My last botanical illustration for the Washington Post- Southern magnolia Alta
As I write this, my very first blog, I also work on my last illustration for the “Digging In” gardening column of the Washington Post newspaper. I have been producing a weekly botanical illustration for this column for ten years. My last illustration is of a southern magnolia Alta, Magnolia grandiflora”Alta”- an upright, columnar, tree. I’m glad to have it as the subject of my last illustration as I adore its flowers and leaves. I want to do a good job, develop some thing stunning. There are southern bay magnolias growing on my street here in Salem, Oregon but it is March and not the season for blooms. I could draw the whole tree in its conical shape but I do not feel that would be as fascinating as a close-up drawing of its large, dramatic white flowers and large, shiny, evergreen leaves.
Native plants of the Appalachian Piedmont Region.
In search of some references I “google” southern magnolia Alta and the very first image I click on is from Mt Cuba Gardens, Delaware in the eastern United States. I take this as a very good omen as I know the garden nicely. I had been an intern there in the spring of 1997, my 1st year in the USA. Mt Cuba is well recognized for its extensive collection of plants native to the Appalachian Piedmont Region. I sought an internship there so that I could study these native plants. That spring at Mt Cuba I was surrounded by beauty. Every single day I watched the garden come alive as a diverse array of spring ephemeral flowers woke up from their winter slumber. I felt really lucky to be able to work in such a bewitching location alongside thoughtful gardeners who had been extremely passionate about what they did and shared their understanding generously. As I pour over photos of Mt Cuba and wander down memory lane I picture myself in those photos amongst the plants. Even right after so several years the garden is still familiar to me. I recognize where I worked and bear in mind how I had carefully stepped between the creeping phlox and bluets in search of any weeds that may possibly have escaped attention.
Spring blooms in the eastern United States.
My 1st spring in the eastern United States is a vivid and forceful memory. I had no notion how dazzling a display nature could bring forth. I was totally bowled over by the spectacle. I wonder if a lot of of you, having grown up with this annual display, are now so accustomed to it that you take it for granted. Being from Ireland and seeing it for the first time that spring was intoxicating. I was charmed and delighted by each new plant discovery and marveled at what seemed like a in no way-ending parade of blooms- red buds, choke cherries, tulip poplars, mountain laurels, dogwoods- so numerous species, so much color. Later that identical year I was delighted once again by the southern bay magnolias.
I’ve heard that our strongest sense for memory is smell but my memory of that 1st spring is an really potent visual one. I find it hard to pull myself away from the Mt Cuba pictures. It is an effort to come back to right now and my last botanical illustration for the “Digging In column”. I have a deadline and time is slipping away. The southern magnolia Alta beckons.