[First published August 2016]
Never give me a houseplant. I love them, but—I always kill them. I don’t try to kill them, it just happens. And my yard isn’t much better*. Which is strange, as I am the granddaughter of a renowned horticulturalist.
I didn’t know Granddaddy well, he died when I was small and my memories are hazy. But as I’ve cleaned out my parents’ belongings in the past year, I’ve gotten to know this man, Roy Edgar Marshall, a bit more. His story amazes me—setting off for college from the family farm in Nebraska with nothing but $5 and an extra pair of jeans, he earned a PhD, became a highly respected professor at Michigan State University and garnered awards and citations galore.
Clearly, his thumb was green—probably all ten fingers were Windsor Green! So what happened to the genetics? How come I can’t even keep an African violet alive?
Don’t get me wrong, I love to look at plants and beautiful gardens. They fascinate me. I watch my neighbors’ gardens grow and blossom all around me. Thousands of shades of green; red and fuchsia so intense I can almost taste it; the play of light in and through petals and leaves: looking at a garden is a visceral experience for me.
Out of this fascination and delight have come the series of floral paintings that began this spring with “Quintet”. Indeed, these pieces seem to actually grow out of my brush, overtaking my abstract compositions with their organic shapes.
So perhaps this area is where my grandfather’s legacy appears in me – in my paintings. My gardening equipment includes brushes, palette knives, paint. I plant my gardens on paper. And they are growing very well indeed.
*actually, this summer, my tomato plants are actually producing, and I do have some pots of very prolific flowers. On the other hand, this summer, my daughter Stephanie is helping me with my plants.