Blossom as Blossom

With frosty temperatures down to minus four, forecast tonight, I’ll be protecting my container olive tree and dwarf cherries with horticultural fleece. In the picture here, from Les Fleures Animée, 1847, Grandville personifies the peach tree as a shivering young woman espaliered against a wall. She’s dressed for a ball, not for the weather. In…

Chemistry & Light

Pioneering American photographer Imogen Cunningham (1883–1976) is quoted as saying: “The formula for doing a good job in photography is to think like a poet.” Yet in her plant photography, she combined visual poetry with a scientific eye…

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…

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…

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….

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…

Winter Light

The art and spaciousness of the winter landscape…

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…