Entangled Roots

Unearthed, Photography’s Roots, at the Dulwich Picture Gallery, London, explores the entangled roots of photography and botany, effectively telling the story of photography through plants.

Snowdrops

In the main image accompanying this post, exquisitely painted shadows work alongside colour and light, creating a three dimensional effect. Snowdrop, Galanthus, from the Book of Flower Studies, ca. 1510–1515, The Master of Claude de France (named after his most important female commissioner, Claude, Queen of France). The Met, holder of the manuscript, writes: “The…

Besler’s Bulbs

​Daffodils or Narcissus pseudonarcissus from Basilius Besler’s sublime Hortus Eystettensis, first published in 1613. The Hortus Eystettensis illustrated more than 1,000 flowering plants from the gardens of the Prince-Bishop of Eichstatt, Germany. What a garden it must have been!  Although Besler’s name is associated with the work, he was an apothecary, not an artist. He…

Butterflies & Hearts

Petals, by James Sowerby (1757-1822) from A botanical drawing-book, or, An easy introduction to drawing flowers according to nature. First published in 1788.

Spring Messenger

“Spring is coming, Thou art come!” wrote William Wordsworth in his poem To The Small Celandine. He was delighted by the arrival of this flower, which promised the return of the sun “when we’ve little warmth, or none.” It may be an annoyingly persistent weed to some gardeners, but it is said to have been…

Vedas of the Violet

True Brahmin, in the morning meadows wet, Expound the Vedas of the violet (from The Gardener, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Quatrains) Violets have long held a reputation for inspiring finer feelings, often associated with the spirit of childhood and innocence. Culpeper introduces the flower as “a fine, pleasing plant… of a mild nature and in no…

Witch Hazel

The poem below, Witch Hazel, by Theodore Enslin, (American poet, 1925-2011) perfectly conveys the sting of clarity offered by Hamamelis, or witch hazel. Flowering in an otherwise blunted winter landscape, witch hazel is impossible to ignore. It draws the attention tight. Similarly, it is valued medicinally for its great astringency – tightening and strengthening blood…

Flower of Invisibility

At the darkest time of year, this resilient flower emerges from the snow. It can be easy to miss –  white petals camouflaged by their absence of colour, leaves still frozen; its underground root, black as earth. Folklore tells that if you scattered powdered Hellebore root at your feet as you walked, you would become…

January’s Flowers

At a time of year when many gardeners are poring over seed catalogues, this image relates to the very first published in England. Here we see January’s vase, from Twelve Months of Flowers by Henry Fletcher

Vegetal Altitude

Fantasy mountain showing plants growing at different altitudes, by François Hérincq, from Traité de botanique générale, Paris, 1860s.

Art of Geology

This wonderful geological cross-section of the Globe was produced in Paris in the 1860’s by François Hérincq as part of “Traité de botanique générale”. Sections labelled include trachyte, diorite, basalt, porphyry, granite, coal, quartz, ice and sea, as well as Triassic and Jurassic. The original text in French is reproduced below. COUPE GÉOLOGIQUE DU GLOBE.1….

Inside the bud

Digital study of a Camellia japonica bud, whole and in cross-section.

Blackthorn

Blackthorn’s associations with difficulties – and overcoming difficulties – come from its early spring blossoming, which was observed to coincide with periods of particularly harsh weather. Long and difficult winters came to be known as Black Thorn Winters. Common names for Prunus spinosa, the blackthorn, include heg-pegs, hedge-speaks, snag-bush and snags – for its thorns….

Bee Friendly

Seeds collected to attract a variety of pollinators in the heart shown here include varieties of Nigella, Scabious, Hollyhock, Cosmos, Didiscus and Coreopsis. A colourful summer bee-friendly patch can be heaven for humans too. It isn’t just in summer that bees and other pollinators need our help though. Friends of the Earth have a wonderful…

Nonsense Botany

The brilliance of Edward Lear’s “Nonsense Botany” (circa 1871-1877) is that it’s only a hair’s breadth from the truth. Created in an age obsessed with plants and their scientific classification, he married the anthropomorphism of plants’ common names with the pomposity of Latin nomenclature, added a twist of the absurd, et voila! Some say these…

Pennywort

This plant has been drawing my attention for a while, especially as it has stayed so green while everything else dies off for winter. Known as Pennywort or Pennypies (for its shape) and Navelwort (for the cute little dimple in the leaves’ middle), Umbilicus rupestris is a plant with some fondly given common names. It’s…

Three Birds Flying

If you’re looking for something new to grow from seed this coming spring, Three birds flying, Linaria triornithophora, is a fascinating, colourful and airy plant offering some lovely surprises. It is easy to grow from seed, flowers prolifically all summer, and is an unexpected treasure after dewfall or rain, as you will see in the…

Hart’s Tongue Fern

Evergreen, glossy and hardy, Hart’s tongue fern, Asplenium Scolopendrium, is a valuable plant for any gardener to consider. Here’s a look at it in its native woodland habitat, but it fits well in a lush tropical-style border with a rainforest feel…

Winter Light

The art and spaciousness of the winter landscape…

Study of an Iris

Study of a bearded iris, Iris Germanica. Bearded iris flower well in hot, sunny borders, where the rhizome can sit above soil level and “bake” in full sun. Divide clumps every three or four years to maintain prolific flowering. They bring their airy elegance to the late spring, early summer border…. More inspirational irises here….

Gracious Oak

In the Victorian Language of Flowers, the oak represented hospitality. With their capacious and sometimes conveniently hollow trunks, formed over hundreds or even over a thousand years, oaks are associated with tales of welcome, shelter, bravery and worship. Chêne chapelle oak in Allouville-Bellefosse, France, is between 800 and 1,200 years old. In its hollow trunk…

Tout Sweet

Get ready to start sowing sweet pea seeds. It may seem early, but December and January are good months for getting them off to a healthy start. Sweet peas offer so much – exquisite scent, amazing colour, and when the light shines through them, a miniature stained glass window. How can anyone not love them?…

Tulip Time

It’s tulip planting time. November and December are the best months to plant tulip bulbs. Plant in any soil, as long as it doesn’t get waterlogged. In pots, make sure there is good drainage. To be extra sure, throw in some horticultural grit under the bulb. Plant at least twice the bulb’s width apart, at…

Iris Dancing

Named after Greek goddess of the rainbow and messenger of the gods, irises signal spring and lead us into early summer. Their foliage can inspire at any time of year. “In every year there are days between winter and spring which rightly belong to neither… Things must take a turn… Across the drenched borders the…

Magnolia

One sleeting February day, while walking through the City of London, I happened to pass the church of St Giles without Cripplegate. It has been a site of worship since 1090; John Milton, author of Paradise Lost, is buried here. Survivor of various incarnations, reduced to a carapace in the Blitz, the church, now long-restored, sits low and settled. It is stranded like…

Blueprints

The botanical cyanotype prints of pioneer female photographer Anna Atkins (1799-1871) and her collaborator Anne Dixon (1799 – 1877).

Flower to Seed

Three superb plants to grow for their for seedheads – Papaver somniferum, the opium poppy; Lunaria annua, honesty; and Scabiosa stellata ‘sternkugel’, the drumstick scabious.

Magenta anyone?

Does colour have meaning in the garden? Why magenta has been viewed as a controversial colour by some gardeners…