When Fashion and Nature Collide – September 2019: Shoe Lust and Wings

I will start with the usual reminder of who we are, for new visitors.

The team consists of Dominique Nancy of 3C Style in Canada, Lisa Lawrence of Lismore Paper in the USA, and myself in the UK. We work closely each month to bring you three intertwined posts with a common theme. We are all three very creative people who met via our WP blogs. We have a shared ethos and a close friendship. Our motto – ‘An ocean apart but we share the same heart’ describes us perfectly. The five hour time difference means I spend my morning commute catching up with their conversations during the night, and waiting for them to wake up so I can join in!

Make sure you visit Dominique and Lisa via the links above, to see the whole of the post.

My promise to return with non WFNC posts was almost broken, but a week off work and an internal ass-kicking prompted me to finally post something yesterday!

However, preparations for this WFNC and some subsequent ones have been continuing apace! And some more drawing got done!

I also want to pay tribute to my two partners, who are a source of constant joy and inspiration. Thank you both from the bottom of my heart for being part of my life.

Corydalis elata

Collage and styling by Dominique, Bluebird and art by Lisa

Related to poppies, believe it or not. Corydalis is a widespread genus in the Northern hemisphere and is concentrated in the far East and the Himalaya, with a few species in Europe and North America. I wrote about them in more detail back in February.

Collage and styling by Dominique, Bluebird and art by Lisa

There are a number of blue flowered far Eastern species and their hybrids in cultivation now. The C. elata illustrated is neither common nor easy, but I can thoroughly recommend C β€˜Craigton Blue’, a hybrid from C. elata bred by my friends Ian and Maggi Young in Aberdeen and now available at many nurseries in the UK.

The first blue Corydalis to cause a sensation in the gardening world was C. flexuosa, introduced in several forms in the 1980s and still around. If it has a fault, though possibly useful in dry areas, it is that it tends to go dormant during the heat of summer. The hybrids are more inclined to stay evergreen.

All these blue species want a fairly cool, moist and partially shady position in the garden. They benefit greatly from frequent division and replanting – just as Primula do.

Lady Slipper Orchid

Collage and styling by Dominique. See 3C Style for photo credits.
Collage by Dominique

The resemblance of the slipper orchids to shoes has inspired my buddies to talk about shoes. As I have said on my blog before – the female love for shoes is one of the mysteries that a mere male like myself has no chance of understanding.

The slipper orchids have a mystery all of their own. The species native to the UK, Cypripedium calceolus, was all but extinct having been reduced to a single known wild plant by the middle of the last century. The solo known wild plant was then (in the 1990s) crossed by Kew with plants in gardens thought to have been taken from the wild decades ago. The resulting seedlings were distributed to selected growers (including myself) for growing on prior to reintroduction to the wild.

Cypripedium claceolus – one of the Kew seedlings.

The reintroduction was very successful and plants are now thriving on a number of reserves in the North of England.

The Slipper Orchids actually comprise several genera – Cypripedium are the hardy ones from the Northern hemisphere right up to the Arctic. Phragmipedium are tropical plants from South America and Paphiopedilum are their counterparts in tropical Asia. These latter are the ones commonly seen in orchid displays and for sale, though the hardy Cypripedium are now getting commonly available in garden centres, sustainably grown from seed and no longer wild collected. I can grow the hardy ones but don’t ask me how to grow the tropical ones….

The team have a collective dream of a tropical greenhouse attached to a shared studio!

Cypripedium reginae. The Queen lady’s slipper from Eastern USA and Canada normally has a pink ‘shoe’ but this form is fully white and was bought for less than Β£10 in a UK garden centre, raised from seed. This species is native to both Michigan and Quebec where my two partners live.
A Paphiopedilum – photo by Dominique
A Phragmipedium – photo by Dominique.

Owl Butterfly

Collage and styling by Dominique, art by Lisa. See 3C Style for fashion photo credits.
Collage and styling by Dominique, Shoe art by Lisa.

The Owl Butterfly (Caligo). The article on these from the UK Natural History Museum is far more amusing than anything I could produce! The preserved specimen above was photographed by me at the Insectarium in the Montreal Botanic Gardens a year ago. Dominique and I have both photographed live ones since then.

Butterflies have also been on my mind artistically recently, as I produced this drawing of the Painted Lady butterfly:

And with some digital assistance it went to visit last month’s Lavender drawing!

Come back and visit for another edition in October, for which I got caffeinated and went a bit nutty….

Shop links:

My own prints

Fashioned by Nature


  1. This is fueling my desire to have that shared studio and tropical greenhouse. You are a constant source of inspiration my friend. You also bring so much joy and creativity. Its an honor. Your butterfly is absolutely spectacular. I am so happy you started to add critters to your drawings. The most talented artist I know. The presentation this month is astounding. I always love to see what you come up with and this is one of the most beautiful. We are going to get you to love shoes yet lol.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. You are so kind Lisa! In the spirit of your post – I have definitely been spreading my own wings artistically thanks to you two! Drawing the butterfly was completely engrossing and I learned a lot during the process.
      Good luck with the shoes thing πŸ˜‰

      Liked by 4 people

  2. Such a beautiful and meaningful post. I like learning about plants, seeing your photos, and I am in awe with your drawings. You make this seem effortless. You are definitely spreading your wings my dear friend and it fills me with joy. You and Lisa are so inspiring. I can’t imagine my life without you both. Fingers crossed for that shared studio and tropical greenhouse. xx

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thank you Dominique. It is not effortless but I am overcoming the lack of confidence that was the biggest hurdle. You and Lisa backing me up has made a huge difference to that. I feel the same way about you two and I think we could all do with that shared space to retreat to right now. x

      Liked by 2 people

  3. The orchids and your drawings are just lovely, Darren. They bring a little smile to my face. I hope they bring a little joy to you too. The colours in the orchids are quite similar to those of the nepenthes (and yes, my nerdy family has a small number of plants). The blue and brown palette quite tickled my fancy for another reason that I am sure you are aware of, lol. Well done you three.

    Liked by 5 people

  4. Beautiful photos and I just adore the butterfly drawing. Would love to see that on a card or merch. I think you could break up this post (or ones like it) in future to one plant and fashion shoot per post – it gives readers a better chance to appreciate a single image/colour scheme/fashion selection rather than being crowded by too many at once. The orchid one is particularly stunning!

    Liked by 4 people

  5. I love your drawings of the lavender and the butterfly. Both are exquisite Darren, as is everything else in yet another collaborative masterpiece. Keep spreading your wings. A beautiful post.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I’d never have thought that the Corydalis flats are related to poppies! They look glorious! As do the slipper orchids which I haven’t seen before but, being a woman, fell instantly in love with of course. πŸ˜‰ Also I discovered my passion for shoes rather late because my feet are quite tiny and I never got nice ones here in Germany, but when I went on holidays in Spain, where people are usually not so tall as in the northern parts of Europe, I finally got the craze. πŸ˜‰ Maybe you simple need to travel to Italy one day – they make fantastic shoes even for men. πŸ˜‰
    Your butterflies are simply a dream – as I said before, I swear I can feel those tiny hairs on their back just by looking at them! ❀

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thank you Sarah. My huge UK size 11 feet look like I am wearing canoes no matter how nice the shoes are. I am basically L – shaped in profile. Italy seems to be the go-to place for fashion. Dominique took me clothes shopping in Montreal – she would go crazy in Milan!

      Liked by 3 people

  7. This collaboration is so lovely. I have to admit, it took me some time to ‘get it’, but that’s because I’m not the sharpest tool in the shed. A few sandwiches short of a picnic they say…whatever that means. Anyway love these – I think these are my favorites so far. Butterfly shoes πŸ™‚

    Liked by 4 people

  8. I love the idea of a shared Tropical Greenhouse. Lovely collaboration and beautiful plants. The slipper orchids were so special. I am glad that Kew sent you some of the rare crossed seedlings to propogate. They couldn’t have picked greener thumbs anywhere. You have a special knack for growing such beauty, Darren. 😍

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Thank you Colette. The reintroduction project was initially not well managed as they seemed to keep no records of who received plants. Also – growers, myself at least, were given no warning of our involvement or even asked to take part. I got a parcel of 80 seedlings out of the blue and a set of instructions – which involved compost ingredients impossible to get locally and necessitated a 100 mile car journey whilst the poor things sat in a bag in the fridge for several days. Amazingly they survived.

      Liked by 2 people

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