Hibiscus – Delicate Beauty

22-hibiscusName: Creeping hibiscus – Abelmoschus Moschatus Tuberosis
Meaning: Delicate beauty

This is not the flashiest hibiscus. And I’m really not feeling great about my version of it, if I had the time I’d have another go. But I figure out of the 100 there are bound to be a few I don’t like. That’s the process.

What is still fascinating to me though, is that connection through time I feel with a person who has taken the time to study and faithfully record this delicate creeping thing.

And can you imagine how delicate a beauty any sort of hibiscus would have been to the European eye?

My painting is inspired by a botanical painting by Ferdinand Bauer, 1803, The plant was collected at Caledon Bay, Northern Territories, Australia. Plate from Botanical Prints by N & E Robson

Day 22 100 days project #100daysnz

Toadstool – Curiosity


Name: Toadstool – Fly Agaric or amanita muscaria
Meaning: ‘Curiosity’ (Meaning for all mushrooms)
All mushrooms are edible – but some only once (1). The Fly agaric is poisonous, and causes psychoactive delirium and occasionally death, (although it is by no means the most poisonous fungus) However the unceasing and apparently quite universal human desire to experience altered consciousness means that many cultures, such as Siberian, Finnish, and Afgans have found ways to prepare and consume the Fly Agaric to ‘fly’ whilst not actually dying. This quality means the fly agaric has been incorporated in the Shamanic rituals. It is also apparently a handy insecticide, although given its other qualities, maybe not a particularly user friendly one.
There are very strong fokloric associations with fairies, elves and pixies. The difference between these different types of magical folk is unclear but evidently you wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of them. A circle of tall, dark grass within a ring of toadstools, accompanied by a ring of dark earth, was called a Fairy Ring. Stepping into it could change your luck for good or for bad and cause or cure illness. Alarmingly unspecific as a medical technique, consult your GP first.
According to mythologist Robert Graves, this was the ambrosia of the gods and the food that centaurs ate. Go on, you always wondered didn’t you?
Day 21 #100daysnz
Painting inspired by image by Katie Scott, P13 Botanicum

(1) This is a saying, not advice.  Don’t eat mushrooms unless you’re 100% certain on their identification.

Cactus – Warmth

20-cactusName: Crowsclaw cactus – Ferrocactus Lotispinus

Meaning: Warmth (modern: don’t be such a prick)

This painting was inspired by an image by awe inspiring illustrator Katie Scott, in Botanicum, Welcome to the Museum series, Big Picture Press, 2016

Day 20 100 days project #100daysnz

Arum – Ardour

17-arumName: Arum – Zantedeschia aethiopica/Italicum

Meaning: Ardour – passion or great enthusiasm

Not one of your subtler meanings really – the the big pointy yellow spathe is an upwards trending indicator of the ‘enthusiasm’ of the gift giver. Cheers for that!

In a curious clash of cultural implications, the Arum frequently features as a funeral flower.  Call me old fashioned but I think ardour should be contained at funerals. The arum is often considered unlucky or by many older people, many of whom will not bring it inside or even plant it in their gardens.  Hospital staff in the UK have been known to superstitiously refuse them.

Perhaps one reason for its unpopularity is that it is toxic to people and animals.  The Arum tops the list of plant related poison calls to Otago University’s National Poisons Centre. Largely due to its enticing spike of bright orange berries, or perhaps its superficial similarity to Taro?  Eating the smallest fragment will cause a burning sensation through the alimentary tract.  That would be enough to dampen anyone’s ardour.

The Arum is also known as the Easter lily, associated with republicans killed or executed in the 1916 Easter Rising, featured on mural commemorating the 1981 Hunger Strikers in the Maze Prison, County Down, on wall in Upper Gardiner Street, Dublin.

Like many plants, such as Agapanthus, which are treasured beauties in Europe and the UK, the Arum is something of an invasive scourge here in our temperate climate.  It features on our noxious weed list and is a nightmare to get rid off as any small piece of root or rhizome left behind will reanimate like the walking dead. Some tips for eradication here though.

Day 17 #100daysnz


Fuschia – Taste

16-fuchsiaName: Fuchsia

Meaning: Taste (meaning is for the scarlet fuschia specifically)

As Fuchsia is pronounced “fook-sya”, after the German Physician Fuchs, you can understand why that didn’t catch on in English.  We politely tend to say “fyu-sha” . As a consequence, fuchsia is often misspelled as fuschia in English, and this is the reason I had to completely redo this painting with the name of the plant spelt correctly. Well that’s mys tory and I am sticking to it.

Out of 110 species of Fuchsias worldwide we have our own NZ Fuchsia, the kotukutuku (F. excorticata) which is unusual in that it takes the tree form, up 15 metres tall.  It is The flowers are quite small and hard to spot compared to your ornamental garden shrub (pictured) whose heavy blooms sway like drunken ballerinas.

Foragers and bush grub enthusiasts know that the fruit of all fuchsia species and cultivars is edible though some taste better than others. The berry of F. splendens is held to taste best, reminiscent of citrus and black pepper.  It can be made into jam.


Day 16 #100daysnz

Note: This image was inspired by a painting in Michael Lakin’s A-Z of botanical flowers in watercolour

Magnolia – Love of Nature

15 MagnoliaName: Magnolia

Meaning: Love of nature

One of the exquisite pleasures of walking around my Auckland neighbourhood at the moment is the sheer number of different magnolias in bloom.  It’s lovely to see these trees increasingly planted as as attention-getting specimen trees and sometimes in spectacular massed plantings such as in Cornwall Park.  The delicate but pervasive scent of the Michelia is everywhere and there’s such a lot to see.

I love the sheer range of size and form of the Magnolia, from the delicate white stars of Stellata to the spacecraft sized Star Wars.  Colourwise they range from a traditional creamy white though to hot pink Felix magenta and dark plum purples of Black Tulip and even yellow. The Jurys of Taranaki are NZ plantbreeders responsible for a lot of this amazing magnolia diversity to which we now have access and Abbie Jury’s writing and Twitter on this legacy and many other gardening topics is well worth checking out.

The truly fascinating thing about Magnolias is just how ancient they are.  Fossils date the genus to 95 million years ago, even before the evolution of bees, the toughness of the flower is thought to have evolved to enable pollination by beetles. The carpels and stamens are adnate (fused) around the flower. The Newshub angle here would be: ‘You’d never believe it but these flowers are bisexual, check out that beetle at 1.47′

Day 15 100 Day Project #100daysnz

Note: This image was inspired by a painting in Michael Lakin’s A-Z of botanical flowers in watercolour.  The illustration doesn’t say which Magnolia it is, however I’d take a stab at Iolanthe.

Pansy – Thoughts

14 PansyName Pansy – Viola Tricolor

Meaning: Thoughts

The flower I have painted is probably really a viola, depending on your definition.  Pansy, violet and viola are of the same family and these names are used interchangeably. Commonly we refer to “pansy”  as the engaging large velvet faced, multi-coloured flowers, while the term  “viola” is usually reserved for the smaller, charming and energetic self seeders which I have also heard called Johnny Jump Ups or Heartsease.

The name “pansy” is derived from the French word pensée, “thought”, and was imported into Late Middle English as a name for the Viola in the mid-15th century, as the flower was regarded as a symbol of remembrance. Humanists, and secularists have adopted the pansy as their emblem.

In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Shakespeare uses the”juice of the heartsease” as an ingredient of the love potion which causes Titania to madly dote upon Bottom.

In Hamlet, Ophelia’s descent into madness is told through the names and meanings of flowers “Look at my flowers. There’s rosemary, that’s for remembering. Please remember, love. And there are pansies, they’re for thoughts.”

Day 14 #100daysnz

Note: This image was inspired by a painting in Michael Lakin’s A-Z of botanical flowers in watercolour



Violets – Faithfulness

13 violetsName: Violets -Viola odorata

Meaning – Faithfulness

Oberon mentions violets at his most poetic in A Midsummer Night’s Dream.  There he refers to the shy, downward facing nature of the flower rather than its sweet scent:


“I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,

Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,

Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,

With sweet musk roses and with eglantine:

There sleeps Titania sometime of the night”

In direct contrast, the Greeks saw the strong scent of the violet as sexy and so the violet, symbol of Athens, also became emblematic of  Aphrodite and  her son Priapus, the deity of fertility, livestock, fruit plants, and male genitalia. Priapus is marked by his oversized, permanent ‘Priapic’ erection. Not so shy now, violet.

In other mentions, the goddess Persephone and her companion Nymphs were gathering rose, crocus, violet, iris, lily and larkspur blooms in a springtime meadow when she was abducted by the god Hades.

IMG_1407Violets are delicious and easy to crystallise for historically accurate cake decorations.  All you need is some violet flowers, egg white, table sugar and a small paintbrush. Here’s how to do it.  If you are unsure of your flower identification then it’s a bad idea to eat them as many flowers which look quite innocent are toxic. Garden flowers may be subject to sprays and animal pee.  You can buy edible flower selections now which removes the need for guesswork.