" To plant trees is to give body and life to one's dreams of a better world " Russell Page

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Fiona Stricklands Flower Portraits

Among the plant drawings at the "Botanical Celebration" exhibition organised by the Society of Botanical Artists, one can see the most amazing and powerful watercolours of the Scottish artist Fiona Strickland.
More than simple drawings, hers are flower portraits, since they have a powerful and very expressive quality. They are very acurate and realistic but  surpass simple botanical illustrations by adding a dramatic touch.
One can almost folow the petals unfurl and wilt, can almost feel the hairy texture of the popy stems...





Sunday, April 15, 2012

Small resurrection story

The past 29 of March Spain was on General Strike. As most major cities, Barcelona witnessed important demonstrations which led to street riots and fires lit in the middle of the streets. 

Though this has apparently nothing to do with gardening, I was quite sad when I realised that my beautiful and huge Rosa Fortuniana which was bursting with young shiny leaves and literally hundreds of buds, has been charred and reduced to a black mass of branches by the heat of the burning bonfires.

On the spot I thought she was irremediably damaged but continued to water and spray her with a highly diluted leaf fertilizer, in the hope of a dim recovery.
Two weeks passed and not much happened. My beautiful Fortuniana, once strong and healthy as a rock, dragged herself with no sign of improvement.

 Little by little all remaining leaves shrivelled an hung sad from the long and arched canes.

And then all of a sudden I detected tiny swelling eyes where the dead leaflets fell off. My darling Fortuniana was alive and struggling to recover.

Strange enough, quite a few flower buds resisted and eventually opened on the totally leafless shrub, perfect white pompoms of petals on blackened, sad branches.
It moved me even more since it would have been the first year I was to see my rose in full bloom. Last year it only had a few shy flowers and it was supposed to fully show it's grace this spring. 

Pampered as a sick child, I hope my darling Fortuniana will have the chance to fully recover for next year.

A happy (Orthodox) Easter to you!
Hristos Anesti !

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Dicentra or not Dicentra?

Dicentra or not Dicentra? This is the (crucial) question!
Browsing around my favourite garden blogs I spotted a lovely picture of a Dicentra Spectabilis flower, or so I thought...
Reading further, came the shock - all of a sudden it was called Lamprocapnos Spectabilis!

So here we are for years, struggling to learn the fundamental Latin names of our darlings and out of the blue, pafff, comes some botanist and changes the rules! Mind you that I truly believe that rudimentary Latin names are very useful when it comes to naming a plant. The Dicentra in question lives and thrives very well under the common names of Bleeding Heart, Dutchmen's Trousers, Lyre Flower and the most poetical Lady in a Bath, so one definitive Latin name makes it easy for all to understand what we are talking about. 
Now, it might take us some time to memorize the Latin basics, but honestly Dicentra was quite a nice one. Now Lamprocapnos Spectabilis is quite a tongue breaker, honestly!

Why for all gods in the vegetal kingdom should this delicate spring shrub live with such a rude name?
For my part we can go on calling it Bleeding Heart or Lady in a Bath just out of protest!
What do you think about?

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Plant Profile: White Forsythia

I am not particularly fond of the common yellow Forsythia. Not that it lacks charm as a spring messenger, but it has been used and abused as a public space plant way too much! No suburban  playground can do apparently without! Besides that, it blooms for a short period and after that the remaining shrub is dull, plain green without much interest.
There is though a very similar shrub - the Abeliophyllum Distichum or White Forsythia, that is quite lovely. Both plants belong to the Oleaceae family and come from Asia. The White F. is original from Central Korea.

The White F. is fairly robust and has no particular cultivation needs. A sunny to half shades spot will do perfectly. As most spring bloomers it has to be pruned immediately after the flowers have fallen, since a spring pruning would compromise the next blooming period.
All together I find this version more subtle than the arch-known yellow relative (even if it is not just a simple colour variation, but a different plant) and the extra bonus is a sweet and lovely scent.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Marbled Eggs

Marbled eggs are fun to do and quite a feast for the Easter table. If you choose properly the colours they can resemble real marble or stone eggs, but othewise all combinations are lovely and fun to experiment...

How to do:
Hardboil the eggs and while still warm, dye them in a ground colour of your choice with egg dying colours prepared with hot water and a pinch of salt and vinegar to fix the colour. Let the eggs dry on paper towel.
Prepare a shallow dish with a concentrated complementary egg dying colour of your choice - a couple of spoonfulls of liquid, mixed with a dash of oil.
Swirl your dyed egg in the colour/oil mixture quickly to form marbled stains. Exercise and experience will help you adjust the intensity of the marbling.
Let the eggs dry again and then softly rub them with cooking oil to give them shine.

Happy Easter!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Spring in Milan

Just a couple of pictures of a fresh looking street bed in Milan, Via Senato.


 Dolce & Gabbana Window shop display - march 2012