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!

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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Scottish Adventures: Falkland Palace and Garden

view through window at falkland palace

One thing I noticed on my trip to Scotland was that Mary Queen of Scots seems to have visited/lived in/spent some amount of time at many historic sites. (A little like hearing “George Washington slept here” up and down the U.S. east coast.) In the case of Falkland Palace, it was quite true, as Falkland Palace was a favorite spot for hunting for nobility of all types from the 12th until the 17th century, and Mary was no exception.

falkland house scotland

In the early 16th century, the old castle was tranformed into a renaissance palace by James IV and James V (Mary’s father) who added a royal tennis court, which I know is called “court tennis” in the USA and apparently called “real tennis” on the internet. (Looks like a lot of fun to play!)

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The palace later fell into ruin, but in the late 19th century, the property was partially restored by John Patrick Crichton-Stuart, 3rd Marquess of Bute.  These days, Falkland Palace is maintained by the National Trust for Scotland, and is a delight to visit.

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The Royal tennis court is still there, and still in use, though I did not take any photos. I was too distracted by the sparrows dipping in and out and all around, and by all the beautiful gardens outside.

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I also missed a photo of the giant outdoor chess set, which kept my children busy, enabling me to take all these photos, and making it a great place to visit for all ages.

Scottish Adventures: Stirling

 

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Roses growing wild near Stirling castle, Scotland

When I started this blog, my plan was to stick with a narrow focus – creative projects and inspiration. But now, a few years later, things are different.

I’ve started a small business and a lot of my creative energy is going into that – keeping my online shop fresh, coming up with new cards and prints, and best of all, keeping interesting plants in my garden so I always have fresh botanical inspiration. Aside from my garden, those other creative endeavours don’t lend themselves to thoughtful blog posts, and besides, they have their own little space on the internet.

So, I’ve decided to open up this space a little, and post about other topics, and today, I’d like to share a little about my recent family trip to Scotland. I’d be honored if you’d stick around – there are landscapes, castles, and, of course, gardens and plants.

landscape around sterling scotland

With a home base in Stirling, we were in the thick of some of big moments in Scottish history, including the Battle of Bannockburn where Robert Bruce defeated King Edward II of England in 1314, and the Battle of Stirling Bridge, which was woefully misrepresented in the movie Braveheart as we learned more than once.  With boys in tow, we visited both sites, of course!

We also regularly enjoyed the dramatic views of Stirling castle and the highland cows grazing beneath it. Sadly, I did not get a good photo of the castle which is quite dramatic in the landscape, perched high up on a crags. (Its easy to find one online.)

view from Stirling Castle
One view from Stirling castle

Dating mostly from the 15th and 16th centuries, Stirling castle served at royal residence to James IV, V, VI of Scotland. Mary, Queen of Scots, was crowned there and Bonnie Prince Charlie beseiged it. (Not exactly in that order, of course!) So I’ll stop there – having me try to recount Scottish history will do none of us any good. Suffice it to say that Stiring castle played a key role in much of Scottish history, and it was a delight to explore; my boys spent a lot of time discussing paraphets, keeps and murder holes.

We also visited the museum of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders within Stirling castle. They could have easily landed one new recruit, but for the barrier of his being only ten years old, and a US citizen.

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We also took several day trips, visiting St. Andrews, Falkland Palace and Garden, and the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh, among other places. Stay tuned, if you want to hear more … I’ll be posting those later in the week.  In the meantime, here was my favorite personal discovery in our adventures in and around Stirling: wild woodland foxgloves growing along the path to the Wallace monument.

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May wrap up

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Happy June, my internet friends!

May is possibly the busiest month of the year. At least, for me it is, as motherhood demands blossom, and I find myself filling out camp forms, digging out summer clothing and trying to replace what no longer fits, and shuttling around to end-of-school-year presentations, recitals, parties. And all the while, my garden is also calling to me for attention.

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In my May garden, I dream big, get ambitious, and have been known to go a little crazy at the garden center.

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Thankfully, as in motherhood, there are also rewards in the May garden. My tree peonies thrill me every year, and I silently thank whichever previous owner of my house planted them.

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This year, thing were even busier, as I spruced up my etsy shop, adding a new logo, cover photo, and ‘about’ section. I even asked a talented friend to come over and take photos of me ‘working’ and added some of those. (It still makes me cringe a little to post photos of myself.)

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And now, this week, I’ve been preparing for my first appearance at a local art fair. Taking my work live and in person is something I’ve been dreading, but also, somehow feels inevitable. Why I decided to take that plunge just now, I have no idea. (If you’re local, I would love, love, love to see you there!)

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Thankfully, there have also been a few moments of calm, and more than a few cups of tea. Happy June!

In the garden and in the shop

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Despite my best intentions, I seem to be blogging once a month these days. What can I say? I’m just like everyone else: spending more time on social media, less time on blogs. Still, it’s been an exciting month since my last post, so here what’s been going on in my garden, and in my shop.

happy tea card set from bottle branch blog

Bottle Branch Shop: 

I’m trying out a new shop site via pattern by etsy. You can see it here, or if you look at the top of this page, you’ll see a direct link under SHOP. Adding that little link/tab felt like an exciting accomplishment in and of itself, and I have to thank my dear friend Kristen for telling me how.

making gift tags bottle branch blog

I’ve also added some new items to my store: notably pretty tea time cards (see previous post) and foral gift tags. The gift tags have been so much fun to create. You know I love a good project and this one was just right for me – photography, a little bit of computer/printer/photoshop wrangling, combined with cutting and stringing the tags up. Not surprisingly, I’ve got more designs in the pipeline.

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In my garden: 

The most exciting garden decision I made this year was to plant my entire vegetable patch as a flower cutting garden. I started seeds indoors (strawflower, cosmos, gomphrena, zinnias) and outdoors (echinops, stock, larkspur, nigella).  Fingers crossed I get lots of flowers to share this summer and fall!

tulips in the garden bottle branch

While I wait for those, I’m happily enjoying the bulbs I planted last October, inluding T. ‘Christmas Sweet’ and T. “Pink Diamond” (above) and T. Montreux, T. rejoyce, Narcissus “sweet love” in the photo at the start of this post.  I’m already planning what to plant for next year.

Honestly, I’m so excited about all my plans for shop and garden, it was hard for me to take the time to finish this post. I hope your world is similarly abuzz with plans, activities and dreams. Onward and upwards! Happy spring!

December news

pink flower cards from bottle branch blog

I’ve haven’t been blogging much, but I have been as busy as an elf over the past few weeks. I’ve made holiday wreaths, been working on new card designs, and added a few new cards in my etsy shop.

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I’ve also done one fun holiday craft project with my younger children. So far. Hoping to do a few more and post on those a little later in the month. In the mean time, I’ll remind you that cards make a lovely holiday present and I’ve recently added an option to buy sets of cards in my shop. December is always a wild ride. Hang in there, my friends, and have fun!

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Botanical photo cards

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Its been quiet here, in my little corner of the internet. I’ve just been soooo busy. Yes, the usual tasks of motherhood – carpool, dinner, nagging – have kept me busy, but I’ve also been prepping more items for my etsy shop.

So, I’m delighted to post these new additions to my store – photo cards! Printed on soft, 130# card stock, that’s both acid free and Forest Stewardship Council certified, these cards turned out to be more lovely than I had hoped.

Each design is available in a separate etsy listing: autumn leaf ombré, hydrangea ombré, an array of summer flowers, and an array of green leaves.  I’ll shamelessly remind you that these cards would make a wonderful present for the avid gardener, plant lover, or anyone who just loves pretty things. I hope you’ll go take a look!

first four cards bottle branch blog