Thursday, 6 March 2014

All the best laid plans…….. getting your bloom times right!

February pages in Debbie's sketchbook- Nature Trail 2014, a natural sketchbook exchange.
© 2014 Aislinn Adams

Plan A- Indian plum, Oemleria cerasiformis, bud break!

After such an exciting start to the nature sketchbook exchange in January I had lots of ideas about what I was going to paint in Debbie's journal for February. I should have known better. When dealing with "Nature" nothing can be taken for granted.  I have a long term project to paint the native plants of this area and, with spring on the way here in the Willamette Valley of Oregon, I wanted to paint one of the earliest flowering native shrubs, Indian plum, Oemleria cerasiformis, in the sketchbook. I started my studies in a larger Stillman & Birn journal, hoping to capture the bud at various stages of opening. Alas! that was before we got a large dump of snow right in the middle of bud-burst. This delayed bloom time just enough to make it too late for me to paint it into the sketchbook.

Indian plum, Oemleria cerasiformis, buds.
Virginia witch hazel, Hamamelis virginiana, seeds

Plan B- Virginia witch hazel, Hamamelis virginiana, in bloom!

I have a commission for Virginia witch hazel, Hamamelis virginiana,  from an extremely patient client (still waiting for it a year later.) This is the season to do it I thought to myself and, in an effort to use my time more efficiently, I decided to include it in my sketchbook. However, Virginia witch hazel, native to the eastern U. S., is not that common here. I asked around and, while everyone could point to the exotic witch hazels that were just coming into bloom, virtually no one knew the Virginia species. Luckily for me I had to visit a local nursery at the same time, on a different errand. Heritage Seedlings Nursery are known for specializing in native seeds for restoration projects but what I didn't know was that they also grow lots of witch hazels, and they use Virginia witch hazel as rooting stock for the exotic cultivars. Delighted to hear this I tramped off down the long grassy corridors between the trees and shrubs with two very obliging nursery people in search of the elusive shrub. We found plenty of the cultivars in bloom but no flowers on the "Virginian."

Virginia witch hazel, Hamamelis virginiana, withered leaf. Graphite.
From flowers to old leaves and strange seeds.

The snow had not melted long so we wondered if the flowers has been damaged by the harsh conditions. Still, all was not lost. The shrub did have interesting seed capsules and some lovely withered leaves stubbornly clinging to its branches. I love withered leaves and unusual seeds. The plans changed slightly. Now I was drawing this stage of the plant and maybe I could track down some of the flowers elsewhere.

First- get your season right!

I never did find the Virginia witch hazel flowers in bloom.  What I didn't realize was that I'd been looking in the wrong season. I had been so busy rushing ahead to paint in my sketchbook that I'd overlooked checking the plant's growing details first. I had assumed that, like all the other witch hazels, it was a spring bloomer.  No so. The east coast witch hazel blooms in the fall. At least all is not lost for another year. This fall I will be back at the nursery, timing it right hopefully, to catch the witch hazel in bloom.

Early blue violet, viola adunca.

Some native plants.

I couldn't send off the sketchbook without including some local native species. I've included what I consider a very under-appreciated little flower- the early blue violet, Viola adunca. It has been blooming in our front yard for nearly a month now, in spite of the snow. All the native violets are really important host plants for Fritillary butterflies and, even though it's too cold for any butterflies yet, I hope that they might use the leaves later.

Last but not least!

Inspired by  "Nature Trailer" Sarah Morrish's delicate studies of maple and oak seedlings I've included one little seed (called samara) of another native plant that I totally take for granted- the big leaf maple, Acer macrophyllum. There is a huge big leaf maple in our front yard and most years during spring I can be seen pulling up forests of its little seedlings. This year, thanks to Sarah's influence, I'll hesitate a little before pulling and even save a few.

Aislinn Adams

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