Category Archives: Garden

How to be Greener – and Save our Planet

Most of us are working on becoming better people
– more aware environmentally, socially, and consciously.
This post offers ideas on how we can become greener.

How to be Greener – and Save our Planet - The Last Krystallos

I’m currently writing of a future society who’ve suffered from our somewhat unconscious attitude to the environment. They feel passionately about keeping their renewed world environmentally safe. We need to be thinking perhaps not centuries into the future, but rather about making the world better for our children and our grandchildren. Hopefully, from there change will happen and grow. 

It’s a bit-by-bit process. It’s incredibly difficult to change your life completely, so the best thing we can do is change one thing in our life at a time. We must be careful not to judge each other – we all change at different times and at different speeds. Just because I can afford a Stainless Steel water bottle doesn’t mean someone else can yet. The bottle will save me money in the long run, but not everyone can afford the original cost of an environmental bottle in one go. Becoming environmentally aware and active is a process and every single change for the better is a step in the right direction.

Pick one thing to change and keep at it until it’s natural/habit, and then pick another. Bit by bit we can become greener and more environmentally friendly.

So, here are some ways we can preserve the Earth and help save this planet:

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SHO Water Bottle – water © Lisa Shambrook

Stop buying so many plastic bottles – I bought a SHO Stainless Steel Bottle because I carry water with me everywhere.

Drink tap water not bottled water – studies have shown there’s not much difference between the two, if any, and bottled water is ridiculously expensive, and companies like Nestle are often unethical in the way they procure water.

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Reusable Cloth Bags – Glass Jars – Homemade Hot Chocolate © Lisa Shambrook

Start using reusable cloth bags instead of plastic bags. Supermarkets are working on reducing plastic bags and the time when they stop providing plastic bags completely is likely not far away. Take bags with you whenever you shop and make it a habit.

Store food in glass jars – this might not eliminate plastic packaging when you buy, but you can buy more or bigger bags in bulk and lessen the waste.

Stop using Cling Film or Food Wrap – new alternatives like soy or beeswax wraps are becoming available, again the more the demand the cheaper they’ll eventually become.

In the UK the government is now phasing out plastic straws and is talking about phasing out wet wipes too. Help this initiative along by reducing your use, or switching to paper straws and environmentally friendly wipes.

Make your own – find online recipes to make your own hot chocolate, or buy loose tea and coffee – so you don’t need to buy these items in plastic tubs, or tea in tea bags – some companies still use plastic in their tea bags.

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Lush Seanik Shampoo Bar – Handmade Bath Bomb – Nivea Lip Butter © Lisa Shambrook

Use shampoo bars kept in a tin or dish – no plastic bottle, no parabens, silicones, and additives. I have thin hair and the Lush sea salt Seanik shampoo bar has given my hair great body and shine.

Try moisturising Bars – instead of hand creams etc in plastic dispenser bottles – try Lush or Etsy or local handmade bars mine is Turkish Delight from Naked Sister.

Lip balms are often packed into tins these days, Nivea Lip Butter is my favourite with Vanilla and Macadamia, and Blueberry Blush, but several other brands also do this.

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Turkish Delight Bar – Naked Sister © Lisa Shambrook

Menstrual cups and washable cloth sanitary pads are a great way to be environmentally friendly at that time of the month – this can wipe out the use of a lot of plastic, and will save money in the long run. It can be difficult to spend out in bulk but perhaps try one or two brands of pad until you find what works for you, but them when you can afford them.

Cloth nappies – as above, a large outlay, but perhaps ask for them as gifts, buy during your pregnancy, spread the cost. I believe the prices are getting lower as more parents use them. We all know the damage disposable nappies do to the environment and if we can, reusables are the way to go.

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Green Grocer – Homegrown Salad leaves – Wormery © Lisa Shambrook

Have a go at growing your own or buy local from green grocers – grow fruit and veg in tubs or in the garden. In the long run it’ll be cheaper than the supermarket. If you can’t grow your own then buy from Green Grocer’s, again cheaper, local, and less plastic packaging. You can’t beat veg from your own garden for convenience and taste!

Compost Bin or set up a Wormery – Most councils do recycle food waste, but even better if you can recycle your own and use the compost to help grow your own.

You can also blend your food waste (veg peelings, fruit, rind etc) and liquidise with water and use it as plant food. Some Wormery’s also have a run off of liquid that works brilliantly to feed your garden.

Eating Vegetarian or Vegan regularly can change up your diet and help the environment. Try it several times a week or commit for life – it saves water and money.

We all get frustrated by the rubbish that gets posted through our front doors… Opt out of Junk Mail – save paper.

Change all incandescent lightbulbs to fluorescent or LED – save energy.

Reduce reliance on paper towels – many people use tea towels, scraps of material, and I even saw someone’s suggestion of a supply of 7” squares of flannel in the bathroom instead of toilet paper – (only for drying wet use) and keeping used pieces in an old antique chamber pot, then washed in a wash net with usual washing. Not sure I’m ready for this one yet…

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Woollies – Wash Low Temperature – Cleaning © Lisa Shambrook

Turn your thermostat down by at least one degree. Cut your timed heating. Wear jumpers and sweaters if you’re cold.

Use your washing machine on the coldest setting for most washes – this will save energy and money.

Clean with baking soda and vinegar – cheaper by miles, and keep mixtures in mason jars – there are plenty of ideas to be found online for homemade cleaning products.

Lastly, don’t buy chewing gum – made from plastic, latex, talc, colours and fillers – go on look it up – used to be made from gum from the sapodilla tree but not for a long time. Almost indestructible and bad for the planet, it’s not a wonder than several cities have banned gum completely!

There are many more ways to save this planet, this is just a set of ideas,
somewhere to start… but please tell me more in the comments.

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How do you save the Earth, reduce plastic, and save money?

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The First Breath of Spring…

Spring is the breath of new beginnings, of fresh green growth,
and the jewels of Mother Earth lifting their heads to nod in the breeze.

The First Breath of Spring - The Last Krystallos

The first colours of spring appear to be green and white with splashes of blue, yellow, lilac, and pink.

Snowdrops are the first of Mother Nature’s little ones who peep through the frosty mornings to offer us the hope of spring. Hellebores, Christmas roses, throw out their very best with simple flowers and fancy doubles. They’re quickly followed by tiny crocuses and narcissus and then full blown, blousy daffodils.

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Christmas Tree – Oak – Daffodils – Primroses – Cowslip – Abies Koreana new growth © Lisa Shambrook

Fresh growth on trees as they begin to dress with buds of lime-coloured leaves and blushes of blossom. Magnolia will be one of the first to robe its trees with a flush of ivory or pink, and cherry blossom won’t be long to follow. Viburnum Bodnantense Dawn is one of the first clusters of pink to flower on shrubby twigs with a scent to linger beside.

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Ragged Robin – Blossom – Mallow – Valerian – Aquilegia – Hellebore – Tulip – Virbunum Bodnantense Dawn © Lisa Shambrook

Primroses and cowslips adorn the meadows and gardens with tiny sunshine flowers, and white wild anemones unfurl their fairy wings in woodlands, right before bluebells carpet the forest floor. Vinca (periwinkle), and forget-me-nots begin the blue, with chinodoxa and primula.

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Crocus – Primula Denticulata – Chinodoxa – Forget-me-nots – Vinca – Wild Violet – Bluebells – Aquilegia © Lisa Shambrook

Wild oxalis, garlic, violets, and campion spread through the countryside, and ragged robin nods its shaggy head in the warmth of spring. Valerian pushes through wherever it can, determined and strong, and mallow and aquilegia begin to clothe our gardens. Belle Etoile (philadelphus – mock orange) fragrances the air with beauty and heaven, and lastly, spring tulips will open as the sun dances – and heralds the hope of summer.

Snowdrops - Belle Etoile - Wild Anemone - White Campion - Magnolia - Hellebore - Oxalis - Wild Garlic

Snowdrops – Belle Etoile – Wild Anemone – White Campion – Magnolia – Hellebore – Oxalis – Wild Garlic © Lisa Shambrook

What is Spring to you?
Which flower do you look forward to most?  

Butterfly Flutterby – A Summer of Delicate Fairy Wings

Summer is the season when butterflies flutter by
with painted wings and a breeze of mystery…

Butterfly Flutterby - A Summer of Delicate Fairy Wings - The Last Krystallos

I could spend hours sitting beneath butterfly bushes watching these creatures waft by on glorious wings, landing silently on buddleias’ tiny purple blossom and feeding, then flitting off again for an airborne dance before returning to savour the nectar.

Red-Admiral-Butterfly-Buddleia-The-Last-Krystallos-If nothing ever changed...there would be no butterflies

Red Admiral © Lisa Shambrook

I’m not a fan of hot summers, but I have been butterfly watching and these little wonders have taught me about the beauty of change.

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Mullein Moth Larvae © Lisa Shambrook

A couple of months ago I saw a cute caterpillar on the buddleia leaf and later identified it as a Mullein Moth larvae (moth caterpillars are known as larvae). Now, isn’t a caterpillar or larvae an amazing thing? Butterflies go through a magical lifecycle: from an egg a caterpillar is born, the caterpillar feeds voraciously, and then forms a cocoon or pupae, and finally after a long sleep a glorious butterfly emerges.

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Gatekeeper © Lisa Shambrook

I read a story a while ago, about a man who watched a cocoon and felt bad about the struggle the butterfly had trying to emerge, so he carefully helped break open the cocoon and release the creature. He then watched in devastation as the butterfly tried to open its wings but failed. The butterfly was doomed because the process of emergence was interrupted.

No matter how sincere the help butterflies need to go through the process alone. The struggle allows wings to form and for fluid to move from its body into its wings. Without this toil the butterfly is born with a swollen body and shrivelled wings and condemned to die.

Through the struggle of breaking out of its cocoon a butterfly gains strength, without that struggle its wings would never have the power to open and lift it to great heights.

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Ringlet © Lisa Shambrook

Sometimes we go through struggles that no one can help us with, they can cheer from the sidelines and encourage and comfort, but often we go through huge battles that we have to surmount ourselves. Only then can we internalise the strength that we gained and rise and fly to heights we never knew we could.

Embrace your struggle.

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Peacock © Lisa Shambrook

Most butterflies live for about a month, the smallest butterflies maybe only a week, and for such gorgeous creatures their lives are short. Butterflies don’t waste a moment. They feed, they mate, and they bathe in the sun. They live for the moment because that’s all they have.

Cherish your moments.

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High Brown Fritillary © Lisa Shambrook

Back to caterpillars and butterflies, it’s a bit like the story of the ugly duckling. Sometimes we see ourselves as boring, grey, shy, and don’t see our true beauty. We all have the ability to emerge from our troubles and grow into the beauties we’re supposed to be. Just like butterflies. Even the most basic butterfly is a wonder of nature. And, I adore moths too, dusty brown wings, silvered or matt, but beautiful. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

Love who you have become.

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Comma © Lisa Shambrook (I wish this was a better photograph, taken on my first camera phone way back… but the Comma is too beautiful to leave out!)

And lastly, I have a fascination with the word butterfly. Rumour has it – I don’t think there’s a definitive answer as to why they are butterflies – that they fluttered about milk churns when butter was being made, or that they were so named because the first butterfly appearing in the year was the yellow-coloured male Brimstone, but the most likely reason is it was believed they ate butter and milk, words in Dutch and German translate as Butter-thief, so butterfly it became.

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Large White © Lisa Shambrook

Myself, I like the spoonerism – flutterby, I mean that’s exactly what they are!

So, welcome the flutterbys, after all, they’re not here for very long, and nature has a habit of giving us beauty in small doses, we just have to notice it!

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Small Tortoiseshell © Lisa Shambrook

My pictured butterflies are my locals,
what butterflies are your favourite where you live?

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Red Admiral, High Brown Fritillary, Small Tortoiseshell, Gatekeeper, Peacock Butterflies © Lisa Shambrook

The Language of Roses and the Colours of Summer

Roses are, perhaps, the most expressive of flowers.

The Language of Roses and the Colours of Summer - The Last Krystallos.

They can be brash and bold, or full and heady, or delicate and sweet, or subtle and fragrant, and so much more…

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© Lisa Shambrook

When people are asked for their favourite flower, roses are one of the most popular responses, and they are definitely the jewel in the crown in both florists and gardens. Roses generally flower from Summer to Autumn, but these days I’ve had roses blooming as early as April and as late as December!

I carried Jacaranda, deep mauve, roses as a bride, Vince brought me handcut roses from the gardens he worked at (he was a gardener) on our first date, I’ve adored a variety of roses in my garden, I’ve had single red roses for Valentine’s, and we recently had red and white roses at my mother’s funeral.

The Language of Roses and the Colours of Summer - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

So what do roses say?

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Red Roses © Lisa Shambrook

Burgundy Roses say a little more than red, promising undying love and cherishing unconscious beauty!

Red Roses are the traditional way to say “I Love You,” the colour of passion and the definition of love. They also represent courage and respect.

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Orange, Peach, and Yellow Roses © Lisa Shambrook

Orange Roses; imagine the colour of fire and you have the flowers that embody passion to rival red roses representing desire, enthusiasm, and excitement.

Peach Roses are a delicate shade of gratitude and sincerity, a gentle rose to offer appreciation.

Yellow Roses show friendship, care, and platonic love, there are no romantic undertones with yellow roses, just sunshine and friendship. Yellow roses also convey memories, and are often given in long term relationships. They are also perfect for welcome home and new beginnings bouquets.

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White Roses © Lisa Shambrook

White Roses represent purity and innocence, spirituality and reverence, often seen as bridal or sympathy blooms.

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Pale Pink Roses © Lisa Shambrook

Pale Pink Roses suggest friendship and elegance, and can signify a new budding romance. They also offer sympathy and innocence. The delicate charm that laces pale pink matches the sweetness that they convey.

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Deep Pink Roses © Lisa Shambrook

Deep Pink Roses express appreciation and gratitude, and a lovely way to show happiness and contentment.

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Purple Roses © Lisa Shambrook

Purple and lavender Roses; purple has always been the colour of mystery and enchantment, and they express love-at-first-sight. Deeper purple roses signify majesty and splendour.

I adore roses of all colours, and every variety, from hybrid tea roses, to dog roses, climbing and rambling roses, old English, and modern hybrid, floribunda roses, and shrub roses – they all enchant me.

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Roses © Lisa Shambrook

I believe roses were given to us to celebrate colour, fragrance, and beauty, let’s not take them for granted.

What are your favourite roses?

When were you last given roses, or do you buy or cut your own?

What colour beguiles you most?

* All photos are roses from my garden or from the tables in Calon my local coffee shop (now called Pethau Da) and a couple of pics of bouquets from supermarkets!

Cow Parsley and its Rogue Cousin Common Hogweed

I love the Welsh hedgerows of summer,
full of white Cow Parsley, Common Hogweed,
and dotted with Red Campion, and purple Foxgloves.

Cow Parsley and its cousin Common Hogweed - The Delicate Beauties of the Hedgerow - The Last Krystallos

Delicate white Cow Parsley and Hogweed flowers sway gently amid roadside flora, and along paths, and the edges of fields. Both Cow Parsley (Anthriscus sylvestris) and Common Hogweed (Heracleum sphondylium) are common sights from spring into summer, and their dry stalks and skeletons decorate the verges when autumn and winter arrives.

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Cow Parsley – Hogweed – Hemlock © Lisa Shambrook

Being an everyday sight in the UK countryside, Cow Parsley has become a favourite wild plant to include in my writing, its form and structure adds to descriptive scenes and offers history and familiarity to the reader.

It’s also familiar to readers who understand herbs and plants, as cow parsley has been used in traditional medicines to treat ailments, stomach and kidney problems; breathing difficulties and colds. You must be able to positively recognise the plant before using it as medicinal, or even in cooking, as you can make Cow Parsley soup and a variety of other recipes. My sister advises me that her horses love Cow Parsley!

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Cow Parsley © Lisa Shambrook

Cow Parsley is recognisable with its long, green, furry stems which are ribbed and have a V shaped groove, umbels of white flowers often tinted pink (left in picture below), and fern like leaves (top middle). Common Hogweed is a very close relation. Its leaves are edible when young, and it’s discernible from Cow Parsley by its daintier florets and broader leaves, but more rounded (bottom middle) than the jagged, spiky leaves of Giant Hogweed. Another cousin is the Wild Carrot (Daucus carota) with narrow ferny leaves and heads of tiny white flowers, but you’ll recognise the difference as the Wild Carrot’s flower cluster usually has a single red/purple flower right in its centre.

Common Hogweed, Cow Parsley, Giant Hogweed and Hemlock Leaves Stems - The Last Krystallos

Common Hogweed (left/bottom middle), Cow Parsley (top middle), Giant Hogweed (top right) and Hemlock (bottom right) Leaves/Stems © Lisa Shambrook

It has to be said that you need to be incredibly careful not to confuse these with their dangerous and poisonous relations Giant Hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum) and Hemlock (Conium maculatum).

The first way to tell Giant Hogweed apart from its Common counterpart and Cow Parsley is its size. Cow Parsley can grow to just over 1m (3-4 ft), Common Hogweed a bit taller, but Giant Hogweed grows up to 3m (almost 12 ft) and its umbels of flowers are pure white and can reach the size of 60cm (2 ft) across. Giant Hogweed will generally tower over you and its stems are far thicker. Its leaves are deeply lobed with jagged, serrated edges, and its stem is bristly and purple blotched, (which you can see in the top right picture). Giant Hogweed has violent sap which will react if it touches skin in bright sunlight inducing burns and painful blistering, needing quick medical attention. My mother discovered this when she tried to cut one down without realising what it was and ended up arms of red blisters and hospital treatment.

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Common Hogweed © Lisa Shambrook

Hemlock is much smaller, and very similar in appearance to Cow Parsley with fern like leaves, but it also has stems blotched wine-red, though its stalks are smooth (bottom right in picture). All parts of Hemlock are poisonous though it was also used as medication by the Anglo-Saxons.

Giant Hogweed is well known for its dangerous phototoxic sap, but it’s wise to remember that all of these plants have sap that reacts to bright sunlight. In the same way a wild animal would attack if assaulted plants can do the same, and if these plants are cut down by mechanical means (strimmers etc) they utilise their defences and their sap will react and burn when it touches skin.

Wild Carrot - The Last Krystallos

Wild Carrot © Lisa Shambrook

Both Cow Parsley and Wild Carrot are also called Queen Anne’s Lace in the UK. Queen Anne took the British throne in 1702, and she was the second daughter of James II. A story goes that the queen asked her ladies-in-waiting to see who could make lace as beautiful as the cow parsley in the countryside, and only she could. Another story says that Queen Anne pricked her finger while making lace, thus why the Wild Carrot has a purple flower at its centre.

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Cow Parsley, Foxglove and Red Campion © Lisa Shambrook

I love the wild flowers that embellish my landscape, and along with Bluebells, delicate, lacy Cow Parsley enchants me as it bends in the breeze like fairy blossom…

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Sunset Umbels © Lisa Shambrook

What wild flowers charm you?

The Tears of Nature – Rain and Flowers

Spring flowers laced with crystal tears…
the warmth of Summer nurturing her flora…

The Tears of Nature – Rain and Flowers - The Last Krystallos

A lovely friend posted a couple of photos on Facebook this week
of her garden flowers in the rain, and as we’ve had a fair bit of rain this May
it made me think of my own flowers decorated with diamonds…

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Aquilegia, Rose – Rhapsody in Blue, Geranium © Lisa Shambrook

It rains a lot in Wales, but that’s not a bad thing.
Taking photos of flowers in the rain offers a beautiful clarity and charm.

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Aquilegia, Arum Lily, Belle Etoile – Philadelphus, Aquilegia © Lisa Shambrook

Water is the essence of life, watching thirsty plants flourish shows how vital it is to all of us.

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Paeony, Geranium, Oriental Poppy, Tulip © Lisa Shambrook

Dewdrops, crystal, diamond rain, reflection, life, clarity,
nature’s mantle to beautify our lives…

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Ladies Mantle, Rudbekia, Daffodil, Aquilegia © Lisa Shambrook

 What flowers have you enjoyed seeing laced with nature’s tears?

The Tears of Nature – Rain and Flowers - The Last Krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

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

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!

diamond raindrops in aquilegia leaves, the last krystallos, lisa shambrook,

© 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.

aquilegia, meadow flowers, lisa shambrook, the last krystallos,

© 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!

blue aquilegia, lisa shambrook, the last krystallos,

© Lisa Shambrook

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

pink aquilegia, lisa shambrook, the last krystallos,

© Lisa Shambrook

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

blue aquilegia, blue columbine, lisa shambrook, the last krystallos,

© 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

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.

bluebells-green-castle-woods-the-last-krystallos-four

© 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.

bluebell-woods-the-last-krystallos-green-castle-woods-2.jpg

© 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.

bluebells-thelasy-krystallos-garden

© 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.

bluebells-green-castle-woods-the-last-krystallos

© Lisa Shambrook

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

native-bluebells-green-castle-woods-the-last-krystallos

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.

 

spanish-bluebells-lisa-shambrook-the-last-krystallos

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.

 

whitebells-bluebells-lisa-shambrook-green-castle-woods-carmarthen

© 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…

carpet-of-blue-beneath-the-rainbow-lisa-shambrook

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