Category Archives: Flowers

Art by Instagram – Sharing your Artistic Streak with the World: Colours and Seasons

I love images – photographs, paintings, evocative writing,
and art that create the essence of something real, whether abstract or realistic.
I’m an artist of words, pictures, photographs, and sculpture,
and Instagram has been one of the ways I share my creativity with the world.

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I enjoy capturing moments and photography is the easiest way to do that, even easier since the advent of digital cameras, apps, and editing software.  Beautiful images soothe the soul, and I love being able to share them so readily.

Recently, as I scrolled my Instagram feed, I noticed how the seasons rule the colours in my photographs. It’s easy to recognise the season by the colours rippling through the collections of pictures. It’s subtle, but it’s there…

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Spring © Lisa Shambrook

Spring erupts across the pictures in deep bluebell lilacs, pale pinks and white of daisies, and blossom and spring flowers, daffodil yellow and clean greens with new growth and hope.

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Summer © Lisa Shambrook

Summer hails with beaches, blue sky and crashing ocean waves, deep rose pinks, lilacs and summer flowers, and magical rays of sunshine.

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Autumn © Lisa Shambrook

Autumn brings deep berry red, gold, russet, crimson, and brown of crunchy, fallen leaves, warm colours and cosy pets, scarlet apples and night lights, and shimmering silver frost.

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Winter © Lisa Shambrook

Winter arrives with night-sky indigos and blues, glittery frost and gleaming snow, jewel tones and hot chocolates, bare trees and the colours of cold and chill and warm blankets.

The seasons have their own colours and tones and I love being able to scroll through them…

You can find me on Instagram @lisashambrook and I share more pictures on Flickr.

Which season owns your favourite colours?  

Loving Winter’s Chill – The Best Bits of Winter

Winter is the season of warmth and chill –
the warmth of sharing and loving and the chill of blizzards.

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Night Sky and Scented Candles…
I love it when the clocks go back… Night draws in and the stars twinkle with winter diamonds, and this winter Venus has sparkled like a gem in the sky. Inside, I burn scented candles: Cherry Vanilla, Chocolate, Berry Trifle, Honey Clementine, and the sweet aroma of Macaroon, Apple Strudel, and Snowflake Cookie waft down the stairs from my daughters’ rooms…

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© Lisa Shambrook

Frosted Leaves and Winter Trees…
I adore the bling that Jack Frost brings, sifting icing sugar across nature.
Leaves fall from trees, leaving them bare, and swathe the ground in glittered jewels.
Moss, the emerald survivor of the season, carpets the forest floor
and adorns the naked trees, clothing them in winter beauty.

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© Lisa Shambrook

Warm Boots, Hats, Gloves, Scarves, and Cosy Blankets…
Don your best boots, wrap a cosy scarf about your neck, pull on a hat, and slip your hands into fleecy gloves – and you’re all set to wander out in the winter wonderland. If that doesn’t entice you, then snuggle down beneath a warm blanket and enjoy the central heating!

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© Lisa Shambrook

Woodland Walks and Winter Landscapes…
The skies are a mixture of clear and frosty, rainy and dull, and rolling mist and fog,
enjoy those late sunrises and early sunsets and warm up with a walk.

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© Lisa Shambrook

Hot Chocolate and Winter Baking…
Baking takes centre stage with Christmas on the cards
from cookies, cakes, and pastries to hearty soups and winter cuisine.
Enjoy homemade fayre and settle with a steaming mug of creamy hot chocolate…

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© Lisa Shambrook

Winter Flowers…
Delicate fairy-bell snowdrops peep through the snow or push through the soil to bring
new growth to the dormant season, accompanied by the beauty of hellebores.
Let winter flowers bring colour and hope.

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© Lisa Shambrook

Ruby Red Berries…
Like flowers, red berries, often associated with Christmas, shine bright like rubies, especially against the frost and snow, and they’re great sustenance for birds coping with the cold.

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© Lisa Shambrook

Christmas Joys…
My favourite holiday season is Christmas; it’s filled with so much joy and so much meaning. There are a multitude of celebrations during winter, all wrapped in lights, warmth, and love.
I love the Christmas cake, decorations, gifts, giving, food, and family time –
a time for peace and goodwill to all…

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© Lisa Shambrook

All That Glitters…
Glitter everywhere – frost, snow, jewellery, stars, Christmas decorations, lights.
December glistens with Christmas sparkle,
and the rest of winter embraces the shimmer of nature
and the crackle of fire in the hearth.

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© Lisa Shambrook

A Crystalline Carpet of Snow…
When it snows I hurry to my window to watch the fluffy white stuff then rush outside to let it fall around me! That moment when you wake up and look outside and see a blanket of snow sparkling in the early morning sun is pure magic.

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© Lisa Shambrook

How is your Winter and what do you love about it most?

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© Lisa Shambrook

Check out The Best Bits of Autumn

The Practicalities and Fragilities of Death…

Death is a strange thing and people react to it in many different ways.
This post isn’t about grief it’s about the more practical aspects of death.

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My mother passed away three days before Christmas and though I’ve dealt with bereavement before, I’ve never had to deal with it in such a hands-on way.

I knew my mother was dying – it was expected, yet unexpected. There had been no time frame. She’d survived breast and secondary breast cancer for over twelve years, until pneumonia and Alzheimer’s took her. My father’s devastation was hard to bear, and when it came to dealing with death – he couldn’t.

We were there during those bitter-sweet moments that she took her last breaths, and as I hugged Dad I knew I’d be dealing with the arrangements. Don’t get me wrong, I was happy to, I would have done anything to make this loss easier for my father, but making arrangements for the death of a loved one is tough.

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© Lisa Shambrook

I didn’t know where to start. Who does? Life is about living, not dying, and death – and what comes with it – is very much avoided in general day-to-day life.

The practicalities put you into an auto-pilot mode, and can sometimes dilute your grief. There are things that have to be done and I was very grateful for the sensitive help and administration from my local hospital. The ambulance crew, nurses and doctors were considerate and caring and kept us informed and looked after. We knew this was a one-way trip, and my father would be leaving without his beloved wife.

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© Lisa Shambrook

Our local Health Authority produced a booklet Bereavement Information for Relatives and Friends (The government have a What To Do After Someone Dies site) and it helped us make sense of what was to come. The following day we contacted the hospital’s Bereavement Officer, no, I didn’t know that was a job, but I am very glad it is. He was wonderful, making sure we knew exactly what needed to be done. It was Christmas, and the holiday season was about to start the next day, but he made sure the medical certificate and coroner’s report were hurried through and he made us an appointment to register her death and get her death certificate before each of the offices closed for Christmas. It was good for us to have these technicalities out of the way so early.

The Registrar was lovely, making sure we were comfortable and informed, and he was gentle and calm despite the raging torrential rain storm outside rattling the windows. Carmarthen also had access to the valuable Tell Us Once service, which informs all the government agencies of the death at once, so you have less people to inform.

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© Lisa Shambrook

We had also called a trusted local Funeral Director and met him that afternoon. So many commercials on television claim you need to spend a small fortune on a funeral, upwards of £7k, but that’s not necessarily true. You can arrange a service to fit your needs and budget, though I won’t lie, it’s still an expense most us will agree is very costly. Council fees for a burial plot are about £1,000, but you can arrange the rest of the funeral to your budget.

You can have a direct burial or cremation without a service for about £1,000 – £1,500 and you can add to that any extra you wish.  There are several sites that can give you advice which you can find with this article from ITV’s Tonight Funerals: A Costly Undertaking?

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© Lisa Shambrook

I, and two lovely friends from church, dressed my mother’s body before my father offered his last respects, and it was a privilege to do so. It’s difficult to see your parent’s empty body, and not everybody will have the chance or choice to do this – we did in accordance to burial rites within our religion, but it’s a sure testimony to our loved ones having moved on and left this mortality.

My parents wanted simplicity from coffins to flowers, and we had a memorial service at the church we belong to without cost. We made it beautiful with words, simple white flowers and red roses, and love. Our Funeral Director, Peris Rice, was informative and accommodating, and Mum’s service, and then burial in the cold January rain, just before her 74th birthday, was beautiful and poignant.

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© Lisa Shambrook

The whole process has left me with grief, relief, and a deep desire to be sure that I have talked about and thought about what I want in the event of my own demise.

We weren’t sure what Mum actually wanted, and I was floundering with putting together a service, then Dad phoned. He’d been clearing pieces of paper and notes from a box on the coffee table beside where Mum sat, and had come across a piece of paper. On it was a list entitled Hymns for my Funeral, and she had listed about fourteen hymns, numbering four of them. Beneath that list was a poem Death Is Nothing At All by Henry Scott Holland. I gave thanks, because we finally knew what hymns to choose and which poem my sister could read and they were perfect. The hymns we didn’t sing during the service became prelude and closing music, and they all spoke of Mum.

In the end I offered a eulogy inspired by photographs of my mother from her childhood right up to the present, which gave an insight into her life and what she loved, Jules read the poem which spoke exactly what I knew Mum would have said, and a dear friend spoke about Mum and our spiritual beliefs. I hope it was what she would have chosen.

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© Lisa Shambrook

I have moved away from this experience with the need to make any future plans my husband or children might have to put in place as easy as possible. We are all going to die. I don’t fear death, but I do have wishes and desires I would love to accompany my flight from this earth.

Neither of my parents had wills, and Dad now understands the importance of making one. We are now facing looking at Probate, and are discussing Lasting Power of Attorney, and Wills…and I want all these things sorted out, not only for him, but also for myself and my family in my own mind and on paper too. We need to talk about what we want – from services, coffins, wills, music, organ donation, religious rites, finances, do-not-resuscitate forms, living wills, and anything else that might be, for some, uncomfortable to discuss.

I want my views known to my family, not only about decisions made when I die but decisions that will affect my life. I want us to talk about care as I get older, what I want in the event of Alzheimer’s or cancer, or any other life changing/threatening disease. I want them to feel loved and not burdened, and I want to be sure I continue and leave this life with grace and dignity.   

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© Lisa Shambrook

My views on remembering the dead are a little different from the norm. I would very much like to keep it simple and quiet, perhaps even without a church service. I wish for flowers to be gathered from the season and tied simply with string and left wherever my ashes are strewn, and a poem, or reading, or memories are shared, by woods or a river among nature that I love so much, with my family and loved ones.  

How do you feel?

Is death a taboo subject or have you made your wishes known?

What are your thoughts on the fragility of death?

Aquilegia’s Spring Dance – The Ballet of Columbine and Granny’s Bonnet

Columbine bob and dance with eagle claw spurs and fairy blush
As ballerina skirts and satin frills swathe spring’s sunlit meadows…

Aquilegia's Spring Dance the Ballet of Columbine and Granny's Bonnet - The Last Krystallos - Lisa Shambrook

Aquilegia, commonly known as columbine, swathes the British countryside and cottage gardens at this time of the year. It is, I think, my most favourite spring flower. As its clusters of soft scalloped leaves develop, its stems shoot up and begin to bud, and I can’t wait for its flowers.

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Frilled blues – © Lisa Shambrook

The name Aquilegia comes from the Latin word: eagleaquila. The petal shape is often said to resemble an eagle’s claw. Columbine comes from the Latin word for dove, and is said to have come from the flower’s resemblance to five doves clustered together.  It’s also often called Granny’s Bonnet – for its nodding head and bonnet-like appearance.

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© Lisa Shambrook

Many years ago when I started gardening, I had a packet of Thompson and Morgan seeds – a packet which probably came free from Amateur Gardening magazine – and I planted them and tended them in my bedroom! I watched tiny seedlings push through my trays of soil and I raised aquilegias. They have rewarded me every year since as I adore my – now slightly wild and meadow-like – garden swathed in aquilegias every spring!

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© Lisa Shambrook

I love the way these flowers naturalise, the way the rain collects in their leaves like diamonds, and the way they self-seed and produce beautiful and variegated versions of their parent plants! The parents pushed up every year – I began with Blue Bonnet, deep purple spurs and petals with double white frills – and I was in awe as their later offspring threw out flowers with gorgeous green tints. I had single pink aquilegias with white frills and I collected seeds from dead heads out in the countryside to get dark purple single aquilegias. I bought a white, in bloom from a garden centre, and a pink spur-less double, and after that every variation have been crossbreeds from self-seeding.

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© Lisa Shambrook

They love the shade, but do brilliantly in meadows and woodland, growing and spreading easily. If you don’t want your named varieties to crossbreed, then snip the heads off when they die and don’t let them go to seed. Otherwise, let them be promiscuous and see what they gift you!

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© Lisa Shambrook

My favourites will always be the blues –
deep purples and blues with frills of green and white…

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© Lisa Shambrook

Early evening fairy blush… Delicate ballerinas with their frills and fairy hues…

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© Lisa Shambrook

Beneath the Rainbow AD with public reviewsCheck out Beneath The Rainbow to discover my love of cottage garden and wildflowers, you’ll find them in Freya’s heaven – even aquilegias!

‘Freya opened her mind and allowed emotions and simple feelings of beauty flow through her. The feelings weren’t strong, or rich, just pure and simple, and Freya knew at once that all the flowers were vibrantly alive, not just with colour and scent, but with life of their own, each a simple, but divine entity.’
(Beneath the Rainbow – Lisa Shambrook)

In paperback or ebook on Amazon

Alzheimer’s Awareness Week – Forget-me-not…

This post is peppered with forget-me-nots
because Alzheimer’s is the thief of time
stealing memories with no compunction at all…
Please, forget-me-not.

Alzheimer's Awareness - Forget-me-not - The Last Krystallos

Dementia Awareness Week is the 17th to 23rd May and this post is painful to write because Alzheimer’s has made me very aware of what it can do. It’s stolen my mother and there was so much left unsaid – things that now will never be said and that leaves regrets and resentment in its wake.

Quoting from The Alzheimer’s Society website: The word dementia describes a set of symptoms that may include memory loss and difficulties with thinking, problem-solving or language. Dementia is caused when the brain is damaged by diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease or a series of strokes. Dementia is progressive, which means the symptoms will gradually get worse.

forget-me-nots, the last krystallos, alzheimer's awareness week,

© Lisa Shambrook

I don’t know my mother’s actual diagnosis, there are several types of Alzheimer’s and Dementia, but my dear father has always handled it with the ostrich approach, with his head pretty much in the sand. I understand this – it’s tough to see your loved one fade away in front of you and even tougher when they have no idea who you are. She has a professional diagnosis though and is on medication but it gets worse and there’s nothing to stop it.

For my parents’ privacy and respect I won’t go into their circumstances, my mother has many more illnesses and conditions, and everyone has different situations when this disease hits. But awareness is vital and help for the afflicted and the carers absolutely essential. The Alzheimer’s Society, whose symbol has also been the forget-me-not flower since 2012, is one of the first places to go for advice and they are wonderful, and Age UK have helped too, but Social Services and NHS help is also inevitable and crucial. Assessments need to be made and help given. I can’t report on the effectiveness of Social Services, as the planned assessment was cancelled and I haven’t yet heard back from them.  Be prepared for long waiting periods.

This is a disease that breaks hearts, and it’s on the rise. So is there anything we can do to prevent it?

forget-me-nots, the last krystallos, alzheimer's awareness,

© Lisa Shambrook

To try to thwart dementia the NHS recommends we should: eat a healthy diet, maintain a healthy weight, exercise regularly, don’t drink too much alcohol, stop smoking (if you smoke), make sure to keep your blood pressure at a healthy level.

This is pretty much blanket advice and I shrug a little, this is the stock advice for a healthy life, not just dementia prevention.
What can you really do to help keep dementia at bay?

Analysis by Age UK suggested that lifestyle was responsible for 76% of changes in the brain and that people could go some way to avoiding the disease by adopting or quitting certain habits. Taking regular physical exercise, eating a Mediterranean diet, not smoking, and drinking alcohol in moderation were all found to decrease the risk of developing Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. In addition, preventing and treating diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity was also found to reduce the risk.

I have also heard that learning another language, drinking raw fruit and veg, reducing stress and meditating, running 15 miles a week, laughing more, sleeping more and lowering your sugar intake can all help.
Learning a language, laughing, keeping your brain active and engaged all help create new neuro pathways in your brain and helps grow new brain cells, therefore keeping the brain busy and fully functioning. Alzheimer’s destroys brain cells and once destroyed they cannot be recovered. Thus you see memory loss and lost skills that will never be salvaged.

These are ideas and helps, and current medication can halt the progress of Alzheimer’s to a degree too. However, more and more people are being diagnosed and current figures show that 850,000 people lived with dementia in the UK in 2015 and it’s set to rise at a rate that will result in over one million sufferers 1,142,677 in 2025.

forget-me-nots, the last krystallos, alzheimer's awareness,

© Lisa Shambrook

I wish I had the answers to Alzheimers and Dementia – but I don’t which is why I’ve linked The Alzheimer’s Society, but I’d like to finish on two positives:

forget-me-nots, the last krystallos, alzheimer's awareness,

© Lisa Shambrook

Five Things You Should Know About Dementia from The Alzheimer’s Society:

It’s not a natural part of ageing

It’s caused by diseases of the brain. The most common is Alzheimer’s

It’s not just about losing  your memory – it can affect thinking, communicating and doing everyday tasks

It’s possible to live well with dementia

There’s more to a person than the dementia

They suggest we:

Spend more time with friends and relatives who are living with dementia (I can testify the carer will need support and friends, dementia in a partner is lonely, frustrating and terribly heartbreaking)

Learn more about dementia and maybe become a Dementia Friend

Volunteer and Fundraise…which brings me to my last thing…

forget-me-nots, the last krystallos, alzheimer's awareness,

© Lisa Shambrook

Bekah, my daughter, having seen the effects of Alzheimer’s first hand, has decided to do a Tandem Sky Dive and raise money for The Alzheimer’s Society. She is planning to leap from a plane and parachute on the 10th September and needs sponsors to help her achieve her goal!

Please think about supporting her and those suffering with this tragic disease if you can. Any funds raised online on her Just Giving Page go directly to The Alzheimer’s Society, but she will need physical donations which go to the jump and the charity, so if your know her personally please ask her for her sponsor form and do it direct!

Thank you so much in advance, anything we can do to help those suffering and fund research and help is imperative and very much appreciated!   

Bekah-skydive-alzheimer-justgiving

Bekah’s Just Giving Page for her Sky Dive Sponsors
in aid of The Alzheimer’s Society – Just click this link

Bluebell Woods and an Enchanting Carpet of Colour

‘…she flopped to the ground amid the bluebells.
Her hands brushed the mat of flowers and she lowered her head 
staring intently at the spray of tiny bells.’
Beneath the Rainbow

Bluebell Woods and an Enchanting Carpet of Colour

Anyone stopping by my blog cannot fail to notice my love for bluebells. You’ll find them on my banner and on my first book cover, I’ve blogged about them before and they’ve been my favourite flower since I was small. Now I wander through Carmarthen’s Green Castle Woods rather than the Sussex woodlands of my childhood. The beauty, however, exists countrywide.

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© Lisa Shambrook

Bluebells talk to me of spring, new growth, romance, fairies, childhood and innocence, and I look forward to them every year. The hardy flowers thrive in our damp climate amongst the woodland flora. 50% of our native bluebells grow in our woodlands and we stroll through their carpet of blue every April and May as their delicate flowers swathe the ground.

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© Lisa Shambrook

Not much gets in their way as they spread beneath our trees, but the Victorian introduction of Spanish Bluebells, as garden plants, have become a threat over the years.

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© Lisa Shambrook

Spanish bluebells are stronger and more vigorous, and can easily crossbreed creating a fertile hybrid. Native bluebells have become protected by UK law and we’re encouraged not to grow the Spanish variety in our gardens.

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© Lisa Shambrook

The varieties have distinctive differences and the hybrids lean more to the stronger Spanish Bluebell.

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Native British Bluebells © Lisa Shambrook

British Bluebells (hyacinthoides non-scripta)

Dainty, nodding and delicate.
They have narrow stems and leaves, and arch like a shepherd’s crook with delicate bells that droop.
The bells only hang from one side of the stem, nodding lightly.
They have a soft sweet scent and are often a deep purple, violet blue and have creamy white/yellow anthers and pollen.
Their bells are narrow and the petals curl back at the tips and they carry fewer flowers.

 

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Spanish Bluebells © Lisa Shambrook

Spanish Bluebells (hyacinthoides hispanica)

Sturdy, upright and strapping.
These have a much thicker stem and leaves, standing tall and erect.
Their bells are more closely packed and their sturdy stems can hold more flowers.
The bells don’t hang they grow all around the stem and are generally a paler lilac blue.
They don’t really have a scent and their anthers and pollen are blue.
The bells are shorter and open wider.

 

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© Lisa Shambrook

Both are beautiful, but the Spanish bluebells that once grew in my garden are now restrained in containers, while I allow the natives to sweep, unrestricted, through the undergrowth. And every now and again I’ll revel in the white bluebells that show their nodding faces…

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Beneath the Rainbow © Lisa Shambrook

Here’s a fun author/writerly fact:
Bluebell bulbs and stems were once used to make glue that was used to bind books!

Where do you find your favourite bluebells? 

The Fascinating World within Nature’s Carpet – Gathering Moss

Moss swathes the forest floor, old stone walls, and creeps leisurely onward.
It drapes the trees and cloaks the ground in a jewelled garment of green.
Moss creates its own miniature ecosystem – a forest within itself.

Gathering Moss - The Last Krystallos

Brechfa Forest - Gathering Moss | The Last Krystallos

Brechfa Forest © Lisa Shambrook

My favourite colour is very much lead by nature and lends itself to my romantic soul which finds delight in anything serene and beautiful. My favourite colour is the honey green of moss, the earthy colour of the forest floor softened by the peridot jewel tone.

When I need to unwind or just return to my roots, I wander in the forests and the earthy tones of green and soft breeze lull my soul.

One gram of moss contains... - Robin Wall Kimmerer | The Last Krystallos

Robin Wall Kimmerer © Lisa Shambrook

 

 

 

 

 

There are over 1,000 species of moss in Britain, with more yet to be discovered, though many people only notice two or three varieties. If you get right down on the woodland ground you’ll see the intricate detail and real ecosystem living right there in amongst the moss and lichen, especially if you have a magnifying glass. Moss is nature’s carpet.

Reindeer Moss - Gathering Moss | The Last Krystallos

Reindeer Moss © Lisa Shambrook

Moss and lichens don’t have root systems, they anchor themselves with rhizoids. They don’t draw nourishment from the ground but through photosynthesis, air and water. They hold many times their own weight in water and aid the forest as sponging, cooling and humidifying systems. They are also able to go dormant when they’re under stress.

Elan Valley - Haircap Moss | Gathering Moss | The Last Krystallos

Elan Valley – Haircap Moss © Lisa Shambrook

They have great strength, especially as they grow dense and low to the ground, but they are still vulnerable. They are stripped for the florist industry and are constantly trod upon. As our society, towns and farms spreads into their territory they try to grow, as you’ll see on walls, paving slabs and rooves, but many new building materials are not moss friendly. Many people will also treat moss with weed-killer killing off their tiny ecosystems. My garage shares its roof with my neighbour’s garage and my side of the roof was blanketed with little hedgehogs of cushion moss, and my neighbour, who follows a regimented gardening style used a weed-killer to remove the moss and thereby prevent damp in the garage. This made me sad – I suppose I don’t mind a little damp…

Moss in its element - Gathering Moss | The Last Krystallos

Moss in its element © Lisa Shambrook

One of my most favourite places locally is the Brechfa Forest. It’s like a fairy-tale forest and I expect to bump into Galadriel. Moss covers the forest floor in a springy carpet and drapes like feathery curtains from the fir trees. It’s a magical walk, and the dog loves it too!

Brechfa Moss - Gathering Moss | The Last Krystallos

Moss in Brechfa © Lisa Shambrook

Ancient conversation moses and rocks - Robin Wall Kimmerer - Gathering Moss | The Last Krystallos

Robin Wall Kimmerer © Lisa Shambrook

What do you love about moss? Or do you have a different favourite woodland flora?
One of my most favourite photos is one I took on Exmoor of a tree swathed in moss…pure magic…

Exmoor mossy tree - The Last Krystallos

Exmoor moss swathed tree © Lisa Shambrook

Ten Winter Wonders of Nature

Jack Frost creates a winter wonderland as the temperature drops,
and nature still has a few gems up her sleeve as you don a scarf and hat…

Ten Winter Wonders of Nature | The Last Krystallos

This year hasn’t given us as much frost and lacy webs as I’d have liked;
it’s been a warm and rainy winter so far, but there’s still magic…

holly and ivy, the holly and the ivy, Ten Winter Wonders of Nature, the last krystallos,

© Lisa Shambrook

Holly and Ivy: two of the most iconic plants of winter and abundant at Christmas. Immortalised in song and gracing many, especially Victorian, Christmas cards.
Holly, with its red berries, is often pictured with robins, though an interesting fact shows it is rather the mistle thrush that is known for vigorously guarding the berries of holly in winter, to prevent other birds from eating them.  The tree was seen as a fertility symbol and a charm against witches, goblins and the devil. It was also thought to be unlucky to cut down a holly tree.
Ivy is a popular groundcover plant and found throughout woods and forests, climbing trees and weaving through the undergrowth.

daffodils, ten winter wonders of nature, the last krystallos,

© Lisa Shambrook

Early daffodils and Narcissi (Narcissus): This year, with the warmth and rain, daffodils are flowering early. Generally small narcissi flower first, heralding spring and paving the way for the daffodils and their huge trumpets of colour, but this year in February they’re already throwing out their glorious golden trumpets to brighten the gloomy days.

frost evergreens, ten winter wonders of nature, the last krystallos,

Frosted EvergreensNothing delights me more in winter than gazing at the garden decorated in icing sugar frost. Spider webs are encrusted with diamonds and sugar strands and glitter as the sun dances. Leaves and trees are dipped in ice and create a true winter wonderland. And last year’s Christmas tree grows a few more inches!

cyclamen, ten winter wonders of nature, the last krystallos,

© Lisa Shambrook

Cyclamen: I’ve tried growing these as houseplants, but I’m not good at keeping plants alive indoors… I struggle a bit with cyclamen outside too, I don’t think they like my damp, clay soil! Still, I persevere every year because they’re so delicate and pretty with their bright red or pink, pastel pink, or white blooms and dark, heart-shaped leaves… One day I’d love a patch of naturalised cyclamen coum to cheer up winter.

hellebore, ten winter wonders of nature, the last krystallos,

Hellebore: also known as the Christmas or Lenten Rose, are stunning additions in any winter garden. They grow into large clumps and can be divided or you can plant the little babies that grow from seed around the parent plant. I love their simplicity and beauty as they grace the garden with slightly drooping heads that, when lifted, often show a freckled face. I love the pinks, deep reds, and almost black flowers, but I particularly love the pure white with a lime green hint staining their petals.

Viburnum Bodnantense Dawn, ten winter wonders of nature, the last krystallos,

© Lisa Shambrook

Viburnum Bodnantense Dawn: This is a favourite of mine as it flowers in clumps of pink blossom on bare, dark stems as winter progresses into spring. Strangely the leaves have a pungent smell which I rather dislike when touched, but the flowers have the most divine heady fragrance which makes up for the leaves.

moss and lichen, ten winter wonders of nature, the last krystallos,

© Lisa Shambrook

Moss and Lichen: on bare branches and stone. When the season becomes sparse, and flowers are hard to find, if you look closer you can delight in the intricacies of lichen and moss. Grab a magnifying glass and search out the smaller pleasures of nature. There are numerous varieties of both; in the UK there are over 1,700 species of lichen and over 18,000 species worldwide. I love the curl and sage colour of common lichen found on trees and enhanced in winter on bare branches. Moss delights me, I cannot resist brushing my hand across a carpet of peridot moss, and they offer me my favourite colour! Rainy Wales and our woodlands are the most amazing places for moss. (I love moss so much I may well do a separate post in the future for it!)

bronze fennel, frosted fennel, fennel seedhead, ten winter wonders of nature,the last krystallos,

© Lisa Shambrook

Fennel: I grow bronze fennel in my garden for the haze of purple it gives me in the summer. It grows tall and feathery, and then gives long stems and stunning seedheads in winter. When Jack Frost visits he always decorates the seedheads, creating even more works of art in my winter garden.

red berries, cotoneaster, ten winter wonders of nature,the last krystallos,

Red Berries Cotoneaster: Cotoneaster comes in many varieties, from trees to shrubs and ground-cover. Red berries are the epitome of winter and every garden should have some!

snowdrop, ten winter wonders of nature, the last krystallos,

© Lisa Shambrook

Snowdrop (Galanthus): I’ve said it before, I adore the tiny British Snowdrop, I look forward to its little nodding head and vibrant green marks. It’s a sign that winter is beginning to draw to a close. It generally flowers before the vernal equinox marking the arrival of spring in the middle of March, but can flower from midwinter on. One of the most beautiful winter sights to me is a patch of snowdrops peeping through a fresh coating of snow…offering new growth and hope.

What are your favourite winter flowers?

What inspires you to wander winter’s woodlands and
what flora do you search out as Jack Frost bites?

The Highly Sensitive Person and Living a Rewarding Life

Do you notice the detail, the small things?
Do you feel the breath of life upon your face?
Are you exquisitely aware of everything and everybody about you?
If so, you might be a Highly Sensitive Person.

the-highly-sensitive-person-rewarding-life-the-last-krystallosLife is exaggerated, and both painful and sad, and beautiful and fulfilling for the HSP.

I read that about 20% of the population are Highly Sensitive. Everyone has the ability to feel deeply, to feel touched and moved, and often do, but people who fit the bill of being a Highly Sensitive Person feel like this all the time. Like I said, it can be both a curse and a blessing.

sleeping cat, the highly senisitive person, the last krystallos,

We have to be careful not to become overwhelmed…sometimes we retreat to recharge… © Lisa Shambrook

We can become quickly overwhelmed. People, work, chaos and clutter can cause stress and we can become immobile by these things. We often need to retreat and regroup, please don’t think we’re being antisocial, once we’re comfortable we can socialise with the best of them, but our energy reserves drain fast and we need time alone.

Sometimes this is because many of us are empaths and as we feel the emotions of those around us we can become overwhelmed. Our emotions cut to the soul which is why many of us are natural empaths. I remember standing behind a woman in a supermarket queue and her emotions brought me to tears. I could literally feel her sadness engulf me and the impotence of being unable to help was paralysing. Sometimes I’ve spoken to people and helped, but sometimes the empath can also feel the barriers and the inability to help can be painful.

spider on lavender, flowers in the sun, meadow in sunlight, flower meadow, the last krystallos,

Notice the small detail, the spider on the lavender, the sun among flowers, the colours of autumn… © Lisa Shambrook

Those who are HSP can feel moods and emotions easily and can read people well. We’re conscious to the needs of others and perform very well in those tests that ask you to identify emotions on anonymous faces. We can see that slight hint of a smile, or that frown, and those emotions that barely surface.

We often become people-pleasers and we have to learn to be able to say ‘No.’ I spent years depleting my energy by saying ‘Yes,’ to everything. Our bodies are susceptible to fatigue and we can be more responsive to pain, both our own and others. Self-care is important to the HSP, and essential to prevent exhaustion as we give.

Discover moss on stone, daffodils, sunlight on water, the intricate wasp nest, and the subtle scent of magnolia, the last krystallos,

Discover moss on stone, daffodils, sunlight on water, the intricate wasp nest, and the subtle scent of magnolia… © Lisa Shambrook

Many people dislike change, but Highly Sensitives like to be in control and change needs be tackled slowly, so we can assess it, reflect and choose the best course of action. We’re often seen as indecisive, but we just want to be sure we make the right choice! We dislike contention and conflict and are mortified when we offend. We do everything we can to resolve conflict as fast as we can because we cannot believe our considered choices and decisions may have caused hurt or offense.

Though we may avoid conflict, when we give our hearts or believe something deeply, we will not be moved and will fight our corner with the ferocity of a lion or a lioness!

inhumanly sensitive, the truly creatiive mind, pearl s buck, the last krystallos,

Inhumanly sensitive…Pearl S Buck © Lisa Shambrook

We have hugely heightened emotions and senses. This can be tough for the HSP. We notice everything and are exquisitely aware of our environment, be it sight, sound, taste, touch or smell. Some of us suffer from misophonia which is the sensitivity to sound (eg. people eating) which causes great distress to the sufferer. Others can have other hypersensitivities to their environment. I am unable to wear certain materials, natural wool against my skin for instance, and my ability to notice every little thing around me has caused problems all my life. I have rearranged bookshelves because I cannot have a white spine book placed among dark spines. I notice every piece of lint or fluff on the floor and cannot rest until it has been moved. I cannot concentrate with someone’s foot on the end of their crossed leg bobbing up and down! I also have problems with strong smells, particularly strong perfumes. Hypersensitivity (or Sensory Processing Disorder) can be difficult for both the sufferer and their family!

claude monet every day I discover more and more beautiful things, the last krystallos,

Every day I discover more and more beautiful things… Claude Monet © Lisa Shambrook

On the other hand being an observer can be wonderful and life affirming. We notice every detail and the subtleties that most people miss. We’re intuitive and creative, and nature and detail inspire us.

Notice the clouds, rays of sun, sunsets and misty mountans, the last krystallos,

Notice the clouds, rays of sun, sunsets and misty mountans… © Lisa Shambrook

Intuition is second nature. We often just ‘know’ because we sometimes learn without realising we are. The small details become intrinsic. I would be very sad if I moved through life without noticing the rainbows, the heron by the stream, and the expression of need on a homeless face. We should notice the daisy in the crack of concrete, the smell of honeysuckle, and many more tiny things that aren’t necessary but are life affirming.

carmarthen sunset, the last krystallos,

Sunset… © Lisa Shambrook

Though being such a deep thinker and a contemplative, my life as a Highly Sensitive Person is fulfilling and beautiful. I wouldn’t be without the touch of sunlight on my face, the taste of raspberries, and the depth of my soul to help me offer charity. Sometimes I need to step out of life, to retreat to the woods, or running water, or to spend quiet time on the mountainside…but once recharged I can offer myself once more and allow the intuitive grace of life to lift me.

Are you a Highly Sensitive Person?
Is it a curse or a blessing to you?

10 Late Summer Flowers – Beautiful Blooms

As Summer takes its leave let’s take in and delight in its legacy of beauty.

ten-late-summer-beautiful-blooms-title-090915Despite a wet and cool British Summer the season still enchants
with a bountiful spread of flora, what have been your favourites?

nigella, love in a mist, the last krystallos,

Nigella © Lisa Shambrook

Nigella Damascena: Often known romantically as Love-in-a-mist, this is one of my most favourite cottage garden flowers. Easy to grow from scattered seed, and they self-seed beautifully, they can decorate your garden with pretty pastels. They’re often blue, but I have a penchant for the pure white, and their narrow, threadlike leaves just add to their feathery enchantment. I even love their bulbous seedheads which can look stunning in a vase amongst other summer flowers too!

Lavender © Lisa Shambrook

Lavender © Lisa Shambrook

Lavender: I can never decide which lavender is my favourite, either delicate British lavendula augustifolia or French lavendula stoechas with its crown of purple feathers! I’m not actually a fan of its fragrance, but its silver leaves and simple purple flowers brighten my summer borders.

roses, rhapsody in blue, Louis XIV, blue moon, audrey wilcox, peach, iceberg, red rose, the last krystallos,

Roses © Lisa Shambrook

Roses: What can I say about roses? They need no introduction. It’s perhaps the world’s most romantic flower renowned for both its beauty and its fragrance. My particular favourites are purple, pinks and whites, and can you ever talk about roses without including red ones? Those pictured here are: Blue Moon, Rhapsody in Blue, unnamed peach rose from my parents’ garden, Louis XIV, Audrey Wilcox and the traditional Iceberg.

mock orange, philadelphus, mock orange flowers, belle etoile, the last krystallos,

Mock Orange © Lisa Shambrook

Mock Orange: the gorgeous philadelphus ‘Belle Etoile’ has one of the most beautiful scents of summer. I adore this delicate white flower stained inside with deep red about its yellow stamens, and I look forward to watching my shrub blossom with buds. It’s sister ‘Virginal’ a double mock orange also claims the stunning scent and can quite easily steal the show in a bouquet.

paeony, paeonies, sarah bernhardt paeony, pink, the last krystallos,

Paeony © Lisa Shambrook and Caitlin Shambrook

Paeony: You can choose whether you spell them paeony or peony, I don’t think it matters. They are one of my husband’s favourites. We have an amazing red paeony which flowers early, and a beautifully subtle pink Sarah Bernhardt which flowers later. Paeonies like to be planted shallow so their bulbous roots can sunbathe just beneath the soil, plant them too deep and they won’t flower so prolifically. There are many varieties, from single, bowl-like, papery blooms to full doubles as big as your hand!

clematis flowers, Dr ruppel clematis, the last krystallos,

Clematis Dr Ruppel © Lisa Shambrook

Clematis: another flower with a multitude of varieties. You can find a variety of clematis that will fill your garden with flowers pretty much all year round. I’ve had tiny white freckled clematis right through to huge Dr Ruppel, pale pink with bright pink stripes. Blues, purple, pinks, white and reds dominate, but you can even find delicate green clematis too, and bright yellow bell-shaped ones which leave bearded seedheads once they’re finished – I delighted in the silver seedheads when I was small!

blue hydrangea mophead flowers, the last krystallos,

Hydrangea © Lisa Shambrook

Hydrangea: this is an odd choice for me, as I hated them with a passion as I grew up. I disliked the bog standard dusky pinks and dull blues, and saw no further than the dirty roadside shrubs in local gardens. When I finally got a garden which already contained a blue hydrangea, I began to appreciate them. They have large mopheads which blossom with tiny flowers and I noticed how my blue flowers began as tight green/white buds and opened into pale pink flowers and slowly changed to big lilac blue flowers.  I learned that the colour you get is often dependent on your soil. Blue most common in acid soil, mauve in acid to neutral and pink in alkaline soil. I would love to have a white hydrangea.

geranium johnsons blue flowers, geranium johnsons blue bee, purple flower and bee, bumble bee and flower, the last krystallos,

Geranium Johnsons Blue © Lisa Shambrook

Geranium: I don’t really like most greenhouse grown geraniums and prefer the hardy garden varieties, much like the bees do! When Johnsons Blue blooms it creates a cloud of purple and the buzz from bees is audible. The flowers are almost ultraviolet and they add a beautiful swathe of colour for the summer.

japanese anemone septembers charm flowers, japanese anemone, the last krystallos,

Japanese Anemone © Lisa Shambrook

Japanese Anemone: definitely one of my favourite late summer flowers. I love the white varieties like Honorine Jobert best, but the dusky pinks, of which I have September Charm, are glorious too. Japanese anemones’ green button centres surrounded by tiny gold stamens are quite bewitching! They have long wiry stems which let the flowers dance in the breeze, and they finish with the strangest cotton wool seedheads which float away once they’re done.

rudbekia flower, yellow flower rain, the last krystallos,

Rudbekia © Lisa Shambrook

Rudbekia: these are fun flowers that brighten up the end of the season. You can often find Rudbekia and Echinacea in the same gardens as they are both of the cone flower variety, offering late colour into the autumn. They’re often known as black-eyed susan and also come from the sunflower family.  Guaranteed to brighten your garden!

So tell me, what have been your favourite summer blooms?
If you had to pick a favourite rose which would it be,
and what colours your summer garden?

If you’d like to see more of my flower photography please take a look at my
Flickr page and The Shutterworks Photoblog