August 15, 2020

maidenhair fern
Adiantum Maidenhair fern, 8/9/2020 (watercolor and Prismacolor colored pencil on Strathmore cold press illustration board)

Here is my latest botanical (number 6) and it is probably the most different of all. If you have been following this CA girl’s art and journaling you have probably noticed that it is the only one without even the hint of a flower. As it is a fern, it doesn’t have flowers because it doesn’t need them. Yes, not all green plants come equipped with flowers. This is because they don’t need bees, or any other pollinator, to reproduce. (I have known gardeners who don’t like flowers in their garden, preferring only leafy greens. I remember one garden writer saying that she didn’t want any “colorful tarts” in her garden…that comment still makes me smile. I wonder if she was allergic to bees…) I don’t think I miss seeing a flower attached to any part of the fan-shaped green leaf segments on wiry black stems. It’s just such a luscious shade of green all to itself. You may or may not know that ferns are some of the oldest plants on earth, and none of those plants had flowers. I mean, there weren’t any pollinators flying around, so there would have been no need to try to attract that kind of attention (no “colorful tarts” back then.)  The first flowers were giant magnolia blossoms and it seems those flowers were pollinated by beetles. 

It appears that all my recent botanicals have taken over the natural science illustrator side of my brain, as though a kind of critical scientific mass of interest has been achieved. And as that train of thought has left the station I am compelled to closely consider the scientific side of my artwork for this post. I just can’t stop! See the tiny dark patches on some of the outer edges of the leaf parts? Those are spores. Most ferns use spores, not seeds, to reproduce. However, Adiantum, maidenhair fern, can also reproduce with rhizomes. Rhizomes are a kind of underground stem that can pop up as a new plant next to the original one. Thinking about this makes me consider the life cycle of my recent plant subjects, how they reproduce and how I might propagate them. If you have reached your natural science limit you may want to stop and go for a walk in a beautiful garden. SoCal flowers and greenery are a bit on the crispy side right now, but there are some later summer blooms in my garden (e.g. rudbekia, cosmos, coreopsis). I saw some lovely dark purple scabiosa at the Descanso the other day, and there were still quite a few roses in bloom as well. In fact, I got stung by a bee at the Descanso recently and I wasn’t anywhere near a flower being pollinated. I was just walking along a wooded area beside a little creek. What was that about?

For those who are interested, here’s how to propagate the actual plants that inspired my recent botanicals. (Actually, I don’t think I plan to try to propagate any kind of fern at the moment. I’m just doing to try not to kill the maidenhair fern I have in the kitchen right now.)

Monk’s Hood

Monk’s Hood is a perennial and it reproduces from seed and small tubers. I’m not sure how easy this is to grow. My son once sent away for some seeds and tried. The instructions were quite detailed and he followed the directions to the letter, but none of them sprouted—probably just as well.

‘Just Joey’ Rose

A rose can be propagated 4 ways=seeds, cuttings, layering (both air layering and soil/ground layering) and grafting. I have never attempted to propagate a rose, but was a little interested in “layering.” I Googled that and saw a couple short YouTube videos that described how to do both layering and/or grafting. It was interesting, but I think I would just a soon buy them bare root from a nursery.

Phalaenopsis orchid

Orchids can reproduce a couple ways=seeds (I’ve never seen an orchid seed, have you?) and what’s called vegetative propagation=when dividing larger plants, you might find what’s called a “back bulb”or two you can plant. (Haven’t seen one of those either.) But you can also plant what’s called an “off shoot.” That’s a tiny plant that grows on a “happy and healthy” orchid stem. (I have seen a couple of those.) I had quite a collection of orchids on my kitchen window sill, with one that had a couple off shoots on a stem. I tried to propagate them, but managed to overwater everything. It was a horrendous failure and I tossed them into the green waste. Thankfully, I have the art to remind me of my beautiful, but past tense, pink phalaenopisis orchid.

‘Nikko Blue’ Hydrangea 

A hydrangea is a flowering deciduous plant that can be propagated from seed and/or cuttings. I haven’t attempted to do that yet, and may not while I live in SoCal. I think it just gets too hot here for that plant to really thrive.


Gladiolus can reproduce with seeds. I’ve never seen a gladiola seed, but there must be something to that as I have seen bees buzzing around the flowers. You can also grow new plants from their corms=bulbo-tuber (an underground plant stem). I have been pretty successful growing gladiola from corms, and in my opinion, they make the perfect pass along plant. 


Thinking back on last week’s post of lupines I am reminded of trying to propagate them. I have tried to propagate CA poppies and lupines, and have had some luck with them. They seem to come up fine the first year, but not so much after that. CA nature does a much better job secretly blowing around that seed, and I’m actually OK with that. I love driving around here in spring, looking for a surprise patch of lavender or bright orange.

Garden Update

I’ve written about planting garlic seed and not sure if that was particularly successful in this year’s garden. The final product looks way punier than I had hoped. My cucumber and dill plants haven’t been as prolific as I had hoped either. The tomatoes are doing better, but I found a huge tomato worm eating all the new growth at the top of the Better Boy. OMG! I seem to be better at propagating lizards and monarchs. Not really sure how I am doing that. It must be more of that secret and magical CA nature at work.

Starting back to work on Monday. LAUSD has decided we are going to start the school year with online/virtual learning—exactly as we finished up last school year. I am looking forward to seeing my students again, but have not been able go through the ritual of decorating my class room. I actually look forward to setting up the room for my students. As I will again be providing therapy to students sitting in front of the computer screen, I bought an ergonomic chair as my personal room decor. Guess we’ll see how it goes… Stay tuned.

Miss you mom—RIP 8/15/2016

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