Days decrease, And autumn grows, autumn in everything

vitis vinifera 'purpurea'So few words capture such a melancholic sentiment – I bow to the brilliance of Robert Browning using autumn to deepen the overall sense of forlorn disappointment running through his poem, ‘Andrea del Sarto’. As for us mere mortals we can only observe nature’s steady familiar preparations for the coming winter and hopefully record tiny slices with our cameras.

It is also time to collect seeds. Salvia sclarea turkestanica will self-seed, but just in case we have a hard winter it always worth having some seeds to sow next spring and they are ready to collect now here in East Anglia.

Poppy seedlings pop up all over newly turned earth, but there’s no harm in helping nature along. So a gentle shake of the heads into a brown paper envelope or bag and you’ve got some seed for next year.

papaver seedheadsPapaver somniferum

Working from Scratch – Update in Pink

The other week I worked up a design by looking through many Japanese woodblock prints and selecting a number of Ukiyo-e images as inspiration for both pattern and colour. The end of the process was a blue and green scarf also currently my banner above.


I liked the finished look and decided to work the pattern in a new colour combination and started from nature’s beautiful pink and yellow combination in this poppy with the added golden detail of the hover flies collecting nectar.

Detail of an interior by Antonio Ortiz Echagüe (1883 - 1942)
Detail of an interior by Antonio Ortiz Echagüe
(1883 – 1942)

With the poppy in mind I started looking round building a collection of images with pinks, gold and black, starting with work by fine artists. Next I delved into contemporary visual culture from all over – here tea towels, table decorations and masks.

Ah yes, inspiration this time came from another kind of ‘floating’ world, Venice, and their famous carnival and masked balls. Sumptuous colour combinations and fascinating, ornate detail were now the recipe for the day.

And, here’s the finished work.


High Summer Lilies

It has been nearly five years since I first spotted the scarlet lily beetle (Lilioceris lilii) attacking my lily bulbs, but despite their annual attempt to annihilate my plants, I’ve won enough skirmishes this season to achieve a reasonable display of blooms.

Not all bugs are bad news and this little fellow sheltering from the sun is a welcome visitor.

grasshopper on lily

First Beans Friday

Runner beans
Runner Beans variety Moonlight.
Back in June I posted about growing your own fruit and veg, well the strawberries have just finished, but this morning I’ve picked my first runner beans.

Last summer the weather was so terrible here in East Anglia I had a very sorry crop of runner beans. So instead of saving a few bean seeds (White Lady) from last year I splashed out this spring and bought fresh seeds of a different variety. I chose a variety called Moonlight as apparently they’ve been bred to flower and set even in poor weather. And, success, I think this is the earliest I’ve had runner beans and they look like they are going to crop well. Also, I gave my father some seedlings to grow on in June and they are doing well and are about to crop too – so, at this stage Moonlight is looking good.

Now, just have to see what they taste like!

Ah yes, and this delicate beauty has come into flower. Isn’t nature just splendid sometimes?

Pink Alcea, Hollyhock
Very pale pink single hollyhock.

Summer Evenings

Breathing in a warm, relaxed summer evening despite being a romantic cliché, is hopefully available to everyone. A city version is pavement café tables, customers spilling out from the pub and a spot of evening window shopping.

Hampstead, London
Flask Walk, Hampstead, London – A fine summer’s evening.

(A brief aside, Flask Walk has often inspired those with a visual sensibility especially when decked out for a celebration – see

A summer evening home version is a garden terrace perfumed with lilies.

Trumpet lily, Pink Perfection
My favourite lily, the trumpet lily – lilium Pink Perfection.
Lilium regale
This summer’s white trumpet lilies.
Showy, but still beautifully scented.
Lilium regale

Meanwhile, back in the city, the sun has gone down on Hampstead Heath. Hey, let’s see if we can synchronize our mobile phones? How long are the summer holidays??

Mobile phone flash photo

July Pinks and Patterns

July in the garden

Portrait of my mother
Valeria by Valeria
(my mother)
girl in garden photo
Photo taken by my mother in preparation for a portrait. (All these big hats. She was an old romantic at heart.)

Sometimes July can be a quiet time in a garden. My mother used to complain that once the delphiniums and the first flush of roses were going over you had to wait until August for any real colour interest. She had an on/off relationship with her garden as her real love was painting. She did appreciate flowers, but wanted easy plants with a long flowering season – don’t we all. She painted portraits, not flowers, but like many of us she often photographed subjects in the garden.

The pink flowers blooming in the middle of July in my garden are the stronger, brighter pinks moving into the fuchsia and magenta shades that are now taking over from the predominant pastels of June.

We can use nature’s graceful arrangements of blooms and foliage as our inspiration for colour and tonal combinations, and sometimes a quite messy shot can give rise to an interesting motif and pattern structure.

PS – If anyone recognises the ‘unknown floribunda’, the larger, dark pink photo, I’d like to know, please? I actually bought it believing it was ‘Blue Moon’ as that was the name on the label, but I know it certainly isn’t as I had ‘Blue Moon’ in another garden. Any guesses?

Girl with a Pink Scarf

This photograph was snapped, opened on the computer and surprise – it just felt so familiar. My daughter looked over my shoulder and said “Looks like ‘Girl with a Pearl Earring’ to me”, and I said “Ah yes, it does, doesn’t it”. I had no intention of reconstructing a picture in the style of this famous portrait – it just happened.

Vermeer - Girl with a pearl earring
Girl with a Pearl Earring – Vermeer, c. 1665-67.
The Mauritshuis, the Hague, Holland
PInk scarf
Girl with a pink scarf – June, 2013.
Scarf by Agnes Ashe

It is fascinating how images get lodged in our visual memory and then become markers or signposts without our conscious effort. Thinking about it, I suppose when you view a fair number of photos some are bound to spark wider connections and as I prepare to launch my online shop ( I have looked at a lot of photographs!

Pale pink roses
Colour inspiration from a cluster of pale pink roses.
Rosa ‘Narrow Water’

With my own work I find shape and colour gradually gets distilled from primary experiences that have been captured first in my photographs.

pink clematis
The opening flower of Clematis Proteus.

This beautiful flower of clematis Proteus, saved from relentless slug attack by being dug up and replanted in a large pot near the house, is one of my favourites. Its intriguing shape has contributed to my work.

Flowers and foliage in the garden, architectural details I’ve spied and sometimes the inspirational works created by others, all goes into the melting pot during the design process.

clematis venus fly trap
Aliums, pomegranates, clematis and Venus fly traps have all contributed to this scarf.