I don’t know when these photographs were taken, or which particular type of euphorbia it might be, but I was inspired to share them for this week’s Throwback Friday on account of the great lime green clouds of Euphorbia characias growing in wild profusion outside some of the beach-facing houses here in Whitstable. We pass them on our routine late-afternoon loop, a bit otherworldly with their spires of acid-yellow suckers (I always think of the Zygons), and yet naturalistic and ‘just right’ too.
On Tuesday, we went out in the late evening sunshine, which was pinkish and crystal-clean, to check out a particular field bordered by great long hedges of flowering blackthorn, and what a show of froth – our visit there accompanied by the cheerfulness of a loud, unseen robin.
As the temperature continues to drop, I’m hankering after a blast of Summer heat and colour. Yesterday afternoon, the falling snow went from quick, dry powder to lilting goose feathers, and our small garden was transformed. I took the photograph below from our kitchen door, snowflakes settling on the toes of my woollen socks. Beautiful though it certainly was out there, I couldn’t help but fast-forward the scene before me. The snow has buried the snowdrops and the hellebores, but strange to think all that saturated summer colour is buried out there too, embers, already stirring under the frozen earth.
Whitstable garden, February 10th, 2021
What I enjoyed about the most recent Kick-About prompt was the way Leger’s painting encouraged immediacy and directness – a sort of ‘first pass, job done’ flourish that meant lingering too long on any subject wasn’t quite the ticket. I also appreciated a chance to occupy a more domestic space – nothing metaphysical to see here, ladies and gents! Our kitchen is stuffed full of house plants – I look at them many times a day, every day. They are as part of the fixtures and fittings of our kitchen as the cutlery and plates. With this in mind, I wanted to make them the subject of my offering this week, and also to try a new technique first brought to my attention by fellow kick-abouter, Charly Skilling – drawing onto ceramic tiles with Sharpie markers, and then spritzing the drawings with alcohol to encourage them to bleed and soften to pleasingly impressionist effect. To be honest, I worked up these studies super-fast and without any fuss or forethought and just really enjoyed what the process itself was giving back. Given the knock-about informality of the technique, it amused me a bit to dial-up the formality with some tasteful frames, imagining these ill-disciplined little drawings on the walls of some tasteful interior.
Up-close, there’s so much activity and texture in these tiny unstable explosions of colour and subject, I couldn’t resist abstracting everything a little further.
My last visit to Boughton Scrub was back in July, and it was a riot of Summer froth and cockerel colours. Yesterday evening, with the sun already setting, this same stretch of unbothered grassland presented much softer effects, white balls of fluff from the still-flowering field of blue-lilac Phacelia tanacetifolia puffing past me like snowflakes. The breeze was very cool and strong, so at no point were the swathes of grass, thistle and rumex perpendicular or still. Everything everywhere billowed, producing dabs of pastel smoke and throwing up welcome daubs of gold from rogue sunflowers nodding in the wind. Again, the range of colour, texture and movement in this one small patch of ground was astonishing. More images to follow over the coming days.
I don’t remember when I took this photograph of Echinops bannaticus. I don’t know where it was, in which garden. I know why I took it – just look at it, like some explosive, speeding particle or planet of spires.
More normally, I’d likely be in rural France now, but as everyone appreciates, 2020 is about ‘new normals’ and cutting our cloth accordingly. The old French house is pressed very deeply into the nature that surrounds it. It can even be difficult to relax at times because there’s always so much at which to look and to respond. One year (I don’t recall which) I stuffed a few packets of ‘sun paper’ into my luggage and spent a few happy hours producing quick-and-dirty cyanotypes from some of the more distinctive leaf and flower shapes culled from my immediate surroundings. I never tired of it, the pleasure of the immediacy of image-making in this way, and always, that perfect blue.
One last look at the vibrant plumage of Boughton Scrub, as the sun lowered and the time came finally to take our leave of this secret garden.
A roar of Summer at the end of the week! In common with lots of my plant photography, I don’t know when these portraits of Eschscholzia californica were taken, but at some point in the early 2000s. I know where they were taken – in the garden of a post office in rural Lincolnshire, and on 35mm film. Californian poppies are a personal favourite of mine, for the delicacy of their satin-like blooms and their ferny sea-glass-coloured foliage.
Lilium ‘Night Flyer’ in the late afternoon sun was an impressive sight – nearly black flowers revealing the deepest, richest reds and licks of orange flame. Lilium ‘Night Flyer’ in the early morning after the night’s rain, lit by the soft-box of the clouds, was something else again; black petals reflecting white, droplets of water like garnet beads, and anthers like moist chocolate orange eclairs.