Monday, 25 March 2013

Snowdrop (25 MAR 13)

The year before last I planted fifteen galanthus bulbs, then fifteen more last year before Christmas. I wish I could propose that fifteen is the gardener’s dozen, but there is only one bloom to date, the same one as last spring, acclimatising well to the wet conditions considering that there was a drought predicted during its last incarnation.


I’m fairly disciplined when it comes to labelling plants especially herbaceous ones, but I draw the line at labelling individual bulbs (unless they are one-offs like the purpley-black persica fritillaria or picaso calla lily – also noted by their absences so far). It was probably my science lessons at school where I learned to label everything (contents & date) rather than from watching my gardening mother. She didn’t keep a diary, shopping or to-do list (so she couldn’t afford to procrastinate). She owned a telephone book but hardly needed it and prided herself with her skills in mental arithmetic, as she grew up in times when people relied on their brains more than today. The main difference between our mind-sets though was that she believed that everything she had to do in life was important, whereas I feel I’m still trying to find a purpose. It never occurred to her to label her plants.

I wouldn’t be able to tell you where my daffodils are planted, I’ve forked through them so many times it's a surprise that they still pop up. I can locate the tulips, only because they are spaced like a row of soldiers in the border in front of the kitchen window. No doubt they’ll be saluting me soon.

However, I do remember where I planted the drifts of galanthus in random patterns. Maybe it’s because they are unfinished business ...

Bluma Zeigarnik was a Russian lady psychologist who carried out experiments based on the observation that waiters were more likely to remember unpaid orders. Her tests showed that, in general, people remember uncompleted or interrupted tasks better than completed tasks. The Zeigarnik effect is often given credit for the success of suspense thrillers, cliff-hanging soap operas, video games and advertising campaigns which rely on the fact that the human brain has evolved to finish what it started. It even suggests that students preparing for exams who engage in sports or other extra-curricula activities are more likely to absorb their revision, as long as they are motivated, compared to those who study non-stop. However, other researchers who tried to replicate Bluma’s experiments did not draw the same conclusion, possibly due to the motivation factor.

My conclusion is that I remember what I want to and if one bulb flowers out of thirty then it motivates me to keep track of the remaining twenty-nine.


On the other hand, I certainly wont forget this galanthus in a hurry, even though it has completed its task. I wonder if Bluma was alive today, would she hypothesise that weather interrupting the bloom makes it more memorable ?

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Sunday, 17 March 2013

Spring Celebration (17 MAR 2013)

When I was at infant school, a girl from the USA joined our class for a year while her father was on secondment. Her name was Spring, which I thought suited her personality as she was quite lively compared to the rest of us. It didn’t occur to me at the time that her parents may have named her after the season.
Wouldn’t Clematis be a nice name for a baby born in spring ?
Spring can refer to a device which exerts tension or compression, the agile leap of a cat or the bursting forth of water, leaves and flowers. In all these definitions, the key point is that energy needs to be stored before it can be expressed.
Crocuses celebrate freedom of expression

Leafsprings are bowed strips of metal which connect the body of heavy vehicles to the chassis, absorbing impacts from the road, going back as far as Roman chariots.
The sliding coils of volute springs provide resistance so that we can control our secateurs with precision.
Torsional springs in clothes pegs generate a pinching force while compression springs in seats and beds support our weary bodies.

Leafsprings & daffodils

Springs work because their material is pre-stressed by the process which forms them, ie. they contain stored energy. If you consider a section of a piece of wire which is formed into a coil spring, the outer side of the wire is stretched while the inner side is compressed - that's what makes it twist.

Is it a coincidence that plant tendrils look like springs ?
In some plants, tendrils actually lift the weight of the plant, like tension springs in weight-lifting equipment.
They start off straight till they find a support to twist around. Then the tendrils continue to twist from either side, from the base and from the support, which leaves an untwisted region in the middle (rather strangely called a perversion). If you conducted a similar experiment, you would find that a wire twisted in this way would unravel if you pulled it at each end.
passion flower tendril - nature's spring
However scientists researching the cucumber tendril noticed that it forms more coils as it is stretched, effectively lifting up the plant. They were confused by this behaviour, until last year when they succeeded in modelling the tendril tissues by using layers of rubber, copper and fabric glued together, inventing a new type of artificial spring in the process.

Even though I work as an engineer, I'm embarrassed to say that I've never invented anything. Sometimes it seems that there's nothing left to invent. However, reading the story of the cucumber tendril has stoked up my creativity, making me realise that just outside my back-door is a whole host of ideas that I can borrow from nature ... and that’s something to celebrate !

Lungwort - not such a good idea for naming a baby

Reference :

These are photos of spring from the gardens of my family.
Today I'm linking up to Donna Abel's Seasonal Celebrations meme :

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