More on native plants for meadows

I had a grand time at the Nepean Horticultural Society on Thursday, talking about wildflower meadows. One of the best parts of the evening was the questions after my talk. Some great, thoughtful, questions came from the audience – thanks to all who asked.

(I am a bit slow getting to this. The cold I was fending off all week, so that I could give the talk Thursday evening, exacted vengeance on Friday and through the weekend.)

One of the most remarked upon parts of my talk was the illustration of the depths of roots of various prairie plants and wildflowers. I thought I would put up this illustration, from Conservation Research Institute, 1995, to give everyone another look at this phenomenon.


The botany prof who first drew all these wonderful root systems, whose name I couldn’t recall, was a Dr Weaver, of the University of Nebraska, and he is the subject of a fine blog post in the blog Gardenhistorygirl. I urge you to click through to see some astonishing botanical illustration work.

Prairie plants root systems sequester carbon in the soil as they build organic matter in topsoil. I mentioned this briefly in my talk. The Guardian newspaper recently published an article on how farming practices affect the amount of carbon in the soil: Our best shot at cooling the planet might be right under our feet. Imagine the difference in carbon sequestration between a field growing little bluestem as a perennial hay, and, say, industrial corn. You may not be in a position to seed an hundred acres in little bluestem, but you may want to be part of the solution by doing your little bit, creating a small meadow of native grasses and flowers where you can, in your yard or at your church or school.

Also, while you are here, take a look at the roots of Cylindric Blazing Star, second from the right. Wow! Cylindric Blazing Star is a little thing, no bigger than a petunia plant, and its roots go down 15 feet.



SOOS Orchid Show

The Southern Ontario Orchid Society held its annual show this past weekend. I don’t know if, because circumstances forced them to cancel the show last year, everyone involved was exceptionally keen, but it was a very fine show with some extraordinary displays of orchids in bloom.

dendrobiumI exhibited four drawings in the Art and Photography Exhibit and earned two prizes in the Art division: a second prize for Dendrobium densiflorum, in mixed pencils,  and a third prize for Pink Cymbidium I, in water soluble colour pencils. I also showed a work called Pink Cymbidium II, in water soluble pastels and coloured pencils, which was not finished in time to go into my Tropical Orchids show. I really appreciated the chance to exhibit to a orchid-appreciating audience. If I can stereotype for a moment, I think orchid enthusiasts include some of the geekier (and I mean that in the best sense) horticulturalists, who really appreciate detail and botanical accuracy in art work.

Pink cymbidium II, 2012
Pink cymbidium II, 2012

The show also fired up my enthusiasm for orchids. I had become rather tired of them after  my solo show last year. Seeing the amazing bloom at the SOOS show has renewed my interest. I was especially taken by the many varieties of  Masdevallia. I have always liked Masdevallia, because their three-petalled form reminds me of Trilliums and the nodding tip to the upper petal is somewhat like Jack-in-the-pulpits, but I previously had not seen many examples of the genus. There were many gorgeous Masdevallia cultivars at the SOOS show: pink ones and yellow ones and salmon ones and bicolours:


SONSI Exhibit 2013

I have been busy getting ready for the Southern Ontario Nature and Science Illustrators Exhibit 2013, for which I am both Exhibit Co-ordiantor and Webmaster. Plus I have four works in the exhibit and I still need to frame two of them.

One of the works in the exhibit is an acrylic, a study of wild donkeys I did intending to do a large acrylic landscape with a herd of donkeys in the foreground. I have not exhibited an acrylic before. This is a member show and the donkey painting is an example of the sort of thing I have been working on for the past 4 or 5 months.

This past year has been a time of exploring new media for me. Each of the four paintings in this exhibit is in a different medium.

Burico - Wild donkeys, Aruba by Trish M Murphy. Acrylic, 2013
Burico – Wild donkeys, Aruba by Trish M Murphy. Acrylic, 2013