Jaume Plensa, Jonty Wilde & Yorkshire Sculpture Park, 20th June 2011

I was a little disparaging about the Yorkshire Sculpture Park in the mud a week ago. Nowhere looks good in the mud. YSP is without doubt one of my favourite places to visit. So here is a better memory from a few years back when we took our grandson to visit and we all agreed that the Spanish sculptor was the finest Spaniard in Yorkshire. Max loved the alphabet sculpture and pointed out his full name. I loved the ethereal heads rising from the grassed roof of the Underground Gallery, pictured against the South Yorkshire countryside. They turned out to be “Nuria and Irma”, the heads of the two girls made in steel mesh. I know they were featured in The Telegraph by the photographer Jonty Wilde as “one of the best sculptures in pictures”. He is one of the finest photographers of people around, as the link above will testify to. The Holmfirth photographer’s official website features some images of work from YSP.

Rowan trees, good luck, Cosmos late colour & Juniperus Scopulorum ‘Skyrocket’, 1st October 2011

I rarely think to photograph the front garden but this photograph from 2011 does remind me of how useful cosmos are for autumn colour, and how neat and dominant is our skyrocket. The rowan tree was planted the day we arrived in what was then virgin soil, some thirty five years ago. Rowan trees are said to bring good luck. And it has. The surrounding beech hedge was picked over by a three year old hooligan of a neighbour but is now so thick in the trunks that my bonsai loving brother-in-law requires them for small pots. Some chance.

Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postill’, perfect winter shrub

I wrote yesterday of our daphne drowning out the scent of the witch hazel with its own intense fragrance. Daphne bholua “Jacqueline Postill” truly is the perfect winter shrub. Festooned in blossom at present, in bud it is a dark raspberry, opening out to a very pale pink with each flower in the balled clusters possessing a tiny yellow eye. Standing at some 10ft it enjoys a sunny position in our garden, the light sandy soil providing the drainage it requires. It originates in Nepal, hence its common name of Nepalese paper plant and its hardiness. Our specimen was in flower before Christmas and although the literature refers to it flowering in late winter, our ten year old shrub is always in flower for the new year. As for the fragrance … let me say it is a heady uplifting clove-like scent that carries well throughout the garden. Coach parties travel to our street to feast their nostrils….. I mentioned last year that I gave it a handful or three of limestone chippings to off-set the yellowing of the evergreen leaves. This has worked a treat and I intend to repeat the exercise after flowering.

Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Diane’

Given the correct backdrop and light, the red flowered witch hazel is a spectacular shrub in the depths of winter. Ours is Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Diane’, lovely in flower yesterday between showers and cherished for its short-lived but ravishing displays as the leaves turn red, orange and yellow in the autumn. It has a pleasing scent although is somewhat overwhelmed by our nearby daphne that streams perfume. We grow “Diane” in a sunny position, putting up with its broad, rather plain leaves until they triumph in their demise. It has reached 200 cm in its seven or so years. In close-up, the flowers are astonishing, particularly with raindrops adding their own glitz.

And here is a reminder of the autumn glory as the same plant shines in late October.

Daffodil Art

Are depictions of the bright yellow daffodil necessarily more brash than those of the subtle white snowdrop as featured yesterday? Utah-based Melody Greenlief commences this perusal of affordable art featuring daffodils in many guises with her Lanies Narcissus. Although bold, she captures the freshness of the narcissus and their delicacy.

Abstract Daffodils from a blog entry by Minneapolis painter Jill Van Sickle.

Gretchen Hancock from Nebraska has a number of daffodil paintings available for sale. I liked her White and Yellow Jonquils on Gray and her Single Daffodil Gold and Green. There is subtlety here all right.
To Minnesota now for an oil from Luiza Vizoli, whose heavily layered Daffodil Flowers is tactile even on a flat screen.

As with my compendium of snowdrop paintings, here is another Cicely Mary Barker work, this time a tapestry from The Tapestry House. Her ‘Flower Fairies of the Garden’ was published in the 1920s. At 24″x19″ it could hang in a room near you.
Jean-Pier Marchais has a number of paintings for sale at allartclassic and I really like Daffodils.
I seem to have featured a lot of a) women and, b) Americans in my survey, so here is a man from Poole in Dorset. Sean Curley paints in oils and I love his big flowers in Daffodil 1. So c), I’d buy this lush piece.
But back to women and America for this pastel landscape, Daffodil Hill from Linda Beach who paints and teaches in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Texas offers Kay Smith and another Daffodil Hill. And incidental to my theme is a cow from her blog. (Milk Cow Blues)
Heirlooms II by Karen Mathison Schmidt from north Louisiana is already sold and I am not at all surprised. 
The classy Daffodils at Tea by Barbara Schilling is one of my favourites and she has a good blog

Snowdrop Art

A selection of available images of snowdrops available for sale, or at least they were when I last looked. Here’s a few I liked. First is Shivering Snowdrops by Moira Ladd, the blue-grey shadow and looming flowers against a dark background adding a certain drama.

Lindsay J Berry’s pastel drawing Among Snowdrops has a light quality about it despite the full flowers. Snowdrops look best when viewed from a prone position!

Helen Absalom works in Brynmawr, Wales, the two snowdrops being the entry for her blog on Wednesday, 23 January 2013. The dark green and orange innards have impact.

Shelley Davies’ exquisite study is one of her Botanical Illustrations.

Snowdrops lend themselves well to greetings cards. Here is a neat example from Bubble Tree Design.

Cicely Mary Barker was one of the finest illustrators of fantasy in the first half of the 20th century, her fairies possessing a definite immortality in the art world. Here is one of the Snowdrop Fairies, some of her tiny cards still being available for sale on-line.

Sadly Anna Wilson-Patterson’s stylish Snowdrops in Brown Mug was sold last year, as was, strangely enough, her Snowdrops In Spotty Mug. Don’t despair though, Anna has sold a number of different mugs and of course their necessary snowdrop contents. I’m sure there is always a different mug should one require one.
A change of style with this offering from the Belarus artist Alla. I was looking for an oil and Snowdrops fits the bill though the heat of the studio seems to have opened out the petals. Alla’s work reminds me of those Russian master animators whose work I used to write about for all those years. Were I in the market for an oil on canvas this is the one I would choose. And I note it is still for sale ….

Rhododendron dauricum "Midwinter", 3rd January 2016

I ordered two rhododendrons from the Perth based Glendoick Gardens Centre, one being the Mucronulatum I featured a couple of weeks ago. The second plant is Rhododendron dauricum “Midwinter” and it has just burst into flower. It resides in a temporary pot until the weather improves and I decide on its proper position. The plants were expensive given added tax and postage and there is at least one cheaper source that I should have checked before buying. Age does not endow me with any greater sense. The shrub is a glorious, spectacular sight when mature, and even with my admittedly fine young specimen, the tiny flowers looked good yesterday afternoon in the rain and in close-up with the stamens very prominent.

It will grow to a height of 1.5m and 1.5m in width. The foliage is described as being semi-evergreen, and I could clearly detect an almost eucalyptus-like scent from the purple green leaves. The Chinese have traditionally used the extract for treating chronic tracheitis. The “Midwinter” clone received an RHS Award of Garden Merit in 1984.

Chiltern Seeds and their photographer, Sabina Rüber

One of the introductions in recent years to the annual and indispensable Chiltern Seeds catalogue has been a succession of the most exquisite close-ups of their plants that arrive via my email, positively coercing me to grow some flower I would never have dreamed of growing. Chiltern Seeds was set up in Buckinghamshire by Douglas and Bridget Bowden in 1975 and from 1980 based themselves in the Lake District, their growth as a company mirroring my time as a gardener. Their daughters, Heather and Sally, took over in 2012 and have moved the base of operations back to the Chilterns. Yesterday their new catalogue dropped through the letterbox, my winter reading. Paradise for pennies! For now, here are some random images from their inspiring photographer, Sabina Rüber, dropped electronically into my imagination.

Nigella hispanica, ‘African Bride’ Spanish Fennel Flower, Love-in-a-Mist

Eschscholzia californica, ‘Thai Silk Pink Champagne’ California Poppy

Cosmos bipinnatus, ‘Daydream’

Omphalodes linifolia Argentine Forget-me-not, Venus’s Navelwort


Helipterum roseum, ‘Pierrot’ Everlasting Pierrot, Strawflower

Cosmos bipinnatus, ‘Fizzy’ Series, ‘Fizzy Pink’


Calendula officinalis, ‘Kablouna Intense Yellow’ Pot Marigold

Phlox drummondii, ‘Crème Brûlée’



Likes and Dislikes at Yorkshire Sculpture Park, New Year’s Day

The huge crowds tramping through mud to see the last days of the “Poppies Wave” exhibition were hardly conducive to a peaceful first day of 2016. Bill Viola’s dark exhibition in the Underground Gallery was miserable. There were good points however. Thomas J. Price’s “Network” is a striking bronze at nine feet in height, the black guy consulting his tablet phone being a very contemporary study.

Sol LeWitt’s “123454321” was so bleakly minimalist on a cold grey day that the mud surrounding it somehow seemed attractive in a sticky kind of way. Sort of “tidy builders” sculpture.

The permanent-seeming exhibit of a student village returning to nature that I wrote about last January – “Bretton Hall” – did however yield two items of interest in the sculptured plaques that identified two of the crumbling halls of residence from the 1960s, “Grasshoppers” and “King’s Head”, the ivy gradually extending to the monarch a master touch. Those much maligned sixties architects knew a thing or two about sculpture. And speaking of the former teacher training college at Bretton Hall, there is a website with some touching reminiscences of the place, a time when “King’s Head Hostel” actually accommodated young people and was not just a noble sculpture on a still modern brick wall.