Sunlight Attack II

Experimental picture taken looking up into a rose

The last few days, we’ve had enough rain to kickstart the process of re-greening the North of England’s meadows, and I started to feel a little celebration of sunshine might not go amiss. Isn’t that the way it always is?

My first is a decidedly strange (for me) shot of roses growing overhead – so high, they ruled out the little dead-heading needed for a conventional shot. At the time I took it, I was half-imagining some form of caption in the top left: a concise one like Dog Days or Wine & Roses. As the end result captures more of their spirit than I expected, I’m leaving it alone. For now.  Continue reading

Flowers From The Farm: Locally Grown and Eco-Friendly

Roses, mallows, sweet peas, and antirrhinums with foliage

The topic of flower miles is one of the secrets in the closet of the cut flower industry. I travel a good few miles myself so can’t be too judgemental. It’s easier to grow big blousy roses in cool mountains, near to the equator where the days and nights don’t vary in length that much during the year – places like Kenya and Colombia. The supply chains that bring the roses from overseas farms to our homes are longer and more complicated than most people would think.

I remember watching a flower auction in Japan – most flowers we buy in Europe come through a similar auction hub in Holland. If you know how much care, thought and anxiety go into producing flowers in any part of the world, it’s chastening to see them reduced to commodities.

Boxed up flowers are opened briefly on stage and shown to assembled buyers in a room laid out like a lecture theatre. Models trying not to wilt after a long distance flight without water would seem a good analogy, but the flowers had better not be wilting at this point as they have many more miles to travel. Buyers hold their nerves as the price ticks down like a clock. The quicker they press, the more they’ll pay per box. If someone else snaps them up first, it’s game over.

White mallow flowers

You might have noticed by now that some of the flowers illustrated simply can’t be transported that way. They have been grown by Flowers From The Farm’s members for their display at RHS Hampton Court Flower Show. The society promotes British grown flowers that don’t accrue air miles, being sold as locally as possible.  Continue reading

Sunlight Attack

Mossy bank with wild geranium leaf backlit by sun

Usually there are plenty of opportunities to pick an overcast day if we’re planning to visit a garden or, if not, at least chances to wait for a cloud. But this year is different. Unrelenting sunshine is not usually a big issue in northern England but Texan-style blue skies (with not a cloud in sight all day long) are all the rage.   Continue reading

Flowers: Familiar And Less So

Trillium flower with three leaves and three petals

White trillium with a delicate, pink, central stripe

Wild Daffodil has piqued my curiosity today with her mystery flower, which I cannot identify, and reminded me of a couple of mystery plants of my own. So I decided to share a few well-loved flowers as bait for flower lovers, then throw some less-well-known ones in to see if anyone can help either of us out by letting us know what they are.

It’s not often I see a British flower growing outdoors that is a completely new species to me, mainly because I’m one of nature’s flower stalkers. Just like any butterfly or bee worth their salt (or perhaps that should be worth their nectar), there’s few flowers that don’t capture my attention. The trouble is, I don’t always know what they are, or even whether they are flowers at all. This green mound for example.

Leafy green flower emerging from the ground

Petasites japonicus, identified by Diane (Mystery A)

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Prolific Shrub And Rambler Roses

A cluster of pink roses

The best roses are prolific. Don’t get me wrong – I do enjoy spotting a spindly climbing rose around the entrance to an old cottage or leaning in a corner of a graveyard as much as the next person. And I try not to judge. Tough enough, these roses give the impression that they are barely clinging on to life. Often they are red ones, throwing out a long, languidly arching stem to one side or the other that they wave around romantically in the wind, careless of their own mortality. Those are the ones that can get away with the merest peppering of tatty blooms and still provoke a genuine ‘ooh!’ or an ‘aah…”, until I pull out a camera, of course, when the ‘ooh!’ usually turns to an ‘oh!’ in an instant.

No, give me the prolific ones, where bloom competes with bloom for its moment in the full sun.

Ballerina roses

I don’t know the name of the pink rose at the top, but the second one is Rosa ‘Ballerina’, a shrub rose (technically a hybrid musk) that liberally smothers itself in flowers. The young flowers are bee targets, like fried eggs, dressed up in pink edges for a garden party. The elderly flowers lost their pink days ago, paling to white, and making a lovely contrast.  Continue reading

Four Floral Designs From Flower Shows

A floral design with wool, twigs, small leaves and yellow pom poms

Variegated geranium leaves, yellow pompons, wool swizzles and twigs make up one of my favourite designs I’ve seen at a flower show. Yes, it’s tiny and the florist hasn’t spent a fortune on flowers, but it wows me with its colours, poise and confidence.

The judges’ card noted some fault or other – from memory, it lacked flowers or content. I could quote a poem that is equally brief and perfect, but I’ll forbear. The brief might have been ‘Pack ‘Em In’, for all I know, in which case, this would have been highly commended:

Dish of flower buds and orchids for a wedding

Ivory, pink and hints of green lift a white floral centrepiece that would be perfect for a traditional summer wedding. Orchids, rosebuds, peony buds, chrysanthemums and lisianthus feature, with tiny sprigs of gypsophila and hebe, at a guess. I think the clusters of flowers and tiny green buds are Kalanchoe ‘Calandiva White’. Silver-grey mohair yarn trails delicately over. I enjoy the expertise shown here: the ability to create such an even height and the tapestry effect that prevents open ‘black holes’ that can appear when floral designs are photographed.  Continue reading

Variations On A Theme: Rose, Peony Or Camellia?

Camellia with many petals

When I first started working with roses and discovered I was going to need to distinguish between 30 or 40 pinks and know their names, I resorted to flash cards: the kind young children use to learn words. In no time at all I was well on the way to a lifetime of floral nitpicking. Is a the shape of a double flowered rose technically a shallow cup, recurved, a pompon or a chalice? That kind of thing.

So I often notice when people mistake a peony or a camellia for a rose, even if I’d have to concede that their colours and forms are essentially the same.

Roses with many petals

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