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…

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…

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).

Magenta anyone?

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