This practice really started a year ago, when I had a steamy affair with a Red Bird of Paradise down at the Tubac Country Inn, but this Summer, it has really taken root, so to speak.
Whenever I bring a new plant home from the nursery, I fall in love.
I guess the love affair actually begins at the nursery, or I would not have brought the plant home in the first place, but once I do bring it home, I get fascinated and want to know everything about it.
Before I put it in a container or in the ground, I spend some time with it right under my nose, and I study how it is put together.
What do the leaves look like up close?
What is their formation, and how do the buds emerge from the leaves and stems?
Finally, of course, I study the blooms, which are usually the star of the show.
I take reference photos with my iPad because I work so darned slowly and blooms do fade!
The other advantage to iPad reference photos is that I can zoom way in for a bug’s eye view.
I record everything I learn on a page or spread of my journal.
Most of you are probably familiar with “Spider Flowers” (the generic name for the plant “Cleome”.)
I have always liked them, but their stems were thorny, and they could look leggy and bedraggled in a hurry – especially around here.
Two years ago, I discovered a new hybrid (Senorita Rosarita” by Proven Winners), which has no thorns and grows bushy, flowering all Summer. I loved it and tried to start some new plants by rooting stems, because that nursery closed that same year. That experiment didn’t work.
Last year, and this year, the hybrid Cleome was nowhere to be found at nurseries, even in Durango.
SO, just imagine my surprise to find it a couple months ago at my local supermarket!
We have a joke out here about groceries being the least important thing at our market. It seems like they try to stick every kind of thing in there, including plants now and then.
And there were gallon containers of the Cleome hybrid! I bought four.
They are glorious in the garden . . .
But they are complicated plants.
The temptation when trying to draw complicated plants is to just do a watercolor sketch of the “impression” instead of the detail. . .
But I am so detail oriented that I just have to dig in.
First I went after the flower/bud area to figure out what was what. Each bud turns into a single little blossom and the bunch of buds and open blossoms form the colorful large “bloom”
The beautiful blue pink color was hard to match, so I had to mix it. I started with Holbein Quin Magenta, which is a Rose Violet and added a bit of blue violet (Lukas), and the match was perfect.
Each time a little blossom fades, it leaves behind a tiny leaf on the stem, and the stem just keeps growing taller and taller, with each new flower cluster on top. Although these little leaves are similar in shape to the actual “leaves” of the plant, the arrangement couldn’t be more different.
So, I made note of that as well. The five leaf cluster occurs at the bottom of the plant and each cluster grows off the stem on its own little branch. Then, all of a sudden, the buds start and those type leaves give way to the tiny ones that hug the stem.
And I added a more complicated watercolor sketch of the general appearance in the container in my garden.
I hope I haven’t gotten too carried away and bored anybody here, but Nature is an amazing designer, and we don’t appreciate that enough unless we really “see” a thing.
“Nobody sees a flower – really – it is so small it takes time – we haven’t time – and to see takes time, like to have a friend takes time.”
― Georgia O’Keeffe
I have long loved this quote, and lately, I’m acting on it – and taking the time!
For those of you who may be interested in finding this hybrid for yourself, here’s some info: