Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Snow Trillium

Tom and I made a special trip to Brukner Nature Center on March 22 to see the snow trillium(Trillium nivale). I had to go back through my daily journal to find the correct date. I find it hard to believe that it has been eight days since we made that trip. I am glad we did. There are years when I don't see it. It blooms early, and is gone by the time the wild flowers are abundant in our area.

In this photo you can see a size comparison with the Hepatica.

Brukner is the only place I know where I can see this trillium, the earliest of the trilliums. There are large patches on the Hickory Ridge Trail below the bench and at the foot of Short Step Hill.

There was little information about this plant in the reference books in my natural history collection so I went to the Internet. It occurs only in woodlands and in ravines where the soil is very thin over limestone. The major threat to this trillium is habitat destruction by logging, quarrying, grazing, and land development. It is listed as vulnerable or imperiled in most of its known area.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Bonsai Tree

Watercolor 8 inches by 10 inches

On Saturday four of us painted at Andy's Garden. The occasion was the garden center's early spring festival. We have been painting at the festival for the past four years. 

Diverse groups from the area displayed their products. Various businesses selling garden related products demonstrated them. A local writer was selling copies of her children's books. A 4-H group was selling home-baked cookies and quick breads. The nearby nature center brought one of their Wild Life Ambassadors, a black rat snake. The garden center was raffling off patio and garden plant containers.

Seminars, lectures, and demonstrations related to gardening were held in the upstairs meeting room.

This painting is of a bonsai tree which one of the garden personnal told me had been planted in the rock about six months ago. I sat on the pavement to get the angle that showed the twisted branches.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Don's House, En plein air

Watercolor 8.5 inches X 11 inches

This is a painting from last summer. When I originally painted it at Don's I wasn't satisfied with it. But I kept it.

Years ago, I looked at a painting I hadn't liked when I painted it and decided it was good enough to enter in an exhibit. Since then I have been slow to throw away paintings. Sometimes, a month or a year later, I look at them and decide I like them better than I did when I painted them.

Last summer I didn't like the porch after I had painted it but this morning I decided that if I washed away the logs piled behind the swing on the porch I would like the painting. So I did. One of the joys of painting compared to photography is that I can ignore anything that I don't like in a scene.

En plein air is a French expression that means "in the open air". Since paints in tubes were introduced in the 1870's, painting outside has become easier. Before that painters had to make their paints as they needed them. Tubes are easily transported. Plein air has become very popular.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Garbry Big Woods Sanctuary

Garbry Big Woods Sanctuary is a wet woods a half hour drive from home. If it were a little closer, I would walk there every day from now until mid-May. The forest floor is a constantly changing landscape as the ephemeral spring flowers bloom.  This is where I found the two Harbinger of Spring plants last Saturday.

There is a boardwalk into the woods which leads to a  boardwalk loop so the sanctuary is accessible to those who use wheelchairs, and electric scooters as well as those who use walkers or canes. Young mothers bring their toddlers and push their babies in strollers.

The woods was donated to the park district by J.Scott Garbry.  There is a monument commemorating Scott at the point where the loop meets itself. 

The inscription reads


Thursday, March 17, 2011

Harbinger of Spring

The keys on my wrist keyring and the leaves give you an idea of the size of this second flower of spring in our area. (The skunk cabbage is first.) Click on the photo to get a closer look at this miniature flower.  I found only two blooming at Big Woods Sanctuary.  One year Tom and I came at the perfect time and the wet woods floor was carpeted with them.  Given the size of these flowers, that was an impressive sight.

I am fascinated by the names of flowers.  Harbinger, according to the dictionary, means "a person or thing that comes before to announce or give an indication of what follows". 

The Latin name for Harbinger of Spring is Erigenia bulbosa.  Bulbosa clearly means the plant comes from a bulb.  And, if a person is knowledgeable about the ancient myths, one would know that Erigenia is an earlier name for Aurora, the Roman goddess of the dawn.  I found this bit of information in The History and Folklore of North American Wildflowers by Timothy Coffey.  I had to look up Aurora in the dictionary to be sure which god she was since I am not up on the ancient myths.

A common name for Harbinger of Spring is Pepper and Salt.  That one is easy to understand.  The stamen are dark on the tips (the pepper) and the flowers are white (the salt).

Monday, March 14, 2011


This was painted from a photo. Willie was Jo and Bob's pal for many years. He even came to visit us when they came for the weekend. He lived a long and cheerful life. He was everyone's friend.

Friday, March 11, 2011

To Gillian on Her 37th Birthday

Click on program cover and cast list to enlarge.

Since two of our children participate in community theater groups Tom and I enjoy lots of live theater.

I saw To Gillian on Her 37th Birthday last Sunday. Since Tom and I have been busy with videotaping for the park district and I have been painting watercolors this is the first opportunity I have had to tell you about this play. There are two more performances, one tonight and one tomorrow evening.

It is a drama that requires a strong lead actor for  the professor who has been in deep morning since the death of his wife in an accident two years earlier. Mike Rousculp was up to the task. The rest of the cast were strong in their support roles.

The play also requires a director with deep insight into people since much of the success of the play depends on the subtle gestures and reactions of the cast. Jackie Chamberlin did a great job of directing. She helped the cast bring the characters to life.

The play takes place outside a house on a beach. The stage floor was covered with sand. Because of this, gestures such as doodling in the sand and and shaking sand from beach towels were wonderfully believable.

I may be prejudiced about the sand though I like to think that I am not. When our daughter, Sonja, asked our son, Ray, to design the set, he specified real sand. Sonja, Ray, and Eric, (grandson)and Jackie Chamberlin were members of the construction and painting crew along with ten others.

Community theater plays are  the culmination of hours and hours of work by dedicated people whose rewards are not money.  Instead the rewards are the smiles and tears and applause of the audience. Most people who enjoy being part of community theater find themselves wearing many hats. Until my children became active in community theater I had no idea how many people are required to put on a play. Every one of these people contribute to the final result.

Check out Troy Civic Theatre on Facebook.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011


                             Clematis...5X7 Watercolor

I painted this from a photo I took a few years ago. Since then the
canopy of the huge walnut tree in the backyard has spread so much that the clematis has died from lack of sun. I am hoping to plant a new one in the front flowerbeds this spring.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

A Good Rain

"A good rain demands celebration.  Water is the most precious substance on earth and yet it falls in abundance...from the sky.  We should catch it in silver bowls and tally every drop.  It should inspire dance in circles, run stomping through puddles, and sing in gratitude."
                 Jerry  Dennis from  It's Raining Frogs and Fishes.

I am writing this and listening to the sump pumps in the basement working hard to keep our basement from flooding.  We have had a lot of rain in the past week.  Roads have been flooded and so have the parks in the floodplains.  Other areas have had worse problems...whole towns flooded.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Jack In the Pulpit

                    Jack in the Pulpit  Watercolor  5X7

I just looked in Newcomb's Wildflower Guide. Going by the brief description, the photo I used to paint from was probably one of a Northern Jack in the Pulpit. (Arisaema stewardsonii). The tube or spathe of this species is definitely deeply furrowed on the outside forming conspicuous white ridges. I tend not to remember details like this. I just like to spot the Jacks (and Jills). It's hard to find the first one but once I have found the first one, I usually find more. Being green they are hidden to the casual eye among the other green plants around them. I do remember that a particular plant varies from year to year, depending on the conditions of the spot where it grows. Some years the plant is a male, sometimes a female, and sometimes neither. In our area, we see Jack in the Pulpit in May.

I almost always paint literally so it is obvious what I am using as a model. This painting is the second painting of Jack (or Jill) that I have painted. The first one had a deep red background and all the focus was on the plant.

Now, Georgia O"Keefe... She painted six versions of Jack in the Pulpit in 1930. This is her second version.

Her painting is in oil, 40 inches by 30 inches. I love seeing her paintings in art museums. Most of them are big, vibrant and full of flowing color.