Floral Friday- Sweet Portugal Mix

Floral FridaysSome flowers stand well enough on their own to make a statement, without the addition of other foliage and flowers. These Sweet Williams, Dianthus barbatus, enhance the simple but beautifully adorned Portuguese pottery. Taking the same flower and just mixing with other varieties of itself proves successful.  Hope you have enjoyed this Floral Friday…- James

To Each Their Own


which one would you pick?

Have a seat my friends, I would like to play a short and curious game this week with you with a topic  that applies to both art and horticulture.  I am curious about this fever that might affect or plague others as much as it affects myself and a few friends I know, the art of collecting. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure they say and oftentimes it has been the justification for purchasing something shiny and bright that my eyes have rested upon.

There have been periods in my life where I  sought out certain things only to later on move on to something else though not necessarily ceasing the cultivation of the prior collection either.  As a very young child I used to collect stamps because one of my adult family members suggested it, they could have ‘value’ they said, but I grew bored of them. I quickly moved on to stickers because they were brighter and more fun than their serious counterparts, I mean the stamps couldn’t even be used because they would be null and void in value.  Fast forward to when I was about 13 and I started collecting furniture (I still do), acquiring so many pieces that it would be necessary to stack tables on top of tables in my bedroom, eventually stopping because my parents made me. Some habits are hard to die and recently I disbanded a collection of interesting though not always comfortable chairs, selling them off when I moved out of the U.S. It was sad to see them go, but I moved on to other things.jimmy 3 215

Notebooks are another downfall and can always be justified for some reason, such as writing garden notes, or for museum and gallery visits, which eventually hold all my tickets from said places. They are perfect for whipping out and sketching too.  I have stacks, though small pocket sized ones are my favorite. That colorful stack above is one of my favorites, which each notebook consisting of a different paper texture.  (I know, I know, I like paper too so it’s a double whammy). In front of those notebooks is a skull, another (sigh) ongoing collection that is sadly tucked away in boxes in New York. I would like to clarify though that I find skulls and bones to be objects of beauty and are only added to the collection when they are found on the ground in their natural environments.  Often friends come across them too and thus find their way into my collection. Some people get weirded out by that collection but I see it as nothing but beauty and am amazed how each species can be so different. They are perfect specimens to draw and sketch.

It’s not a skull but close enough. Can you spot the antlers?


A few years ago, while I was traveling abroad, I started collecting ceramics and pottery from the different countries I visited. Currently this collection includes pieces from the U.S., England, France, Israel, the Netherlands, Portugal and Spain. This is another easily justifiable collection, since I am a gardener and these sculptural vessels can be appreciated with or without floral arrangements. Are you buying it? By far the best country to collect these pieces were in the Netherlands where there seems to be an abundance of exceptional pieces. Each piece has a memory attached to it and deep down it is the reason why I do it. Now whenever I travel, local ceramics are the prize of choice to take back home. ma

The last collection I have started is slabs of marble and stone for no other purpose except for its beauty. The veins and color of these pieces are astounding and I realize as I type this, they are a more polished version of the stones and gems that I collected as a child. But enough, as I realize now I might sound like a hoarder, and that I am not, though I might have a problem.  Most of my collections are purely collected for the aesthetic reasons or for memories attached, to each their own.  But look at them…..image

Everybody collects something, some for investment and others for enjoyment.  But I want to know what you collect. Maybe it was something that started when you were younger with one piece that motivated you until it snowballed out of control? Is there a collection you are proud of? You might collect plants, art, or something else.  This is where my curiosity comes into play. I would like you to share with us a good snapshot of your prized collection, no matter how large or small it may be. I want to know more about you, the reader. What is your poison?

You can send it by one of two ways:

  1. email  us, using the subject line Collecting and tell us a few words about it. Emails should be sent to:     plinth.et.al(at)gmail.com
  2. or if you are on instagram, just take a shot and upload it, using #plinthetal so it can be found.  In a few weeks I will put together a roundup of some of the collections you, our readers, have built. (with permission of course)   I look forward to seeing who and what is out there.

We are expanding our reaches. Are any of our readers on instagram? If you are there, let us know (james.mc.grath) & (EHSU2003), we would love to follow you and see what you are up to. It could make for some interesting future collaborations.  – James


Voilà Viola

vaseSometimes it’s the flowers that set the idea in motion, and sometimes its the container, which happened to be the case for this.  I filled this bread-roll shaped ceramic container with water and then gathered as many blooms of Viola × wittrockiana as I could from my window box. Always seeing them outside, I wanted to bring them indoors and once completed, they gave a light fragrance once they adjusted to the warm room.  But there was something about it that made me laugh…

ViolaArrangementMaybe it started with this weeks quote about missing all the fun, maybe it was a slight aversion to writing something about love today, maybe it has to do with the winter and causing me to think of warmer temperatures, maybe it started from thinking about the Winter Olympics, I don’t know where it came from, but inspiration comes from interesting places sometimes.  And I hope it makes you chuckle like it did to me, we could all use it sometime… Enjoy your weekend my friend. – James


Forced Happiness

Nov. 11

When living in London, I found this small ceramic pot at a stall in Portobello Road. With 18 small holes covering the tiny pot, I was clueless as to its purpose until the woman selling explained that it was used to force crocus bulbs. Always finding a way to justify another addiction (ceramic containers this time), I purchased it, swearing to use it. During the end of autumn of last year, I purchased five dormant bulbs at the Colombia Road Flower Market for just a few pounds, choosing Crocus vernus ‘Pickwick’, a large flowering early spring bulb, for my project.

The whole process from beginning to end took around 3 months, though I am sure this could be done a bit quicker when done again.  All the materials I used was a container, the 5 dormant Crocus ‘Pickwick’, a small amount of moss, some free draining potting media, and a bit of gravel for the top.

Since I only had 5 bulbs (corms to be exact) and there are 18 openings, I started by lining the extra openings in the pot with a small amount of moss to prevent the potting media from spilling out.  Adding soil as I went, I spaced 4 bulbs around the outside and one on top, always making sure the growing point was facing outwards or upwards. Then a small amount of gravel was placed on top to prevent soil from splashing when watered, help retain heat, and for aesthetic purposes.  After completion, the pot was given a small drink of water, sat in the cold potting shed overnight and then placed outside. Thus begins the necessary first step of the process, the cold treatment.

December 15

In a few weeks’ time, green tips began emerging from the gravel topped pot and I knew that it wasn’t long before they could be moved to inside the glasshouse.  The glasshouse at Gravetye, usually warmer than outside, was heated only during periods of extreme cold and had one heat lamp  that was used only in the evenings.  If it was a regularly heated glasshouse, the process would have been much quicker (If moving the pot from the outside cold treatment, it is best to not put it in too hot of a glasshouse immediately, or the plant will grow too quickly and leggy, resulting in a poor flower display).  A few times throughout the process I gave a small amount of water to the pot, always making sure that the media was dry first to prevent overwatering, which could rot the bulbs.


Jan 26

When they were placed inside, the green strappy foliage with its white midribs emerged completely before the blooms. At eleven weeks into the process, the blooms themselves had fully emerged, almost dwarfing the container.  When I started, I wondered if 5 bulbs was too many for this small pot, but am now eager to try again with more bulbs planted, though I am not sure as many as 18 would work due to spacing issues.


The warmer the temperature was, the more open the blooms would get, which is a reason 18 might be too many in this container, considering how multiple blooms emerge from a single bulb. With no doubt, anyone who saw them in this open state would comment on their beauty, clearly thirsty for color.

Feb 2

Taking the forced bulbs to my house to enjoy their color and markings only caused them to go over quicker since the radiators were on winter blast inside. Though they didn’t last too much longer, the process had the same excitement that I had as growing plants as a child.  I am not even sure if it was Crocus ‘Pickwick’ either since there was more purple than striations on the petals and throat. Has anyone else forced Crocus bulbs? Any tip or story to share to make a more precise attempt next time? While winter has its fair share of beauty with the ice, snow, silhouettes, textures, seed heads and berries, the one department it can lack is color, and forcing the bulbs was one way to bring a splash of delight inside. The outside looks so pale in comparison….  – James