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.

Tuesday 29 April 2014

100 Flowers : Come on the Blues! #032, #033, #034

Spring is racing onward in our corner of Suffolk, warm days and sunshine have turned up the pace and the prelude of white and yellow is now a sea of blue . . .

#032 Mysotis arvensis


It's well worth encouraging Forget-me-nots to self seed around the garden )and they will!) the froth of tiny blue flowers makes a wonderful backdrop to other colours especially red and orange.

The tiny flowers are worth a closer look – and you can see why the little flowers were so loved by Victorian jewellery designers who loved sentimental symbolism, engraved into silver or made of blue beads or stones on brooches and lockets.

The scientific name mysotis means 'mouse ear' – referring to the shape of the soft velvety leaves and arvenis means 'of the field' - it loves to self-seed on open soil, like the vegetable patch or flower border. Of course you may need to weed some out, but leave some to flower and set seed for next year and as a snack for the Gold Finches.

Forget-me-nots are members of the Borage family, you can see the similarities in the plant structure . . .

#033 Borago officianalis


Another enthusiatic self-seeder! I pull up lots of seedlings (the young leaves can be cooked like spinach or added to soups) but I let a lot of Borage plants grow and flower – bees love them!

And the star shaped flowers are a beautiful rich blue colours - you can pull the star shaped petals from the stem and float in a cordial or G&T.

Borage has been used as a medicinal herb for thousands of year, the clue is in the name officinalis means 'of the officina', the store room of a monastery where medicine was kept.


Of course the iconic blue flower of England in Spring time is the Bluebell . . .

#034 Hyacinth non-scripta
(and H. hispanica)


The Bluebells in our garden are most likely to be the imported Spanish Bluebell (H. hispanica) rather than the smaller native Bluebells (H. non-scripta) of the local woodlands, actually they are likely to be hybrids between the two (H. x massartiana). Nevertheless they are beautiful and make the area beneath the Walnut tree near the Dragonfly Pond look like a patch of a Bluebell Wood. You can find out how to recognise a native Bluebell here.

If you've never walked in an English Bluebell Wood (or if you have but haven't for a while) you have about a week left before the spectacle begins to fade. We visited our nearest wood last week and the shimmering carpet of blue was breath-taking! Su has written about her local Bluebells on her blog this week, I think two wet years and the early Spring this year have resulted in bigger and taller flowers so find your nearest Bluebell Wood and enjoy them over the May Bank Holiday this weekend.


Sunday 20 April 2014

100 Flower : #031 Auriculas

It is Easter Sunday, so how apt to celebrate with the Fabergé Egg of garden flowers . . .

#031 Primula Auricula


If you follow me on Twitter or Instagram, you will have noticed that I've been bitten by the Auricula bug! It all began last Spring (although I have been eyeing them from afar for many years) I bought two plants from a local 'open garden' plant stall. My excitement increased when I found one pot contained two different plants! I obtained more – just cheap seedling Border Auriculas from local nurseries. Then, at a plant fair I bought an Alpine Auricula named 'Sandra'. In the autumn another afflicted gardener gave me two of her plants . . .  you see, Auriculas are pretty easy to grow and the plants can be split to make more plants.

'Larry' a gift from Lisa
I'm eagerly awaiting the flowers to open!

I don't usually get excited about pot-plants or alpines, but Auriculas are small treasures, like heirloom jewels – and like the tulip, they have a long history as 'florist flowers'. There is a fascinating blog-post here about the Huguenot families of Spitalfields in London and their love for these precious flowers.

Traditionally, Auriculas are displayed in an 'Auricula Theatre', this can be an elaborate contruction or just a simple shelf with a roof to keep off the rain (they don't like to get too wet or too hot). The 'Theatre' also allows the plants to be admired . . . like a collection of beautiful painted ceramics.

My Auriculas are displayed in an old wardrobe that has been painted dark slate grey inside and marbled on the doors. Each plant is potted in an old terracotta plant pot . . . the plants can then be arrange and re-arranged as they come into flower. It's part of the fun . . . like playing with toys!

When the flowers have faded the plants need to be kept in a shaded corner of the garden until winter, I then move mine onto a low shelf in our greenhouse until Spring when the flower buds start to appear. So I knew which plant was which, I gave my Auriculas descriptive names . . .

 'Celia's Pinked Tudor Velvet'

'Celia's Damson Compote'

'Celia's Apricot Cream'
 – very close to the wild Auricula, but with a slight pink tint to the reverse of the petals.

Then, yesterday Cliff and I just happened to go out for the day to the coast – we went to Dunwich where we had excellent Fish & Chips at the Flora Tearooms on the beach followed by doing this lovely walk (which I can thoroughly recommend if you are in the area). Well, I couldn't not call in to the famous Woottens of Wenhasten plant nursery, where they were holding their annual Auricula Day (oooops!).

There were lots of Auriculas on show – about 400 different ones! And most were for sale . . . it was a little bit overwhelming.

Of course I bought some – 

just four . . .

'Sirbol' a gold centred Alpine Auricula

'Trafalgar Square' a silver edged Fancy Auricula

And these . . . the anticipation of waiting for the flowers to open, is all part of the fun 

'Cuddles' another gold centred Alpine Auricula

and last but not least, one of the weird and wonderful 'Edges' . . .

I'm delighted with my new Auriculas (did you notice, I chose plants with small off-shoots that will be perfect to eventually split off to make new plants) and they'll be putting on a show in the theatre until late May.

Happy Easter!


Thursday 17 April 2014

100 Flowers : #030 Tulips

I'm a late convert to Tulips, maybe it was our holiday in Holland last summer that inspired me to plant pots of tulips to enjoy this Spring . . .

#030 Tulipa

Tulip ... various!

I like tulips mixed with other early bedding plants – violas and wallflowers – so they rise through a sea of colour. These were souvenir Tulip bulbs bought at the flower market in central Amsterdam, they are tall 'lily-flowered' and I think they may be called 'Claudia'. 

They have been flowering for ages! and I love how they open right out in the warm sunshine.

Here are some more 'lily-flowered' tulips, a present from Cliff a few years ago, they've been in the same planter all that time and grow up through blue-green grass.

Short stemmed, with beautiful blue-green and burgundy patterned leaves, these are 'Red Riding Hood'. The bulbs were thrown out 'past their sell by date' by a garden centre and we got a huge bag for free just before Christmas! I planted them in pots in the greenhouse and then transplanted them into large planters on our patio, over-planting them with self-seeded Forget-me-not plants. So this display cost absolutely nothing!

In the beautiful sunshine we've had this week, the flowers open wide revealing the black centre and golden stigmas and stamens.

Stray tulips that appear in overgrown corners, red made even brighter by the surrounding lush greens.

A row of orange tulips surrounded by self-seeded Forget-me-nots and Calendula. Among the blooms this year is one with flame patterns - is this the infamous 'Tulip Breaking Virus' that got the Dutch tulip fans so excited in the early 17th century? 

Even the the dying petals have a curious beauty, as if they are made from silk 

In a slightly shadier position these almost black 'Queen of the Night' tulips are yet to bloom

I like the contrast between our mostly natural and slightly wild garden and the artifice of tulips bred for their curious shapes and rich colours over centuries . . . first in Persia and then in Holland. They are among the earliest 'florist flowers', grown to be arranged and enjoyed, as ephemeral works of art.

You may have spotted, behind the Tulips in the above photo, some other 'florist flowers' . . . more of those in the next post.


Monday 14 April 2014

100 Flowers : #026 #027 #028 #029 Cabbages and Kings

What wonderful sunny weather we're having and the flowers bursting open so fast I can't keep up!

In the vegetable garden, inside the pigeon proof pen, the brassicas are quickly running to seed but it's worth pausing and admiring the flowers before uprooting them to make room for wigwams of peas.

In fact the provide a valuable food source for insects and I could leave some to set seed to save for sowing for a fresh crop of Kale.

#026 Brassica oleracea

Kale var. Ragged Jack

This is probably the easiest of Kales to grow, sown in late Spring last year. There were leaves to pick through the late summer, then it looks a bit forlorn in Winter before erupting with tender new shoots in early spring.

With the warmer temperatures and longer days the flower spikes suddenly shoot up almost over night!

Put aside thoughts of a cabbage gone to seed and look at the elegant flower spike, the bronze stalks, pale blue-green buds and pretty four-petalled flowers.

Four petals – that's what you have to look for to find the Cabbage cousins, here's a British country cousin . . .

#027 Alliaria petiolata

Garlic Mustard or Jack-by-the-hedge

Please don't dismiss this as a weed and pull it up, there are very good reasons to allow it to stay in the flower borders . . .
1: it is edible, it tastes of garlic (Alliaria means 'like alliums') and mustard and peps up a ham sandwich very nicely.
2: it is the food plant of the Orange Tip Butterflies' caterpillars.
3: it has zingy bright olive/lime green leaves that perfectly set off Forget-me-nots and Bluebells!
4: if you find you have too much of a good thing, Garlic Mustard is very easy to pulls up.

#028 Lunaria annua


Honesty is a biennial, the little plants grow one year then flower, make those pretty silver moon-like (Lunaria = moon-like) seed pods and die the next year.

I just let the seeds scatter and plants find their favoured places to grow – this one is growing almost in a large Lupin plant, it's happy and is putting on a glorious display of purple flowers.

Up close you can see Honesty flowers are exactly like the Kale flowers except for being bright purple instead of yellow.

#029 Erysimum cheiri


More biennial brassicas, I bought these as bedding plants last Autumn but I could easily have grown them from seed if I'd remembered to sow them and grow them just like the Kale plants. The small plants are sold either in containers or bare rooted to plant out into containers or flower beds in Autumn. It feels like a bit of a palava until in early April when they start to flower . . . just like a cabbage running to seed but in a good way.

The colours are rich and intense – yellows, golds, orange, russet, red, crimson and burgundy. The four petals are large, soft and velvety in appearance, but it is the fragrance that sets these cabbage-cousins apart – a rich warm spicy 'ginger biscuits' perfume that fills the air around them. I've planted some of the Wallflowers in containers with violas and tulips outside our kitchen door where the perfume can be enjoyed as we come and go.

Erysimum is from a greek word meaning to help/save because the Wallflowers were used in medicines. They were also once a popular cut flower, especially for fragrant posies – cheir = hand and anthos = flower. 

Wouldn't it be wonderful to fill the flowerbeds with Wallflowers?! I'm making a note to sow lots in June! 


Tuesday 8 April 2014

100 Flowers : #022 #023 #024 #025 dreaming of fruits to come

Before the blossom fades and is blown away in the stiff breeze, here are flowers that promise delicious fruits later in year . . .

#022 Prunus domestica

Greengage var: Cambridge Gage

Regular readers of PPPs will know how much I love Greengages, more specifically the best gage of all the very best fruit in the whole world* – the Cambridge Gage. This is a variation of the wild cherry plums that was found somewhere in a Cambridgeshire hedge, it reproduces by suckers which are of course identical to the parent tree. The blossom is one of the earliest top-fruit trees to flower so is vulnerable to late frost and cold dull weather when there will be no pollinating insects.

* my personal opinion

#023 Pyrus communis

Pear var: Beurre Hardy

Another fruit blossom vulnerable to a late frost or non-pollination because of inclement weather, a dessert pear. This one is Beurre Hardy, it's a young tree I'm attempting to train against our garden wall. So far we have only had 3 or 4 fruits . . . they where indeed delicious - sweet, juicy and butter-soft flesh.

#024 Ribes uva-crispa

Gooseberry var: Invicta

The warm spring weather means the flowers are fading fast and little fruits forming on the Gooseberry bushes, but I wanted to show the flowers because they are very pretty and quite unusual. Look at the little upturned rust coloured petals! When the fruit forms these will be the dry tuft or 'nub' on the bottom of the Gooseberry. 

And yes Gooseberries are a perfect accompaniment to rich Goose meat or with Mackerel, as the french name Groseille √† Maquereau suggests.

#025 Ribes rubrum

Currant var: White Versailles

Surprisingly a White Currant is a Red Currant (Ribes rubrum) without the colour, and because it has no bitter red colour the flavour is slightly sweeter. As you can see, the flowers are similar to those of the Gooseberry to which it is closely related, but they grow along long dangling stalks. White Currants can be made into the most beautiful sophisticated jellies or water ices . . . but unless I protect the ripening fruit form the birds it will be but a dream.

One thing you learn from growing you own fruit, is not to count your fruits before they and ripe and ready to pick. Blossom may promise the delights of sweet juicy fruits . . . but promises are there to be broken.

Meanwhile, a girl can dream!


Friday 4 April 2014

100 Flowers : #018 #019 #020 #021 Spring flower catch up!

"Where have all the flowers gone?" I hear you say. Well, what with racing to get a big print finishes, the holiday and then being knocked sideways by a cold virus, things have slipped and I need to catch up quick!

So here are a batch of four Spring flowers that have sprung up in the garden and soon will be gone until next year . . .

#018 Hyacinthus orientalis

Garden Hyacinth

I think I prefer Hyacinths naturalised in the garden than forced into flower early in pots (although they are lovely too, to scent the house on dull winter days, or even as cut flowers). I usually plant the spent bulbs of potted Hyacinths in the garden under shrubs. These are under the Cornelian Cherry, which is apt as they originate from the same part of the world – SW Asia, Syria, Turkey. By growing them outside they provide welcome food for early Bumblebees. 
I've just been reading about the seeds which have a little fleshy attachment called an 'elaiosome' (greek for 'oil' + 'body') which is full of irresistable nutritious food that ants can't resist. The ants take the seeds into their burrows, feast on the delicious snack and then, being very tidy creatures, they take the seed to the compost-heap zone of their burrow where it has the perfect environment to germinate and grow into a new bulb. A very good reason not to cut the seed heads off when the flowers fade.

#019 Ranunculus ficaria

Lesser Celandine 'Brazen Hussy'

Lesser Celandines are native British wildflowers, they can be invasive, and when we moved here 15 years ago there were areas of the garden infested with it. Then it disappeared! Hens eat Lesser Celandine! The plant was used in medicines and was known as 'Pilewort' because the knobbly little fig-shaped ('ficaria' = fig shaped) root tubers look like haemorrhoids. (Do hens get piles?)

But I missed the shiny yellow flowers that seem to radiate the sunshine, so when I saw this bronze leafed cultivar called 'Brazen Hussy' I couldn't resist and gave her a home near our 'Dragonfly Pond', to protect the roots from inquisitive beaks I covered her with an upturned wire hanging basket.

Celandine is a variation of 'chelidonia' which means Swallow, from the old tradition that the flower appears with the Swallows and disappears when they fly away. I haven't yet seen a Swallow, but they should be here soon.

#020 Fritillaria meleagris

Snakeshead Fritillary

A rare native wildflower that I am happy to grow in the damp grassy edge of the Dragonfly Pond. And it also is protected by an upturned wire basket, mainly so that its grass-like leaves aren't trampled before the flower stalks grow taller. As you can see, the buds have suffered from unauthorised pecking incidents!
The name 'Fritillaria' is Latin for 'dice box' and 'meleagris' means 'spotted like a guinea fowl' – both allude to the chequered/spotty pattern on the petals, like a gaming board or a guinea Fowl's feathers.

#020 Tussilago farfara


Like the Lesser Celandine, this is a native wildflower that can be very invasive. I've allowed it to stay in an area under our Walnut tree, I love the tufty yellow flowers that appear on stalks that look like asparagus; the flowers are an important nectar source for emerging queen Bumblebees. The large grey-green leaves that have the texture of felt, appear later. The flowers can self-pollinate and seed heads like super-fluffy dandelion clocks with follow the flowers. Coltsfoot also spreads by its roots which apparently look a bit like colt's hooves (I haven't checked), as the hens don't seem to eat it I think it's here to stay.

A folk-name for Coltsfoot was Coughwort as it was used in medicines (and is still used in herbal throat lozenges and syrups) to treat viral infections, colds, and coughs. Tussis means 'cough' and ago means 'to act on' (I could do with some of that this week!).

With Spring well and truly sprung, I need to catch up fast - more multiple flower posts with follow soon.