JUST ME :: and a stack of blank pages

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

My Aloe route

Ink sketch and W&N watercolour on Bockingford 300gsm

This is the road I take (I call it ‘my aloe route’) when I go to visit a friend in New Thorndale just on the other side of Magaliesburg (Gauteng, South Africa). There are dozens of Aloes along a certain rocky outcrop and it winter it’s a wondrous display when they all flower.

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Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Grass Aloe


Watercolour sketch of A. cooperi in my ‘Nature’ Journal



In the hope of reaching the moon
men fail to see the flowers
that blossom at their feet.

- Albert Schweitzer

I found a large clump of Grass Aloes not far from home on the road to Magaliesburg (South Africa), flowering profusely after all the veld fires we had this past winter, spread out over the charred landscape, providing bursts of red colour.

Grass Aloes are an appealing group of deciduous aloes. As the name implies, they grow mainly in grasslands subject to winter fires. Their leaves and colours resemble their habitat, making them difficult to find when not in flower. These largely miniature aloes have very attractive flowers, making them desirable, if difficult, plants to cultivate. Their growing pattern is closely related to the winter fire cycles of the veld here in South Africa, some species responding directly to burning and producing leaves, flowers and later seed after such events.

This interesting Aloe belongs to a group of deciduous aloes known as the “Grass Aloes”, which are adapted to grassland habitat and are able to survive both fire and frost during the cold dry months. They are often burned during winter and then re-sprout with the onset of spring.

This well known grass aloe is commonly found along rocky ridges and rocky slopes on the Witwatersrand and Magaliesberg as well as in mountainous areas of the Northern Province and Mpumalanga. In years gone by it was even more prolific, but numbers have been greatly reduced due to development on the ridges and from harvesting by succulent collectors. A number of different forms are found throughout its distribution range.

Grass fires used to be less frequent in earlier centuries. They were initiated by lightning strikes, on the whole, at the beginning of the rainy season in September and October. These fires were ideal in that they cleared the habitat of moribund grass and other vegetation just before grass aloe species initiated their growth cycles.

Fires are more frequent nowadays and may occur at any time during the dry winter months from May until late spring, October. Plants are as a result, left exposed to harsh conditions for many months before they start to grow. Some species are even starting to appear on the endangered species list.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Echeveria imbricata in terracotta pot

W&N watercolour on Bockingford 300gsm

 An Echeveria in a pot on my patio (Tarlton, Gauteng, South Africa)

This popular and vigorous succulent has 4 to 8 inches wide, tight rosettes of flat grey-green leaves that, when mature, form offsets freely to form large solid clumps 4 to 6 inches tall. It has a branched arching inflorescence bearing clusters of red and yellow flowers in the spring and early summer. Plant in full sun, even in hotter inland gardens, to part sun/light shade in a well-drained soil and water regularly. Although it is is cold-tolerant, it does not do well in heavy frosts, therefore most of mine are planted in terracotta pots for easy winterizing.

This plant is often listed as a species or as E. x imbricata but is a hybrid cultivar created in the early 1870’s by Jean-Baptiste A. Deleuil of Marseilles (Rue Paradis) that resulted from crossing Echeveria secunda with E. gibbiflora ‘Metallica’ and was listed for the first time in his 1874 catalogue.

It has been argued by some that the correct pronunciation for the genus is ek-e-ve’-ri-a, though ech-e-ver’-i-a seems in more prevalent use in the US.

Category: Succulent
Family: Crassulaceae (Stonecrops)
Origin: Mexico (North America)
Evergreen: Yes
Flower Color: Red & Yellow
Bloomtime: Spring/Summer
Synonyms: [Echeveria x imbricata]
Parentage: (Echeveria glauca x E. gibbiflora ‘Metallica’)

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Cactus - Cereus jamacaru (Een-nag-blom)

Ink sketch and watercolour wash on Bockingford 300gsm – 8″ × 12″ 

Cereus jamacaru (Queen of the Night, Een-nag-blom)
Classification: Cactaceae
Incorrectly referred to as Cereus peruvianus in South Africa.

The Peruvian Apple Cactus, Cereus repandus, is a large, erect, thorny columnar cactus found in South America as well as the nearby ABC Islands of the Dutch Caribbean. It is also known as Giant Club Cactus, Hedge Cactus, cadushi and kayush. With an often tree-like appearance, the Peruvian Apple Cactus’ cylindrical grey-green to blue stems can reach 10 meters (33 ft) in height and 10-20 cm in diameter. The nocturnal flowers remain open for only one night. Unfortunately this plant has been declared an unwanted “invader” in South Africa due to it’s fast-spreading habit.
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Die Kaktus Cereus peruvianus (of Een-nag blom) is ’n boomagtige kaktus, partymaal tot 10m hoog, wat vir net een nag van die jaar asemrowende wit blomme voort bring. Ongelukkig is hierdie kaktus as ’n ongewensde indringerplant verklaar in Suid Afrika as gevolg van hul gewoonte om uiters vinnig te versprei. Daar is groot verwarring oor die eintlike naam van hierdie kaktus, aangesien Cereus vir heelwat kaktussoorte gebruik word. Die spesienaam, peruvianus, dui aan dat dit endemies is aan Peru, maar dit is ’n botaniese fout. Hierdie plant is eintlik endemies aan Brasilië, Uruguay en Argentinië.

Hierdie een groei langs Solly se kaia op ons plot (Tarlton, Gauteng, Suid Afrika) en hy was verskriklik ontsteld toe ek voorstel ons moet dit verwyder. Nou is hy die dood voor die oë gesweer as ek sou sien dat dit enigsins versprei!

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Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Small sketches and paintings

I've been churning out a lot of small sketches and paintings lately, the urge for the brush was greater than trying to plan something big and wonderful! Smile!

Daisies singing in the rain - small watercolour on note paper 4.5" x 6"




Winter fires - small watercolour on note paper 6" x 4.5"


Hibiscus beauty - Black ink sketch and watercolour on small sketch pad 6" x 4.5"


Arum lilies - small ink sketch and watercolour on sketch pad 6" x 3.5"

 Herbs in pots - small ink sketch on sketch pad 6" x 4.5"

I have plenty more, so don't go away!

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Monday, March 7, 2016

Blue bottle fly (Calliphora vomitoria)


Pencil sketch and watercolour, candle wax, on Bockingford 300gsm

Blue Bottle Flies (Calliphora vomitoria) are from the Blow Fly family. They are larger than house flies, growing about half an inch long. Their head and thorax (front and middle sections) are grey, the abdomen (large rear section) is bright metallic blue. They have red eyes and clear wings. Blue Bottle Flies live just about anywhere and the world, including woods, fields, parks, and farms. They seem to prefer shady places.

This fly eats from dead animals or meat, living animals with open wounds, animal poop, or some other decaying matter, so it is not a fly we want in our homes! But living on a farm or a smallholding, where dead animals are sometimes a daily fact of life, this is sometimes unavoidable.

I found this one in my lounge window and after swatting it gently with the fly swat (they don’t squash easily!), I was able to examine it more closely, using my magnifying glass, and do the sketch.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Echeveria imbricata in wooden planter

W&N watercolour on small Bockingford 300gsm (5½" x 7½" – half of A4)

Echeveria imbricata in a wooden crate on my patio. Contrary to the belief that succulents are drought resistant, this Echeveria (E. imbricata) thrives on good soil and lots of rain.

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Monday, February 29, 2016

An African Moon in December

Black Pilot Lettering pen ink sketch of a full moon over my garden in Tarlton, Gauteng, South Africa

Sketching again...

Art thou pale for weariness
Of climbing heaven and gazing on the earth,
Wandering companionless
Among the stars that have a different birth,
And ever changing, like a Joyless eye
That finds no object worth its constancy?
- By Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822)

Friday, February 26, 2016

Aloe peglerae

Parker fountain pen, black ink and W&N watercolours on Bockingford 300gsm watercolour paper

All the Aloes are in full flower and the winter got all 3 of my Aloe ferox, burnt the flowers brown. This is Aloe peglerae, which I saw in the veld on the way to Magaliesburg, endemic to South Africa occurring only in Gauteng and one other province (North-West province). It is listed in the Red Data list of South Africa as an endangered species on the extinction queue if not protected or grown for ex-situ conservation.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Sunrise over No. 84

W&N watercolour and ink sketch in Moleskine 200gsm sketch-book

Sunrise over our smallholding (Tarlton, Gauteng, South Africa)

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