Almanac: The story of a year

This is the story of a year. In March 2021 I started creating my own almanac. The weather reports are always a little hit-and-miss where we live. Predicted storms often swirl around below the hill and fail to touch us. Late frosts often do not happen, as sheltered as our little garden is. I wanted…

Art Journal: The Peony Collection, a little shed and a magical cat

Completing my collection of three hyper-realistic flowers, drawn between January and May 2021, is the delicate pink peony. The photographic reference was kindly given to me by my lovely friend Sally who has the most beautiful garden full of flowers. She has been so supportive all the way through the creation of this artwork; a…

Art Journal: Peony petals, the first flowers of spring and a teapot

Welcome to my art journal, where I write about my drawings and how my little garden, the fields and woodlands close to my home and the seasons influence my art practice. My screen this week has been filled with the blossoming petals of a peony. I try to concentrate on the clouds of colour, working…

Art Journal: The Kate Dahlia

Welcome to my art journal, where I write about my drawings and how my little garden, the fields and woodlands close to my home and the seasons influence my art practice. My art time in March was spent immersed in the intensive drawing of a Cafe au Lait Dahlia. My friend Kate very kindly gave…

Art Journal: The Audrey Rose

The Audrey Rose Collection is inspired by and named after my lovely friend Audrey. She was kind enough to give me permission to use a photograph of her favourite David Austin rose as a reference for my work. Audrey is the founder of the weekly #FlowersOnFriday Twitter event.  Gardeners from around the world share photos…

Almanac: Autumn memories and a distraction of flowers

We have already passed midwinter and yet I have so many memories of autumn that I want to preserve. September, October and November brought with them a time of intense creativity as I worked on my illustrations, commissions and the launching of my little art shop. I kept taking my daily photographs, though it is…

Art Journal: Creating the Storybook Garden in Autumn

The first stage of any artwork I create is to sketch out the shape of the piece in a light 2B artist’s pencil.  This allows me to see how the image flows across the large A3 poster.  My aim is to create pockets of interest throughout the page. I then put out a request to…

Potager Garden: August 2020

We started a tree hospital in our garden. Wilting self-sown spindle trees from the front garden and seemingly dead twigs were replanted with care in prime positions. I watered them every day and fed them a seaweed feed. After five weeks – a rush of bright chlorophyl-green shot up the stem of the smallest twig…

Travel Diaries: Autumn in Scotland – Rockpooling at High Tide

In the autumn of 2019 we returned to Scotland, to the little holiday cottage on the windswept north west coast. We wanted to see how the changing seasons affected the landscape that we had fallen deeply in love with back in the springtime and timed our trip for when the autumn colours would reach their…

A Week in Books: Bonfires, bee bread and poetry with petals

On a Sunday evening, I like to clear the shelf next to my desk, in preparation for the week ahead. There will always be a pile of books that have accumulated beside me. I enjoy the moment when I scoop them up and shelve them again, the titles on the spines evoke a diary of…

Seasonal Recipes: Homemade Maple Toffee Apples

These are the maple toffee apples from my story A Week in Books: Stories to treasure, traditional recipes and seasonal flowers Maple toffee apples are wonderful in autumn, for evenings spent outdoors, wrapped up warm by a fire. Consider also making these with surplus apples in August and enjoying them cool from the fridge on…

Art Journal: Collecting wild seeds and finding inspiration

On an afternoon when it is too hot to be outdoors, I unroll some parcel paper on the table and set out our recently foraged seeds. Cloud parsley, milk thistle, clover, grasses and rose hips. My little daughter can see that I have plants all over the table. She runs out to the garden and…

Seasonal Recipes: Apple, Raspberry and Almond Cake

This is the cake from my story: The May Garden I found this recipe in a beautiful book entitled, “Apple: Recipes from the Orchard”. My version is a little simpler and misses out the icing stage –– regular readers will know that I tend to avoid any sticky toppings as my bakes have to travel…

Potager Garden: July 2020

The sunshine of late July beckoned us to the woodlands and with it being such a busy month in the garden too, I am a little behind on my garden diary. I signed off in June with the sight of our onion crop harvested and drying on the raised beds. Soon after, the garlic was…

Almanac: Hidden Kingdoms – In search of the invisible

In summer, the little woodland becomes a dark and shaded place. Leaves grow with such veracity that the canopy above lets in less light than any other time of the year. I share today’s walk with my 12 year old son. It is so quiet here. Sudden rustles of foliage or scraping on bark reminds…

Potager Garden: The secret life of the evening garden

I grow ever more fond of watching night fall in the garden. After the bustle of the day and distant traffic noises, a quietness descends at around 8 o’ clock as the late summer evening draws in. Although I find the geraniums beautiful in the daytime, they now look so dramatic against a background of…

Almanac: Early morning mists in the old forest

Lockdown is lifted and we can journey into the ancient forest again. An early start. On our short drive, the trees gradually reveal themselves in layers of green. The view is softened; we are watching the day form itself into shape. The mist feels like a fine spring rain, yet suspended in mid air. The…

Potager Garden: June 2020

The heatwave of spring has made way for rolling thunder storms. A bright lit early evening was swallowed by a swirling mass of darkening clouds gathered directly above our garden. It was one of those heart racing moments when my count between the lightning and thunder is zero. (The photograph below is not monochrome.) After…

Almanac: Fallow deer, uncurling ferns and foxgloves

Barely a drop of rain has been felt for over eight weeks. My 12 year old son and I have decided to make the most of this last day of sunshine, before the much-longed for storm arrives tomorrow. If we take the footpath that winds through the fields, to the north of our village, it…

Potager Garden: May 2020

The first three weeks of May test a gardener’s willpower. It seems so warm and sunny yet you must try and hold your nerve against a surprise last minute frost. I continue the ritual of gathering up my seedling pots and placing them inside the kitchen every night. Just in case. I enjoy the allium…

Seasonal Recipes: English Cherry Flapjacks

These are the sweet treats from my potager garden story: Umbrella boats, windowsill seeds and chocolate flapjacks and I quickly learnt through the comments I received from curious readers that in many other countries, flapjacks are another name for pancakes. These are the English variety – a quick and easy store cupboard oaty bake. This…

Almanac: English oaks and white bluebells

My two middle sons run down the hill together, so close in age that they are almost the same height. The trees dwarf them. When I think back to this wood, I never imagine the trees being so tall; it seems such a close, small place in my memory. Spring is still with us and…

Almanac: How to scare a storm away

The air is heavy when we awaken, there must be a storm coming. I open the skylights and a sudden gale whistles down the stairwell. My autistic 11 year old, still in pyjamas, is absolutely delighted. He sets up directly underneath the velux with an old Thomas the Tank Engine book and watches as the…

Almanac: VE Day, bunting and a street party

It is the 75th Anniversary of Victory in Europe Day. We wake up to blue skies and sunshine and set to work tidying the front garden, whilst our resident house martins dart around us, swooping down from the eaves. Repurposed paper fans and rugby flags decorate the iron railings. Our son’s homemade Union flag takes…

Almanac: Storm chasing, lichen and muddy boots

I welcome the promise of rain. Our plants desperately need it and I can feel the storm coming. The air feels heavy, the sky seems closer. It is only midday and yet the familiar bright tones of the garden seem washed out in the dim half-light belonging to dusk. As the clouds roll over the…

Potager Garden: April 2020

If summer brings to mind old English roses, then springtime must be the month of apple blossom. By the first week of April we glimpse the bright red buds starting to unfurl. I have never been so glad of our small patch of green space, for in this national lock-down it allows us to spend…

Almanac: Leafy canopies, wild flowers and a woodland glade

A late afternoon in April. It is the hour of long shadows and changing light; the best time to see the hidden glade. A gentle breeze drifts across the farm fields as we make our way towards the woodland. In comparison to the areas of ancient forest nearby, our local wood is small, only 30…

Almanac: An early morning hike through English farmland

This morning I am up early, pulling on my walking boots and heading out into the fields before the day has fully started. The natural world seems so alive to me in springtime. The hedgerows stretch upwards towards the blue skies, straining to grow. I instinctively want to steer clear of the nettles that are…

Potager Garden: Simple water meditations in the garden

I miss spending time in the forest during this coronavirus lockdown. Finding ways of replicating the sense of peace and wellbeing that the woodlands give me, really helps ease the longing to be back there. Just after a light April shower is the perfect time for mindfulness in the garden. There is such calmness in…

Potager Garden: Stream watching, borrowed hats and precious food

We continue adapting to this new, quiet time in our lives. I am noticing little changes. Food, for example, is suddenly becoming very important due to the shortages. We seem to talk about it a lot more than normal. Our autistic sons have very restrictive diets, therefore we are saving all of the plain items…

Almanac: Sunshine, doorstep parcels and fresh air

In the national lock down, we are all permitted to leave the house for exercise and fresh air once a day, as long as we keep our distance from those that are not from our household. Today is the perfect spring day; warm like summer, with a gentle breeze. I’m walking with my ten year…

Potager Garden: The unearthly quiet, rabbit clouds and bare feet

We have spent the last week preparing for the shut down that we knew would be coming. It started fully today. Our business is now on hold and the charity library where I am a trustee has shut its doors on government orders. Even though we already worked from home whilst educating our five children,…

Almanac: A mindful, whispered birthday for our youngest son

Our youngest son is nervous about birthdays, particularly his own. Bright, crinkling, ripping paper, and the unknown surprise within. Loved ones loudly singing happy birthday in unison. Iced cakes with smoky candles. Being the centre of everyone’s attention. For a child with sensory autism, even happy events can be a little too much. For the…

A Week in Books: Star gazing, poetry and Advent begins

On a Sunday evening, I like to clear the shelf next to my desk, in preparation for the week ahead. There will always be a pile of books that have accumulated beside me. These will include stories my daughter has brought over for me to read to her and those that I have quickly grabbed…

Art Journal: The Creation of Mister Meadowson

Whilst I was working on my winter collection for the little art shop I had a request from a young girl in the United States for a tiny fox with glasses to be included somewhere in one of my illustrations. She wears glasses herself and thought it would be nice to have a character to…