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…
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 😴
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.
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 💓
Wishing you a restful weekend.
Until next time,
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 spring, our wonderful local Fitzwilliam Museum is presenting an exhibition with a focus firmly on flowers. Titled Scent from Nature: Beauty’s Botanical Origins,the show is an exploration of plants utilised by the beauty and fragrance industry, showcasing the Museum’s dazzling collection of botanical watercolours, alongside ancient and more recent perfume vessels.
Having been given a sneak peek of what is included in the show, I’m especially drawn to the watercolours depicting roses…they are just stunning.
The Museum shares: “In the sixteenth century the Rosa gallica ‘versicolour’ appeared, also known as the Rosa mundi, which is distinguished by its striped petals. This is seen in the seventeenth-century watercolour by Pieter Withoos (above) in which he has faithfully recorded the gently curled petals and the insect-damaged leaf.”
I planted a Rosa mundi a few months back having seen it on an old Carol Klein show from the BBC, and can’t wait to see it bloom this summertime 🌹
Another of the old roses in the exhibition was painted by an unknown artist called C. M. Bucher. Rosa damascena, or the damask rose (above) is a hybrid of the Rosa gallica and Rosa moschata. The damask rose is much celebrated for its numerous petals and intense scent.
The above watercolour is fascinating in the way it beautifully presents the inflorescence of the two roses, including their stems, thorns, leaves, flower heads and fruit. It makes us think about all the different components of a rose and the many ways each specimen differs.
Hettie Ward, Assistant Keeper of Paintings, Drawings and Prints at the Fitzwilliam Museum, shares: “Our fascination with capturing plants’ smells and our determination to extract their oils for medicinal or cosmetic purposes has been a common practice since ancient times. It has been wonderful to select works from our outstanding botanical collection that reveal these stories and histories whilst also learning more about where certain ingredients in our perfume or in our moisturisers come from. This includes the enormous amounts (tonnes in fact!) of damask roses that are grown and harvested in Syria and elsewhere to create the essential rose oil that can be found in rose-scented perfumes, or the eight million flowers required to create just 1kg of jasmine oil. But nothing of course beats breathing in the smell of the plants themselves and I cannot wait until they all flower this spring and summer!“
This is just the tip of the iceberg in the fascinating selection of work that’s set to be on display. Check the Fitzwilliam’s website and social media for further details as they’re announced; the exhibition is set to open on 18 May 2021.
Do let me know if you visit and what your favourite pieces are!
Warren Forsyth, Operations Director at Eddington – a new neighbourhood in northwest Cambridge – shares how his team strives for abundant wildlife and biodiversity across the site
Nature is at the heart of our strategy. There is one overarching strategy for the entire Eddington site, including any future development, which is to ensure wildlife and biodiversity are encouraged across the development. This has been carefully planned, alongside many other sustainability measures, which are integrated in every aspect of Eddington to encourage residents and visitors to lead more sustainable lives. Creating an environment for people and nature includes a range of integrated features and open space to help creatures flourish. These include enhancements (such as nesting and roosting sites) for birds, bats, and amphibians, as well as meadow-flower and wetlands.
You’ll find an abundance of trees and wildflowers at Eddington. A significant part of our broader sustainability strategy is focused on planting. This includes planting approximately 2,400 trees in Eddington’s public realm to date (including field maple, alder, birch, hornbeam, sweet chestnut, hazel, hawthorn, Scots pine, cherry, plum, apple, pear, English oak, willow, rowan, lime, and elm).
The priority for the Eddington wildflower meadows is the development of a species-rich sward of native species. Selection of the individual species has been based on the soil type, and include viper’s bugloss, oxeye daisy and tufted vetch. Elsewhere at Eddington, some existing grassland areas were previously regularly cut, or heavily grazed when the land was farmed. The priority with these has been to develop a more diverse sward and encourage some structural diversity, by reducing the frequency of cutting.
This work is already making a significant impact. Our strategy has been successful. Based on monitoring surveys and engagement with local residents, the ecology team at Eddington know that the number of great crested newts, water voles, reed buntings and other wetland birds have increased in various habitats across Eddington. In addition, birds and bats have been using the installed nest and roost boxes. One particularly notable finding from recent monitoring has been the establishment of pyramidal orchid plants in an area of grassland at Eddington. These results are in response to where the landscape, habitat and horticultural management was changed to provide biodiversity benefits, therefore as a direct result of the measures.
In addition to the green spaces open to the general public, there is also a significant amount of planting in and around the buildings, including residential courtyards and gardens. These have all been designed by various landscape architects to provide communal and private outdoor spaces for residents to enjoy.
City residents are warmly encouraged to get involved. The University of Cambridge is keen to help people engage in promoting and enhancing biodiversity and has created an engagement pack for anyone keen to do so. Part of the pack includes an initiative to establish a ‘Biodiversity in your Back Garden’. This initiative aims to create an ecological network across the built environment of Cambridge, connecting areas of higher ecological value by extending outside the University estate, to create stepping stones for nature across the city.
Looking to the future at Eddington, planning is underway for the next phase of development. This includes extensions to the existing Brook Leys parkland landscape to provide informal areas for play, walking and cycling. It will include more woodland and meadow trails, featuring wet and dry meadows and species rich grassland.
Want to learn more? A full description of the biodiversity measures at Eddington is set out in this Biodiversity Strategy.
I hope you’ve enjoyed this look into the fascinating wildlife and natural planting at Eddington! From personal experience I must say it is a beautiful place to be, especially at the height of summertime when the crickets are chirping and many of the wildflowers are at their tallest.
It’s wonderful to watch plants grow in springtime. This is my first spring with a garden, so everything is extra exciting!
The first bed I made here has really started to fill out this week, with plants like hosta, viburnum and geum unfurling and blooming in the daylight. I wasn’t expecting the latter (pictured below) to be so orange in tone, as initially this bed was going to be all reds, purples, pinks and splashes of yellow and white. I’m happy to go with the flow – it’s lovely.
Soon the plants will be soaring into any warmer, longer periods of sunshine we’re gifted with. I’ve noticed quite a few alliums looking ready to do just that.
If you’re on Instagram, you can find me there at @camflowerjourn. I don’t share updates much as marketing is my day job, so in my spare time I try to avoid spending too much time on social media…! but I do love seeing other gardeners’ progress there, and finding new inspiration and wisdom.
The sunshine has brought quite a few plants out of dormancy lately. I snapped some photos of what’s blooming (or beginning to appear) in my little garden this week:
In the next few weeks I look forward to sharing stories about biodiversity at Eddington (NW Cambridge), and an interview with artist Clare Halifax, who recently exhibited at Cambridge Contemporary Art.
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 🌻
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.
I look forward to sharing more garden finds in the weeks ahead.
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.
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.
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,
P.S. Are you a keen gardener/floral enthusiast based in Cambridgeshire? If you have a story to tell, please do get in touch.
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.
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.