Friday, June 23, 2017

Local Color in My Garden

Etoile Voilette

Here's some stunning photos of the flowers in my garden this year. Japanese gardens are traditionally subdued: white flowers and perhaps a touch of red are allowed, but the rest of the garden is supposed to be textures and shades of greens.

Pink iris.

In American gardens all color combinations are the rule. I'm as American as it gets when it comes to gardens: ecclectic in choice of plant materials, and as an artist, the more color the better!  I'd find it hard to believe that any color in nature actually clashes with another, though some combinations do look better than others.

Red yarrow, white salvia with barberry, peonies, lavender and roses.

This is what the front bed by the garage looked like a month ago. A couple of weeks later the peonies have set seed, the yarrow flowers faded to pinkish cream, and the lavender is in full bloom, for a different combination of colors

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Thinking about the delightful "Dawn and Dusk' combination of climbing rose and clematis, I found a photo from 2013, right after those two had been planted and I was putting in the flame azalea on the east side of the house.

Planting the flame azalea on the east side of the house.

Four years later.

Here's what that spot looks like today--what an amazing difference a few years' growth can make! Several other plants have been added over the intervening years, of course.

Columbine var. "blue Barlow"

This particular deep blue columbine that I planted last year is odd in that it lacks the classic spurs of the Aquilegia species--I wonder what it was hybridized with? The color is fabulous, anyway.

The Little Indians, early June

The Little Indians bed is now in summer mode, lush with Stella d'Oro daylilies and orange asclepias. A shot of it earlier in the spring shows the seasonal progression.

The Little Indians, mid-May.

Yellow daylilies under the red maple.
Red Alchillea with orange Kniphofia (Red hot poker) and Catmint

Last year I bought an assortment of a dozen unnamed varieties of Asian lilies to fill in the island bed in back. I got them in the ground a bit late in the season and only a couple of them bloomed, rather late--in September! After a year of settling in, this summer they have presented some spectacular blooms--a riot of color!

Lilies starting to bloom
Further along
Bicolor zinger: yellow tipped with orange

Vibrant orange
Pale pink

Pure yellow

Now that I see their colors and different heights, I may dig up some of these lilies and re-arrange them for more pleasing display of color. It may be that the height difference is more due to soil fertility than genetic--that remains to be seen. My garden is my laboratory, where the bare earth is transmuted into gold by the sweat of my brow.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Digital Prints of Glacier Flower Paintings

Glacier Flowers I, 8" x 10"

Glacier Flowers II 8" x 10"

I recently had my Glacier Flowers paintings printed and am offering both of these lovely digital prints for sale. Each print sells for $100 plus shipping, but as a special I'm offering a price of $150 for the set of both prints purchased together.

The reproductions were done by Old Town Editions, a very high quality archival digital printing studio in Alexandria, VA. The prints are mounted in white archival mats with outer dimensions of 14" x 18" and can be put into frames of that size which is a standard size easily found in art framing stores. Hurry folks, I have only a limited number of prints available. I can take payment with PayPal, checks or credits cards by phone.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

My Spring Garden

Dawn and Dusk.

This year my spring garden has been more floriferous than ever. My climbing 'New Dawn' rose and clematis 'Etoile Violette' on the porch are looking even fuller than last year! Other plantings that were just getting established last year are starting to come into their own, like this old-fashioned iris my mother used to grow in her garden. It may not be as showy as the newer varieties, but its wonderful perfume, which many of the other varieties lack, more than makes up for it.

Old-fashioned iris

With such warm weather during the winter the grape hyacinths bloomed early, although the new batch I planted last fall (a mixture of several varieties) didn't bloom until late April, along with the Spanish Bluebells (Hyacinthoides). The new pink dogwood in the background complemented the soft blues beautifully.

Spanish bluebells (Hyacinthoides hispanica) with pink dogwood

The rhododendron planted on our first spring here (I've forgotten the variety, probably 'Yaku Princess') finally put out a few blossoms this year, though the leaves sustained a lot of winter damage. I hope that now that it's getting more shade it will continue to improve. In this alkaline soil, it's hard to grow acid-loving plants such as azaleas and rhododrendrons.

Rhododendron 'Yaku Princess'

The 'Admiral Semmes' azalea planted last year didn't put out much bloom his year, it will need more time to get going. I had expected the flowers to be yellow, but the soft peach color is as lovely as the fragrance (It's a cross between the southern Azalea austrinum and Exbury hybrids).

'Admiral Semmes' azalea


I had ordered a metal arbor structure for the clematis that my sister Bea gave me last year but
I've been having trouble assembling it, so the poor vine is just leaning against a couple of bamboo stakes at the moment. Lovely flowers, though I can't remember the exact variety-- it looks like it might be 'Nellie Moser'.

The east bed

The Japanese maples on the east side of the house are growing nicely. Recently I put in two new native trees--a sourwood (Oxydenrum arboreum) to shade the Carolina Silverbell (Halesia caroliniana) partly visible on the left in this photo, and a honey locust in the back yard. The trees came bare-root and the recent rainy spell has helped the locust to start budding out, but the sourwood appears to be dead--I may have to call the nursery where it was bought to replace it.

Irises and Double Knockout rose

The front walk.

The irises in the front didn't perform as well this year--perhaps they need to be given a bit more room to spread? But the general tapestry by the front walk is finally starting to look as I had envisioned. The expansion and consolidation of the backyard beds continues, with two new shrubs: a Fothergilla gardenii and a Blue Mist shrub (Caryopteris x clandonensis 'Longwood Blue').

Today, I have quite a number of annuals and a couple of perennials to plant, so I'm off to toil in the garden. Happy springtime, dear friends!

Monday, May 29, 2017

Goodbye to Sperry Chalet

The staff at Sperry Chalet (l. to r. Sinead, Jason, myself, Renee, Terri, Stephanie, Katie, Karen)

My last morning at Sperry Chalet dawned much too soon--it was hard to believe two weeks had slipped by so quickly in these amazing surroundings, with such unique people!

The mule train arrived mid-morning right on schedule, bringing up the supplies. I recorded some of the unloading: Sinead and Katie moving the big propane tanks around the dining room to the storage room below. These young ladies were strong! The packers lugged the 30-gallon plastic trash cans with the supplies into the dining room, then picked up the trash and laundry to be taken down (my luggage too, except for my daypack) that had been packed the night before, and strapped the buckets onto the mules.

Stephanie calms a mule while the packer unloads the propane tanks.
Sinead and Katie carry a propane tank to the storage room below the dining area.

Sinead and Katie carry a propane tank down the path.

Katie  holding one of the mules.

I hung around until noon, then started my trek down to Lake MacDonald, where Kevin would meet me. The trail back would be all downhill, and much easier than the hike up. I took my lunch to eat on the way down.

Leaving Sperry Chalet

I lingered to admire the scenery one more time and took some pictures at Sprague creek and its cirque--there were different flowers blooming now than when I'd hiked up two weeks earlier.

Sprague Creek.

Sprague Creek and waterfall.

I stopped for lunch about one o'clock, looking up at the chalet and admiring its impressive height as I munched. Further down I noticed that there were a number of what looked like orchids with inconspicuous small flowers growing by the rill where I'd seen the Red Monkey flowers on the way up. I'm still not sure of the identification, other than it's definitely an orchid, perhaps the White Bog Orchid (Platanthera stricta)? The flowers look very insect-like.

Lots of orchids growing by a rill beside the Sperry Trail

Closer look at Bog orchids (Platanthera stricta?)

Lichens growing on forest on trees

Fireweed growing by the trail

The Fireweed was in full bloom further down, and once I entered the forest, I found many other flowers decorating its shady floor. I recognized rattlesnake plantain orchids (Goodyeara oblongiflora) in bloom, similar to our eastern  Goodyeara pubescens except without the intricate veining on the leaves, Pipssipewa (Chimaphila umbellata), and one-sided wintergreen (Orthilia secunda) along with other familiar plants.

Goodyeara oblongiflora

Pipssipewa (Chimaphila umbellata)
One-sided Wintergreen  (Orthilia secunda) and Foamflower (Tiarella trifoliata)

I looked for huckleberries, which should have been fruiting by now at lower altitudes, but wasn't able to spot any bushes with berries near the trail. The patch of Twin-flower (Linnaea borealis) had finished blooming, and I saw many mosses and fungi but didn't see the Coral Root Orchid seed pods I'd seen on the way up.

Mushrooms on the forest floor.
I continued down the trail lingering over the plants, arriving at the Lake MacDonald Lodge parking lot a little after four-thirty, and went into one of the snack bars to wait for Kevin--we'd agreed he'd meet me at five. I ordered a glass of wine to brighten the wait, and then realized I'd sent down my purse and wallet with the mule pack, so Kevin had to cover my tab when he arrived.

After Kevin picked me up, he drove to his home to unpack the buckets brought down by the mule train, where I could get the rest of my gear. It was a most interesting look at the logistics of the operation--he had a garage-size building next to his home that was used for storing the Chalet's supplies, shelves of goods, and a number of spare plastic trash cans used as the carrying buckets. He quickly sorted through the buckets brought down today and picked out my gear. I'd be flying back tomorrow on a Monday, the day Kevin hiked up to the Chalet for his weekly visit, so he wouldn't be able to see me off then.

Kevin Warrington with me at dinner on my last night in Montana.

We went out to dinner at a very nice restaurant in Columbia Falls I'd sampled during my first days here, the Three Forks, and we said our goodbyes there. What an amazing, unforgettable experience to have been Artist in Residence at Sperry Chalet!

Bear Grass (Xerophyllum tenax), color pencil drawing, 14" x 11"

I end my Sperry Chalet stories with these goat sketches, done very quickly one evening when Handsome goat was hanging around the rocks near the chalet.


Saturday, May 6, 2017

Blue Marsh Violet

Blue Marsh Violet (Viola cucullata) watercolor with color pencil, 8" x 13."

This is one of two pieces I have at the current show of Spring 2017 Art at the Mill. 

I found this lush specimen growing amidst the rocks at Whiteoak Falls in Shenandoah National Park on a hike a friend and I took over ten years ago. Sometimes it takes a while for me to get around to doing a painting, though usually not this long!

This is my fourth year participating in Art at the Mill at the historic Burwell-Morgan mill in Millwood, and every year the shows, in the spring and fall, seem to get better. The space is beautiful, and the Clarke County Historic Society volunteers who hang it are very adept at fitting in all the varied styles of art and media to suit it, with lovely touches like fresh flowers and natural seasonal decorations. If you happen to be in this area of Virginia, please stop by and check it out--the show is open on weekends from April 29 through May 14, Fridays and Sundays from 12 to 5 and Saturdays from 10 to 6.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Last Days at Sperry

Shadow of Gunsight Mountain at sunrise.

I had an unusual dream on my next-to last night at Sperry Chalet. In the dream, as I was hiking over my favorite section of the Sperry Glacier trail between the two waterfalls, I encountered an old man dressed like an Indian chief. He asked me what I was searching for... and I responded that I was looking for beautiful flowers to paint. He climbed up without effort to a rock ledge jutting above the trail and brought me a Columbine plant with flowers of three different colors: most were pale yellow, like the Columbines I'd seen all over the park, two or three were pink, and there was one single white flower. I was delighted, thanked him, and told him I would paint this most unusual plant. He vanished while I wasn't looking.

I woke up feeling the dream had been a communication from beyond... perhaps just my subconscious, but very telling, none the less. I had taken the old man's question literally in the dream, but the question was really a metaphysical one--what was my spiritual quest in this remote place? And the symbolic answer, the three colors of the flowers: yellow for remembrance, pink for platonic love, white for purity... charged with meaning!

The sun was just rising above the ridge of Gunsight Mountain and I could see clearly the shadow of its twin peaks cast on the valley way down below. I'd been told this shadow was the reason for the mountain's name, which one could easily discern.

I went down to breakfast early, determined to paint some Columbines on my last day here. I told Kali about my dream, and she was intrigued. She told me of the Blackfoot Indian legend about Akaiyan, which I had not known about, and that the second waterfall on this trail bears his name--which I had not known before. We both marveled at the coincidence, though I don't really believe it's coincidence as much as divine providence. I suspect these instances may be more a case of our subconscious contacting something beyond our normal senses that is actually present. I sometimes experience these revelations in dreams.

Trail crew member at work.
Trail crew at work.

On my way up the trail I saw two young men who were working repairing the trail near the first waterfall. They were members of one of the park's many trail crews. I had remarked how well-maintained the trails were and they told me trail maintenance is done all throughout the short season. The crews move from camp to camp as they work on different trails. Working in pairs, the work is grueling--they dig runoff trenches, move and stabilize rocks, cut down fallen trees blocking the trails, whatever the vagaries of nature call for, all with only basic hand tools--mallets and chisels, shovels and a crosscut saw.

A bit farther up the trail I saw some nice Columbines, and set my gear down to sketch them, giving as much space as possible for others to pass by. It was still nice and cool in the mid-morning, and a number of guests walked around me to continue up the trail to Sperry Glacier. I worked diligently as the sun rose overhead, and the day warmed. Whew--I shouldn't have worn a black T-shirt, the color absorbs too much of the sun's thermal spectrum.

Painting Columbines

A couple stopped and offered to take the photo above, which I accepted gladly. After finishing the Columbine I started to add other plants to the background. I ate my lunch, and by two o'clock, it was so hot I was ready to call it a day. I have yet to finish the sketch I started there, even though I've worked some on it since getting home.

Columbine (Aquilegia flavescens) with Maidenhair fern (Adiantum pedatum), color pencil, 10" x 8"

The composition needs to be resolved--the pale yellow flowers of the Columbine need a darker background to stand out, to give the impression that they are growing on a rock ledge, like the ones in my photo below. But this is a decent field sketch to use as the basis for another painting.

Columbines and blue harebells on a rocky ledge.

I spent the rest of the afternoon hanging around Sperry Chalet, taking photos of the staff and storing up memories of my wonderful two weeks here. I have a sense that these are the memories that will sustain me through those rocky patches every life must traverse, particularly as we age.

Kali, Karen, Ranger John (AKA "The Plumber") and Josh relax in the kitchen of Sperry Chalet.

Kali washing dishes.

Katie and Renee by the vintage cash register.
The vintage cash register has been in operation since Sperry Chalet opened as a park concession in 1954.

Renee and staff under the Sperry Nation banner, made by a young guest who loved the place.

Hikers stow their gear against the exterior wall of the dining room.
The dining room at Sperry Chalet.