Until July 2017, documenting the seasons of coastal Dorset. I'm a complete amateur so don't trust I'm always right. If ever you see I'm wrong - whether with identifications or in anything else - do say! Meanwhile . . . I've now moved to Halifax in West Yorkshire. Click on the link below to collect the new URL. Don't forget to follow there!

Tuesday, 3 November 2009


I was born between eras and the generations of my family are widely spread. (A chain of middle-aged mothers.) It shows in my language. There are Victorian undertones.

Not that I've picked up the habit of speaking in the repetitive imagery my parents used.  Indeed, I've shrunk from it.  But in the last few years I've got beyond smirking over their hackneyed turns of phrase, learned to set irritation aside and realise how rich with history their stock-in-hand similies were.  My mother would come into an untidy room and complain it looked as if a bomb had hit it  -  and announce a blitz to put it right.  'Rich' did I say?  Maybe I should have said 'burdened'.

My father's comparisons sprang from an even earlier time  -  when women shone with pre-raphaelite beauty, there were no cars, agricultural life impinged still on the cities and everyone had servants.  (Well, everyone who wasn't one!)  How my father expected me to be beautiful, I don't know  -  for it's not easy to be graceful when one's wardrobe consists of crimplene cast-offs and gleanings from Church jumble sales.  But he did.  My father also thought anyone who paid attention, in how ever small a way,  to personal appearance  -  was vain.  Ear-rings  . . .  ear-rings!  Only the morally depraved wore earings!  (Those and actors playing pirates.)  Mirrors  . . .  danger there!  They were useful to men when shaving but only the vain looked in them otherwise.  All in all, it was quite difficult to live up to his dreams.  Impossible, really.  Women were supposed to be effortlessly beautiful and if it didn't work quite like that, well  . . .   they ought to be.  Beauty was supposed to come automatically, along with gender.  If it didn't he was perplexed.   (Oh how he was perplexed!)  And  women have long hair.  Don't they?  Well, they are are supposed to.  It is their 'crowning glory'.

Here he comes  . . .  "You look like a sack of potatoes with a string tied round the middle', "You look like Mad Margaret," (who?) "You look as if you have been dragged through a hedge backwards", "Be careful  -  or you'll frighten the horses,".

(It's alright, folks.  I think I've turned out ok!)

And there were other things which simply had to be said whenever particular circumstances arose  . . .  "Nice weather for ducks," (rain) "Up tails all," (upon seeing ducks)  "It's an ill wind," (when anything went wrong) "Brave souls," (and this is where I've been heading). "I think of those brave souls who would venture out on a night like this," (when closing the curtains on a cold and stormy winter's evening).

I was going to call this post "Those Brave Souls" but, with it being so close to Remembrance Sunday, I thought it might be taken to mean soldiers who had died in battle  . . .  when all I'm thinking of is flowers.

I don't much like flowers.  Chicory is an exception.  I is the sprigged muslin of late summer and autumn rather than the chintz of spring blossoms and heavy density of June roses.

I'm pleased most flowers are over with for another year, and wanting to avoid bright berries  . . .  I went out to take photos of dead things  . . . . . .  to celebrate them.

We make a lot of fuss about spring and I suspect those of us who can toddle up to the Co-op to buy chocolates and daffodils in bud get more joy from it than ever did our ancestors.  For them, I think it must have been a time of desperate hope; their festivals tinged with fear.  For anyone short of seed, it must have been terrifying.  Everything eaten, nothing to sow.  Autumn is the agricultural, horitcultural, and everything cultural destination  . . .  and the bushes where the blackberries have been picked are a sign that harvest has happened.  The husks where seeds have fallen are a sigh of relief because the seeds were there to fall.  But my post about these will have to happen another day now because I was way-laid by these 'Brave Souls' still flowering  . . .  despite the onset of wind and rain  . . .

. . . beginning with the over-hopeful ones  -  like this blackberry, which has no chance that its flowers will come to fruition but there is is happily flowering in November.  I admire its stength, its ambition, its determination to grow on to the bitter end.  I think I'll take it as the symbol of the ancient mothers in my family who had their children in their forties and didn't care if they frightened the horses.

There seems to be an almost unlimited supply of dandelion-style flowers.  You're lucky this isn't a post full of ones like these  -  only with different shapes for their leaves.  I could even be drawing your attention to the variety of petal endings.  When I come home with my camera, I enlarge the photos on the computer screen and gaze into them and wonder  . . .  I mean, why are they so varied and so complicated and yet so regular.  Daft!

Ivy  -  where the noise of buzzy insects (dull brown bees and flies) will attract attention even if one were to miss the mass of flowers.  Growing up in London for a large part of my early childhood, it never struck me that ivy might have flowers.  To me it was a thin strand of fibre with an occasional, heart shape leaf limply attached, which just about managed to creep around in the dust and soot.  Sometimes, though, it formed such a huge, dense mess of dark, drab leaves, it became a sort of overwhelming blob.  A bit menacing really.  To associate Holly with Ivy at Christmas seemed an act of poetic desperation.  Couldn't they have thought of something better?  It was like making a link between brown paint and true gold.  (Come to think of it  . . .  real gold leaf was used to put the numbers on painted wooden gates.  There used to be an extraordinary juxtaposition between the rare and the mundane, the extravagant and the ordinary.)

And it's not just dandelion type plants which bamboozle me  -  there are those too which I suppose to be in the groundsel family.  I've not yet managed to take an interesting photo of groundsel itself.  I think that says more about groundsel than my photography though.  These plants in the picture are growing about eighteen inches high.
I'm forever muddling mustard with rape as well.  Indeed, I'm tempted by the idea of categorising flowers as one might do cars  . . .  yellow ones, purple ones  . . .  (This, for my father, since he began all this, would be heresy.  He didn't actually say Latin names were divinely inspired but there was that sort of air to it.  The stamps in my stamp album were categorised under the names of countries and, if I had enough of them, by date.  I would have preferred to arrange them in pretty patterns but this would have caused mountains to erupt and great fissures to appear in the trembling earth  . . .  so they had to be in rows.  His were ordered not only in countries and by date but in all sorts of other subsections which I didn't quite follow and which resulted in lots of almost empty pages where the appropriate stamps would go if only he had them.  The spaces for the as-yet-uncollected ones were as crucial for the understanding of the whole as were the ones which were already stuck in.  (On stamp hinges which went brittle and flakey and dried out and fell off.) )

Cranesbill, would you say?  (Along with the nettle and dandelion.)  (Oh, and the grass  -  don't forget the grass!)

A low growing pink flower.  Do not be deceived by the buddleia.  The pink flower is on the top of a bank and the buddleia is growing up from lower down.  Tops of trees and daisies are level partners here.
And I'll finish with gorse.

I don't have to finish.  These aren't all the November plants which are flowering.  But gorse is a good place to stop  -  because it doesn't!  Is there a month when gorse doesn't flower?  Gorse and blackberries  . . .  food and fuel and exceptionally pretty flowers (I reckon)  . . .  Hurray for autumn!

P.S.  All the photos in this post were taken on 29th October and 2nd November.


Angie said...

Oh, how I love your blogs!!! BTW I had heard ALL those sayings.

Lucy said...

Thanks Angie.

And thanks for becoming a Follower too.


Monica the Garden Faerie said...

Ah, yes, the legacies our parents leave imprinted on us can be both burden and fond remembrance in one. I like flowers but I also like dead foliage. I like the whole cycle of life, as it were. And photographically, I do like a somber mood!

azplantlady said...

Hello Lucy,

You really made me think about where certain phrases we use from day to day come from. And will my children repeat them to their children?

Thank you for a different view of plants. I enjoyed it.

Lucy said...

Hello Monica and Noelle.

With all the fuss about Halloween and All Saints, it's good to remember 'All Souls' too. It's worth remembering / commemorating the inflences our very ordinary (as apart from saintly and fiendish!) forbears have had on us and the way we see the world.


Kanak Hagjer said...

Loved reading your autumn post! It reminded me of what my parents used to say too--- but the essence was the same!

Haven't had 'nice weather for ducks' for quite a while...The photo of the groundsel and those wispy clouds on a blue, blue sky is lovely! You're right about the dandelion types, there are indeed several in that category.

Lucy said...

If only there were Agave flowers looming above them!


garden girl said...

I loved this post Lucy. You and Esther both have a way of making us think that I really enjoy.

Monica's comment expresses very well some of my thoughts while reading this post.

I enjoyed the flower photos - unusual to see on one of your blogs. That said, I also really like that you seldom photograph flowers - one of the factors that makes your blogs so unique.

This year one of my volunteer projects was growing some native plants and collecting the seeds for local ecosystem restoration projects. Being the first year, and since the plants started as seedlings this spring, most of them plants weren't mature enough to bloom. The hawkweed though, with its very dandelion-like flower, did bloom profusely and I was able to collect lots of seeds.

Growing this plant this year made me aware of it all over our area, along with several other dandelion-like species. I never paid much attention to them before, and have been amazed how many different kinds of plants with dandelion-like blooms there are.

Lucy said...

Hello Linda.

I'm glad you liked the post, despite the flowers!

I hadn't planned to do a flowery post but was very much struck by the number of plants in the hedgerows which still have flowers, even buds, on them.

Dandelions are extraordinary. The vibrancy of their yellow is intense and shines out brightly even from shade. I've previously noticed the different shaped leaves of the Dandelion-like varieties but I hadn't previously paid attention to the different shapes at the end of the petals. I have to be careful not to go overboard about such things and realise there are more important things in life to be thinking about. (At least, there are in mine at present!) But it is, none the less, fascinating.