Flower obsession: Verbascums

verbascum portrait

I’ve been known to develop obsessions with particular flowers. One year, it was strawflowers; another year, it was hellebores and lately, it has been Verbascums, also known as Mulleins, in all their varieties.

verbascum thapsis flowers

It started when I left the weedy Verbascum thapsis AKA Common Mullein in my cutting garden, just to watch it grow. And, did it grow! A 7 foot column of yellow flowers and beautiful leaves – a glorious sight that became a topic of conversation in my household and neighborhood.

verbascum thapsis leaves

Verbascum thapsis (the weed) typically grows on rocky, open spots, like train tracks, parking lot edges, etc. and since its not native to North America, some sources list Verbascum thapsis as invasive. Others sources consider it ‘naturalized’ and celebrate its many medicinal uses. I just loved its fuzzy leaves and cheerful flowers buzzing with bees.

verbascum phoenecium in gardenI’ve also been smitten with the smaller, more delicate Verbascum phoenecium, which I’ve grown from seed. Since its a perennial, it took 2 years before flowering, but once it bolted, it was mesmerizing to watch.

purple verbascum phoenecium bottle branch blog 2.jpg The individual flowers open sequentially along the flower spike, from bottom to top: as the flowers below fade and drop off, new ones open above – a lovely metaphor for life and its many opportunities, don’t you think?!

nettle leaved mulleinThen, I encountered this ‘nettled-leaved mullein’ when visiting a garden in Maine – Verbascum Chaxii ‘album’ Isn’t it a beauty?I have been seaching for a domestic seed souce for this variety (unsuccessful so far – ideas most welcome!)  but in the mean time I’ve planted a few Verbascum ‘Southern Charm” which are coming along nicely and promising to flower soon.

verbascum 'southern charm' budsOnce it does flower, it will  surely appear in my still life and other instagram photos, because I just can’t get enough of all the Verbascums these days. Can you spot the Verbascum in the photo below?

stilll life with irises and verbascum.JPG

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.)

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!)

closed-straw-flowers-in-summer-by-elizabeth-pyle-on-bottle-branch

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!

two-straw-flowers-bottle-branch-blog

 

Shop update: Summer flowers!

pink-hydrangea-party-cards-form-bottle-branch

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.

larkspur-ombre-card-by-bottle-branch

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.

summer-2016-card-set-bottle-branch

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

wildflowers-card-close-up-bottle-branch

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

green-leaf-cards-by-bottle-branch

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.

 

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!)

pretty tea time bottle branch blog

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

garden tulips bottle branch blog

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!

New year, new projects

frost on window bottle branch blog

Hello! Happy New year! I love January, because it feels like a blank slate. With cold, cold, weather here in Boston, I’m forced inside and have a chance to explore the indoor projects that often get put on hold when there are weeds to be pulled, perennials to be moved, or flowers to be cut.

Right now, I’ve got lots of projects cooking happily in my creative kitchen, and I’d like to tell you a little about each of them.

white line wood cuts on bottle branch blog

First of all, I’ve returned to white line woodcuts and started trying out new designs. With a few tips from Lisa Houck and Amy MacGregor Radin, I’m feeling a little more confident in my execution so I’m working on some final, best prints to submit to an upcoming show. The deadline for submissions in February first, so wish me luck!

cosy blue embroidery bottle branch blog

Second, I’ve started a new embroidery piece. Life doesn’t feel complete unless I have something to stitch, especially in winter. But since I’ve been busy with other projects, I haven’t designed anything myself. Instead, I decided to buy this adorable sea captain design from Cozy Blue on etsy. It was one of the first things I ever pinned on pinterest in 2012, so I’ve been waiting a long time to give it a try.

garden planning on bottle branch blog

Third, after mooning over seed catalogues for a few weeks, I’ve just ordered flower seeds for my 2016 garden. I chose a few familiar stand-bys, like snapdragons, cosmos, and nigella. But I’ve also added china asters, sweet peas, and globe thistles. Pretty soon, my sunny windows will be filled with trays of sprouting seeds. So excited!

Finally, I’m working on new photo card designs. I am trying to bump my tiny new business along, even if I don’t have any flowers or foliage from my garden for inspiration. If you’re with me on instagram, you’ve probably seen some of them already, but I’m also planning to reveal my new cards in an upcoming post. So, stay tuned!