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

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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! 


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Spring Sunshine

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Dragons and Daffodils for St David's Day

A new month, a new Birth Month Flower – the Daffodil! 

And for once it seems just right – when I think of daffodils, I always think of March, although I took this photo in my garden way back in the middle of February!

But the Daffodil is very appropriate for March for another reason as well. 

March 1st is the Feast of St David, the patron saint of Wales and the Daffodil is  one of the national emblems of Wales. So it all slots together rather nicely.

I get the impression that St David’s Day is celebrated more enthusiastically in communities around the world that have a Welsh connection than it is here in Wales. The Los Angeles festivities certainly outdo anything I’ve come across here in Wales.

Here's what I spotted in the window of one of our charity shops -

And this is how St David's Day is celebrated in Los Angeles -

You can get more details

But I can only really speak for Abergavenny, which is so near the border with England that it’s full of English people like me. 

And even here the younger schoolchildren wear the traditional Welsh costume to school on March 1st. Tesco had the outfits and other Welsh paraphernalia on sale well before Valentine’s day!

I’ve been working on a pattern of Welsh national emblems for my Posh and Painterly Cymru store. The daffodil, the leek, the harp and the dragon, as well as the little girl in Welsh dress.

I couldn’t help giving the dragon a bit of a cheeky expression and I hope this won’t be regarded as an irreverent depiction of one of the main Welsh symbols! I think I’m influenced by the fact that on the whole the Welsh have an enviable sense of humour!

I noticed it almost as soon as I moved here in 2002. I went to concert given by a Male Voice Choir – South Wales, especially the area known as 'The Valleys', is famous for its choirs. It was quite a solemn affair and some of the singing was extremely moving. 

So it took me aback somewhat when the interval arrived and the conductor of the choir morphed seamlessly into a hilarious stand-up comedian!

Around the same time, I heard on the BBC Wales news that the number of prescriptions for anti-depressants in Wales far exceeds that of the rest of the UK, per head of population. And suicide rates are also higher. So maybe that sense of humour hides a darker side to the Welsh personality.

But surely the daffodils are an antidote to the gloom! 

It has certainly been one of the gloomiest winters I can remember even though I haven’t been much affected by the weather at first hand. It has been relatively mild, though I’ve worn a raincoat far more often than usual. 

But so many people have been far less lucky. Power cuts have been widespread and lengthy, some lasting throughout the Christmas period. A great many homes and businesses have been flooded, trees have been uprooted by the gales, causing fatalities and damage that will cost millions to repair.  

And it just seems to have gone on and on. 

So this year, more than any, I think, the daffodils will be welcomed wherever and whenever they appear!