Leaf of the Day:Some Beautiful White Daisies

I really don’t know of any other flowers that make me quite as happy as simple white daises. If I could only have one flower, this would be the one. To me a daisy embodies all that is pretty, light, airy and optimistic. I loved to see the wild oxeye daisies in the summer fields. My favourite dress until it fell apart was a 1950’s wrap around..it was green with white daisies. In the Victorian Language of Flowers, daisies were an emblem of fidelity, and also used in love spells. Remember pulling off the petals… “She loves me, she loves me not,” or “This year, next year, sometimes, never,” to predict your marriage. Think of the saying “as fresh a a daisy”. How can you look at this happy flower with its open sunny face and not smile.

So my first ” good omen” ..my first “light, gay flower” for this year is a very simple sketch of a daisy from the Daisy Tree Montanoa Grandiflora. This gorgeous big tree has been smothered in white blossoms for about 2 months, perfectly situated in the White Garden at Leu.

Not only do they have these beautiful flowers but afterwards there are these attractive green bobbly seedheads.

And there are other varieties of these lovely Montanoas, each with differing petal shapes.
Here, nearby ,is its relative, the equally pretty Daisy Vine, Montanoa guatemalensis, with more spidery white flowers

A fittingly cheery and optimistic flower to start the New Year.


Montanoa Grandiflora…big daisy

Leaf of the Day: Black Eyed Susans, Real and Unreal

Gorgeous, glowing Black Eyed Susans, Rudbeckia hirta, the ones that flower later in the summer and always bring a smile and are a classic cottage garden flower. I love the simple daisy shape and I always grew some of these pretty happy flowers in the UK.

A few days ago I wrote about the necklace pod plant here…and unfortunately, during research, found the vintage jewellery site Ecletica here which sells amongst other things bakelite. I love bakelite, so when I saw these I just had to have them and how well they fit in with the blog, don’t they? (justification for spending money on non-essentials)
Huge darling pair of bakelite Black-Eyed Susans are really very large buttons. Each measures almost 2 inches in diameter and the petals are curved.
They came beautifully wrapped and packed and with an initial email containing more info from Laurel, who runs the site..
“I found these Black Eyed Susan in an old, ramshackle, wood frame notions factory in rural Arkansas eleven years ago. This worn barn-like structure had all these old buttons and zippers and threads and this was my treasure find of the day! I had always planned to make them into earrings but never got around to it so I put them on the site. Happy that they have found an appreciative new home. They are large and wonderful!

Indeed they are, and I didn’t know that bakelite changes colour with the sun…what a very useful, informative and educational purchase this was. Self indulgent? Moi?

Black eyed Susan Rudbeckia hirta, from the Asteraceae family, was named Rudbeckia by Linneus in gratitude to Olof Rudbeck the Younger, a professor at at Uppsala University who was instrumental in helping Linneaus in his early days.
He wrote to Olof Rudbeck on July 29, l731: “so long as the earth shall survive, and each spring shall see it covered with flowers, the Rudbeckia will preserve your glorious name”
What a lovely thought.

The flowers are interesting as they are a composite flower, with the large orange ray petals surrounding a disk of further tiny ray and disk flowers. There is some complicated botany here which I will return to another time when I can draw the actual flower.

On a literary note “Black Eyed Susan” is the famous ballad, written by John Gay in about 1723. This ballad is about the sad farewell of a sailor to his love in which he gives her the unlikely assurance that, despite the sailor’s reputation he will be honourable. It was very popular and set to many tunes. I like to think the flower was named after the song, no one really knows , but another “flower” name from the poem is that of the sailor himself, Sweet William…or is this just a coincidence. A fine pair they make and it is interesting to note that in one version of the Victorian Language of Flowers, Sweet William stands for gallantry while Black Eyed Susan signifies fidelity…Hmmmm, nice thought, I guess I am just an old cynic.

The buttons came in a gold box wrapped in white tissue paper with a very sweet red ladybird stamp.. so I painted them just as they came out of the box. What a nice touch to a very satisfying purchase.

Black Eyed Susans

Leaf of the Day: A Daisy from Popsy and “Tiger” Rats

Sunday is a day I now try to dedicate to my Darling Popsy blog, so today I have spent all day scanning in the old negatives of Africa and researching East Africa in the 1920´s in general. However in line with this blog, about all things natural, I will just quote a little from the letter I have published this time.
This is from Njoro, June 1926

“When we are ploughing the fields we often see Rats running away in terror, but these are Brown Rats and striped on their backs with Black stripes like a Tiger, they are rather pretty. You would like to see the beautiful moonlight at full moon all over the great Plain, one of the most beautiful things in Africa is the bright moonlight and the stars that twinkle twinkle, in the clear air.”

Reading these letters is making me think I should be illustrating them…(oh dear, yet another seed of an idea now planted…)

I was curious about the reference to the rats but a little research makes me think they are not, in fact, rats at all, but one of the African Striped mouse species. He would have seen them during the day, not only because the ploughing was disturbing them but because they are one of the few rodents which is active during the day and he is right about them being pretty!
Here is a lovely old engraving from 1885 of the Barbary Mouse, the African Striped Grass Mouse (S. G. Goodrich, The Animal Kingdom Illustrated 1885) from, coincidentally, the Florida Educational Resource here

and a photo of these endearing little mice from Edwina Beaumont’s excellent African photos here

The drawing today is not mine.. but, keeping it in the family and appropriate to today’s activities, this is a pen and ink drawing from Joyce Thackeray, daughter of Allan, the “Popsy” of the letters and my mum. Her musical and artistic talents were inherited from her father and a few fragmented bits here and there passed down to my sister and myself. Teaching “old fashioned” drawing skills to children is, I think, more difficult today. It’s hard to imagine a class of thirteen year olds now quietly making a careful pen and ink study of flower.
On 20th October 1931 at the age of 13 Joyce Thackeray (SEN/ 2A) received a mark of 44 out of 50. ( noted on the back) for her drawing…I doubt I am doing so well !

Popsy’s Daisy