Vintage botanical deliciousness

24 Feb

Regular readers (hello you lovely people) will know I have a penchant for vintage prints and a love of gardening.

So, it’s perhaps a little surprising that I have only recently discovered the plethora of stunning vintage botanical illustrations that are available out there for free on the internet. (And by free, I mean both free to download and copyright free for use as well. Which is juuuust what I like…)

While I was busy learning about all sorts of plants for my recent horticulture exams, I put together a huge board on Pinterest (Plants, plants, plants) with hundreds of pictures of trees, flowers, shrubs and so on. And while I was busy searching for photos, I kept stumbling across stunning illustrations.

Here are a few of my favourites.

This glorious red corn poppy is from website botanical.com which has a huge range of gorgeous images and information on herbal plants.

Wikipedia has loads of amazing scientific images for all sorts of plants, like this foxglove. The illustrations are all taken from a book called Koehler’s Medizinal Pflanzen (that even my shonky German can translate to Koehler’s medicinal plants) and there are some real beauties in there. You can find the whole book online at Botanicus.org (along with hundreds of others too…) To look at the illustrations, scroll through the box on the left marked “Pages” and click on anything called a Plate. It’s not the easiest site to use, but it’s worth the time for the wonderful images…

To steal a line from Zoolander, I’ve noticed that vintage fern images are so hot right now… I’ve seen photos popping up all over Pinterest (like this, for example) of gorgeous sitting rooms decorated with old fern prints. I love the look a lot so perhaps I’ll get in on the action myself when our house is finally ready for decorating…

This image is from the Graphics Fairy website, always my first port of call when I’m after a vintage pic.

I’ll grant you, a dandelion’s not your typical appealing flower, but there is something really delightful about this engraving. It’s from Vintage Printable, another great place for a browse if you’re after copyright free images. If I had an orangery, I think I would decorate it with lots of old drawings of weeds, just like this. Wouldn’t that be wonderful?

Finally, I couldn’t resist the glorious reds in this old illustration of a Mayflower (not a plant I’ve ever heard of, though a quick Google of its Latin name tells me it is a hawthorn that is prevalent in the Midlands…) The blossoms look utterly beautiful too, don’t they?

This one is from Vintage Ephemera, which is a blog that’s new to me, but one I shall certainly peruse further.

Now, I’m just wondering what to do with them. Any suggestions?

Related articles:

  • I pin most of my favourite vintage graphic finds to my Pinterest board Free graphics
  • And for a taste of some of the things I’ve made with vintage images in the past take a look at my vintage image category

The joy of knitting

20 Feb

Now that my exams are over, I am itching to tackle my gigantically long to do list. And the very first thing at the top of the list is to knit a blanket for the impending arrival of sproglet number two…

Knitted blanket beginnings

Fresh on the needles. Ahhh, the relaxation of some good knitting…

What with one thing and another* I’ve hardly done any knitting for almost a year. I managed to whip up a bobble hat for my sister for Christmas, but, I have to confess, really disliked the whole process. I used cheap wool (we had a fixed budget for presents last year, I’m not just a total stinge-bag) that was horrible to knit with, on needles that were too small and from about the second round in already knew I wasn’t happy with how the end result was going to look, but had no time to frog and start again on a better pattern.

So it was, I had rather forgotten about the absolute joy of knitting.

This new project is made from some really nice Sublime yarn in a merino cashmere silk mix with a mellow taupey-mushroomy-grey colour. The wool is stretchy and soft and feels lovely, so I’m enjoying knitting every single stitch.

Sublime wool

Sublime in name, sublime in knitability

The pattern, Heirloom by Madeline Tosh, is one I have knitted before and that I know will look good when finished. It’s complicated enough to keep me interested, but not so difficult I worry about going wrong or checking the pattern all the time.

Knitting a blanket

Three repeats down, 24 to go…

But most of all, there is a huge pleasure in being able to quickly get my needles out and knit a few rows here and there when the sproglet is napping or temporarily distracted by Rastamouse. I had forgotten the enjoyment of a craft you can easily pick up and put down without having to get endless supplies out (or clear them away at the end).  One where the pleasure isn’t just in hurrying up and getting to the end result (being impatient, I tend to feel that way about most things) but in just slowly enjoying the making process.

Knitting a blanket

It’s going to be lovely when it’s finished.

So, knitting, welcome back to my life. It’s good to see you again…

As ever, project details for this are over on Ravelry if you want to see more: Blanket for the bump.

*Things = the exhaustion of pregnancy combined with looking after a toddler, revising for exams, not living in our house and trying to oversee a building renovation from far too far away…

Related articles:

  • I was more on the ball with knitting this time last year. Take a look at some knitted goods I made for Christmas presents or this rather nice lace scarf
  • If you’re after more inspiration for baby knitting, or baby presents in general, I put together a nice little homemade gift box for my nephew in the summer. Which, of course, also included a knitted blanket.

Garden moodboard: February

17 Feb

It’s slightly ironic (in the non-Alanis Morissette sense of the word) that when I have horticulture exams to revise for, my garden becomes completely abandoned.

February garden moodboard

Sunshine, snowdrops and blossoms. I must remember to look back at this photo when the vile rain starts up again

Any spare time I have must be spent revising, not weeding, planting or pottering about with secateurs.

And so it is, that I am publishing my monthly garden moodboard 17 days late for February. I finally had time this weekend to wade out in my wellies and do a quick harvest of some snowdrops and a twig full of promising buds before the smell drove me back inside. I don’t want to revolt you by going into too much detail, but the front drive ain’t the only thing waterlogged around here, the drains on the patio out the back are full to capacity as well. Luverly.

Snowdrops

So delicate and cheering

On a nicer note, however, look at these adorable snowdrops! Galanthus nivalis in Latin, doncha know, and one of the first bulbs to flower every year.

There is an absolute plethora of different snowdrop varieties and some aficionados go crazy for them, paying up to £50 for a rare bulb. Me, I’m just quite happy with whatever bog standard variety likes to grow in the garden (no drains-related pun intended).

As I moved the snowdrops around to photograph them, they dropped their bright yellow pollen, which I thought was rather glorious.

Snowdrop pollensnowdrop bunchsnowdrop pollen

The moodboard’s a little sparse this month. Apart from the snowdrops, the only other thing I could find worth photographing was this tree / bush that was putting out some promising buds. I’m not sure what it is, a forsythia perhaps? Let me know in the comments if you have a better idea.

Branch in  budyellow buds

But the really, really exciting part of these photos is not the plants themselves but that other rare thing: sunlight.

I usually try and make sure there aren’t shadows in my moodboard photos, but I was so very excited to see the glorious sunshine peering through the window for the first time in weeks that I couldn’t bear to exclude it.

shadows

Actually, I just thought of one more exciting thing about these photos. They are set to be the last of my garden moodboards coming to you from the garden of my Mum’s house, rather than mine. If you check in here regularly, you’ll know we’ve been camped out in the home counties while renovation has been taking place at our actual London house. But we’re scheduled to move back in just under a fortnight now, a promise so exciting I hardly dare believe it’s true… Next month, once we’re home again, there will be more variety with my plant choices, I promise.

Joining in with Asa.

Related articles:

  • Take a look at last month’s garden moodboard: January 2014.
  • And I’ve added photos of all my moodboards, along with some of my favourites by other people, over at Pinterest: Garden moodboards.

Wolf & Ink

14 Feb

Those of you who’ve been reading my blog for a while might remember my hugely talented sister, Letterpress printer extraordinaire and maker of my wedding invitations and business cards.

Letterpress balloon

Like it? Hey, you can buy it!

Well, she’s put me to shame once again for, while I’ve been wittering on about starting a fabric business for more than a year but done sweet FA about it, she’s spent the past six months setting up her own stationery company, Wolf & Ink.

Letterpress wedding invitation

I love the bus on this…

Wedding invitation stationery

Save the dates, RSVPs, and so on…

Personalised Letterpress CD case wedding favours

This is a super cute idea: a wrapper for your CD of wedding songs

She makes bespoke wedding invitations (plus save the dates, RSVPs, menus and the whole caboodle, which I believe is more officially referred to as a “suite”) but you can enjoy some of the Letterpress loveliness even if you’re not getting married as she’s also launched a range of cards and notebooks.

Letterpress notebook

Just think of all the lovely notes you could write in here

Personalised note cards

Personalised note cards

Letterpress notecard

This is my favourite of the bunch…

Taxi notecards

Taxi notecards

You can find her at her own website: Wolf & Ink and she’s also just started selling an exclusive range for Not On The High Street.

But of course, all this creativity and get-up-and-go doesn’t make me feel even a tiny bit jealous. Honest.

*Retires to sofa to dream of a better life*

Related articles:

  • I’m a real fan of Letterpress stationery so, naturally, I’ve got a whole Pinterest board dedicated to it. Check out some more beautiful designs here: Letterpress inspiration.

Water and working

12 Feb

Friends, this post comes to you with the exciting news that the sproglet is having a nap right now and I am… …not revising!

I spent all of yesterday huddled over a chair, with severe thumb cramps, scribbling, scribbling, scribbling away, trying to write everything I knew about winter cabbage and pruning blackcurrants and the limitations of establishing lawns from seed and many other things that made my brain ache by the end of the day.

But, finally, after a good two months of revising at every second I could get, my horticulture exams are over. Results in the day before the next baby is due, so it could well be that by then I don’t care too much that two of the exams didn’t go terribly well. And, hurrah, I’m back in the world just in time for Spring to arrive. Right? Come on Spring…

Flooded driveway

It’s rather beautiful, isn’t it?

While I’ve had my head in the books, water has been slowly rising up around my Mum’s house, where we’re in temporary habitation. The picture above is her driveway on Monday morning, the trees on the banks of the road opposite reflected in the 5cm deep water, and only a thin sliver of tarmac left where there is normally a pavement.

She lives on one of the flood plains by the Thames close to Cookham, so it’s not entirely surprising that the water is encroaching. Nothing inside the house so far, which is lucky, but the water table is so high that the areas outside the front and back doors currently have a new lease of life as paddling pools.

Flooding

Drip, drop… You can just make out the non-functioning drain hole at the bottom

Next door, the neighbours’ kitchen is under water, while two doors down have had loo paper floating out of the drain hole in the front drive for the past week and took delivery of a portaloo yesterday morning. So, really, we’re pretty lucky with this tranquil patch of still water.

Anyway, I’ve hundreds upon hundreds of things planned that I’ve been putting on hold “until the exams are over” — some knitting, some home organising, some baby preparation and various other bits and pieces — so I’ll be around a little more frequently in the coming weeks.

Hope you’re all well out there and see you soon!

AWOL

30 Jan

My lovely blog readers, it’s that time again… The second batch of my horticulture exams are in less than two weeks and, just like last June, I must bury my head in my books until then and concentrate on revision.

Cyclamen

Right this very second, I’m probably busy learning about such things as how to grow cyclamen for commercial production…

So no blog posts from me, I’m afraid, until some point after February 11th when I can think about anything non-plant related again.

Of course, I deeply wish I was one of those super organised people who would have scheduled a few posts for the meantime but — as you know all too well if you’ve been here a few times — sadly, I’m not.

So, have a wonderful fortnight, wish me luck for the day of exams and I’ll be back soon…

Beautiful right now: plants for winter

24 Jan

As you may recall, every Wednesday I leave the sproglet in the capable hands of my mother and trot off, unfettered and unencumbered, to Regent’s Park, where I spend the day learning all about horticulture (or “gardening” in layman’s terms…)

Prunus x subhirtella

Cherry trees in Regent’s Park

I absolutely love this course, both for what I learn about and for the freedom of using my brain one day a week (most of the time my brain is a sludge of what-shall-I-cook-for-lunch?, why-won’t-he-go-to-sleep?, what-time-is-Raa-Raa-on? and other crucial questions like these…)

My very favourite part, though, is our “plant ident” – every other week we take a stroll round the park, identifying ten plants that we then have to learn over the course of the week and recognise in a test the following Wednesday, complete with the full Latin names. (Yes, the inner geek loves the test bit as well.)

Last week was my favourite ever ident, looking at trees and shrubs that provide winter interest in the garden.

Here are some of the plants I adored the most, all in bloom / scent  / fine bark right now. I’m just trying to narrow down my choices of which ones I absolutely must have in my own garden…

1. Winter-flowering cherry

Prunus x subhirtella blossom

Beautiful blossoms in winter

prunus x subhirtella

Though just a few are left on the bare stems now…

Prunus x subhirtella

The branches still looks stunning

A cherry tree that blossoms in Winter! When we first looked at this tree a fortnight ago, it was dripping in little pink blossoms, but when I went back with my camera this week, there were only a few left on the branches. The branch shapes themselves are completely beautiful as well, though, all twisted and gnarled against the sky.

The Latin name for this is Prunus x subhirtella ‘Autumnalis’ – a somewhat confusing name, in my opinion, since it’s main interest is in Winter, but there we go…

2. Tibetan cherry

prunus serrula

That bark! What more can I say?

Another cherry tree, though this time it’s the bark not the blossom that is in fine fettle in winter. Look at this lovely, crinkled, peeling red bark. I’m currently persuading my Mum to get one of these for her garden, I think they are absolutely stunning.

Prunus serrula in Latin, this cherry has small white blossoms in May, which are followed by round red cherry fruits (inedible to us). Its willow-like green leaves turn red and yellow in Autumn. Truly a tree for all seasons.

3. Winter honeysuckle

lonicera fragrantissima

If only you could smell this photo…

winter honeysuckle

The flowers are pretty, but the bare stems less so…

Okay, this plant isn’t really that much to look at. The small white flowers are fine, but they’re hung upon a shaggy stem of bare branches. But though it might not be a looker, this winter honeysuckle is irresistible for its gorgeous scent.

If I had one of these in my garden (and I think I really must get one), I’d plant it behind an evergreen with some attractive foliage to try and hide the unkempt stems, but still benefit from the smell. And it would go close to a door so I would smell it every time I went in and out.

Lonicera fragrantissima in Latin, if you’re looking to go and buy it…

4. Viburnum x bodnantense

viburnum x bodnantense

Not only lovely to look at, but they smell wonderful too

I’m not sure what the common name for this viburnum is, but it’s really another essential for a beautifully scented winter garden. The gorgeous little clusters of pink blossoms have a heady and utterly wonderful scent. Again, it flowers on bare stems, but it looks neater and tidier than the honeysuckle, so you wouldn’t feel the need to hide it behind something else.

5. Berberis darwinii

Berberis darwinii

Could a winter plant be any more cheerful than this?!

Sometimes, in the middle of winter, you just need some cheering colour to look at. This lovely little shrub, Berberis darwinii (again, I don’t know the common name, I’m afraid) is just the ticket. Bright orange dropping flowers and luscious green leaves couldn’t help but give you a little lift on a bleak January day.

It’s good as an informal hedge (for informal, read scruffy) or you could just have a specimen shrub to look at. I’d make sure to put this somewhere in sight of a window, so I could always get a little winter boost from its colourful petals whenever I looked outside…

6. Christmas box

Sarcococca confusa

The flowers may be small, but they smell wonderful

Okay, the Christmas box (or Sarcococca confusa) is hardly going to blow your retinas with its amazing looks, but it’s another seemingly insignificant plant that packs a punch when it comes to scent.

It’s an evergreen shrub, that grows slowly and doesn’t really stand out for its form or colour, but those little spiky white flowers, that are in place most of the winter, have an incredible strong scent. Again, one to plant by a door, or even grow as a small hedge by the front of the house. The flowers are followed by little black glossy berries. Even better, this is one of the few plants that really thrives in shade, so if you’ve got a very shaded place where nothing else likes to grow, this could be perfect…

(I should say that my photo isn’t really doing it any favours here either. There was a big band of park maintenance men in a lorry just by the Sarcococca when I was trying to photograph it, so it was a case of “snap, snap, wander off quickly before they think I am a crazed tourist…”)

7. Dogwood

dogwood

Amazing fiery stems

Cornus sanguinea 'Midwinter Fire'

Up close you can really see the bright red tops and orange bases

This dogwood is called Cornus sanguinea ‘Midwinter Fire’ and it’s easy to see why. Again, my photo isn’t quite doing justice to these amazing red and orange stems, which look absolutely breath taking in the flesh (or should I say, “in the bark”…)

This isn’t a plant to go for if you want low maintenance, however, as you need to prune it at least every two years, if not every year, to keep the amazing colours, since they show on the youngest wood only. It also looks better planted en masse, I’m not sure that a single shrub on its own would have such a good impact. So you would need a fairly large garden. Nonetheless, I’m still tempted to get one of these for our garden because, well, just look…

Tell me, have you got any of these in your garden?

Related articles:

Vintage maternity style

20 Jan

In the early days of pregnancy – before the bump has actually started to show – I always pore over photos of effortlessly glamorous pregnant ladies and lust after their  clothes.

I dream of similar outfits for myself.

High waisted skirts and pencil belts, flowing capelets, and dresses with big collar dresses all feature heavily.

In reality, though, by the time a sizeable bump has appeared (and especially this time round with a toddler to look after as well) any ideas of sartorial snappiness have been abandoned and comfort is the order of the day.

Today, at about six months pregnant, I am sporting a classic Sabrina maternity outfit. A ratty old pair of ASOS maternity jeans that slip down at the crotch constantly, which I’ve been wearing for about five days now and which have the adornment of a toddler handprint in paint at the knee. (Yes, the paint will wash off. No, I haven’t put them through the wash since it occurred three days ago…)

The jeans are permanently topped with one of my husband’s jumpers, rotated fairly frequently across the week and washed at the weekend when he complains about having nothing to wear himself.

Accessories include scraped back, not-terribly-recently-washed hair, a pallid complexion and big purple bags. Very Kate Moss, heroin chic, circa mid-90s, I’m sure you’re thinking.

But of course there is the odd occasion where this wear-anywhere look doesn’t cut the mustard. And in April, two weeks in advance of my due date, I have one such event: a friend’s wedding with a 1940s theme.

My love for a 1940s dress outweighing even my usual pregnancy laziness (my own wedding dress was made from an original 1940s pattern), I’ve been scouring the internet looking for vintage maternity clothes.

It’s slim pickings out there, so I thought I’d share what I’ve unearthed, in case any other vintage lovers were in a similar predicament…

My first (and best) find is the website Tasty Vintage, which has a small maternity section: Tasty Vintage maternity.

This amazing 1940s green two-piece suit is just exactly the sort of thing I’m after.

Green maternity outfit

So cute it’s almost worth getting pregnant for if you’re not already…
(© Tasty Vintage)

Or this sweet pink rose 1950s dress would be excellent come summer time.

Pink rose maternity dress

Perfect for wafting around a garden party, virgin gin and tonic in hand
(© Tasty Vintage)

Normally, I’d shy away from geometric boxy designs, when large with child, but this jacket could well be calling to me…

1960s maternity jacket

Very Jackie O, no?
(© Tasty Vintage)

Etsy, of course, is another good place to trawl. My favourites, when I looked, were this super cute 1940s top / dress from Adelinesattic…

1940s maternity top

With a photo this great, it’s hard not to love the dress…
(© Adelinesattic)

…or this sweet blue maternity ’60s tunic, from SwizzleTimeVintage (based in America, so you’d have to factor in shipping…)

1960s maternity tunic

Perfect for the pregnant air hostess
(© SwizzleTimeVintage)

And then there’s always good old eBay. Discard all the “vintage maternity clothes” that really just mean “my old Dotty P jeans that are technically vintage because they’re not new any more” and you might just unearth a few gems.

Vintage inspired

If you’re not fussed whether or not your clothes have already been worn, sweated into and washed by another person, then go for “vintage inspired” which offers just a little more choice.

The brilliant blog Retro to Go showcases the best retro clothes from the high street. Keep an eye on the women’s fashion section, which sometimes includes maternity wear like this amazing (though now not available) dress from Topshop…

Topshop maternity dress

I would buy this in a second if it was still available…

The really excellently named website In Pig* has a small but gorgeous collection of vintage inspired dresses, like this 70s inspired smock in Liberty print needlcord.

Liberty print maternity smock

Hard to resist this, isn’t it?
(©In Pig)

And I spend a fair bit of time hopefully checking out the usual old high street haunts (Topshop, Dorothy Perkins and ASOS frequently do nice maternity clothes. H&M I find cheap and uncomfortable for maternity — though excellent for children’s clothes. Makes no sense to me…)

Occasionally you come across little gems like this cheery red 1970s-style flared sleeve dress from ASOS:

1970s maternity dress

If you’re feeling frumpy, chuck on a bright red dress and you’re bound to cheer up…
(© ASOS)

Sew your own

But the biggest selection really comes if — unlike me — you’re full of energy and you sew yourself some clothes. There’s a huge choice of vintage maternity sewing patterns out there, check out Etsy, Craftsy or eBay and you could soon be tripping around town in the likes of this:

maternity sewing patterns

Cape? Check. Hands in pockets? Check. Super cute? Check

Me? I’m in the jeans and jumper til April comes…

*I went through a phase of devouring every book by / about the Mitford sisters a few years back, and I always loved how they wrote to each other to declare that they were “in pig”. Such a wonderfully apt expression!

Related articles:

  • Fancy ogling gorgeous pregnant styles too? I’m set up a board on Pinterest: Pregnancy style

Frosty mornings

17 Jan

Urgh, all this rain! I can’t bear the sogginess of it all.

It’s cheered me up no end that a few mornings this week I’ve woken not to the interminable patter of rain on the roof, but to the sight of frost on the ground and the big orange sun peeping out through the trees opposite the house.

I wandered round the garden with my lovely macro lens (a wedding present last year) for a little close up look at some of the frosted bits and pieces last weekend.

Frosted garden table

The garden table, with the frost all lined up in rows

frosty feather

And a little feather trapped on the table

frosty leaf

Even the weeds look lovely with a little sprinkling

Frosty stem

And I love the way the little icicles point straight upwards

frosty tree stump

On an old tree stump at the bottom of the garden, the top was a layer of ice

Snail shells

The eagle eyed among you will have spotted these shells aren’t remotely frosty. I just thought they were rather lovely

So beautiful.

Come on January, more crisp cold days and less rain please…

Related articles:

  • I took my macro lens for a wander round my garden last year too (the pics from here are in my Mum’s garden as we’re temporarily staying with her). It was Autumn time and there was plenty of seasonal loveliness then too: Autumn in the garden
  • For even more garden photos, take a look at my recent garden moodboard (links within the post to more moodboards from other months as well): January moodboard

Garden moodboard: January

13 Jan

Hot on the heels of my lateness with new year’s resolutions (or lack thereof) I am also running a good few weeks late with my garden moodboard for January.

Garden weed moodboard

A feast for Peter Rabbit

What can I say, it’s been pissing it down outside and there is not a single new plant to show you from my Mum’s garden since I took the photos last month

So, for my January moodboard, ladies and gentlemen, for one month only, I bring you the unloved, the unphotographed (many would say for good reason), the ever present but never desired… …I bring you the garden weed!

[Disclaimer: despite completing nearly a year of my horticulture classes now, I’m not actually that good at identifying weeds, so it is highly possible that a couple of these, come Spring time, might prove themselves to be wonderful garden plants rather than vicious interlopers.]

Garden weeds

Everything looks nicer in the sunshine…

garden weeds

How many do you recognise?

As I was taking the photos, the sun came out from behind one of the many clouds, and the weeds looked rather glorious, I thought, lush and green with the sun streaming through the window.

I can only identify a couple of these. The nettles, up close, have a beautiful toothed edge to their leaves. Perhaps this will be the year I finally get round to making some nettle fertiliser rather than just stinging myself on them.

Nettles

They’d be beautiful if they weren’t so vicious

There’s not really a huge amount to be said for the dandelions. They’re not terribly attractive in this state and though the amazing seed heads are undeniably beautiful you just don’t want to let them reach that stage and spread hundreds more of the plants into the garden… I suppose I could try eating the leaves in a salad, though, if times got really tough.

dandelion leaf

Tasty? Hmmm

dandelion

Curly, yes.

This one I’m not quite sure if it’s a weed or perhaps a geranium. Either way, something’s been enjoying a munch…

chewed leaf

Weed or trusty garden flower?

And this final one is really quite beautiful up close.

Garden weed

I Haven’t a clue what this is…

Perhaps not quite as attractive or varied as the flowers I’ve shown you before, but viewing them through my macro lens, this little weeds have rather grown on me (pun unintented)…

Next month, though, as long as we’re back in our own house, I promise you some proper garden plants. As long as they haven’t been totally destroyed by building dust, that is.

Joining in this month, as ever, with Karin A.

Related articles:

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