We’ve had a busy few weeks at Hollybush Conservation Centre, creating nature inspired artworks and poems using the natural resources around us.

From home made red clover tea, hand dyed fabrics using plants and flowers, to sailing miniature rafts down the canal and a visit to Armley Mills Colour Garden, here’s a flavour of the work created along with individual and group poems….

DANDELION – group poem, compiled by Matthew

Sun-in-the-grass, Lion’s-mane, Starburst-in-the-clover,

Spikey-golden-suns, Fool’s-gold, Pennies-from-Heaven,

Sunflower’s-friend, Sunshine-smile, Golden-crown,

Chase-you, Make-You-Smile, Golden-burst,

Roly-poly-down-the-dell, Lawn-intruder, Spot-the-lawn,



Jagged-leaf, Sheep’s-salad, Lion’s-tooth-lettuce,

Arrow-head, Sharp-tooth, Rabbit’s-delight,

Chisel-flower, Petal-metal, Arrow-leaf,

Bitter-salad, Look-at-me-leaves,

Heal-all, Cool-the-body, Wet-the-bed,



Flossy head, Shepherd’s-clock, Old-woman’s-perm,

Fairies-dispersing, Blow-away bells, Fluffy lollipop,

Bug’s duvet, Light-stick’s-blow, Tickle-my-chin,

Soft-touch-on-my-face, Feathered-orb, Angel’s-head,

Floss-on-a-lollipop, Dream-carrier, Angel’s whisper,



Nature’s spaghetti, Burdock’s-friend, Coffee-of-the-earth,

Deep-down-dirt-digger, Long-lived-teenager, Sticky-sappy-straws,

Dirt-invader, White-toothed-digger,


Dandelion images by Pat

DANDELION – by Marlene

Dare to pick them, mother said,

And you’ll be sorry, you wet the bed.

Never touch that sunny head

Daisies and buttercups are best instead.

Enlightened more, now are we.

Leaves for salad and for tea

In go petals, taste how sweet

Ours to pick this healthy treat

Never mind what mothers say

So look for them and pick away!


Dandy, yes you are!

Ask anyone who knows you

Not shy at all

Delighting us with  your yellow-orange brilliance

Edgy petals, toothy lion!

Looking the part, nodding to the children going to school, waving at the drivers

I can blow your seeds and wonder if s/he loves me?

Or gather your spear shaped leaves for salad

Not a weed, you are  an exclamation of Spring,

DANDELION you make me want to sing.

LAVENDER TEA – group poem, compiled by Matthew

It smells lovely, but it tastes like something you shouldn’t have drunk.

It savours of soap and of sucking the bath sponge when you were a baby,

And brings back memories of peeping into grandparents’ drawers without permission.

It’s good for migraines and, in tea, it can increase your powers of clairvoyance.

No wonder the birds started singing when we poured it out –

Their music augurs well for the future.


Spray the bed or scent the bath,

The odour brings calm and relieves anxiety.

It’s said to ward off the evil eye and to send lions and tigers to sleep –

Though we wouldn’t fancy waving it in front of a big cat’s face –

And to be honest, some of us are getting quite a buzz off this!

Happily, it’s a calm buzz – a friendly vibration – like a bee in the back of the mind –

And, although it tastes bitter, it’s provided us with plenty of inspiration.


A fairy’s favourite, inhaling the scent can grant you the power to see ghosts.

It perfumed the whole house while I was making it.

Who knows what spirits I may have conjured in the process …



Spikes of lavender

Scent of my Grandmother





I found a box of creamy lavender  soap, delicate, tissue wrapped,

Smooth between my hands

Creamed into suds  between my palms, aroma of childhood

Wands, sachets and salts for Christmas gifting

That’s the chair where sick grandchildren sleep

Worn, torn, creaking, sun faded, its  arms  like  papery skin,

Feverish foreheads dabbed with cooling eau de cologne

Milky bowls of arrowroot spooned into pursed mouths

This is the place for stories: the fire flickers in the range

Broths of love, tinctures and balms, rhymes and charms

Lavender calms

Grandmother wears a lavender blouse,

Lavender and roses petals  perfume her house

She talks to the spirits where she sleeps

Astral travelling, a night of lucid dreams.

I open the flower fairy book, upon the lavender page and

Remember  stories from my earliest age.

“Lavenders blue dilly dilly, Lavenders green……..”

Creating Haperzome prints – a Japanese printmaking method transferring the natural pigments found in leaves and flowers by hammering the flowers between fabric.

T-shirt made by Pat at home using haperzome prints.

Making rafts to float down the canal..

THE CANAL – Group poem, compiled by Matthew


A tranquil corridor of peace

In between the buzzing of the pylons

The burst of rap from a passing cyclist

The drone of the dragonflies

Chatter on the towpath

The percussion of the cans in the litter-picker’s sack

The resonant throb of the motor-mower

The squabble of the birds in the trees

The distant signals from the trainline


On the surface:

Skating insects – water boatmen

Breeze-ripples on the meniscus

Old cans and a half-filled water bottle

Water lilies like green stepping-stones

The eddying dance of a dying bee

The world above reflected – sky and trees, rushes and pylons –

The ladies of Hollybush sail slowly by, caught in the wakes of the passing barges.

The swan’s feather wins the race –

Whipping past on a light breeze


Beneath the water:

Twitching tadpoles in the process of transformation.

Rippling ribbons of water grass, caught by the sunlight.

A flotilla of tiddlers nibbling at the weeds

The dark shapes of sunken stones, discarded bricks, or undiscovered treasure

A walk along the canal to Armley Mills Colour Garden and exhibition exploring natural dyes.


Breeze, birdsong, chatter

Laughter, mower, batter

Train horn, solid, water

Creating colour charts and trying solar dyeing with plants and flowers.

Marlene’s dyes – fab range of colours!

Anne’s selection of dyed fabrics.

Peter records the range of acids and alkali’s the group will use to change the dyed fabrics.


Red cabbage and turmeric combined: dyes green.

Solar-dyed convolvulus

Tipped out on a tray,

Rinsed with rainwater,

Has made my day,

At Hollybush.

There is not much colour change though …


Marlene using purple petunia at home to create the green adding bicarbonate of soda and the purple by adding white vinegar.

We all have a go at dyeing fabric using solar dyes and adding acid and alkali’s such as bicarbonate of soda, baking powder, iron water from rusty nails and vinegar to create some colourful bunting.

Marlene is hooked and has created these lovely pieces using home made natural dyes.

And Matthew created this poem as we made the bunting, collecting people’s imagined names for the colours created…

PLANT-DYE COLOUR CHART – group poem, compiled by Matthew

Convolvulus – A beautiful white, bell-like flower – an amazing, winding stem for the architecture. Spade like leaves – gives a dye the colour of champagne; or a little lamb’s tail; or vegetarian poo, in the darker shades.

Lavender Menace – An old name for lesbians or other women who didn’t like doing what they were told. It is delicately bruised and looks like it’s been in a fight. It is the colour of the noise you make with your breath when you stub your toe.

A Rose is a Rose is a Rose – Though it comes out differently on different materials. It is soft and old-fashioned – good for a jumper or a flowery shirt. Not dandyish enough for Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen, but good enough for Matthew and Marlene.

Gracious Goddess/Conscious Chorophyll – Sage on tissue paper. A good colour for knickers. Clad in sage-green underwear, I fast become a dryad in the wood. A colour to bring me back to nature. A forest next to my skin.

Violent Tights and Bleached Redhead – The colour of Saturday night leg cream in the 1990s and badly-dyed ginger hair.

Country Sage – A sort of sludgy green. Earthy camouflage – a colour to wear to hide among the trees. Perfect for watching wary birds or stalking someone through the forest …

Bedtime Pink – Valerian can make you sleepy. This is soft and fleshy like the inside of a pig’s ear. Slightly pearlescent on the silk – a faded, old-fashioned colour, like a grandmother’s chemise.

Porcelain Doll – The colour of ancient skin. Is it insipid or is it delicate? Pale may be interesting but I’m more about the greens – spinach or apple leaf or frog-butt for me.

Honey-Straw – Like wholemeal flour with the bran left in. The colour of fields on a late summer evening or a comfortable digestive with a nice cup of tea.


We are making with pride,

Using acid and alkali,

Hanging out on a washing line.

Comes the sun?

Comes the rain?

Entertained by juvenile robins.

Some more lovely artwork by Pat and a few more poems…..


Elder, tree of the wayside


I dare you to sleep under my perfumed canopy

I am your  home’s protector sending the devil on his way

See these knots?

They are my  eyes,   take not a branch or berry without asking

Breath of breeze fingers florets of  cream lace umbels, floating mote like to the ground.

Cordials fizz on a long summer’s day, chattering birds playful in my branches.

Can you  hear music from my pith pipes mingle with the blackbird evensong?

I am the fire tree, friend of the Smithy,

Keeping the flames glowing and alight,

Here, take these   leaves,  a poultice to heal your  wounds,

Taste my purple wine, an elixir against winter chills,

Bark, leaf, flower, and berry,

Dye your wool, and  weave a spell into each skein.

When days shorten, branches bared,

Gather, tell stories about  me,

And I Elder will come to you  after winter’s darker days.


ELDER TREE – by Marlene

Elder tree among the hedgerow,

Laden heavy with her ware

Dances to the blackbird’s song

Every summer, all day long

Reaching out for us to share.


To prepare lotions, potions

Rejuvenating skin and hair.

Elder blossoms make my tea,

Elder berries good for me!



Red buds, close bonnet heads, creeping low and sometimes high.

Early, or maybe it was afternoon,

Drinking the sugary nectar just like the bees, sucking goodness, under thunderous skies


Clover, will you easy my heart? Trefoil leaves, bring me luck?

Letting your medicine fill me, my bones, blood, and woman’s course.

Or is it just a folktale?

Vital for the ground

Earth fixed with nitrogen, bountiful legume, you sow and reap.

Red clover, that was the gift I gave you.


CHESTNUT TREE – by Marlene

Curling up inside your shell

Hold on tight don’t let go.

Ever waiting till you swell

Staying snug until you grow.


Then you’re ready to be freed

Now it’s time to drop your seed.

Under leaves, a child’s delight

The shiny nut peeping bright.


IVY – by Marlene

Chestnut tree, chestnut tree, I

Have a place to hide.

Ever staying close to me

Spread leafy fingers wide.

Twisting through your branches old

New companions seen.

Under you a carpet gold

Though I stay evergreen.


SILVER BIRCH – by Marlene

Seven sisters on a hill

In a ring back to back.

Living landmark straight and still

Viewed to keep us on the track.

Ever, forever show the way

Round and round, but there to stay.


Bricks and mortar on the land

In with planners, builders and

Rearing giants cause turmoil,

Concrete slabs where once was soil.

Houses to forever spoil.



The spirit of a sister sees

A little girl with love of trees.

In a garden very near

A silver sapling tended dear.


NETTLE – by Matthew

Needle haired and nutrient rich

Earthy, fibrous, urticating

Tasty, protein-packed, anti-inflammatory

Traditional medicine

Leafy barrier

Ecuadorean criminal scourge


ELDER TREE – by Matthew

Elegant blossom in summer

Lush dark fruit in Autumn

Dipped in batter, the flowers make excellent fritters –

Even the fair-folk would agree.

Rich dyes and beautiful music

Tea, cordial, jam, chutney, syrup, wine, champagne

Remedies for coughs and colds

Eye lotions, skin cleansers, and spiritual protection

Elder offers all this and more


ELDER – by Matthew

Scent of cat piss signals summer

Soft blossoms shed tiny flowerheads on sunburnt skin

Sparkling cordial adds a touch of rural charm to a posh picnic

Strange figures dance beneath the branches on a starlit night

Satan spits a savage curse from the flames of the firepit

A sad disciple dies within her branches

Steeping petals soothe away sore throats and stuffy sinuses


CHAMOMILE TEA IN MIDDLETON PARK – group poem, compiled by Matthew

Comforting, comfortable chamomile,

Mellow like a big hug.

It licks around your tongue,

And seems to freshen your mouth.


Yellow flowers, white sepals

Its scent is sweet as honey

No need to add sugar to this brew.


Caffeine free and soporific,

We’re melting into our chairs as we sip it in the park.

Even the hoverflies are taking an interest,

Drawn perhaps by the aroma …


A potential lawn replacement

And the National flower of Russia

If only Putin could add some to his vodka,

It might chill him out a little bit.


It’s even good for hangovers, according to the Scots,

Although, if we keep on sipping,

We’re more likely to be dreaming,

Than out in the bars doing shots …


DAISY – by Pat

You are a flower child,

Barefooted  stepping across summer lawns,

You surpass the blades of grass,

Eyes bright and clear,

Daisy chain gifts:  Smiles, Love Rhymes,

Songs and Dance,

Under a cloudless  sky

Days go

By, and by

Circles of summers intertwine with memories of


Days bright and Days long

You are a flower child






DAISY – by Pat

Sipping delicate chamomile  tea

Smelling of honey

Calms my mind

A small flower,

Creates a  wave of natural  harmony

Breath and mind are one


Under the microscope, your spirals of mathematical


Inside  an essence that   heals, a  place of  less anxiety


One day they will say that daisy” loves us all”

That it was daisy,

Yes, simple prolific,

Trampled underfoot daisy

That held the cure.


Family flowering

community petals

dancing anthers

seeking answers

singing out their scents

and undertones

to Bees.


Hoverflies however

fly near…

to perch, to nectar taste

of Chamomile and Daisy flower

and unintentionally pollinate

each and every one

of Nature’s Parliaments.


Our last session for this term was at Roundhay Park, where we hung out the bunting – thanks to Marlene for sewing it all together, painted small watercolours and wrote more poems…



At Roundhay Park

travelling bright

travelling light


in Merc

People carrier



to the edge

of the bandstand shelter

unfurling bunting



Milk Thistle Tea

(with disgusting aftertaste!!)


Buzzed by Council mower

droning on

while cutting grass


Collie dogs

chasing balls

herding their toys.


We also play out our words,



MILK THISTLE TEA – Group poem, compiled by Matthew

Roll up! Roll up!

Come and see the Silybum Marianum –

World-famous Hepatic Wonder!

Cleanses the liver in ways you would not believe!

Makes the tip of your tongue buzz and curl,

And leaves your tastebuds zapped and zinging.

The nastier the taste, the better it is for you –

And you won’t find nastier than this.

Completely unpalatable without a shot of honey,

A piece of chocolate or a glass of whiskey.

Nevertheless, it’ll do you good!

Emetic, diuretic,

Anti-inflammatory and anti-viral,

Silybum Marianum

Protects against bone-decay,

Improves brain function,

Lowers blood sugar,

Boosts breast milk production,

Prevents acne,

Combats plague,

Reduces the side-effects of cancer treatment,

And remedies poisoning.

Donkey’s delight and scourge of invading Norsemen,

This prickly panacea is one herbal remedy you can’t afford to be without.

Don’t delay – buy yours today.

And if you’re ever in doubt about which herbal medicine to go for,

Just remember – thistle do!

N.B. Milk thistle has been used as a folk remedy for hundreds of years. Despite this, there is no clinical evidence that it has any medicinal effect. In addition, milk thistle may cause stomach upsets and trigger allergic reactions in some users. Skippko does not endorse this product in any way and cannot accept responsibility for any side-effects caused by the ingestion of milk thistle tea or other milk thistle derived products, or for any allergic reactions arising from the reading of this poem.



Standing alone in the field of grazed grass

Pressed against the edges of a path

Bold  sharp speared edges

A thrust of bearded seeds,

The end of summer

A crisp leaf  cracks underfoot

Matted hairs, soft tufts of wind born fruit

Cleansing Milk Thistle

A tisane bitter to taste

Every stem, leaf, bud and flower, no waste


SHELTER BY THE UPPER LAKE – Group poem, compiled by Matthew

A wooden octagon providing sanctuary –

Shelter from rain and shade from the heat

A parkour paradise for powered up toddlers

A perfect panopticon in black and white and green.


A starting place for over-stretched joggers

A stopping place for dozing OAPs

A midnight rendez-vous for park rats and itinerant foxes

A headquarters for cider-swilling teens


An all-inclusive meeting point, a landmark in the park

A spot for sipping tea or sharing sweets

A place for trysting lovers, business meetings, dying breaths,

Any bottom more than welcome on these seats

And a final poem from Marlene after the last session…

With friends in the park

We hear Milk thistle poems and stories.

We sip the drink “medicine ” I think!

And with greens and blues we paint the views.

Then say our goodbyes with sadness and sighs

And hope that this pleasure continues!


Thanks to National Lottery Funding the group will be back in the Autumn….


feature image by Peter – fungi found when some of the group arranged a litter pick down the canal.