Gardening Ink and watercolor wash Life in general Plants Sketchbook Pages

The Cycle of Life and a New Year: Figgy Survives!

Ink and watercolor illustration of bare fig tree
Figgy Lives to Fruit Again, ink & watercolor, 8×5″

Poor Figgy! I knew when I planted her (him? if it fruits is it female? do trees have genders?) from a little twig that it might be too close to my old clay pipe sewer line. And it was: the roots grew down and my drains clogged up.

Baby Fig's First Fruit, ink & watercolor, 5x8"; a watercolor sketch of a figs
Baby Fig’s First Fruit, ink & watercolor, 5×8″

I have documented this little tree’s life since I first planted it as a cutting (see planting a stick, 3 leaves, and skinny trunks) and for the first time it had produced several delicious figs (sketched above). There were still a few on the tree (can you find them in the sketch below?).

Fig Tree: Tall as My Pocket, Ink & watercolor, 8x5", drawing of fig tree
Fig Tree: Tall as My Pocket, Ink & watercolor, 8×5″

After several approaches to fix the clog failed, the plumber had to dig a huge, deep hole to reline the pipes. This required moving the tree, which it turns out, I’d planted RIGHT ON TOP of the sewer line where it met the street.

Digging out the tree, ink & watercolor sketch
Digging out the tree, ink & watercolor sketch

The plumber is a good man who loves trees.While I watched and sketched, he had his crew very carefully dig the tree out, gently arrange and trim the extensive roots (it’s true: trees have as much below the ground as above). Then they dug another big hole several feet away and replanted Figgy.

Critical Condition, ink & watercolor, dying fig tree drawing
Critical Condition (both me and Figgy).
I never seem to have enough information when working with contractors and often make wrong decisions. I cropped off and spared you from most of my journal scribbling on that subject.

By then it was getting dark, I was getting panicky as I’d been without water and bathroom use all day, and the job was extensive and expensive. They set up lights and kept working, finishing around 9:00 that night.

A few days later I could see Figgy was in critical condition. The leaves were dead and the branches were shriveling. That called for emergency surgery; I cut off most of them and as you can see by the sketch at the top of the post, it was successful.

So Figgy is a stick again, but full of potential, just as the year ends and a new one begins. I will spend this evening reflecting on 2012 and 2013 and will post about that soon. Meanwhile, best wishes to all for blossoming in a lively and good new year !

Albany Drawing Gardening Ink and watercolor wash Outdoors/Landscape Places Plants Urban Sketchers

Airstream Trailer Coffee Kiosk at Flowerland Nursery

Flowerland Cafe, ink & watercolor, 6x8
Flowerland Cafe, ink & watercolor, 6×8

Lately food trucks pop up all over the Bay Area; former roach coaches are the new gourmet dining spots. But this is the first vintage Airstream trailer food truck I’ve seen and it doesn’t travel. It’s set up on blocks inside Flowerland Nursery on Solano Avenue in Albany (California–next door to Berkeley) and run by Local 123 Cafe.

I can’t think of a better place to enjoy a good cup of coffee than in a lovely garden. The lovely folks at Flowerland Nursery put interesting chairs and tables throughout the nursery, turning the whole place into a sort of garden café. You can get your coffee and then sit among the palms, the native plants, fruit trees or climbing vines to enjoy it.

And when you finish your coffee, you can take home the chair you sat on or the plant you sat beside (for a price of course).

Berkeley Drawing Gardening Ink and watercolor wash Landscape Outdoors/Landscape Painting Sketchbook Pages Urban Sketchers

Mr. Wong’s Giant Bonsai

Mr. Wong's Giant Bonsai, ink & watercolor sketch, 8x5"
Mr. Wong’s Giant Bonsai, ink & watercolor, 8×5″

The 90-year-old owner of this house on Allston and McGee in Berkeley has trimmed the bonsai trees in his garden for 50 years and they are beautiful. I enjoyed sketching from in front of his house while my sketch buddies took posts across the street and on the corner.

I have a whole bunch of paintings and sketches to post so I may keep my writing brief on some of them in order to get caught up. This is one of the brief ones.

Update: When Carol asked if “Giant Bonsai” is an oxymoron I looked it up. According to Wikipedia:

The purposes of bonsai are primarily contemplation (for the viewer) and the pleasant exercise of effort and ingenuity (for the grower).

Bonsai practice focuses on long-term cultivation and shaping of one or more small trees growing in a container. Bonsai does not require genetically dwarfed trees, but rather depends on growing small trees from regular stock and seeds. Bonsai uses cultivation techniques like pruning, root reduction, potting, defoliation, and grafting to produce small trees that mimic the shape and style of mature, full-size trees.

So apparently I was wrong to call these trees Bonsai since they are growing in the ground and while shaped like Bonsai trees, actually are full-sized trees. So it’s not an oxymoron, but I wonder if there is a word to describe this situation: “A full-sized tree cultivated to look like a miniature tree that is cultivated to look like a full-sized tree, only in miniature.” ????

Drawing Gardening Ink and watercolor wash Landscape Painting Places Plants Plein Air Sketchbook Pages Walnut Creek

Ruth Bancroft Gardens: Beyond the “Private, No Entry” Signs

Ruth Bancroft Gardens Old Barn, ink & watercolor, 5x8"
Ruth Bancroft Gardens Old Barn, ink & watercolor, 5×8″

My plein air group was given the great privilege of being able to go beyond the chained off, “Private Property. No Entrance” signs to explore the property where Mrs. Bancroft and other family members still live. There are old barns like the one above and other outbuildings as well as a log cabin, a chalet and a beautiful Japanese style home.

1970s Muscle Cars Resting in the Shade and Dust
1970s Muscle Cars Resting in the Shade and Dust Behind the Garden

The Ruth Bancroft Gardens in Walnut Creek began as a 400-acre fruit farm in the 1880s developed by Hubert Howe Bancroft, a famous historian and publisher whose book collection is now part of UC Berkeley’s Bancroft Library.

Bancroft Garden Lilly Pond and Dragonflies, ink & watercolor 5x8"
Bancroft Garden Lilly Pond and Dragonflies, ink & watercolor 5×8″

The farm was passed down through the generations, and much of the land was sold off for housing development. In 1971 the last walnut orchard on the property was cut down, and Ruth’s husband, Phillip Bancroft, offered her three acres to begin a new garden using her large collection of succulents.

Giant Agave, ink & watercolor, 5x8"
Giant Agave, ink & watercolor, 5×8″

The garden also has collections of aloes, agaves, yuccas, and echeverias. Aeonium ‘Glenn Davidson’, the first succulent in Ruth’s collection, is still growing in the garden.

Gardening Landscape Outdoors/Landscape Painting Places Plein Air Pt. Richmond Sketchbook Pages Watercolor

Secret Pt. Richmond “Wave Garden” With Spectacular Views

Pt. Richmond Secret Garden View, Watercolor, 9x12"
Pt. Richmond Secret Garden View, Watercolor, 9×12″

One of our Urban Sketchers, Susan Ford, is a landscape designer who discovered this amazing secret garden in Pt. Richmond that overlooks the bay. The owners of the property,  whose home is just above the garden, recruited concrete artist/sculptor Victor Amador (photos: concrete work) to create winding paths, walls and little nooks with seating areas, all with views of the Bay. They hired Kellee Adams (photos/video about the plantings) to fill it with  colorful, abundant plants. And then the owners opened the property to the public.

I painted the larger watercolor above by working from my on-site sketch (below) as well as from memory and a funky cell phone photo.

Pt. Richmond Park Sketch, watercolor, 5x8"
Pt. Richmond Park Sketch, watercolor, 5×8″

We sketched until sunset, and the evening felt like a truly spiritual experience. It was so peaceful to be surrounded by sky and sea and the sounds of birds, bees, breezes. Although we were only blocks from the freeway I felt like I was far away on a distant island.

Here is a video from a local TV station about the park and its creators when it was first opened in 2008. It doesn’t do justice to the planting which was new then, but is fully grown now.

The Wave Garden is located at the end of Grandview Court in Point Richmond and parking is limited. If you visit, please be quiet and respectful of the neighbors.