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,
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,
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!
DANDELION – by Pat
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 …
LAVENDER MEMORY – by Pat
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
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.
BODY-LIFE-WALK – by Peter
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.
NOT MUCH COLOUR CHANGE – by Peter
Red cabbage and turmeric combined: dyes green.
Tipped out on a tray,
Rinsed with rainwater,
Has made my day,
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.
DOCUMENTING BUNTING – by Peter
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 – by Pat
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 CLOVER – by Pat
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
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
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.
COMPOSITAE – by Peter
singing out their scents
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…
UNDER THE CANOPY ‘ON TOUR’ AT ROUNDHAY PARK – by Peter
At Roundhay Park
to the edge
of the bandstand shelter
Milk Thistle Tea
(with disgusting aftertaste!!)
Buzzed by Council mower
while cutting grass
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!
Anti-inflammatory and anti-viral,
Protects against bone-decay,
Improves brain function,
Lowers blood sugar,
Boosts breast milk production,
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.
MILK THISTLE – by Pat
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.