May 22, 2021

And before I knew it, this week’s post was all about irises. I started noticing the first brightly colored blossoms at the Descanso Gardens in January (see iris in 3/13/2021 post). Then it seemed that every time I went to the Descanso after that there were yet other singular blooms and/or another iris clump blooming it’s head off. (If you have ever had iris in your garden, you know how they like to clump.) As you can see, sometimes I did close ups or small vignettes with my Prismacolor colored pencils on acetate or Bristol board (three to starting from the left). As I have said, I like to call these tiny offerings my little bits of jewel art. And sometimes I found myself focusing on continuous line drawings using my majestic purple ink with Fude nib and Inktense pencils. You can see right here a purple clump I did with those exact materials (far right). The iris rendered in the 3/13/2021 post was done with the same ink and Inktense pencils. In reality the individual blossoms don’t last very long, but as there are often many on each stem they will continue blooming one flower at a time. If you want to encourage multiple blossoms, just snap off the spent and dried up flowers. That will allow the next set of buds ample room to mature and bloom as well. 

So, let’s hear it for one of the many lovelies of spring…THE IRIS! While compiling the first group of sketches I remembered several other CA girl moments of personal iris in past springtimes. The bronze over deep oxblood colored iris you see (far left and center) bloomed in abundance in my mother’s Grass Valley garden every spring as far back as I can remember. This photo was taken in 1995 and I don’t know why I never thought to paint and/or sketch them, I certainly had many opportunities to do so. Such a wonder in general I guess. Thank goodness I took lots of pictures and here are a couple. (Sorry for the out of focus photo of the clump on the left.) It’s funny, but up until today I never wondered what kind of bearded iris it was and/or is. It turns out it’s an heirloom variety called Colonel Candelot and it became an official flower in 1907. (Not sure where such a name came from. I looked it up and there doesn’t appear to have been a Colonel Candelot.) My parent’s Grass Valley house was built in 1853, so it’s possible that garden had some of the first Colonel Candelot in northern CA, but I doubt it. My parent’s were told by the family who owned the house before them (in the 60s) that the large corner lot garden had been quite lovely and extensive in the 50s. It seems there were a couple sisters who lived in the house in the 30s, 40s and 50s and they liked to garden. The Colonel Candelot were probably planted by them. I have another reason to suggest such flowers were not planted earlier and it has to do with Grass Valley’s early days. It was a gold mining town and was always a kind of “rough and ready” place—not many beautiful gardens around the turn of the 20th century, I think. (Believe it or not, if you went west on Main Street and out of GV you will come to a tiny town named Rough and Ready. I’m not kidding. It seems that Rough and Ready had the dubious, and rather horrifying, distinction of seceding from the Union during the Civil War. I’m not kidding here either.) The original 1853 house was built before the Civil War and during the gold rush. It had a carriage house and manger for a horse out back, but no running water or electricity. Sometime later a second story was added, complete with Victorian dentils. Cornish tin miners had been imported to the area to help with the hard rock gold mining being done at mines like the Empire Mine. The miners rented rooms in the house and walked to and from the mine every day. Sometime after the second story was added indoor plumbing and electricity were added, along with a kitchen. As the mines were running at full steam in 1907, I just don’t think anyone who lived in that house would have had the time or interest to tend a garden. Just sayin’…

As the for the white bearded iris you see on the right, I did a painting of this one. It so happened that they were blooming in my Paso Robles garden the spring my niece was born, May 2, 1996. I had a habit of doing sketches/paintings of plants that were blooming when close friends and family had babies. Then I gifted the art to the new mom. I seem to remember making a photo copy of that finished art, but can only find the original sketches I did, not the color copy. I love that you can see metal wire fencing behind the flowers. I had to put that around any plants I cared about in that Paso garden, or the deer would eat it. 

Candy Land rose, Descanso Gardens, 5/22/2021 (Prismacolor colored pencils on acetate)

Uh oh! Today I was back at the Descanso Gardens. But my fickle eye was drawn away from any irises, and to a particular rose being visited by a bee. Yup, the roses have definitely taken over and I couldn’t resist…

Happy Birthday Dan (5/21)!

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