The glory of the garden . . .

A beautiful, peaceful blog in troubling times.

Illustrated Country Diary

I don’t usually work with photographs but I haven’t the time to paint all this!  I just wanted to share the glorious summer colours of Some of my garden with you.

The Glory of the Garden : Rudyard Kipling
OUR England is a garden that is full of stately views,
Of borders, beds and shrubberies and lawns and avenues,
With statues on the terraces and peacocks strutting by;
But the Glory of the Garden lies in more than meets the eye.For where the old thick laurels grow, along the thin red wall,
You’ll find the tool- and potting-sheds which are the heart of all
The cold-frames and the hot-houses, the dung-pits and the tanks,
The rollers, carts, and drain-pipes, with the barrows and the planks

And there you’ll see the gardeners, the men and ‘prentice boys
Told off to do as they are bid and do it without noise ;

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Where to find daffodils and global warming!

At the weekend I had a two-day workshop with the title of ‘Daffodils – Herald of Spring’.

Looking into most gardens on the south coast of England, the daffodils were long gone, so how did I decide to teach this subject at this time of the year.

When planning my botanical art workshops, I look back at the photos I have taken of daffodils over the years and note the dates. Before my introduction into the digital age, I remembered that for my 49th birthday (21 years ago), we had snow (in the UK) and the daffodils were just coming out.

Working from then until last year, I expected that there would still be some in the garden. If you remember last year the daffodils were extremely early and we thought that was that. But then we had a new flowering and rather than just a few odd ones, there was an almighty crop. Not so this year!

Robin and I went trailing around Chichester and surrounding areas buying up what we could find. It was an interesting exercise.

As you can see, in the end we found the remains of some tiny ‘Tête á Tête” bulbs still flowering, but also some Narcissi. Therefore the workshop was saved.

As a note here, all my workshop titles where specific plants are mentioned, are just suggestions for subjects to paint. My workshops are not based on a step-by-step approach, but on individual support to improve your own technique.

Here are several pictures from the workshop including a preparation page, a very rough sketch and a ‘before and after’ picture showing the importance of cleaning up around the image as a last task.

I will let the pictures speak for themselves, but once again I met with some lovely, hard working botanical artists and I believe a good time was had by all.

Now to prepare for the next two weekends, which is the Chichester Open  Studio art trail. In addition to my usual exhibition space where my workshops are held, I will be doing some  work towards pictures I will need to have finished before the end of the year. Robin will be looking after the exhibition and you will find me tucked away in the shed at the bottom of the garden. Do come and visit me at Venue 35 in Bosham. For more details visit page:

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Magnolia x soulangeana soon in bloom

In 2011 I had finished three years work on a series of paintings showing a year in the life of the Magnolia x soulangeana. The series was exhibited at the RHS that year and I won a Silver medal – my first RHS medal. One of the paintings was chosen by the Hunt Institute for Botanical documentation in Pittsburgh, USA and it was first exhibited there in 2013. Since then it has had a three-year tour around the USA with the rest of that exhibition, but is now back in their archives in Pittsburgh.

© Magnolia x soulangeana: Maturing Blooms

I was super lucky to have some huge fruit on the tree the years I was doing the paintings and they were featured. But since then tree from which all the paintings were done, has not produced much fruit at all; in fact nothing until last year when it had a couple of small ones. I think the tree knew that I was painting it’s portrait and wanted to show itself at its most beautiful.

© Magnolia x soulangeana: Ripe fruit and seeds

I am hoping that the tree is building itself up to another magnificent display later on this month. At the moment there are masses of terminal buds in which the blooms develop and you can almost see them growing a little more for each day.

It is obvious that the Magnolia tree means quite a lot to me after having studied it so closely for those three years. I learnt such a lot about it, how it is fertilised and why it is a particular type of bug that  is responsible.

If you want to know more about Magnolia x soulangeana, and you are interested in botanical art as an artist, do book to come to my workshop Friday to Sunday 31 March to 2 April. I still have a few places available.

This is the first time that I have had a workshop on this subject – and you can probably guess why. But now I would love to help others who would like to paint the blooms in watercolour or coloured pencil (dry), or even draw them in graphite.

Get in touch with me as soon as you can so that you don’t lose this opportunity.




Happy Christmas.

We are in the last stages of preparation for Christmas and now sit down to try and relax before going to bed.

We will be having a Christmas with a difference as we don’t have children or grandchildren with us this year. It is the first time in fact that we will be celebrating by ourselves. We realise how really lucky we are with our family, and will miss their company this year. But even so we will definitely make the most of it by doing our own thing.

Tomorrow, Christmas Eve, we are going for a long hike round a nature reserve called Pagham Harbour, before taking it easy with a nice pub meal.  I don’t think I have ever done anything similar before so close to Christmas, so we are really looking forward to it.

What are the rest of our family doing? Two of the ‘children’ are in Norway where Christmas is celebrated on Christmas Eve. Nearer home, one ‘child’ and family moved into their new home at the beginning of this week and they are busy stripping wallpaper. The remaining ‘children’ are missionaries in Ghana and enjoying the warmth.

I have been painting on vellum the last few days, but more about botanical art next time.

In the meantime we wish you a wonderful Christmas and a relaxing New Year.



The Cowley’s experience

For those who don’t know, William Cowley’s is the last remaining vellum maker in the UK and the only one in the world to hand-finish the skins. They make  use of the skins left over from our meat consumption, so that almost none of the animal is wasted. That is an important fact; no animal is slaughtered for the production of vellum. It is a waste product that would otherwise go to land-fill.

Today, four botanical artists and a self-proclaimed bag-man visited Cowley’s. We were looked after royally. I think in fact that they will need a day to recover from our visit!

Welcome at Cowley's
Welcome at Cowley’s
Gaynor, starting the preparation.
Gaynor, starting the preparation.
Dianne Sutherland making her own vellum
Dianne Sutherland shaving her own vellum
Sarah Morrish thinking about her bugs and beasties for her vellum.
Sarah Morrish thinking about her bugs and beasties for her vellum.
Robin, no longer bag-man, but preparer of vellum.
Robin, no longer bag-man, but preparer of vellum.
What happens if this goes through the skin?
What happens if this goes through the skin?
Shevaun Doherty found this Ooooh worthy!
Shevaun Doherty found this Ooooh worthy!
Paul, catering to all our needs!
Paul, catering to all our needs!
Four happy botanical artists.
Four very happy botanical artists.

On the way to Pittsburgh!

We have been welcomed to the USA with open arms – except for the people at border control who were extremely serious about their roles!

Our first few days were with some marvellous friends of ours who live just south of Boston. Apart from being taken to beautiful beaches, the oldest Tavern in the US at Newport, Rhode Island, a children’s party right on the water’s edge at Buzzards Bay, and an end of season evening at a local tennis club, we also went to see Cranberry Harvesting.

Did you know that Ocean Spray, the company whose name we might be aware of if we drink Cranberry juice, harvest their cranberries in at least two different ways.

Mass production of the large cranberries used for their drinks means that they are grown in ‘fields’ of bogs. I have normally seen them grow relatively sparsely in the wild in the mountains of Norway, but here the bogs are just carpets of the plants. They are lovingly tended all year round and at harvest time the bogs are flooded, a machine gently disturbs the growth of submerged plants and the fruit floats to the surface. The fruit is then manually lensed towards a suction pump which draws the fruit up into a washing facility and then transferred to a waiting truck. The trailer was about 60 feet long!

The process certainly made me think and we only saw a minute section of this vast production.

Although we didn’t see it, apparently fruit that is sold as fresh, frozen or dried fruit is picked dry by hand. In this instance the fruit appears riper than that seen in the pictures below.

I was told that there are quite a few varieties used for in their production and the ones in the wet bog are called Early Blacks.

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Today we have had a really long day. We started driving at 10:00 and arrived at our overnight destination of State College, at 19:30. But we had some amazing views of the changing colour of the leaves. We are due to arrive in Pittsburgh tomorrow afternoon, but this time it is a very few hours travelling in comparison to today.

Autumn colour
Autumn colour

Exciting news!

I have been seeing some amazing pictures on Instagram, of a fabulous looking 19th century house in France. They were posted by a friend, Alistair, who had been experiencing it first-hand. The house itself has beautiful architecture and was furnished in the style you might expect from that period.

In late spring this year I received an email from Simon and Nicholas, brothers who have restored Le Manoir to its former glory. They wanted me to consider running a botanical art workshop holiday in this splendid place. I hesitated!

There was much to consider here. I had seen the beautiful pictures, but there can be a lot of other things hiding behind beautiful pictures. Was it suitable? How did Simon and Nicholas envisage it would be? How many artists? Etc. Etc.

I got back to them, we had an initial meeting in London a few weeks ago and in the last 24 hours we experienced staying in this amazing house, being looked after by Simon and Nicholas. We now know that Le Manoir is very suitable for an exclusive botanical art workshop holiday.

Le Manoir
Le Manoir

I don’t use the term ‘exclusive’ lightly. Le Manoir is beautiful. Each bedroom is large, with a view and with a very well equipped bathroom (two of them in turrets). In addition to that the kitchen, dining room, sitting room and lounge are all extremely comfortable and very homely. The gardens and surrounding Dordogne countryside are lovely, although slightly baked following a long hot and dry summer. The swimming pool and large open-sided dining area with equipped kitchen completes the feeling of luxury. Actually, not quite; the peace and calm that pervades dots the i’ s and crosses the t’s.

We spent the time available going through details and deciding how together we can create the ideal botanical art workshop holiday. We concluded that the mornings should generally be devoted to tuition and the afternoons to trips to explore the area and meals to experience the regional cuisine, both at Le Manoir and local restaurants.

We do know that the workshop holiday will be one week at the end of September 2017, it will be all inclusive, from local airport transfer (Limoges or Bergerac), full board and lodging, tuition and all planned trips.

But, to make it even more exclusive, it is only available to an absolute maximum of seven students, ensuring a period of individual and undivided attention to everyone. Accompanying partners will be able to take part in all the trips or can be otherwise occupied by exploring the area, hanging out by the pool, visiting vineyards, or playing golf locally.

As time goes on I will give more information about this exclusive botanical art workshop holiday, but, watch this space.


For more information about Le Manoir visit:

I am back!

I haven’t written a blog, updated my website or done too much in recent weeks. But after an enforced rest (more in another blog)  I am now refreshed and raring to go.

My last blog was in May when I told you that my Malus ‘Golden Hornet’ picture had been accepted for the ASBA exhibition in New York in November. Such a lot has happened since then. and we only have three days left in July.

At the time I was exhibiting in the Cranleigh Arts Centre and at the same time in the last Society of Floral  Painters Exhibition in Chichester. But in the beginning of June I was asked if I would paint two Irises as part of the Cedric Morris Florilegium. I agreed and met up at the garden of Sarah Cook in Suffolk, who is collecting the Benton Irises. All who had agreed to paint an Iris for the intended Florilegium met up for the Saturday and were flabbergasted at the array of Irises in flower.

Iris Benton Farewell, in all its glory.

As you can vaguely see, we were spread out around the garden sitting and sketching on our knees. Not the best of positions, but for the love of painting botanically we almost do anything. I have to say that luckily the sun came out at lunchtime and we all started shedding our layers of clothes. Unlike many of the others I was stupid enough to forget a hat!

I did do several sketches, making notes of size and colour, so that I have a better opportunity to paint the portrait at home.

Luckily, we have two years to complete these pictures and we are invited to catch up with the Irises again in June next year.

Today I will show you a couple of sketches of the Iris Benton Farewell. They are in watercolour.

Some sketches from my sketchbook done in the garden

Ménagerie à trois plus botanical art workshop

Please note the difference in spelling!

We have four cats, a pond with visiting ducks, a pair of Crows, Chaffinches, Wrens, Robins (as well as my husband and sister)Blackbirds, Goldfinches, Bearded Tits, Blue tits and Great Tits, two sorts of Woodpeckers, squirrels, rats and the normal rodents etc.

Although we have the cats, birds seem to feel very happy i the garden and seem to be left alone. In fact, one day there was a pheasant in the garden and the ginger one  – Fudge decided he wanted to join him, so walked towards the bird with his tail in the air. They seemed to spend a happy time following each other gently round the garden! The only things that seem to come to grief are the rats – 22 in 18 months!

During the workshop one of the students had her dog with her. She was a little worried at first as she thought her dog might chase the cats. The black & white cat – Allsorts (as in liquorice), brother of Fudge, knows how to deal with dogs. He just sits and stares them down. It always works. I think he took five minutes to train the dog!

These were some of the views from the conservatory during the workshop at the weekend!

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There was a botanical art class between Friday and Sunday. The title was May blossom and Irises. Irises are usually the topic of choice, but there was a whole garden to choose from. In the end there were 1 1/2 Iris pictures, two Canary Rose pictures, one crab apple blossom, a very pregnant Hellebore  and none of the yellow Irises from the pond. Three people used coloured pencil and two watercolour.

From my perspective the workshop was enjoyable and the feedback I have got is that those taking part also enjoyed it and learnt something too.

I am now taking on people who want to start the online botanical art course in June. To see what it is all about, have a look at my webpage on the subject. I restrict the number of people I take on board each month so that it is best to reserve your place as soon as possible.

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And the results of the weekend so far. As I forgot to take it before packing up, there is one picture missing, but hopefully we will see the finished result in due course.

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