Oct 28, 2011

The Beauty of Black on White by Natalie Anderson

There’s something about black on white designs that really draw me in. I love the simplicity, the clarity – and, being bookish, I tend to think of ink on a page.

Now as you probably all know, I live in Christchurch and recently I’ve been really quiet on the blog (and everywhere in Internetville) as we’ve been ‘between homes’ for a while and working out some issues in our shattered city. And I appreciate how fortunate my family and I have really been compared to so many others – my heart just aches for those in Turkey currently dealing with that horrendous quake there and the utter devastation.

For me, recent weeks have really been a time for stopping and appreciating the small things in our lives and city. In the face of much destruction and loss, we’ve needed to look for little bits of lovely.
Daffodil picture by Graeme Weatherston

And let me tell you, nothing lifted my heart more than a few weeks ago when early Spring hit and all the daffodils flowered – they’d been through earthquakes, liquefaction, snow and floods – and still they grew – en mass, tall and beautiful.

Such inspiration.

And this weekend we finally moved back into our own home. We’ve been incredibly fortunate in that our house is pretty okay. And it’s wonderful to come back to these old wooden walls – I brought four babies home from the hospital to this house. It has such amazing memories associated with it, and we’re so lucky and thrilled to be back.

We have a teeny tiny creek that crosses the front of our section. On the ‘far side’, across the stepping stones, is a mini-bushland that at the moment is completely overgrown and in the high winds the other night half a tree fell right through the middle of it! So it REALLY needs a tidy. Out the back we grow veggies – I’ve generally had a preference for ‘useful’ plants – but inspired by those little bits of lovely, I’ve been ‘pretty garden plotting’ for the front. And this is where my fancy for black and white comes in.

White gardens are nothing new – I think it was the inimitable Vita Sackville West who created one of the most famous white gardens – check out the link here – don’t you just adore the Elizabethan tower? What a wonderful writing room!

But I really am intrigued by the impossible in nature – the black flower! The idea of black flowers may be a touch Gothic – but I also think they’re wonderfully romantic and dramatic! And of course, there’s really no such thing – they’re actually very deep, deep purple. It’s the pursuit of impossible perfection! Kind of like writing itself– given we strive to make words perfect and of course that can pretty much be impossible... fortunately so much of the pleasure is in the pursuit itself…

Black Velvet
I’ve had a couple of irises in pots for a while – waiting our return home. And I’d surfed around looking at other kinds of black flowers. So you can imagine my delight when I read about a new breed of petunia called Black Velvet. It was mentioned in an article I read online in a UK newspaper. So it must have been kismet that saw me in a garden centre the next day and the first display in the outside area was… yes, the Black Velvet petunia! Isn’t she gorgeous?

I also like this little viola – Zorro – and I’ve some grasses and near black sweet peas. Next bulb planting time I’ll put in some tulips. I think some of my family think I’m a little crazy to want only black and white flowers in that particular part of the garden, but to me it makes perfect sense!


My second ever story for Mills & Boon (His Mistress by Arrangement) featured an artist who loved flowers and in the story she was illustrating a book about ‘floriography’ – the language of flowers – the meanings of some flowers were pretty relevant in some scenes! But I’m not sure how the Victorians would have defined black petunias!

Anyway – are you a flowers person or a growing herbs/veggies person? Do you like to keep fresh blooms in a vase or are you the type who forgets to put the old ones in the compost and ends up with a shrivelled sort of science experiment?!

What little bits of lovely are you inspired by?!

p.s. I did think there was the most gorgeous display of black on white on Sunday night when the magnificent All Blacks beat the white clad French to win the Rugby World Cup – fabulous! ;)


  1. Natalie I'm so glad to hear you're back home and everything is looking brighter =)

    I love flowers, unfortunately they don't really love me. I do better with native shrubs that are hardy as hell (IE: no watering, no attention) - though I have started a vegie patch and can't wait for the herbs and tomatoes!

  2. So glad you're back and things are going better! I tend to kill all plants, so now I just admire them in the store.

    I LOVE black and white. I chose them as the colors at my wedding (Of course, this was YEARS ago and everyone thought I was crazy, but I didn't care :) My bridesmaids wore black evening gowns, and next to my white dress in the candlelight - it was beautiful.

  3. Hi Mel! We're very glad to be home :)
    I'm with you on the natives actually - that whole front bit over the creek is all natives - a mini bush - but it's a bit wild now... my black and whites will just be in a patch of it. I'm going to stick up a little shed - a playhouse just for me and my pen and paper :)
    And oh yes, bring on the herbs and tomatoes!!!!!! I have a huge container of rocket out on the back deck already - YUM!

  4. Hi Aimee!!!! GOsh your wedding sounds so STYLISH!!!!!! Put up a piccie sometime will you?! Adore the sound of the candlelight and the black and white... gorgeous!!!

  5. Hey Natalie

    So delighted the daffodils have come through in Chch despite all the turmoil. They are my favourite flowers - sunny and presaging Spring.

  6. Natalie, all of those flowers are gorgeous! I'm afraid I have the black thumb of death when it comes to growing flowers. Oh, but scents will get me every time -- I always feel as if I've died and gone to heaven when the wattle comes out...and again when the jasmine is in full bloom.

    Wonderful news to hear that you're back in your home. Am looking forward to seeing beautiful pictures of your garden in the future. :-)

  7. Natalie, I'm so pleased to read you're back in your home and I hope things really start to settle down for all of you over there.

    I love black and white too - especially in a good photograph. There a crispness and clarity in them that's fascinating.

    Your black and white garden sounds wonderful and the petunias and viola are stunning. I'm a rather haphazard gardener (I've killed the roses I tended with TLC - and everyone said that was nearly impossible! The ones I've ignored are doing fine!) But this year I'm so excited because the vegetable garden is (touch wood) flourishing! We've been eating asparagus and silverbeet and lettuce and radishes various herbs for weeks! I love going out to harvest things we've grown!


  8. Natalie, lovely to hear you're back home and your garden sounds fabulous. Unfortunately I'm only good with cut flowers (used to be a florist)The garden variety usually don't make it past a few weeks in my care. Herbs fare a little better and I'm working on the vegetables.
    Great post.

  9. Hi Natalie

    I'm happy to hear that you are back home.

    Since I live on the opposite side of the planet I'm heading for winter right now. I have to tell you that my black velvet petunia made a stunning display along with a hot pink petunia and some white lobelia in a planter on my front patio. It is still quite nice even through we have had some frosty nights.

    I have flowers, herbs and tomatoes and a few veggies in my garden.

  10. Natalie, thrilled you're back home. With my step daughter living there I know how hard it is for you in shaky city. I really admire everyone who lives there and how you all cope.
    I'm a flower girl, love them in all shapes and sizes, and with all perfumes - except lillies. Can't quite get my head around those. But I also love nature in all forms - except earthquakes. Living out in the Sounds we grow most of our veg. In fact we have a policy now - if we can't eat the product we don't grow the plant.
    Sue MacKay

  11. Plants wither when I look at them. I leave it up to others to grow things in the garden. BLACK flowers are incredible.

  12. Good to hear you're back in your own home, Natalie. Nice to hear a good story from Chch!!
    I love black and white, too. Like Sharon , photos especially. I loved Jane Porter's wedding photo in black and white but with the red shoes!
    I'm not much of a gardener but some combinations are just gorgeous. Red and white I just love (perfect for Petunias which reminds me, I should go and buy some for summer), and of course pink. Pink everything. Love it.

  13. Natalie, what gorgeous flowers! I'm a total sucker for flowers, and end up incorporating scenes in many of my books.

    My grandfather was a flower breeder in his spare time, and was always after the impossible. For several years he worked on gerberas and there was a particular combination of traits he was breeding for (though I can't remember what it was).

    That black petunia is stunning!

  14. Natalie

    I so love the flowers and it is good to hear that you are back home.
    As for me I am a hopeless gardener although I love looking at them and having vases of flowers around when I get them LOL

    Have Fun

  15. Funny, I was at the garden shop just last week and one array of flower plants stopped me dead! Just gobsmackingly stunning... You guessed it - black petunias!!!

    Welcome home to you and your family after the (literal) upheavals. Enjoy recreating your particular piece of paradise.

    And I wouldn't be a proud Kiwi girl if I didn't agree totally with your postscript. Buff boys in black - they sure looked mighty fine and they did us proud!!! :-)