Saturday, December 24, 2011

Christmas in Virginia

Christmas is always a mixture of excitement, adventure and a little bit of worry.  Decorating, shopping, cooking, entertaining, and visiting.  Sometimes years we have visitors and this year we were the visitors.  I took my journal with me, but only had a chance to make a few sketches of decorations inside the house.

A brightly decorated tree with presents tucked underneath is one of the images that represents a family Christmas.  As we approached the day, more and more presents appeared under the tree.  The Morning light highlighted the ornaments on the tree and in the garland that crept up the stair case.  The iron vertical rails marching up the stairs and the dark wooden steps added nice vertical and horizontal elements to the image.  

Stockings hung by the chimney are such a classic Christmas image I couldn't resist.  

"the Stocking were hung 
by the Chimney with care, 
in hopes that Saint Nicholas 
soon would be there"

From 'A Visit from St. Nicholas' by Clement Clarke Moore

As the poem describes, this sketch was done before the stockings were filled and the fire lit the next morning.  I am happy to report that no coal was received this Christmas.  

Sunday, December 18, 2011

gargoyle among the winter flowers

Having grown up in the north, I think of winter flowers as the bulbs in pots inside that are forced to bloom for Christmas and Easter.  Having lived most of my adult live in the south, I now think of the wonderful plants that bloom outside.   One of my favorites is the Sasanqua or Christmas Camellia (Camellia sasanqua).  Most Camellias are small evergreen trees.  Our Sasanquas are sprawling unruly bushes.  Most of the year they are just part of the green background in the yard, but when they bloom they are a sight to behold.

The dark green leaves are a perfect foil for the 2 to 3 inch flowers.  The flower's numerous beautiful dark pink pedals open to reveal many bright yellow stamens and anthers.

Several plants in the Camellia genus, including Camellia sasanqua, are used to make tea.  The Sasanqua is also used for other purposes.  Its seeds contains sasanquol, also know as 'tea oil'.  It is an alcohol that has anti-inflammatory properties.

While I used the term 'gargoyle', my garden statue is actually a grotesque.  True gargoyles sit on roofs and serve as spouts for the rain water collected from the roof to be expelled from.  Our garden grotesque sits on a large granite rock that is slowly being covered by foliose lichen.  Some day he too may be covered in lichen.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Swamp Sunflowers

Every year my gardening efforts start with cleaning up the flower beds, cutting back the old dead stalks and trimming the bushes.  But in the front garden beds this happens in late November or early December, right before we decorate the front porch and bushes with strings of lights for Christmas.

Not long after I made this sketch the flowers were gone and I was trimming back the five foot stalks.  It will be eight months before these garden giants bloom again.