Month: October 2013

Rich Colours of Autumn

Autumnal Harvest


Autumn is in the words of John Keats truly `the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness.’ I love the rich colours of Autumn –  deep red rosy apples and berries, vibrant orange pumpkins and squashes and not forgetting sunny yellow sunflowers. I had fun making this Autumnal still-life. The Daisy Chain Purse Vase is an Anita Harris design and was a wonderful wedding gift. I love it’s rich deep red lustre with the gold embellished daisies. The vibrant flowers include dahlias and sunflowers freshly picked from our garden.  The cup and saucer were a wonderful find. They are Early Derby London shaped with gold rims and handle dating from the 1800s. The pattern is the much loved Derby Traditional Imari Pattern 2451. This pattern was made over many years and is still in production today. It uses the traditional Imari colours of deep red, cobalt and gold and includes diamond lozenges and stylised floral motifs. The tea plate also has an Imari pattern. However the plate is later dating from the 1880s with a makers mark of Taylor & Kent (Ltd).

When I think of Autumn, pumpkins and squash immediately come to mind.  I am fascinated by the patterns on squash and painted this Autumnal still-life this week. I wanted to convey the structure and patterning of the fruit, whilst enjoying mixing the beautiful vibrant yellows and oranges.The striped fruit are Harlequin Squash and the deep orange one is a Kabocha Squash. Harlequin Squash are recommended by the RHS to be an excellent attractant and nectar source for bees and other beneficial insects. I haven’t grown any pumpkins or squash this year but will definately grow some next year to brighten up my vegetable beds. I included an old English Egremont Russet Apple with distinctive russet bronze fruits and some Autumnal leaves in my still life.

Autumn Fruits


October is a lovely month for celebrating the humble apple. Apples have been harvested in temperate Europe since prehistory. Downing’s Fruits, printed in 1866, has 643 varieties listed. Now we have over 5000 named apples. The oldest known variety of apple  is `Court Pendu Plat‘  which may go back to Roman times and is recorded from the sixteenth century. Raised in 1850 Cox’s Orange Pippin is one of the best dessert apples. However it is difficult to grow as it is disease prone and hates wet clay. It does best on a warm wall. `Beauty of Bath‘ was introduced in 1864 and fruits in late Summer with small sweet juicy yellow fruits stained scarlet and orange. Egremont Russet was bred in 1872 and has roughened greeny bronze skin with a crisp and firm flesh.

Autumnal Apples

I wanted to paint something Autumnal so chose a selection of apples from my local supermarket to paint in watercolour. I managed to find 5 different varieties all with different hues of red and green. I placed the green Granny Smith in the middle to give the painting some balance. I would have liked a Russet,  but there weren’t any available in the shops. Russets have quite a rough, unshiny texture which may have made more of a contrast in my painting. All my apples had quite a shine on them so I aimed to create shine as well as celebrate the different red hues. I really enjoyed painting my apples. I think I managed to use nearly all the reds in my paintbox! I used Scarlet Lake, Winsor Red, Permanent Carmine, Permanent Alizarin Crimson, Permanent Rose, Brown Madder and Quinacridone Red. I included a useful guide to red pigments in my previous Ruby Red Bouquet Blog Post.

Quinacridone Red was great for the Pink Lady apple as it is a good vibrant pinkish red. The small Estivale apple needed a bright red so I used Scarlet Lake. Royal Gala is stripey and a deep almost maroon colour in places and more orangey in the highlights. I used Permanent Alizarin Crimson with a tough of Paynes Gray to darken it. On first glance the Cox and Royal Gala are both dark red apples. However they aren’t the same hue on closer observation. Royal Gala is more maroon or burgundy and the Cox is more orangey rusty red. I chose to use Brown Madder to create the main colour of the Cox with touches of Permanent Alizarin Crimson in the shadow.

Having made a close observational painting of my apples I was in the mood for cooking with apples. Mr Smiles had a birthday so I made some Apple and Oat Muffins in addition to a Birthday Cake.

Apple and Oat Muffins

My recipe for Apple and Oat Muffins was taken from `The Great British Bake Off Everyday Cookbook’. I have never made muffins before and I would highly recommend having a go, as this recipe is quick and easy.

 For the topping

50g porridge oats

50g demerara sugar

50g plain flour

50g unsalted butter, at room temperature

For the base

250g plain flour

25g porridge oats

175g caster sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

finely grated zest of 1 medium unwaxed lemon

150g unsalted butter, diced

2 medium eggs, at room temperature

100ml milk, at room temperature

1 large eating apple, cored and cut into small pieces

Heat your oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5. Make the crumble topping first. Put the oats, sugar and flour into a mixing bowl and combine with your hand.

Oat Mixture Cut the butter into pieces,Unsalted Butter add to the bowl and rub into the dry ingredients with your fingertips until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs.Then gently squeeze the mixture together until it forms pea-like clumps. Set aside until needed. Oat Crumble Topping( I must admit I found it hard to make small pea size clumps. Mine were more  like broad bean clumps).

Crumble Topping

Now make the base. Put the flour, oats, sugar, baking powder and lemon zest  into a mixing bowl and mix together thoroughly with a wooden spoon.  Gently melt the butter in a small pan. Leave to cool. Beat the eggs and milk in a small bowl with a fork until just combined. Add the melted butter and milk mixture to the flour mix in the bowl and stir gently until just combined. There’s no need to beat the mixture.

Muffin Mix

Spoon the mixture into 12 paper cases in the muffin tray so they are evenly filled. Top each with an equal amount of chopped apple and gently press the pieces into the muffin mixture. (they should remain visible). Cover with the crumble topping, dividing it equally among the muffins, and gently press down on the base.

Chopped Apple

Muffin Mixture

Place in the heated oven and bake for 30-35 minutes until golden and just firm when gently pressed in the centre. Set the tray on a wire rack and cool for 3-4 minutes. Carefully lift the muffins out of the tray onto the rack. They are best served warm the same or next day.

Apple and Oat Muffins

The apple and oat muffins went down well. I think they would be great served with lashings of cream or custard!


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Delightful Dahlias

Delightful DahliaThis month I have been delighting in dahlias. The dahlia tubers I planted in pots earlier in the year are in full bloom and are making a real show of colour together with my bright yellow sunflowers and orange chinese lanterns. Hopefully this wonderful late show of colour will last a few more weeks before the frost hits. I also had a trip to Exbury Gardens with Mr Smiles and the dahlias in the Sundial Garden were wonderful.

Dahlias have been out of fashion. People associated them with old men and allotments, where rows of flowers were grown like soldiers standing to attention. This has changed over the last few years and the dahlia has become popular again with both gardeners and as a cut flower for florists. I hate flowers grown all in a row like soldiers with military precision. Chelsea Flower Show showed me that dahlias can be grown informally in a cottage garden style. Informal plantingMy dahlias are doing me proud in their pots dotted where I can find a space. As a bride I would have had dahlias in my wedding bouquet if I had been getting married in late Summer.


I painted this wonderful bouquet by Fabulous Flowers in Abingdon, Oxfordshire. It is a hand-tied bouquet of `Memory of Diane’ dahlias,` Margarite’ daisies, `Avalanche’ spray roses together with `Aloha’, `Vitality’ and `Alabasta’ roses. I love the gentle peaches and cream colour scheme. If I had got married later in the year I would have loved a bouquet like this!

I found a wonderful article about using the versatility of dahlias as a Wedding Flower on` If you are looking for a versatile flower for your wedding dahlias are a great choice as they come in so many different colours and sizes, and hence it’s easy to incorporate them into almost any part of your wedding flowers, from your bouquet to boutonnieres and table arrangements.’ This is one of the wonderful dahlia bouquets I found on

Dahlia BouquetDo check out my Delightful Dahlia Board on Pinterest where I have gathered a fiesta of Dahlia Wedding inspiration!

Dahlia Types

 The dahlia flower was discovered in Central America in the 16th century, and was introduced to Europe in the late 1700s. Through subsequent hybridization dahlias have evolved from simple single-flowered blooms with a single row of petals to the more dramatic many-petalled double blooms which can either be symmetrical spheres and quite architectural or more frilly and blowsy. Dahlias range in size from about 2 inches wide in diameter to ‘dinner plate’ dahlias which live up to their name in size. They come in a vast array of colours  from white, cream and yellow to pink, purple, orange and red.


Flowers bear a single ring of outer (ray) florets, with the central (disc) florets visible.

Dahlia Happy Single PartyDahlia OmoPreston Park


Anemone dahlias are absolutely delightful. They have a double flower head with one or more rings of flattish petals that surround a densely packed centre which is made up of tubular florets that point upwards. These florets are longer than those found on single dahlias, which contributes greatly to their beauty. These are the dahlias I fell in love with in the Sundial Garden in Exbury Gardens recently. Do let me know if you know the variety as I’d love to grow them in my garden.

Heralding Autumn

Pastel Anemone Dahlia

Delightful DahliaKaleidescope Colours


Collerette type dahlias take on the form of a single dahlia but with a difference. They still retain the simple outer row of almost flat petals that can often overlap, and the centre of the flower is clearly visible as a disc. However, the disc is encircled by a ‘collar’ of small florets or petaloids that create an almost fluffy or ruffled look to the flower as a whole. This was another dramatic dahlia in The Sundial Garden at Exbury.

Red and Gold


The Waterlily type has shallow, double blooms, with broad flattish florets.  Their broad petals are slightly curled up along their length, giving a saucer-shaped appearance to the flower. Disc florets are absent or not visible.

Brackenridge Ballerina Waterlily


Decorative dahlias have fully double blooms, showing no disc. Their petals are normally broad and fold inwards from the base. This type of dahlia is very popular with enthusiasts who love them for their colour and decorative appearance. I am particularly proud of my `Osirium’ Decorative Dahlia with her beautiful deep magenta red colour. I saw the pink `Edge of Gold’ dahlias at Chelsea Flower Show. These have dusky pink ray florets margined in deep gold.

Edge of Gold

Dazzling Dahlia

Autumn Beauty





These dahlias have flowers that take on the form of a ball. The flowerheads are double, with a slightly flattened top. Petals are arranged in a spiral pattern and the tips are blunt or rounded. I am enjoying my `Boom Boom` Red Ball Dahlia.

Boom Boom


The pompon is similar to a ball dahlia, but is more rounded with double spherical blooms. Its petals are totally curved inwards to create its tight golf ball-like form. The flowers are not usually any larger than 2 inches or 5 cm across.

Betty Anne PomPon


Flowers are fully double.The florets are narrrowly tubular and pointed and are either straight or incurving. ‘Spikey’ or ‘spider’ is sometimes how florists describe the Semi Cactus and Cactus varieties of dahlia.

Alfred Grille Cactus


Flowers are fully double, with slightly sharp looking petals that curve in tightly for about half of their length.The florets are broad at the base becoming tubular and pointed towards the apex. This type of dahlia is very popular in bouquets with a very pretty, almost fluffy-looking form.

Semi-Cactus Dahlia displayed by the National Dahlia Collection, Chelsea Flower Show
Semi-Cactus Dahlia displayed by the National Dahlia Collection, Chelsea Flower Show


Flowers have florets which are spilt or notched at the apex, creating a fringed effect.


Single Orchid (Star)

Blooms with a single outer ring of tubular florets surrounding the disc. Sarah Raven sells  Dahlia ‘Tahoma Moonshot’ which has rich, dark velvet single flowers.

Dahlia Tahoma Moonshot

Double Orchid

Fully double blooms, around triangular centrres. Florets taper to a point.

Gallery Art Nouveau


Three or four rows of flattened or slightly curved ray florets, with the central disc clearly visible. I have grown red `Bishop of Llandaff’ and pink `Eyed Beauty’ this year.

Bishop of LlandaffEyed Beauty

What a delightful array of Dahlias there are! I truly believe there is a Dahlia for every garden or Bridal Bouquet.

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