Gale Astley Reports: Green Greetings Pt. 2

Just like Gardeners’ World, in the second of a two-part ‘series’, writer and promo filmmaker, Gale Astley, asks green-fingered card publishers to talk about their verdant spaces, and, just like the BBC program’s Viewers’ Gardens spot, showcases their gardens in a specially produced video.

From plant nursery owner turned botanical artist to daughter of ‘Mr Digwell’, a gardening legend and Daily Mirror columnist, and equally those who just love to get ‘down and dirty’ in their little plot nurturing fruit, veg and flowers whilst offering a helping hand to wildlife, greeting card publishers’ gardens and allotments are not only a green oasis to relax and destress after the working day but are also a great source of inspiration for their designs.

‘My garden is my most beautiful masterpiece’, declared artist Claude Monet, who not only created the famous Water Lilies paintings but also was a keen horticulturalist; the Impressionist spent a fortune on plants for his Giverny garden, which became a great muse for his art.

Ever a creative bunch, it’s not surprising that nature-adoring greeting card publishing artists and designers are unearthing beautiful illustrations inspired by the love for their own gardens. (Card publishers dig up design inspiration from their gardens. Pictured left, a beautiful design by Kendra Binney from Roger la Borde’s Dreamland range).

Keen growers, Amanda and Frank Mountain, directors for Lola Design, are lucky to have been given an allotment within the beautiful city of York, where they grow a bounty of blooms and vegetables. “Our allotment and our little city back garden is a little sanctuary for our health and wellbeing. On the allotment we have put into practice the no dig style, which I can firmly say is a winner as we get to recycle all of our cardboard boxes and also create our own compost”, explains Amanda, adding, “I’ve always loved gardening, it’s one thing that has always stayed with me while growing up. Eating sunflower seeds on my grandad’s allotment and as an adult being able to grow them and appreciate the beauty of them, while also being able to roast the seeds later on in the year, it takes me back to my fond childhood memories.” (pictured top – wildlife botanical wren design from Lola Design).

An artist most of his life, Stephen Lennon, founder of card publisher Umbellifer (a family of plants with flowers in an umbrella formation) happily ran his own plant nursery for six years, but has now planted his roots firmly in the creative card realm. “I’ve been a bit of a mad gardener since I was given space to grow veg when I was 10. These days I’m into hardy perennial plants (they have to be hardy when you live high up in North Yorkshire!). I’ve never planned my garden and there’s no colour scheme but it’s all about bees, birds and nature. The more the better!”, says Stephen.

Pictured top left, the stunning fiery flowers of the Crocosmia Lucifer illustrated by Stephen Lennon from Umbellifer.

The garden has always been a big part of Middle Mouse’s Director, Rebecca Wright’s life as her dad was the Daily Mirror’s weekly columnist, ‘Mr Digwell’. “Since he passed away in 2018 I’ve raided his many books to further his gardening legacy. I use it as a place to work out, to grow food, to encourage wildlife and forget about the worries of the day”, explains Rebecca.

Her garden is also about encouraging wildlife, and she is a big fan of letting the garden grow a bit wild. Rebecca admits “My growing style is definitely ‘leave it alone’ and I don’t mind the odd weed here and there, especially if it attracts insects. I have attempted to split the garden into two, with roses, lilies and hydrangeas featuring heavily in our floral area, and pots and pots of nemesia on the patio. We try and have at least four raised beds for growing food. We always grow potatoes and onions, as these were Dad’s favourite, and we have two apple trees that give us plenty of fruit in September.”

Pictured centre bottom, Middle Mouse’s Director, Rebecca Wright’s wild garden.

Abacus Cards’ Studio Manager, Liz Ellis, loves gardening, finding it therapeutic, relaxing and a great way of destressing from everyday life, but from time to time, something we all can relate to, gardening can be trial and error. “We have a very small-town garden which is looking considerably sorry for itself at present especially in the current heat wave. My dream is to have an English cottage garden with a wildflower meadow. I love roses and country blooms such as foxgloves, delphiniums and peonies but sadly not all these plants like the conditions we have!” she reveals.
And even though Liz lives in town she is frequented by lots of wildlife. She says, “Our plants are regularly trimmed or unearthed by muntjac deer who are resident in the water meadow close by. We also have lots of garden birds who frequently use our plot to feed and nest, and, in addition, there are several squirrels who love chasing along the fences and burying walnuts, which we have to uproot in spring.”

The BBC Springwatch range from Abacus Cards raises a smile with its customers.

Squirrels and the natural world in general are a perennial source of inspiration for Roger la Borde’s stationery ranges, which are full of wildlife and the natural world. “We are a team of allotment-having, flower-growing and wilderness-loving Londoners who cherish the peace of mind (and literal breath of fresh air) a garden can bring: the colours, the sounds, the meditative aspects of tending to green and growing things. It’s no coincidence that we repeatedly commission our artists to bring these themes to life for us” believes Helena Maratheftis, Marketing Manager for the publisher.

Living in a city or an apartment, like so many, some card publishers and designers don’t have a green patch to call their own. But after 8 years of living in a flat without a garden, Anna Price, Head of Design for Hotchpotch London is over the moon to be moving to a new home with her own little outside plot. “Its only small, but it has a little outdoor space for a cup of tea in the morning sunshine, alfresco dining or BBQ – the things I’ve missed! It will take me a little while to create the garden how I’d like it but I hope to include my favourite flowers. My grandparents all had beautiful gardens, and I want to include plants and flowers which they had to remind me of them: hollyhocks, lavender, delphiniums, hydrangeas, buddleia and roses are just a few!”

Jazmin Carter, senior designer for Paper Rose, lives in the city with only a very small concrete garden with a few potted plants, but she has overcome the green challenge, even adding a couple of ‘wild’ cats into the mix. “My garden mainly exists within my house in the form of many houseplants to bring some of the outdoors indoors. With the lack of outdoor space having my home filled with plants really helps to bring me happiness and makes me feel more connected to the natural world, especially post Covid when many of us are still working from home,” she shares.

Pictured centre left: The greenery and ‘wildlife’ within Paper Rose’s Jazmin Carter’s home.

Nurturing and creating their own little Eden, filling it with colour and form, it’s understandable that card publishers and designers become inspired and want to artistically capture the flora and fauna within their gardens.

“My passion for flowers is clearly reflected within my wildlife botanical animal designs, the combination of the two beautiful natural world elements really works. One of the flowers that popped up in the first year of us having our allotment plot was a snake head fritillary, an absolutely beautiful delicate perennial which I was in awe of as I had never seen one before then. This particular flower inspired our botanical Wren art card”, reveals Lola Design’s Amanda Mountain.

Rush Design’s Lorraine and Ian Bradley have created and grafted at producing a stunning garden that to them is so much more than just a garden. “It is an extra room outside the house. This is where we go (weather permitting) for morning coffee, evening chillouts and anytime relaxation and inspiration”, explains Lorraine, adding: “From bee-friendly floral borders to happy hydrangeas and tropical tree-ferns, when I see how nature explores its colour palette and textures this inspires my card designs.”

Pictured centre, part of Rush Design’s Ian and Lorraine’s chillout garden.

The garden that Umbellifer’s Stephen Lennon owns is quite tiny at 3.5 metres square, and he takes no leafy prisoners, changing plants often if they are not pulling their weight! But his small but beautiful patch is a muse for his card designs all year round: “Whenever I need inspiration I look to my garden or gardens in my neighbourhood. Even in winter there’s always something interesting.”
With her studio looking out over the garden, Middle Mouse’s Rebecca Wright artwork is constantly informed by what it’s doing on any one particular day. “Our Floribunda and My Patch ranges were all directly inspired by a particularly good border we had in 2018. We had a really good show from a white star dahlia and I couldn’t stop sketching it, so it features quite a lot in my work. The ‘Cottage Garden’ card is practically the view from our patio back then, and a lovely snapshot into the past”, she says.

Pictured bottom right: A stunning Middle Mouse design inspired by director Rebecca’s garden.

Producing some wonderful wildlife ranges, Abacus Cards’ popular BBC Springwatch collection especially brings a smile to its customers’ faces. “Others obviously share my enjoyment of watching nature and the antics these wild animals and birds get up to”, believes Studio Manager, Liz: “Nature is a wonderful source of inspiration. We work with some amazing photographers who have managed to capture and portray some brilliant wildlife shots, some of which are comical.”
And it’s not just publishers’ own gardens that are fertile for greeting card inspiration. Looking a little further afield to botanically wondrous public and open gardens, flower shows and rural spots can also spark the creative flow. Such was the case for Hotchpotch Senior Designer Anna Price was brought up in a little village near Oxford and always loved visiting Waterperry Gardens: “The borders there were spectacular and I had them in mind when designing my Oh! Dotty collection for Hotchpotch London”, she conveys.

Pictured bottom left:  Oh! Dotty from Hotchpotch London, inspired by Oxford’s Waterperry Gardens.

Collectively, the Paper Rose team love going outdoors and spending time in nature. “Especially living in the city, I think it forces you to get outside more and explore places you wouldn’t usually go”, believes Jazmin Carter, senior designer for the company. “At the weekends I love going for walks around the local nature reserve and seeing all the amazing flora and fauna and how it changes with the seasons”, she adds.

Paper Rose’s ‘Flower Show’ range (centre left) shows the Brits’ love for the outdoors. It’s a collection inspired by the beautiful British countryside and its wonderful insects and animals.

From Monet’s attachment to nature and his garden he produced his infamous beautiful paintings, and following in the Impressionist’s foot steps down this ‘garden path’, the natural world continues to plant inspiration in the greeting card field. Lorraine from Rush Designs sums it up perfectly when she says, “If you nurture and love your garden it rewards you many-fold with what it gives back. Never forget the power of nature to inspire and invigorate the soul.”

Tree fern foliage and a party of parakeets on a Rush Design card (centre right), inspired by the garden of the company’s directors Ian and Lorraine.

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