Tag Archives: flowers

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.

Cow Parsley Hogweed Flowers - The Last Krystallos

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!

Cow Parsley - The Last Krystallos

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.

Common Hogweed Leaves Stem - The Last Krystallos

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.

Cow Parsley, Foxglove and Red Campion - The Last Krystallos

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…

Sunset and Cow Parsley - The Last Krystallos

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

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

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? 

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.

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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.

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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!

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© 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?

How To Find Nature’s Antidepressants

‘I go to nature to be soothed and healed, and to have my senses put in order.’
John Burroughs

nature's-antidepressants-title-the-last-krystallos 1These last few weeks have been tough. There’s no reason, except for the rising mists of depression that have been circling my feet. Depression doesn’t need a reason.

It’s been a good few years since the black dog really bit a chunk out of me. I live with anxiety and panic, but I’ve kept depression at bay. When it began swirling about my feet a few weeks ago it was unexpected, though not surprising. Depression is an illness you know can and often returns without warning.

I’m currently still in the early stages of an episode and I’m fighting. I’ve used many methods to overcome depression over the years, including medication and therapy. This time I’m hoping to quash it naturally before it has the chance to develop.

I have a headstart as autumn is my favourite season – so here goes:

*How to fight depression purely through nature…

brighton pier sunset, clouds, the last krystallos,

Sunset, ocean and clouds © Lisa Shambrook

Anything that makes you feel good helps, so I’m storing the good things like sunsets and clouds. I can escape when I watch clouds and escaping into my imagination always gives me somewhere to go when darkness attacks.

ocean, freedom and waves, the last krystallos,

Ocean © Lisa Shambrook

The ocean is another of my go to places. The ocean heals me. It calms my troubled mind and lifts my soul. A calm sea is a balm and a rough sea ignites my passions. Talking of water, another way I fight depression is to swim, which I’ve blogged about before. Powering through the water uses energy, is relaxing and exercise has been proven to help fight depression.

green castle woods, woodland walks, dog walk, sunshine and smiles, lisa shambrook, the last krystallos,

Green Castle Woods, walks, sunshine and smiles © Lisa Shambrook

Walking is exercise. On days when I can’t get to the gym, I can walk through woodlands, meadows, and the countryside. My German Shepherd gives me reason (if I need it and sometimes depression can kill motivation) and we walk every day. I live in a gorgeous area and we can discover adventure together beneath the canopy and fresh air.

Sunshine and smiles. Smile and you feel better. Simple. Sunshine also gives the feel good factor right along with vitamins. Don’t forget we need sufficient hours of daylight to fuel and charge our bodies.

snowdonia mountain valleys and mist, eagles, the last krystallos,

Snowdonia and eagles © Lisa Shambrook

Mountains, valleys, woodlands, forests…nature’s kingdom leaves me in awe and that’s always good. Get out there and enjoy the boost Mother Earth offers for free. Watch the birds soar, and let yourself escape!

red squirrel, green castle woods oak, the last krystallos,

Red Squirrel (found by Dan on Prince Edward Island, Canada) and Green Castle Woods Oak © Lisa Shambrook

I mentioned my dog and I also have cats. They love me, yes, even my cats do! Animal therapy works, stroking an animal reduces blood pressure and calms the soul. Animals offer the sort of unconditional love many humans don’t. Get out and discover what lives in the wild. Vince and I once saw a deer, just a few feet away. It stared at us and we stared back for a few minutes before it bounded away, but in those days without camera phones, it’s just a snapshot memory…maybe they’re the best type…

discovery apples, red apples, autumn leaves, the last krystallos,

Discovery apples and autumn leaves © Lisa Shambrook

I adore trees, and they remind me how to grow, tall and strong. Climb one if you want, feel that sense of achievement, as long as you don’t get stuck! Enjoy nature’s fruits, eat natural and healthy. I love our apples! Like I said earlier, Autumn is my favourite season, so the turning leaves both inspire and humble me, and make the perfect atmosphere to fight the darkness.

roses and lavender, the last krystallos,

Roses and Lavender © Lisa Shambrook

Flowers. I’ve blogged lots about flowers, nature’s decoration, her jewels. The scent of jasmine, or orange blossom, or roses and lavender inspire and rouse and lift me.

rudbekia, rain on flower, simple daisy, the last krystallos,

Simplicity of nature’s flowers, rudbekia and daisies © Lisa Shambrook

So, I’m fighting. I’m getting out there and inhaling September, breathing in the beauty of nature and letting it infuse and heal me.

So tell me what helps you overcome life’s difficulties?
How do you allow nature to heal you? 

*It’s important to note that while nature can be a powerful prescription, if your depression intensifies, please seek help from your GP. Medication has its place and if used correctly can work wonders.

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

10 Early Summer Flowers that Delight…

As summer sunshine warms us, nature’s early blooms enchant with colour and beauty…

ten-early-summer-flowers-that-delight

What late spring/early summer flowers are nodding in your gardens?

aquilegia, columbine, granny's bonnet,

Aquilegia © Lisa Shambrook

Aquilegia: often known as Granny’s Bonnet or Columbine, the common name ‘columbine’ comes from the Latin for ‘dove’, due to the resemblance of the inverted flower to five doves clustered together. This flower is one of my favourites. It surprises me every year with its array of colours and varieties, from single star like petals to full, double, frilled and hooded flowers. It blooms amid my meadow of grass with gorgeous nodding flowers from white, to pink, to red, and every shade of purple you could imagine. Each year some interbreed and arrive with the most delightful combinations.

Astrantia and garden snail © Lisa Shambrook

Astrantia and garden snail © Lisa Shambrook

Astrantia: such a simple flower with pink blushed white petals infused with green, or strong ruby red. They are commonly known as masterwort. Grown in cottage gardens, they offer medicinal properties containing an essential oil which can help with digestive problems.

tulips, tulips and raindrops

Tulips and diamonds © Lisa Shambrook

Tulips: the ultimate late spring flower, a companion to daffodils, but flowering on into early summer. I love tulips, and although there are so many varieties, parrot, frilled, single, double, tall, short – my preference lies with simple bold colours, usually reds, purples and white. I adore white tinged with green!

ragged robin,

Ragged Robin © Lisa Shambrook

Ragged Robin: lychnis flos-cuculi, is a perennial that’s often found growing in wetter areas such as marshes, fens and wet meadows. Its ragged petals never fail to enchant me!

solomon's seal,

Solomon’s Seal © Lisa Shambrook

Solomon’s Seal: another cottage garden plant which produces beautiful arching stems and an arc of green tinged white dangling bells. They’re more associated with woodland shade, but look gorgeous strewn throughout the garden, a delight planted with dicentra, bleeding heart, in late spring.

iris sibirica, iris, purple iris,

Iris © Lisa Shambrook

Iris: one of my most favourite plants. The iris sibirica or flag iris flowers earlier than bearded irises, and my favourites are a mixture of white and purples. I have a stunning clump of water irises in my pond and they make me excited to wait for my bearded irises! Little iris reticulata, dwarf iris, flowers quite early, and the rule of thumb is the smaller the iris the earlier it flowers.

clematis montana,

Clematis Montana © Lisa Shambrook

Clematis Montana: I love all clematis, but the montana, spreading across vast spaces and festooned with blooms is amazing. They also flower earlier than the large flowered varieties. Subtle in pink and white, when you see a cottage covered with clematis montana it’s a real sight to behold!

arum lily, zantedeschia,

Arum Lily © Lisa Shambrook

Arum lily: zantedeschia, again, although I love calla lilies and stargazer lilies, and all varieties of lily, the arum with its pure simplicity is the one that bewitches me. A white spiral that opens into a delicate spathe just delights me. It dies away completely over the winter then has the most gorgeous green leaves that push through in spring and I can’t wait for it to flower!

campanula, campanula star of bethlehem,

Campanula Star of Bethlehem © Lisa Shambrook

Campanula: another cottage garden flower that I get impatient to see. A carpet of purple, a sea of blue, and I love how it grows in ever-expanding clumps and waterfalls across garden walls. I think it reminds me of my love of bluebells, which have just stopped flowering when the campanulas blossom. There are so many varieties and sizes, but the Star of Bethlehem is my garden favourite.

ox-eye daisy,

Ox-eye Daisy © Lisa Shambrook

Ox-eye Daisy: again, pure simplicity plays its part in my garden, and I love how it grows along the road-side, across fields and everywhere! Leucanthemum vulgare a large, yellow centred daisy, that enchants with ease.

iris white iris, aberglasney gardens, wales,

© Lisa Shambrook – Iris – Aberglasney Gardens, Wales

These are my garden staples for early summer…how is your garden blossoming? 

What are your favourite flowers as the sun peeps through?