enchanted april


Earlier this month I was fortunate to be in Southern Italy, teaching at the wonderful Masseria della Zingara. We had a great week exploring the land around the Masseria, walking the lanes, collecting things to use in the studio and using various techniques to record our experience. We collected, printed, stained, wrote, stitched, wove, folded . . . and ate!


Spring was in full swing (which it certainly isn’t yet here in the UK!) and we were surrounded by fruit trees in blossom, beautiful wild flowers and a green lushness that I’m sure will have gone once the temperatures rise later in the year. The wonderful red earth in that part of Italy provides a striking foil for the colours of growth. And of course my travel reading had to be The Enchanted April by Elizabeth von Arnim, which provides the story for one of my favourite films, a must-see at this time of year.



Driving home this morning from a long weekend with family the predominant colour was the yellow of oil seed rape fields shouting out their presence.

It’s brash and bright in its mono-cultural state in these fields and really quite a contrast to the more subtle colours we came across on our woodland walk the other day.

This time of year, when the hedges are full of cow parsley and may blossom, has to be my very favorite time. And when you look closely there are stitchwort, red campion, dandelions, bluebells…

I’ve had a lovely break with some of the best company one could ask for and we’ve had such lovely weather. But enough of all that relaxing stuff: I have so much work to do.


I’ve been watching my tulips, I mean really watching them, and the change is incredible.

These green buds slowly appeared from the midst of the unfurling origami-like leaves

And then somehow they change into these bright intense colours.

Its never before struck me how that change occurs. I assumed, if I’d though about it at all, that the buds were made up of sepals (I think that’s the right word) that fell away when the petals inside opened up, like some flowers do. Poppies, for instance, have a green bud covering that is peeled away when the petals burst it open. But no, these buds change slowly from green

acquire a hint of the colour to come

which slowly spreads

until the bud is a subdued version of the open flower colour

and then when its ready and with some sun it opens up.

I’ve watched butterflies emerge from their chrysalis and then pump up their soggy, crumpled wings, filling them with colour and strength. This seems like a similar but slower process – absolute magic!

The colours in the garden appear different depending on the weather and light conditions, so the sketch at the top of this post was yesterday afternoon after a day of heavy rain showers and generally overcast skies so that the garden was dominated by a glaucous green. Then this morning with bright sunshine to open up the flowers and bring an entirely different light to the greens and the shadows the same view looked like this:

Current listening: Delibes, The Flower Duet – ha!