In which Darren gets caffeinated and his nuts cause much amusement…
I will start with the usual reminder of who we are, for new visitors.
The team consists of Dominique Nancy of 3C Style in Canada, Lisa Lawrence of Lismore Paper in the USA, and myself in the UK. We work closely each month to bring you three intertwined posts with a common theme. We are all three very creative people who met via our WP blogs. We have a shared ethos and a close friendship. Our motto – ‘An ocean apart but we share the same heart’ describes us perfectly. The five hour time difference means I spend my morning commute catching up with their conversations during the night, and waiting for them to wake up so I can join in!
Make sure you visit Dominique and Lisa via the links above, to see the whole of the post.
Yes, I know I have been utterly hopeless at posting since last month. I don’t know what to say except life got in the way.
The first two plants covered this month were identified as a match for an outfit Dominique wore during my visit in May. This was not a planned shoot (it was tagged on to our shoot at ERA vintage inside the building). As often happens with us – this spontaneous moment produced images we both love.
This cactus was one of a very few species in the genus Puna but this has now been absorbed into the much bigger genus Maihueniopsis. These cacti are South American relatives of the hardy Opuntia (Prickly Pears) of North America. They share a habitat preference – arid and exposed areas with hot summers and often very cold winters. If kept dry many species will tolerate temperatures below -20C.
Like most Opuntiads – spines are backed up with tiny barbed hairs called glochids which brush off and get into the skin very easily, causing intense irritation.
This species, like the other ‘Puna’, has a huge tap-root below ground and the bulk of the plant is actually subterranean – hence the name. Because of this it requires careful watering in cultivation so that the tap-root does not rot.
Distribution of this species is in high altitude areas of Argentina and Bolivia where it is practically invisible when not in flower. It requires a cold winter and maximum light in order to produce flower buds in cultivation. I find a good flowering is followed by a fallow year as the plant recovers. The flowers are very attractive to bees and it is always a delight to see them at work.
The genus Sorbus is divided into two main groups: the Aria group or ‘Service Trees’ which have full rounded leaves with a little lobing on the edges, and the Aucuparia group – ‘ Mountain Ash’ – which have leaves divided into numerous leaflets and have a light and airy appearance.
Sorbus vilmorinii belongs to the latter group and has berries that are quite variable in colour. This pale pink/peach one in my own garden was a good match for the top Dominique is wearing in the fashion photos and reflects the colour of the Puna flowers too.
I can thoroughly recommend the various species of Mountain Ash as a small tree for gardens. They are beautiful all year round and never get too big. Size does vary: The tiny alpine species Sorbus reducta and Sorbus poteriifolia only reach a few inches in height and are good rock garden plants. Sorbus fruticosa is a shrub that reaches waist-high and has brilliant white berries that are very briefly backed by the lovely autumn foliage – but the leaves soon drop after turning colour.
Our native Sorbus aucuparia or ‘Rowan’ is beautiful too, with its airy foliage and bright orange-red berries that can be used for making delicious jelly. We need to be quick though – the birds love the berries too!
Some More Berries!
I can’t say much about the plant and its cultivation except to say that I do now have a specimen in my office which was a gift from Dominique for my Birthday in August.
My similarly coffee addicted buddy Linda despairs of me because I often drink instant coffee at home and work. Yes, I know, but I can simply not be bothered with all the washing up after the real thing so I drink the real stuff in coffee shops where someone else gets to wash up. Also there are two other reasons I drink instant:
- It is quick to make. We only have a small kitchen at work and I can’t stand being in there when it is crowded – instant means I can be in and out as fast as possible!
- I worked night shifts for the first 7 years of my working life. At 3AM I do not care where my caffeine comes from as long as I get some!
Coffee ‘beans’ are really the stones taken from a berry and the plant (Coffea arabica mostly, though other species are used) is unrelated to the true beans. It does make a lovely foliage plant for the home. There is even one in a big pot in the reception area at my workplace – which was very handy when I wanted leaves to photograph for this post….
Originally native to tropical highlands of Africa and Asia, coffee is now grown in suitable climates all over the world.
I have separate plans for a coffee shop rant post but am wary of being barred from the coffee shops of Lancaster..
Lancaster has the oldest working coffee roasters in the country – Atkinsons. The smell outside on roasting days is mouth-watering! They have a very picturesque retail shop on the premises, and a cafe of course. You can see photos from the shop in this post.
Also – Dominique and I both independently took other arty photos for use in this post.
In my case, very much inspired by Dominique’s photos, I visited Atkinson’s and obtained an old coffee sack and some coffee beans (Monsoon Malabar – my favourite), liberated some leaves from the coffee plant in reception at work and used a couple of picturesque brass items I already had. Lighting was a Lumimuse 8 LED. The whole thing was set up on my drawing desk one evening.
The brass items, incidentally, are an antique letter scale from a post office which I picked up in my local antique shop. And the other ones are a set of antique proportional dividers. I went on a botanical art workshop some years ago and the lady there told me that proportional dividers were extremely useful and could be bought cheaply on ebay now that most drawing and design offices had converted to digital. Sure enough – ebay had one seller disposing of several pairs of old brass proportional dividers in wooden boxes. Not only are they very useful but are very attractive objects too. They have also given me an idea for another funny blog post…
Gorse (Ulex europaeus)
The scent of Gorse flowers on warm spring days, a mix of coconut and vanilla, is one of my favourites. The flowers themselves are a beautiful golden yellow. Locally it flowers at the same time as the Bluebell and the Cowslip, and Early Purple Orchids at the rather wonderful local nature reserve at Warton Crag.
A member of the pea and bean family, this shrub is rarely grown in gardens because it is not especially attractive out of flower and is ferociously spiny. In it’s native British Isles and Western Europe it is a welcome sight but it is a real problem in countries where it has been introduced – Western US, Chile and New Zealand especially, where it was introduced for hedging.
There is an ornamental selection with double-flowers and this is occasionally available in UK garden centres. It has the added benefit of being sterile and does not produce seeds.
Those of you who follow me on Instagram will have seen that the theme of the month has been nuts. In more ways than one….
‘Darren’s Nuts’ have caused many outbreaks of laughter during our team Skype calls and other communications. Quite why the ladies find this phrase so funny is beyond me. Being naive and innocent like I am, I fear they are corrupting me.
This month Dominique has a special guest who would really appreciate nuts! Pop over and visit!
We are working on new designs for our shops based upon my walnut drawings, Lisa has shown some artwork artwork she has created around my basic drawings. Her creativity never ceases to amaze me ! Collaborations are such fun ! Here is a preview of the process, you can see more over at Lismore Paper:
The English Walnut, Juglans regia, originated in Iran despite its name. As well as its food use the tree and nut have numerous other uses. The nut shell is ground up and used as a cleaning abrasive, the timber is a very fine furniture wood, and the nut husks can be used to make inks and dyes.
The North American Black Walnut is apparently superior in flavour but the extremely hard shell has historically restricted its use commercially.From a garden point of view it is worth noting that the tree is huge. It is very late coming into leaf in spring. Most importantly it reduces competition from other plants by secreting chemicals into the soil that prevent healthy growth of other plants nearby.
Come back and visit for another edition in November!
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