Now that we're really getting into the summer weather here, I'm starting to see my gardens taking shape. For the beds alongside my house, I'm slowly building an herb and butterfly garden. Budget restraints required that I experiment with starting from seed for a few things, but mostly I just started from very tiny plants and mixed in a few summer bulbs. Gardening is aÂ pretty new pastime for me, soÂ believe me, every new growth or flower is a triumph.
In Virginia, if you dig deep enough, you will soon hit clay, which makes building any kind of new bed a bit of a chore, as you really have to work in a lot of good loose topsoil, soil conditioner, and fertilizer to make the plants take to it kindly. It kind of makes me shake my head a little when I visit places like the south of France. Roses practically grow out of the cracks of the sidewalks there! Okay, the gardeners there do have to deal with the rocks (and a lot of them) so I guess we all have our gardening challenges.
The old French country convent where I stayed had a labyrinth of beautiful gardens. I believe the current owners have had the place for a little over 10 years, and while they started with a property that had "good bones", all of the gardens were as a result of their own sweat and muscle. The gardens were set out like little outdoor sanctuaries, and there was something to discover in every nook and cranny of the property.
To the painter's eye, there were a thousand possibilities just within the confines of Le Vieux Couvent itself. But I was drawn particularly to the little goldfish pond out back.So apparently was one of the resident cats, "Portia". With so much touring, I didn't really have much time to paint on the grounds of the property, but I did do this little watercolor sketch of Portia by the pond one morning before we set off on another excursion:
My layout was such that I couldn't quite get in the pond itself. But I came back one morning after the group from the "artist retreat" left, and painteda more close-up view again in oils:
"Bassin Â Poisson Rouge" (The Goldfish Pond) Oil on Linen, 11x14" ©Jennifer Young