The quote 'we write to live life twice' by Anaïs Nin comes to mind, when I look back at the pages of my blog. It captures why I write and further, why I also have a love for photography. I
remember spending the birthday money I was gifted at the age of 13, on my first Canon click and shoot camera. The excitement of having those images developed - opening up that
envelope and seeing a more tangible form of that moment clicked ages ago. Some photos great, some not so much ('How did this blur occur?') I feel this especially when I see these
snaps of my 27th birthday. Here's 28 and 29 happened this year...that post is also on the way! Chronology - who's got time for that. Mixing it up a little. Sis took me for a lovely birthday
breakfast at Cosy Club in the morning (sharing pancakes and Eggs Benedict is our specialty), where vintage decor and sewing-related furnishings caught my eye.
After choosing to throw caution to the slight rain splutters, we made a visit to Coton Manor in Northampton. Visiting gardens is one of our favourite ways to spend summertime. We've
luckily had a chance to visit a fair few in the past years and I have to say, this is one of my absolute favourites. The rockery at Lamport Hall was memorable for sure, as well as pensive
pond moments at Cottesbrooke Hall. Here, it was the beautiful mix of flora and fauna, if not for a particular long-limbed creature I anticipated seeing.
I could wax lyrical about all the blooms here for a while...so I'm going to. Flowerbeds edged along the length, with hazy purple irises sitting comfortably. Fluid lines of the flowerheads
reminded me of Van Gogh's brushstrokes. There was a fragrant burst which past us every time we were in a certain vicinity. Stepping back and forth to catch the aroma again, we were
able to narrow in on which shrub it was. Each variety was labelled, where it was the 'syringa palibin' - aka lilacs, which excited the scent sense. Cue searching for said shrub in online
garden shops, in the days that followed. That, and about 20 other plant species (slight exaggeration...only slight).
We sat on the lawn by the khaki-coloured lake, absorbing our zen surroundings. It was looking a little touch and go with the weather, although the sun emerged at just the right time.
Those jungle vibes came through with giant palms arching extravagantly out of the water. At times like this, thoughts of creating a water feature in my own garden heightened. Or,
small scale is just as idyll an option, like this microcosm you could hold in your hands. The most striking ducks with Mondrian-esque markings drifted through the chocolate waters.
The variety of flora continues. Creamy pansies smile in clusters and paper-like petals thread daisies together with yellow faces. Wonderland, here we are. Now, the blue poppies
were surprising and surreal. An immediate thought was of course, planting some. An evening with Monty Don on Gardener's World revealed that the Himalayan Poppy is very fussy
with the soil and conditions they are in. Not one to be deterred, I may find them in a flower patch close to me soon. Yes, my Friday evening are usually spent watching what green feats
are blossoming in many a different plot around the United Kingdom. Love it.
Past the archway and fountain, we ventured into one of the most beautiful gardens. A layered landscape with pockets of colour and shrubbery. Glancing around, it was a case of
wanting to visually take in everything, from every angle. Speckles of white and fuchsia stood out against the verdant backdrop. Fiery yellow blooms sparked alight from one corner,
adding to the mottled drama. A perfectly paved path winded into the distance, marked by giant conifers. This was one garden I didn't want to leave.
Gazing towards my feet, fern fronds sprawled onto the path, sprouting in hearty bunches. There's something prehistoric and enchanting about ferns, almost as if they've been here
since dinosaurs roamed. I purchased a beautiful one from Kelmarsh Hall two summers ago, which provides great texture amongst other foliage. Another leafy plant which I'd
embedded in the soil is the Hosta. They showed good promise of growing, yet their leaves proved a bit too delicious for nearby critters. How to keep them at bay? I'm on the search for
environmentally and bug-friendly repellents. Any suggestions are welcome. Back in this garden, as if it couldn't be get more captivating..
This wonderfully dreamlike scenario. Carefree flamingos were happy to strike a long-stemmed pose. Even as you came in a little closer, they were completely cool. Nonchalant steps
and their relaxed demeanour - almost as if they're saying 'Here, feel free to capture this angle.' When they came together to make a neck-curving heart... Ah, they're just showing off
now. I have a definite new love for the flams. Some were in the pool having a little dip. where these two gems opted to have a casual standing siesta. I could happily fill this post with
flamingo photos. I mean, look at them! Talk about a haven for beautiful birds.
Wisteria draped along a wall length of the manor. I bought a wisteria plant around 2 years ago, which sits small and proud in a green pot. It's yet to show any signs of being such an
expansive, all-encompassing formation. Deep soil, many a year and patience should do the trick. From the garden shop here, I chose a climbing sweet-pea as my birthday plant, which
happened to be a vibrant pink/orange shade (matched the flamingos). It was also coincidentally named the 'Happy Birthday' variety on the tag. Couldn't have been more fitting.
Taking life with a plate full of petals and a small side of thorns. Because, well, that's just the balance that it is. Make sure you've got your gardening gloves on though. Those thorns can
have some cutting power. You've still gotta stop to smell the roses once in a while. I've planted two rose bushes in my own garden. I know summertime has come around around when
velvet red roses have unfurled and are surrounded by bees. I find there's always a floral flurry to get lost in.
It was a tranquil Friday near the end of May, when we decided to visit Rutland Water. A few days before my birthday, in fact. Living in a landlocked city like Leicester, spending much
time near a body of water wasn't possible. I did love growing up in this city though, especially bike rides in the local park - steep hills which allowed for soaring when making the non-
pedalling descent. On this particular day, it had been a while since I'd spent some time near the dock of the bay. That said, this year brought an amazing trip to the Algarve in Portugal,
which I'm excited to share in the coming months.
I remember the first time I made a visit here was in Year 4 (approx. aged 8) with school, at a different part of this large location. It was informative learning about the water cycle. That
day many a year ago, was broken up into two parts, where we spent the morning at Cropston Reservoir. We were told prior to the trip that a pair of wellies would be handy, as we
planned to walk through muddy river banks. My mum kindly took me to some shops in search for the perfect pair. She asked if I was certain about the pair I wanted and I thought I was.
They were a tad snug, but there'd be some give with a little wear, right? The end of the walk was a note-to-self moment. As nice as the light pink Wellington boots look, if they're a size
too small, opt for the comfortable, robust green ones which you could easily spend a day fly-fishing in. My teacher complemented them, 'Those are lovely pearly wellies, Darshika.'
'Thanks Miss' (my toes are gone). Inner brackets not my response at the time - just reflecting on how I feel about too-small-a-shoe, 20-odd years later. A fun day regardless, where the
following days at school involved pretending to write from the perspective of a living water droplet, going through its daily life cycle. We've all been there. I remember hand writing a
lengthy piece, which needed to be folded on itself multiple times before it was mounted on the wall. It was decorated with drawings of pebbles and such in the border. I've kept choice
work from my childhood days and yes, I still have this piece written approx 21 years ago. Drop me a message for a PDF version of this lengthy tale (kidding). Well worth the read though.
Practicality over appearance, the vast amount of time these days. My Croc-like gardening clogs would be evidence of this. Never did I think I'd be sporting a pair, yet I've grown quite
accustomed to them. Whether they'll be making a public appearance any time soon remains to be seen. I step out into the garden to put them on and think 'Ah, I'm home.' They
remind me of carefree weed-pulling-makes-everything-come-up-literal-roses times. Mine don't have the mini holes dotted across the plastic barrier of the shoe. They do however,
have the tooth-like shape, resilience and sure do the trick when wading through rocky mud. Convinced yet? Go on, wedge up and get a little muddy. For shoes not reserved for
gardening, I'd go with a pair similar to ones I wore this day, here... these would probably do the trick too.
Next rockery venture: a giant succulent-filled boat. Speaking of one, I did come across an ornamental boat (about 2 feet long) in a shop a few months ago and I was very tempted to
buy it. Navy blue with white edging, it was as nautical as it gets. I envisioned filling it with some compost and echeveria lilacina, with their greyish/faint blue petals mimicking the sea. It
took a lot to put it back down and remember sill space is at a shortage - as mentioned in the last post. I also considered how at this rate, I'm one step short of filling an
abandoned toaster with sprawling succulents - gaze here for vessel-planting inspiration.
I found myself playing camouflage against the stunning structure of Normanton Church. It sits on an arm stretching out into the water and provides a focal point along the landscape.
To think there were plans in the 1970's to flood the surrounding land and building - I'm glad to see it still standing strong today. Speaking of striking construction, the artist Pontus
Jansson carefully staggers rocks and then let's gravity naturally do it's thing (a helping hand sometimes). The balance between the various sized stones is impressive, with serene
locations adding to the zen. Each piece complements the next, leaving your mind to sometimes interpret the sculptural forms - I get 'book perched atop a mini meteor' here.
Gazing into the distance, you wonder what lies beneath the calm surface of the water. Wasn't expecting Nessie, although I'm sure fascinating creatures on a smaller scale are out there
doing their thing. I've always wanted to see coral; there's an abundance of colour, patterns and surrealness underwater. Being surrounded by it all would be quite an experience.
Last year I worked at a summer school, where I visited a dock in Gloucester on a free day. Quaint barges invited you over for tea. Life on the water just seems that bit more chill.
We decided to see some more of the land, so me and sis unhurriedly climbed up a stony pathway. Parents opted to take shade, read the paper and relax.
While writing this post, I found this song automatically play on my playlist. 'No man is an island...maybe you were the ocean when I was just a stone'. Seemed fitting while I look back at
a water-filled day. I'm a big fan of Ben Howard's music - have a listen to his albums for some mellow, yet moving, listening. This feels like a good segue to mention that they played
one of his beaut tunes at the end of a stellar episode of House, that I watched yesterday. I'm on the final series and as I (sadly) edge closer to the last ever episode, I'm over here
wondering how to spend my evenings. I could write or draw, sure, although peak productivity for me tends to be the morning/afternoon and I've carved out the late part of the day for
a show. I'm thinking Grey's Anatomy. I've heard that it's 15 series or so deep, so it's quite the investment. One to make? If you have any recommendations, I'd be happy to hear them.
The shoreline dipped in and out throughout the view, with the majestic building peeking through the trees. Sheep. so many sheep, living off the fat of the land and the good life. I was
reminded of my 28th birthday spent in Derbyshire. We finished this lovely day with a visit to a restaurant not too far from the city centre called Tiranga, for an early birthday dinner. A
great place for some authentic Indian food - the chilli paneer has a tasty crispiness to it. Summer, until you're ready to roll around again, we'll be here.
Last year saw me create my first two small rockeries. I saw a colossus one in the gardens at Lamport Hall and was inspired to make my own version, I then had to consider the
structure becoming waterlogged and the last thing I'd want was a washout rock slide. It was time to scale it down a little. I mentioned in my previous birthday post that dad
helped me build some planters, so smaller rocky microcosms it was. This decision happily led to many an even smaller terrarium created.
Like a kid in a rock candy shop, I had a fun day deciding which pebbles to purchase. Rose quartz, amethyst and aventurine are some semi-precious favourites. Polished pieces add a
statement touch, alongside stones in a more natural, jagged form. I find pebble combos look good with a similar theme, such as slate and metallic ore mineral. Yellow-hued stones
come together to complement light green leaves. The bench is also currently under construction, where dad's building skills know no limits.
I found an online shop which sold a collection of bare-rooted plantlings and a stunning unnamed variety arrived on my doorstep. I conducted some research of my own; the vivid
lengths of Purple Heart make a stunning addition to any planter. Speaking of small plants, you never know what'll spring up overnight. This miniature mushroom felt at home here,
nestled between chunky leaves. If you ever fancy creating a rockery yourself, here's a few tips. This is along the lines of what I initially had in mind for the back of my garden.
When the small wall in the garden was built by dad many a year ago, there were a few grey bricks left spare sitting in the corner. I thought they'd make great mini-mountain additions
to the rockery. Cue an enthusiastic throwing-bricks-against-the-paving session (highly recommended), which led to pieces breaking off in perfect chunks. The area looked like a little
makeshift quarry. I had no idea what to expect in the internal brickwork, yet I was pleased to discover a stellar moon-rock pattern throughout.
The large echeveria first had a home in the flowerbed, but was carefully moved to the planter for better drainage. It's come up a cropper, year after year. Echeveria and sempervivum
are some of my favourite succulents. When I was younger, I remember visiting my aunt's garden, where she used to have some embedded in the soil. I was fascinated by their
rubbery, squidgy leaves - they looked almost artificial. I also like how resilient these two varieties are and how even when the frost bites, they still come through in Spring. Which is
what I was hoping would be the case with the various new stems planted. I found it was sadly, a very different story...
Alike the last post, this one is also a retrospective. As much as I want to say all the plants made it through last year's harsh winter, most of them perished. It was pretty upsetting
stepping out briefly in December and seeing the strong length of the cacti curling up on itself, Many of the leaves had become mushy. In hindsight, I wish I has considered protective
covering measures, alike the couple in Norfolk, who have created an astounding cacti and succulent garden. I came across the article when searching for large-scale ideas and was
blown away by the vast array of exotic greenery (look at all the agaves!), as well as the fact that it's here in England. What a surreal escape, every time you step outside your door.
The last few weeks of summer saw the final photos taken, after that the roots had had time to take hold. I don't want to focus on the fact that the planters no longer look like this. The
weather-beaten lengths were retrieved and bought indoors, in the hopes they'd spring back to life...to no avail. Jeez, I didn't think I'd be this affected. (I'm okay - really). Instead, I'll
mention some more favourites in this mini jungle: Crassula Moonglow, with its patterned nodular leaves; Aeoniums, with their contrasting red edge; and Spoon-leaved
Stonecrop sedum, which have a cluster of greyish-hued florettes. There was one, however, that did make it, which I've had chance to re-pot into a permanently indoor terrarium.
There's a creative element that you can bring to the table, or planter, when decorating. Before the final potting, I had a play with the arrangement in sections, deciding which plants
work next to the other and as a whole. Alongside pebbles, a few beads make an appearance. Each section melds into different tones, from the reddish copper leaves to subdued
blue-tinged ones. Materials such as terracotta, slate and stone course like a rocky stream, into the next. The large keystone bricks were put in place first (same ones which built the
wall), with smaller rocks falling in accordingly. A landscape feel was formed by raising heights in certain areas. There was something so satisfying in seeing it all come together.
I had luckily collected some fallen leaves from some of the plants, which meant I could propagate them this year. It's a slow process, although tiny buds are beautifully starting to take
form. I'm still a tad gutted that there's some cuttings I didn't take, such as the seaweed-looking form above, and the trio of cacti totems. The store from which I bought the bundle is
unfortunately no longer in operation. So, now it's a case of keeping a look-out in plant shops to see if I stumble across them again. Yet, I'm also trying to curb my plant
shopping, as I feel I've officially run out of window sill or sunlight receiving space. I might, might just make rare exception if something striking catches my eye.
As well as every sill space, I've also considered how floor space could be best utilized with long colourful vases - filled with sprawling vines and feathery fronds. Best believe I'll be
covering up this year's planters as the harsh cold comes around again (plastic tray covers maybe)? I recently moved to Hertfordshire, so it won't be possible to spend as much time in
my garden as I used to. That said, Letchworth is coincidentally a 'Garden City' and tree-lined walkways make up for it. A bunny-ear cacti I purchased from a local florist (this be the
exception of paragraph above) has made the perfect house-warming plant. I've also brought some terrariums with me, naturally. All in all, the outlook is still pretty green from here.
The beadtrove - plural in this case...or many cases. To prep them, the surface was smoothed with sandpaper, layers of a walnut shade were added
and then we were good to go. I remember when I first set up the studio, topping up the paint for all the furniture. It's hard to believe it's
been nearly 4 years since then. It's been a while since I painted a beadtrove box, as I've been curbing the temptation for more treasures (and
quadrants start overflowing). They've been traded in for wooden planters as of late, yet I dip in to occasionally, to see what I can bring to paper.
Arranging and playing with scale leads to quirky results with buttons and glass gems (because you can never have to many potted plants).
Sometimes sweet treats make for artwork with a gem twist. Coloured paper backdrops are also something I want to experiment more with - I'll share
the results when the components come to clash.
Believe it or not, the snaps here were found when delving into the hard-drive. Checking the date, they were coincidentally taken in May...2016. A
whole two years ago! So this post feels more like a retrospect. If anything, it allows me to look back and see how I'd do it differently now. For a start, I
wouldn't have been so tentative with the brushstrokes - a lot more paint=laden and bolder, so the figures really stand out.
Speaking of paint, I've come across one fun interpretation of what to do with it. Artist Annette Labedzki creates custom moulds with semi-set frozen
paint. Slicing into it leads to a visually mesmerizing process (mentally I'm pondering how I would go about it). It could be pink oreos, green-yolked
eggs. or uncannily-real looking banana & strawberry splits, I may spend a little too much time watching paint being pasted. Subtly satisfying.
Some of the gems I've had for years and could probably tell you when and where I purchased them. A little time capsule. Sorting and colour
coordinating is just that bit more aesthetically pleasing. There is that spark of excitement when creating a new piece of art. The numerous ideas each
bead could be used for are considered. Sometimes less is more and it's a case of taking some off. It's all part of the fun.
Most of the time, painting takes up my focus (gardening does in the warmer months), so I don't get around to sharing on the blog as often as I'd like
to. Hence, there's a bit of a backlog - plenty more from the archives to come. Just a little heads up.
Considering this feels like a throwback piece, I also thought I'd share a picture of old work I happened to stumble across. This collage illustration
was created circa 2008, while studying a foundation course in Art and Design at Loughborough University. We had set-ups created for us, featuring
coloured backdrops, clothes and spool-topped mannequins. We imagined items at various scales (hence giant shoe- top right). I love looking back
at early work, especially where you can see what works, the really-not-so-much and the growth in every piece. It's hard to believe it was a decade
ago. What can I say apart from, carry on...and enjoy the process.
Here we are, after what felt like the longest January and flash-by Feb, I hope you've had a pleasant start to the new year. I thought it'd be a while
before I could introduce grassy vibrancy back on the blog, what with winter and icy cold walks being the norm. Yet, it's a chance to share my
birthday from earlier last year in May. I hoped to share it closer to the time...yet procrastination got the better of me. It was my 28th in fact. Do I feel
my years? Not so much. You're as old as you feel though, right? Quote me on that in about 20 years when the #LeafLadies movement (the politically
correct term - no Crazy Plant Lady here) and Dog Lady is in full force. Sounds like the dream to be honest.
We visited Calke Abbey in Derbyshire, surrounded by greenery. There's an undeniable happiness it brings and reminds me that summer isn't too far
away, especially when I look out of my window right now to see a blizzard. No exaggeration. I'm considering this get-up for the next trudge into
town. Even so, there is something mesmerizing about watching the snow and it also makes a great canvas.
Wooden branches in the distance lay like an inviting outdoor installation. A quick hike up the marshy hill led me to find a giant dino-lizard snapping
at my heels. No time to stop...
Venturing in, we found hand-crafted sculptures in wood and wrought-iron lining the garden square. The horsie heads in particular were eye-
catching, with curved panels of wood carefully pieced together. I'm hoping to create a dimensional illustration in my garden this year. Small shards of
wood are to be combined, forming multiple figures. Handsaw and sandpaper are at the ready. Last summer, my dad kindly helped me design and
create small-scale planters for my miniature rockery. This summer, it's be nice to create larger ones to house all the floral trees, such as the magnolia
and cherry blossom. This way, there'll be space for roots to spread out and branches to flower.
We stopped for carrot cake and tea, surrounded by specks of colour. The more sedate lifestyle has kicked in...and quite frankly, I love it.
Walking through, I admired the various blooms, whilst trying to decide on one to purchase. The creamy white petals took centre stage, with their
long draping stems. I didn't catch their name...although if I had to guess, I'd say a variety of gladioli? Three years ago, I planted peacock orchids,
which have similar elegant flower heads. Their bulbs also multiply naturally, so I found many beautiful clusters popping up unexpectedly. Not to
mention the stunning fragrance they release. Catching wind of the scent when walking by is something else. If you're going to plant any flowers for
their smell, make it this variety. Here's hoping the tuberose I planted come to bloom this year, as they're also known for their aroma. The garden
critters need to take a back seat and resist eating them.
We were looking forward to exploring the stately manor which the grounds hold, yet we missed the last tour time. I guess it's an excuse to come and
visit another time with the fam, alike our day in Newark. Many a stable to see here, alas no horsies this time around. Ivy crept up the walls, reminding
me of how it enthusiastically made it's way up tree trunks two Januaries ago, That particular day is a little more fitting in matching the current chill in
the air (I'll be staying here and thinking warm thoughts).
A field of delicate Queen Anne's lace looked as though it had been carefully meshed together. Something I want to do more of this year is hand-
stitch. I recently purchased a stash of seed beads to sew onto paper (if I'm treating myself, it's usually to art goodies and such - it's for my craft, so
justifiable, of course). It starts with 'Oh, I need some light green beads...may as well get them in dark green too seeing as I'm here...can't hold out on
the turquoise...andd checkout'. As pretty as they look in the beadtrove, a mini goal is get them threaded onto a surface. Also, It must've been my first
time seeing black petunias, so they had to make small feature. Fielding and covering many a floral base here.
When toadstools make an appearance, a pixie moment is inevitable. You should see the outtakes of trying to hop aboard - it's a lot higher than it
looks - although we'll save those for another day. (Yeah, they're never seeing the light of day). I chose the dianthus in a pastel shade of orange as my
birthday plant. I have a variety of this flower in shades of pink and they've grown back year after year. They happen to be more commonly known as
'pinks' too, irrespective of colour. Hopefully this one will continue to re-bloom annually in the garden, reminding me of this point in my life.
The dresses I usually wear tend to be of a flared style. yet I was happy to wear this floral number that my mum actually sewed for for me. The love of
sewing is indeed something that's passed down. The apple gladly doesn't fall far and all. I paired it with some tassel loafers, where you can find a
similar pair here. I do like a good tassel or fringe detailing, be it on a shoe or paper. Spotting this nettle mass reminded me of the perils of pricking
plants, alike rosehip thorns - a price I was willing to pay for creating art that day.
Our first encounter when we came upon the vast grounds, was with plentiful sheep. They dotted along the landscape and we were welcomed with
a chorus of bleating. Maybe they were singing Happy Birthday. Casual sauntering and days basking in the shade, like little lamb here have got to be
the best. I'm having a hard time believing that May is rolling around again, so very soon.
Various stones were embedded in the patchwork wall, with different textures and colours working together. It was reminiscent of a collection of
minaudierès and totes. Speaking of stone bags, Barbara Segal is an artist whose work takes heavy shopping bags to a whole new level. She deftly
carves handbags from precious stones, such as marble and onyx. Each design is sculpted to the nearest mm measurement of the original bag, The
attention to detail and bands of colour from the natural material is astounding. It'd be a Herculean feat walking around with these creations -
probably best to admire from a table top on this occasion.
Winding roads twisted in the hilly distance, asking to be explored...
Fields of gold. Sting wasn't joking when he said 'you'll remember me' - he was clearly singing from the perspective of the yellow-petalled fleurs. We
were initially going to call it a day, before we decided to set out on one last stroll around the grounds. The sunshine piercing through was a dream.
Taking the extra steps showed that it's the only way to see where the path leads. If the bright buttercup field we discovered is anything to go by, I'm
going to go ahead and believe it's somewhere beautifully surreal.