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 -