This small mixed-media canvas was made with beads, ribbons, papers, fibres, pressed flowers, fabric, and teabag papers for the dragonfly’s wings. Although dragonflies aren’t around until summer, I wanted to make something light and cheerful as spring arrives in our little corner of the world.
We’ve had a lot of rain this past week, which the trees and the plants are loving, as we’ve had a fairly dry winter. Trees are in blossom, buds are forming, and signs of new spring growth are all around. We’ve even spotted a few monarch butterflies making an early appearance this year.
I hope you’re having a good spring or autumn wherever you are in the world!
One of our most beloved native birds, here in New Zealand, is the tui. A medium-sized bird, a little larger than a blackbird, the tui has an interesting and varied repertoire of sounds, which include melodious ringing notes interspersed with coughs and grunts. They can also mimic the sounds of other birds. Tui live in native forests and rural areas, but can also be found in suburban parks and gardens that have flowering and fruiting trees. They are honeyeaters and love feeding from the nectar of flowering gums, kowhai, pohutukawa, flax and fuchsia.
When we go for walks, we often hear the whoosh of their wingbeats as they fly between trees. They are easy to spot with their white throat tufts and the iridescent blue and green sheen of their feathers in the sunlight.
Below are a few pictures that my husband has taken on our walks. They really show the beauty of these birds. The bottom two photos are of a tui that was feeding on nectar from the flowers of a kowhai tree, which I used as inspiration for my art journal page.
We haven’t had too many days this winter that have been cheerless and grey, with rain and wind, the sort of day when all you want to do is stay inside and hibernate. More often the days have been calm and still, with some frosty mornings that are always followed by glorious sunshine, and it is on those days that I love to spend time in the garden, enjoying the beautiful winter colours.
Calendulas among the carrots, brightening up the veggie patch.
Orange and grapefruit trees laden with fruit.
Pots of dianthus.
The beautiful camellia in the abandoned garden next door.
The Peace Lily in our living room, illuminated by early morning sunshine.
For this page in my art journal, I collaged on some scraps of paper and teabags, applied texture with gesso, stencils, and lace, and painted the background in wintery hues. I then painted the colours of my garden: the starkness of the maple tree without its leaves, the red berries on the holly tree, the bright orange citrus, and the beautiful winter flowers. Lastly I added a few pressed flowers of the pansies and violas that flower throughout the winter.
We love to encourage birds to our garden. Every morning, the sparrows perch on the roof of my studio and watch me through the kitchen window, waiting for their daily feed. When I go out the back door, they fly around me in a flurry of excitement and follow me to the back lawn where I toss a couple of handfuls of wild bird seed onto the grass.
Inside my studio, I have a good view of them through the French doors where I can watch from a distance as they peck around on the grass, then have a drink from the birdbath. It is fun to watch them splashing around and playing in the water. Sometimes they are joined by finches or silvereyes or starlings. Occasionally bossy mynas will come and scare them away. The blackbirds hang around on the outskirts, foraging on the grass and in the garden for worms and grubs.
This little birdbath sticker was the perfect addition to the photos in my garden journal.
I love going for walks at this time of the year when the trees are cloaked in beautiful shades of reds and oranges and golds, and the ground beneath is a colourful carpet of crisp autumn leaves.
These are some of the beautiful trees at Park Island, one of our favourite walking spots.
This white-faced heron is a frequent visitor to the stream at Park Island.
Finn and I go for a walk through Plantation Reserve most mornings, usually a great meeting spot for other dog walkers, although on this particular morning I chose a quiet time so I could take some photos of the trees.
I love to pick up little treasures on our walks and display them on a nature shelf that I have in my studio at home.
It seems I can never go home empty-handed; there are always so many interesting things to find!
In celebration of Earth Day I’d like to shine a light on the tiny creatures that are so vital to our very existence – wild bees, honeybees, and bumblebees. Sadly, worldwide bee populations are in decline, which is why we need to protect them and encourage them into our gardens. We can make our gardens bee friendly by planting flowers with open petals, planting colourful flowers with lots of blues and purples and yellows, providing a source of water so the bees don’t get dehydrated, planting native plants, and creating nesting habitats for them.
A few of the plants that bees love include alyssum, daisies, asters, bergamot bee balm, lavender, rosemary, cosmos, echinacea, borage, anise hyssop, and salvia.
These are a few of the beautiful bees and bumblebees that have visited our garden over the summer.
I painted this canvas of a furry bumblebee for my dear friend, Erica, who has just retired and is looking forward to having more time to spend with nature in her lovely garden.
Every autumn, in April, we enjoy going foraging for walnuts. There are a couple of places where we take Finn walking that we know have big old walnut trees, which are off the beaten track and where the walnuts lie on the ground untouched.
The last couple of weeks we have had some beautiful autumn weather, perfect for foraging. On a day that was warm and still and sunny, we took our bags and headed for the river. Away from civilization, we were surrounded by trees, birdsong, bees, dragonflies, and fantails.
It was clear from the dense undergrowth and foliage that not many people had come down this way.
We discovered a crabapple tree on our walk.
When we reached the walnut trees we had to search beneath the undergrowth for the nuts, however there were plenty to be found, and Finn was keen to help! We filled our bags and left plenty for the next forager to find.
Several chatty fantails accompanied us on our walk, flitting from branch to branch. They rarely stay still for more than a moment at a time, so it is very hard to photograph them, but Nick managed to capture these ones.
Then it was down to the river for Finn to have a swim.
Now I have to wait a few weeks for the walnuts to dry before I can make my favourite caramel date and walnut cake!