A Neighborhood “florilegium”
By Jill Lowe
Any resemblance of this “florilegium” (a collection of flowers), to the scholarly, skilled, documentation of plants, flowers and foliage, by esteemed botanical artists is in name only. Traditionally, a florilegium is any group of botanical paintings depicting a particular collection whether an exploration, such a Captain Cook’s voyage to Australia (Banks Florilegium), a 16th century herb garden (The Besler Florilegium) or perhaps a plant family (Redouté’s Les lilacées). The superb work of artists such as Margaret Mee and her plant portraits from the Amazon, Marianne North at Kew Gardens, with more than 800 paintings, are a privilege to see. More recently Prince Charles has documented plants at Highgrove in the Highgrove Florilegium. These works often become limited edition books of engravings, to share among scientists and herbaria. So, with the backdrop of these clever, skilled, professional botanical artists, I present here a florilegium of sorts, from Gold Coast & Lincoln Park in Chicago, as a cousin only, of the above.
Botanical Artists and Photography
The florilegium was first created to scientifically document a collection of plants, in centuries before cameras were invented. They became particularly useful when European royalty sent botanists and artists on expeditions to collect and record plants from all parts of the world.
On the one hand, if cameras had been available during those early Voyages of Exploration, photographers would also have been on those trips as illustrators. On the other hand, even if cameras were available, likely the botanical illustrators would still have accompanied. Today, although all of us have a camera in one’s pocket, the botanical artists and botanical art societies endure and are increasing in numbers, with ever higher standards of skill.
Photographic florilegia such as Kim Kaufman images provide stunning art, making flowers come alive. Saxon Holt brings plants and flowers out of the background with special techniques of background removal or extraction, to create plant portraits. The Alcatraz Florilegium documented plants of the gardens of Alcatraz.
A word about Equinox, Solstice and dates of seasons
In the northern hemisphere, it is commonly understood that the first day of Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter occur with the relevant equinox (for Spring and Autumn) or solstice (for Summer and Winter). Every schoolchild knows this. Yet, in Australia, and South Africa it is conventional to say that each season begins on the 1st day of a month (eg, Winter, being in the Southern hemisphere, begins on 1st June).
Supposedly, in Australia this is because in the early days of the Colony the NSW (New South Wales Corps) Corps changed from their summer to their winter uniforms at the beginning of the month. In South Africa, it is thought to be because in 1780, a group of meteorologists decided to break the year into 4 quarters.
Today’s botanical artists might be members of the many Botanical Art Societies, prolific all over the world. Exhibitions are held, awards given, we are so in awe of those able to bring the colors, details of all manner of the plant world for our viewing pleasure.
Names of exhibitions vary, be it floribunda, botanical illustration, art or plant portraits. There is an overlapping of ideas between using flowers as art in a creative manner and the documentation for the florilegium. Suffice it to say, be it for documentation or creativity, the wealth of images of flowers using such variety of media is enormously popular.
“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.”
Margaret Atwood, Bluebeard’s Egg
“To be interested in the changing seasons is a happier state of mind than to be hopelessly in love with spring.”
1863-1952 , Spanish-American philosopher, essayist, poet
“April comes like an idiot, babbling and stewing flowers.”
Notes & further reading.
Image of Jill : Joe Mazza Bravelux inc.
Photos not attributed- copyright © 2022 Jill Lowe. All rights reserved
Botanical Art Society of Australia
Botanical Artist :Margaret Mee
Margaret Mee Plant Portraits
More on Marianne North from Kew Gardens
Plantae 2022 15-18 June 2022 https://www.soc-botanical-artists.org
American society of Botanical Artists
Gardens of Alcatraz
Kim Kaufman’s images