“—all growing things alone disclose the wordless mind of God.” 

- Richard Powers, The Overstory 

The Native Plant Society of New Jersey's Annual Meeting

Recently became a member and went to the annual meeting of The Native Plant Society of New Jersey. Such a great day of talks about one of my favorite subjects - plants! Highlights:

Dr. Desiree Narango talking about her study ‘Gardening for Wildlife’, and how she came to the conclusion that nonnative plants reduce the population growth insect eating birds, like the chickadee.

Autumnal inflorescence of Panic Grass in New Jersey.  Photo by Kathleen Strakosch Walz.

Autumnal inflorescence of Panic Grass in New Jersey. Photo by Kathleen Strakosch Walz.

A round table discussion titled "How Native is Native and where do Humans fit into the Environment". The conversation was between some of the guest speakers as well as members from the NPSNJ’s advisory board. I loved hearing the differing opinions on which is the lesser of two evils: a non-native plant that’s potentially invasive, or a parking lot. President of the society John Black chose the parking lot, because it doesn’t spread. Sounds extreme but I would agree in the case of a highly invasive plant.

The announcement of the 2019 Plant of the Year: HIRST’S PANIC GRASS or Dichanthelium hirstii. I thought this was an interesting choice because this is a plant that I would thing normally goes unnoticed. Like most native plants, it plays an important role in the environment, and it’s beautiful when you stop to take a closer look…

Lastly, the announcement of the ‘Native Plant Garden Contest’ peaked my interest, prompting me to assess my own garden for the presence (or lack) of straight species native to NJ. More on this to come!

Landscape Design History

I’m excited to start this course in Landscape Design History at the New York Botanical Garden this week

Study theories and principles that have shaped the design of landscapes from antiquity to the present. Explore Eastern and Western garden traditions. Survey all types of gardens and landscapes, including corporate and public spaces, through visual presentations, assigned readings, projects, and classroom discussion. Landscape designs will be considered in the context of the times and societies in which they were created. 

Carbon Dust Drawings

The carbon dust technique was first used by Max Brodel in the late 19th century to create medical illustrations, and is a great medium to use for a drawing with very fine details.

I made the drawings below using the carbon dust technique (except for the last which is pencil). I love the range of grays I can get, but have never loved the dustiness of any charcoal or pastel medium.

To make a drawing in carbon dust, you start with a piece of multi-media vellum drafting film, like Denril. Somehow it holds the carbon dust better than regular drawing paper.

Using a razor blade, you scrape the tip of a carbon dust pencil into a dish to create the dust, and a paintbrush to apply it to the film. You build up the darks in this way, and use an eraser to add light.

Work from big shapes to little, and from large brush to small, until you capture the tiniest detail, like the glint of light in a beetle’s eye!

carbon dust beetle.jpg
carbon dust mushroom.jpg
Drawing on left was done with carbon dust, on right is pencil.

Drawing on left was done with carbon dust, on right is pencil.

Article about Invasive Plants

Interesting New York Times article by Margaret Renkl about invasive plants in our own backyards…

Those of us involved in the plant world are aware of the negative impact invasive plants have on our native habitats - but how do we alert non-plant people, busy with their own lives and interests? What would make them stop, listen, learn, care and take action???

Floral Still Lives

blue flowers.jpg

The first is my favorite, painted with blue and white gouache. The second is a watercolor painting of the same bunch of flowers. The third is also blue gouache, I think. I like the contrast between the massive bulb and the skinny little roots.