Thursday, 24 April 2014

'What is a Weed?' with Free Illustrated Quote to Download

You are welcome to download and print or simply 'pin' this
300 dpi, A4-size illustration of Emerson's quotation if you wish

We gardeners generally think of weeds as ‘the enemy’, something to root out and hopefully banish forever from our flower beds and vegetable patches.

But years ago I heard the saying:

‘A weed is just a flower growing in the wrong place’ 

And that sparked my interest in how we define exactly what is a weed and what is not.

And how do we distinguish between a ‘wild flower’ and a weed?

It seems to me that the answer to both depends entirely on the context.

My little garden is full of Valerian, Mountain Cornflowers, Snow in Summer and Forget-me-nots, all flowers that some people would regard as weeds. And yet I think they’re very pretty and my garden is often admired!

And some would claim that the white flowers of the Bindweed are no less pretty than the Morning Glories to which they are closely related – they’re just growing in the wrong place!

And here's another definition -

“They’re weeds only if you don’t know how to use them” 

Some, so-called weeds are useful to anyone who knows about herbs. 

Of course, the medicinal uses for Valerian are well known. And even the dreaded dandelions that plague the little green-ish patch I pretentiously call my 'lawn', have some medicinal properties, including use as a diuretic, though I'm definitely not recommending you try them!

Why else would the French name for the Dandelion be ‘Pis-en-lit’ (English Piss-a-bed)? 
NOT my lawn but the grass verges around the
Fire Station on the opposite side of the road -
obviously the source of my healthy dandelion crop!

And of course, where would we be without the dandelions in Dandelion and Burdock, a top favourite with me as a child, though I think synthetic flavourings have replaced the real things these days! 

Here's yet another 'weed' quotation/definition -

“A weed is a plant that has mastered every survival skill except for having learnt to grow in rows.” Doug Larson.

A particularly healthy-looking weed I spotted
by the roadside!

A solitary Green Alkanet grew in an alley or 'loke', as they call them in Norfolk, and I passed it daily on the way to my screenprinting workshop, back in the 1980s. I was so taken by the way its tiny, brilliant blue flowers contrasted with the large green leaves and the pattern they made as they increased in size towards the ground, that one day I decided to sketch it. 

All these years later, I've used that sketch to persuade the Green Alkanet into 'rows' in this repeating pattern!

I’m afraid that by this last definition, if I were a plant, I’d almost certainly be a weed! 

How about you?

Thursday, 17 April 2014

What does a Daisy mean to you?

What do you think of when you hear the word ‘daisy’? 

My first thoughts are of the little wild daisies that grow in my lawn, followed by the tall, semi-wild Ox-eye Daisies that my father loved to grow on his allotment. Or the Michaelmas Daisies that my mother grew in our garden, to provide some colour in Autumn - but which refuse to thrive for me! And then there’s one of my favourites, the white Marguerite, especially when grown in a pot . . .

As if that weren’t enough, there are actually so many more types of daisy – click HERE to read about five of them – and they come in all sorts of colours too. These are from a photo of a friend's garden that I made into a screenprint years ago:

But for my new April Birth Month Flower cards I’ve chosen the little daisies, that we used to make daisy-chains as children. 

I made the motif from a handpainted collage as that seems to add depth and texture to what could otherwise have been quite a bland illustration.

The symbolic meaning of the Daisy is: innocence, loyal love, hope and purity and they can represent, ‘I’ll never tell’ so can be given to a  friend as a promise to keep a secret.

You can read more interesting facts about daisies HERE.

But when I think of daisies, I think of cheerfulness and sunshine and that's the message they often convey in greeting cards and other situations that call for something akin to a smiley face! Maybe that’s because they open early in the morning and love the full sun upon their faces?

I’ll let you into a secret; when I saw that the Daisy was the Birth Month Flower for this month, I thought it was going to be really hard to come up with ideas for patterns that I would be enthusiastic about. 

How wrong I was! This one unpretentious little flower, nearly always regarded as a weed, soon had the design ideas flowing and flowing . . . and I’ve ended up wanting to carry on and make more!

to see my full
Daisy Chain

Thursday, 10 April 2014

Easter Parade -

There’s a saying, ‘Jack of All Trades and Master of None’. 

And when I look at the Easter Cards I’ve designed for my online stores, I wonder whether maybe that could apply to me! 

I’ve used no fewer than nine different mediums – though when trying to define my ‘signature style’, people told me that no matter what medium I used, they would always recognize my work - though nobody told me what it was that they recognized and maybe I'd rather not know!

I wonder whether that’s true of this hotchpotch of Easter Greeting Cards that I’ve made into a kind of ‘Easter Parade’ – or whether it really matters?

(of course there's also some digital input in the borders and lettering on all of these Easter Greeting Cards)



Watercolour Pencils

Pen and Wash
(Ink and Watercolour)

Soft Pastels

Oil Pastels

Hand-painted Paper Collage

A mixture of Hand-painted and Digital

and finally - a Photograph

The trouble is, I get bored sticking to one medium and when there are so many to choose from, it seems such a waste not to try them all!

I don't think very many Easter Cards are sent in the UK - at least, I don't know anyone who sends them. But if you are looking for Easter cards to send, there's a good chance you'll find something you like in my Easter Parade of different styles!

for more
Easter Bunny Mugs

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Sweet Peas in April?

Some of the ‘official’ Birth Month flowers have really surprised me!

They don’t seem to be in quite the right months - at least not for part of the UK, where I live. But the one that has really made me wonder who decided each month's flowers, and where they live, is the Sweet Pea – one of the April Birth Month flowers.

I love Sweet Peas! 

They are one of my favourite flowers. They represent everything I love about flowers: the fragrance, the colours and the diaphanous, almost ethereal look of their petals!

To me they seem as if they were designed especially for painting in watercolours and my Sweet Pea greeting cards and gifts have been very popular.

Sweet Pea Bookplate Round Stickers

But April is far too early in the year for Sweet Peas in my garden. According to the seed packets, April is the month for sowing them outdoors. 

In the past I have sown them outdoors in the Autumn, just like the Broad Beans, and that has produced slightly earlier blooms. But the past couple of years I’ve been so busy in the run-up to Christmas that sowing the Sweet Peas was the last thing on my mind!

This year, I experimented with sowing them indoors (in March) in biodegradable egg boxes and toilet roll tubes to make planting out easier and less of a shock to their systems. 

And it seems to be working well. They look as if they’ll be ready to plant outside by the end of the month, ready to flower in July.

While I think that watercolour is generally the best medium for painting Sweet Peas, back in the 1980s I screenprinted a Sweet Pea pattern in a slightly Art Nouveau style and made a roller blind for my kitchen door to the garden.

Later I painted the design in gouache and used it for a bookmark in my Zazzle store. 

An American bride-to-be with a particular liking for blue Sweet Peas came across it when she searched online for blue Sweet Peas for her Wedding Invitations. Apparently mine was the only design with a Blue Sweet Pea! Together, by email, we worked out the layout for her invitations, which I felt was a tremendous honour and a reminder of how thankful I am for the wonders of modern technology!

An alternative Birth Month Flower for April is the humble Daisy. 

And when I gave my lawn its first haircut of the year, back in March, there were already daisies amongst the grass  - and other weeds. So watch out for my new pattern for April – Daisies! 

In the meantime, you might like to take a look at some more of my many 'Sweet Pea' greeting cards and gifts: here's the link -

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Where Flowers Bloom so does Hope

This is an A4 size sheet, 300 dpi, so please feel free to save and print if you wish
- or just 'pin' it to spread a little springtime Hope around!

Where flowers bloom so does hope - so true!

Who can see a beautiful garden – or even just an early bud unfolding – and not feel a surge of hopefulness!

Flowers are full of life – in fact I think they are, in many ways, a wonderful metaphor for life. 

And ‘Where there’s Life, there’s Hope’ as the saying goes. ‘Dum Spiro, Spero’ – the motto of my ‘house’ at boarding school. ‘While I breathe, I hope.’

These wallflowers are flowering
very early this year! I usually expect
them in May, to bridge the gap
between spring and summer!

When the first spring flowers appear, snowdrops, crocuses and finally the daffodils, bringing a much-needed splash of colour to our dreary winter gardens, we very much hope that spring is not far away. 

Occasionally it snows on the daffodils, winter just reminding us that we can never be too sure that we’ve seen the last of him! But when we have snow that late in the year, it never lasts long. A fleeting glimpse of a Winter Wonderland and it’s gone, thawing before our eyes!

Hope, of course, like all good things, can get a bad reputation if it’s misused. 

Have you heard of the ‘Hope Hook’? When we keep banging away at trying to solve a problem, long after we should have taken on board that there’s no real solution and that it’s time to let go - that's when we’re caught on the ‘hope hook’. That’s when a strong dose of realism, possibly laced with acceptance, is needed.

But don’t confuse healthy realism with defeatism. 

Defeatism, loss of hope, is what characterises depression, that ‘so what?’ ‘why bother?' 'what’s the point?’ attitude that most of us experience briefly from time to time. And if you have ever been deeply depressed or met someone who is, I’m sure you’ll agree that it’s by the lack of ‘life’ that you’ll recognize true depressive illness.

Of course we can all refuse to hope so that we are never disappointed. But then we never really live!

Hope is such a commonly used word that we tend to take it for granted! ‘hope to see you soon’, ‘hope you are well’, ‘hope the weather will hold out . . .’ ‘hope someone will like my work enough to buy it!’ 

Hope is not quite the same thing as ‘expectation’; with 'hope' there’s always the chance that our hopes will not be fulfilled. And it's worth remembering that sometimes, when they are, there’s an element of luck involved.

When we sow seeds in our gardens – or window boxes! – we have no guarantee that they will grow into such beautiful and often fragrant, flowering plants. The seeds are so tiny and there are all sorts of hazards like adverse weather and bugs to contend with. 

A daffodil bulb, planted in late summer, looks very much like a dried up, well-past-its-sell-by-date onion. And yet we hope that it will survive months of waterlogged or frozen ground and push its way up through the soil to lift our hearts in springtime – and it usually does!

When Pandora opened the lid of the forbidden box, releasing all the evils, diseases and other ‘nasties’ into the world, out flew Hope as well. The myth teaches us that without Hope, like Private Frazer in ‘Dad’s Army’, we’d all be ‘doomed’.

Fortunately, for most of us, it is part of our nature to hope – Alexander Pope in his 'Essay on Man', possibly quoted from a Roman playwright, wrote, ‘Hope springs eternal in the human breast . . .’  Let's hope so!

And, without turning into insufferable 'Polyannas', let’s remind ourselves to be hopeful. 

And even more importantly, I think, let’s make sure we are (realistically) encouraging to all around us so that they too have good reason to hope!

(Oh dear - I remember when this song was new and very popular,
 though I was a teenager by then;
and I hate to admit it, but when I was younger, I did have my hair in ringlets,
 rather like one of the children in the clip!)

Thursday, 20 March 2014

The Arrival of Spring and with it the Golden Daffodils

Top right: my watercolour daffy-down-dillies pattern
Bottom row: all the various coordinating patterns
Top left my faux-patchwork pattern using the original desing and some of the coordinates

So now we’re well into March and Spring is definitely well underway here in South-East Wales! 

Lesser Celandine springing up everywhere at the moment -
these are nestled at the foot of one of the mature trees in
Bailey Park, just across the road from me.

A couple of questions have been on my mind and searching the internet has only provided me with partial answers. Maybe you can help me out with the second one?

Forsythia in my rather wild
front garden

Question 1 – why are so many of the early spring flowers yellow? 

There are primroses, crocuses, forsythia and of course, the 'host of golden daffodils' that Wordsworth celebrates!

A Google search quickly revealed that bees and other flying insects are attracted to yellow and that helps the plants to pollinate and ensure the survival of the species. (Later in the year, when flowers are more multi-coloured, the centres, where the pollen is held, are still invariably yellow).

This also answers the question of why my yellow crocuses are pecked to death by the birds, whereas the purple ones are left free to grow undisturbed – the birds are after the insects that were attracted to the yellow flowers!

Here you can see the damaged remains of the
yellow crocuses in contrast to the thriving purple ones!

But I couldn’t find an answer to my second question –

Question 2 – why are the yellow flowers normally followed by blue and purple ones? 

Voilets, bluebells, purple crocuses, harebells, irises - and of course this wonderful purple Aubretia, that has escaped from my garden and attached itself to the huge hedge of evergreens that runs down the side of my house.

My runaway Aubretia thrives on the outside of my hedge where it gets plenty of sun.
Don't you just love flowers that spread outside of their boundaries, sharing
their loveliness with passers-by! (I'm training my climbing roses and honeysuckle to do that too.)

I'm sure Mother Nature has her reasons for blue to follow yellow! 

Anybody know the answer?

iPod Touch 4g Case to Personalize Faux Patchwork iPod Case-Mate Cases

to browse more
gifts and greeting cards

Thursday, 13 March 2014

Spring Sunshine to celebrate Norooz and the Vernal Equinox!

Spring Sunshine Repeating Pattern and some coordinates

What a change in our weather! 

The interminably long and stormy winter has given way, at last, to warm, dry sunny days with brilliant blue skies. Spring has definitely arrived here in Wales!

It’s already our ‘meteorological spring’ – that one began on March 1st. But there’s another week to go before the Spring Equinox on March 20th, which most people regard as the start of Spring. And that falls around the same time as the Persian New Year, Norooz, which you can read all about here.

Chic Turquoise Lumbar Pillow: Daffodils Polka Dots

The start of spring seems like a very good time to celebrate a new year, with all the new beginnings in Nature appearing! 

But it’s a very busy time for the greeting card designer! Not only do we have St David’s Day Cards, Easter Cards and Mother’s Day cards to work on, as well as, maybe, March Birthday Cards – it’s also time for our St Patrick’s Day Cards . . .  and then there’s Norooz to think about as well! 

Just as well I designed mine while the weather was still wintry, before I was tempted out into my garden! 
But it was only when the rain eased off and the temperature began to rise that I thought about making a Spring Door Wreath! 

It would never have occurred to me if it weren’t for Pinterest and it was only because I found an old wreath base amongst my Christmas decorations that I began to take the idea seriously. 

When I looked more closely at the base I’d found, I decided it would be a shame to remove the dried flowers from it and, with a bit of refurbishing, it looks quite at home against the white boards on my landing.

So, having decided not to use this wreath base after all, I set about looking online to see where I could buy a new similar base – and immediately came across some excellent instructions for making my own!

(instructions from 'Modern Country' a blog that I'll definitely be returning to!)

I have plenty of honeysuckle and ivy in my garden to provide the materials. 

The honeysuckle opposite my kitchen window is where the sparrows congregate for a gossip and the blackbirds have even nested in it a couple of times so I would have preferred to take what I needed from the ivy!

But knowing how tough ivy is when I try to remove it from places where it shouldn’t be spreading to, I was really surprised to find that it was more inclined to snap than the honeysuckle. 

Here are a few photos of the various stages to prove I did actually make it from scratch - which still amazes me!

Sorry about the difference in colours - it is the same wreath
but I changed to using my 'proper' camera for the final pics
because I'm not yet very good at taking photos with my phone!

Wrapping the last ‘binding’ round was slightly scary – I was sure the stems would break. But I found that as long as I bent them gently, a little at the time, they cooperated perfectly. (I also talked soothingly to them and I'm sure that helped!)

When I tried to photograph the (almost) finished wreath on my front door,
the flash made the Edwardian glass panels sparkle so much it really detracted from the
wreath - so here it is, hanging from a picture hook in my bedroom!

(A florist in town, where I bought some of the silk flowers, told me that Old Man's Beard (clematis vitalba) from the hedgerows is excellent for wreaths too.)

So have I inspired you to make your own Spring Wreath - from scratch? I hope so and if you do, THIS is where you need to begin. 

I'm sure you all know by now that I'm no perfectionist and patience isn't my strong point; I lose interest in anything that can't be completed in a day or so - painting, dress-making, wreath-making . . . so if I can do it, I'm sure you can too!

And I'd love to see how they turn out if you'd like to send me your (low-res) photos to include in a future blog post! 


to browse more of my
Spring Sunshine