Here, there and everywhere

I watched Love & Mercy, a film about the life of Brian Wilson last week, and it inspired me to listen to lots of songs by both the Beach Boys and The Beatles – bands which until now I’d only listened to a handful of songs by. My dad made me a playlist and from there I went about creating my own, with my personal favourites so far ๐ŸŒป

Anyway, ‘here, there and everywhere’ perfectly describes what’s going on in the garden as spring continues – different flowers are popping up each week. Below are some of the interesting things that are unfurling now. I’ve also looked into some facts about them as I’m keen to learn more about what’s growing here.

Tiny Lithodora diffusa ‘Grace Ward’ spilling over a pot. What a gorgeous blue this is…
(I read somewhere that it is best described as ‘gentian blue’).
Primula veris (cowslip) looks beautiful in the spring sunshine.
According to, vernacular names for this plant include
‘freckled face’ and ‘golden drops’…how lovely ๐Ÿ˜Š
More of the wallflowers my mum gave me are blooming now.
She picked them up from someone selling them outside their house,
back in autumn (they were whole, roots and leaves, in paper bags) and have stayed
green all winter since being planted here.
And finally, I think this is Digitalis purpurea ‘Dalmation Purple’ (foxglove), but time will tell…
as a new gardener I was surprised to see this almost blooming at this point in the year,
but when I looked it up I found it is common for foxgloves to do so in May/June onwards.

I look forward to sharing more garden finds in the weeks ahead.

๐ŸŒž Katherine

Texture and depth: meet botanical artist Amber Halsall

Amber Halsall, Callicarpa Bodinieri

I’m delighted to present the first story that’s not about my own gardening for Cambridge Flower Journal. Meet Amber Halsall: a botanical artist who has been running workshops with Kettle’s Yard here in Cambridge lately. Amber shares what led her to focus on drawing plants and flowers; things that inspire her; and what she’s got coming up this year

I’m inspired by the natural world around me, always looking to portray subjects in a fresh, lively way.
I am passionate about teaching others and sharing my skills as I believe that art can have a hugely positive effect on our mental wellbeing. 

I have drawn and painted for as long as I can remember.
I didn’t go to art college initially but I was continually drawn back into painting in any spare time I had. In 1995 I gave up work to have my first child and decided to focus on my art career going forward. I had always drawn plants and flowers but a trip to Kew Gardens that year inspired me to follow the botanical route. 

I love plants with texture and depth.
Hydrangeas are a favourite of mine, as well as fading roses and magnolias. I also love to paint vegetables – the quirkier in shape and colour the better!  Finds from the woods are another favourite subject. I make artist books in my spare time: these are one-of-a kind handmade books filled with plant and landscape images, sometimes using stitch, beads and fabric. 

Amber Halsall, Bela blue hydrangea

I use a combination of graphite, coloured pencil, watercolour and acrylic inks in my work.
Sometimes I focus on one media, and sometimes I mix several media in one piece. I find the subject normally dictates the media to be used. I generally work on hot pressed paper but have recently started experimenting with a more textured surface. 

One of my favourite places to go is Kew Gardens.
Woodlands are also a place to find inspiration and I can often find something inspiring when I have been rooting around in my father’s vegetable patch. As I am not a particularly competent gardener, I have persuaded him to grow veg specifically for me to paint in previous years.

I’m running workshops and exhibiting work this year.
In May I’m leading a two-day watercolour workshop at West Dean. I’m also exhibiting work at the Mall Galleries from 5-10 July with the Society of Graphic Fine Art. Plus, my work features in an online exhibition this summer with the Society of Botanical Artists.

Amber Halsall, Moonglow

Katherine asked me to share something few people know about me…
One is that I am an art material addict. I love experimenting with new materials, trying to create something different that will stretch me as an artist. A second is that I once persuaded my whole family (four teenagers at the time) to walk the entire length of Hadrian’s Wall coast to coast. It took us approximately ten days and was an incredible experience and achievement. 

A huge thanks to Amber for sharing her story for Cambridge Flower Journal so early on in the project; I can’t wait to look out for her future work and to see how this artist’s style develops going forward. You can explore more of Amber’s beautiful pieces via her website. Keep an eye on future workshops from Kettle’s Yard, too!

Until next time,

๐ŸŒž Katherine

P.S. Are you a keen gardener/floral enthusiast based in Cambridgeshire? If you have a story to tell, please do get in touch.

Before the April snow

What a random week, weather-wise: sunshine, heavy cloud, and now snow. That’s Britain, right?! I managed to spend quite a bit of time in our little garden neatening the beds and watering pots before the frost arrived, and during that time I took the photos below.

My favourite thing at the moment is this Kerriaย japonica plenifloraย โ€˜Golden Guinea’. My mum described it as looking like giant buttercups. I intended to choose the variety that is double-flowered, but have found I actually prefer this one. A happy accident!
This Primula Denticulata ‘Lilac’ is tiny and beautifully vibrant.
I love the star shape of this little daffodil – not sure which variety it is. Any idea…?
A lone fritillaria meleagris surprised me.
A combination of Tulip ‘Ice Stick’ and Russian snowdrops in a pot.
The blossom on this Prunus ‘Little Pink Perfection’ is beginning to come out.
And last but not least, Hyacinth ‘China Pink’…which has an incredible scent, especially when put in a vase.

I’m looking forward to the sun returning and watching for signs of more new life in the coming weeks. I’ve stopped weeding the beds for a bit to make sure I don’t get rid of anything nice – for example the dill seeds I threw around a week or two ago…!

What’s been your favourite flower find lately? Let me know in the comments below.

Until next time,

๐ŸŒž Katherine

Saturday morning finds: violets, tulip ice stick, daffs

It’s a gorgeous sunny morning in Cambridge, and while weeding the back garden was fun(!) I enjoyed exploring what’s blooming and taking photos much more…

Tulip ‘Ice Stick’ is a wonderful surprise. I didn’t expect it to have such a yellow centre and it really is beautiful –
both when open and also when closed…
…in the latter state it looks like a little stick of rock or ice lolly, sprayed lightly with pale red or pink.
I couldn’t resist another shot of these ‘Red Devon’ daffodils.
They’ve done well to survive the blustery weather of the past few days.
My mum gifted me these sweet little violets from her own garden.
I only planted this hellebore a couple of months ago, and we’re yet to see any flowers, but I’m happy to wait.

That’s it for now! We’re setting up a herb ladder today which will be interesting.

Wishing you a lovely restful weekend ahead,

๐ŸŒž Katherine

The first days of spring

There is quite a bit going on out here now, and several times this week I’ve heard an exceptionally loud, huge bumblebee zooming around the garden.

These are the first daffodils and crocuses from a mixed little bag;
tulips are also growing in this pot, tussling for a good spot.
Narcissus ‘Red Devon’ appeared this weekend – I love this daffodil.
I believe this is Primula Denticulata ‘Lilac’ beginning to bloom.
Kerria japonica pleniflora ‘Golden Guinea’…
I bought this to remind me of my mum’s garden when we were growing up.
ย Tulip ‘Ice Stick’ is getting there.
Wallflowers are my favourite plants to photograph lately;
their leaves are such a rich colour and interesting shape.
The last of our initial crocuses…they’ve been lovely
and will soon be replaced by the surge of tulips you can see behind.

In the coming weeks I’ll definitely take photos of the other bulbs popping up around the place. It’s a small garden but we’ve crammed quite a lot in as enthusiastic amateurs.

I’ve also edited a couple of fascinating stories on artists whose work features flowers, and will share these once they’re ready!

Wishing you a good week ahead, until next time,

๐ŸŒž Katherine

P.S. I’m happy that Gardeners’ World is back on tele…I’d resorted to watching re-runs and even an old show Alan Titchmarsh made years ago on the seasons for a bit of inspiration. If you’re looking for ideas and helpful guidance on gardening this spring, and a few fun things to do, take a look at the Cambridge Flower Journal calendar.

Signs of spring

I spent around four hours in the garden this weekend, pulling up weeds and clearing leaf debris to make space for what’s unfurling across my little flower beds…

Sedum ‘Carl’ is making an appearance after I cut it back pretty hard in late autumn.
It is one of my very favourite plants in the garden, as the bees adore it, and it has beautiful solid flower heads.
Promising signs of new life for this white Forsythia,
which we only planted last summer and I’ve never seen in bloom.
The yellow Forsythia is ahead of the curve and already flowering.
The plant is super short, but I’m sure it’ll soon gain height.
I planted all kinds of daffodils across the back garden last autumn,
and any day now they will begin to bring new sunshine.
Tulips, too, are soaring upwards ahead of springtime.
I’ll share what they are as soon as they appear!
This is a sight I’d never seen before as a new gardener –
Hyacinth ‘China Pink’ breaking through the bark in our front bed.
Out the front our Hydrangea is also bringing some new greenery to the party.
I’m not sure which variety this is as my mum bought it for me and it didn’t have a
description on the label; hopefully I’ll find out in time.

A note on seedlings…
Confession: I began talking about spring a little prematurely this year, and followed seed packet guidance that we can begin sowing cosmos, sunflowers etc indoors in March. This has resulted in my seedlings being leggy – a term I was unaware of as a newbie to growing from seed. I’ve since learned that this is because the seed, on breaking, can sense there isn’t sufficient light on the windowsill and pushes the seedling rapidly upwards and sideways towards what little light there is in a bit of a panic. I’ll know for next time to wait until mid-April to begin sowing; put the trays outside whenever the sun is out; and turn the trays regularly to keep the seedlings from bending too much one way.

Above are some Nasturtium ‘Bloody Mary’ which have leapt up perhaps too quickly. I’ll pot a few of them on soon and then plant them outdoors once the last frost has passed.

Beyond my garden, I’m looking forward to sharing a couple of stories about botanical art in the coming weeks – look out for those!

Wishing you a good week ahead.

Until next time,

๐ŸŒž Katherine

The final days of winter

Don’t wish your life away, my wonderful nanna would say if she could hear me this morning, counting how many days we have until the rule of six returns here in England. And she’d be right – even during these weird, quiet times in which most of us can’t meet family or friends in person, there is plenty to be thankful for.

I wander around the garden most days recently, watching for little changes to the plants as they unfurl and grow on sunnier days. I’m probably (definitely) messing up the damp grass…

Last weekend was amazing weather and, while this week has been grey and cold, there is hope for springtime all around if you look closely.

Daphne bholua โ€˜Jacqueline Postillโ€™ โ€“
it has bloomed more since my last post; and there are lots of little buds at the top of the plant,
so I’m looking forward to seeing more flowers soon. I almost fell over trying to smell it the other day ๐Ÿ˜‚
These dwarf Iris ‘Katherine’s Gold’ have been very special –
I’ll definitely plant more next year, maybe along with some ‘Katharine Hodgkin’ too!
It’s cold and chilly today so the Crocus vernus ‘Pickwick’ have closed themselves up again, but they’re fascinating
I’ve seen tonnes of photos of daffodils on others’ social media but we’re yet to see any bloom here in the garden just yet.
Seeing them almost ready to go is exciting ๐ŸŒž
I planted a selection of wallflowers in autumn and they’ve remained green and strong throughout winter.
It’s wonderful to see little buds appearing on them now. Speaking of buds…
This week I planted up two pots with Salvia ‘Hot Lips’, ‘Royal Bumble’ and ‘Nachtvlinder’ along with some mint and sage
And finally, the roses are my favourite thing to watch at the moment – lots of red and green leaves appearing each day

What’s changing in your garden? Feel free to comment below or tag @camflowerjourn on Instagram so I can see ๐ŸŒฑ๐ŸŒท

Wishing you a restful weekend,

๐ŸŒž Katherine

Winter garden diaries

Before we officially welcome spring with open arms (have we ever been more ready for a new season? ๐Ÿ˜ด๐Ÿ˜) I thought I’d share what I’ve been up to this winter in my own little garden.

Ours is a new-build garden and started out with nothing but a whole lot of turf last August. Since then I’ve been making some flower beds – gradually breaking up the heavy clay – and planting quite a few perennials, as well as shrubs which will eventually bring us plenty of winter colour.

Since January I’ve made an effort to take a photo (almost) every day to document what these new plants look like through the fairly mild winter weather. Below are some of my favourites…

A Snowberry doing its thing in a pot on the patio
Scabiosa still blooming into January
A vibrant Aconite saying hello all on its own.
A reminder of the amazing carpet of Aconites I saw at Anglesey Abbey back in 2019
Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postill’ –
inspired by the monumental ones at Cambridge University Botanic Gardens

Since these photos were taken I’ve been focusing on winter bulbs which have been bravely popping up amidst snow and frost throughout January and into February…

I’m so much looking forward to watching the daffodils and tulips beginning to bloom in the coming weeks.

What are your favourite plants for winter colour – and beloved winter or spring bulbs? Comment below or use the tag #camflowerjourn on social media ๐ŸŒท I hope that over time we’ll gather a friendly bunch of readers who’ll share some of their moments of joy in the garden via the Journal.

Until next time,

๐ŸŒž Katherine

Launching in spring 2021: Cambridge Flower Journal

Thank you for visiting this project site. My name is Katherine Selby and I’m the founder and editor of Cambridge Flower Journal, a brand new space for sharing stories specifically about flowers in Cambridgeshire, UK.

This project will present a selection of carefully-crafted stories, establishing a lively flower-loving readership. It will become an educational space which champions gardening, growing and floristry in this county.

Additionally this site will help readers to find wonderful events and opportunities, such as open gardens and courses, which tap into the beauty of flowers and plants locally. These will be shared in our Calendar and updated regularly.

Enjoying the wild fields around Eddington, Cambridge back in 2018

Personally I’m an amateur when it comes to gardening, having recently begun creating a garden from scratch. My goal is for any stories from Cambridge Flower Journal to be educational, mindful and celebratory, which are things we need in 2021 more than ever. These stories should inspire readers to get outdoors and gardening, support local floristry and plant businesses, and visit open gardens in our area, while exploring sustainability in these areas.

I hope you’ll enjoy tapping into Cambridge Flower Journal as the project progresses, and do get in touch if you’d like to share a story suggestion – it’d be brilliant to hear from you! If it’s easier, I’m also contactable on Twitter.

With best wishes,

๐ŸŒž Katherine