in wonderland

Today started with the hookah-smoking caterpillar. What I saw under the leaves of a calla lily,  Zantedeschia aethiopica, looked like the one illustrated in Alice in Wonderland. It turns out to be an Elephant Hawk-Moth caterpillar, Deilephila elpenor. Impressive, but not classically beautiful, to the fainthearted, as you can see….   In its metamorphosis it will have beautiful pink and green wings. The…

cupid’s dart

The bud of Cupid’s Dart, before the flower emerges is silvery, iridescent…shimmering like fish scales. It looks deceptively like one of autumn’s gifts, a seed head. Yet the gift, in reverse, is that from early to late summer many flowers will follow, not decline. Some have compared the flowers to cornflowers, but I would say they are like a…

scarlet tiger

Day flying moths…. Aren’t moths meant to be those creatures of the night flying romantically – tragically – into flames, representing ill-fated passion? Drawn towards a light that must consume them? Not all. I am pleased to begin to encounter moths that fly in the light, revealing all their beauty to the day. The scarlet tiger moth. What a name and what…

painted lady

To update on a much earlier growing from seed post, back in Dec 2015: Yes, sweet pea “painted lady” lives up to expectations in a lovely and surprising way. In the main image for this post, the blushed red colours are intense while growing on the plant, especially in contrast to the white. Once the flowers are picked, give them time to age in a…

three birds flying

Two springs ago I sowed some seeds that intrigued me. Three birds flying is the common name, Linaria triornithophora the Latin. They are also known as three birds toadflax. In this, their first year to flower, there are flocks of them in the garden, only occasionally restricted to three (more like a Hitchcock movie than…

the messenger

In the language of flowers, a Victorian fad akin to tweeting and texting, coded messages were exchanged by means of floral symbolism. Some were romantic, some more risqué. The narcotically night-scented tuberose indicated “dangerous pleasures”, while to send an iris carried the more mysterious meaning “a message”. The intention, presumably, was to leave the recipient wondering exactly what the message within the message might…

magnolia

There is fossil evidence of plants in the magnolia family thriving on earth 95 million years ago, before the time of bees. Perhaps it is this ancient lineage that gives the plant its meaning in the language of flowers: nobility. Seeing a magnolia in flower today, against leafless branches, in a cold blue light, I was reminded…

green blurs

Have you read The Cabaret of Plants (Botany and The Imagination) by Richard Mabey? He always manages to share an original and – I think – vital perspective on plant life. This latest book is no exception. My first post of the New Year is inspired by a phrase he uses in the introductory chapter. Questioning why there is such a lack of respect…

borage blue

I’m not going to fully sing the many medicinal praises of borage, Borago officinalis, chapter and verse, with all the scientific research that has gone into this miraculous flower. Other than to say, this plant is one to accompany me through winter, in the form of starflower oil (borage seed) supplements. This resilient plant delights…

seed to flower to seed

Scabious papermoon, or Scabiosa stellata sternkugel, could be grown for its seed-heads alone, but its delicate petals of palest blue-tinged-white, and visits from butterflies and bees, make it a subtle delight when in flower… Fans of Chiltern Seeds may recognise this plant as the cover star of their 2014 catalogue – which was my inspiration to grow…