With the beginning of spring comes Mother’s Day and there are daffodils aplenty to presented in bunches to lucky mums, but what of the so-called Mother’s Day traditional flower, the pink carnation?
If you have ever paused your busy life to consider the environmental impact of commercially grown cut flowers then you probably already know it’s not great. I decided to have a look at the growing of pink carnations that are coaxed into flower over two months early to be available for Mother’s Day.
Apparently, pink carnations were the choice of the wealthy Victorians with greenhouses and gardeners able to nurture carnations to bloom as early as March. That is they could afford a heated greenhouse that keeps the temperature at seven degrees celsius or above for the entire winter. I think you can see where I am going with this. The wealthy Victorian had access to both cheap labour and cheap fuel and was more concerned with ‘progress’ than social and environmental concerns. Fast-forward 150 years and the idea of heating greenhouses for out-of-season food let alone cut flowers has become contentious.
Naturally, research and new ideas and new technology are being busily discussed by the UK government and associated farming and horticulture key bodies with a target to reach zero carbon emissions by 2050. Whereas the Dutch horticultural industry aims to be CO2 neutral by 2040. Since 2020 they’ve had an experimental, emission-free greenhouse up and running. They have been researching all aspects of growing food and flowers under glass with greenhouses constructed from smart materials using heating from ground source heat pumps or air source heat pumps and drawing electricity from solar panels. The are also experimenting with the use and conservation of water, the cultivating of new varieties of plants to better suit ‘new’ conditions and finally to managing pests and diseases in a manner to minimise horticulture’s environmental impact.
But is isn’t all only talk here back in the UK as you can already buy British grown tulips in bloom during March from Smith and Munson who are a family run business producing premium quality flowers. They are well on the way down the road in reducing those negative environmental impacts associated with commercial horticulture. They grow their full range of tulips hydroponically, their glasshouses are heated with biomass boilers and their coldstores are powered by electricity from solar panels. Sadly, they do not grow the pink carnations that would have been the favourite for a Victorian mother as these days carnations are not the most fashionable choice for a mum’s bouquet.
Last week in between Ciara and Dennis (that’s the storms) I ventured out into my backyard to check for damage and collect up the debris from the neighbouring eucalyptus tree (still standing). And, to my enormous pleasure I found that the hellebores I planted last year are now blooming.
Now, I do not normally cut these flowers as with their drooping heads once cut they tend only to look at their very best as single blooms floating in a shallow bowl. A shallow bowl arrangement is fine as a table centrepiece, but in my studio I only have shelf space. The two tables I have are covered with frames, silk and all the associated bottles and jars of dyes with which I am currently working.
Nevertheless, even though I knew they wouldn’t last long, I did cut two stems. I then spent some time fiddling around propping up the blooms using some blossom-bearing twigs of an evergreen shrub (Viburnum tinus) finally making my first vase arrangement of homegrown flowers for 2020. Incidentally, it wasn’t just the first flowers that were picked, but the first caterpillar was also sighted.
Although I don’t have space to grow bulbs for cutting myself, there’s no reason not to buy a bunch of Cornish-grown daffodils. At this time of the year they last a good week and absolutely brighten up my basement kitchen.
And, of course also at this time of year a stroll through the Old Cemetery finds the crocuses in bloom . . .
. . . but what’s all this noise? I raised myself, camera in hand, after kneeling for a crocus close-up, to find myself amidst a startled murder of crows. Wrong exposure and not in focus, but, for once, I managed to capture a half-dozen of the birds as they wheeled away. All rather spooky!
We’ve had some high winds and fast moving weather systems recently in East Anglia. Clouds, some with and some without rain, have been whipping across the Suffolk countryside.
These photographs were taken in less than a minute as we drove through the pleasant village of Little Glemham. It was almost a Hitchcock moment with the sudden darkening of the sky, but without the multiple flocks of birds.
And, then back in Ipswich on Monday, walking through Christchurch Park, it was all jolly waving daffodils in the bright spring sunshine . . .
and I spotted . . . a flashy, noisy bird who turned out to be camera shy!
It’s that time of year when yellow is big in the garden and often just for a few days you might see people dressed in yellow. For us northern European folks yellow is a notoriously difficult colour to wear successfully. A pale lemon or a gentle soft buttercup knit may look fine in out northern light, but after the long winter and many indoor hours too often even pale yellow does not enhance a washed out and sometimes sickly complexion. Strong bright or piercing acidic yellows are mostly definitely out. And, it’s not just clothing, I’ve noticed how bright yellow cars appear less than appealing in our spring sunshine, yet somehow in the same light nature’s yellow is so satisfying.
Marni yellow leather jacket (£3,300) and yellow leather skirt ((2,110) from their Milan show.
Yellow Vauxhall Corsa – great if you live in a hot sunny country, bit sad in grey drizzle.
Whether it’s cultivated daffodils, violas or forsythia, or even the humble roadside dandelion, nature’s yellow is eye-catching, refreshing and triumphant.