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    Botanical Illustrations and Christmas decorations

    As a maker of botanical illustrations, and someone who loves colour and decorations; I enjoy Christmas as it allows me to bring botanical subjects into my home.

    This weekend saw the family heading off to choose a christmas tree.  Once set up at home, there were plenty of off-cuts.  As in previous years, these get tucked behind the paintings on the walls.


    Holly receives similar treatment.

    Study of Holly Ilex aquifolium in flower and in berry

    Finding holly in berry is always a challenge as only the female plant bears the seeds.  If we’re going to be sticklers, holly doesn’t produce berries, but drupes.  (For more on fruit and seed terminology see my blog).

    And a slightly better botanical illustration of the European holly.

    I tend to tuck greenery behind everything on the walls, including the sheep skull.


    Ivy and Fir

    Ivy and douglas fir (off-cuts from the tree) also get used like this.  Collecting ivy is simple, we have a wall full in the garden, and there’s much less prickling involved than when I wander around woodland, questing for holly, with secateurs and an empty feed sack…


    botanical study of ivy

    Ivy Hedera helix studies.  Click on the link for more sketchbook studies

    Sketchbook study of Douglas fir Pseudotsuga menziesii.

    Did you know you can flavour vodka with the new tips of firs? I leanrt this from the author of The Garden Forager (to be published in March 2015, illustrated by yours truly), Adele Nozedar.


    No Christmasy home is complete without mistletoe, which proved slightly problematic this year.  I know it grows in abundance in orchards, and often up high in ash trees.  However, orchards are mostly privately owned…  It took some time to find an unguarded orchard, and my children acted as look outs as I scurried across the mud to a conveniently fallen apple tree, and cut my mistletoe.  Base behaviour, I know, but at least I have my mistletoe!

    Watercolour botanical illustration of mistletoe Viscum album

    botanical illustration of misteltoe

    Pencil study of mistletoe, done for Wildfowl & Wetlands trust many years ago.

    Happy Christmas everyone!

    I had some trouble stringing the heavy mistletoe from the hall light, and then decided it needed a little something extra, namely a spangly bird.  My son added a christmas ball, and lo, the house was fully decorated.  Now I just need to go and start making mince pies!

    Happy holidays to all of you, and may 2015 be a wonderful year.


    1. Here in the southern USA, mistletoe is gathered from the tops of trees by shooting it down with a shotgun. Not much anymore as the population is dense. This was a country skill.

      1. Oh you guys and your guns! Although to be fair, I think shooting mistletoe down from trees is a darned site safer than scrambling about on rotten ladders like we do. Although this year we’d had a big storm and I found a massive bunch literally at my feet when I was out for a walk – the wind had cracked the apple tree bough and kindly deposited it right in front of me. x

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    Lizzie Harper