I got into botanical art because of my mother. The fact that this website exists starts with her.
Every year when I was young, Mummy always ordered an RHS Desk Diary. These had botanical illustrations at periodic intervals throughout the year. We were both intrigued by them and loved the illustrations of flowers, fruit and vegetables- particularly those by Redoute. Every year I looked forward to seeing her new one to see what new pleasures would be inside. Over time, once the diary was finished, plates were removed and inserted into frames and hung on the wall.
She also enjoyed art and I remember artwork she did for her local Women's Institute involving plants from every season. She was also very encouraging about my own artistic endeavours.
Then there was her love of plants and gardening and visiting gardens. As an adult, I lived in London and she continued to live in Cheshire. Most of my visits to her involved very long visits to plant centres, planting the garden and even longer visits to various gardens near her home in Cheshire. Latterly, as we both became less mobile together, we became very appreciative of gardens on the level - and rollators!
Nowadays I'm rather less mobile and mother (in her late seventies) is even less so. For those who like visiting gardens but have difficulty walking, Tatton is an excellent place to visit as it provides electric wheelchairs of the sort you see many older people now using to do their shopping. Mother whizzed around gravel paths and on and off grassy banks in one - she even managed the steep slope at the side of the Italian gardens! Fortunately I managed to persuade her to sharpen all my pencils for me before she started getting too ambitious!
I liked the way she always called plants by their correct Latin names and I now wander around gardens and identify plants as I go with names which just pop into my head. My knowledge of most of them can only come from listening to her over very many years.
As she became older and more arthritic, we devised new ways to garden at her home to take account of her mobility. I ran around uprooting weeds, pruning and generally licking the garden into better shape while she she sat in one spot filling the garden rubbish bin and making me cups of tea!
I saw her in June and spent some of my time moving all her big plant pots around so she had the best view of all the plants which were blooming just beyond the huge sliding windows which provided her with such an excellent view of her garden.
(She was tickled pink when my sketch of her garden (see below) was given the double page spread introducing section 2 "Deciding what to draw" in my book about sketching!)
Last Thursday I phoned her, as I've been doing every day in recent times as she has been very poorly for some time. Given she lived on her own, she and I both knew exactly why I was ringing....
I told her about where I was - RHS Hyde Hall in Essex - and what I could see from where I was sat. Plus how I'd passed the test of trying to walk up the slope to the top of the hill which I was really pleased about. She was terrific at providing me with support over the phone while I endured my 12 weeks indoors on one leg after my ankle fusion surgery in January.
We chatted about some practical matters which needed sorting and I told her that my cousin's husband would be along later in the afternoon to sort out an item which needed fixing. We got home just after six o-'clock home and I had just sat down when the phone rang - and Mike told me she had gone. It was a shock but not a surprise.
She went to sleep forever sometime between 2.30 when I last spoke to her and 5.30pm when Mike arrived. She was sat in her chair looking out over her garden, retaining both her independence and dignity after having resolved a very long time ago never ever to go to a care home or hospital. Importantly it was absolutely exactly how she wanted to go - with absolutely no fuss. I'd call it a very good death. I'm so very pleased for her that she got exactly what she wanted.
I shall so miss talking with her every morning. I'm so very grateful for all the memories I have - and I'm so glad that she introduced me to botanical art and illustration.
I wonder how many others also started botanical art because of an important person in their life in the past.
BAA Visitors so far....
since April 2015
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