Four ways Bottle Branch is green

greenery in the window bottle branch

I’ve written about how my training as a botanist influences the way I see plants, but I haven’t shared much about how my work in environmental science influences my decisions at Bottle Branch. As someone who once studied carbon dynamics in forests and taught environmental science, I can’t ignore issues of sustainability.

So, here are four ways I try to reduce the environmental impacts of Bottle Branch:

(1) Biodegradable card wrappers

In packaging my cards, sticky notes, stickers, gift tags and notepads, I use clear wrappers that are made from compostable material. They work like plastic and look like plastic, but the clear wrappers I use are made from PLA (polylactic acid) which is derived from plants, not petroleum. They’re a bit more brittle that petroleum-derived plastic, and far from perfect, but they’re biodegradable and renewable. You can read more pros and cons of PLA here and about the biodegradability of PLA here.

(2)  Recycled Card Stock

All my cards are printed on Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certified card stock with between 30% and 100% recycled content. What does FSC certification mean?  In short, it means the pulp used to make these papers comes from responsibly managed forests. You can read more about Forest Stewardship Council ceritfication here.  In choosing these card stocks, I hope to support both responsible foresty practices and the market for recycled products.

lady's mantle with droplets bottle branch

(3) Home grown, pesticide free plant material.

Its no secret that I like to garden and to use those homegrown plants and flowers for my art work, because, well, it’s fun! But homegrown plants are also a more sustainable choice – no pesticides, herbicides, synthetic fertilizers or long distance transport. When I do buy flowers, I prefer to buy from local, sustainable flower farms like Five Fork Farms.

recycled paper packaging

(4)  Recycled Paper bags, mailers, and tissue paper.

Every order I pack is wrapped in tissue paper made from 100% recycled fibers and shipped in a recycled kraft paper mailer that is made in the USA. Or, if its a local purchase, its delivered in a recycled paper bag. It helps that they’re appleaing to the touch and the tissue paper is pretty!

I wish I could write more. I wish I could say all the printing was done using wind or solar power. Or deliveries would be done only in electric vehicles. But in trying not to dwell on all of the other things I could/should be doing to be greener, I’ll remind myself “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good” and keep on finding little things to do to keep my business fresh and green.
garden poppies by elizabeth pyle

Botanical Patterns

green-leaves-repeating-pattern-by-bottle-branch-rectangle.jpeg

If you’ve been around here long, you’ll know I’ve been interested in repeating patterns and spoonflower for a while. So, when the winter doldrums hit this year, I dug into my stockpile of plant photos and made some botanical designs.

spring flowers wrapping paper bottle branch

The next step was to take them to spoonflower, where patterns can be printed onto gift wrap, fabrics, and wallpaper.

Bottle branch pink tulips wallpaper
pink tulips wallpaper image generated by Spoonflower

The pink tulips pattern might be a cry for help from this mother of four boys, but if I had a little girl, I would be tempted to stick some of this wall paper in her room.

four folded tea towels bottle branch blogFrom Spoonflower, I took my patterns over to its sister site, Roostery, which makes finished goods from Spoonflower printed fabics, including, napkins, sheets, pillow covers, and of course, the tea towels you see here.

selection of tea towels by bottle branch blogIt was a thrill to received these tea towels and see my patterns on a finished product. I have no plans to offer them through my online shop, but if you have a hankering for botanical textiles, they are available to order at roostery.  Likewise, visit spoonflower if you are interested in fabric, giftwrap, or wallpaper.

garden planning bottle branch blog

I’m hoping to make more patterns, but I’m also starting to think about spring, and planning and planting my garden and once, there are real flowers to play with, who knows what will be next?!

Spring Cleaning: website update

tulips in hand by Elizabeth Hammond Pyle

Hello! How did you arrive here today? Did you come by way bottlebranch.com ? If so, you may have seen that I’ve been doing pre-spring cleaning, and I’ve moved this blog to a  tab, so some of my other projects can take center stage.

If you’re reading this via your email inbox, you’ll still receive the occasional floral/ gardening/photography blog post by email. But I also invite you to come take a look through my cleaned up site. As some one who still designs and manages her website solo, I’m pretty proud of how it turned out:

Thumbnail of Bottle Branch home page

If you poke around, you’ll see that I’ve also spent some time creating repeating botanical patterns, combining various images in photoshop to create scalable, seamless repeats. I’ll show you what I’m doing with those patterns in my next post.

December details

present wrapping bottle branchHappy December, my friends. Are you rushing around trying to get a million things done?! I’ve done my fair share of rushing, but now that its the middle of the month, I’m really trying to breathe deeply and enjoy the season and all its festive details, like luxe ribbons, and fresh evergreens. So, I thought I’d share a few of the seasonal touches I’ve been adding and/or planning at my house.

holiday kitchen scene by elizabeth pyleThe first decoration I put up was a square boxwood wreath pictured above, in my kitchen. The square shape was new for me, but once I found the right spot in my kitchen, framed by a window and backsplash edge, it felt just right. And, yes, I did spend a little time arranging the oranges, bowl and tea pot for this photo – I couldn’t help myself!

little floral arrangements bottle branchLast week, I potted up some plants to give as presents. Its probably no surprise that little potted plants and/or vases of greens and flowers are among my favorite things to give this time of year.

gift wrapping ideasI’ve also been wrapping presents like these. It brings me joy to combinte patterns, tie ribbons and put together color combinations, like aqua with red. And it was a bonus when I discovered that my Bottle Branch gift tag matched the David’s Tea ‘Winter Favorites’ packaging in this photo.

rose hips flourish card in hand bottle branchNext up, I’ll be sending out Christmas cards. It is undoubtedly a bit of work to put them together, but its also so much fun. For me, December is the only time of year where I look forward to the mail. I love hearing from friends near and far and seeing all the creative and pretty cards they create, not to mention family photos.

second close up of sticker gift wrapping bottle branch blogBefore I go, I’ll put in a quick plug for my Bottle Branch etsy shop and say that if you want some festive holiday cards, gift tags, sticky notes, and more, shop now. I have plenty in stock but I’ll be shutting it down for the season this Thursday, December 14.

 

windowsill decorations bottle branch blogBecause, obviously, I’ll need more time to create little seasonal touches, like this arrangment of pine cones, which I put together this morning when I was supposed to be finishing up this blog post.

Happy December, everyone! Hope you find some time to slow down and enjoy the season!

pinecones in window bottle branch blog

Abundant autumn flowers and a shop update

Its easy to forget that summer lasts until September 21st and that even after summer is officially over, plants carry on blooming, growing, making seeds. And that’s exactly what they’re doing right now at my house.

My cosmos, zinnias, strawflowers are tumbling over one another, blooming wildly. I’ve given up caring about the general tidyness of my garden and just let them go. Larkspur seeds rain down from dried pods, and I just hope I can remember where to expect them to pop up next year.

Stepping through fallen leaves and gathering blooms is one of my favorite activities this time of year, so I’ve made some flower arrangements (above) and some cards for my Bottle Branch shop. (below)  In fact, over the summer (and since my lost post here) I’ve added 11 new card designs, as well as a new style of flat cards.

I hope you’ll go take a look in my shop to see what’s new; I’ll be adding even more in the coming weeks. And in the mean time, enjoy this magical seasonal transition and the rampant abundance of fall flowers.

 

Hellebores in the garden and in the shop

hellebore wreath bottle branch blogHellebores are having their moment. With their early bloom time, relative hardiness, and quirky beauty they are proving irresistible to many, including me. Having started with a few typical hellebore varieties a few years ago, I have lately developed that mania for special varieties that sometimes afflicts gardeners. pink frost hellbore bottle branch blogLast fall, I planted Helleborus “pink frost” (above) and it has been astounding, with pink flowers emerging from under snow cover, and blooming, blooming, blooming.

I also planted Helleborus ‘Maid of Honor’, which, as you may guess from the name, promises fluffy pink double flowers. Like the rest of my hellebores, its only just now emerging. Fingers crossed it blooms soon! hellebore emerging bottle branch I also fell in love with these double hellebores (below) when I found them (and promptly bought them) as cut flowers. When I posted them on instagram there was a lot of chatter about what variety they could be, with no conlcusion. hellbores1 bottle branch blogOnly later, when I read this post on collecting hellebores  by Pauline of Cloverhome, did I start thinking. At first, I thought they might be Helleborus ‘Cerise’ which she featured in her post. Now, after a little internet snooping (and wondering how quickly hellebore hybrids cross international borders) I am thinking they might be H. ‘Amythest Gem’ or H.’Red Sapphire” (Didn’t I tell you I’ve succumbed to hellbore mania?)  Anyone with expert hellebore idenitification skills, please speak up! hellebores card bottle branch blogI also managed to take some photos of these double flowering hellebores for making into a cards (above), now available in my Etsy shop, just in case you, or someone you know, also suffers from hellebore obsession. 

I’ll be adding to my plant collection this spring, having already ordered more varieties, to be delivered any day now. And I may even add to my hellebore photo card collection once my homegrown plants bloom. Spring is such a heady time for plant lovers, isn’t it?! Hope you are enjoying yours!

On pink tulips, seasonality, and upcoming events

pink-tulips-bottle-branchThis week, I’m getting ready for a few upcoming art shows and craft fairs, and it has me thinking about how I organize and present my work. I organize my botanical photography cards and photos into groups and sets according to their season of flowering.
organizing-flower-cards-by-season-bottle-branch
It always seemed like the obvious way to organize since that’s how I think of them. Ombre of Sassafras leaves card? That one is an autumn. Pink tulips? Spring, obviously! And hydrangea can only be filed under ‘summer’.
pink-tulip-card-from-bottle-branch
But one of the things that I have learned from selling my items at local art fairs, is that not everyone thinks that way. Not everyone sees a pink tulip and thinks, “Spring!” They may think, “I like pink.” Or, “my grandmother used to grow pink tulips.” Or, just “pretty!” (Or, maybe they’re thinking “ewww… too girly! I hate it!” but they’re too polite to say so outloud.) larkspur-ombre-card-by-bottle-branchSo, I’ve been thinking about alternative organizing scenarios. I could see organizing by color. Or maybe design type – a set of different ombre color gradient cards? But I keep getting stuck on seasonality.
spring-tulip-cards-from-bottle-branch
So, I am curious, dear reader, does seasonal organization make sense to you?  How would organize a catalogue of botanical images? I’d be delighted to hear what you think!

P.S. The other, more practical, thing I’ve been doing as I organize for the upcoming season, has been setting up an online list of my upcoming events. You can click here, or look up at the top right corner of my site, look under “Menu”and click on the “events” tab.

P.P.S. First event is Newton Open Studios on April 1st and 2nd! I’ll be exhibiting at First Baptist Church in Newton Centre, alongside a talented group that includes painters, textile artists, jewelry makers and more. If you’re local, I hope you’ll stop by!  (More info here.)

Valentines for friends

Valentine’s day is coming up, and, while I have never really been big on the forced and/or cliche romantic acts the day can conjure up, I am a fan of red and pink, and pretty things in the otherwise dreary and cold month of February.heart-paper-product-bottle-branchLast year, when my shop was very new, I put together a collection of winter-ish, Valentines-ish cards and I was touched by the little stories I heard from customers who bought them. I heard things like, “I’m sending them to my daughter and her friends at college” or “These will be perfect for some of my single friends.”set-of-heart-tags-bottle-branch-blogI loved the idea of people sending a very little something to friends and family just to say “I’m thinking of you” or “you are loved.” So, I’ve put together a few new cards and some gift tags with a Valentine’s theme for my shop. ombre-straw-flower-heart-with-straw-flowers-bottle-branchMade from dried plants – strawflowers, pink pepperberries, gomphrena and eucalyptus, these designs are more earthy and cute than romantic and passionate. In other words, perfect for a friendly gesture for all those we love.  strawflower-valentine-bottle-branch-blog

How to wrap presents like you know what you’re doing.

two-wrapped-presents-bottle-branch-blog

Theoretically, I like the idea of wrapping presents perfectly, with crisp corners, perky bows, and well appointed tags and ribbons. I have an entire pinterest board devoted to pretty packages. But in practice, I haven’t always taken the time to wrap things beautifully, and I’ve been more likely to slap it all together in the final hour, with odd angles and prolific tape. But not any more.

Now that I am in the business of making pretty accoutrements of present wrapping, I have a fresh interest in the subject. And I am lucky enough to have something of a gift wrapping  expert in my family. My mother-in-law organized a charity gift wrap station through out the 1970’s and 1980’s, spending hours there cheerfully wrapping presents for others and all for a good cause. And she didn’t just wrap presents, she taught countless volunteers to wrap “the proper way.” Oh, and I can’t neglect to mention, she wraps presents for friends and family without using tape.

Here’s what it looks like to open a package wrapped without tape. So easy! So effortless! No tearing or ripping; the paper falls away like petals from a late summer rose.

Lucky for me,my mother-in-law is a generous person, who not only has graciously tolerated my slap dash wrapping efforts over the years but also recently agreed to come over and share a few of her tips for making your own pretty packages. And now I am happy to share them with you. (With her permission, of course!)

I realize all of you can probably basically wrap a present, so I’ll share with you here the two most important tips I took away from my personalized instruction:

First of all, take the time to measure both the box and the paper, and then the present practically wraps itself.

Second, never, ever twist ribbon on the bottom side of the box – its just sloppy, and makes the box wobbly. 

I’ve put each step in the form of a picture below, so you can quickly scroll and look for specific details.  If you don’t know how to twist your ribbon at the top, take a look and you’ll be glad you did! Its so easy and does make a difference.

w2measuring-tape-text

w3measurearound-text

w4measure-bottom-edge-to-bottom-edge-textw5measurepaper-textw6cut text.jpegw8-wrap-to-center-bottom-textw9-fold-textw11-tuck-corners-textw12-smooth-folds-textw13-fold-in-textw14-extr-fold-text

w16-package-wrapped-duplicatew17-now-take-ribbon-textw18-center-ribbon-with-tail-textw19-holding-center-wrap-textw20-bring-ribbon-back-to-top-textw21-twist-textw22-wrap-carefully-textw23-crossing-on-bottom-textw24-bring-ribbon-back-up-to-center-textw25-tie-it-off-textw26-make-a-bow-textw27-trim-ribbon-text

tie-on-a-tag-textwrapped-and-ready-text

So there you are! The “proper” way to wrap a present, via my mother in law. She also taught me some advanced bow making techniques, but those will have to wait until another post.

Happy wrapping!