms arise from a single bud, and at the base of the raceme of pedicels you can see prominent scales, often red or green. By contrast, plum-blossom usually arises singly (though sometimes you'll find up to three from the same bud), and it has either no scales or extremely small ones. (I really write these things because it takes me so long to get them clear in my own head.)

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Friday, April 02, 2010

precis som en död mula som skulle flås

Two westerns that use the same stock cover, whose splendidly homoerotic haunches have very little to do with either volume, unless you look into the matter from an angle that the books themselves do everything to obscure.

Chet Cunningham's Guld till döds (translator Solveig Rasmussen, English title: Die of Gold) is a tough number from 1973. Jim, the hero who is bound and flayed by the brutal Bert Ronson, does happily get to take his revenge, affectionately assisted by the irrepressible good-time girl Melinda, who in my opinion easily steals the show.

-- Tänk bara, sa Melinda med lysande ögon. Vi skulle kunna ta guld för tusen dollar och förvandla det till tiotusen dollar i dubbelörnar. Det är ju bättre än att spela poker.

-- Glöm det, Melinda. Det där är inget för mig. Jag skulle aldrig kunna stå vid en het smältugn dagarna i ända.

-- Jim, felet med dig är att du är alldeles för hederlig! sa Melinda besviket och tog ett steg tillbaka. Hur kan du säga nej till en så perfekt plan? Vi kan ju leja två killar som gör jobbet åt oss. Vi har vårt eget privata myntverk och ingen kommer åt oss.

In 1973 the western was not a dead genre, nor is it now, but the transmutation that produces Alan Irwin's Raiders of the Panhandle (2000) is a particularly odd one. You may have noticed that your local bookshop does not brim over with unpretentious westerns. The Black Horse Western series is published, moreover, in hardback and I suppose that it is aimed entirely at libraries, whose audiences will sometimes want to read what they would never buy, and may include some who never normally read at all, e.g. in hospitals, prisons, etc. Irwin's narrative is entirely functional and even its dialogue is of the plainest, preferring indirection ("The rancher went on to tell Jim of the entirely unforeseen catastrophe which had befallen the family on the previous day"). The extremely chaste courtship of Jim and Miriam ('"I'm all in favour of that idea of yours" - Jim kissed her...') seems comically out of synch with the usual medley of knives plunged in the heart and multiple shootings. (The villains, surprisingly, are eventually boxed in and then carted off to be hanged by due process, somehow a far more disquieting end than being gunned down in a shoot-out.) Atmosphere and detail arise solely from Irwin's precision about hardware ("his old American Arms 12-gauge shotgun") and about notating the action.

Standing against the front wall of the stable with his men, Vickery knew that they would have to leave soon. As he looked towards the open doorway of the stable, his eye was caught by a large oil lamp hanging from a bracket on the wall. He reached for the lamp, took it down and shook it. He estimated that it was about half full of coal-oil. Quickly, he lit the lamp, moved up towards the doorway and, extending his arm, he flung the lamp over the heads of Jim and the others, towards the middle of the stable. Just as the outlaw released the lamp, he yelled with pain as a bullet from Jim's Peacemaker drilled through his hand. A moment later, the lamp ricocheted off a post set in the floor of the barn and fell on to a pile of hay, the oil spilling out of it. Immediately, the dry hay started burning fiercely.

Remarkably, something survives that we recognize, in a malnourished way, as the same old genre with the same old power.

This blog entry is really an ad to encourage to you to pay a visit to the Brief History and read about Oliver Strange and The Marshal of Lawless...

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