Yesterday I went to Leu Gardens to look for crotons.
I need to re-acquaint myself with these fascinating plants for a commissioned painting for my good friend Jeff. The severely cold weather we had over the winter certainly damaged some of the plants quite badly and I read that Orlando is about as far north as outdoor crotons like to be.
In the sheltered areas they had survived quite well and there were enough for me to find some interesting leaves.
I am ambivalent about crotons.They are strange plants.
Sometimes they just look too much of a muddle of colours for me but, as I wrote before, the individual leaves are wonderful.
Their variety of shape and colour are seemingly endless. Anyway more about crotons later, but for now just some prelim sketches.
One lovely curling leaf from “Mammy”or “Mamey” and three little “Mother and Daughter” leaves which I could not resist. They are from a plant at Leu which seems to be completely schizophrenic, having so many different leaf shapes and colours that it can’t seem to decide quite what it is ..
I have looked at crotons a few times now .. my other croton posts are here..
I made a brief visit to the gardens today. The weather was beautiful, there were 4 weddings (hopefully, no funeral) and a camera club outing, so Leu Gardens was buzzing. There are some lovely things coming into bloom which I had missed last year, some very pretty cherry trees and the gorgeous American Fringe Tree, Chionanthus Virginicus.
It is also known by other picturesque names, Old Man’s Beard, or Grancy Gray Beard. It’s so dainty and had a light scent which reminded me very much of cow parsley.
Donald Culross Peattie in “Trees of Eastern and Central North America” describes it in his best lyrical prose.
“Only a little tree at its best… the Fringe tree is as gracile and feminine seeming as any that grows beside the rushing stream or climbs the warm slopes of the Blue Ridge under the shelter of sturdier growths. Close relative of the useful and mighty Ashes, kin to the fruitful Olive, the Fringe tree is the little sister of the family. If it is of no economic importance it contributes to the higher things of life (ahh.. how lovely) It is a raving beauty when in mid- spring it is loaded from top to bottom with the airiest, most ethereal yet showy flowers boasted by any member of our northern sylva. “
I thought how nice it was to be reminded that we do need some things in life that just make us feel happy, without actually being essential to our survival. William Morris’ suggestion to have only things around us that are beautiful or useful is a good rule. Ideas of use and beauty however do vary!
I would love to paint this pretty tree sometime, but today I was looking for some more colourful croton leaves, this time Pinnochio, Zanzibar, and Mammey.
Three More Crotons
After that long post yesterday (somewhat excessive displacement behaviour to avoid the K confrontation), this is mercifully short. I have spent the morning framing a few pictures and decided I wanted a few more colour studies. So today to get away from the very tight botanical stuff I decided to paint some fun colourful crotons. I intend to do 3 more just to show the variety of colour and pattern. I now realise I will have quite a few crotons to show, which is ironic as I really didn’t much care for them initially but their relentlessly cheerful colours, tolerance of adverse conditions and general good nature win you over in the end, you just have to give in. There are people like that too. I have thought that Julie Andrews might be one of them.
The croton names are many and delightful but, confusingly, each variety may have as many as 7 names. For my next three I will be able to choose from Mona Lisa, Picasso’s Paintbrush, Sloppy Painter or Norman Rockwell. Unwittingly I put Bimbo in between the Roosevelt’s, just for the sake of design. But at Leu Gardens this is not the case, Eleanor and Franklin are planted side by side, which, knowing a little about their relationship, is not a position I am sure Eleanor would necessarily approve of.
Franklin Roosevelt, Bimbo and Eleanor Roosevelt
You may have gathered from other drawings that I like things that curl and have a bit of a twist to them. I wanted to paint one of these little ornamental corkscrew croton leaves so here is the preliminary drawing. I have already mentioned crotons, the Codeium family and and initially I must admit I found the large flat-leaved ones somewhat ugly but I have made three previous drawings here and, if you love pattern and colour , you have to love crotons. Here are a couple of very nice old black and white catalogue pages from http://www.croton-mania.com/ which show off the variety of patterns. You can see why I am beginning to warm to them.
I will get round to some paintings of them soon as they really need to be seen in all their colourful glory. This one is a modest green with yellow edges and spots.