Glorious ferns

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When I was in Cologne visiting my sister recently, we spent a beautifully warm and sunny afternoon exploring the Botanical Garden.  I was particularly excited by the many fern varieties on display, each one more intriguing than the one before.

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I’ve mentionned before both how much I love ferns and how they are my photographic nemesis, so it was great to have some practice in trying to capture their beauty.

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While I knelt down here and there in this fern paradise, my sister patiently wandered by my side and was a perfect assistant, placing herself in such a way that no direct sunlight fell on the plants if needed and looking up the species’ names on the ‘plant shazam’ app.

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I really love the tightly wound extremities, like tentacles, ready to unfold and stretch out into the world, as well as the different textures and colours.

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Slowing down to notice

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One thing I love about photographing plants is that there is just such a profusion of possibility to explore and play with.  With the seasons passing, the plants and their textures evolve so much. There are new buds appearing and fresh shiny leaves, perhaps flowers, rough bark, apparent roots, unusual seeds and pods, rugged surfaces, uncanny spikes, odd stems, gorgeous color combinations as the light evolves and changes the aspect of the backdrop…

I am astounded that even without wandering far there is always more beauty and unusual details to be found, an infinite amount of inspiration.  Look at these star-shaped pods that I came across in the Amsterdam Hortus a few weeks ago, aren’t they delightful?!

Cactus beauty

Botanic gardens and greenhouses are my happy place.  I can easily entertain myself for several hours, slowly making my way along the pathways, mesmerised by the hundreds of different species and their unique details. A couple of weeks ago, I spent the end of the afternoon quietly observing the cacti in warmth of the desert greenhouse at the Amsterdam Hortus. Here are some of the details which I liked the most.

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This cactus looks to me like a sea-urchin, stripped naked of its spikes, revealing a pattern reminiscent of a scottish tartan.

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These flowers are a delight, the bright colours of their petals popping out against the parched surroundings.

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Look at these incredible spikes, lined up all along this plant, it seems like each tip has been handpainted in reddish brown.

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The symmetry of the Fibonacci sequence spiralling outwards from the heart of this cactus, growing drier and spikier as it goes…

Spring in the Amsterdam Hortus

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Spring time in the Hortus Botanicus in Amsterdam is enchanting! The garden is coming back to life with buds and blossoms everywhere you turn, from the sprawling beds on the ground to the trees, peering out from in between rocks and on flush bushes.

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I love how the changes with the seasons means every visit is really different. This time we took a tour, led by a guide who shared her knowledge and fun facts about different plants around the garden.

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But my favorite part was afterwards, walking along the winding paths with my camera, unrushed, spotting colours and textures of the new bursts of life, emerging under the sunshine, reaching towards the light.

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When, despite the sunshine, it got a bit chilly, I went to my favorite spot in the greenhouse to warm up and admire the captivating cacti… but I’ll write more about that soon;)

Signs of Spring

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Sunday as I cycled home from the bookclub, I noticed some bushes covered in what looked from a distance like small yellow tassles, against the blue sky.  After picking up my camera at home, I took a short walk back through my neighbourhood until I reached the square, located between four roads, where spring is starting to show in the nurtured flower beds.

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I took a closer look at those branches to find them covered in what looks like cheerleaders’ pompoms made with crepe paper, encouraging ravenous pollinators to come visit them.

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Though the purple crocusses popping up through the grass are more striking, I love the colour combination on these ones, perfectly suited for a 70s kitchen.

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On branches that were bare just a few days ago, tiny leaves are sprouting, deep lines etched into their surface like the grooves on your fingertips after lying for too long in the bath, and clusters of tiny yellow flowers spread their pistils like antennas searching for signals in the warm spring air.

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Observing the details

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Yesterday I had planned to spend some time for my Artist Date at the Botanic garden exploring the greenhouses, looking for new plants I could photograph to accompany upcoming blog posts. On arrival I found the gates of the garden were closed (I hadn’t checked the opening times – rookie mistake!). However I took this setback in my stride and instead cycled around looking for a place out of the wind where I could soak up the sun and write in my journal.

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I settled for a bench in a tiny playground just two minutes from my flat, which is mostly sandy with a few plants scattered around the edge.  At first glance most plants seemed to have suffered from the winter months and looked rather bland.  I didn’t expect much, but then a pink flower close to the ground caught my attention, so I got out my camera and started taking photos of it. Then my eyes searched a bit further for interesting colours, textures and backgrounds, and as I observed the details of each plant, I  was led from one to another and kept noticing more and more things.

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Here are a few of the finds that I liked most: The lace-like structure of a perfectly shaped Physalis pod with a rough black seed nestled inside it, and a rose hip with tiny lines etched onto its bright red surface…  I was also very excited to stumble upon several types of ladybirds, the first I’ve seen this season, mentally thanking them for the natural pest control they perform with their unending appetite for aphids that we would rather do without. Even if it wasn’t the Botanic garden, I was impressed by the many details to be found in such a small space when taking the time to really look.

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Fern patterns

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During my recent walk in the forest near my home town, at one stage I came across lots of ferns that had been cut down by the side of the path. I was mesmerised by their colours and shapes, which formed these wonderful dense and intricate patterns.

Ferns are one of my photographic nemeses, I love how they look (from shy, bright green ferns in the forest undergrowth to massive native Australian ferns that are more like trees) but always struggle so much to capture them in a way that does justice to their splendour…

I’m grateful to have had a chance to observe the beauty of these ferns and their patterns before they shriveled up and became part of the forest floor, it was the perfect opportunity to practice photographing them:)

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Sidewalk treasure

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Yesterday in between two rain showers I went for a quick wander to get some fresh air, and I came across these beautiful yellow flowers, a lone stem left on the sidewalk by some recycling bins.  Sure, the leaves were a bit wilted, but apart from that the blooms were still in great shape. Look at that multitude of gorgeous, tiny petals! So I took them home and popped them into a small vase.  I felt so lucky to have found them and it totally made my day:) They are the perfect splash of colour to lighten up the kitchen in these dreary winter evenings.

Dark December days

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Lately the days are getting shorter and shorter, and even during normal daylight hours the clouds are so low that I sometimes need to switch on the light to see properly inside the flat.

Yesterday was one of those dark days, but after sitting indoors half of the afternoon, I decided to go for a walk, more because I knew that it would do me good than because I really felt like it. I took my camera along just in case.

The light was definitely not on my side, I had to crank up the ISO and hold as still as I could with slow shutter speeds, but it was a good exercise in spotting beauty in the remnants of plants and experimenting.

These tiny fruit that remind me of gorgeous fairy lights caught my eye and I got chatting with a lady, who was harvesting them into a small bowl.  She told me they are goji berries… you know that super food that is so fashionable these days?? Turns out they grow easily in our climate and as you can see this one still has fruits in December! Perfect for pepping up your muesli:)

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An oasis of peace in Amsterdam

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As the city of Amsterdam gets more and more full of tourists, one place I love to escape to for fresh air and a quiet afternoon is the Botanic garden in Zuidas.  Surrounded by modern buildings, it’s a lovely oasis of calm hidden within the bustling heart of the business district.

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I really appreciate that the entrance is free of charge, making it accessible for anyone to come and discover their incredible collection of plants.  While I was there last I also saw several patients in wheelchairs coming from the nearby hospital for a change of scenery.

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There is an incredible diversity of plants making each visit a new experience as the seasons change. Last time thanks to the Indian summer, there were still a multitude of flowers blooming in October.

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It’s always a pleasure to slowly walk around, spot new plants and take in the details of the various species.  The splashes of colour bring me so much joy.

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It’s a real celebration for the senses with all the different colours, intriguing textures and unusual shapes.   The perfect way to be in the moment and feel grounded.

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