Culture

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…

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