Strawflower Magic

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Today, frost came and killed off the annuals in my cutting garden once and for all. It was late this year, allowing me extra time to enjoy my cosmos, zinnias, calendula, nigella, and most of all, strawflowers. 

This is the first summer I’ve grown strawflowers and they’ve been such a delight. Always a familiar flower (I remember them from my parents’ garden), I learned so much about these flowers over the course of the summer; watching a plant emerge from seed and grow into its full glory has a special kind of magic. 

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Strawflowers were no exception as I watched their strappy leaves sprout and elongate; the first flower buds cluster at the tips of the plant. I cut and hung flowers to dry, thrilled by the way they hold their color and shape, sometimes opening slightly, sometimes flexing their petals back as they dry. (Or, are they really bracts? or sepals? Must look that up!)

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I saw that strawflowers close tight on cool, damp nights and open in the morning sun, a particularly endearing habit. It was already October by the time I had the idea to capture strawflowers opening with a time-lapse video. 

A couple of notes about this video. (1) The way the plants appear to shudder at the end is my fault – I could’t resist poking the flowers in between frames to see what would happen. (2) The flickering results from the camera settings – I forgot to turn the auto white balance off, so the camera changes sometimes between frames. No, that’s not natural light variation! What can I say? It was my first time-lapse, and I am learning by doing.

Its a testament to the magic of strawflowers opening that the the effect is still mesmerizing as they open in a series of rolling petals. (Or, bracts?) When I made this time-lapse, I felt like I’d really captured the secret life of a flower and I knew I had to try again. 

And I did try. There were plenty of failures. There were camera batteries that ran out, flowers that didn’t open,and others that opened hours later than I expected. But luckily with the mild weather, I had plenty of chances to keep trying. Finally, last weekend, I had another success and managed to fix a few of the problems in my first attempt. Just in time for the frost to come this week!

So now, I’ll be cleaning up my garden and dreaming of next summer’s flowers. I know I’ll be planting more strawflowers, but I also wonder what next summer’s discoveries will be? Someone recently suggested Cardinal vine (Ipomoea quamoclit) and I am intrigued. If you have any other suggestions, I’d love to hear them!

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It’s beginning to look a lot like …. a sale!

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It used to be that no one wanted to see, hear, or think about December holidays until, well, December, or in the U.S.A., Thanksgiving. Atleast I think it did. I can’t really remember and honestly, I never paid much attention until now.

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Now that I have my own virtual shop, I’ve been trying to stick to a retail calendar which means, early, early, early for all things Christmas and “holiday season” and so, here I am, posting about all the holiday items I’ve just listed in my shop.

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I’ve added new cards.

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I’ve listed stickers that are excellent for present wrapping, embellishing envelopes, and place cards.

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And I’ve added a whole new style of gift tag. (New for me, that is!)

To celebrate these additions, I’m having an early bird sale. Until Monday, everything in my shop will be 10% off. NOw is your chance to buy those cards for your mother-in-law, gift tags, or stickers for wrapping.

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If you’re one of those organized ladies who love to do everything two months ahead of time, you’re probably poised to act now, and shop. Even if you’re not organized, or if you’re not a lady, I hope you will head over and take a look and maybe even shop early. Sale lasts until Monday, November 14 at 6:ooPM (Eastern standard time) and domestic shipping is always free!

Dahlia portraits

two-orange-dahlias-bottle-branch-blogLast December, I felt like one lucky lady, when my husband gave me a 6 week dahlia CSA share from a local flower farm, Five Fork Farms. Of course, my share didn’t start until dahlia season, so, in September, I felt lucky all over again, when I picked up my first bouquet of dahlias and brought them home.yellow-dahlia-portrait-by-elizabeth-pyle-via-bottle-branchEach week, I’ve received a bunch of beautiful flowers, and each week, I’ve indulged in a session of taking dahlia portraits. A few of these photos have already appeared on my instagram, so if we’re friends over there, they might look familiar.pale-pink-dahliaIts been such a fun project to select, pose, shoot; a mediation in which I examine, learn, know each flower. Their idiosynchratic uniformity is captivating – they follow seemingly mathematical rules of form and shape, yet each one in different. purple-dahlia-portrait-by-elizabeth-pyle-via-bottle-branchI picked up my last share a few days ago, and I’ve been pampering and savoring these last dahlias of the season: changing the water, keeping them cold at night, trying to make sure they last. They’ll be gone soon, but what joy they have brought me! dahlia-portrait-1-by-elizabeth-pyle-via-bottle-branch

Shop update: Summer flowers!

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Its been a while since I posted about my etsy shop, yet over the past month, I’ve been tweaking, editing, and adding new items. In particular, I’ve listed many new cards featuring summer flowers, because, as you could guess, summertime is the boom time for botanical photography.

In total, I’ve added three new sets of cards featuring poppies, calendula, goldenrod, anemone, cosmos, and of course, lots of hydrangeas, including the set of various hot pink hydrangea cards pictured above.

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I’ve also added this ombré arrangment of larkspur flowers, which is available as an individual card, and as part of this set, which includes a couple of long time best sellers, cosmos, and a rainbow of garden flowers.

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In August, when late summer wild flowers came out in full force, I added a couple of wild flower cards.

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And added them to a set with arrangments of green leaves.

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In truth, I’ve added too many to report on them all, so I hope you’ll go take a look. Maybe posting about summer flowers in October seems nonsensical but something tells me I’m not the only one who would like to hold on to the warmth, the flowers and the leaves; I’m not the only one who dreams of endless summer.

 

Crafting with Nature 2: Dyeing with onion skins

onion-dyed-napkin-in-bowl-bottle-branch-blogFor my second foray into Amy Renea‘s book, Crafting with Nature, I decided to stick with the natural dyes theme, and try dyeing with onion skins. Finally! A use for all the discarded onion skins floating around in my kitchen ‘onion’ drawer.ready to dye with onion skinsSo, following the directions in the book, I gathered and boiled all the onion skins I could muster. I added a couple of plain white cotton napkins and a little cotton drawstring bag (after soaking them in warm water first) and let them boil in there for about an hour, stirring occasionally. onion skin dyed cloth 2 bottlebranch blogWhat a thrill it was to pull the fabric from the water and see how it turned out. Even better, I adore the final product. Though I was never a big fan of the color orange, I love the resulting soft, dusty semi-orange color. finished onion skin dyed cloths bottle branchThe transformation almost feels magical and I find myself dreaming of embarking on new adventures in dyeing with all kinds of found and foraged materials, like Mathilde Master. That dream lasts until I consider the array of carpooling, baseball/soccer games, and orthodontist appointments on my calendar, and the long lists of updates I have planned for my etsy shop. The less said about the former, the better, and I’ll tell you more about the latter in my next post. onion-dyed-napkins-bottle-branch-blog

Crafting with Nature and Beets

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It probably won’t surprise you to know that, in my kitchen, I have a pineapple plant grown from the top of a supermarket pineapple, a motley collection of house plants, and a red oak seedling pulled from my garden with roots in tact, and now growing in a bottle of water. In short, I’m often tempted to experiment with the bits of nature that come my way, either by way of the supermarket, the garden or the greater world outside.

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So, when I first opened up Amy Renea’s book, Crafting with Nature, I was immediately smitten. Want to make a lavender wreath? Here’s how you do it. Want to find something to do with your bumper crop of lamb’s ears and sage? Try this! I was thrilled by the variety and volume of ideas and more than a little tempted to drop everything, and whip up a few all natural lotion bars and luscious healing whips.

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When I flipped to the section on beets, I knew that would be the right place to start. Beets have long been one of my garden stand-bys, and I was happily surprised with some ideas I had never thought of. How had I never thought to slice off beet tops and keep them growing for baby beet greens?! Or, to boil the skins to make dye?

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I still haven’t decided what to do with the beet dye (too many choices). Maybe I’ll stick it in the freezer and use it for a frozen cranberry wreath this winter. (Another enticing idea!), but in the mean time, I’ll be happily sprinking those beet greens in smoothies and salads.

In the interest of full disclosure, I did receive a free copy of this book to review, but I was beyond thrilled to take a look inside and give it a try. I will undoubtedly be trying out lots of the other ideas/ recipe/ crafts in it, and in fact, I’ve aready got another one in the works. But I’ll tell you about that one in another upcoming post.

 

Embroidery News

embroidered bag bottle branch blogRemember this? If you’ve been around here a long time, you’ll recognize this piece of embroidery I made in March of 2015 and posted here. As part of my campaign to tie up loose ends this summer, I finally turned it into a finished product: a little drawstring bag to hold future embroidery projects.

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I’ve written before about how I don’t particularly love sewing. So, the irony of my sewing something to hold more future sewing projects is not lost on me. Or, as someone might say, its just “so meta.” (Who, exactly, says things like that?!)

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And… remember these? In April of 2015, I posted these painted watercolor fabric designs I had printed up on Spoonflower. I chose the scattered flowers print, front and center in this photo, to use as a lining fabric.

embroidery bag ready for use bottle branch blogThe final product thrills me in a way that only handmade can, and so I’ve already lined up and started my next needlwork project: learning Sashiko. I’ve been so inspired by the lovely stiching posted by kinomi_5 on instagram, I just had to give it a try. As you can see, I’ve even bought special needles and thread. Wish me luck!

Scottish Adventures: St. Andrews and the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh (a final travel post)

peony and geraniumBefore the summer is over, I thought I might post a few more photos and tid-bits from our June family trip to Scotland. I’m not going to be setting the world on fire with this post, but then again, I’m pretty sure that if you wanted that kind of excitement, you wouldn’t be hanging around my blog. So here we go…

First stop: St. Andrews, Scotland, where the lucky tourist may visit a castle, a university, a catherdral, and historic golf course, all in one day. And that, my friends, is precisely what we did.

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Though technically a ruin, the castle was possibly my children’s favorite castle of our trip. While they always enjoy learning about battles between the Scots and the English (and the visitors center was amazing), they liked getting free reign in the castle itself. They clambered over all available surfaces, and they still haven’t stopped talking about the 16th century mine shaft that runs under the street, which they happily climbed through, while I did not.

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My favorite spot in St.Andrews was the University, where the landscape was groomed and ready for their graduation ceremonies, some of which were happening the very day we visited. I will not go into any history or detail we learned about the university because (a) I would embarrass myself, and (b) you’d be better off just googling it. Suffice it to say that to the American eye, it was an assemblage of picturesque courtyards, impossibly historic buildings, and there was even a bit of pomp and circumstance present to add gravitiy to our visit.

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We also visited the golf course, because my late father-in-law was an excellent golfer, and former member of the USGA who spent much time there. I can say that and not be bragging because (1) he was my husband’s father, not mine, and (2) I know next-to nothing about golf.

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Next Stop: the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh

You knew there would be a garden in here somewhere, right? We spent most of a day at the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh, and I consider myself lucky that my family tolerates, and in fact, even enjoys visting gardens wherever we go. (Hat tip to Catherine at Knotted Cotton for advising me that it was not to be missed!)

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My children probably loved the glasshouses best. There were so many varied climates represented, and so many separate houses and spaces. We spent well over an hour exploring them all, and the Amazon water lilies (pictured above) did not fail to impress.

greenhouse orchid at royal botanic garden

We also really loved visiting the Queen Mother’s memorial garden, with a (still growing) labyrinth in the center, and the plants of different continents on in the four corners. It felt like there was something new to discover around every corner, and so, I failed to take photos because we were just having too much fun.

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Likewise, the rock gardens were filled with unexpected delight – beautiful plants nestled on rocky outcrops, sloping hills and in hidden corners. It was quite inspiration!

All in all it was a wonderful trip, though, there is no photographic record of me driving on the left side of the road, an omission which I most defnitely regret, as driving on the left felt like quite an accomplishment. I’ll just have to cross the Atlantic and get behind the wheel again soon. Consider yourself warned, my UK friends.

News and Newsletters

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Its been busy times for my Bottle Branch business. In addition to taking my shop on the road to a few craft fairs, I’ve been updating photos, adding items to my online shop, labelling card sets, and setting up a digital newsletter.

I added the “Pretty Tea Time” cards pictured above after they sold well at the SoWa Open Market. They’re sort of a spring season compliment to the autumn “pretty tea time” cards I put together a few months ago.

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I’ve also listed a new set of summer flower cards. I pushed myself to work outside of my usual color palette by using orange, yellow, and purple and I’m pretty happy with the way they came out. The yellow just might be my favorite.

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One of my biggest recent ‘accomplishments’ was to print labels for my card packs, so that anyone can pick up a pack, flip it over, and see a preview of all the cards inside. (Helpful!)  Adding those labels has also enabled me to think about wholesale with some of my popular cards. So, if you know any small independent retailers looking for something fresh and botanical, send them my way! (wholesale@bottlebranch.com or via etsy wholesale)

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Finally, I’m starting an email newsletter. I won’t be sending it very often. I’m calling it my quarterly newsletter and lets be honest, I’ll be lucky to get it out that often.

The first edition (ready to go out any day now) will feature a few blog and other social media highlights, esty shop updates, and news about upcoming craft fairs. If there are other items you’d like to hear about, I’d be delighted to know! My favorite Pinterest accounts to follow? Etsy finds? Or just more pretty pictures?  I’m all ears!

If you signed up to receive my blog posts by email (thank you!) you’re already on my newletter list. If you haven’t signed up before, I hope you will consider joining my email newsletter list. You can opt in right here. I know we’re all overwhelmed by emails these days and I respect your time, so I promise to make it short, sweet, and hopefully worth your while.

And thats it for both news and newsletters. Happy July!