Maria von BrinckenOrchids and still life

Late November in North America, New England, this Sunday before Thanksgiving forms today’s perspective of this time of transition. My days and scheduling go from the active creative process of landscape design installations and studio work to only studio work and “office chores”. That’s the category of business chores that are put off when I’m so actively involved in the creative process of installing designs so that they become the unique reality I envision for my clients.

During this transition, I notice my inward retreat. I realize that this is a time of transition for everyone — the shorter daylight hours, the darkness and cold, and winter holidays. The outdoor garden has been mostly to bed—dying foliage cut back and beds somewhat tidied. Now it’s the “still life” composed of indoor plants that lures my creative attention. Many plants that form the compositions have come inside from their summer vacation area on the lower patio shaded by the roof of the deck above. Not all are welcomed back inside, some become part of the compost heap. The ones “looking good” come in and become part of what I call a living “still life”— a seeming contradiction of terms. The phrase comes to me from the years of classic art training drawing and painting arranged compositions that the professors called “still lifes”. You know them – they’re in every museum you’ve ever visited.

The orchids didn’t come back inside this year – they’d become ratty looking and didn’t bloom well after I cut off the random stems. I had been warned never to do that if I wanted them to re-bloom, but I couldn’t stand their appearance and thought it worth trying. Sigh. My orchid friend was correct. So this year when I happened upon an orchid sale I decided to try something different from my ”usual”. I selected 3 different colors and plant shapes to work together in  a color harmony and form. This photo portrays the “still life” created with them.

The trio weren’t enough together, so I tried the maple and the composition fused. But not complete. I had to find the “right”orchid container from my storage cache. The maple’s container style dictated the selection. I liked the classic and organic appeal, and the texture of the terracotta. And I learned long ago to marry similar elements to style successful compositions.

On a different excursion for “lawn refuse” bags to collect the perennial’s cuttings for town compost collection, I had succumbed to an amaryllis – my collection from previous years didn’t make the grade either so I let myself buy just one. I found a container the same storage forage that was perfect for the lone bulb. It snuggled in the composition you see above.

Today perhaps I’ll travel to the garden center to purchase some paper whites. I had spied a large glass fish bowl container while I looked for the others.  It will be perfect this year to house the paper whites – large enough to hold 6 or 7 bulbs to form a mass of the fragrant flowers and support the stems at the same time.  And if it works with the orchid composition I should be able to watch the emerging growth — always a powerful reminder of the strength and persistence of living things. This “still life” composition will fascinate and return me to the joy on some less than joyful days winter – or truth be told — any day can present.

Like this post? Why not share it with a friend?

Maria von Brincken

About Maria von Brincken

Award-winning landscape designer, garden journalist and lecturer, certified practising designer with the Association of Professional Landscape Designers (APLD), former contributing editor to Landshapes magazine. Sudbury, Massachusetts. Read Maria's full blog at A Garden Maker's Notes

4 thoughts on “Orchids and still life

  1. As always, a beautiful and thoughtful post Maria. It’s hard in a mild climate like mine in south-eastern Australia to really get the sense of withdrawing life that you must feel all around you from early November. I hope your orchids continue to bloom. Or maybe they’ll need the occasional bathroom holiday, as Meleah suggested in her post?

    • Thanks Catherine…Thankfully its sunny today. Over the weekend, I transformed the thanksgiving pots into Christmas pots….too bad I didn’t take before and afters…now that I think of it would have made a nice blog post!

  2. A glorious still life , Maria. How talented you are and your insightful thoughts about the resilience and strength of growing things are so comforting.
    I have learnt lots from reading your marrying of texture and certain compositions in presenting your floral picture. I feel I just “klutz” on in with mine. Difference between an artisan and an awkward arranger.

    • Hi Julie,

      Thanks so much for your comments. It’s so nice to know that you are out there in cyber space and reading and that my blogs are helpful to you.

      Keep on “klutzing”, that’s the first step (I started and still “klutz” around but with experience I know what works so its easier, try out different things, always step back a few feet and look again, walk away, mull it over, try again, look at lots of images and figure out what you like about them…before you know it…have fun!


Leave a Reply (no need to register)

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.