Mum’s birthday flowers

It’s my mum’s birthday today and, before she and my dad pop over to celebrate, I took a few minutes to capture what’s growing in our garden on this special day.

That I notice and appreciate flowers and plants so much certainly stems from my childhood: my mum would always be growing something pretty in the garden, which was ever-changing as we rented and moved quite a bit. Once I’d grown old enough not to be playing with worms and woodlice, she instilled in me a penchant for looking more closely at plants, and this is something I’m developing further today, within a mindfulness practice.

Mindful moments

Something I tried recently (thanks to the RHS’ Gardening for Mindfulness book by Holly Farrell): select a flower or the leaf of a plant and spend five minutes looking very closely at it, taking in its details: colours, patterns, shapes, textures. Notice if it’s obvious whether it’s been pollinated; if it’s newly-bloomed or on its way out; how the light catches it and if there is iridescence to it; if it’s moving in the breeze or still; if any bees or other insects are near or on it…there are many observations you might make in this short time, and once you have taken a few moments to look carefully, you’ll know the flower or leaf pretty well.

Taking it slowly

My main tip with the above practice is to take your time, not striving to mentally list all you can see immediately, but rather beginning with the perspective that you’re watching the flower or leaf, seeing it with fresh eyes in each moment. You’ve probably never looked at this particular flower or leaf up-close before, or indeed with this much care; and if you were to look at it tomorrow, it’d be different. (Indeed, in each moment the flower or leaf and the conditions around it are changing). In that sense, each time we practice this it’s a brand new, one-off experience, reminding us that each moment of our lives is, too.

Verbena officinalis var. grandiflora ‘Bampton’ with clouds of Achillea ‘Terracotta’ in the background.
I could hardly believe the scale of the leaves on this Nicotiana alata ‘Lime Green’ as it began to grow last month.
Salvia microphylla ‘Wine and Roses’ sits in the same pot as the above; and Verbena bonariensis leans in and says hello here, as well.
The combination of purple and lime green in this Agastache ‘Golden Jubilee’ is uplifting, especially on a grey day.
Fennel just loves the sunshine this month.
This will become a good hiding place.

I’m only halfway through the book I mentioned above, and suspect there will be other ideas well worth sharing from it in the weeks ahead.

I hope someone reading this might try out the practice and let me know if it was interesting, helpful or fun! (Personally I found my first try moving and the second more challenging due to my state of mind, and I guess in that sense it’s a good gauge day-to-day).

Wishing everyone a restful weekend, once it arrives.

Until next time,

šŸŒž Katherine

Geranium heaven at Clover Cottage

I visited Clover Cottage in West Wickham last weekend within the National Garden Scheme’s summer offering. Shirley Shadford has built the most gorgeous front and back gardens from scratch, having lived in the cottage with her husband for the best part of two decades.

Shirley kindly showed my mum and I around the gardens and we found her enthusiasm infectious as she talked through the clouds of geranium, thalictrum, astrantia and roses which line the billowing pathway and flowerbeds there.

Her careful and generous employment of plant supports to keep these fantastic plants looking their best made me realise I need to invest in some more, too!

Rather than narrate too much, I’m keen to simply share some of the photographs I took, which hopefully go some way in illustrating the beauty of the planting.

What a front garden…I loved the combination of soft, floaty purples, pinks and whites along with the bold, towering blue delphinium.
The cottage is surrounded by peachy roses and vibrant pink geranium at the front.
Stunning planting: geranium, lupin and larkspur are nestled around a crowd of fading allium heads.
The bees love the place (of course).
The front garden is the gift that keeps on giving!
An especial favourite of mine: thalictrum ‘Elin’ stands out exquisitely beside the thatched roof of the cottage.
The rambling rose ‘Purple Skyliner’ (Franwekpurp) gently frames this pretty, mossy sculpture.
One gorgeous pond.
I almost missed these on my way out: succulents living on roof tiles along the side of the cottage pathway.
A lovely peony, snapped as I left.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this glimpse into Clover Cottage, and highly recommend you visit for the real experience if you can. Photos simply don’t do it justice!

Thankfully you can experience this beautiful cottage garden yourself next year: it’s open 20, 27 February and 6 March for the Snowdrop Festival, and 12, 19 June in summertime.

Until next week,

šŸŒž Katherine

New curiosities

My day job is a little intense at the moment, and I’ve consequently spent less time in the garden with shorter lunch breaks, so this weekend I was glad to take a moment to notice what’s changed.

The gaps in our beds are lessening week by week, as plants fill out and more flowers than I anticipated greet the season. I’m also noticing the blooms that are bowing out for summertime…

The poppies have said farewell for this year. I love their seed-heads.
This scabious is huge – a lone flower on the plant currently.
A pair of giant, mystery alliums have appeared. (I think these may be the ‘Green Drops’ variety).
Allium ‘Hair’ continuing to delight.
This is a lupin ‘Masterpiece’ flower-head…amazing depth of colour.
My favourite thing in the garden this week: thalictrum flavum (yellow meadow rue) is so frothy and tall.
A pretty, short allium ‘multibulbosum Nigrum’.

Which flowers are you especially loving in your garden, or out and about, this month?

Until next time,

šŸŒø Katherine

Rainy day magic

Having bent towards the beating sun in recent weeks, I can almost hear the plants breathing a sigh of relief as they soak up significant rainfall today. Several of our roses have flopped to the ground, their petals scattered all over the surrounding earth, but it’s nothing a little sunlight or staking won’t remedy.

I grew this Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus) ‘Bloody Mary’ from seed, and it seems to be quite happy in its little pot.
Elsewhere in the garden, Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus)Ā ‘Alaska’ and Nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus) ‘Bloody Mary’ live next to one another.
Rosa ‘Hot Chocolate’ offering a reverent bow to the rain.
Salvia nemorosa ‘Caradonna’ leaning on its neighbour, Hosta ‘Guacamole’. What a colour combination.
I planted this RanunculusĀ ‘Striato Bianco’ from a bulb and it looks striking next to the old rose, Rosa ‘Mundi’.
Over in another pink patch…a soggy bee takes shelter from the rain on a Cosmos bipinnatus ‘Fizzy Rose Picotee’.
Writing this an hour later, they are still there.
When I was little I hated the strong scent of geranium leaves, but now I love it. (And their gorgeous shape, colours and markings).

Wishing you a relaxing weekend ahead.

Until next time,

ā˜” Katherine

Rose abundance in June

I’ve not been in the garden much this past couple of weeks due to a maintenance issue with a neighbouring property, but now that’s fixed I’m making up for it big time. The sheer number of weeds, including rapeseed from a field behind us, has made recovering the garden quite a challenge this week – but it’s one I’m so pleased to take on. (To give you a sense of just how willing I am: a couple of times I’ve almost fallen over in my enthusiasm to pull the weeds up).

Isn’t June a beautiful month? Everything is burgeoning, vibrant and soaking up the warmth of the sun. Our roses have made an appearance now, and the strong myrrh scent of one in particular – ‘Scepter’d Isle’ – is just gorgeous.

Rosa ‘Scepter’d Isle’ – I highly recommend this beautiful rose for your garden.
My pink passion continues with these PapaverĀ ‘Princess Victoria Louise‘Ā .
They are huge, and the stark contrast of such a dark centre and candyfloss pink petals is sublime.
I like this combination of yellow, pinks and purples. Achillea ‘Moonshine’ puts on quite a show for months.
(Do you know what the plant on the bottom far right is…?)
Quite a dreamy Delphinium…its colours remind me of a Disney princess’ dress.
Carol the pheasant says hello…I named her after Carol Klein !

I hope your weekend is restful and that you’re enjoying June as much as I am.

Until next time,

šŸŒž Katherine

Late May garden round-up

Our first May with a garden is drawing to a close, so it’s a good time to reflect on what’s been blooming, and where. Noticing gaps in the flowerbeds and patterns of colour will be helpful for next springtime. For example, aside from wallflowers and bulbs, the garden has predominantly been dotted with pink, red and white flowers so far this year; and one bed has had practically no flowers at all, so I’ll know to put some geums and other smaller plants there for next year.

It’s farewell to the flowers of the bergenia for a while.
They are short-lived but brilliant.
I waited like a kid at Christmas for this to bloom, and here it is.
I believe it’s called AnthemisĀ tinctoria E.C. Buxton.
I love this Viburnum opulus ‘Roseum’…it has a magical feeling to it.
Cerinthe major ‘Purpurascens’ is the most wonderful plant –
its blue-grey leaves are just as beautiful as its purple bells.
I’ve no idea which poppy this is, but look forward to finding out soon…!
As mentioned in a previous post, thisĀ AquilegiaĀ ā€˜Winky Double Red-Whiteā€™ is going strong.
It has been the star of the show this spring (even in a pot).

And that’s the round-up! I hope you’re enjoying this time of year, too.

Until next time,

šŸŒž Katherine

A rainy afternoon wander around Great Thurlow Hall

I visited Great Thurlow Hall in Suffolk this weekend, and took a few quick phone snaps of things which stood out as especially beautiful and fascinating…

Alliums in the red and purple border – looking gorgeous against the old brick wall.
Look at all those beautiful little plants growing on the wall itself, too.
Allium cristophii further along the border; I love their starry shapes.
Indian Rhubarb lining the area around a bridge over the River Stour.
This totally fascinated me – I’d never seen it before.
Little details like these geraniums and forget-me-nots nestled
between paving spaces made this place feel very special.

Beyond this, the abundance of cow parsley and established trees in the arboretum – which follows the line of the river – guarantee a peaceful and inspirational visit, no matter the weather.

I highly recommend exploring this wonderful garden when it is next open within the National Garden Scheme. I’d love to return in summertime when the peonies are blooming; and earlier in spring for the daffodils.

Until next time,

šŸŒž Katherine

Bringing the outside in: botanical artwork by Clare Halifax

Meet Clare Halifax – a London-based botanical artist who recently exhibited with Cambridge Contemporary Art. I spottedĀ  Clare’s work and was instantly intrigued to learn about her influences and upcoming projects

Stylistically my work is considered illustrative, incorporating intense detail of drawing.
Often the wordĀ ‘intricate’Ā is used to describe the end result of the subject depicted and the drawing process used. Over the years I have developed my work into more challenging, larger-scale architectural settings and dense botanical settings, while recently including more elements of colour as I became more confident as a printmaker.

Victoria_Huset – Ā© Clare Halifax

I’ve always had a great love of nature,Ā findingĀ it has a relaxing property.
My initial botanical pieces wereĀ createdĀ as a work reset afterĀ I completedĀ a series of complicated architectural pieces;Ā I wanted to do something lighter. I’d recentlyĀ visited the Barbican Centre Conservatory in LondonĀ – a beautifulĀ tropical oasis in the middle of the cityĀ – andĀ found it inspiring to see the elements of nature juxtaposed against the brutal architecture. ThisĀ led to my first botanical series.

I have a fondness for the monstera deliciosa
itĀ isĀ very satisfying to draw and the leaf shapes are so unique and instantly identifiable. But nature comes in many forms andĀ plantsĀ are all enjoyable to interpret, from the houseplant, toĀ those in aĀ garden bed orĀ inĀ a palm house.

Hot Mass of Cacti – Ā© Clare Halifax

A recentĀ Cambridge exhibition focusedĀ on my botanical work.
NathalieĀ StaplesĀ from Cambridge Contemporary ArtĀ curated a beautiful window display that celebratedĀ nature through the use of my work,Ā hanging amongst houseplants and ceramics. It was aĀ wonderful antidote to all that has been happening.

I found alternative ways of working from home throughout the first lockdown.
I was able to develop my drawings into an original series of studies of the houseplants in my home. In general, I gravitated towards drawing nature scenes as this felt more inspirational to me and, living in a flat in London with no outdoor space, I became focused on bringing the outside in through my work.

OnĀ theĀ negative sideĀ of lockdown, my concentration levels came and went.
As was likely the case for so many of us,Ā I was not as productive as I initially set out to be with all the time we suddenly had on our hands.

Fish ‘n’ Waterlily – Ā© Clare Halifax

I am participating in theĀ Art Car Boot Fair this month, with Smithson Gallery.
The theme is ‘Flora and Fauna’.Ā I thinkĀ many people haveĀ realised how restorative nature can be,Ā and it definitely seems to be the mood of the moment.

One thing few people know about me…?
I can sign the alphabet!

Catch the Art Car Boot Fair from 15-17 May. Learn more about Clare’s wonderful work via her website

Hazy mid-May update

It’s been pretty rainy here in Cambridge this fortnight, and the gardens have loved it! Looking around each day it is as though the plants have grown substantially overnight. I wandered around the garden during a break in the rainfall earlier and took some slightly hazy photographs of things which have changed this week…

Clematis ‘Guernsey Cream’ in all its glory.
This Geum ‘Totally Tangerine’ is quite leggy but beautiful.
Here come the alliums…I’m excited to see these bloom soon.
It’s wonderful to spot wildlife around the garden: someone’s enjoying perching on this delphinium.
The beginnings of Achillea are so interesting – woolly, pale and quite in contrast to the resulting flower head.

I’m writing this on a Friday evening as I’m aiming to have a digital break this weekend. It’s been a very busy work week and, despite attending a couple of great mindfulness sessions and doing plenty of yoga, I’m worn out šŸ˜“

In the coming days I’m looking forward to publishing a story on the work of botanical artist Clare Halifax, and also sharing some thoughts on awe-walking in nature.

Wishing you a good weekend.

Until next time,

šŸŒž Katherine

The art of stopping

I’ll happily admit I’ve become obsessed with gardening this past few months. We moved here in summertime and I immediately set about creating flowerbeds, sourcing plants, and planning where we’d sit to enjoy it all the following spring.

Spring has arrived, but it’s often only on rainy days like today that I really pause and take time to reflect on any progress so far. Usually on a Saturday morning I’m pottering around in the garden: weeding, planting, plotting…! So the arrival of solid rainfall can be a real gift for someone like me, in that it teaches me a little about the art of stopping and being indoors for a time. And look what it brought me this morning…

I ordered some red geranium seedlings from a supermarket and had no idea how tiny they’d be when they arrived. A few weeks ago I planted three of them in this little pot, and in the past couple of days they’ve begun flowering. I’ve been amazed by quite how vivid the colour is, and how quickly they’re growing. Something about the rainy daylight today makes them stand out all the brighter on the windowsill and, while I look forward to planting them in a bigger pot outdoors, it’s worth stopping to enjoy how they look right now, just as they are. Soaking in that awe is surely what gardening is all about.

‘By taking care of the present you are doing all you can to assure a good future,’ said Thich Nhat Hanh in his book Work: How to find joy and meaning in each hour of the day. I’ve been reading this lately and am finding it a helpful reminder to slow down, take each moment and situation as it comes, and to breathe…so on that note, off I go back to the kitchen table to watch the rain and look at the geraniums in more detail šŸ’“

Wishing you a restful weekend.

Until next time,

šŸŒ§ Katherine

P.S. later in the day I walked around the garden and took some quick snaps…I couldn’t resist getting out there and seeing what’s changed.

This AquilegiaĀ ā€˜Winky Double Red-Whiteā€™ is fully blooming now, and I love it.
The strength of its stems really surprised me.
Euphorbia epithymoides or ‘cushion spurge’ is such a lively colour, even on a grey day.