Daffodil – Colored Pencil

Today’s “botanical bright” is Daffodils! Now I’m really longing for spring. 

Daffodils (Narcissus) really are true signs of spring. I get so excited once the snow melts and you can see the tips of their leaves sticking up out of the ground. Once that happens you know that spring has finally arrived. 

I love to cut them and make arrangements. They last at least a week in vase. Here is a bouquet from a few years ago of daffodils and pussy willows. 

In my garden I have about a dozen different varieties. Some are “doubles” with frilly flowers and some are “trumpets” with long centers (coronas). Each fall I purchase some new bulbs and spend a few golden afternoons popping them in the ground here and there like a squirrel. 

I made these container arrangements for my business for a home show we were in. I loved these and we enjoyed them for awhile in our office after the show. These were potted so they lasted quite awhile. I added some curly willow and burlap. The bucket is an old maple syrup bucket. I think I may just make these again this year….


Flowering Dogwood – Colored Pencil

Today I have a third piece for what I’m dubbing the “Botanical Brights” collection. I must have spring on my mind because today’s piece is Flowering Dogwood (Cornus florida). 

I love Dogwood trees because of their open, airy canopy. They are a perfect mid-sized tree in the landscape. Dogwoods grow fairly well here in the northeast if they are in a protected location. They do not tolerate windy or exposed sites. I have always enjoyed seeing them bloom on my travels to the south. 

Flowering Dogwood on the Blue Ridge Parkway

This is one of my favorite Dogwood photos. I snapped this on a trip along the Blue Ridge Parkway in the spring of 2015. I love the split rail fence. The cabin in the background was a historical reproduction, but the scene looks like something out of the Civil War. 

There are many different cultivars of native Dogwood, some featuring the pink flowers I featured in this piece. They grow natively from mid Pennsylvania down to Florida, and west to the Mississippi River. In the summer Dogwood trees create a cluster of berries, called drupes, that are a favorite for many birds. The bark of the tree is very “corky” and pretty unique. The bark and branch structure make them a nice choice for winter gardens. 


Coneflower – Colored Pencil

I had a lot of fun creating the Lily of the Valley piece I shared the other day, so I decided to make another piece of that type. I am thinking I might make a series out of these. Today I created a Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) study. I love how bright the colored pencil is when I push down hard on them. The softness of these particular pencils blend well which makes them extra fun. 

I sketched this out lightly in pencil, then traced the pencil with a permanent marker. I used a fine tip waterproof pen to add some detail. Lastly, I colored it in with colored pencil. 

Coneflowers are a late blooming perennial native to the east and midwest. They are a favorite of pollinators in late summer and early fall. They get their name from the large orange “cone” in the center of each flower. Once the flowers dry these cones provide seeds that propagate the species and provide a food source for some bird species.  

Echinacea are also popular as a remedy for colds and flu, as all parts of the plant can be used to stimulate the immune system. 

When growing in the garden they prefer full sun and well drained soil. With the right conditions they bloom up to two months. 


Zinnias, Pastel Pencil

Zinnias are one of my favorite types of flowers. Late summer, early autumn is one of my favorite times of the year, and that is when Zinnias shine. These jewel toned beauties remind me of those last, long sweet days of summer right before the air gets crisp.

I love the mix of colors, sizes and textures you can find in various seed mixes.

Zinnias like poor, clay soil and plenty of sun. That is a good thing, because that is what I have up here on this rocky top.

here is the photo I used as inspiration for this piece

I enjoy making mixed bouquets with them and add other wildflowers I find in the field to compliment them. The bright purple of New England Asters (Aster novae-angliae), the pink of Joe Pye Weed (Eupatorium maculatum) and the bright yellow of Goldenrod (Solidago) make excellent arrangement additions.

I used pastel pencils to create this sketch. I chose to sketch on black paper because I knew it would make the flowers pop.

I created a grid to work within

I marked out a grid in the center of the paper in pencil. Then I lightly sketched in the flowers and the central “buttons” in the middle of each flower.

This paper has a little texture so it grabbed the soft pastels really well, and pastels are fun because they blend so easily. Nice combination.

I enjoy how much this pops out of the paper.


Air Plants

Playing with houseplants is one of my favorite ways to garden over the winter. It is not nearly the same as being outside for sure, but I enjoy sprucing up my houseplants this time of year. It is a great time to freshen the soil in existing plants, moving some up to larger pots or divide and create cuttings.

I also can’t resist adding a few new friends as well.

I recently adopted some air plants. These are three Tillandsia, a type of epiphyte. There are over 600 varieties of Tillandsia, all native to the southern US, Mexico and South America.

Epiphytes are plants that do not grow in soil. They grow on another plant. They never touch the ground. Hence the name “air plants”. A common example of an epiphyte is an Orchid.

Even more specifically these are bromeliads (family Bromeliaceae) . Other commonly known bromeliads? Spanish Moss that hangs from trees and pineapples.

I had a hanging bubble planter from my garden center days that was needing a bit of a makeover. I filled the bottom on the bubble with some decorative stones I had left over from another project. You can get these at a craft store or a pet store in the fish tank section.

Then I added the air plants and a few seashells I saved from vacation. I love the big Tillandsia, it kind of reminds me of an octopus. I liked the way the “tentacles” poke though the holes that allow for air in the top of the bubble.

And that is it. Easiest planting project ever. Just hang it up in a sunny window and mist the plants once a week, or take them out and soak them in warm water for an hour or so.

I love the contrast here between the tropical air plants and the snow outside the window. Nice way to bring some summer to winter.


Forcing Paperwhites

Forcing Paperwhites

I was gifted a Paperwhite kit and I am finally getting around to starting it! Paperwhites (Narcissus papyraceus) are a bulb native to the Mediterranean area of the world and are in the same plant family as Daffodils. They are pretty common for indoor planting, called forcing, in the winter months. They release a very sweet scent and can bring a bit of cheer to the long, dark and dreary days of winter.

These particular Paperwhites came in a kit including a pot and some planting medium, but I decided to force these in a glass container I had from last winter.

Shout out to my friend and fellow nurserywoman/plant geek Leigh of Poplar Point Studio in Ithaca for this cool container and stones! Last winter she and I hosted a meeting of our regional chapter of the NYS Nursery & Landscape Asso. featuring this particular botanical craft. She and her friend Kalee run a very cool business ‘Wine and Blooms’, that features all manner of fun, hands on planting classes. Check out their site – www.wineandblooms.com.

Leigh and I recently discussed the possibility of hosting a Wine and Bloom event here in the Binghamton area…so if anyone would be interested give me a shout!

8″ tall grass container

To start, I made sure to wash the stones and the container really well to make sure everything was clean and ready to go. Sterilizing things beforehand is important to remove any mold or algae leftover from last time. Since this is a clear container that would make things look pretty gross, but would also increase the potential for rot.

about 3″ of stones

I laid the stones in the bottom of the container to give the bulbs something to sit up on, so they are not sitting in too much water. That will also cause them to rot.

bulbs sitting on the stones, stones approx. 1 1/2″ dia.

After a few layers I evenly spaced the bulbs in the center of the stones.

holding them down….

I then used a few more stones to hold the bulbs securely in place.

Lastly, I filled the container with water – just enough to reach just the bottoms of the bulbs. You want just the tip of the bottom of the bulb to touch the water. The bulbs will then make roots that will go down into the stones. Watching the roots grow is one of the fun parts about using a clear container.

just the very bottom of the bulbs should sit in the water

Another reason I liked this particular container was because of the height. It stands about 8” tall and the bulbs are about 1⁄2 way down. Paperwhites can get pretty tall and leggy. The height of this container holds the bulbs as they grow upright so you don’t have to tie them. If you use a shorter container and things get floppy, you can tie them with a ribbon or a piece of twine and they will support themselves.

I will post some photos of these as they grow for you to see! For now, we patiently wait.


here is what they will look like!