21st January

Aside from the poor #wildflowerhour members who found everything hidden under snow this week, tonight was surprisingly flower-filled, given how cold and wet it has been. Well done everyone!

This week’s star image is by Sali:


Before the highlights, a quick bit of news. Most #wildflowerhour members will have heard about what happened to Joshua Styles, one of the most enthusiastic people in our community. In case you haven’t, his flatmate vandalised the rare plants he was raising for reintroduction into the wild. Joshua has had to move, and wonderful #wildflowerhour member Linden Hawthorne has been running an appeal for money to help him get a new tenancy and start his North West Rare Plants Initiative over again. They’ve nearly reached the £5,000 target: please do donate to help this wonderful young botanist get back on track.

And here are the highlights from this week:


from #wildflowerhour http://www.wildflowerhour.co.uk/blog/2018/01/21/21st-january/


What is ‘re-wilding’ and why does it matter to you?

I first heard the term ‘re-wilding’ at Glee 2017, the horticultural trades show. It’s one of the big new trends in gardening.

It means appreciating, re-introducing or conserving the wild plants, animals and bugs that live in your environment. Let nature take its course, and don’t be too controlling.

This week, I have read three completely different publications, each addressing a different aspect of re-wilding. So I will review all three, because together they show the different ways in which ‘re-wilding’ can enrich your life.

‘Re-wilding’ in your garden

When you hear the term ‘re-wilding’, do you think of swapping your lawn for a meadow, and sowing wild-flowers? That is, indeed, part of it.

Wildflowers in gardens

Wild salsify in an urban garden – we’re now growing a wider range of wildflowers in our gardens.

But Val Bourne gives it a wider context in her new book, The Living Jigsaw’ (how to create a healthy garden ecology) which I have just been sent for review. (Note: links to Amazon are affiliate links, which means I may get a small fee if you buy through them, but it won’t affect the price you pay.)

Val describes her re-wilding ‘damascene moment’. When she explained what aphids were to her nieces, she also explained how the ants farmed the aphids, how ladybirds ate the aphids, and how baby birds need to be fed with thousands of tiny insects. ‘All these creatures fit together like a living jigsaw,’ she says. ‘They all need each other in order to survive.’

The Living Jigsaw is about gardening without segregating ‘insects and pests into “saints and sinners” – look at them as part of a self-limiting food chain.’

She goes on to talk about the insect life and bird life in your garden, and how to deal with slugs and snails without using pellets. She particularly warns against slug pellets containing metaldehyde.

Apple tree

Apple trees are in Val Bourne’s top 100 plants for an eco-friendly garden.

At the end, there is list a Top 100 Plants for an Eco-Friendly Garden. I checked how many of them I have in this garden. We have around 50 of the 100. I could do better, as I like to support wildlife.

‘Re-wilding’ on holiday

Plant-lovers say that nothing teaches you more about how to grow plants than seeing them growing wild in their native countries. Many keen plantaholics choose their holiday destinations specifically for that purpose.

When I interviewed Gill and Peter Regan for The English Garden magazine, Gill told me that they’d struggled to keep peonies alive until she took a photograph of a peony growing under a tree in Iran. ‘I realised that our peony roots were probably rotting due to the damp in our garden.’ The Regans gained similar insights from trips to see Sternbergias in Turkey, bergenias in Yunnan, and plants growing wild in China, Western Australia, Peru and more.

Connect with plants in their natural habitat

I visited my brother, Hugo and his wife, Anna, in El Canuelo, a small village in Andalucia. Although I wrote about crazily wonderful gardening ideas, I didn’t think about the wild flowers.

I’ve just been sent Tony Hall’s Wild Plants of Southern Spain (Kew Publishing) to review. It’s a botanical book with clear, close-up photographs, botanical names and even a small printed ‘ruler’ on the back cover flap. ‘Take photographs of the plants you want to identify’ advises Tony (rather than pulling them up or cutting the flowers).

Re-wilding on holiday

I’ll enjoy walking around the village and hillside near El Canuelo in Andalucia even more if I learn to spot the wild plants.

I plan to give this book to Anna and Hugo, because El Canuelo is on a fairly wild hillside. Hugo frequently goes for long walks in the countryside, as do their many guests. I feel that taking this book and identifying the wild flowers of the region is part of today’s mindfulness trend. Knowing what the plants are helps to give a sense of place. Also, as a gardener, I can learn from seeing how and where wild plants grow.

‘Re-wilding’ in the city

I recently went to a pop-up gallery in Floral St, London WC2 for an evening run by Rakes Progress and Women In Journalism. Rakes Progress is one of the new breed of independent magazines, which are proving that ‘print is not dead.’

Re-wilding in the city

Women in Journalism seminar and hanging flower installation at Rakes Progress pop-up shop in Floral St, Covent Garden.

Somewhat appropriately, the Rakes Progress exhibition was called ‘Dead Beautiful’. The art and ‘floral installation’ showcased the beauty of dead and dying flowers. Swathes of flowers and greenery – some living, some dying, some dried -hung from the ceilings, along with branches.

Flower petals on the floor as part of the art

And there was a swirl of petals on the floor around even apparently conventional flower arrangements. My mother would have taken a broom to it all.

Re-wilding floral installation

Almost ‘traditional’ flower arrangement at Rakes Progress, except that the fallen petals and dying flower are part of it, and there are more on the floor around the pedestal.

So why is this ‘re-wilding’? Well, when someone goes into a gallery like this and thinks ‘that plant looks amazing,’ it often triggers an interest in more plants that look amazing. An imaginative display (or floral installation as I think we must call it now) can lead to people buying plants for their home, balcony, courtyard or window-sill. From there, they may start to visit gardens and appreciate the impact of public parks on the environment and health.

forest floral installation

A forest in the city? Well, a floral installation to remind city dwellers of real wood and forests….including fallen leaves and bark, and a swathe of sawdust where the trees have been cut down. That’s my interpretation anyway.

What individuals do and say matters. Urban front gardens have been concreted over in their thousands to create parking spaces. But once the owners of those houses start to appreciate the beauty of plants, they are more likely to try to create at least some greenery amongst the concrete. Fashionable floral installations can get people thinking differently about plants, because they demand that you stop and stare. If only to mutter that the floor needs a good sweep.

Re-wilding taps into the cycle of life

It’s that return to the appreciation of natural materials, traditional ways and the cycle of life that makes a magazine like Rakes Progress part of ‘re-wilding’. In my view, anyway, although Tom Loxley, co-founder of Rake’s Progress, also aligns it with the ‘slow living’ movement.

Hanging vegetation in a city bar

‘Re-wilding’ the London bar scene with hanging drapes of plants? In fact, this has definite echoes of the way Faversham decorates its town in the traditional hop festival….

Flip through the pages of issue 6 of Rakes Progress in this video, where I review it. It is gardening made hip, with gorgeous, brooding photography, interviews with ‘floral artists’, garden designers, craftsmen and more. There’s no advertising and no date on the issue. These magazines aim to be as timeless as books. However, unlike in coffee-table books, the writing is important, too. There are long, detailed articles, which will take you a while to read.

I’ll also be reviewing Val Bourne’s The Living Jigsaw and Tony Hall’s Wild Plants of Southern Spain in more depth on the Middlesized Garden YouTube channel.

If you’re interested in why ‘print is not dead’, by the way, we discussed how magazines are changing in response to the changing tastes of people today, especially Millenials.

Flowers hanging from the ceiling

Wildflowers hanging upside down from the ceiling in a floral installation by the Urban Flower Company at the Rakes Progress popup shop.

Gardening writer, Alice Vincent, herself a Millenial, said that her generation don’t want to hear about shopping. ‘We either rent or have very small flats, so we’re more interested in experiences or something we can talk about.’ She also thought that the fashion for gardening amongst the young is a trend that will stick around. ‘Clean eating was a fad, and is now considered to be “over”, but it drove the current growth in veganism.’

Garden tools as art installation

Garden tools as part of the Rakes Progress art installation. I love it – this is an idea that would translate well into a home. If you don’t have space for a garden shed, hang your tools on the wall and appreciate their beauty. I particularly like that these are not all vintage tools – there are brand new ones there too.

So why does re-wilding matter to you?

Scientific tests have proved that slowing down to enjoy all your senses and ‘mindfulness’, helps stress, concentration and sleep. But to take it back to Val Bourne’s book – we are all part of the living jigsaw. We need bees and pollinating insects, and they need flowers and plants. At some point in the chain, even the less attractive bugs and beings play their part.

We don’t necessarily know how much each species contributes to the jigsaw. And we certainly can’t foretell the consequences of one or more disappearing from the earth. Even when re-wilding is a token activity  – in an art installation, for example – it still has a message for us all.  Let me know what you think, either in the comments below or on Facebook or Twitter.

Pin for reference:

What is 're-wilding' and why does it matter to you? #rewilding

The post What is ‘re-wilding’ and why does it matter to you? appeared first on The Middle-Sized Garden.

from The Middle-Sized Garden http://www.themiddlesizedgarden.co.uk/re-wilding-matter/

Marsh helleborine

Every Friday, we introduce #wildflowerhour members to a different beautiful native orchid. This week it’s the turn of the Marsh Helleborine, Epipactis palustris. It’s a fabulous orchid, as showy as any of the exotic members of the family that people (try to) grow on their windowsills at home. And it grows wild in this country. It’s amazing how few people are aware of how stunning our native flora is.

Here’s a short video, which you can also watch on our Twitter feed, our Facebook page, and our Instagram story:


And here are your own Marsh Helleborine finds. If you haven’t yet seen this amazing plant, why not ask a #wildflowerhour member where they found it, so you can enjoy its exotic-looking beauty for yourself.







from #wildflowerhour http://www.wildflowerhour.co.uk/blog/2018/01/19/marsh-helleborine/

Heath spotted orchid

The latest in Jon Dunn’s Instagram series on British orchids is the Heath Spotted Orchid, Dactylorhiza maculata.

This week’s orchid from my #OrchidSummer is the Heath Spotted Orchid, a small acid-pink and snow-white beauty with a widespread range across Britain & Ireland. Up in Shetland they’re extraordinarily common (they commonly grow in front lawns!), and are known locally as ‘curl dodies’. There are also a few old references to them there as ‘devil’s mittens’, though the origin of that name seems to be lost. Intriguingly, in Estonia, a local name for them is ‘kuradi-sõrmkäpp’, or devil’s finger orchid… Does anyone know where this devil/hand association stems from, and why it appears to be so widespread across Northern Europe? Do you know of other devilish dialect names for them in other countries? We’d love to hear from you! #wildflowerhour #orchid #orchids #heathspottedorchid #shetland #estonia #curlydodies #devil #dialect #jondunn #orchidsummer @BloomsburyPublishing

A post shared by Wild Flower Hour (@wildflowerhour) on


from #wildflowerhour http://www.wildflowerhour.co.uk/blog/2018/01/18/heath-spotted-orchid/

14 January

It hasn’t been the friendliest of weeks weather-wise, yet you lot still managed to fill social media with beautiful, bright flowers that you found growing wild in Britain and Ireland this week.

This week’s star image comes from Jonathan Hughes.


There were an impressive number of #wildflowerhour members who I managed to complete #thewinter10 this week: more on them later on. But for now, here are some highlights from tonight:



Daisy #wildflowerhour #Bellis perennis

A post shared by Jennifer Manning (@2jennyman) on


1 hour ago

Jenny Manning

Mostly Daisies seen today, a few Lesser Celandine, Hazel tree catkins and female flowers, Red Dead Nettle and White Deadnettle. See MoreSee Less

Mostly Daisies seen today, a few Lesser Celandine, Hazel tree catkins and female flowers, Red Dead Nettle and White Deadnettle.


Comment on Facebook

Such lovely pictures!

1 hour ago

Fay Chapman

#wildflowerhour Hazel catkins and Ivy flower seed heads 🌿 See MoreSee Less

#wildflowerhour Hazel catkins and Ivy flower seed heads 🌿

47 minutes ago

Julie Kenshole

Just beginning to peek through the needles and a hazel full of catkins See MoreSee Less

Just beginning to peek through the needles and a hazel full of catkins


Comment on Facebook

This is now a highlight on the #wildflowerhour website www.wildflowerhour.co.uk/blog/2018/01/14/14-january/

2 hours ago

Chris Hunt

Can anyone tell me if this is a wild flower. It is coming up at the side of a brook and in a damp glen. Loads of it. Hope its not a baddie. See MoreSee Less

Can anyone tell me if this is a wild flower. It is coming up at the side of a brook and in a damp glen. Loads of it. Hope its not a baddie.


Comment on Facebook

Yes, that’s winter Heliotrope, Petasites fragrans. It is an invasive alien. But also smells beautifully of vanilla.

I was just about to post the same. I know in Ireland we only have one of the sexes represented so no seeds can be made. It spreads vegetatively. Is it the same in the UK. When I was a kid I read the Little White Horse which had a character called Miss Heliotrope but didn’t learn about the plant until grown up

Thanks very much. A non native, invasive weed. Oh dear.

Winter heliotrope.

Good for honey bees though as it provides early nectar source for them

Thanks very much folks. I see people are posting it in #wildflowerhour

+ View more comments

2 hours ago

Wild Flower Hour

It’s that time of the week again! Share photos of the flowers you found growing wild in Britain and Ireland this week. See MoreSee Less

Load more

from #wildflowerhour http://www.wildflowerhour.co.uk/blog/2018/01/14/14-january/

Podcast: Winter trees and wasp orchids

Do you think winter is for staying indoors? You’re wrong: it’s some botanists’ favourite time of the year for examining plants which seem quite asleep. In the latest episode of the Wild Flower (Half) Hour podcast, Kevin Widdowson explains how to identify winter trees – and you can read his wonderful post with more information on winter tree ID here. Isabel Hardman also talks to David Steere, better known to most of us as @barbus59, about how he became quite so good at botany so quickly, hears Lydia Massiah’s tale of her wasp orchid hunt, and discovers what you all found on your New Year Plant Hunt.


You can listen to this podcast on iTunes, Acast, Stitcher, Spotify, and most other good podcast platforms. If we’re not on your favourite podcast player, please let us know. And please do rate or review the show as it makes a huge difference to how many other people are able to find it.

from #wildflowerhour http://www.wildflowerhour.co.uk/blog/2018/01/14/podcast-winter-trees-and-wasp-orchids/

Natural dye from your garden – beautiful, creative and easy

Yasmin Hossain makes natural dye from garden plants. She uses it to dye beautiful silk and wool fabrics.

And I believe that grow-your-own dyes from garden plants is a trend that will grow enormously in popularity in the next few years.

It’s creative and almost anyone can do it, although there’s a certain amount of experimentation involved. If, for example, you’re a knitter or crafter, how much more exciting is it to dye your own wool and felt? Especially as you’re using ingredients that would otherwise be thrown away, such as vegetable skins and dead flower heads.

Wool blankets dyed with natural dye

The soft pink blanket is dyed with natural dye made from avocado skins and stones. The yellow one is dyed from daffodil heads from Doddington Place.

Yasmin experiments with flower dyes in her own home. She is also one of a partnership in Juniper & Bliss who make clothes and bedding from natural organic materials, dyed with plant dyes.  Juniper and Bliss aim to be completely sustainable and ‘zero waste’. ‘We want to leave the lightest environmental footprint,’ says Yasmin.

Fabrics are made and dyed by small scale producers and artisanal co-operatives around the world, such as Scottish micro-mills or co-operatives in India. Clothes and bedding are then sewn in atelier protege in Belgium. (This roughly translates as ‘protected workshop’, along Fair Trade principles.)

Avocado skins and stones for natural dye

Avocado skins and pips, given to Yasmin by a local cafe, waiting to be distilled into dye in Yasmin’s kitchen.

Flowers and vegetable skins for dyes at home

At home in Kent, Yasmin brews up avocado pips and skins from a local cafe and asks beautiful local garden Doddington Place if she can have their daffodil deadheads in late spring. She is even drying a bunch of flowers sent to her as a gift.

Flower heads from a bouquet saved for dyeing

These are dried flower heads from a bunch of flowers given to Yasmin as a gift. They will soon be brewed up to create beautiful, natural colours for dye.

I recently did a video on dyeing tablecloths with Dylon, but it can’t be used for wool or silk. So when I heard about Yasmin’s natural dyeing, I was keen to hear more.

I wrote about how to create stunning dyes from your garden plants after interviewing a friend in Australia who is ‘mapping her garden with dye plants.’ And in the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2016 a Dyer’s Garden was featured for the first time (reviewed here by the Reckless Gardener.)

And now that cut flowers are joining the grow-your-own movement, along with a desire to minimise waste and chemicals, I think the trend towards using natural dyes in your own home can only grow and grow.

First choose your flower or plant

I joined Yasmin for a dyeing session using avocado skins and pips. The principles of natural dyeing are approximately the same for many flowers and plants.

However, natural dyers are always trying things out and tweaking their recipes, so keep a note of how your natural dye turns out. More avocado skins and pips? A longer boiling time? Do you need to add a fixative (known as a mordant)? Each recipe is different, so let’s go from start to finish with Yasmin’s avocados.

If your household eats alot of avocados, you can save the skins and stones, but Yasmin gets hers from a local cafe. The discarded material sits in a bowl in her living room or kitchen until she’s ready to brew up.

I’ve done a video showing the process, which you can see below:

Brew it up

Yasmin added a few handfuls of avocado skins and stones to a large stainless steel pan. She added water, to a depth of two to three times. Then she brings it to the boil and simmers it for around an hour until she estimates the dye is strong enough.

Boil the plant material for an hour to create natural dye

Check the strength of the dye with a spoon. Just over an hour later, it looks about right to Yasmin.

Soak wool or cotton in water before dyeing

Meanwhile, in another stainless steel bowl, the natural wool is soaking in water.

The wool or cotton needs to be wet if it is to take the dye evenly, so soak it in another bowl while you’re making the dye.

The next stage – add the natural dye to the wool or fabric

Squeeze out the cotton or wool so that it is damp, but not soaking.

Then strain the dye liquid. You may be able to brew up another dye from the same material, and the ‘2nd dye bath’ will come out slightly different (usually paler, not surprisingly).

Allow the dye liquid to cool a little before adding the fabric.

Sieving the natural dye

Remove larger pieces with a slotted spoon, then drain the liquid with a sieve to get the detritus out.

Simmer the wool in the avocado dye

Return the pan to the heat, but be careful not to allow it to boil for more than a few seconds or it will felt the wool.

Swirl the wool or fabric around in the pan so that the liquid is evenly distributed. Then return the pan to the heat, bringing it very briefly to the boil.

Turn it down to simmer immediately and simmer for around an hour. Don’t let it boil or it will felt the wool.

Not all natural dyes need to be boiled. Yasmin had a large pot of eucalptus leaves infusing in her kitchen, and these won’t be heated up.

When the wool is approximately the shade you want, lift it out of the dyeing water, and hang it up to dry. It will probably be paler when dry, so experiment a bit.

I’d say the process is similar to making marmalade in terms of time and effort. It takes quite a long time, because of all the simmering and steeping, but for most of that time, it’s just brewing away without much interference from you. We were able to enjoy a delightful lunch while the dye was boiling and simmering.


When you judge that the dye is ready, drain the dye and gently wash the wool in a very mild detergent. Wool doesn’t like going from one extreme of temperature to another. So allow it to cool a little and also use warm water for washing it. Once any excess dye has been washed out, hang the wool or cotton up to dry.

More colours from natural plant dyes

Natural dye from dahlias.

The orange swatch was made from Black Cat dahlia, which I also have here. It’s a very deep red -so plant colours don’t always turn out the way you expect.

Plant dyeing is very low tech, and plant dyers experiment with their recipes and take notes. If you want to read more before starting, India Flint is the guru on natural plant dyeing. Start with her book Eco Colour – Botanical Dyes for Beautiful Textiles.

The Modern Natural Dyer, A Comprehensive Guide to Dyeing Silk, Wool, Linen and Cotton at Home by Kristine Vejar is also highly rated. And gardeners who want to think about what to plant in their garden should enjoy Rita Buchanan’s The Weaver’s Garden.

Note: links to Amazon are affiliate links, which means I may receive a small fee if you buy through them, but it won’t affect the price you pay.

There are also workshops where you can learn about dyeing. These include day and weekend workshops from Flora Arbuthnott.   Craft Courses is a website that lists dyeing, spinning and other crafting courses around the UK.

Pin for reference:

DIY plant dyes from your garden and kitchen - make natural dye from plants #plantbased

The post Natural dye from your garden – beautiful, creative and easy appeared first on The Middle-Sized Garden.

from The Middle-Sized Garden http://www.themiddlesizedgarden.co.uk/natural-dye-from-your-garden-beautiful-creative-and-easy/