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Andrew Mitchell (left) and Janice Sharp (right) mark the wall for hanging the paintings.

Andrew Mitchell (left) and Janice Sharp (right) mark the wall for hanging the paintings.

by Janice Sharp and Deb Shaw

The first art exhibition by the Botanical Artist Guild of Southern California in the Brody Botanical Center at The Huntington Library, Art Collections, and Botanical Gardens has been hung… and it is beautiful!

This show, Inspired by California, features plants that are both indigenous to California as well as plants that have become synonymous with California.

Janice Sharp hanging one of the selected artworks.

Janice Sharp hanging one of the selected artworks.

Thirteen of the entrants were selected for hanging. We congratulate Diane Nelson Daly, Estelle DeRidder, Patricia Mark, Terri Munroe, Gilly Schaffer, Deborah Shaw, Mitsuko Schultz, Janice Sharp, Beth Stone, Ellie Tu and Jude Wiesenfeld on their outstanding submissions.

We thank The Huntington for the exhibit space, Jim Folsom for the inspiration that resulted in the exhibition, Robert Hori for the inception and logistics, Andrew Mitchell for the designing and hanging of the exhibit and Melanie Thorpe for all the details.

Andrew Mitchell with final exhibition display.

Andrew Mitchell with final exhibition display.

Inspired by California will run from June 1, 2017 to August 15, 2017.  Current and future exhibitions in the Brody Botanical Center will coincide with events and seasons at The Huntington.

In September, Inspired by Latin America will take the place of the current exhibition. Inspired by Latin America will shown from September 1, 2017 to January 15, 2018. BAGSC member entries will be due no later than August 1, 2017. See the “Call for Entries” page in the “Members Only” section of the BAGSC website for further details.

Inspired by California can be seen with admission to The Huntington during regular business hours. There are no additional charges. The exhibition is in the main lobby area of the Brody Botanical Center. The Huntington is located at: 1151 Oxford Road, San Marino, CA 91108.

"Inspired by California" by the Botanical Artists Guild of Southern California, in the Brody Botanical Center at The Huntington.

“Inspired by California” by the Botanical Artists Guild of Southern California, in the Brody Botanical Center at The Huntington. Signage about the paintings and information about BAGSC was added after this photo was taken.

posted by Deb Shaw

The Los Angeles Times has an article on this Father’s Day by Matt Ritter in the California Journal section, entitled The case of the leaning pine tree: A natural history mystery unfolds on the Central Coast. The story highlights Matt’s research about Cook pine trees, which he discovered all lean towards the equator, no matter where in the world they grow.

Matt is an engaging lecturer and the author of A Californian’s Guide to the Trees Among Us. Matt will be our keynote speaker at BAGSC’s 20th Anniversary Celebration at the Los Angeles Arboretum on August 26, 2017. Come join us for his presentation, our exhibition, and our celebration!

posted by Deb Shaw

Descanso Gardens had perfect specimens of California native plants on the demonstration tables, with the botanical and common names on tags.

The most recent of BAGSC’s ongoing exhibitions at the Descanso Gardens opened on Friday May 19, 20017. The theme of the show is California Natives.

On the May 20 and 21 weekend, BAGSC held botanical art demonstrations in the Boddy House in conjunction with the exhibition opening and the Rose Festival at Descanso. Thank you Estelle DeRidder, Mitsuko Schultz and Janice Sharp for demonstrating botanical art and talking with the public.

Upon arrival at the Body House the demonstration artists were presented with fresh-cut California native flowers in vases on our cloth-covered tables. Each flower had a tag printed with its common name as well as its botanical name. Each was a perfect example of the species.

The continuous stream of visitors to the Boddy House were very enthusiastic about the art and the Native Plants on the table.

Docents at the Boddy House were very excited and complementary about our art and enjoyed seeing the change over of art. (They keep tabs on the exhibitions.)

The BAGSC sign at the beginning of the exhibition gives information about our organization and mission.

The BAGSC sign at the beginning of the exhibition gives information about our organization and mission.

The Boddy House at Descanso Gardens is open daily (except Mondays) from 10 am to 4 pm (the gardens are open daily 9-5).

The California Native Plants show runs until May 2018. The next BAGSC Descanso Garden show theme will be Plants from a Japanese Garden and will run from March, 2018 to March, 2019. Entries are due no later than February 12, 2018. Visit the BAGSC Exhibitions page for more details.

Happy painting.

Hanging along wall in the Boddy House at Descanso Gardens.

Hanging along wall in the Boddy House at Descanso Gardens.

By Jude Wiesenfeld, posted by Deb Shaw

Lee McCaffree (left) and Pat Mark (right); photo by Jude Wiesenfeld, © 2017.

Lee McCaffree (left) and Pat Mark (right); photo by Jude Wiesenfeld, © 2017.

BAGSC held a one day class with botanical artist (and BAGSC member), Lee McCaffree, at The Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens on May 6, 2017 on “Leaf Detail: Start to Finish, Veins and Edges”.

Susan Jackson; photo by Jude Wiesenfeld, © 2017.

Susan Jackson, enjoying her leaf studies; photo by Jude Wiesenfeld, © 2017.

Lee stayed with Pat Mark, who also acted as her assistant in the class, arranging for specimens, distributing hand-outs, etc. We brought our lunch, which was a very good idea, as there turned out to be a special film event at The Huntington that took over the Brody side parking lot and added to the crowd.

Lee is a very affable teacher and took time with every student checking their work on the assignments. She began showing us examples of different leaf vein patterns and margin (edges) patterns. We divided our watercolor paper into sections and worked on different techniques in an effort to decide which ones we preferred.

I liked leaving the whites of the veins, rather than “lifting” or “masking” the veins. Lee also suggested tools that would best suit rendering our veins and edges for the best results.

We hope Lee will join us again in future. All of us enjoyed meeting her and enjoyed the class very much.

Class members, © 2017.

Class members, © 2017.

Kat Powell (left) and Estelle De Ridder (right); photo by Jude Wiesenfeld, © 2017.

Kat Powell (left) and Estelle De Ridder (right); photo by Jude Wiesenfeld, © 2017.

Jude Wiesenfeld, © 2017.

Jude Wiesenfeld, © 2017.

by Lisa Reynolds, Public Relations & Marketing Manager, San Diego Botanic Gardens and Deb Shaw

Cork oak trunk at San Diego Botanic Garden. Photo by Deb Shaw, © 2014.

Cork oak trunk at San Diego Botanic Garden. Photo by Deb Shaw, © 2014.

This Sunday, May 7, 2017 at 11 am, the San Diego Botanic Garden will present a rare demonstration by Matt Ritter on how to harvest cork from a live cork oak tree in the grove at the San Diego Botanic Garden.

The cork oak is one of the world’s most interesting and iconic tree species. Commercial cork comes from the thick, spongy, outer bark which is harvested in the tree’s native range in Spain and Portugal. The outer bark of each tree is skillfully and harmlessly stripped off the trunk once every decade, allowing new bark to regrow. Cork oaks are widely grown in California as ornamental trees, but the bark is rarely harvested. The San Diego Botanical Garden has a beautiful grove of cork oak trees that is a perfect place to host this demonstration.

Cork oak trunk at San Diego Botanic Garden. Photo by Deb Shaw, © 2014.

Cork oak branch at San Diego Botanic Garden. Photo by Deb Shaw, © 2014.

Botany Professor Matt Ritter will show how the outer bark of the cork oak is carefully harvested so as to not damage the tree. Using special tools and the same techniques employed by cork harvesters in Portugal, he will demonstrate how this amazing renewable resource can be sustainably harvested. Come see this rare opportunity right here in California!

The San Diego Botanic Gardens are located at 230 Quail Gardens Drive, in Encinitas. Open from 9 am – 5 pm daily; adult admission is $14; seniors, students and active military are $10; children 3 – 18 are $8; and children 2 and under are free. Parking is $2, except for members and for electric vehicles, which are free.

Cork oak trunk at San Diego Botanic Garden. Photo by Deb Shaw, © 2014.

Cork oak trunk at San Diego Botanic Garden. Photo by Deb Shaw, © 2014.

About Matt Ritter
Matt Ritter is a professor in the Biology Department at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo. He has authored numerous scientific papers and botanical treatments, including the second edition of the “Jepson Manual,” “The Flora of North America Project,” and a “Natural History Guide to San Luis Obispo’s Native Plants.” He is also the author of “A Californian’s Guide to the Trees Among Us,” the state’s most popular natural history guide to the urban forest. He is the California Coordinator of the American Forests Big Tree Registry, and editor-in-chief of Madroño, the journal of the California Botanical Society. He is an avid woodworker and gardener, and spent part of a recent sabbatical in Portugal, the cork oak capital of the world.

And if you would like more Matt Ritter…

Matt Ritter will be the keynote presenter at the 20th Anniversary Botanical Artist Guild of Southern California celebration dinner in August at the Los Angeles County Botanical Gardens & Arboretum. All are invited and we hope to see you there!

by Nancy Beckham, posted by Deb Shaw

Artwork on postcard: Slipper Orchid Maudiae, © 2017, Kathy Morgan

Artwork on postcard: Slipper Orchid Maudiae, © 2017, Kathy Morgan

The Botanical Art and Illustration Class of the Los Angeles County Arboretum is proud to announce their Second ARTboretum Art show, an annual art exhibit and sale to be held Friday April 28 through Sunday, April 30 from 10 am – 4:30 pm, and 10:00 am until 2:00 pm on Sunday. Last year’s first event was an amazing success, with more than 60 works of framed art available for purchase, demonstrations, a reception, and sales of beautiful cards and prints of the artists work. More than 700 people attended this three-day event.

ARTboretum is back this year, with exciting hands-on demonstrations so the public can experience the thrill of drawing and painting plants. Framed or unframed originals and fine art giclées, cards and prints of the work will be available for purchase just before Mothers’ Day. The artists will be on hand to welcome the public and to share their knowledge and love of their art. A reception for the artists will be held on Saturday, April 29 from 1 – 3 pm in the Oak Room.

The LA County Arboretum and Botanic Garden is located at 301 North Baldwin Avenue in Arcadia. Hope to see you at this exciting event in April.

by Gilly Shaeffer, posted by Deb Shaw

Save-the-date postcard, designed by Jan and Chas Clouse, featuring Gilly Shaeffer's watercolor of a California native walnut, © 2017.

Save-the-date postcard, designed by Jan and Chas Clouse, featuring Gilly Shaeffer’s watercolor of a California native walnut, © 2017.

The Botanical Artists Guild of Southern California (BAGSC) is celebrating its 20th Anniversary this year. Mark your calendars–on August 26, 2017, the Guild will be having a gala celebration in honor of our Anniversary.

Since its inception in 1997, our group has grown, changed and keeps getting better. So, we have good reason to celebrate. Members continue to develop their botanical art skills through classes and workshops, and, as a result of this dedication and hard work, we have more and more opportunities to show our art. Through outreach, exhibition and educational activities, BAGSC has increased southern Californian’s awareness and appreciation for this art form.

We have many activities planned in honor of our 20-year milestone.

The Los Angeles Arboretum Library, one of our earliest supporters, will be hosting a BAGSC exhibition, entitled “Illustrating the Urban Forest: 20 Years of Botanical Art”. The exhibition will feature trees that grow in Mediterranean climates. Opening in early July, 2017, the exhibition will run until the end of September.

On August 26 we will hold a 20th Anniversary Celebration at the Los Angeles Arboretum:

4:00 – Artists will lead a tour of the exhibition and discuss the art.

5:00 – A special presentation will be given by Matt Ritter, author of A Californian’s Guide to Trees Among Us. Matt is a professor at Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo, a tree expert and a photographer. This promises to be a delightful and informative presentation.

6:00 – The Anniversary Dinner will be held at the Peacock Café Patio at sunset. Olga Eysymontt, long time botanical art instructor, will share memories of BAGSC beginnings and how botanical art got started in Los Angeles. And there will be opportunities for all to connect with old friends and meet new ones.

Invitations to this special event will be available soon. The suggested donation for attending is $60.

Keep your eyes open for invitations and more information. Entries for the exhibition at the LA Arboretum Library, “Illustrating the Urban Forest: 20 Years of Botanical Art” are due May 12, 2017. The “Call for Entries” can be found on the BAGSC website Exhibitions page and in the Members Only section. Questions on the exhibition? Please contact Janice Sharp. Questions about the 20th Anniversary Celebration? Please contact Gilly Shaeffer.

bagsc20thCMYKWe are looking forward to sharing a beautiful afternoon and evening with members, friends, family, special guests from the Los Angeles botanical gardens community and more. We hope all will join us for this magical anniversary celebration.


by Deb Shaw, from the Illustrators Partnership

For more than a decade, there have been periodic attempts to “bring balance” to copyright policy and law. These efforts have been promoted by large corporations and tech companies, and are a euphemism for the goal of completely upending the premise of copyright law.

As the law now stands, each of us, as artists, own the copyright to our work, even if we do not register it with the copyright office. We created it; it is ours.

Rather than protecting us, the creator and artist, the copyright “reformers” want to make public access to creators’ work the law’s main function. They would require creators to register each and every work in which we wish to retain any commercial or personal interest.

Dr. Carla Hayden, the new Librarian of Congress, suddenly fired Maria Pallante, U.S. Register of Copyrights, at the end of last October, and is now soliciting advice on the “knowledge, skills and abilities” people think the new Register should have. It has been widely reported by credible sources that Dr. Hayden favors looser copyright laws.

Artists, musicians, writers and creators have fought to maintain strong copyright laws each time this has surfaced in the past, and have been successful so far. Now it’s time to make our voices heard again.

Dr. Hayden and the Library of Congress has posted a short survey (only 3 questions). The deadline for responses to the survey is tomorrow, January 31, 2017. It is important, as artists, to respond to this survey with a strong call to retain the full protections of copyright as provided for in Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution. If you do not have time to write, the Illustrators’ Partnership has provided suggestions for you to copy and paste.

Here are the links:


by Deb Shaw

Plant: Exploring the Botanical World.Plant: Exploring the Botanical World is a beautifully illustrated coffee table book featuring 300 watercolors, drawings, paintings, prints, photographs and micrograph scans of botanical subjects. The book was on display during the portfolio-sharing session at the 2016 American Society of Botanical Artists (ASBA) conference in Pittsburgh, and had lines of admirers thumbing through the sample copies.

Many of our ASBA colleagues are featured in Plant: the artwork was selected by a panel of international experts including Dr. James Compton, botanist and plant collector; Charlotte Tancin of the Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation; and Patricia Jonas, of  ASBA.

Hailed as “a dazzling collection…that brings the evolution of botanical art right into the 21st century” (Gardens Illustrated), Plant is a wonderful resource for artists, horticulturists, and anyone who appreciates the breathtaking variety of the natural world.

Phaidon, is eager to share Plant with botanical artists and the natural science illustrators. They are extending a limited time special offer: 30% off the purchase price plus free shipping in the United States for arrival in six to seven days. Plant normally retails for $59.95; the special price is $39.95 USD (Amazon is offering the book at a 16% discount, for $50.62).

Use this link to purchase the book and receive the special offer on Phaidon’s website:

Format: Hardback
Size: 290 x 250 mm (11-3/8 x 9-7/8 in)
Pages: 352 pp
Illustrations: 300 Illustrations
ISBN: 9780714871486

Please contact Ellie Levine, Phaidon Executive Marketing Manager, North America if you know of an institution or organization who would like to receive a complimentary copy of Plant for their library, or if you are interested in purchasing multiple copies of the book.

Thank you to Britt Griswold, Guild of Natural Science Illustrators for letting us know about this wonderful offer!

About Phaidon (from their website):
Phaidon is the premier global publisher of the creative arts with over 1,500 titles in print. We work with the world’s most influential artists, chefs, writers and thinkers to produce innovative books on art, photography, design, architecture, fashion, food and travel, and illustrated books for children. Phaidon is headquartered in London and New York City.

by Teri Kuwahara, posted by Deb Shaw


‘Violetta’ artichokes by Pria Graves. © 2016.

‘Violetta’ artichokes by Pria Graves. © 2016.

A friend of mine is a Master Gardener and sent me this article which may be of interest. Pria Graves, from the Northern California Society of Botanical Artists was interviewed by Teresa O’Conner of the UC Food Observer for an online article titled The Art of Plants.

The article contains a lot of information, with links to great resources and additional information.

by Diane Daly and Deb Shaw

BAGSC member Steve Hampson loves Sweet Peas and Daffodils. Diane Daly found a YouTube video of Steve from Roger’s Gardens. Enjoy!

by Melanie Campbell-Carter, posted by Deb Shaw

John Pastoriza-Piñol demonstrating ellipses.

John Pastoriza-Piñol demonstrating ellipses. Photo by Melanie Campbell-Carter, © 2016.

The renowned Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens provided fourteen BAGSC members with a three-day Master Class with John Pastoriza-Pinol on November 8 – 10, 2016. The Huntington offered us exquisite Paphiopedilum specimens from the Conservatory and greenhouses for our subjects. Kudos to Melanie Thorpe of The Huntington, and BAGSC Education Chair Jude Wiesenfeld, for flawless organization on this long-anticipated workshop.

Quoting participant Arillyn Moran-Lawrence, “We learned so many new techniques:

  1. Using ellipses to find the proper placement of a plant on the paper.
  2. Using abundant masking fluid to keep the areas between washes pristine.
  3. Using many layers of pale colors to build to unique darker colors.
  4. Using brushes like blenders, spotters and a Neef comb to complete the painting.”

Reactions to the experience by participating artists included,

Using abundant masking fluid. Photo by Melanie Campbell-Carter, © 2016.

Using abundant masking fluid. Photo by Melanie Campbell-Carter, © 2016.

“Combing is my new favorite thing!” Cynthia Jackson

“Watching John develop the orchid painting was truly an inspiration.” Gilly Shaeffer

“(John) will rewet six or seven times before he starts dry brush work and a total of maybe 30 layers to the final work. I am so happy to have learned about his methods.” Leslie Walker

“I never named my orchid but after all those pastel washes I named my painting…my pretty pony!” Beth Stone

John Pastoriza-Piñol demonstrating to class participants. Photo by Melanie Campbell-Carter, © 2016.

John Pastoriza-Piñol demonstrating to class participants. Photo by Melanie Campbell-Carter, © 2016.

The students coordinated a “paint share” for John’s materials list, courtesy of BAGSC member/artist Beth Stone. As an unexpected bonus, Robert Hori of The Huntington graciously shared several prints from the Estate of Rory McEwen with the class. BAGSC member/artist Mitsuko Schultz shared several books, including the new publication, Flora Japonica, from the current exhibition at the Shirley Sherwood Gallery at the Kew Gardens, which she attended two months ago.

John is currently enjoying an extended stay in the US on a grant from the Australian Arts Council, and will be in New York City through the end of the year in an association with the Horticultural Society of New York. Seeing the American national election process through his eyes was an interesting experience! We are gratified that he so enjoyed his time at The Huntington that he expressed a heartfelt wish to return soon.

A few of the participants in class with John. L to R: Photo by Melanie Campbell-Carter, © 2016.

A few of the participants in John’s class. (L to R:) Teri Kuwahara, Gilly Shaeffer, Jude Wiesenfeld, John Pastoriza-Piñol, Gayle Uyehara, Sydney Tanner, Cynthia Jackson, Leslie Walker, and Kat Powell. Photo by Melanie Campbell-Carter, © 2016.

by Cordelia Donnelly, posted by Deb Shaw

On June 4, 2016, BAGSC members had the wonderful opportunity to tour Cordelia’s garden, home and view her artwork. It was an enlightening meeting, and one that has generated a lot of discussion about our connections to place and garden, water conservation, design and aesthetics. Pacific Horticulture magazine published an article by Cordelia in their fall, 2016 issue, entitled, “My Horticultural Odyssey: An interdisciplinary approach to designing my garden“. This link goes to the full article, with images of the garden (a few of which are reproduced below).

Cordelia wrote the following for BAGSC News publication. Thank you for your work and inspiration! —Deb Shaw

Standing stones in the completed front garden are reclaimed Kansas fence posts, pieces of ancient ocean limestone bed, used to mark farm boundaries in a prairie ecosystem lacking trees.Photo © 2016, Cordelia Donnelly.

Standing stones in the completed front garden are reclaimed Kansas fence posts, pieces of ancient ocean limestone bed, used to mark farm boundaries in a prairie ecosystem lacking trees. Photo © 2016, Cordelia Donnelly.

Water scarcity is shifting the paradigm of how to live and garden in Southern California. I completed my first garden renovation in San Marino in 2011 in order to close the building permit for a 1926 Spanish house renovation on a plot of land measuring 57 by 119 feet. A childhood of extensive blue water sailing across the South Pacific with my family prepared me well for these land-based adventures in engineering, science, law, code compliance, community design review, culture, horticulture, garden aesthetics, craftsmanship, and storytelling. Water was finite onboard our boat, and this set the stage for my interest in water conservation, reclamation and recycling. My garden teaches continuously and its story is still unfolding to my wonderment, to 1,200 visitors and counting.

I was educated in liberal arts in the true sense: fine art, applied design, education, ecology, land and water management, and writing. Work in these fields helped me recognize the potential significance of this interdisciplinary garden voyage. It is said that writing is thinking. Now I have learned very well that gardening is thinking. My garden design involved ideas about craftsmanship, where form follows function. I prioritized this garden design around water use, including capturing and redirecting water, and gradually practicing deep and infrequent watering as plants’ root systems get established. A site condition, such as the pronounced slope in the front yard, lends itself very well to growing Proteas and Banksias.

The chemistry of water enables life. Life in its diversity has adapted on Earth to different states and forms of water. Yet, we live in a remarkable age of science when it is theorized with high probability that the most common form of precipitation in our universe does not exist as water, but as diamonds, raining down on planets such as Saturn and Jupiter. While concepts of valence, polarity, surface tension, and cohesion describe atomic and molecular attributes of water, they also describe the human condition. We are One—with Water!

Plants, cyanobacteria, and algae, too, have special relationships with not only water, but also with light and darkness, in oxygenic processes to manufacture chemical energy. Science has discerned how these organisms have customized their methods of photosynthesis, for example, to explain why Agaves using CAM (Crassulacean Acid Metabolism) reactions are so well adapted to desert climates. To give an idea of the atmospheric scale significance of oxygenic processes, it is estimated that if such oxygen-giving processes by these life forms were to halt, the oxygen in Earth’s atmosphere might run out in a few thousand years. Discoveries are unfolding about significant anoxygenic processes found in various bacteria, which rely on chemical conversions in water, without sunlight but with other kinds of radiation, since the visible spectrum is only one type of light. The diversity and virtuosity of these mechanisms suggest that other planets in our universe may indeed contain very strong forms of Life.

Recently, Dr. Dianne Newman at Caltech has discovered, in the new field of molecular geomicrobiology she created, that bacteria in ocean sediments photosynthesize using iron instead of water. It is appropriate to be awed by intricacies of today’s science, which are uncovering some of the most ancient survival mechanisms on Earth, and spurring innovations in medicine by attending to how natural systems work. Furthermore, she has applied geoscience to solving a problem of chronic medical infections in humans. Dr. Newman has found that in a chronic infection such as cystic fibrosis, Pseudomonas aeruginosa (a long studied bacterium) produces pherazines which promote biofilm development in the lungs, inhibiting pathways for antibiotics to clear such infections. Logically understanding that the growth of P. aeruginosa is controlled in nature by a natural mechanism, she then searched for and found both P. aeruginosa and a coevolved bacterium, just in the soil outside her lab!  This coevolved bacterium produces an enzyme which is able to degrade pherazines produced by P. aeruginosa, thereby rendering a chronic infection by P. aeruginosa more treatable by antibiotics. Human therapies for chronic infections based on her research will be available in a decade! It is time to bring our awe back to our gardens and to think of native plants as forms of technology—which are already adapted for our current climate conditions.

This garden project required extensive research. Attending a course taught by Lili Singer at Theodore Payne convinced me to rip out the conventional grass lawn as a first step. Ruth Shellhorn’s climate appropriate landscape design in 1982 for my parents’ home had also influenced my thinking about the potential for this garden project. My mother gave me Thomas Church’s Your Private World. San Marino’s Planning Department supported my renovation ideas, for which I am grateful. Government entities play a primary role in implementing sustainability, and California has made major changes to its Building Codes, which will soon become much stricter. But tensions certainly exist because of the need for change, and certain laws soon may apply sustainability mandates to all homeowners, not just to those renovations and new construction.

Antique wrought iron gates and several cloud form cast metal panels from a disassembled Chinese pavilion in Bel Air were found on Craigslist and repurposed in the finished landscape as gates and wall pieces. Photo © 2016, Cordelia Donnelly.

Antique wrought iron gates and several cloud form cast metal panels from a disassembled Chinese pavilion in Bel Air were found on Craigslist and repurposed in the finished landscape as gates and wall pieces. Photo © 2016, Cordelia Donnelly.

My project demonstrated to San Marino how garden beauty can be created using concepts of sustainability. I did not pour cement in the front yard garden because cemented hardscape is viewed as unsustainable—and thus also avoided design review. Concrete for my house renovation was poured only where required by Building Codes. As a foundation for steps leading into the garden from the street, green-treated wood beams are skewered into the slope by steel rods, a method used for building steps on hiking trails in US National Parks. The next layers use Stabiligrid tile, clad with copper as the riser material, hardwood planks for treads, finished by quartzite pavers set in sand. A liquid acrylic polymer was used to harden the sand while also providing permeability.

In the spirit of sustainable recycling, I tried where possible to reclaim assorted left-over or salvaged materials from craigslist to use in this project. The antique terra cotta riser tiles in the backyard are from France, by way of a tile setter who had completed a project in Malibu, and advertised his extra tiles on craigslist. Luckily, I also bought a pair of antique wrought iron Chinese gates and several Chinese cloud form cast metal panels, from a contractor who had disassembled a Chinese pavilion in Bel Air and listed these materials on craigslist.

I felt a solidarity with my Chinese neighbors, who supported me from the very beginning. I decided to align my aesthetic values for this project to honor the rich heritage of Chinese gardening. Chinese landscape design’s majestic history brings together Confucian, Daoist, and Buddhist influences. The spiritual depth appeals as much as the aesthetics, and the interdisciplinary wisdom thrills. This path of mastery involves concurrent mastery of poetry, calligraphy, and landscape painting—understanding the influences each of these disciplines has on the others, thus making a garden a living vignette of nature’s lyrical beauty. I fell in love with the idea of views in a Chinese garden unfurling gradually to the viewer, much like the scrolls of a Chinese landscape painting. The viewer takes a journey through such a garden in order to enjoy the different vantage points.

One of my goals in renovating the house was to make the house relate directly to the garden, and this new relationship can be enjoyed through a series of large windows, including the very large arched window in the living room, and three different sets of glass sliding doors looking out onto different garden views. As the sun travels throughout the day, the house itself becomes the garden sundial. I intuitively planned my garden design for the passage of light across the various spaces, influenced by my years of landscape painting. I sought consciously to unify the values of the green colors of plants in order to allow texture and temperature to operate to the eye—this is a strategic lesson from painting applied to gardening.

Another major influence on my thinking was the Mediterranean Garden Society/Pacific Horticulture 2010 Symposium at the Los Angeles Arboretum. This Symposium’s speakers, the local garden tours, the gorgeous Australian plants grown by Jo O’Connell, and conversations with people about gardens changed my life, within the already transformative context of researching Chinese gardens. These experiences convinced me to install drip irrigation for the entire garden. “Woolly Pockets” I saw at the Symposium helped me create vertical gardens on walls and balconies, and further online searches led me to “Smart Pots,” made of recycled plastic bottles, to use as larger containers. I decided to use Australian native plants for my garden upon seeing their poetic textures, remembering them from my childhood, recognizing their symbolic otherness, and their significance to plant evolution and the geologic history of our planet. These plants evoke ideas held in the Dreamtime: origin stories of creation, ancestral voices, relationships between humans and nature, and spiritual quests toward Oneness.

A dry stream bed, using native granite rocks rescued from the basement excavation, invokes the memory of water in this native landscape. Inspired by Jeffrey Bale’s colored pebbles, I used polished coral pebbles in the bottom of the stream bed as a color contrast to the pea gravel on the garden paths. When it rains, the dry stream becomes very colorful. I planned the stream bed to cross the front garden approach, in an informal X, as in X marks the spot on a treasure map. Here, too, is the satisfying idea that one must cross over the stream on the journey to the front door. This spring I was very pleased to take my mom on a driving tour to see eight neighboring gardens installed since I completed this one, in which the homeowners chose a similar theme of dry stream bed crossing the front path approach in an informal X. As an artist and designer, I think asymmetry plays a very important role in leading one’s eye through a composition, whether in a painting or in a garden. The front garden was made more mountainous by adding soil to match the slope of the neighbor’s garden, as allowed by the Grading and Drainage Permit. The aim was to create a relationship between mountain and water, and to honor the spiritual significance of this relationship as articulated by Confucius. Another practical goal was to raise the soil level because hedge height can be measured from the higher soil level, and furthermore, because specimen plants can be grown here without a height limit to cushion the front yard garden from the busy street.

A sound sculpture in the front garden activates with rain. Water is harvested from gutters on the house and garage and pumped into the sculpture before draining through a perforated drainage grid. Photo © 2016, Cordelia Donnelly.

A sound sculpture in the front garden activates with rain. Water is harvested from gutters on the house and garage and pumped into the sculpture before draining through a perforated drainage grid. Photo © 2016, Cordelia Donnelly.

An integrated drainage system, the first of its kind to be permitted in my city, orders this garden universe. My sister gave me Brad Lancaster’s Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond, which I used to do the engineering to secure a Grading and Drainage Permit. This plot of land is blessed with incredibly advantageous riverine geology, once part of extensive orange groves, and a slope of 4-1/2 feet from the backyard to the front yard. She encouraged me to add a unique water feature to the drainage system, and reaching beyond exhaustion, I resolved to think carefully about this. So, I designed a “sound sculpture” in the dry stream bed. Rainwater flows passively from house and garage gutters, collects in an underground basin and is pumped up into the sound sculpture. Sufficient rain creates the sound of rushing water in the sound sculpture. Then this water drains passively underneath the entire front garden through a perforated drainage grid. A key feature of the sound sculpture is that it only works when it is raining. Another aspect of its design was to stack a series of quartzite flagstones on top of the sound sculpture basin, to create a Goldsworthy-like nest form in order to hide the brownish rain gutter water from view.

Permeable gravel surfaces finished with StabiliGrid tiles hold gravel in place and provide ADA-compliant wheelchair accessibility for the driveway and garden. Photo © 2016, Cordelia Donnelly.

Permeable gravel surfaces finished with StabiliGrid tiles hold gravel in place and provide ADA-compliant wheelchair accessibility for the driveway and garden. Photo © 2016, Cordelia Donnelly.

The permeable gravel driveway was finished with Stabiligrid tiles to hold the gravel in place. The Stabiligrid tiles filled with gravel also give the driveway and garden ADA-compliant wheelchair accessibility. Indeed, less concrete used in my whole garden renovation allows greater permeability: there is no runoff from the property. An outdoor soaking tub stands dry and covered, relies on zero chemicals, and is tied into the drainage system. A backyard pond is designed with an herbaceous border and contains chemically treated water. This pond drains itself separately from the drainage system, and is designed to drain passively into a deep french drain. Integrated drainage systems have been built since ancient times across diverse civilizations, and at different levels of complexity and cost. Even if we are not building drainage for an extensive palace, such as that found at Knossos on Crete, and at Machu Picchu in Peru, we need to do whatever we can to save water. These ideas are ancient, but feel new to our suburban gardening culture.

Recently, I installed an Australian-designed, gravity-fed, gray water drip system. I specified an Aqua2Use gravity filter with IrriGray drip components, which is distributed by in the USA. My system satisfies CA Building Codes and involves no modification of existing plumbing. It allows upstairs bathtubs to drain into the garden, via manual siphon into heat-proof Pex pipe going through the exterior wall. This drainage into my garden is encouraged provided that only low-sodium, pH neutral, bio-degradable soap is used (Dr. Bronner’s). To avoiding over-watering with supplementary water, this system sends water to general front garden beds, instead of to specific plants, and serves the major purpose of allowing this water to infiltrate back into the land.

Reflecting upon this garden odyssey, these journeys within journeys, I realize I have honored not only great cultural and aesthetic traditions, but also those of my ancestors. My great grandfather and grandfather developed diverse industrial uses of diatomaceous earth, an ingredient in the cactus mix I use for planting. I also have honored my parents:  my mother, a teacher, and my father, a builder-developer in Pasadena, California. This garden honors a growing global awareness about the need for sustainable water use and climate appropriate plants in every garden.

It is a miracle to witness how beauty transforms awareness, invites conversation, and inspires!

NOTE: BAGSC News previously published a plant list from Cordelia’s beautiful garden. Click on the words “plant list” in the previous sentence to view it, along with some pictures from the tour.

by Asuka Hishiki, posted by Deb Shaw

Flora Japonica opened mid-September, 2016 at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, in London. Before the opening, I personally felt very overwhelmed and was worried about how we would be received. It turned out GREAT! The people at the Kew were so nice and friendly. When Dr. Shirley Sherwood congratulated us at the opening speech, I felt so honored to be a part of the celebrated show.

There is so much to tell about the exhibition. There are, however, so many good writings about the show already available. Instead of summarizing those good reads, I thought I would make a list of the links for you to visit. Meanwhile, I would love to share my thoughts on several specific artworks. This are just my opinions and maybe rather boring ones at that, but I hope you enjoy walking with me through the show.

I have mentioned that these are just my opinions. Keep in mind, my bold statement is this: I think that most Japanese endemic plants are rather unflattering. Meaning that they are not obviously gorgeous like roses, tulips or tropical plants. Maybe this is the case not only with Japanese native plants; perhaps many endemic plants appear very humble looking. Well, really? It could be because these plants are not looked at properly.

Idesia polycarpa, watercolor on paper, © 2016, Akiko Enokido.

Idesia polycarpa, watercolor on paper, © 2016, Akiko Enokido.

Take a look at the watercolor Idesia polycarpa by Akiko Enokido. I think the actual plant (not her painting!) is very modest looking. Its male and female flowers are especially small and plain. However, if you look at it up-close as Akiko did, it is obvious that the flower clusters are very gorgeous! Akiko successfully converted the modest look of the plant into a dynamic figure using her vivid and strong color. The beauty is sometimes there in front of us, but it doesn’t reveal itself until we open our eyes properly. I think as artists we have the wonderful power to help open the secret door, clearing the smoke that hides nature’s beauty.

Speaking of color, I thought many of the artists’ subjects held a very clean but pastel color. I wondered how they achieved their shades. On first look, I thought perhaps the artwork was done in color pencil, but no, it was watercolor. In some parts, I saw tiny, tiny brush strokes. Instead of washing those stitches out, the artists kept them, floating them onto white paper, like a Georges Seurat painting. I couldn’t get an answer about this technique from my fellow artists, so I will tell you when I find out.

Magnolia obovata, watercolor on paper, © 2016, Mieko Konishi.

Magnolia obovata, watercolor on paper, © 2016, Mieko Konishi.

You may have the same question I have: how to portray something huge like a whole tree, or a plant like Magnolia obovata, which has leaves that grow up to 45 cm long and 25 cm wide? Two fantastic artists had the answers for me in this show.

The way Mieko Konishi portrayed Magnolia obovata was awesome! She positioned a main flower right up the center, and from it huge leaves spread in all directions. The leaves are cropped off in the middle. Only the two front leaves show almost the complete leaf shape, but even these leaves are cropped off at the tips. This is a huge painting already, but Mieko uses cropping and composition to indicate that the plant is too big to fit the paper. Her image reminded me the surprise I had when I picked up a Magnolia obovata leaf from the ground. I knew it was big, but seeing the actual leaf and holding it gave me additional amazement.

Pinus x densithunbergii, watercolor on paper, © 2016, Masumi Yamanaka.

Pinus x densithunbergii, watercolor on paper, © 2016, Masumi Yamanaka.

The other example is done by Masumi Yamanaka. Unfortunately, I couldn’t see her Pinus x densithunbergii in person. It was planed to be exhibited at the Japanese embassy in London a few weeks after I visited. This tree is known as the “Miracle Pine”, which survived the devastating tsunami that accompanied the Great East Japan Earthquake in March 2011 and somehow remained standing, even though the entire 70,000-tree pine forest along the beach was uprooted.

I had a privilege, however, to visit her studio in Kew Garden where she works with other official botanical illustrators of Kew. I could go on and on about the visit, but I would like to go back to her tree painting. I wondered how she created the tree painting without the actual tree in front of her. I watched her short documentary about the painting. Yes, she had many many references of the tree. Yes, she visited the actual tree and made the color samples at the site. But if she had had only those references, the tree would not be portrayed as accurately as it is in her artwork. What her painting contains is her experience and knowledge as a botanical illustrator. She has studied hundreds and thousands of plants with her keen observation and has painted them. This wisdom is laid on underneath the image.

I think the time we spend on a painting is not only spent on that specific artwork, but the knowledge we gain remains and accumulates in us as wisdom.

When I walked in the Kew garden and bumped into one of the trees Yamanaka had portrayed, I had a warm sensation as if I had just run into someone I knew.

Lastly, I couldn’t pass up telling you about what I do not know how to explain. Confusing, yes.

Cercidiphyllum magnificum, watercolor on paper, © 2016, Mieko Ishikawa

Cercidiphyllum magnificum, watercolor on paper, © 2016, Mieko Ishikawa.

I just had a “wow” when I saw Mieko Ishikawa’s Cercidiphyllum magnificum. The plant itself is again, very humble looking at first glance. Yet it grabbed my attention immediately. What captured me the most is the perfection of the drawing, The leaves look soft and slightly rounded, and the male and female flowers are delicate, yet lively. It is extremely realistic, yet informative. Even though she includes many details in various sizes and different angles, everything fits fantastically into one frame. In her illustration, I think that Art and Science meets in a precise middle point and keep a golden balance. Well, to be honest with you, I have no background nor knowledge of the science of botany, so I may have no idea what I am talking about. There are just so many things in this one painting to gaze at, to be amazed by, to learn, and questions to pose and think about.

“Good artists copy; great artists steal.” This is a famous quote by Picasso. I simply wish he also told us how to steal it.

The Flora Japonica exhibition is open from 17 September 2016 to 5 March 2017, 10 am to 5:30 pm in the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art at the Royal Botanic Garden, Kew, London, UK. Price is included with entry to the Gardens.

This exhibition includes about one hundred Japanese wild, native, endemic plants, portrayed by 36 of the most eminent contemporary Japanese botanical artists. The exhibition also features historic drawings and paintings by some of Japan’s most revered botanists and artists such as Dr. Tomitaro Makino (1863-1957), Sessai Hattori and Chikusai Kato (Edo period artists 1603-1868).

Additionally, works from Kew’s Illustration and Economic Botany collections also are on display, including an early Japanese botanical illustration, Honzō Zufu by Kanen Iwasaki (1786–1842), an illustrated encyclopaedia of medicinal plants from 1828, and Japanese wood panels by Chikusai Kato (1878), which are made from the wood and framed with the bark of the trees that they depict.

Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew is located at: Kew, Richmond TW9 3AB, United Kingdom, +44 20 8332 5655.

Find information about Flora Japonica on Kew’s website.
Two press releases about the exhibition can be found here, and here.

Purchase the Flora Japonica catalogue.

Read the DAIWA Foundation article about the exhibition.

Read about the Flora Japonica exhibition on Asuka’s website and view Asuka’s artworks and exhibitions.

by Deb Shaw

Aristolochia gigantea, ink on paper, Lesley Randall, © 2013, all rights reserved

Aristolochia gigantea, ink on paper, Lesley Randall, © 2013, all rights reserved

The 14th International Exhibition of Botanical Art and Illustration by The Hunt Institute for Botanical Documentation has been traveling around the United States for the past two years. Its final stop is at the Petaluma Arts Center in Petaluma, California, for a botanical art exhibition entitled Floribunda, which will run from October 16, 2016 through December 11, 2016.

Floribunda is a celebration of all things floral, featuring the 36 artists from nine countries in The 14th Hunt exhibition, including BAGSC members Leslie Randall and Deborah Shaw. Additionally, the Petaluma Arts Center will feature the work of Aimee Baldwin, Evan Kolker and Randy Strong—three Bay Area artists who create three-dimensional representations of flowers.


“This exhibition is designed as a source of inspiration and an invitation to see the natural world around us in distinct ways, to illuminate the relationship between art and science,” explained Petaluma Arts Center Exhibitions Manager Kim Chigi. “With Botany as one of the sciences, we are excited about the juxtaposition of traditional botanical illustration with the contemporary three-dimensional creations, working in tandem, to explore the connections between the creativity of both artist and nature.”

The Petaluma Arts Center will host a series of events related to the exhibition, including artists’ talks, studio workshops, and botanical art demonstrations:

  • Saturday, November 5: Botanical Art Demonstrations with BAGSC member Nina Antze, and Martha Kemp, Lucy Martin and Vi Strain, 1:00 pm, FREE
  • Thursday, November 10: Artists’ Talk with Evan Kolker and Randy Strong, 7:00 pm; doors open at 6:30 pm.
  • Sunday, November 12 -13: Watercolor Botanical Workshop with Amber Turner
Nina Antze, Martha Kemp, Lucy Martin and Vi Strain, will demonstrate botanical art in a variety of media starting at 1:00 pm on Saturday, November 5, 2016. The demonstrations are free.

Nina Antze, Martha Kemp, Lucy Martin and Vi Strain, will demonstrate botanical art in a variety of media starting at 1:00 pm on Saturday, November 5, 2016. The demonstrations are free.

Details and ticket information can be found on the Events page on the Petaluma Arts Center’s website. To arrange for group visits or school tours, email or call Kim at (707) 762-5600 x104.

Following the 14th International Exhibition at the Hunt, the travel exhibition went to the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art—Loretto and was on display from October 18 through December 6, 2014. The exhibition then traveled to the Fellows Riverside Gardens in Youngstown, Ohio where it was on display until January 10, 2016.

The Petaluma Arts Center is located in the historic train depot at 230 Lakeville St, Petaluma, California, 94952. Gallery Hours are: Thursday through Monday, 11 am-5 pm. The gallery is closed Tuesday, Wednesday and holidays.

Prosopis pubescens seed pod (Screwbean Mesquite, or Tornillo), watercolor and graphite on honey vellum, © 2012, Deborah Shaw, all rights reserved.

Prosopis pubescens seed pod (Screwbean Mesquite, or Tornillo), watercolor and graphite on honey vellum, © 2012, Deborah Shaw, all rights reserved.

Admission to the Petaluma Arts Center is $5 for general admission and $4 for seniors. Students, teachers, military, and PAC members are free.

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