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.
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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.)

Strawflower Magic

bouquet-of-strawflowers-bottle-branch-blog

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. 

drying-strawflowers-on-bottle-branch-blog

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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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

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!)

at falkland palace 2

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.

falkland house garden scotland

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.

at falkland palace

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.

May wrap up

flowers still life bottle branch blog

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.

arranging flowers bottle branch blog

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.)

card display bottle branch blog

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!

Pretty Tea Time

happy tea time april 2 bottle branch blog

I’ve written before about my love of intsagram, and year in and year out, this little free app remains a great source of creative inspiration for me. I love seeing the beautiful photos posted by so many talented instagrammers (Just a few of my favorite flower-loving instagram accounts: Janne, Julia, and Jessica.)

But also, the impetus of posting photos regularly keeps me challenged creatively. In particular, making ephemeral arrangements and vignettes has become an favorite creative exercise and I really love to take “pretty tea time” photos in the morning.

happy tea time in March from bottle branch blog

An ideal morning goes something this: walk children to school, go for a long morning walk, accompanied by either my audiobook or a friend. Fill my pockets with interesting tidbits of nature along the way.

When I get home, I make myself a cup of tea, tidy up any remaining breakfast dishes, and  empty out my pockets. As I look through my collected nature treasures, I like to arrange them in pretty patterns, and usually the pattern involves my tea cup, because, as it turns out, its a lot easier to make a pleasing arrangement when it involve a circle in the center, especially a circle filled with that magic and photogenic elixhir, green tea. (Just my unbiased opinion, of course.)

happy tea time january bottle branch blog

Pretty tea photos are a popular theme (or meme) on instagram, and there’s a whole community of tea-drinking nature lovers all over the world. (Look hereOr hereOr here.)

While I think it might be foolish to confuse instagram popularity with artistic merit or relevance, I do puzzle over what makes these sets of images so appealing. Is it that they are variations on a theme? The balance of sameness and variety?

happy tea time in february bottle branch blog

On a whim, I made some cards with a few of these “happy tea time” images, starting with a set of four photos from the winter months. They turned out so much better than I had expected. I was thinking about listing them in my etsy shop, but honestly, I’m just not sure. I might be suffering from lack of confidence or lack of conviction, but I think they are a little bit weird?! Am I crazy? Would simple prints for framing be better? A whimisical addition to kitchen decor? Or a calendar called “Happy Tea for all Seasons?” I have so many ideas!

happy tea card set from bottle branch blog

In the mean time, I’ve decided to give these away. Yes, another giveaway, but here’s the catch, its going to be an instagram giveaway. I feel like that’s only fair since that’s where they were inspired! If you’re interested, please click over to my new bottle branch instagram page (not my regular instagram account) Look for the photo above to enter. Winner will be posted there on April 10.

four happy cups of tea from bottle branch blog

Thanks so much for reading! I would love your thoughts!

Spring flowers and white line prints

spring bulbs cards celebrate bottle branch

I don’t want to jinx it , but its been a mild winter here in Boston and I’m feeling like spring is in the air. So I’m celebrating with new photo cards of spring flowers in my etsy shop. I’m offering a set of five cards depicting tulips, jonquils and hyacinths in whimsical arrangements, with plans to add individual cards sometime soon.

spring bulbs bottle branch blog

I wish I could say the flowers were from my garden, but as of right now, my bulbs are just slowly poking their way up through the ground. Still, its much earlier than last year.

white line prints in process bottle branch blog

Also, as I hinted in my last post, I’ve finally added some of those white line woodcuts I keep chattering about. So far, only two designs are listed, both originals and fancy reproductions. I’m all ears if there are any requests to see others listed. I have many designs, but somehow, my motivation to list them is low.

In truth, I’m much more excited about the upcoming gardening season, so this is where I’ll be: sitting in my kitchen, drinking tea, planning and dreaming about my garden.

seeds and garden dreaming bottle branch blog

 

Everyone’s a winner!

valentine's giveaway

Wow! What an adventure! Thank you to everyone who shared and tagged and thus entered my Valentine’s giveaway over the weekend. I really appreciate your efforts and enthusiasm and it was quite interesting keeping track of entires, and even enticed me to use both twitter and facebook a little more than usual.

The official, randomly selected winner is Monica, of Prince Snow Farm. Congratulations! Message me your address and I’ll ship them out ASAP.

But, I always feel a little sad, having to pick one winner. I have a quiet little blog and I feel like I know you all, so I’ve decided that today, everyone’s a winner! Here’s how:

First of all, if you entered and didn’t win, I’ll happily send you a card from the Valentine’s set. Your choice of which one. Just message me at bottlebranch@gmail.com by February 1st.

Secondly, I’m offering 20% all items in my etsy shop until February 14th. You’ll need to enter this coupon code, BBvalentine, at check out.

Thank you all for all your support and interest. I sincerely appreciate it!