Celia Hart's blog about what's going on in and around her studio.
Art, printmaking, inspirations, gardening, vegetables, hens, landscapes, wild flowers, East Anglia, adventure, travel.

Thursday 23 January 2014

100 Flowers : #005 Winter Aconite

Isn't it amazing when small perfect little flowers emerge through the decaying leaves, I been waiting and checking and then suddenly there they were flowering under the shrubs in the garden . . .

#005 : Eranthis hyemalis

Winter Aconite 

The common name, Aconite, is misleading because they aren't related to the family of extremely poisonous Aconitum plants; I found comflicting information about whether Winter Aconites are poisonous or not, but I wouldn't recommend that you try! Someone obviously thought the leaves of both plants looked similar and the name stuck.

The botanical name's meaning is very boring indeed . . .
Eranthis : is from the greek 'er' which means 'Spring' and 'anthos' which means flower.
hyemalis : means 'of winter'

The Winter Aconite is a member of the plant family Ranunculaceae, the Buttercup family . . . 'Winter Buttercup' would be a much better name (someone should have thought of that).

In some parts of Suffolk they are called 'Choir boys', because the circle of green leaves looks like a choir boy's ruff collar.

The green 'ruff' are the leaves and the yellow is actually the sepals which enclose the tiny petals inside.

The yellow sepals only open fully is temperatures are above 10˚C, in the hope that a passing insect will visit and pollinate the flower so the seeds develop and eventually scatter and grow into more plants.

As you can see, it's pretty chilly today . . . in fact late this afternoon we had a heavy hail shower with hail stones as big as peas!

I think the coldest weather of this winter is yet to come. 


Friday 17 January 2014

The best laid schemes o' mice an' men ...

Today I'd arranged to collect unsold pictures from a garden centre cafe in Essex; they'd been on the walls for almost a year . . . a nice idea to get customers who may not go into galleries but not one that worked.

Never mind, you can't win them all. So I thought collecting them on a day Cliff wasn't working and combining with a day out at the seaside would mix a chore with fun. We decided to go to Southend-on-sea, I feel embarrassed to admit that I've never been there! We did some research to find a nice place to have lunch, I packed the binoculars so I could stand on the end of the pier and look at things way out to sea, we might even go into an arcade or have a ice-cream.

BUT . . . it didn't work out as we'd planned . . .

It started well, we were happily driving south through Essex, I decided that the satnav's route along the motorway was a bit long and boring so adjusted for a more scenic one - it took us along a road I'd been to while doing some family history research so I showed Cliff the house and fields I'd told him about last year. 

Then we rounded a bend and there was big jolt and a loud bang! Cliff stopped the car and I jumped out to check the car . . . the rear tyre was flat . . . AND . . . the front tyre was flat . . . Aaaaagh!

To cut a long story short - after a long wait, a ride in a truck, lunch in a Harvester opposite the "tyre place" and a detour to get to the garden centre avoiding floods - we had only an hour or so of daylight left in the day.

So we went to Burnham-on-Crouch and had tea and cake . . . and saw the sun set over the estuary.

Apparently we were the third car this morning to hit that pothole and puncture tyres.

I still haven't been to Southend-on-sea.

Hope your weekends are incident free.


Thursday 16 January 2014

100 Flowers : #004 Greater Periwinkle

Now, this may seem a little unseasonal but in this mild and wet winter there are some plants that have just kept on going without a pause . . .

#004 : Vinca major

Greater Periwinkle 

I'm enjoying deciphering the botanical latin for the #100Flowers posts, this one is pretty straightforward . . .
Vinca : is from the latin 'vincere' which means 'to bind', the long trailing stems with evergreen leaves are perfect to use binding garlands and wreaths.
major : means 'greater' or 'larger' and distinguishes this plant from the smaller flowered periwinkle, Vinca minor.

The buds are furled like tiny umbrellas.

Take a closer look at the flowers, what elegant geometry! A golden circle in a pentagon, surrounded by five intriguingly asymmetric petals – like a fan or propeller.

Lines Written in Early Spring
by William Wordsworth in 1798
I heard a thousand blended notes,
While in a grove I sate reclined,
In that sweet mood when pleasant thoughts
Bring sad thoughts to the mind.

To her fair works did Nature link
The human soul that through me ran;
And much it grieved my heart to think
What man has made of man.

Through primrose tufts,
in that green bower,
The periwinkle trailed its wreaths;
And 'tis my faith that every flower
Enjoys the air it breathes.

The birds around me hopped and played,
Their thoughts I cannot measure:-
But the least motion which they made
It seemed a thrill of pleasure.

The budding twigs spread out their fan,
To catch the breezy air;
And I must think, do all I can,
That there was pleasure there.

If this belief from heaven be sent,
If such be Nature's holy plan,
Have I not reason to lament
What man has made of man?

Worries about man messing up the natural world aren't new!

I'm putting all the #100Flowers on a Pinterest board, you can find it here.


Sunday 12 January 2014

100 Flowers : #003 Sweet Box

It's interesting that so many winter flowering shrubs have highly scented flowers . . .

#003 : Sacococca hookeriana var. digyna

Sweet Box 

It would be easy to walk past this small rather uninteresting bush, were it not for the perfume that fills the space around it. The scent is hard to describe, it's sweet, heavy and can be overpowering if you bring a sprig or two indoors.

However outside in the garden the scent drifts around and dilutes, so you're not quite sure where it came from . . . did someone walk past wearing an expensive Parisian perfume?

The scent comes from these male flowers – clusters of stamens with tiny petals the size of pin heads at the base.

The female flowers are so tiny and insignificant it's hard to spot them . . .

Can you see the tiny green bulb-shaped embryo berries with two curved white stigmas emerging from the top – those are the female flowers. And it's the berries rather than the flowers that the botanical name describes . . .

Sarococca : sarkos means 'flesh' and kokkos means 'a berry'
hookeriana : is in honour of the botanist and director of the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, Hooker (either Sir William Jackson Hooker or his son Sir Joseph Dalton Hooker, no one seems to know which!)
digyna : di means 'two' and gyna means woman, refers to the female part or berry having two seeds.

I'm not sure I've ever seen berries on our Sweet Box. I wonder what pollinates the flowers?


Friday 10 January 2014

Back to her old tricks again

We have three hens that lay blue-green eggs, they are Araucana x Crested-Cream-Legbar hybrids and are named after spices – Saffron, Nutmeg and Ginger. We hadn't had a pastel coloured egg for many months, Saffron and Nutmeg had been moulting and Ginger . . . well dear Ginger-Spice, she stopped laying regularly 2 years ago, then laid the occasional egg and eventually in June 2013 she laid this – a teeny weeny egg containing nothing but egg white and a yucky grey blob.

Then, just after New Year's Day, I found a large pastel sage-green egg in the nest box. I assumed it was laid by Saffron-Spice, but the more I looked at the egg and thought about it, I realised it didn't look like Saffie's pale teal-blue pointy eggs. I picked up Saffie, her comb was still small and pale red and her pelvic bones were too narrow to lay an egg.

So who laid these . . . I spotted Ginger-Spice skipping down the ramp from the nests . . . yes indeed!

After well over a year, dear Ginger-Spice is regularly laying beautiful large sage-green eggs again.

It's very difficult to photograph Ginge' – she's got a new lease of life and is always dashing around . . .

. . . and she's even back to her old tricks :-)

Ginger was a very quick learner as a pullet and I taught her to do a little trick when I went to get the afternoon corn each day, but when Tarragon the Araucana cockerel came on the scene Ginge' gave up doing her trick. And when her egg-laying stopped she became bottom of the pecking-order and was often chased away from the feeders.

But LOOK! This is what now happens when I go into the feed shed . . .

Ginge' hops onto the little garden foot-stool and walks to the top, she waits and I give her a few grains of corn from my hand

then Ginge' hops onto my arm and we take a little stroll around the garden . . .

we have a little  chat and I admire her incredibly beautiful feathers . . .

which are like the glowing copper flames.

I've no idea what was the cause of Ginger's lost year, I'll just say it's great to have the old Ginge' and her beautiful eggs back again.


Monday 6 January 2014

100 Flowers : #002 Winter Honeysuckle

Thank you for the lovely comments after the first 100 Flowers blog post, I'll try to write a flower-post a couple of times a week through 2014.

Today, for Flower #002 I've chosen . . .

#002 : Lonicera fragrantissima

Winter Honeysuckle 

Winter Honeysuckle
isn't a climber, but a rather large shrub that looks a bit like a scruffy bird's nest. In summer it is covered with bright green pairs of leaves, the tiny flowers appear in winter before the new leaves open. Why is it worth a place in the garden? – the clue's in the name . . . 

'fragrantissima' means 'most fragrant'

Today is the Feast of Epiphany, so I've chosen a flower that brings fragrance from the East . . . this most beautifully scented Honeysuckle was brought to England from China by the plant hunter Robert Fortune in 1845.

The fragrance that drifts from these tiny white flowers reminds me of lemon-drizzle cake, it is my special gift on this blustery and muddy first Monday of January.


PS Follow all the 100 Flowers on my Pinterest Board.

Friday 3 January 2014

100 Flowers : #001 Winter Jasmine

I mentioned that I'd had an idea for regular blogposts . . .

walking around our garden the other day I noticed quite a few flowers in bloom, I wondered how many different plants there were in the garden? did I remember all the names? did I even look at them closely when they flowered?

It sowed the seed of an idea . . . 100 Flowers flowering in our garden during 2014. A close look at 2, maybe 3 each week. A reminder of the botanical name and what it means. And maybe some other snippets of info.

The flowers will be blooming in the garden the day I write about them . . . 

2014 - a year of 100 Flowers

#001 : Jasminum nudiflorum

Winter Jasmine

'nudiflorum' means 'naked flower'

Winter Jasmine flowers on bare stems before the leaves open.

Today, when another Atlantic storm is raging over the British Isles and the sky went black, thunder rumbled and hail fell; the Winter Jasmine flowers glowed like bright stars.

I picked one stem to bring indoors and put it into my eggcup/vase/tiny cup made by Linda Bloomfield.

I found this poem by Cherry Zhai

Winter Jasmine

As every year
I see you again
It’s so cold, but you have already blossomed.
Why are you so impatient to come into bloom before the other flowers?
You are the flower touching me the most
How bright is your color!
Like the dazzling sunlight,
Gives us vigor,
Little yellow flowers,
Messenger of spring.


PS I'm putting all the 100 Flowers on a Pinterest Board.

Thursday 2 January 2014


Here we are in day two of a new year . . . it feels a bit like the old one, but who knows what the coming months may bring?

This time last year I was keeping a secret - that there was going to be a feature about me in Country Living magazine the following December. I was busy working on my 'Garlands' Christmas card designs and waiting to hear from the photographer assigned to do the photo shoot.

This year I'm working on another secret commission (I've had to sign an NDA, so no peeping!) and I'm busy planning new designs for prints and cards . . . starting with the 2014 Valentines hares and birds.

Thank you to everyone who ordered cards from my etsy shop during November and December - especially if you found me via the Country Living article (if you missed the magazine, you can read it here). It got very busy and there were regular late evening packing sessions, after which I relaxed by sitting down and doing some knitting. But I must have been a bit tired, you would not believe how many times I un-ravelled and reknitted this shawl!

But it's done now and I blocked it at the weekend - TA-DAH!!!

The pattern is Halyard on Ravelry, I devised my own colour scheme for the stripes - those flipping stripes!!!! they look easy but take your eye off the task for a second and it's very easy to drop a stitch when you do a star-stitch! And what's more, fudging it and thinking it doesn't matter, won't work . . . believe me it won't work.

I dithered about doing the deep lace edging, thinking it may look a bit "Marie Antoinette" but I wanted to knit the lace pattern and was pleased I did . . . compared to the stripes it was a doddle.

SO . . . onward into 2014 . . . no resolutions as such, but I have got a plan to help me do regular blog posts through the year, all will be revealed in the next post.