Wildflowers, clouds and a photobomb

Cow parsley in the afternoon sun. The view is from the start of the flowers looking up at a summer blue sky filled with fluffy clouds

The sun was shining for the first time in what feels like ages yesterday afternoon on my walk. I spotted a few lovely things I thought I’d share in lieu of prints (which are percolating) while I work on my website and newsletter.

Did I mention the newsletter? 😉 Do sign up and you’ll receive the inaugural issue which is due soon!

My dog is largely oblivious to flowers though flowers have evolved to take full advantage of his longer hair and the “feathers” on his legs and feet with their cunning “sticky” seeds. I swear it’s like taking a piece of Velcro for a walk. EVERYTHING sticks to him. Still, this has improved the biodiversity of my garden where most of his nature finds are removed.

Anyway, on our travels in the warm sun and cool wind we saw: Queen Anne’s lace and little fluffy clouds (shout out to the 90s music fans out there!).

A close up of the disc-shaped umbel of a cow parsley plant. Umbellifers have many of these, which are made up of many tiny flowers held on short flower stalks.

Anthriscus sylvestris is important for lots of insects, including bees and hoverflies, as it’s an early source of pollen. It’s also a nectar source for orange-tip butterflies.

I rather like the most common name for this beautiful flower, “cow parsley” sounds bucolically pretty but has other common names depending on where you are in the UK: Queen Anne’s Lace, fairy lace, lady’s lace, wild chervil, hedge parsley, Keck (or Queque depending on where you are in the UK), Wild Parsley, Adder’s Meat, Devil’s Meat, Bad Man’s Oatmeal, and the worst—and yet most sensible—of all; mother die.

Perhaps Queen Anne’s Lace refers to Queen Anne’s habit of travelling the country in May, which led people to believe that these lacey flowers decorated the hedgerows especially for her. Another common name “mummy die” was presumably used to discourage children from picking these pretty flowers. For pretty they may be, but they can also easily be mistaken for some poisonous umbellifers like hemlock.

If you think you’re seeing more cow parsley than usual in the verges as you venture further afield this year, you probably are. Alas they are becoming a monoculture in our verges due to roadsides being more fertile than they were 30 years ago (agricultural run-off, cuttings left in place by local councils, and even car exhausts all contribute). Although it seems counterintuitive, many of our wild flowers needs much less fertile soil to flourish so they are doing less well on our verges.

NB this is not Daucus carota which is called Queen Anne’s Lace but only in North America.

We also saw Horse chestnut flowers (Aesculus hippocastanum):

A close up view of horse chestnut flowers showing some still with their yellow nectar guides while the majority of pollinated flowers now have reddy-pink guides

Horse chestnut flowers are mostly white (though there are some cultivated red/pink ones). The flowers have nectar guides which are yellow when the flower first opens and change to deep reddy-pink once the flower has been pollinated. Why the colour change? Well, bees can’t see red colours so they no longer visit the pollinated flowers, only the pollinated ones.

We also saw a very photogenic dandelion clock:

A dandelion clock stands along in front of the grass at the very edge of a verge.

Well, it was photogenic until the canine photobomber detonated it and it all stuck to him ready to float away merrily as we made our way home...

A black dog sits in front of the cow parsley at the edge of a verge

‘Alert’ – Limited Edition Relief Print

A black and white relief print of a male starling. He’s standing on some old, weathered wood. His wings are tucked but he is alert, and his head feathers are raised. Whatever he is looking at is out of the image and he is facing right to look at it. Perhaps he’s spotted a chunk of fat ball another bird has missed, or another starling has decided to join his feast.

Inspiration

I’ve spent a long time this spring watching the starlings picking through the lawn looking for invertebrates. They’re so gregarious and gently quarrelsome.

I love the iridescent colours of their feathers and the tawny coloured arrowheads at the tips.

It’s sad that although still relatively common in gardens, these glorious little birds have declined so much elsewhere that they are Red Listed.

The UK Red List for birds keeps track of how different species are doing, and any birds that are rated red are in need of urgent action. Shockingly, one in four of our birds is now on that list, 67 species in total.

Source: RSPB website

Design

Here’s the drawing transferred to the block (in reverse), ready for me to start cutting.

The drawing transferred (in reverse) to the linoleum block, ready to start cutting

Here’s the block inked up for the first time, ready for me to pull a proof and see what more I need to do to the block to make it print just so.

A black and white relief printing block which has been inked up for the first time. The block is of a male starling. He’s standing on some old, weathered wood. His wings are tucked but he is alert, and his head feathers are raised.

I’m not sure if the paper I use will take any kind of water based colour but once the prints are dry I might have a bit of a play with the test prints to see whether I can get away with it!

A black and white relief print of a male starling. He’s standing on some old, weathered wood. His wings are tucked but he is alert, and his head feathers are raised. Whatever he is looking at is out of the image and he is facing right to look at it. Perhaps he’s spotted a chunk of fat ball another bird has missed, or another starling has decided to join his feast.

If you would like to buy one of these prints, be quick as there are only 30 in the edition!