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Posts tagged ‘Flowers’

Flower burst: Red Amaryllis

Buying fresh flowers is always a pleasure. You watch them open, you breathe deep of their sweet, nuanced perfume, and transform a corner of your home with their splendid colour. But alas, within days, their majesty is at an end, and their delicate structure becomes a vision of faded beauty. Happily, the process of flower growth and nurture can often last longer, and one of my favourite annual rituals is to buy a potted amaryllis bulb and, over the first weeks of the year, watch it grow.


I am always fascinated by the slow progress of the amaryllis flower, as a green shoot emerges from the innocuous brown bulb, and seems to escalate higher and higher until you wonder if it will ever stop. But then suddenly, as though exhausted by the effort of climbing some 40 or even 50 centimetres into the air, the flower shifts its focus to the lateral explosion of its colourful petal-rich head.

This year, I watched on in delight as I saw a very long green stalk open up into the most resplendent array of blood-rich red as my amaryllis burst open into four magnificent floral crowns. Almost swaying in surprise at the bounty of its own offerings, my amaryllis is top heavy with its heady creation, but somehow remains standing for many days of enjoyment. And just as I see the petals turn slowly decrepit with age, a new flower shoot bursts up from the side in reserve.


And so for days ahead, another floral array awaits me, as the newest manifestation of my amaryllis steps into the spotlight.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2011-2018. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Post 1001 | Your favourite ever Daily Norm article

Continuing the week’s celebrations of reaching 1000 posts on The Daily Norm, I wanted to revisit the post which, statistically, was the most popular of my original posts. When I say “original”, I am referring to posts containing my own photography – for the posts when I reviewed art exhibitions scored the most visits of them all. But with over 20,000 visits, this post, which originally went out on 5 July 2012, is my post popular ever collection of photos. And happily, some 6 years on, we are still very much enjoying this little corner of urban garden paradise…

First posted 5 July 2012: My Urban Balcony Garden

When you live in a city, like I do, here in the big smoke of London, every inch of greenery becomes important. When I travelled down to Glyndebourne the other day, surrounded by all of those lush green hills, and the conspicuous silence interrupted only by the occasional sheep cry, it made me realise just how lucky rural dwellers are to be surrounded by that constant beauty and tranquility. Yet it is only human nature not to appreciate what we have when we’ve got it. For all I know, the residents of those sussex country manners probably envy we Londoners who have the whole cultural world right on our doorstep.

I do like to count my blessings however, and I actually think writing a blog, which encourages one to reflect more on one’s life, making the most of occasions, events and opportunities for the sake of sharing and recollecting interesting and unique snapshots of life, makes us bloggers appreciate life with a renewed vitality and a very sharp focus. And one thing that I have always appreciated, albeit perhaps more so as my time living in London grows longer and my hours of work increase, is the green space around me.


I may only have a balcony to exhaust my green fingers, but that balcony, which runs along the front of my entire flat, is my pride and joy. There is much to be said for the urban balcony. Not only does it help to make urban life more bearable, more colourful, and more sensorily enriched, but also helps to give nature a bit of a kickstart – there have, for example, been reports of huge rises in the numbers of urban dwellers keeping beehives, so many in fact that there are now a surplus of bees for the numbers of suitably pollinating flowers available across the city. I don’t have bees, but what I have created on my balcony is my own piece of tropical paradise. I’ve surrounded my small table and chairs and my all important sun lounger with my own little slice of Spain. There I have a large brugmansia (whose flowers are spectacular bell-shaped blooms which smell glorious at night – they’re not out yet but rest assured, I will share on The Daily Norm once they are), a passion flower, an olive tree, grasses and plenty of geraniums. I’ve also encouraged honeysuckle to grow up the wall, and this year, for the first time, introduced some strawberries into the mix.

Because my urban balcony garden is a natural extension of my lounge which has a very contemporary red, black and white colour scheme, I have attempted to continue that out onto the balcony, with modern galvanised steel planters, and plenty of vivid red geraniums, which mark a wonderful contrast against the building’s crisp white washed walls and the black and grey grasses I have planted intermittently amidst blood-red cala lillies and those red-burst strawberries.


Whether you’re a city-dweller or otherwise, I strongly recommend you import some plants into your life – even if it’s only a window box hanging out of the window. The introduction of plants always creates a new geometric mix into any design scheme, bringing curves and floral bursts into often boring square buildings, which are enhanced further as day turns into night, and interesting plant-shaped shadows dance across the surfaces of your home. Whats more, as a plant grows and changes with the seasons, your home too will adapt to the altering cycle of the year, and as the plants rise and fall, you will find a great sense of achievement in tracking their story and progress in your home (just remember to water them, occasionally!)

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2018. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

A Windsor Weekend, Part I: The Castle

The myths and legends surrounding England’s valiant past are so intertwined with our history that it’s sometimes hard to remember what is fact and what is fiction. The tale of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table is a typical example of this, and while many have determined the magic surrounding Merlin to be the stuff of fairytales, the fable of King Arthur and his Knights certainly resonates as being a more realistic depiction of historical England. Whether or not the round table existed, the image it evokes – of brave knights, lion-emblazoned coats of arms, and of shiny coats of armour ridden into battle – very much captures a sense of the England of old. And if one place were to lift that image off the pages of legend and into the real light of day, it’s Windsor Castle.


Grand, imposing and the very epitome of a medieval-style castle, Windsor is not only a historical monument worthy of legend itself. Rather it always has been, and continues to be a favourite royal residence, and today boasts the record as being the longest occupied palace in Europe, as well as the favourite weekend retreat and place of entertainment of the UK’s current monarch, Queen Elizabeth II. With roots stretching right back to the Norman Conquest of 1066, Windsor Castle has been constantly remodelled and expanded to suit the tastes of each succeeding monarch, from the lavish baroque of Charles II to the Georgian flourishes of George IV and the modernisation of the Victorian and later eras.

While on the outside it appears as stark and imposing as a great stone castle should, on the inside it is very much a palace in the true sense of the word. While some rooms are emblazoned with sparkling armour, decorative weaponry and historical coats of arms, others are masterpieces in rococo and baroque, glistening with gold and chandeliers and filled with the most lavish of palatial furnishings. In 1992, much of this beauty was almost lost forever when a ferocious fire tore through the building and destroyed many of the most important State Rooms. But today, after an award winning restoration, Windsor is not only back to its beautiful self, but much improved, with many interim changes reversed to take the Castle design back to its early glory days.


But Windsor is not just a single-building castle, but a complex with gardens, out-buildings and places of worship making up a mini town within a town. Chief amongst these ancillary sights is St George’s Chapel, which is probably one of the most beguilingly beautiful churches I have seen. Gleaming with light filtered through intricately conceived multi-coloured stained glass windows depicting the Kings and Queens of old, the chapel is a masterpiece of the perpendicular gothic. Its lattice stone-weaved ceiling is a work of genius, and in such a good condition that it is hard to think that for the most part, this is the work of 15th Century craftsmen. Its Quire (where the choir sing) is simply magical. The home of the Knights of the Garter, it is a true homage to all things Round Table, adding to the myth which surrounds British history and expressing in a stroke of true theatricality the historical importance of this preeminent body of royal knights. Meanwhile, peppered throughout the chapel are some of the most important monuments you are likely to see in any single one place in England: here lies Henry VIII, the Queen Mother, George V, George VI and Charles I to name but a few. And for those not buried here, monuments to the likes of Prince Albert and Princess Charlotte (who died in childbirth leading to the ascension of Queen Victoria) are masterpieces of pathos carved in stone and crafted in the suitably melodramatic Victorian aesthetic.


Unfortunately the splendours of Windsor’s interiors are the preserve of the eyes only, as photography is banned throughout. I must therefore content myself with sharing with Daily Norm readers my photos of the joys of Windsor’s grounds, from the incredible exterior masonry and gothic façade of St George’s, to the beautiful moat gardens which, filled with roses, so perfectly soften the hard lines of this mighty castle beyond.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2017. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Hampton Court Palace, Part 3: The Wild and the Wonderful

My blog is reading like something of a paid marketing campaign for Hampton Court Palace at the moment, which I promise is not the case. Such was the visual pleasure of my visit to Hampton Court that my photo stream ran on for miles. In seeking to share the best from that day, while losing nothing of the splendour of the aesthetic pleasures which a visit to the Palace entails, I have sought to split up my Daily Norm narrative into more bitesize pieces. First I told you about the Palace’s incredibly manicured gardens, followed shortly afterwards by a tour of the hybrid interior. Today I’m back out into the gardens, but this time to the Great Fountain Garden, and the Wilderness, a stunning grassy landscape which is ostensibly less controlled by gardeners and designers, although I suspect that in reality, this appearance of under-management is as meticulously choreographed as the rest.

The Great Fountain Garden and Home Park beyond


There can be no doubt that Christopher Wren’s Baroque facade of Hampton Court Palace is best viewed from its mighty gardens, whose tree tree-lined avenues radiate outwards in a crow’s foot pattern towards a water-bounded semi-circular parterre. Those avenues, whose trees are perfectly clipped to create cloud like green forms, provide a theatrical foreground beyond which the Palace can play a leading role as it glows, mighty and red, in perfect contrast with its green surroundings. If William and Mary of Orange had intended to compete with Versailles, it is clear that they gave good game, not least with the extensive Long Water canal which extends into Home Park beyond, magnifying both the scale of the grounds, but also reflecting the Palace in its mirrored surface. For us, a walk in these gardens proved to be unforgettable. We were enamoured not only by the dramatic landscape, where we felt like strolling into a Sunday evening period drama, but also by the peace and tranquillity which could be found there, away from the shrieks of children lost in the famous maze and closer to the stags and deer who could be seen grazing so majestically nearby.

But what the Great Fountain Garden gave in drama, the Wilderness oozed in bucolic tranquillity. Appearing almost wild, this semi-woodland full to the brim with long grasses and beds entirely given over to daffodils was one of my absolute highlights of the visit. As the sun started to dip behind the yellow petals in the late afternoon, a heavenly light seemed to fall over the place, fragmented as it was in an easy peppering of dappled sunlight, as low lying trees burst forth new pale green leaves. The effect was so transformative that I expected a lady in a long flowing dress and a gentleman in a top hat to wander into the scene at any moment. This was surely an impressionist moment worthy of Monet’s brush?

The untamed beauty of the Wilderness


This day’s final acquaintance with the grounds of Hampton Court served as yet further illustration of the diversity of the gardens which make this Palace much more than its interiors. With their riverside location and semi-rural sensation, it was hard to imagine that we were a mere 30 minutes from the hectic heart of London. Thus we were transformed, not just by history, but by the green and verdant landscape which immersed us in an earthly paradise one very happy Sunday afternoon.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. 

Hampton Court Palace, Part 1: Manicured Gardens

It’s always a wonderful thing to discover that an incredible attraction can be found on your doorstep. And somewhere which is literally 30 minutes by train from your nearest station is not so far from doorstep status, especially when you consider the extent to which those short 30 minutes have the power to transform you from inner city jungle to utter bucolic majesty. Such was my discovery last weekend upon visiting the former home of Henry VIII and his 6 variously fated wives, Hampton Court Palace, which can be found nestling alongside the banks of the Thames a few meandering loops down the river. Our trip to this vast palatial complex was so astounding, so plenteous in its beauty that I have decided to split my experience in three for the sake of The Daily Norm, so that a focus can be had on the various facets that make Hampton Court so incredible.

I must admit that it’s the gardens which really thrill me at Hampton Court. The inside has its merits, naturally. The Chapel Royal is pretty much one of the most stunning historic spaces in the United Kingdom. But the interiors also have the potential to disconcert, as one is led from the Tudor quarters, steeped in the gothic gloom of the age, to the more luminescent baroque rebuild instituted by William and Mary of Orange in the late 17th Century. The result is fragmentary and disorientating. It is like visiting two very distinct palaces, albeit that from the outside, there is a certain level of unity achieved by the uniform use of a rich pink stone. And it is outside where this little photographic tour begins.

The Privy Garden and the Banqueting House


In my naivety, I thought that a visit during April may be too early to enjoy the gardens. How wrong I was, for the timing enabled us to enjoy the most spectacular array of Spring flowers I have ever seen. In the Privy Garden, the elegant South-facing walled garden extending towards the River’s edge and containing rows of manicured conical hollies and yews lining a perfectly geometric system of paths, tulips in vibrant shades of red and yellow danced in the sunlight and contrasted brilliantly against sky blue hyacinths which filled the air with their fragrance. In the cosy walled Pond Gardens just beyond, the abundance of flowers increased as floral collections were displayed in rich strata of contrasting height and colour to create a ravishing spectacle of nature’s brilliance. I don’t think I ever saw such a variety of tulips, nor so well choreographed an exhibition of this glorious Spring flower.

The Pond Gardens, the Knot Garden and the Orangery 


This gardening brilliance continued into a small knot garden, laid out in 1924 to recreate the gardens as they would have been during the Tudor dynasty, and in the Lower Orangery Garden, which flowed from Queen Mary’s passion for collecting exotic plants. Of course the gardens of Hampton Court extend much further than those on this Southern expanse – The Great Fountain Garden is so grand as to be worthy of a post all of its own – and will surely get one in a few days time… But for now, I wanted to share photos of these more manicured gardens. Spaces so vividly enriched by their floral abundance, and so satisfyingly regimental in their layout and design that I could have remained there admiring them forever, especially during these happy days of Spring.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. 

London welcomes in the Springtime

Outside living was an inescapable characteristic of our daily Mallorca existence. Apart from maybe the odd week around January time, there were very few days when one could not go for a stroll to breathe deep of the Mediterranean air. In returning to London, we did so in the knowledge that our relocation would mean an accompanying retreat to the indoors, to cosy wine bars, chic restaurants, bustling galleries, but far fewer midnight strolls…And I would be lying if I said this were not true, as we allowed ourselves to become quickly ensnared and enveloped in the comforting charm of dimmed lights and candle-flickering interiors while outside the crispness of late winter lingered.

But as though Mother Nature wished to sooth an internal longing for the great outdoors, our return to London was marked with a surprisingly clement burst of Spring. Such were the favourable conditions that we had little time to bemoan our loss of Mallorca, for here in London, our world-famous expanses of green parkland glimmered as lush green grasses and newly sprouting flowers bended towards the sunlight. Spring had arrived early!

And today, as we mark the Spring equinox and more or less the true beginning of British summertime, it seemed the most appropriate time to share a collection of photos collated during these weeks as I enjoyed these first glimpses of better times. They are all quick snapshots, taken on my trusty iPhone while life (and my home renovation) made time fly fleetingly by. They are shots which do not pretend to be photographically refined, but which offer a flash of hope for happier, warmer, sunnier times to come, even here in Blighty.

© Nicholas de Lacy-Brown and The Daily Norm, 2001-2017. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. For more information on the work of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown, head to his art website at

Wholemeal lemon and rosemary cake

I was sitting just next to my little blooming lemon tree, breathing in the subtle perfume of its abundant blossom one morning before work when I saw the recipe for a lemon polenta loaf cake go up onto the blog of my phenomenally talented (and heavily pregnant!) blogger friend Lady Aga. It was undoubtedly the heady combination of lemon blossom and her tantalising looking photos which immediately inspired in me the certain knowledge that I was going to make this cake at the first opportunity. And last weekend, lemon, rosemary and olive oil at the ready, I did! Sadly for Lady Aga’s wonderful recipe, and perhaps also for my resulting cake, I was a little too keen on the uptake. Midway through, I realised I lacked polenta and a loaf shaped tin. It quickly became clear that I might have to disembark from the Lady Aga road slightly.


So recipe a little altered, and a round cake tin employed for the purpose, I opted instead for  wholemeal not-so-loafish cake using the integral flour which we have in stock in an attempt to be healthy. I also blended a load of his trusty breakfast porridge oats as Lady Aga suggests, and with the rosemary growing fresh on our terrace, it worked a treat. I won’t recite the recipe here seeing as Lady Aga has it penned so well, but whether you decide to go with my wholemeal approach or the undoubtedly better polenta recipe, this cake is surely exquisite.


Fresh out of the oven, its sugary lemon juice drizzle still a little sticky, we eagerly devoured a slice or two of this delicious cake in the creamy afternoon (terrace photos happily intermingled with model-shots of cake above). Accompanied by a steaming earl grey, the lemon and rosemary flavour couldn’t have made for a better British-Mallorquín afternoon tea, and as for the wholemeal flour, while I worry that it may have made the cake slightly drier than the polenta version, the result is a cake which made every appearance of a morally highbrow, persuasively healthy teatime treat. Thank you Lady Aga!

Discovering Mallorca: Ravishing La Raixa

Just when I thought that Mallorca had unfurled its many hidden gems, another came into view as I drove down a dirt track off the main Palma to Soller road last week. At the end of the dusty bumpy path, my car a little worse for wear in the cleanliness stakes, a stunning country manor came into view. Perfectly appointed in the immediate foothills of the Tramuntana Mountains, and using those very mountainous slopes to mount its stunning renaissance style terraced gardens, I had arrived at the incredible Raixa estate, surely one of the most stunning former private residences on the island.

And indeed the palatial residence, which is today open for all the public to enjoy, was built to impress. Purposefully fashioned in its latest renovation by Cardinal Antoni Despuig in the late 18th century to instantly impress visitors with its magnificence both inside and out, La Raixa is a residence which remains a knock-out beauty seen from afar and up close, an unrivalled vision of Italianate whitewashed perfection which dazzles against its rugged but manicured mountainous grounds.


Little is left today of the house’s former internal grandeur, with the interiors largely given over to a natural-history-style exhibit focused on the geography and geology of the Tramuntana mountains. However the real treasure is undoubtedly the pleasures that lie in wait outside the manor, not just the exterior of the house itself, whose magnificent arched colonnade and white washed walls recall the romantic opulence of a Tuscan estate, but the gardens beyond whose construction was also heavily influenced by the Italian Renaissance and later Baroque styles. This is no better expressed than in the tiered gardens to the rear of the property, with their impressive central staircase accompanied by the four muses, and a panoply of pastiched ancient ruins peppering the landscape to stunning effect.

They are muses which are well appointed, for in these voluptuously floral, brilliantly landscaped, utterly tranquil surroundings, I was very quickly and utterly inspired, and very reluctant to leave.

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2016 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Discovering Mallorca: Botanicactus

Botanicactus, on the outskirts of Mallorca’s quaint little town of Ses Salines, does what it says on the tin. That is, it’s a large botanical garden with an even greater collection of cacti, and was a true highlight of Easter’s recent weekend of new discoveries on this island of plenty. The collection of plants is indeed so great that it covers some 150,000 square metres of land and features some 12,000 incredible cacti with a staggering 1,000 different species.


Entering the cactus garden, ringed within an expansive Mexican style tiled-wall, made for an experience quite unlike any other I have had before. This shouldn’t be a surprise, for I have never before been surrounded by such a vast collection of these spiky species, and when cacti grow so huge and tall, and with such an eclectic mix of varieties, the overall effect is to wander into an alien like world, a planet unlike the earth we know so well. The extremes of shapes and colours, all covered by hostile spikes and poisonous looking flowers feels fictional, menacing, and yet immeasurably beautiful.


What struck me most of all was the beauty of the layering – the complex strata of different species set over and infant of rolling hills which had an overall effect of lavish abundance without equal. Seeing those cacti towering above us, I was unable to believe that these gardens had only been founded some 26 years ago. That just goes to show what some rich Mediterranean soil and a little Mallorcan sunshine can do. Fingers crossed it has the same effect on the cacti we installed on our terrace last autumn…

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2016 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.

Mallorca in the Springtime: An island in bloom

Living in Mallorca is not like being on a continuous holiday, as much as I might wish it were so. Working full time means reliance on the weekends to enjoy this beautiful land around me. But when my free time comes, and the weather graces us with its welcome presence, the landscapes around me are always a welcome treasure, and no more so than at this time of Spring. For as my recent travels around Mallorca this past Easter weekend have shown, Mallorca in the Springtime is a veritable paradise – an island overflowing with an abundance of flowers and blossom, petals and perfumes. It is quite truly a Springtime Arcadia.


Driving around Mallorca can be deeply distracting. Even the main roads are lined by wild flowers of ever tone and colour – yellow buttercups and red poppies, fields alive with colour and trees abundant in blossom. And these views are all the more precious knowing that they will be short-lived – a few weeks at the most before green again dominates. Yet they are difficult to get to (stopping my car mid-motorway could be precarious in innumerable ways) and consequently I haven’t managed to capture on camera nearly as many views as I would have wished. But the photos I am posting today will hopefully give an idea of this floral wonderland, just as it reaches its annual highpoint.


Amongst these photos are some lovely shots of insects – occasionally captured by accident, other times with painstaking patience. They also include a few shots from inside my home – for what greater joy can there be than bringing the Spring inside too. I hope you enjoy them.

All photos and written content are strictly the copyright of Nicholas de Lacy-Brown © 2016 and The Daily Norm. All rights are reserved. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of the material, whether written work, photography or artwork, included within The Daily Norm without express and written permission from The Daily Norm’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited.