All about flowers

All about flowers

I write about lots of things on the blog: life here on Skye, food, books, Joe, work... but my pet subject is plants. And flowers. And trees, and fungi, berries and fruits, mosses and grasses. All things botanical.

I may or may not develop a passion for seaweed now we're coastal. 

I wouldn't say I worry about it exactly, but I do wonder if people who come here think I'm a plant bore. It was a bit of a concern, as Nature Editor for Creative Countryside, that my interests were so firmly biased towards flora and that the fauna side of things got a bit neglected.

I love bees and birds and butterflies. I enjoy going out on the castle boats to look at the seals. Ladybirds, grasshoppers and caterpillars fascinate me. As do foxes, badgers, squirrels and pretty much all of our furry and feathered friends. The slimy ones too. Lately we're into moon jellyfish. Oh, and newts.

But plants...

I've always been this way. I was brought up to know the names of them, both wild and garden flowers, native and the more exotic. I collect plant material and bring it home to look at and draw, or to put in a pot purely as a decorative addition to the mantel or kitchen table.

I devour books on botany: history, names, folklore, uses. I collect plant guides and look up species I see. Skye is a floral place; right now there are vast swathes of meadowsweet and we've been picking and drying it in bunches to make medicinal teas. Current reading: Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine (Andrew Chevallier); Fresh Clean Home: Make Your Own Natural Cleaning Products (Wendy Graham) and The Collins Nature Guide Herbs and Healing Plants of Britain and Europe.

I'm also coveting this, and the back issues too.

I take my camera pretty much everywhere with me, and I'm aware that I spend a lot of time photographing leaves and stems in all stages of growth and decay. But it's comforting to see that I'm not alone. There are so many Instagram feeds filled with botanical goodness, so many of us who are #underthefloralspell. 

I can't fully explain the reason behind this passion. It's fuelled by curiosity, an awareness of the seasons, a love of beautiful objects, an appreciation of the ephemeral and ethereal. My artwork almost entirely depicts plants and flowers - I like to try and capture something before it's gone for another year; it's uniqueness and fragility. There's a drawer in my workroom filled with layers of newspaper and pressed flowers and plants. They're used for printmaking until they gradually disintegrate, so I always make sure I collect enough whilst they're plentiful. The process of going out into a field or wood to see what's growing is therapeutic in itself. You get caught up in the little worlds beneath your feet, those hiding in verges and crevices, tangled and curling around one another, living tapestries.

It would seem that people do like reading about plants. Back in my Mitenska days, this was one of the most read and commented-on posts. And although I've moved on now in terms of geography, career (I don't like that word - it sounds, to me, somehow a bit corporate - so I'll say vocation instead) and my little corner of the internet, some things don't change at all. Perhaps I've got a little bit of chlorophyll running through my veins, even if it's purely imaginary...

By the way: I can already sense a tiny change in the air. Crocosmia's coming through in the garden and in the croft next door ragwort is punctuating the long grass (now dispensing its own seed) with sulphur. A walk along the shore last week revealed clusters of pale green nuts in the hazel trees and bracken turning rusty and gold. The thistles are violet now but soon there'll be thistledown ('sugar stealers') blowing across the hills. 

Knowing what plants are and their preferred habitats is one thing; understanding what they signify, and embracing the little shifts in the seasons, is something else entirely. It's a good obsession I think.