Dancing with Daffodils

When I open my front door I step into a cloud of purple fragrance. It is sweet and intoxicating. At my feet the bees are getting drunk on the nectar from the hyacinths. My window boxes are an open bar with an infinite tab.

I love to see the bees waltz, bourrée, and fox trot around the hyacinths, muscari and daffodils.

Sometimes, when I'm stuck in my studio with a fog of thoughts and worries clouding my senses, I think I hear the flowers knocking on the door, wanting me to come out to play.

So, the other day I did.

I drew a fairy, and she and I cavorted with the spring flowers for an afternoon.

Window Boxes: Life in a London Flat

There’s something about lavender that lifts the mood. It’s not just its clean, fresh, fragrance (reminiscent of sea spray, loamy earth and clean sheets), but also the way the purple flowers bob and sway, conducting silent symphonies in the breeze.

In Cape Town we had a lavender garden in our front courtyard. There was a thick, high stone garden wall facing the road (as you must, in South Africa), with a heavy wooden door set in its centre. From the street it didn’t look like much, but once you entered, you were beguiled by a tiny courtyard garden planted mounds of lavender.

I miss that garden. I miss sitting on the stoop and watching the bees dance from flower to flower as the unseen traffic raced down the hill on the other side of the wall.

So, as a birthday surprise for my husband, I planted window boxes on the sills of our London flat. I ordered one box for each front window and filled them with lavender, petunias and ivy.  Now, when I sit on the couch and gaze out the window, I not only see the rows of Victorian terraced houses and plane trees, but also the bobbing lavender, the delicate ruffles of the petunia petals, and the occasional bee who has lucked out and found our tiny oasis.

The window boxes give a new dimension to the flat: there is now an inside


an outside. When the evening sun pours through the windows the lavender throws dancing shadows on the white walls. When we open the windows we can smell the sweet petunias in the warm summer air.

All that in a space 18 cm wide.

It's a miracle.

Life in a London Flat #3

Small green things make my heart soar.

The thing about living in London is that you spend most of your life surrounded by bricks and concrete. The city might be famous for its languid parks that operate like green lungs pumping oxygen into the air, but there is still a lot of pavement to contend with on a daily basis.

The solution is to bring a little green into your home to add life and colour to forgotten corners. Houseplants can become your best friends.

At the moment I have a basil, a miniature rose, a convalescent lavender, and a few sprigs of ivy calling the top of the fridge home.

The rose completely surprised me. I bought her thinking she would be a demanding mistress, like the rose in the Little Prince, but she's turned out to be a wonderful flatmate.  She never asks for more than she receives, and quite literally, seems content to bloom where she's planted.

The basil is also a very easy houseguest.  I forgot to water him the other day, and he never complained. Though he did sulk for a few hours before forgiving me.

I'm starting to root the ivy shoots, as I remembered that I used to love all the ivy plants in our house when I was growing up.  Don't tell anyone, but I stole the shoots from a mass of ivy growing in a neighbour's front garden.

And the lavender? I'm not sure exactly what his issue is.  He was doing fine for weeks (weeks!), and then he suddenly started losing needles and drooping. I'm doing my best to reconcile whatever differences we might have, but worry that I might lose the battle.

The most important thing is that I love the way the air feels cleaner and more alive with them around. They make our little London flat so cheery.

Do you have any favourite houseplants?  Where do they live in your home? 

More tips for London living HERE


How does your garden grow?

 {Grandma with her prized geraniums}

The sun is shining, the trees are holding their breath in the stillness, and somewhere in the distance I can hear the deep hum of a lawnmower.  It's summer in Canada.  

It's always special to spend time in my childhood home, but this summer has been particularly meaningful.  Life has been in extreme flux recently, and coming home has felt so healing.  I love sitting in my old bedroom, looking at my bookshelves and dollhouse, and feeling that sense of belonging. Time might move forward at a harried pace, but some things never change.  

It's so comforting. 

I've also been thinking a lot about my family.  I miss my Dad, who died 6.5 years ago, more than anyone can ever imagine.  People say time heals, but they're wrong.  Time does heal the tragedy of loss, but the missing never, ever goes away

But... I've also been surprised to find that I'm missing my Grandma more and more.  She died 20 years ago exactly.  It may sound strange, but I'm actually missing her more as I grow older.  I loved her as a child, but it's only now, as an adult, that I'm beginning to understand who she actually was.  And, to my surprise, I think I'm becoming very much like her, in some respects. 

As I remember, she was stubborn, passionate, a lover of books and reading, and she enjoyed the beauty of everyday things (postage stamps, birds, sunsets, and things that were made well). 

One thing she was famous for was her garden.  We cousins loved to play in Grandma and Grandpa's large yard, under the condition that our running around didn't tear up the grass, and we didn't kick our balls into any of her precious flower beds.  I think we loved the gorgeous flowers as much as she did, and were happy to follow the rules. 

Her most prized flowers were her coral coloured geraniums.  She called them "scheena Helena," which means "beautiful Helen," but none of us are sure why they had that name! (You can see her sitting with one of the coral plants in the photo above.) She wintered the cuttings inside when the snow flew, and would plant them outside again every spring.  After she died my uncle David kept the plants going in the same way.  

Now, 20 years later, he finally managed to propagate enough plants to give one starter to each of my 7 aunts and uncles. I so wish I could take a plant overseas with me, so I could have a piece of my grandma's legacy growing in my garden!

{The tradition continues}

Speaking of plants and legacies...  Here is the spruce tree I planted in our back yard when I was in Kindergarten. It's now 25 years old, and taller than our house!

And a little post script, just because Grandma and I both love beautiful things.... 

Here's to an amazing year!


2011 was an amazing year: a sprint, a marathon, an obstacle course and very, very fun.

It seems that everyone in the blogosphere is doing reviews of their year, and across the board I'd say it was pretty successful for all of us.

And my year?

 January of 2011 started with a BIG change; a change of cities, continents and hemispheres.  I travelled from London to Cape Town to join my husband for an extended holiday.  Since that moment I've been on the move through approximately 22 cities, including: New York, Amsterdam, London, Chicago, Toronto, Bologna, Johannesburg, Brussels...

Pretty far flung, huh?

Of course, the year wasn't completely leisurely.  I had a lot of illustration work to do as well.  In fact, I travelled with my scanner, sketchbook, pens and paints wherever I went.  I joked that I worked in the

great portable studio

(more on that in another post).  This year, I've finished commissions on hotel bedside tables, tiny guest-bedroom desks, and near-strangers kitchen tables.

I can only hope that 2012 will live up to 2011.

Here's to you all, may your 2012 be happy and prosperous, and worth blogging about!