Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Piper's Creek Orchard

I took a walk in Piper's Creek orchard this morning to see the blossoms. This orchard was planted more than 100 years ago by Minna and Andrew Piper who had lost their bakery business in the Seattle Fire of 1889 and moved out to the countryside to live in a logger's shack. I am drawn to old orchards for sentimental reasons as there were so many in New Brunswick where I grew up. For those with more than a sentimental interest you can read about the varieties of apples in the orchard on the very helpful park sign by the woodland trail.

Piper's Creek is a restored salmon stream just a few steps away. You can read more about the orchard and the volunteers who look after it at http://www.mlhp.net/pipers/ or you can google Piper's Orchard.

I love this picture of Minna and her daugher Tillie in their garden. Wouldn't they be happy to know that their orchard is being looked after so well.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Children and Nature

This illustration began with a single tree drawn in pencil and scanned into the computer. Once I had the tree in Photoshop I created a landscape that reminded me of chilly autumn evenings when I was a child playing outside until sunset and supper time. My visceral nostalgia for those days got me thinking about my own children and how seldom they romp around in the grass and trees - the temptaions inside the house of computers and tv too often keep them entertained but sedentary. Are they learning about the world second hand through books and screens instead of absorbing the smells, textures and temperatures of nature? I worry about their lack of excercise. I worry about their lack of freedom in this potentially dangerous city. I worry. My response to this is to illustrate my worry through the medium of - what else - my computer. I was as happy as a pill bug under a plant pot for many hours while I worked at my computer on this illustration.

But now my skin is looking a little pasty and I think it's time to log out of my virtual garden and into the real garden where my son and I are going to edit some weeds, insert giant Atlantic pumpkin seeds and watch them zoom bigger through the summer. (If the cut and paste worms don't delete the seedlings) I can't wait to file/save the pumpkins to pies and jack o' lanterns in the fall.

If you click on this image you can see it at a more reasonable size.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Dancing Weasels not Personal Demons

I have had a touch of the blues this week, probably brought on by the nasty weather. When this mood strikes I like to lighten my paintings with some irreverent characters who defy me to take things too seriously so this week I painted a dancing weasel eating cherry blossom. Maybe today I will finish off the last of my glum mood by digging in the garden on this (finally) sunny day.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008


Because I live on a hill, I have steps in my garden, as do many of the folks living around here. Here are some images of steps in Queen Anne.

Sometimes plants take over in their own wonderful way.

Look how the berries on the viburnum are the same metallic blue as the tiles and pot.

My own solution to boring concrete steps - decorate with mud, stones and potted plants for a rustic look!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


Happy Earth Day. Here are some photos of walls in my neighborhood. Nothing to do with Earth Day.

Queen Anne is a steep hill and many of us living here garden on a slope with concrete retaining walls. I'll start with my favorite wall on the hill. (It is around the corner from Parson's Garden) On overcast days, of which we have many, the yellow color of this lichen is super saturated.

Some people paint their concrete and many of us try to cover it up by draping ground cover over the top. The white is a little startling in this grey colored city, but the purple is pretty.

Some people decorate their walls.

In some cases nature takes its course. I love this puff of unruliness.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Odd Things on a Walk

Strange weather and strange sights on my neighbourhood walk today. Through the sleet and snow I saw these twin topiary trees. How on earth are they clipped? I would like to see the ladder or crane that must be used for this.

Do you remember Mr Snuffelopagus from Sesame Street? He was a life sized wooly mammoth with soft feathery eye lashes and a gentle voice. He was always depressed. I think that these are snuffelopagus babies. I hope they will grow up to be happier.

Finally, I wonder who threw these tulips onto the sidewalk? A naughty child? An angry lover? An absent minded gardener?

Cat Photographers

Here is the finished parrot tulip painting shown at an earlier stage in the last post. I have finished the bloom and added gold leaf. I know that I should use a tripod when photographing my work, but I like what happened when my cat bumped into my camera while taking the blurry photo. The tulip leaves are even more crazy and alive than in the focused version.

Speaking of crazy, the weather in Seattle has been out of control lately. I am sure I am not the only Seattle gardener whose heart sank watching the snow and hail pour out of the sky last night. In fact, as I write this, it is snowing again. I don't expect sympathy from any east coast gardeners, especially you Maritimers, but folks around here are getting pretty grouchy.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Interesting Tulips

How wonderful to have parrot tulips growing in my garden! They are so much more interesting than the mechanically perfect shapes and colors of regular tulips. I have been using the word "interesting" a lot lately to express pleasure and the word "boring" to express my displeasure. "Interesting" people understand life's complexities and, like parrot tulips, are more fun companions than those who see the world in simple terms. I know that the beautiful contortions of the parrot tulips are caused by a virus and can be considered deformities. Hmmm. Do our own struggles and emotional deformities make us more beautiful, more interesting people? Of course they do!

Painting these parrots made me realize that I actually enjoy the leaves as much as the flowers. Each leaf is unpredictable, crazy and twisty with a mind of its own. How interesting!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Oil Painting of Rainier Cherry Blossom

Rainier Cherry blossom as it looks today.

This is how it looked when I started my little painting, strange and a bit creepy in the number of buds crammed onto a branch. Like something out of control, or a disease. But also very beautiful. I compared it to a drawing I made of mussels clinging to a beach stone in a previous post.

This little painting is about 8"x10". I like how the bare background emphasizes the odd shape and the dancing pattern of the white blossoms. I am happy with it and want to incorporate something similar into a bigger painting.

I Can't Find My Garden

My daughter and I sat outside and had lunch under the cherry blossom on Sunday. Two days later the table and chairs are covered in cherry dandruff and I can't even find some of my smaller seedlings, buried under the thousands of petals that coat the perennial bed. Even walking around is hazardous as layers of squished petals build up on the soles of my shoes. The dramatic transformation of my garden is just another form of beauty, as spectacular as the earlier blossoms, but a little more melancholy, as with all things that mark passage and the end of something.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Rooting Out Evil Junipers

The day started quietly enough with scattered clouds and a pleasant temperature for some light gardening. I decided to plant some of the grasses that I have been saving for the new garden in front of the house and busied myself with my spade preparing the soil and getting rid of weeds...and some roots...and some branches buried under the weeds. And some bigger roots. And as the rain clouds rolled in and the sky darkened I realized I was dealing with a formidable foe - an old juniper bush, buried under weeds and, horror of horrors, interwoven with landscape cloth, cleverly installed by some evil genius gardener before my time. The rain poured down. I dug and clipped. Mud dripped into my eyes. I sawed and dug. I chatted with my perfectly groomed neighbor, wondering if she could tell that I had just wiped my nose on my manure stained sweater. I dug up some bones. (hopefully those of the previous gardener) Several hours later I pulled and staggered backwards as soil sprayed into the air and victory was mine. I think I am going to be sore tomorrow.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Cherry Buds in Oil (Yum)

These wonderful Rainier cherry blossoms are fun to paint in oils. This isn't finished but I am enjoying the pattern of the bright white against the dark background. I am working from a photo that I took three days ago and all the buds on the tree have opened since then. It helps that we have a fabulous summer-like day with temps in the high 70s (mid 20s c). Driving around the city (taking my daughter to her dance lesson and my son to a sleep-over in a tree house) I could see that the sun had brought out crowds of people and the gardens were bursting with pent up exuberance. Finally finally it is spring...maybe even summer?

Friday, April 11, 2008

Pill Bugs and Computers

As you can see I have finally managed to post a graphic in my header! I have been trying and failing for weeks now so I am suddenly in a very good mood. The solution? I posted from my PC instead of my Mac. I am not a techy so I can't explain this problem but I am happy to have found a work-around. Thanks for everyone's help and opinions on the new header. Particularly aiakirjanik who took some time to help me. Well,enough tech stuff. Back to the gardening.
Ain't no stoppin me now...
It's sunny and not freezing cold. Although I am still waiting for it to be warm enough to walk in the morning without mittens, the snow falling outside my window is cherry blossom now.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Egg Tempera Grrrr.

Here is a sketch and painting of hydrangea leaves. It is the same plant that I painted a couple of weeks ago and the leaves have grown, even though it has been sitting in a cup of water with no roots. I have become fond of the soft fuzzy leaves and wanted to paint them. I also wanted to try my new egg tempera skills so I got out my ochre and lamp black and gave it a try. First of all I made a very funny mess trying to pierce and discard the skin of the egg yoke. When I saw Olga do it during my workshop she didn't end up with yoke smeared all over her hands and dripping onto the floor like I did. At least the cats enjoyed that part. Then the painting....Grrrr. It is horrible. I don't like how each little brush stroke dries immediately and shows forever. I don't understand the appeal of tempera and I miss my oils so much that I got them out today to calm myself down. Aaaagh. That feels better. Wonderful, forgiving oil paints. They feel alive like the plants that I paint.

Still very rough, but this sketch in oil paint at least has potential. I will work on it tomorrow and see how it comes along.

A New Blog Name?

I am thinking of joining the rest of the blogging world by adopting a cute blog name. Here is the image I designed for my header but I can't get it to load in the header area. Any technical advice from fellow bloggers? Any thoughts on blog names? Thanks everyone.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Crowds of Cherries

Do so many Rainier cherry buds promise a good cherry crop? I hope so. They are opening later than the rococo decorative cherry, all frills and lace, behind it. The tightly clustered cherry buds remind me of crowds of mussels or barnacles sharing tiny bits of surface on stones at the sea shore. All they need is enough space to touch and hold on.