Tuesday, 4 January 2022

Looking back on 2021


Last year it snowed in January. As well as snow, this is the month for reflection on the past year. When I look back I realise I didn`t post a single blog in 2021. It was a challenging year for all of us, starting with another lockdown. I used the enforced isolation to follow Este MacLeod's brilliant on-line art course, Imaginarium. A lot of the course used organic inspiration, like this cactus and these mushrooms: 

Then I painted a terrarium to house the mushrooms!
As my final piece for the course I painted this imaginary vase of flowers.
So, it was a good, creative start. I also got excited about the early flowers which appeared in the garden in February.

But later in February everything creative ground to a halt when my father had a catastrophic fall. He was hospitalised for a long time and finally returned home in April in a bedbound state. He died in September. Here he is in the good times, a force of nature.
Even though Dad had a team of professional carers to look after him, much of my emotional energy was taken up with supporting him and it gave me a lot of insight to how draining it is to be a long-term carer. Although the tulips came up as usual in the spring, this is the only picture I took of them:

I have searched through my galleries, but this is the last picture of flowers that I took throughout the year. Even when I arranged the flowers for Dad's coffin, I didn`t have the heart, or the inclination, to take a photograph of them. I am so pleased that Jessie loves flowers and she kept our joint instagram account (just.add.flowers) alive all year. She is also encouraging Cormac (already 2 and three quarters!) to see things that grow and to forage about in parks and in the garden. This little collection of autumnal offerings (with Tiger!) can`t help but make me smile.
I am really hoping that 2022 will be better and that some creative energy and some inspiration will return to me.

Happy New Year to you all. May 2022 bring everything you hope for

Friday, 18 December 2020

Classy green Christmas wreath


Happy Christmas everyone. Tomorrow is the Saturday before Christmas and usually I would be running a wreath workshop on this day. Alas, no workshops this year. Instead, I set myself the task of making a foliage wreath only out of the plants and trees growing in our garden. I was not planning to use a bought wire base, nor any moss or straw, nor any bling or dried materials. I wanted a classy, green wreath. It was something of a learning process and I am going to set out the stages I followed so you can do it yourself if you wish. The only item, other than foliage, which is essential is reel wire (see below for details). Beginning with the raw materials:
First of all I cut some branches for making the base - willow or vine is generally recommended, but neither of these grow in our garden, The branches need to be reasonably long (about 2-3 feet) and pliable. I decided to try three different possibilities - cotoneaster, lemon verbena and fuchsia. Then I needed some evergreen foliage - I chose rosemary (gorgeous smell), choisya, ivy, box and a spruce-like shrub we have growing (a bit out of control now!). It needed far more of everything than I thought. You will see the quantities as I go through the process below. I started by stripping the foliage off the branches:
I then bent the branches into a circle, wrapping the branches around each other and roughly weaving them together. The fuchsia was useless - it didn`t have enough bend in it and just snapped. The cotoneaster was by far the best - pliable and robust at the same time. The lemon verbena smelled wonderful, but its branches were a bit brittle. I managed to incorporate some of it, just for the fragrance. I aimed to make (and managed it!) a base of about 12 inches diameter. It needed at least 12 branches - here it is:
The next stage is to make lots of bunches of mixed foliage. Each bunch needs to be about the same length and have roughly the same amount of material in it. I used 2-3 pieces of ivy, 2-3 pieces of rosemary, 2-3 pieces of spruce, one piece of choisya and one short piece of box. I made the bunches so that there were two short pieces on the left side which would be the inner part of the wreath. I wasn`t quite sure how many bunches I would need, so I made about 6 and then decided how many more I would need once I had attached these. In the end I used 12 bunches. I like to tie my bunches together with a soft florist's wire which is wrapped in a kind of raffia. Here is an example of a bunch - you can see the shorter pieces of spruce and box on the inside left:
The next stage is to attach the reel wire to the base. You can buy reel wire from Sarah Raven, Amazon or any florist wholesaler. If you live in Sheffield, I will give you some.
Next you lay your first bunch on the base and wrap the wire around the neck of the bunch and the base 2-3 times, keeping those short stems on the inside of the wreath. You need to pull the wire quite tightly to hold the bunch in place. Like this:
You can now lay the next bunch on top of the first, making sure you cover the binding point with the following bunch. Keep on adding bunches.
Just keep on adding bunches, turning the wreath as it builds. Try to keep the bunches evenly spread.
Once the wreath is complete you could just tie a piece of string or ribbon to it and hang it from a nail on your door. My method is to put a piece of ribbon around the wreath and then attach it to the top of a door. I also decided to add a bow. So....... first I got the hanging ribbon in place and then I attached a strong piece of wire to the bow and pushed it right through to the back of the base. Here is the result:
I am very pleased with this. It cost absolutely nothing! It is made out of organic material which needs to be cut back at this time of year anyway and it is about as ecologically friendly as it could possibly be. I also think it looks great - cool, green, classy, perfect. It also has a lovely fragrance as you walk into our front porch. Why not have a go yourself?

Saturday, 21 November 2020

The last of the summer flowers

So...it's getting darker and the garden flowers are coming to their end. Our garden does pretty well in the late summer/early autumn with cosmos, dahlias, japanese anemones, roses and scabious lasting well into November. Using these late flowers I put the same bouquet in three different vases to show an October bride the impact that vases can have on the look that is created:

The autumn has delivered a wonderful crop of late tomatoes, cotoneaster berries and chile peppers - a fantastic hit of red.

Even this week (late November) we have ammi visnaga, cosmos, scabious and dahlias still hanging on, even if they are beginning to get a bit ragged around the edges.

And here is an abundant vase full of these late autumn beauties.
This week I bought a few buckets of flowers and foliage from my wholesaler in Cornwall. It was so lovely to get my hands on a great range of flowers again so late in the year. It is March since I last ran a workshop and had a delivery of Cornish flowers. I have been working with them over the last couple of days, and taking photos of them....I am hoping to get a couple of images that will work for Christmas cards. Here is a taster:

My thoughts are turning to Christmas flowers as we approach December. I find that flowers can raise my spirits during these difficult, dark lockdown days. If you are feeling a bit low, why not buy yourself a lovely bunch of flowers whilst you are out doing your shopping? Keep safe and well everyone.


Sunday, 12 July 2020

Flowers in lockdown

It has been a quiet few months for Meadowsweet. No weddings and no workshops, and to make it all worse, my webhost ceased to operate which wiped out my website overnight. But when I reflect over the last few months, I realise that I have done quite a lot with flowers, but quietly. It was my grandson's first birthday right at the start of the lockdown and I picked these April flowers from the garden as a virtual present. If you look you will see narcissi, tulips, hyacinth, muscari, wallflowers, hellebore and, best of all, snakeshead fritillary.  Here are the same flowers popped into a jam jar:
Then a couple of weeks later it was my daughter, Jessie's, birthday. So I made the best virtual birthday bouquet I possibly could from our garden flowers. I photographed the bouquet outside and inside our house.
I almost always have a small vase, jug or jam jar of flowers on our dining table, and these were the beautiful, simple flowers from one day in April.
In May I followed most of an on-line art course. I liked some of it, but not all. The best bit was making shapes with the cardboard inside part of a loo roll, potato carving and just a finger. We used water colour which makes good layers and I used an ink pen which has been sitting dormant in a drawer for years. The best things I painted were these flower pictures.
In the Spring a dear friend died. She loved bright yellow flowers and I made another virtual bouquet in remembrance of her. It makes me smile to look at the colours and to think of her vibrant, happy personality.
In my last blog I posted lots of pictures of tulips. Once they had faded, Spring had a second wind and our front garden was filled with glorious irises and alliums.
Our summer garden is now coming slowly to life and we have cosmos, flowering mint, scabious, cornflowers, hebe, lavender, sweet peas, borage, love-in-a-mist and alliums. Here is a flavour of it all.
I am expecting that we will be wearing face coverings more in the coming weeks, so I decided to make some. There are lots of patterns available and I have gone for the pleated version. I got my sewing machine out and made them out of old shirts. For myself, I used a suitably floral fabric.
I am looking forward to our lives opening up now. I hope you are all keeping healthy and safe and that you are venturing out into the world more...perhaps with some interesting face coverings that you have run up!