Gardens & Birdhouses

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Paintings from a Summer Garden 2013

          nancylee@nancyleemoran.com (email)

Detail of violet birdhouse and flowers from art copyrighted by Nancy Lee Moran USA 2013, titled Phlox of Late Summer, oil painting for art licensing, Romantic Realism, Surface Pattern Illustration, colors of green, red, violet purple

October 11, 2013 Blog Post

Another summer has passed, ending in a burst of flower color. Which flowers mark the end of summer where you live?
In the first oil painting, “Birdhouse in a Country Garden,” the rustic birdhouse has been vacated by late summer, yet flowers abound.

Silver-spotted Skipper butterfly (Epargyreus clarus), nestbox and purple flowers from decorative art copyrighted by Nancy Lee Moran USA 2013, titled Birdhouse in a Country Garden, oil painting for art licensing, Romantic Realism, Surface Pattern Illustration

The butterfly in the lower right corner of the art is a Silver-spotted Skipper (Epargyreus clarus). It seldom visits yellow flowers, as it favors blue, red, pink, purple, and white ones.
Below here are two reference photos taken by myself in August of 2007 and 2010, which I used to create the art.

Two reference photos copyrighted by Nancy Lee Moran in August of 2007 and 2010, used to create the 2013 art of title Birdhouse in a Country Garden, rustic nestbox and flowers in a garden

“Phlox of Late Summer” is the second new oil painting, size 12 x 16 inches.
I selected photos I took during the 2007 Garden Tour in my town. The graceful scrolls of a decorative gate appealed to me, as it supported abundant tall phlox. Since phlox comes in many colors, I chose some fetching ones for the art. In my photos, the daylight was overcast from a thin sheet of clouds. Occasionally the sun would glint through from the right side of the painting. The Victorian-colored (Painted Lady) birdhouse is from my imagination.

In late August 2013, it was the same season as the earlier garden tour. I asked permission to return to the garden of Mary Lynch to study the phlox. I’ll add my two cents here: It is a complex plant to paint!

Graceful scrolls of a metal gate, nestbox birdhouse, and tall phlox flowers from decorative art copyrighted by Nancy Lee Moran USA 2013, titled Phlox of Late Summer, oil painting for art licensing, Romantic Realism, country Victorian, Surface Pattern Illustration, colors of coral, green, cobalt blue, violet, crimson magenta

Tall Garden Phlox can be perennial and annual (starting from seed), from two to five feet tall (60 cm to 150 cm). Plants often self-sow into the garden. Each flower in the clusters resembles a star from the front, a trumpet from the side. The plants create mounds and billows of flowers.
From a rigid center-stem only one-fourth inch wide arises a complex pattern of many lateral branches and sturdy, long, hairy leaves. Two leaves project from the stem, about each vertical inch (2.5 cm) going up the stem. Two leaves point north and south. The next two leaves point east and west. The size of leaves diminishes as the stems grow higher.

When the art was almost finished, it seems to lack something. I sat beside it with my booklet of color swatches, holding each swatch over the painting to see which bit of color may enliven and balance the art. It seemed to need some middle-value cobalt blue and some middle-dark burnt-sienna-orange. The accuracy of the plants shows my patient dedication. The flecks of color applied with the tip of a palette knife show my playful side. The photos below show some bits of pure blue hue added with my palette knife.

Detail of white phlox flowers and Baltimore Checkerspot butterfly from decorative art copyrighted by Nancy Lee Moran USA 2013, titled Phlox of Late Summer, oil painting for art licensing, Romantic Realism, Surface Pattern Illustration, colors of coral, green, cobalt blue, crimson magenta

Detail of coral phlox flowers from decorative art copyrighted by Nancy Lee Moran USA 2013, titled Phlox of Late Summer, oil painting for art licensing, Romantic Realism, Surface Pattern Illustration, colors of peach, green, cobalt blue

To enliven and balance the art, I also added burnt sienna brown and coral peach with a palette knife, as shown below.

Detail of leaves and soil from art copyrighted by Nancy Lee Moran USA 2013, titled Phlox of Late Summer, oil painting for art licensing, Romantic Realism, Surface Pattern Illustration, colors of green and burnt sienna

Butterflies like phlox. To the art, I added two butterflies that live in North America. The one near the white phlox is a Baltimore Checkerspot, wingspan about two and a half inches (6 cm). The large butterfly on the crimson flowers is a female Spicebush Swallowtail, with wingspan of three to four inches (9 cm).

Garden gate and phlox, one of the reference photos copyrighted by Nancy Lee Moran and used to create the 2013 artwork titled Phlox of Late Summer, which is also shown, oil painting for art licensing

One of the reference photos copyrighted by Nancy Lee Moran and used to create the 2013 artwork titled Phlox of Late Summer, oil painting for art licensing, lavender colored tall phlox

Here is a reference photo and more information about Tall Garden Phlox.
In folklore, phlox is associated with sweet dreams. Phlox have been favorites in American gardens for more than a century. Our grandparents and great-grandparents enjoyed the beauty of this hardy, long-blooming plant. From 1900 through the 1940s, as some have put it, “Phlox Ruled”!

Here is a sample of the kind of color swatch (palette) I make for each painting, when planning the colors of the art.

A color swatch palette by Nancy Lee Moran, used to create a house commission oil painting

“Phlox were used in tussie-mussies, the small posies carried by ladies during Victorian times in England, as the five petals of each little flower in the clusters of blossoms are not only beautiful but delightfully scented.”
“These North American natives were taken to Europe where they were improved and then reintroduced to American gardens with more status after being celebrated abroad.”
(Source of the above two statements = http://indianapublicmedia.org/focusonflowers/fragrant-phlox/)

a vintage card showing a tussie-mussie, also called a posy or a dainty flower bouquet from Victorian times, often given as a gift for love and friendship

“This plant is a native, and with true American perspicacity and enterprise has forged its way from magenta obscurity to the most prominent place in the floral world.”
(Source = “My Garden” by Louise Beebe Wilder, 1916)
After the 1940s, tall phlox had an unfortunate downturn in popularity, being seen as old-fashioned.


Cicely Mary Barker wrote a poem called the “Song of the Phlox Fairy.”
August in the garden!
Now the cheerful phlox
Makes one think of country girls
Fresh in summer frocks.
       There you see magenta,
       Here a lovely white
       Mauve, and pink, and cherry-red
       Such a pleasant sight!
Smiling little fairy
Climbing up the stem
Tell us which is prettiest?
She says “All of them!

People around the world care about birds.
I loved the following text from the website turkishculture.org . . .
Bird houses are man’s humble offering to his winged, feathered friends, and one of the oldest and most important expressions of the love of and compassion for animals. Bird houses are a symbol of the value and importance Turks place on animals, especially birds. Several foundations were founded in the Ottoman period for the care and protection of animals. Some of these foundations specialized in feeding birds on cold winter days, caring for and treating sick storks, and providing food and water to animals in general.
SOURCE = http://www.turkishculture.org/architecture/bird-houses-104.htm

I gathered some of this information from Wikipedia and some from Perennial Pleasures Nursery of East Hardwick, Vermont, setting of the Famous Phlox Festival.

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birdhouse ~ nestbox ~ nest box ~ North American gardens ~ garden ~ country garden ~ summer ~ summertime ~ August ~ flowers ~ floral ~ tall phlox ~ clusters of blossoms ~ leaves ~ butterfly ~ butterflies ~ Silver-spotted Skipper ~ Baltimore Checkerspot ~ Swallowtail ~ graceful scrolls ~ metal scrollwork ~ decorative gate ~ Victorian ~ nature conservation ~ art for licensing ~ oil painting ~ palette knife painting ~ magenta ~ mauve ~ pink ~ cherry red ~ crimson ~ coral ~ peach color ~ blue ~ purple ~ violet ~ green

       © Text and photos by Nancy Lee Moran








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