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. 

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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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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.

ready for the garden bottle branch blog

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

hot pink peonies bottle branch blog

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.

larkspur seedlings bottle branch blog

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!

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

 

Just in time for Valentine’s day: a card giveaway!

valentine's-ish cards bottle branch blog

I’ll admit that I’m not really big on Valentine’s day. I’ve never liked the sense of forced romance, though I feel lucky to have a husband who remembers to get me flowers. Plus, I do love the colors and visuals of Valentine’s day.  Just when winter hits its bleakest, we are inundated with lots of pink and red – hearts, roses, candy. (Try not to think about the artificial coloring that lends the candy its color.)

photography project on bottle branch blog

So, I couldn’t resist taking photos to make a few valentine’s-ish cards for my etsy store. I’ve used dried and found plant materials – eucalyptus, pink pepperberries, and red crab apples and you can see my not-so-glamourous set up at my dining room table.

The resulting cards might not be likely to ignite a steamy romance, but since when did anyone expect a card to do that? I hope they’re cheerful and perky enough to brighten up your day, and perfect for platonic Valentine’s wishes.

valentine's card set by bottle branch

To keep things interesting around here, I’m going to give a set away. The winner will receive one set of six cards – three have hearts, and three do not, so they don’t all have to be used for Valentine’s day.

You don’t even have to leave a comment to enter. (Though, comments are always appreciated!) All you have to do is share this post and tag me on Facebook (tag:bottlebranch) or twitter (tag: zibpyle). Don’t forget to tag me: If you don’t, I might not know you’ve entered! And, please don’t go to my twitter account and laugh at how bad it is. (Twitter really isn’t my thing, but I’m working on that.)

I’ll pick a winner by random number drawing on Monday, January 25th, so I can get the cards mailed out well before Valentine’s day. International entries welcome! I hope you’ll enter and good luck!

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.

wreath december 2015 bottle branch blog

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!

cards as presents  bottle branch blog

More botanical photo cards: Autumn leaves

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Well, now. This is turning into quite a boring blog. Here I am posting about new photo cards in my etsy shop. AGAIN.  These latest are botanically inspired patterns, ombre arrangements of autumn leaves. And they’re printed on the same soft, touchable card stock.

Its been so much fun to make these, that I’m working on more. The resizing, editing, and general fiddling does take longer than one might hope and so it has been keeping me quite busy. Not to mention, taking photos of the photo cards. Fun facts about this photo: (1) I’m left handed, so my right hand holding a pen looks awkward and hilarious to me. (2) I’ve had that silver pen since I got married – 19 years.(!) Its not the most practical pen, but it is pretty – perfect for a photo.

autumn leaf cards in use bottle branch blog

So, that’s all the news in my world of making things. I’m hoping to be back with something new and different soon. In the mean time, if you haven’t been to visit my etsy shop, I hope you’ll go take a look! And if you have already visited, and liked or even bought some items: thank you so much! I can’t tell you how much I appreciate your support!

Botanical photo cards

cards ready to write bottle branch blog

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

Dahlia daydreams and a little bit of printmaking

dahlias by ephpyle

If you’re addicted to looking at flower photography on instagram like I am, you’ll know it’s still dahlia season. (See #dahliaseason.)  My own garden dahlias disappointed me this year. I picked up the plants at a local garden center without paying much attention to the variety and I ended up with these short, mottled white and magenta flowers.(above) They still look pretty enough, but I found the high contrast of bright pink and white together a bit jarring and I didn’t like the way they looked with other flowers.

dahlias of 2014 by ephpyle

In past years, I’ve grown softer pink and yellow dahlias, like these flowers from 2014 (above and below).

bright dahlia by ephpyle

So, I’m already dreaming about what I’m going to plant next year. So far, I’m thinking about ‘café au lait’, ‘apple blossom’, or some type of pompon dahlias like ‘Eveline’, all pictued below. (Photos are not mine – they’re from wikimedia commons, details and links at the end of this post.) If you have any particular favorite dahlia varieties to recommend for growing next year, I’m all ears.

My daydreams also led me to make some dahlia-inspired white line wood cuts.

dahlia white line print by ephpyle

Clearly, pink dahlias have been on my mind. I wanted these prints to be softly colored but now, when I look at them in comparison to photos of real dahlias, they look positively washed out and I’m not sure what I want… Other than to grow more and different dahlias next summer.

dahlia white line print 2 by ephpyle

Photo credits for dahlias I’ve never grown:

Cafe au lait dahlia:  Mark Twyning (Marktee1) via wikimedia commons

Dahlia ‘apple blossom’ : Mark Twyning (Marktee1) via wikimedia commons

Dahlia “eveline’ : Mark Twyning (Marktee1) via wikimedia commons