I’m not sure how I found her, but awhile ago, I started following Lara Gastinger on Instagram. Her illustrations of botanical subjects are exquisite. At the end of December she described her perpetual journal process and invited others to join her in this way of working. I misunderstood at first and thought it was a daily drawing entry, but rereading her process again, I found out that she only enters one drawing a week. In this way, there is room for subsequent years of drawing.
I started by recording pieces of the winter wrapped garden and quickly realized that I was more inspired by my new fascination with houseplants. So I will record the houseplants I have and by the time spring arrives, I plan to move outside to record the garden.
This is a wonderful low commitment way of practicing observation drawing – especially during the busy months of work. It will also help me keep track of the plants I have and their development over the years (space allowing!).
Every garden year is different and this one was no exception. As our yard matures, some plants have settled in, new challenges have developed and I have shifted my focus from acquiring new specimens to editing and caring for plants that I have an affinity for. (But let’s be honest: I will always have difficulty passing up a good plant trade or garden centre bargain!)
Spring brought the welcome sight of botanical ephemerals. Hepaticas and the Jeffersonian dubia are favourites for their exotic and delicate appearance. Inside, I was surprised to see an orchid I had purchased on clearance years ago, finally bloom again.
In May, I started to see the rock garden perennials wake and the Oak fern (Gymnocarpium dryopteris) is starting to spread. Sadly, I had no success with cultivating Mason bees that I had overwintered as cocoons. I did catch a photo of one below as it briefly visited some Dwarf Valerian.
I credit the mason bees for doing such great work pollinating the cherry trees this year. On both my potted ‘Nanking’ and ‘Carmine Jewel’ we had profuse blossoms which yielded large quantities of cherries.
Unfortunately, the beauty of our crabapples was marred by the discovery of Fire blight. I am carefully pruning away affected branches of our ‘Spring Snow Flowering’ crabapple and this was the first autumn where I had to dispose of the leaves which I would normally use for mulch. At least the distinctive leaf markings made for an interesting drawing study in pencil crayon.
Other lesser garden challenges included finding out a Martagon lily I planted two years ago was actually not an ‘Alba’ but some unknown magenta imposter as it finally bloomed this summer. The specimen Saxifraga borisii ‘Vincent van Gogh’ also spent most of the summer recovering from vole damage incurred last winter. (With the amount of snow we are currently having, I wonder if our lawn and perennials will be visited again by those marauding beasts!) And unexpectedly, a ‘Morden Blush’ rose which I thought I had dug up and given to a friend is back in full glory after I let a wayward piece of root have its way. This proves to me that roses need not be temperamental!
The last challenge which is a continual one every winter in Calgary is a long standing Chinook that led to 14ºC temperatures in December followed by the current -27ºC we are enduring. I took this photo of the seed heads of Clematis koreana ‘Brunette’ while watering the evergreens on December 10.
It has been a whirlwind trying to summarize my creative pursuits in three blog posts in 2 days. Now that I have reformatted this space, I hope to visit it more often in 2018 in this less formal way. Best wishes.
Have you ever been surprised by a habit you didn’t realize you had until someone points it out to you?
It appears that this year, I formed a mild habit of handspinning fibre. Until I started organizing photographs, I hadn’t realized I was spinning something almost every month of 2017.
I think of it as meditation in motion. The by-product just happens to be pleasingly tactile, beautifully coloured yarn that also looks great under a camera lens (phone camera lens that is).
Below are some of the images I recorded. I am still learning to chain-ply, took a great class on hand carding with Diana Twiss and practiced a bit of knitting too. (All images photographed with iPhone 5 or iPhone 6S. Notecard in mail image by Susan Stephen.