Elderflower is a true delight on the eyes and tastebuds. Her large, frothy, creamy-white blooms and delicate floral scent is unmistakeable as she heralds in sunnier days with joyous abandon.‘SUMMER IS HERE!’ she cries ..and right now is the perfect time to try one of her delicious recipes yourself!This Cordial couldn’t be easier to make! Delicious as a chilled, refreshing drink, with sparkling water, or better still, try adding a dash to your G&T or Prosecco!So get foraging! Find yourself a blooming Elder tree. Do check carefully that you have the correct tree first. (See images.) Grab a large, fresh lemon, sugar, honey and a few optional miniature rosebuds. (Choi Time do delicious miniature damask buds.) Then spend a pleasant 20 minutes or so, creating some magic of your own! Once bottled up, head for the garden and pour yourself a glass or two!Then who knows, in no time at all, you may be seeing more Wanton Fairies than you ever thought possible!Makes 900ml approxPreparation 20 mins approx.Leave overnight or for 24 hrs in pan before bottling.Once made, keep refrigerated. It should keep well for up to a month.You will need:20 opened Elderflower heads. Double up if you have an abundance, but do leave some to mature though, as Elderflower has more treats in store for you later in the year, with her glorious berries) ...and don’t forget, the birds will appreciate them too!1 litre water1 large lemon500g granulated sugar3 tablespoons honeyA few miniaturerosebuds (optional)Sterilised bottlesElderflower blooms are best picked on a dry, sunny morning, well away from pollution of trafficetc. (Take a pair of scissors and a basket or bag.) Avoid any unopened blooms or those on the turn.Unless you (or a friend), are lucky enough to have a tree of your own, you will generally find Elder thriving amongst a fierce barricade of nettles and brambles, soheading out with bare ankles isn’t a great idea!*Having been thoroughly stung, I instinctively looked around for dock leaves to calm the pain and was relieved to spot a large patch close by. (They nearly always grow in close proximity).Whether or not it’s an old wives tale, who knows, but it certainly still worked for me. A trip down memory lane with a spit on the leaf, then rub on the ankles, I was a child again, heading home with my bounty and pain free ankles!Give the blooms a tap before you head home, to dislodge any insects reluctant to leave. It is best to begin making the cordial as soon after picking blooms as possible. There is no need to rinse.Snip away the larger stemsSelect a large enough pan with lid, to accommodate ingredients.Pour in waterAdd sugar, honey, lemon peel and juice from whole lemon.(Add miniature rosebuds -optional)Heat gradually until all sugarhas dissolved.Simmer very gently for 2-3 minutes.Immediately add the elderflowers, making sure they are all well dunked in the syrup.Immediately cover with lid and leave overnight or preferably for 24 hours.Strain through muslin or a jelly bag, into a large bowl to avoid losing any of the precious syrup.Pour into sterilised bottles. (The use of a funnel will help save accidental spills).Refrigerate and enjoy!Rose buds from: choitime.comBeautiful coloured glass tumbler : lateafternoon.co.uk
These are not your conventional type of fairy.
When I first discovered them, they were a bit of a tongue in cheek rally against our airbrushed society. They are real fairies you can believe in. Natural beauties as nature intended! Totally unconcerned with their honest imperfections, like a little superfluous hair, a little extra weight...and ageism is an anathema to them. In fact, the older the better! Anyone with a smile and and open mind is welcome to join them in their Wanton Fairy garden.
Since then, the world has turned upside down for us all, and I think, quite a lot of people (including myself), have become slightly feral, embracing nature.. and feel all the better for it. Covid has helped us all realise just what is important in life.
My fairies have been subconsciously in gestation for many years, just waiting for the right moment to truly blossom. I have always felt a deep connection with nature. Combine this with the experience of living with a very old grandmother, who owned an extensive collection of corsets, and you can begin to see the picture. Born in 1884, she was a true victorian, surviving TB, eleven children, two world wars and many hardships, with humour and storytelling. She swore by her boned corsets, for maintaining an excellent figure and good posture. I would help her into these pink corsets on a morning, lacing the back and pulling into shape..so painting corsets onto fairies, did not seem unnatural.
(Image right: not my grandma, but you get the idea)
The house I lived in was far older than my grandmother and came with a resident ghost, which to my dismay, shared my attic bedroom. Not unreasonably, I therefore spent as much time as possible, in the garden. It was a wonderful garden, enclosed by a high brick wall, and despite our docile cat, full of wildlife... butterflies, bees, birds and a robin called George, that fed from my hand.
Of course, fairies were never far from my imagination. The world of fey surrounded me.
Fast forward now, decades later, to an Autumn afternoon on my allotment in Surrey. Here I observed nature through the seasons, as well as relishing the abundant bonus of organic produce for my family and friends. It was also an invaluable source of inspiration for my art in all forms and many of the Wanton Fairies, have been observed and sketched in this special place.
The idea first germinated there, after a vigorous weeding session. I sat down for a breather and sent a text to a friend along the lines of: “I’ve just seen a lavender fairy, wearing a black silk thong, disappear into the rhubarb patch.” The text met with great encouragement to spot more. From then on fairies came thick and fast. I just could not stop sketching and painting fast enough. My life was hectic and full, so much of the sketching went on during my daily commute on South West trains to London.As a child, I was, (and still am), inspired by the works of Ronald Searle and Arthur Rackham, spending hours studying their genius use of pen and wash. Two such different artists, yet with the same extraordinarily powerful ability to work the paper and draw the onlooker into another realm. My bookcase also held a set of Cicely Mary Barker’s ‘Flower Fairies’, which I loved, but never quite so much as the wild humour of Searle and the sinister enchantment of Rackham. So Wanton Fairies appears to have been fused from all of the above, with my grandmothers corsets thrown in as the catalyst. I’d like to think Searle and Rackham would have liked them, but I’m not quite so sure about Cicely Mary Barker!I’m told there is an Edwardian, music-hall, peep- show charm about my Wanton Fairies. They are good-naturedly saucy..(a few, more than others!) As my collection has grown, the fairies have amassed quite a few ancient luminaries amongst their fans. Indeed my oldest fan, until recently, was a 93 yr old spitfire pilot, in whose tree, I spotted and painted my first Wanton Fairy ‘Crabapple’.He was ever so chuffed and had the entire ‘Wanton Fairy’ collection in his living room.
On a final note. It is interesting to observe that the 19th century saw the sustained ascendence of fairy stories and the illustrations of Arthur Rackham and Edmund Dulac for example, epitomise the genre of that by-gone era. In the 20th century, the ‘Cottingly Fairies’ were ‘photographed’ in 1918 by two young girls, causing quite a stir and convincing many well known people of the time, including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, (author of Sherlock Holmes), of their existence.
England at the time was devastated by the Great War and ravaged by the Spanish Flu. People craved inspiration beyond the government presiding over these terrible events.
A troubled and uncertain outlook is with us again and beckons once more a communication with nature.
The age of the Wanton Fairy is upon us!
Now that you are aware of the existence of these delightful creatures. Do please let us know if you spot any in your garden, woods and wild places! The concise library of our 33 greetings cards, should aid your identification.
Happy Wanton Fairy Spotting!