I love going for walks at this time of the year when the trees are cloaked in beautiful shades of reds and oranges and golds, and the ground beneath is a colourful carpet of crisp autumn leaves.
These are some of the beautiful trees at Park Island, one of our favourite walking spots.
This white-faced heron is a frequent visitor to the stream at Park Island.
Finn and I go for a walk through Plantation Reserve most mornings, usually a great meeting spot for other dog walkers, although on this particular morning I chose a quiet time so I could take some photos of the trees.
I love to pick up little treasures on our walks and display them on a nature shelf that I have in my studio at home.
It seems I can never go home empty-handed; there are always so many interesting things to find!
In celebration of Earth Day I’d like to shine a light on the tiny creatures that are so vital to our very existence – wild bees, honeybees, and bumblebees. Sadly, worldwide bee populations are in decline, which is why we need to protect them and encourage them into our gardens. We can make our gardens bee friendly by planting flowers with open petals, planting colourful flowers with lots of blues and purples and yellows, providing a source of water so the bees don’t get dehydrated, planting native plants, and creating nesting habitats for them.
A few of the plants that bees love include alyssum, daisies, asters, bergamot bee balm, lavender, rosemary, cosmos, echinacea, borage, anise hyssop, and salvia.
These are a few of the beautiful bees and bumblebees that have visited our garden over the summer.
I painted this canvas of a furry bumblebee for my dear friend, Erica, who has just retired and is looking forward to having more time to spend with nature in her lovely garden.
Every autumn, in April, we enjoy going foraging for walnuts. There are a couple of places where we take Finn walking that we know have big old walnut trees, which are off the beaten track and where the walnuts lie on the ground untouched.
The last couple of weeks we have had some beautiful autumn weather, perfect for foraging. On a day that was warm and still and sunny, we took our bags and headed for the river. Away from civilization, we were surrounded by trees, birdsong, bees, dragonflies, and fantails.
It was clear from the dense undergrowth and foliage that not many people had come down this way.
We discovered a crabapple tree on our walk.
When we reached the walnut trees we had to search beneath the undergrowth for the nuts, however there were plenty to be found, and Finn was keen to help! We filled our bags and left plenty for the next forager to find.
Several chatty fantails accompanied us on our walk, flitting from branch to branch. They rarely stay still for more than a moment at a time, so it is very hard to photograph them, but Nick managed to capture these ones.
Then it was down to the river for Finn to have a swim.
Now I have to wait a few weeks for the walnuts to dry before I can make my favourite caramel date and walnut cake!
Here are a few more pages from my floriography book.
I found this little forget-me-not poem in one of the old books of poetry I picked up for a dollar from the school book fair, and thought it was perfect for adding to my page with forget-me-nots from my garden.
This is a page that I did in my art journal a while ago.
I have collected a few books over the years on ‘The Language of Flowers’ and find it interesting that most of the flower meanings have remained consistent over time, their interpretations drawn from myth and history. However, there are a few that differ from book to book. It would be interesting to get hold of an original one from the Victorian era to compare with the modern books.
I love that Olive Dunn, in her book ‘Delights of Floral Language,’ has started her own floral language list with no sinister meanings, as she found some of the meanings repellent in the old books.
I believe that flowers speak to us with their colour, beauty, uniqueness, and their life force, touching each of us in different ways. I think that all flowers are beautiful, but I know that, for me, certain flowers evoke a particular emotion or bring to mind certain words. I am drawn to them by their colour, associations, or folklore, and the joy that they add to my life. I’m sure that if each of us were to compile our own personal ‘language of flowers’ list, they might make for some interesting reading and comparisons!
I recently signed up for the online mixed-media workshop 21 Secrets: The Great Outdoors, one of the many fabulous workshops run by Dirty Footprints Studio. It is a self-paced course that you can dip into whenever you have some free time in which eleven artists, each with with their own unique style, demonstrate fun projects. I am enjoying spending time with each of the artists, learning new techniques and gaining inspiration, and all centred around my favourite subject of nature.
One of my favourite workshops so far has been Laly Mille’s art journaling lesson The Poetic Botanist. A couple of weeks ago I went to the annual book sale at one of our local high schools and picked up some old, falling apart poetry books for a dollar each. The pages were perfect to use on my journal layout. Slipped inside one of the books was an old sheet of notepaper with a wonderful image of a rose, the exact sort of image I had been looking for to use as the focal image on my page.
My journal page was created with collaged book pages and sheet music, image transfers from old botanical books, paint, ink, washi tape, and a pressed rose from my mother’s garden.
I picked out random words from the collaged book pages, as well as some from my box of words, and wrote a little story that I journaled around the layout. Some of it is partially hidden, so I have typed it out below.
The Skylark and the Rainbow
Once upon a time a free-spirited skylark saw a rainbow in the sky and, forgetting the lessons of nature, he believed he could reach it.
Singing away, he felt the summer breeze on his wings as happiness carried him on his journey.
The higher he flew, the more distant the rainbow grew until it faded away into the parting clouds, replaced by rays of golden sunshine.
When the rainbow was gone, the skylark returned home, not feeling sadness at his failure to reach it, but instead remembering the little moments of joy that had filled his heart and soul as he made the journey towards the colourful ribbon in the sky.
Have a happy day on your journey towards your rainbow!
As we head towards the end of summer, here in New Zealand, the days are still hot, but we are expecting a cool change this weekend with some much needed rain, which the garden will be grateful for. The air is loud with the sound of cicadas during the day and long into the night, a regular hallmark of summer. There is something comforting about going to bed in the summertime and listening to the chorus of cicadas through the open window. Pretty monarch butterflies continue to visit the garden. They can often be seen fluttering around the echinaceas, and the oleander tree outside our living room window.
In the garden, many of the summer annuals are past their best, but the hardy echinaceas are still making an impressive display of colour in the back garden, while, out the front, the dahlias and marigolds continue to bloom.
Our vegetable garden has produced a bountiful crop of tomatoes this year. It is the best season we have had for growing tomatoes in quite a few years. Our one zucchini plant has provided us with a constant supply throughout the summer and we have enjoyed using them in muffins, fritters, pasta sauce, salads, and zucchini slice. We have a few beetroot left in the garden, as well as some carrots, cut and come again lettuce, kale, chard, and spring onions. We are even still picking a few strawberries.
With some of the beds now empty, I have been planning the autumn and winter garden. We are lucky to be able to grow lettuce, carrots, kale, chard and spring onions year round in our climate. I have seeded a new bed of carrots and am growing some red onion seeds to be planted out in the autumn. I haven’t tried growing onions before, so it will be interesting to see how they do. We have dug up the last of our Agria potatoes. Unfortunately we don’t have space to grow enough for storing, but we have enjoyed eating freshly dug potatoes over the past month.
The artwork in my garden journal is by Hannah Dale. It is an English book and includes wildlife that we don’t have in New Zealand, but I think her paintings are just beautiful.
Other tasks in the garden this month have included saving seed and drying herbs.
Below is a recipe for zucchini muffins that I have made often over the summer. They are nice to take to work for lunches or to pack for picnics.
Savoury Zucchini Muffins
1 cup milk
¼ cup olive oil
250g unpeeled zucchini, grated (1 average sized zucchini)
1 large or 2 small spring onions, chopped
½ red capsicum, chopped
1 cup grated goat’s cheese
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
2 cups plain flour
3 tsp baking powder
salt & black pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 200°C. Brush a 12 hole muffin tin with a little oil.
Whisk together the eggs and milk. Stir in the olive oil. Squeeze the moisture from the grated zucchini and add to the mixture, along with the spring onions, capsicum, cheese, and parsley. Stir to combine. Sift in the flour and baking powder. Add salt and pepper and mix to combine.
Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin. Bake for 30 minutes. Allow the muffins to cool slightly before removing them from the tin. Eat warm, or cool on a wire rack and enjoy cold.
Happy gardening and harvesting wherever you are in the world!
For several years now, I have enjoyed watching the English TV show Sky Arts Landscape Artist of the Year. Each week, contestants, consisting mainly of amateur painters, with a few professionals, are taken to a different outdoor location and given a few hours to paint the landscape as they interpret it, whether it be a castle, a bridge, a river, or even a field of lavender. There is always such a diverse range of styles and mediums, and many of the final paintings are amazing. I have often thought what fun it would be to pack up a bag of art materials and go somewhere quiet to just sit and paint.
A few days ago, my husband had a day off work and we decided to take a drive out to Waimarama Beach, a 40 minute trip in the car. After days of sweltering temperatures in the 30s, it had dropped to the low 20s and was much more pleasant for spending time outdoors. We packed a few art essentials – watercolour paints, brushes, pencil and eraser, a little container of water, a rag, and some watercolour paper. Also, of course, some snacks for nourishment.
Being a week day, the beach was deserted and we had the whole shore to ourselves, apart from a couple of other people walking their dogs.
The rock sticking out of the water is Bare Island. It provides a safe haven and breeding site for blue penguins.
Finn had a wonderful time chasing sticks, digging in the sand and running in and out of the lapping water.
We found a log that was perfect for sitting on and we draped a towel over it to provide some shelter from the sun for Finn.
I painted what I saw, then, when I got home, I added a few paper embellishments to break up the expanses of sand, sea, and sky. I took the liberty of adding a lighthouse to Bare Island because, well, it just looked like it needed one.
It was a fun day. Although I could never compete with the talent of the Landscape Artist of the Year contestants, I have a unique piece of art to add to Finn’s scrapbook album, along with the photos, to remember the day by.
While watching the Landscape Artist of the Year shows, I was particularly inspired by one of the contestants, Helen Hallows, whose mixed media art combines paint, collage, and stitching. You can see her art on her website here. Helen has published a set of four charming little books, one for each season, that are filled with her nature-inspired art and her thoughts on nature. They are lovely little books that I pick up often to browse through and be inspired.