When Fashion and Nature Collide – October 2019: Nuts, Beans, Berries

In which Darren gets caffeinated and his nuts cause much amusement…

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.

Yes, I know I have been utterly hopeless at posting since last month. I don’t know what to say except life got in the way.

The first two plants covered this month were identified as a match for an outfit Dominique wore during my visit in May. This was not a planned shoot (it was tagged on to our shoot at ERA vintage inside the building). As often happens with us – this spontaneous moment produced images we both love.

Collage and Styling by Dominique. Photos by me.

Puna subterranea

This cactus was one of a very few species in the genus Puna but this has now been absorbed into the much bigger genus Maihueniopsis. These cacti are South American relatives of the hardy Opuntia (Prickly Pears) of North America. They share a habitat preference – arid and exposed areas with hot summers and often very cold winters. If kept dry many species will tolerate temperatures below -20C.

Like most Opuntiads – spines are backed up with tiny barbed hairs called glochids which brush off and get into the skin very easily, causing intense irritation.

This species, like the other ‘Puna’, has a huge tap-root below ground and the bulk of the plant is actually subterranean – hence the name. Because of this it requires careful watering in cultivation so that the tap-root does not rot.

Distribution of this species is in high altitude areas of Argentina and Bolivia where it is practically invisible when not in flower. It requires a cold winter and maximum light in order to produce flower buds in cultivation. I find a good flowering is followed by a fallow year as the plant recovers. The flowers are very attractive to bees and it is always a delight to see them at work.

Photo 09-06-2018, 09 04 37.jpg

Photo 09-06-2018, 10 37 20.jpg

Sorbus vilmorinii

The genus Sorbus is divided into two main groups: the Aria group or ‘Service Trees’ which have full rounded leaves with a little lobing on the edges, and the Aucuparia group – ‘ Mountain Ash’ – which have leaves divided into numerous leaflets and have a light and airy appearance.

Sorbus vilmorinii belongs to the latter group and has berries that are quite variable in colour. This pale pink/peach one in my own garden was a good match for the top Dominique is wearing in the fashion photos and reflects the colour of the Puna flowers too.

Sorbus vilmorinii.jpg

I can thoroughly recommend the various species of Mountain Ash as a small tree for gardens. They are beautiful all year round and never get too big. Size does vary: The tiny alpine species Sorbus reducta and Sorbus poteriifolia only reach a few inches in height and are good rock garden plants. Sorbus fruticosa is a shrub that reaches waist-high and has brilliant white berries that are very briefly backed by the lovely autumn foliage – but the leaves soon drop after turning colour.Photo 29-09-2018, 14 45 06.jpg

Our native Sorbus aucuparia or ‘Rowan’ is beautiful too, with its airy foliage and bright orange-red berries that can be used for making delicious jelly. We need to be quick though – the birds love the berries too!


Some More Berries!


Collage and coffee cup photo by Dominique. Other photos by me.

I can’t say much about the plant and its cultivation except to say that I do now have a specimen in my office which was a gift from Dominique for my Birthday in August.

My similarly coffee addicted buddy Linda despairs of me because I often drink instant coffee at home and work. Yes, I know, but I can simply not be bothered with all the washing up after the real thing so I drink the real stuff in coffee shops where someone else gets to wash up. Also there are two other reasons I drink instant:

  1.  It is quick to make. We only have a small kitchen at work and I can’t stand being in there when it is crowded – instant means I can be in and out as fast as possible!
  2. I worked night shifts for the first 7 years of my working life. At 3AM I do not care where my caffeine comes from as long as I get some!

Coffee ‘beans’ are really the stones taken from a berry and the plant (Coffea arabica mostly, though other species are used) is unrelated to the true beans. It does make a lovely foliage plant for the home. There is even one in a big pot in the reception area at my workplace – which was very handy when I wanted leaves to photograph for this post….

Originally native to tropical highlands of Africa and Asia, coffee is now grown in suitable climates all over the world.

I have separate plans for a coffee shop rant post but am wary of being barred from the coffee shops of Lancaster..

Lancaster has the oldest working coffee roasters in the country – Atkinsons. The smell outside on roasting days is mouth-watering! They have a very picturesque retail shop on the premises, and a cafe of course. You can see photos from the shop in this post.

Collage and styling by Dominique. See 3C Style for fashion photo credits. Other photos by me.



Also – Dominique and I both independently took other arty photos for use in this post.

In my case, very much inspired by Dominique’s photos, I visited Atkinson’s and obtained an old coffee sack and some coffee beans (Monsoon Malabar – my favourite), liberated some leaves from the coffee plant in reception at work and used a couple of picturesque brass items I already had. Lighting was a Lumimuse 8 LED. The whole thing was set up on my drawing desk one evening. 

Photo 18-09-2019, 19 17 33.jpg

Photo 18-09-2019, 19 25 31.jpg

The brass items, incidentally, are an antique letter scale from a post office which I picked up in my local antique shop. And the other ones are a set of antique proportional dividers. I went on a botanical art workshop some years ago and the lady there told me that proportional dividers were extremely useful and could be bought cheaply on ebay now that most drawing and design offices had converted to digital. Sure enough – ebay had one seller disposing of several pairs of old brass proportional dividers in wooden boxes. Not only are they very useful but are very attractive objects too. They have also given me an idea for another funny blog post…

Gorse (Ulex europaeus)

Collage and Styling by Dominique, See 3C Stle for fashion photo credit. Gorse photo by me.

The scent of Gorse flowers on warm spring days, a mix of coconut and vanilla, is one of my favourites. The flowers themselves are a beautiful golden yellow. Locally it flowers at the same time as the Bluebell and the Cowslip, and Early Purple Orchids at the rather wonderful local nature reserve at Warton Crag.

Gorse at rear, Cowslip in mid ground, Bluebell in foreground. At Warton Crag, Lancashire, overlooking Morecambe Bay
Photo 13-07-2019, 12 19 50.jpg

A member of the pea and bean family, this shrub is rarely grown in gardens because it is not especially attractive out of flower and is ferociously spiny. In it’s native British Isles and Western Europe it is a welcome sight but it is a real problem in countries where it has been introduced – Western US, Chile and New Zealand especially, where it was introduced for hedging.

There is an ornamental selection with double-flowers and this is occasionally available in UK garden centres. It has the added benefit of being sterile and does not produce seeds. 


Those of you who follow me on Instagram will have seen that the theme of the month has been nuts. In more ways than one….

‘Darren’s Nuts’ have caused many outbreaks of laughter during our team Skype calls and other communications. Quite why the ladies find this phrase so funny is beyond me. Being naive and innocent like I am, I fear they are corrupting me.

This month Dominique has a special guest who would really appreciate nuts! Pop over and visit!

We are working on new designs for our shops based upon my walnut drawings, Lisa has shown some artwork artwork she has created around my basic drawings. Her creativity never ceases to amaze me ! Collaborations are such fun ! Here is a preview of the process, you can see more over at Lismore Paper:

Collage by Dominique, Walnut drawings by me. Final artwork design by Lisa.

The English Walnut, Juglans regia, originated in Iran despite its name. As well as its food use the tree and nut have numerous other uses. The nut shell is ground up and used as a cleaning abrasive, the timber is a very fine furniture wood, and the nut husks can be used to make inks and dyes.

The North American Black Walnut is apparently superior in flavour but the extremely hard shell has historically restricted its use commercially.

From a garden point of view it is worth noting that the tree is huge. It is very late coming into leaf in spring. Most importantly it reduces competition from other plants by secreting chemicals into the soil that prevent healthy growth of other plants nearby.  

Come back and visit for another edition in November!

Shop links:

My own prints

Fashioned by Nature Threadless Store

NEW: A series of Aprons is now available via our Cafe Press Store


  1. Such a fantastic post, Darren. A judicious mix of relevant information, inspiring drawings and stunning photos. Your coffee flat lays are gorgeous. A feast for the eyes. Your amazing humor on top of that makes it so delightful to read. Love it! You have done a wonderful job. xx

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Such a wonderful post Darren! The photography and art this month is absolutely stunning, your talent is such an inspiration. Your keen captures in the coffee shop fills that vintage part of my heart, but it was the black and white picture of the coffee bus that set it over the top, pure perfection. I especially enjoyed learning about the Gorse, it creates such a breathtaking landscape. Thank you for allowing me to create using your drawings…I did good I didn’t say nuts πŸ˜‚ Thank you for the laughs this month, it was priceless! I cant imagine anything better than creating with you and Do! πŸ’•πŸ˜ Love to you my friend.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. This is a wonderful post Darren, light-hearted, honest and informative. I love Gorse – it is the splash of colour on a monochrome landscape is always a spirit-lifter.

    Like you, I drink instant coffee. Sacrilegious, I know. But I drink it weak and black without sugar. I just find brewed coffee too strong and bitter for my taste buds. When I lived in Canada, I did drink brewed coffee, but it was mostly the Tim Horton variety. I am off to Canada (sister reunion) next June, and so excited!

    As for your walnuts… Very impressive. πŸ˜‚

    I eat walnuts every morning in my breakfast. Brain food, as Lisa intimates in her design. 😊

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Just an aside…

      I know that your December collaboration is probably underway, but I don’t really do the usual themes of Christmas (however attractive they might be). I did love the inclusion of chipmunks and squirrels from Dominique and it got me to thinking that your December creation might too have a bit of focus on wildlife, and plants trying to cope with winter months. The iconic English Robin seems to be suffering a serious decline… It would be nice to feature it, and the Canadian Red Cardinal… Both are avian symbols of Christmas and perhaps if it is possible, combination with the Canadian Snowy Owl, would be such a lovely combination. Of course, I am a dreamer… How on earth can any of you get a photo of a Snowy Owl? πŸ˜‚

      Liked by 1 person

          1. I have a lovely commissioned artwork by Liz Garnett Orme of a Barn Owl. It is a one of a kind. While she created a summer version of the Owl for her print series, she sold the Original. She created a winter version just for my husband. Our boat is full of her original framed paintings. Unfortunately, over time the paint has started to stick to the protective glass over time (despite double matting), but her attention to detail is wonderful and I fell surrounded by nature.
            I can send a photo of the Barn owl if you want? My email is
            I don’t know if you could use it or not….

            Liked by 1 person

    2. Thank you Colette.
      You are off to Canada in June? How exciting! I, also, am hoping to go back to Montreal around that time.

      I really am totally unfussy about coffee so long as it is not, shudder, decaf…
      I saw Tim Horton’s everywhere I went in Canada but I don’t think I went in one – except I recall we got a coffee in the foyer of a cinema and that might have been a Hortons franchise. We were too busy being amused by the long line outside the licensed cannabis shop across the road.
      My brain thinks it needs more walnuts…..

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, I fly to Toronto mid June, but my destination is Kitchener (West of Toronto). I haven’t been back for 16 years, so really excited!

        Tim Horton has just opened its first franchise in Leicester, to the delight of my Canadian Niece who lives there.


        Liked by 1 person

  4. It’s good to see you again Darren. This a really interesting post and a fab collaboration as always. I love the motto. The cactus flowers are really lovely. We have lots of gorse here in Ireland – a problem when we have bog fires as it burns rapidly. I have a yellow-orange Rowan in my garden which produces lovely berries for the birds.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thank you Brigid. This summer has been a difficult one and I literally have not been able to focus long enough on writing to blog much. However – since posting this morning I have already written my next post which will appear next week.
      So pleased you like the motto. The distance seems to disappear for a while during the team skype calls but I hope to get back to Montreal again in the new year and hopefully Lisa can join us.
      Your Rowan might be ‘Joseph Rock’, which is a lovely thing. The Rowans are fantastic value as garden trees.
      A few years ago Kew released a book on the genus by Hugh McAllister and it has gorgeous paintings of all the species. The book is on my wishlist for when our domestic book-buying moratorium ends πŸ™‚

      Liked by 2 people

  5. What a delicious post Darren. Packed full of knowledge and fun facts. I can almost smell those divine scents all the way down under. Coffee, gorse flowers, gorgeous berries … and of course your nuts … what more could a girl ask for. Yep, I think those girls are totally corrupting you, in the best possible way! 😊 Congrats on another amazing edition.

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Love your photos, Darren. I’ve got quite a penchant for photographing my friend’s shop where they roast coffee on the premises, so I particularly loved your photos of the insides of Atkinsons. Isn’t that cabinetry something you would want to caress? My eye was also drawn immediately to the mosaic? floor below the Chocolat Menier. The puna is beautiful. Thank you for showing it off. And bravo on your walnut drawings, Darren. Just superb. No wonder you’ve all been so busy!

    Liked by 4 people

  7. I loved this post Darren. You write so honestly and well, your photos are great and your drawings are truly wonderful. And I learn about plants. And I really don’t normally do gushy! Honest.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. You should have seen me at 7 this morning Linda. I overslept and had to leave the house un-caffeinated at 6:30 to catch my bus. I got in to the city at 7 and immediately sought out coffee before going to work otherwise I would have been dangerous to my colleagues!
      And I do indeed have great taste in friends!!

      Liked by 3 people

  8. Hi Darren, your photos are fabulous ( I love those white berries) your post is wonderful and I look forward to reading things I never knew about. You are a fountain of plant knowledge. I hope you are well xx

    Liked by 3 people

  9. This post is a real feast to the eyes!! Love the colourful berries, beautiful flowers and all the artsy photos – one can easily see your artist’s eye in arranging the different objects! You did a wonderful job with them, and I could easily see them in a glossy magazine. πŸ˜„ The only instant I ever drank was espresso coffee which wasn’t too bad actually, but most of the time I prepare a cold brew coffee which is less acidic and keeps fresh for two or three weeks in the fridge. I like to think of it as my own instant variety. πŸ˜„
    The walnuts are just amazing!! 😍

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Hi Darren ( for the longest time I thought your name was “Art” ) –
    I wonder if you would be interested in my novel A Place In the World since it is set on a coffee farm surrounded by rain forest and the protagonist is a biologist. If so, I could send you a freebie e-version. Do you have a Kindle or other e-reader?

    Liked by 3 people

  11. Nuts, coffee, and berries…oh my! Good squirrel post. Actually, good all around, lot of information, and pleasant visuals. The close up of the berries, and of course, Darren’s nuts.

    Liked by 3 people

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