Inspirations From The May Garden

May is violet time in my USDA Zone 4 garden, a sesson blessed with my favourites. Heaven might have these views and fragrances, don't you think? Today, meantime, they heal the eyes of body and soul.

First, a look along the flagstone path from under the Corkscrew Hazel, through Husband's forged iron “Peony” sculptures. The green glass flower (lower right) is part of his forged iron candelabra (subject of another post one day on garden sculptures.) Beyond the greenery, you see the Rideau Canal, alongside which lies our garden. It is the Tulip Festival time in Ottawa and my tulips have obliged this year by blooming on time with the violets. The flagstone path is where violets love to grow.

Nature inspires art.

My embroideries of past years have all been especially inspired by the colours and textures of the season in my canal-side garden.

Textured pinks, purples, lavenders, burgundies:

Purple Sandcherry (Prunus cistena) – to embroider as well as to eco-print

Tulips…extravagantly contrasting purple petals and golden stamens

Hardy Rhododendron, acidly mauve. Victorian.

Isabella Preston's “Prestonia” extremely hardy lilacs, developed here in Ottawa at the Experimental Farm of the Government of Canada, during a time when females did the work and males got the credit…(Hmm, you say? ) ….Isabella did get two Ottawa streets named for her eventually. A fine parade of her hybrid lilacs is still grown in the Farm's Ornamental Gardens as well as in gardens all over the city and in the valley around. We can let t the work speak for Isabella in lasting pleasures of fragrance and colour.


Lily of the Valley, fragrant and spotless – no enemies at all thanks to her iron hands in velvet gloves. Well, blessed are such peacemakers in some parts of my garden! But keep her out of the dye pot and the veggie garden – she could hurt you there. Above, she is getting along well with the Forsthythia which will have dropped its blooms by the time the Lily of the Valley is in full flower.

Dandelions, Pis-en-Lits (Pee The Beds) with violets (The pink petals are from the “Purple Passion” hardy apple tree under which they grow.) Our city no longer uses pesticides so the dandelions are free to roam. Love them, always have – that is my harmless, cultural prejudice. Would that all cultural prejudices could be confined to quarrels over what may be termed “weed” or “useful” in the plant world.

The Canada Violet, my all-time-most-loved plant.

See how the violet manages to find a place to grow between the spaces in the flagstones? I love the symbolism of blooming in a tight and arid space…

And here, my favourite Spring tree blossom – the native Serviceberry (Amelanchier family) Pretty soon, the delicious berries will ripen to purple and the birds of the neighbourhood will flock to the tree…in a few days, all the berries will be gone. I snack on a few but leave most to the birds. I do pick Saskatoon berries, though – the birds and squirrels here ignore them. I have some berries in my freezer waiting to be eco printed. No need to make the jam- Saskatoon berry jam, made in Saskatchewan, is available in our supermarkets. It is tasty if seedy…and it is Canada-local! The tree is a member of the Amelanchier family (see plant list pages )

Bleeding Heart does well under the Serviceberry, The pink form is much hardier than white in my garden. I try not to have any plant “pets” so no matter how much I love white Bleeding Heart, if it cannot tolerate the basic conditions in my garden, I cannot have it there. When I began gardening seriously in this environment, I did have all kinds of pets, growing them from seed, even. In time, however, I changed my gardening style to growing drought- native plants and only those Green Immigrants known to adapt well to Zone 4. NO pushing the seaonal envelope in this garden nowadays.

“Le Temps Des Violettes – Violet Time” 2004
In response to these Spring Garden Beloveds, I made an embroidery. It was actually among the first art embroideries I created with free motion stitch on a printed substrate. I designed the colours and shapes in my computer graphics programme, printed it out on Pellon on my inkjet printer, then used all manner of threads in my sewing machine to create textures and colours, aiming to capture the parade of blooms such as you see in the photos above. I embellished the finished embroidery with seed beads and painted Pellon “beads”



Reflections of trees in the canal water are a fascinating source of art inspiration, too. Across from my garden is a magificent old elm tree. I think I have hundreds of photos now showing that tree in every season, year after year. I am planning to make an Artist Book or two about my Elm Friend. Here is the tree on a warm day in May across the canal:

I have made many embroideries of reflections in water. Here is one about the willow tree in my garden as reflected in the Rideau Canal waters:




Until next time with more embroideries about the spring garden and waterside trees, and some eco printed artist books. You can see more of my embroideries on my website





Earth Day Art

Some art from other artists today, celebrating Earth Day, April 22nd, yesterday.

A beautiful, speaking felt sculpture installation on the disappearance of species by my artist friend Carmella Karijo Rother at Wall Space Gallery in Ottawa, part of an exhibition of art on an environmental theme: “Where The Wild Things Aren’t”:



Nuno felted panels overhead:


A thread and bone installation by Jessica Marion Barr. Jessica’s work is about the unexplained 2011 deaths of hundreds of ordinary birds like crows and starlings which had reportedly simply dropped out of the sky en masse.


…Some days as a fibre artist I feel like this old weatherbeaten bench in my garden….was thinking thatbthe Earth might feel similarly sat upon..



But then to console, there is the curated natural environment of one’s garden, and the salve of planted beauties:

“Purple Passion” apple blossom:


Epimedium in pink and yellow:


The first tulips (with pink epimedium) and ferns of a scarily-early spring in USDA Zone 4:


…and the lovely and vigorous perennial Arctic Kiwi Actinidia . Those bead-like white flower buds will eventually give little green edible fruits the size of grapes…to the squirrels…but the gardener gets the wonderful tri-coloured heart- shaped leaves: green, white and pink, soon to unfurl fully and change colour in the sun:


The Forsthyia is almost finished blooming and April is not even over…All over the city of Ottawa I am seeing older varieties of Forsythia in full golden bloom in spots where I had never noticed them before…for many years, over thirty in fact, my older variety ” Nothern Gold” would get nipped by frost in early spring and fail to bloom. But not this year. This yearvit seems that not only my old Forsythia but every last one in the city has produced blossoms…these are the signs of a changing climate.

Here are the last of the golden blossoms among the Lily of the Valley


Happy Saint George’s Day today, April 23rd!

My High School teacher in England, Miss Clarkson, historian and patriot, always wore a red rose on her black (chalk-dusted) academic gown on this day. I always buy red roses on this day in gratitude and love for my native earth – and for my every teacher from then until now.