Some of my many houseplants in their usual spot.
It’s a Jungle in Here!
By Annette Bartlett-Golden
If you came to the Holiday Open House Art Show or saw the photos you would little have suspected that I have at least fifty potted houseplants. Fifty-two to be exact. That’s because for a couple weeks half of them were congregated in the spare room where they were intermittently kept company by the cat during her long afternoon naps. One day in the spare room endeavoring to squeeze past the sharp thorns of the lemon tree to water plants on the far side, I marveled with some annoyance at how I had ended up with the care of so many plants. There was a time I didn’t have a single plant - although I was quite young then.
A portion of my houseplants sojourning in a spare room and the African violet.
The collection of houseplants tends to fall into four categories: purchases, propagation, gifts and offspring. I bought the African violet because it was beautiful and the Anthurium because I wanted to make a painting of it. My son couldn’t resist buying bromeliads, begonias and many others at his university’s plant sales. Even my husband bought an agave.
Some plants, such as the three young pineapples, were intentionally propagated from the leafy tops of pineapple fruit bought at the grocery store. My son nurtured these with the hope of one day harvesting his own fresh pineapples.
Right: The cockatiel Meg perched on the staghorn fern.
Left: ©Annette Bartlett-Golden, detail of Happy Anthurium. Watercolor, 5 x 7 inches. $100
A good number of the plants came as gifts. The Christmas cactus, shamrock, aloe and philodendrons were given to me by friends over a decade ago. An elderly woman gave my son orchids and neighbors gifted him with jasmine, a floppy cactus specimen, a Sago palm, the lemon tree, a staghorn fern and many other interesting flora.
As if that wasn’t enough, a whole lot of these plants multiplied. The aloe constantly has children, the philodendrons reproduce from just a leaf put in a cup of water and the bromeliads, after flowering, grow new shoots that will mature and flower in their turn. Even the magnificent elephant ear outside had a child which I dug up and potted to winter inside.
So what is a plant lover to do? This is the gift giving season and a great time to share my bounty of plants!
Release poster for the comedy The African Doctor.
The African Doctor
By Annette Bartlett-Golden
When a book or movie stays with me and keeps me thinking long after I read or saw it, I know it’s something worth sharing. The comedy-drama The African Doctor is just such a movie. (The movie’s original title is Bienvenue à Marly-Gomont.) It tells the story of a gifted and conscientious doctor, Seyolo Zantoko, who leaves his native country in Africa with his family for a better life away from deep rooted corruption. Although warmly invited by the mayor of a rural French village to fill the long vacant post of doctor, Seyolo and his family are not welcomed by the villagers. Facing constant adversity of all sorts with determination and humor, Seyolo, his wife and their two young children struggle with the difficult task of finding their unique place in the community and acceptance in their new home. Finally, on Christmas Eve, there is a break through moment and things begin to take a positive turn.
I love how this charming story is told. Set in the 1970s, the story is based on the life experiences of Kamini Zantoko, one of the movie’s cowriters, growing up in the only black family in the French country village of Marly-Gomot. There is a lot of humor mixed in with the everyday struggles. Also, the pacing of the movie is similar to the pace of life in a rural village and there is a strong sense of the times. Perhaps because of this – I was also a child in the 1970s - I found it particularly easy to identify with the children and their parents. The ending, which involved the children, was a lot of fun, too. Many of the movies I enjoy the most are foreign films because of their interesting perspectives, and this one is too.
What I kept thinking about after watching this very enjoyable film was my own experiences as a newcomer and how difficult it often was – at school, in a job, in a group, in a new town. These sorts of things tend to be part of life but dealing with all of these at once plus negotiating a very different culture, as the Zantoko family did, is a challenge on a different level than anything I have experienced. Eventually the Zantokos became respected members of their community and found home. That made me wonder about ways we could all help make our own communities a better place in the coming year. Perhaps this film will inspire you, too!
©Annette Bartlett-Golden, Snow Pigeon II. Watercolor, 9 x 12 inches. $175
The Snow Pigeon
By Annette Bartlett-Golden
This month I applied to a show that would feature a body of my work. That phrase means a group of paintings that have similar characteristics such as medium and subject matter so I chose five watercolors of birds to exhibit, should I be selected to participate in the show. The thing is, I recently sold two of the paintings I planned to enter in the show, Blue Heron and Snow Pigeon, so I needed to paint a couple more bird watercolors. A few days ago I finished the first one,Snow Pigeon II, which shows the bird in a slightly different pose than the one I sold.
I’ve already shared the story of how I came to paint the blue heron so today I’ll tell you about the snow pigeon. Last winter there was a heavy snowfall near the end of January. This sort of thing doesn’t happen very often here in the Piedmont region of North Carolina so I decided to hurry out for a walk before the snow melted. I went down the street and through woods to the park to see how the geese were doing with the snow. It was a bright clear sunny day but the pond looked frigid. Having my camera with me, I took a number of photos of the ducks and geese swimming among the shards of ice and congregating at the top of the bank.
It was only after I had taken all these photos and was looking through them that I noticed a small white something among the geese and ducks. There, almost imperceptible against the snow, huddled a white pigeon standing on one leg with feathers fluffed. In all the times I had been to the park before, I had never noticed this pigeon! Edging closer, I took more photos of the pigeon. When she began to stroll away at a stately pace I followed at a little distance. Because the pigeon wasn’t particularly scared of me I was able to continue photographing her. I was thrilled to end up with about seventy good photos of the snow pigeon.
For a moment I wondered if this was someone’s pet. She was sleek and beautiful and looked quite healthy. However, pet birds usually have leg bands and this pigeon did not. Also, she seemed quite at ease in the park among the ducks and geese. Later, on several more occasions, I was delighted to see the snow pigeon again. Other people told that they often saw her in the park. I’m very happy to have had the pleasure of meeting this nice resident pigeon on a magical snowy day when clearly she was none other than the Snow Pigeon.
Our young lemon tree grown from seed.
By guest author Avery Bartlett-Golden
Cultivated for the last millennium, the lemon has fascinated people since its beginning as a hybrid between a citron and a sour orange. Thought to have originated in East Asia or India, the lemon made its way west and may have been a novel plant in Roman gardens. The first written records of cultivation come from Arabic texts in the tenth century. Lemon trees are an important part of traditional Arabic and Mediterranean gardens, where the lemon fruit is valued for its scent, oil, and juice.
In Spanish the word azahar or flor de azahar refers to the citrus blossom and is derived from the Arabic word for flower. In Andalusia, Murcia, Valencia and southern Spain in general, the scent of oranges and lemons wafting on the breeze are a cherished part of early spring both in the countryside and cities where citrus are planted as street trees.
In North Carolina and most parts of the United States, we sadly can't grow acres of lemons, but we can grow lemons in pots. A couple years ago our plant loving neighbors up the street gave me a small lemon tree, around two feet tall, planted from the seed of a grocery store lemon. This year my tree began flowering at the end of July but lemon trees can flower anytime during the year. Since I first got it, my plant has continued to grow and this year it produced eight lemons! Two are ripe now and the others will be soon.
Lemons ripening on the young potted lemon tree at the beginning of the month.
The easiest way to propagate lemons is from seed. If you use seeds from a regular store lemon, the chances are that it is a “Eureka” cultivar. Like most oranges, lemons will be true enough to seed (except for the Meyer lemon). Plant lemon seeds in good potting soil and keep the soil moist. It is best to consider lemon trees a patio plant and to be prepared to move them outside once the frost risk has passed.
Outdoors, lemon plants prefer a very sunny site protected from wind and lots of water. During the hot summer, lemons in Spain are perfectly happy in blazing squares and courtyards. Lemons also require lots of nitrogen in the summer. I prefer to use blood meal since it is easy to apply, decently long lasting, and has low risk of burning leaves. In the fall, special care should be taken to bring in the lemon plants before the temperature drops to 45°F since they suffer greatly at temperatures below that.
Although fruiting takes time, usually 2-5 years, lemons are still very handsome decorative plants. In time, lemon trees will grow rather large, but they can be kept a manageable size, and still maintain their beauty, with careful pruning. It is also good to know that while young lemon plants from seed, like mine, have a few thin thorns, they gradually diminish with age. Finally, if you happen to get bored with your lemon tree you can always graft other types of citrus onto it for an orangerie in a pot!
Guest author Avery Bartlett-Golden is a Horticulture Science major at North Carolina State University. He is currently studying abroad in Valencia, Spain.
Annette Bartlett-Golden paints a wide range of subjects from landscapes to animals and makes abstract works with paper. Using vibrant colors, she imparts a sense of immediacy, vivacity and optimism to her paintings and paper collages.