The colour of the garden 2022

It’s the time of year in this part of the world where the plant world is slowing down and my work world is speeding up. If we had time and you were inclined, you could come for a visit and we could chat for a couple of hours over coffee or tea – about the warm summer and autumn we’ve had, the lack of rain, the things we’ve noticed in our gardens, the creative projects we dream of for winter.

What have I learned from my garden this year? Slowing down and noticing the quality of light is rejuvenating. Approaching problems with a sense of curiosity is less taxing on stress levels. My garden and plants in general help me come back to myself and have hope for our world.

All photographs by B. Wanhill. 2022. Canon T3i.

Tripping on the cosmos

You know you have a solid and helpful family when they save you from yourself and gently encourage you to move away from personal ranting on social media to other, more productive pursuits. That is what happened this week and I am pleased to say I began the long over due catch up on some personal creative time during November break.

While I was doing some quick research for this post I stumbled upon Neil deGrasse Tyson. Even more appropriately, he seems to get that people – for whatever reason – including those expending Herculean energy on not ranting about professional and moral injustices – are in a hurry.)

I was looking for a quote on cosmos (not necessarily the flower – but I will get to that in a minute) and instead I found this quote which sums up both what has been on my mind professionally and what gives me mental strength as I go back to work next week:

“You’ve never seen me debate anybody. On anything. Ever. My investment of time, as an educator, in my judgment, is best served teaching people how to think about the world around them. Teach them how to pose a question. How to judge whether one thing is true versus another.”

Neil deGrasse Tyson

Keeping in mind that making art, thinking about art is different than astrophysics in that there is often more than one true answer, this stumbled upon piece of literary information affirms my core belief. My job as an elementary art educator is to help children build curiosity about their visual world and build personal capacity and a visual vocabulary to express the truths they discover.

So, there are lots of quotes on the universal COSMOS. I will let you look that up if you like and with that I will move on to COSMOS, the flower and my quick little foray back into printmaking this week.

This was my first year growing cosmos, the plant. A gift of mixed seeds from my mom. Out of the mix, and out of power of deduction, I believe the one that produced for me is called Bright Lights.

The plant structure itself was airy, the flowers visually interesting in their variegation. They added large shape colour blocks in cut bouquets and stronger colour hits in the garden.

More interesting to me was their seed formation and the beautiful and delicate skeletal spikes that formed in the autumn. (No photo, because I’m in a hurry.)

These unique and lovely seed pods are what inspired the linocut study below:

Linocut studies. B. Wanhill, November 2021. iPhone X.

My visual question was: Could I create an image that would capture the fragile beauty of these forms?

I was hoping to use this image as my annual Christmas card but I feel there is an imbalance between background and seed heads. The two seed heads in the centre are heavier than I would like and I don’t want to hurry a resolution. I feel that I have somewhat answered that visual question in the bottom three, but as my personal week draws to a close today and I have to go to school to prep clay for next week and finish up report card marks, any further investigation on this matter will have to wait.

And now I have another book I want to read…

A brief garden update, 2017


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.

(All photos taken with iPhone 5 or iPhone 6s.)