My friend Jonathan went out and found these lovely autumnal colours in the local park.
He took these photos and I wanted to share these with everyone because of what someone decided to do with the fallen leaves. Ephemerally beautiful, arranged in the manner of the art of Andy Goldsworthy, these are worthy natural artworks by an unknown creative.
But this kind of beauty is also found in many smaller seasonal vegetables and plants that I have been photographing recently-
Spring is not the only time to find beauty in nature! In case you are interested, BBC has done a short film about why leaves change colour in autumn, which you can find here.
Even the most ugly buildings get transformed by flowers. I have been photographing beautiful flowers on buildings. As John Ruskin realised during the Industrial Revolution ‘that the quest to make a more beautiful world is inseparable from the need to remake it politically, economically and socially’. Tsunesaburo Makiguchi believed that beauty, benefit and goodness provided the basis for a creative society.
I am currently working on a project that is bringing beauty in the form of plants and flowers, sustainability in the form of rainwater recycling and solar panels and benefit in form of public seating in a rather plain London overground station. Here are some photos that I took for inspiration ranging from pubs, houses and stations
Summer is here and I am making the elderflower cordial I have made for many years now. This year I am going to try out agave nectar instead of sugar- it is sweeter but has less calories.
I got these flowers from an abandoned garage near my house and also some from the park. Before foraging any edible plants, leaves, fruits or flowers, it is best to have a check to see what you are doing is legal or not. In the UK, many parks and wild areas have plenty of material for foraging but you might be damaging the biodiversity of the area by overpicking. For instance, many people were prosecuted for picking mushrooms from the Royal parks. Picking mushrooms by bagfuls would destroy the natural flora of the area. So do not pick from any protected areas such as Royal parks, area of scenic beauty or those with fragile or seasonal flora (Dungeness beach comes to mind). Always check notices to see if foraging is allowed- local bye laws which prohibits foraging can be passed by councils, the National Trust and government conservation agencies such as Natural England, Scottish Natural Heritage and the Countryside Council for Wales.
The second is if you are foraging for yourself, that is fine. But commercial activity, i.e. selling what you get out of foraging is not permitted. The Theft Act 1968, for England and Wales, states that: ‘A person who picks mushrooms growing wild on any land, or who picks flowers, fruit or foliage from a plant growing wild on any land, does not (although not in possession of the land) steal what he picks, unless he does it for reward or for sale or other commercial purpose.’ And the Scottish Outdoor Access Code allows foraging, but again, not for commercial use. My one small bag of flowers for my own use is allowed from the park I got the elderflowers from. You should never pick all there is, you should always leave plenty for others to enjoy – including wildlife.
Third, you can’t pick someone’s overhanging branch that might be on the street or even over your garden fence. Nearby this tree were some other elderflower trees with lovely blossoms. I was lucky that the owner happened to be there and I asked permission to get the flowers. It all sounds simple really and part of good manners- only take for yourself, leave for others and always ask permission.
I love it when the first clematis come out in- it really is the beginning of warm weather and it makes me smile. Here are the first blossoms, along with their friend my ‘permanent robin’ and the new leaves on my olive tree.
Even if you think you can’t draw or paint, it is a good habit to have. Drawing plants is a very easy thing to start with. They don’t move or need a rest. You can practice on them for as long as you like before progressing on the more difficult subjects. But many well known and skilled artists also used painted flowers, vegetables and trees. So you are in good company. Van Gogh’s sunflowers is one of the best known flower painting, painted in his idiosyncratic style-
You can use flowers and plants to develop your own style and experiment with colours, mediums and textures. Here are some of my own work using water colours, pencils and even cherry juice. They won’t be critical of your attempt at their portrait!
Having an Armenian link in my family, I decided this year to make traditional Armenian Easter eggs alongside a traditional meal. Making these Easter eggs involves using onion skins, turmeric and other natural dyes to colour eggs. Here are some of my efforts. I collected red onion skins- shopkeepers were happy to get rid of them. I also put in some chilli flakes that I was not using (these also make the water red). I boiled these for about twenty minutes and left it to cool overnight. In the morning, I pasted some leaves I found in the garden on the raw eggs using water. I used organic hens and duck eggs. Then I put the eggs inside cut up old stockings and boiled them further for about 20 minutes. After removing them from the stocking, I left them to cool. When they were cold to touch, I polished them with some olive oil to make them shine. Even though the duck eggs were less successful, the over all effect of mottled colour with silhouettes of leaves, was charming on both types of eggs.
What about waste? The skins were put in the compost and the leftover liquid was used to dye an old white silk blouse which is now a pretty pink colour. No waste- perfect!
I will be trying out more natural dyes made from vegetable waste or origins such as blueberry juice, coffee, tea, etc. I have already used such colours in creating a portrait of person who likes spicy food (turmeric and onion skins), tea and coffee and more mineral colours.
In the 17th century Netherlands, arose the ‘Tulip mania’ when people believed that investing in tulips would make them rich. Plants grow and flower- so what was there to lose? Tulips originated from Eurasian and North African genus of perennial, bulbous plants in the lily family with around 75 wild species. The name ‘Tulip’ is reputed to come from a distortion of the word in Persian for turban, as reference to the shape of the flower.
The most expensive of the tulips was ‘Semper Augustus’, considered to be the most beautiful of all flowers and a pinnacle of achievement from the breeders. Even before the ‘Tulip mania’, a single Semper Augustus bulb was said to have been sold for 5,500 guilders, reaching the dizzy heights of 10,000 guilders in 1637, just before the crash. In the 17th century, the annual earnings for a worker would have been around 150 florins, so 10,000 guilders would have been a huge sum of money. But these flowers did not make the poor richer but as it were- it was to make the rich poorer. By the time the market for tulips collapsed in February 1637, Nicolaes van Wassenaer, a chronicler of the period, relates that only a dozen examples of Semper Augustus existed, all owned by a single individual.
The tulip also hid an unusual secret. It’s extraordinary beauty of blood red streaks across its ivory white petals was due to a virus. This virus ‘breaks’ the single block of colour thereby streaking the petal and also added a stunning striation of yellow and red. But in the meanwhile the plant is increasingly weakened by the virus. So the virus not only made it a ‘short lived’ beauty but also made it difficult to propagate, thereby naturally ending its genetic line. The famous Semper August bulb no longer exists except in some paintings of the Old Dutch masters. Instead we now have tulips with healthy blocks of colour with a few striated varieties. This photo below was taken during the Tulip festival at Eden, Cornwall. Perhaps the lesson here is that not everything that looks beautiful is good for us.
At the end of events, I always ask to take away flowers that might be placed on our table. The reason is that such decorations are always almost thrown away. What a waste! For example, Anthuriums are one of the most popular tropical flowers with a long vase life of about six weeks and even more depending on the variety and season. The staff are also happy to see the flowers go to a good home and it saves them clearing away.
Here you can see flowers and foliage from a corporate event, mixed with my own Christmas holly (yes, they are still going strong after more than two months!) and ‘Ruscus’ leaves from my Buddhist altar. When these wither, then I will compost them.
This is a new project undertaken by our local council to manage rubbish tipping. For almost seven years, these trees had all sorts of rubbish left there. I was always amazed to find out these trees attracted such bad treatment.
Last week, I saw the workmen digging- I wasn’t sure what they were doing. A day later, I found this. It looks so much better and so far, hasn’t had any rubbish left there. A simple, beautiful and lasting solution to rubbish.