Such a perfect day

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #26

A couple of weeks ago, I went to Leiden to spend one of our ‘creative afternoons’ with my friend Eva (a.k.a. eating delicious lunch, talking about all sorts of things over coffee and cake, getting some creative inspiration and then enjoying more food for dinner and chatting further into the evening:)

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We decided to go to the Hortus to observe plants and spark our imagination.  It was so different from the last time we went in November! With the arrival of spring there were many lovely new plants, and we spent an amazing afternoon strolling through the sunlit gardens and then sweating profusely as we explored the tropical glasshouses.

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The collection is so abundant, that there was an infinity of amazing shapes and incredible colour combinations to look at.

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Soon we were completely in the flow, pointing out tiny details to each other and admiring the rich textures and striking shapes, orchids in retro-colours and wonderful bright purples and blues.

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Short walk around the block

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JOYFUL GRATITUDE #24

In the last few years I usually try to flee Amsterdam on King’s Day to avoid the crowds of people dressed in orange who hit the streets to celebrate the King’s birthday.

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This year I’m in town but I took the opportunity of this day off to chill at home and do some spring cleaning at home whilst listening to S-Town (I’m hooked!).

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Neverthelsess with the sun shining so nicely outside, I decided to get out of the house and go for a spontaneous photo walk around my neighbourhood, where luckily there are no crowds.

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Despite May being just around the corner, it was still pretty cold, practically glove weather.  The flowers popping up on every corner, bushes growing shiny fresh new leaves of all different colours and trees in full bloom tell another story.  Winter is over!

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It was a pleasure to be mindful and take in all the colours and textures to be found on a short walk.

Hortus Botanicus Amsterdam

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A few years back I took a photo course and the field trip consisted in spending an afternoon taking photos at the Hortus Botanicus in Amsterdam of plants and butterflies. My favorite section was of course the desert greenhouse with the cacti and succulents.

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It was so much fun to look so close up at the plants and see their amazing details and patterns. I loved observing these gorgeous little flowers with such beautiful pastel colours.

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The texture of these velvety purple leaves was amazing and a challenge to try and capture on camera.

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I remember being so focussed on the details, I was totally in the flow and didn’t feel time pass by.  I think I will schedule another excursion there soon.

Glasgow Botanic Gardens

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In 2014 during our trip to Glasgow, Eva and I explored the beautiful Botanic Gardens and enjoyed being surrounded by colourful tropical plants while it was grey outside.

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We spent several hours discovering the glasshouses, in particular the Kibble Palace, a huge 19th century wrought iron glasshouse which is amazingly beautiful.

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As we wandered around, taking our time and snapping lots of pictures of the  gorgeous plants, a gardener came up to us.  He indicated a plant and told us with his thick Scottish accent to take a closer… He was pointing to a tiny camouflaged stick-insect which we would never have spotted (not featured here;).

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Sunshine and fresh air

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This weekend was the first really warm spring weekend in Amsterdam. It was perfect weather to go cycling through the Amsterdamse Bos and enjoy watcing nature wake up after the winter.

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Though the trees are still very bare, the undergrowth is teeming with wild daffodils and other pretty plants which the bumblebees are eagerly collecting nectar from.

Being surrounded by nature always helps me to unwind and relax my mind after a busy week at work.  My senses felt so alive, as I bathed in the warm sunlight, seeing the bringht colours , breathing in deeply the fresh air and getting a whiff of those spring smells (wild garlic!).

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Plants all over the place

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It all started out quite innocently.  I fell in love with this wonderful flat in part for its great windowsills, which I proceeded to decorate with a few plants (and Barberine the photobomber, who I was cat sitting at the time ;).

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Little by little the amount of plants increased as I decided to experiment with cultivating the baby plants and cuttings in second hand pots, and selling them online.

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My appartment slowly became a greenhouse (or a jungle, as Paolo would say). There were plants covering all available surfaces, including the whole coffee table, placed awkwardly in the corner where they would get the most of the sunlight.

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Radical action needed to be taken, as the plants were threatening to take over our small living space;)  So with the money I made selling plants, I bought a simple shelf to store the plants vertically and  as you can see they are now thriving in that sunny corner:)

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I’d like to say a big thank you to everyone who supported Cultivating Joy by purchasing a plant for their home!

Lovely plants of Madeira

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At home we regularly tease my foodie sister about how she is into foodporn and how the majority of her travel pictures consist of new dishes she discovered along her journeys. However recently it’s been dawning on me that I’m obsessed with something similar, which I guess can be called plantporn.

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I love close up photos of gorgeous plants with their tiny leaves, colourful petals, uncanny shapes and intriguing textures…

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What made Madeira so special to me in terms of plantporn, was that succulents grow in the wild all over the place and in general there were also many unfamiliar plant species I don’t get to see every day.

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I spent a great deal of time in the holidays behind my camera attempting to take decent macros of the amazing plants that caught my eye. (Thanks to Paolo for the picture above and especially for his patience when I get mesmerised by yet another plant!)

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I took these last two pictures in the natural park of the São Lourenco peninsula – though to me these plants look like they really belong in the landscapes of Arrakis (Dune;)

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Sublime succulents in the Madeira Botanical Garden

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I love botanical gardens (this should not really come as a surprise given the nature (literally) of this blog). But I was not prepared for how excited I would be about the Botanical gardens in Funchal.

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Since the island has quite a tropical climate, the botanical gardens have a huge section dedicated just to succulents and cacti which is simply outdoors, with the plants growing directly in the ground.

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The best thing was that we went at the end of the afternoon, near closing time and by the end of our visit we were all alone in the gardens. It was wonderful to be free to observe all the plants at our leisure, in the warm light of the magic-hour sun.

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There were so many different species, I walked around several times to try and see it all. I couldn’t get enough of the amazing colours and details. Like the symmetry of the plant above, and like these little red spikes all along the outside of the leaves of the plant hereunder.

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Or this little guy below who looks to me like a monster’s paw with many tiny claws on it. It’s fascinating how so much colour can just emerges from a stump that looks grey and dried-up…

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Magnificent mosses

It’s kind of ironic that after enjoying Madeira’s wide open spaces, high peaks and beautiful coastline viewed from the many ‘miradouros’, one of the first things I feel like sharing here is something as small and seemingly insignificant as moss.

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As we went on hikes in the volcanic mountains of Madeira, we came accross the most spectacular walls of mosses along the levadas and beneath waterfalls.

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The shapes, textures, colours and combination of the mosses were so varied and different from anything I’d seen before.  The mosses seemed to grow relentlessly, sometimes in thick layers, basking in the humidity. 

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It was really fascinating to observe them and I loved the patterns they formed, and how they interacted with each other.  Paolo was very patient while I struggled to somehow capture them on camera.  

It reached a peak one day while we were sitting on a log and eating our picnic, and I started to ‘see’ things… The mosses in the picture below look to me like minuscule sci-fi villages with mushroom houses and diminutive trees. Aren’t they amazing?!

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