Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Back to Earth

I am finally back gardening! It was hard to set aside so many cherished activities the past couple of months as I waited for my neck to get better. The good news is that it is improving with physiotherapy. The bad news is that the reason it was vulnerable in the first place is that I have osteoarthritis in my neck. That was hard to accept (especially when I got the diagnosis a day before my birthday) but I suppose finding that out is a good thing as I am learning to be kinder to my neck and not to take it for granted. 

Back in April, I started a big project: revamping the shady garden at the side of our house. The pathway was already there. I created it myself six years ago (paver by paver and wheelbarrow-full of gravel at a time). I still love the pathway but I wasn't happy with the garden. It was especially hard not to like it as it's the view from our dining room window. This is what it looked like in early April.

Pathway and perennial garden in early spring

I completely removed the not-so-great grass that bordered the narrow flower beds. It was a big job but Meeko helped (sort of).

My wheaten terrier Meeko helping me in the garden

I loved this photo of Meeko so much and the way he was looking at me over his back that I painted him in late April. Cutie pie.

Watercolor painting of my wheaten Meeko. Artist: Kathleen Maunder of Trowel and Paintbrush

Once the sod was removed, I added good soil, divided the perennials that were already there (bleeding hearts, astilbe, lady's mantle, masterwort, turtlehead, sidalcea, hostas) and rearranged things. I also removed a huge shrub that was past its prime. When I was doing all of this work in April and early May, I was kind of feeling like Superwoman. Well, guess what? I'm not. I'm human after all. An aging human, my neck reminded me in a not very subtle way. The garden waited for me while I adjusted my pride and learned to treat my neck better through improved posture and daily exercises. 

In the past two weeks, I was finally able to finish my garden project. I weeded, added a few new perennials (coral bells and a shasta daisy) and planted an annual passionfruit vine in a pretty obelisk that my husband Jocelyn gave me for my birthday. Some of the new additions need to fill out a little but now I absolutely love looking at this part of the garden! It feels peaceful and serene.

Garden pathway and perennials by Kathleen Maunder of Trowel and Paintbrush
Gravel pathway and perennial beds taken under the branches of a Japanese Maple tree. (Kathleen Maunder - Trowel and Paintbrush)
Tradescantia (spiderwort) and astilbe
Obelisk with passion flower vine and perennial bed
Shasta Daisy - Leucanthemum ‘Santé’

The shasta daisy above is called 'Santé'. I was looking for a plant with white flowers and have to admit that the name which can be translated as 'health' or 'cheers' attracted me. It seemed like a good plant to include in the garden of someone concentrating on feeling better!

I am happy to announce that I have reopened my shop after having it closed for a month. Yay! I look forward to gardening and painting more in the weeks ahead and sharing my efforts here and on Instagram. Thanks so much for being here!

🌿 🌿 🌿 🌿 🌿

Friday, June 17, 2016

Not As Busy As A Bee

Bumble bee on purple salvia from trowelandpaintbrush.blogspot.ca

The bees are absolutely in love with the salvia in my garden. I don't remember planting this particular salvia where it is. Tall salvia at the very front of a flower bed? Hmmm. I constructed a Dr. Seuss-type rhyme it in my head.

I did not plant them there at all. 
I'd never plant something there so tall.

But the salvia is there and the bees loves it and that makes me happy.

So the bees have been busy but I haven't, at least not in a normal way. The past month has been a bit odd.

In mid-May, I injured my neck while pruning the sides of the tall cedars that surround our garden. It seemed like a normal strain at first but then, a week later, I woke up with neck spasms which I had never experienced before and don't wish on anyone. If I needed a reminder of the neck's function, I had it. It's involved in most every movement. I couldn't drink a glass of water, look down to to gauge my steps on the stairs or do pretty much anything else without triggering a painful spasm. Within a two-hour period, I had forty spasms. I saw a doctor and after two days of medication, the spasms disappeared. Unfortunately, the ongoing stiffness and occasional pain didn't.

In late May, Chloé was sick for over a week with a bad virus. That was worrisome. She missed a week of school and two final exams. We were very relieved when she finally started to feel better.

The week after Chloé was sick, I had to have an unexpected biopsy. I am happy to say that the biopsy results came back negative although my brain has taken several days to regain its focus. Oh stress, you are powerful!

My neck? Well, it's much better than it was but still not normal. It makes me feel grumpy and frustrated. I am going to see a physical therapist on Monday. I realize how much I took it for granted as now I am very conscious of its movement.

Bumble bee with pollen sacs flying towards purple salvia. Photo by Kathleen Maunder (trowelandpaintbrush.blogspot.ca)

I didn't paint for four weeks. I've been on social media only in a sporadic way. Partly because of my neck. Partly because I had lost my focus with everything else going on. I've done bits of things. Bits of gardening. Bits of computer work. Bits of admin work on my shop. I've missed things. I'm sorry.

Yesterday, I realized that this whole not painting thing was not going to solve itself. I just had to start painting again--maybe in shorter sessions. Then I couldn't decide what to paint. It's amazing how not painting for a while can do a number on your head, or at least mine. I start to feel like I can't paint. So I decided to work on an unfinished painting of irises that had been waiting in my drawer. It felt really good to have a paintbrush in my hand again. I've always loved irises so this is the perfect subject to ease me back into my painting routine. And guess what? I still can paint!

Iris watercolor painting in progress by Kathleen Maunder (trowelandpaintbrush.blogspot.ca)

All of this is not to complain, just to explain and share. I look forward to painting, posting and participating more in the weeks ahead! Here's a little poem in honour of my busy garden friends.

The Bee
by Arthur Guiterman

Little chemic-artisan,
Doing work no other can,
Deep in dewy nectaries,
Petal-walled refectories- 
Apple-blossom, columbine,
Rose and lily, all are thine,
Yet, though oft thy weight they bear,
Dost thou know how they are fair?
Thine are sun and Summer breeze- 
Hast thou aught of joy in these?

Pollen-yellow dumbledore,
Leave thy clovers tumbled o'er!
What's a lily? What's a rose?
Down the golden lane he goes,
Drowsing forth a prosy song,
'Honey! Honey!' all day long,
Wasting life's diviner sweet,
Hiving food for drones to eat.
Oh, thou silly, silly bee!
Idle here and learn of me! 

🐝  ðŸ  ðŸ  ðŸ  ðŸ

Monday, May 30, 2016

A Soft Spot for Pansies

Pansy watercolor prints by Trowel and Paintbrush

One of the things I have been trying to do as often as possible the past couple of years is to create sets of images when I paint. It's not something that I necessarily find to be intuitive. Often I want to paint one thing and then for the next painting, do something quite different! But by trying to offer more sets of images which I think is helpful to customers, I am finding that I do enjoy painting series. This is one of my favourite sets of prints that I currently offer in my shop: my set of four pansy prints. I introduced this set a few months ago but I have pansies on my mind these days because of all of the planting I am doing in my garden!

 Set of Pansy Watercolor Prints

Anyone who has known me for a while is aware of what a soft spot I have for pansies. One of my grandmothers was named Viola. Here's a photo of my recently planted herb pots on our back porch taken in the late afternoon light. Of course, I had to add a pot of sweet little violas!

Pots of herbs and edible flowers, photo by Kathleen Maunder, trowelandpaintbrush

You can view all of my print sets here. I hope to introduce more sets this year. I have several paintings in my studio just waiting to be converted into prints. As with all of my sets, you can also opt to buy the prints individually or to make your own grouping.

And now back to planting!

🌿  ðŸŒ¿  ðŸŒ¿  ðŸŒ¿  ðŸŒ¿

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Tulip Time

This spring, I've had one of the prettiest tulip displays ever in my garden. The mild autumn we enjoyed here in the Montreal region meant that I had more time than usual to plant spring bulbs. I bought a lot of bulbs on sale in November and planted them. In December, the earth was still workable so I bought more! Lots of bulbs planted means lots of spring flowers!

In the photo above, you can see the early stages of the tulips in my back flowerbed. The elegant pink-striped ones in the back are 'Ballade'. They have been there for several years and I love them. The multi-coloured mix in front was planted this fall. On Instagram, I mistakenly said the mix was called 'Monet's Garden'. This colourful mix is actually called...wait for it..."Long-Stemmed 2 Months of Flowering Tulips Mixture".  It's certainly not a very poetic name but it is a very diverse and pretty combination of tulips. With the very warm days we have been having recently, a two-month display seems overly optimistic but I am enjoying every single day of them.

This particular flowerbed is visible from our kitchen window and back door so I have been making frequent trips there to gaze out at the tulips. In the more recent photos below, you can see how the stems are taller now and the blossoms more full.

Can you tell that I'm in love with them? 

Sometimes nature give you something a little extra. In the middle of all of these tulips was a very special one. A renegade. Isn't it amazing?

At the side of the house, I planted yellow-pink and purple-toned tulips together and they look like they were made to be friends. The pinks ones are a bunch-flowering tulip called "Quebec". The purple-edged ones are a Triumph variety called "Affaire". Both types have multiple stems so it makes for a very full display. I can see these ones from our dining room window. If it sounds like I spend a lot of time looking out of windows at my garden, I do.

I don't know what the funny-looking tulip below is called. (In case you are worried, he is not in a cage. I have these wire fences throughout my garden. I call them 'Meeko fences'. They are meant to slow down the galloping of a certain boy through my beautiful flowers. In this case, I had pulled one of the fences back in order to photograph the tulips. When I looked up, 'guess who' was sitting behind it grinning at me.)

One of the ongoing disappointments I have about many tulip bulbs is how they disappear over time. The silver lining is that it means that I can adjust and renew the look of my flowerbeds by adding more bulbs each fall. Every spring brings new surprises. I have many other tulips planted here and there in the garden but wanted to introduce my 'newcomers' to you.

Here's the "Monet's Garden" mix of tulips planted in front. I have to admit that I bought them mainly because of their name but I am very happy with their refined and elegant appearance.

If you'd like to see the watercolour images that include tulips in my shop, you can see them here.

🌷 🌷 🌷 🌷 🌷

You may have noticed that I've made some small adjustments to the design of my blog. It's a little wider than before and my photos are also bigger. I hope that you like these small changes. I thought of changing my blog header but I still like it. It's been the same since 2011 but it feels like me. It's one of my favourite watercolour paintings that I did many years ago. The original hangs in our living room.

Today, I also managed to solve a problem I've had on Blogger since I began it in 2011! My photos would automatically indent from the left so I had to manually remove a piece of code after adding each and every photo! It was especially annoying when I had posts with several photos. I found some code that automatically corrects the problem! Hurray! It gets added in the CSS portion of the blog template. I also found some code that resizes my photos to fit my blog columns, also added to the CSS. Two internal changes that make posting a little easier! I'm sharing in case anyone else is struggling to solve similar problems.

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