Category Archives: Saskatchewan wildflowers

"Sylvia's Prairie", watercolour

Sylvia’ s Prairie

Years ago I made a choice to let go of my perennial garden so that I could spend more time in Pheasant Creek Coulee with the wildflowers that were already there. Flowers requiring no care at all. I felt some sadness about this choice, but have been thrilled about the time it has freed up for me. I especially love to spend very early mornings painting in the coulee once the ticks have disappeared.

This Covid summer has been no exception. In fact, life without playshops and art sales has offered me not only MORE time in the coulee, but also daily visits! What I have most noticed is how the more I get to know, the more I realize I have not noticed before. How could I have missed that, I think? I note that I miss so many things. “I see, but don’t see”. There is always a new surprise or mystery when I visit the coulee. We see and experience the natural world with strong filters. Happily, daily visits disturb some of my filters.

Showy Locoweed (the flowers not out yet, but an impressive plant, so furry and luxurious!)

Showy Locoweed in bloom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A great joy has been wondering about the mystery of an emerging plant – before it blooms. Who are you? What colour will you be? In the case of Showy Locoweed, it was several weeks between emerging leaves and eventual blossoms. Well worth the wait!

Now, I am appreciating the varieties of seedheads, and finding great beauty in this stage of plant life. How can the delicate pink and white bell shaped flower of Spreading Dogbane become a brilliant red pod sometimes measuring four inches long?

Spreading Dogbane-the pod

Spreading Dogbane- flowers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These last few weeks, I have perched on my stool, looking down. I am intrigued by the shapes and forms and postures of plants. I have always loved the distinctive shape of Indian Breadroot* or the particular curve of milk vetch leaves on the stem. Or the deep green of Indian Breadroot contrasted with the silvery green of wolf willow and sage.

“Underfoot”, Watercolour, 14.5 ” x 14.5″

My first painting, entitled “Underfoot” highlights the leaves of Indian Breadroot when the blossoms are dying. In the background are the fading leaves of the prairie crocus. At this time ( early July) Ascending Purple Milk Vetch (blue) is in full bloom, as are Gaillardia (yellow) and Hedysarum (pink). Broom is just coming into bloom and it’s bright fake grass green colour contrasts with the other shades of green.

Detail of “Sylvia’s Prairie”

“Sylvia’s Prairie” was painted over several visits the last ten days of July. Silver Leaf Psoralea ( a cousin of Indian Breadroot) is highlighted in this painting and I love how its silver leaves contrast with the green of Western Wild Bergamot (shown here without blossom). Other blooming plants include Purple Prairie Clover, Harebell, Pink Prairie Onion, and Low Goldenrod. Flax seeds and the empty rust coloured seed heads of groundsel as well as wild licorice leaves are here also.

The title of this piece came as a wonderful surprise. Once I was finished and was looking at this painting from a distance, I thought, “These are Sylvia’s (my late mum) colours.” In fact, I could imagine her wearing a shirt just like this. I was struck by how our parents are always with us, even when we have no idea they are present. Years ago, when my mum visited the prairies, she loved to smell the sage. She always picked some to freeze in a baggie, and pull out from time to time, just to breathe that distinctive prairie smell deeply. So, it fits that two types of sage are in this painting as well – women’s sage and pasture sage.

In some ways, I am pleased with “Sylvia’s Prairie”. Yet, at the same time, some dissatisfaction  pushes me to explore further. I like the energy and movement in an earlier attempt to get to know Silver Leaf Psoralea (below). I begin August wanting to spend more time getting to know Silver Leaf Psoralea better by sitting with her, drawing and painting her, trying to express other dimensions of her incredible beauty and wildness.

* Indian Breadroot is also known as Prairie Turnip.


Pheasant Creek – Some July Wildflowers

Western Wild Bergamot

Western Wild Bergamot, a wonderful peppery  leaf added  to tea

Skeleton Weed

Hedysarum, above and Northern Hedysarum, below plus a little yarrow

Northern Hedysarum

Juniper is not a flower but so lovely and fresh with new berries coming

Low milkweed started blooming in June, but I am discovering patches of her for the first time, and she continues to bloom in July

Green Milkweed

Silvery groundsel going to seed…in this photo the seeds of the bottom three have flown away. I painted this seedhead last winter not knowing what is was

Smooth Camus, close up, new to me this year

Smooth Camus

Late Locoweed (see May for Early locoweed)

Harebells

Giant Hyssop

Skunk bush

Western Red Lily

Wild LIcorice

Brown Eyed Susan’s

Many flowered aster

Purple Prairie Clover – who could resist this plant?

White Prairie Clover, cousin to Purple Prairie Clover

Dotted Blazingstar

Short Stemmed Thistle

Short Stemmed Thistle

Field Geranium, naturalized

Red Clover

Plains Cinquefoil

Yellow Evening Primrose

Yellow Evening Primrose

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PInk flowered Onion

PInk flowered Onion

Gaillardia (Blanket Flower)

Spreading Dogbane

Showy Locoweed

Beautiful Sunflower

Silverleaf Psoralea

Smooth Aster

Prairie Coneflower

the seedhead of yellow flax

Hairy Golden Aster

“Underfoot”, Watercolour, 14.5 ” x 14.5″

“Early Morning”, Watercolour, 10″ x 8″

 

Pheasant Creek – Late June Flowers

In my humble opinion, June is the best month for wildflowers. There are so many new flowers coming to blossom, it is hard to keep up. Interesting seed heads to observe from earlier plants. The leaves of plants that are coming soon have emerged. It is also a beautiful month, unlike any other for startling prairie skies. Of course, the plants bloom long after my  contrived two week time periods. And yet, keeping note of the plants as they bloom has me noticing more. The more I learn, the more I notice.  The more I learn, the more questions I have. What a privilege it is to walk the same hills daily, to notice the ever changing plants and shrubs as well as the birds, animals and insects.

A beautiful year for wild roses

Gaillardia (or blanket flower)

Goatsbeard started to bloom at the beginning of June. the seedheads, like very large dandelion seed heads just came out at the end of June.

Ascending Purple Milk Vetch

Spreading Dogbane

Showy Locoweed. I have been admiring the furry leaves for many weeks. Finally, at the end of June, the first blossoms show up.

False Dandelion

Close up of Prickly Pear Cactus

Prickly Pear Cactus catching the last sun of the day

Harebell (and a small bit of bedstraw)

Western Wallflower (a member of the mustard family)

Caraway

Smooth Fleabane

Low Milkweed

Hedysarum (began blooming in early June)

Yarrow

Prairie Lily

Buckbrush

the plums of ground plum or are they?

Alfalfa…this is in the meadow as I approach the hills. Many people haven’t seen it before and comment on her beauty- in all shades of purple and cream

Fritilitary enjoying alfalfa’s sweetness

Hawksbeard (not sure which one) with chamomile in background

White Water-Crowfoot

Nuttall’s Atriplex (Atriplex gardneri) Antelope, mule deer, rabbits, and mourning doves graze on it. Its leaves are an important food source during the winter because of their persistency. It is especially important for sheep because it contributes to the minimum nutritional requirement for maintenance of gestating female sheep

Just at the end of June, the first prairie coneflower blossoms

Low Goldenrod

Which vetch this is I am not sure

 

Sources: Saskatchewan Wildflowers Website by Glenn Lee and Facebook Page of Saskatchewan Native Plants- Saskatchewan Native Plant Society 

How To Make Friends with a Wildflower

Photo Credit: Jo Anne Lauder

Jo Anne Lauder, one of the artists who took part in “Befriending Wildflowers – An Art Retreat” at the Qu’Appelle House of Prayer this July, took the stunning photo above, capturing the delicacy of a prairie wildflower bouquet. “Befriending Wildflowers” gave us a chance to slow down, to explore the hills and meadows around us, and to spend quiet happy time in each other’s company observing, sketching, and painting wildflowers. We painted under the green shade of trees on some very hot days, and were grateful for the cooling breeze. Grateful too, for the generous hospitality of Glenn, Chantelle, Kathy, Tim, and Simba, the cat. Their hospitality included delicious meals and surprise snacks, thoughtful reflections about wildflowers, and mowing the  steep and curving trails that lead up the hills (a Herculean act, in my opinion). If Simba detected any sense of a rush, he had a lovely way of asking for some affection, and slowing us down. We were also deeply grateful for the many gifts of the wildflowers, and the beautiful natural world surrounding us. Below are some photos of our time together, and if you continue all the way to the bottom, some preliminary thoughts on how to make friends with a wildflower.

She said she doesn’t climb hills and then SHE DID! (Wait to go, Deb!)

this beautiful view (still celebrating the climb!)

new friends

we also came “to just be”, to quietly sit

Moments of quiet absorption

 

a little watercolour play

Breathe while you paint (this flopped but fun experiment because how will you breathe if you are worried about getting paint on the garage door??)

Loosening our brush stroke by pasting a stivk to the end of our brush (still worried about paint on the doors!!)

early Saturday morning, beautiful mist…that is the chapel in the distance

Spreading Dogbane Foliage by Deb

Getting to know the flowers by sketching them first (Deb)

Bouquet by Deb

Purple Prairie Clover and Gaillardia by Jo Anne

Unfinished Woodland Foliage by Jo Anne

Wild Rose by Jo Anne

Wildflower Sampler (Purple Prairie Clover, Western Wild Bergamot, Harebell, Prairie Coneflower, Gaillardia, Alfalfa) by Jo Anne

Wild Rose by Teri (First ever attempt with watercolours)

Wildflowers in Tree by Marg

Alcohol Ink by Marg

Bible Journal by Marg

Wildflowers and Earth by Marg

“Nature yourself with kindness” by Marg

A partial art gallery on the logs

Spreading Dogbane and other foliage by Sue

More foliage by Sue

Back: Teri, Jo Anne, Marg Front: Deb, Sue


Some Preliminary Thoughts on Making Friends with Wildflowers

  • The old adage “Stop (or slow down) and smell the flowers” is a good one. Stopping is necessary. Smelling is great – some of us have the most beautiful scent, some no discernible scent, and some a memorable scent. You can smell us best when on your knees.
  • Once you have stopped, spend a little time with me. Really look at me. Touch me – gently, see how I feel. Notice if there are others like me around. What made you look at me? Sing me a song. Tell me what you appreciate about me. It takes a long time to get to know me well.
  • From someone who knows us well: be humble around us. We have been on Planet earth for much longer than you. We are your Elders, your teachers. (paraphrased from Robin Wall Kimmerer)
  • Don’t pick me with out asking. I will answer. Wrap my stem in a little water so I will stay alive a little longer. When you take me home, admire me, place me in a central spot, sketch or paint or photograph me. If that is not your thing, you could write me a love song.
  • Never pick me if I am the only one, or if there are very few of my kind.
  • Walk lightly. That way if you step on me I am more likely to bounce back.
  • Come and visit me often. At first you will notice me only when I am in full bloom, but in time you will learn to notice my emerging leaves, my bud, how I flower and how my middle turns to seeds. You will find me beautiful even as I am dying. Each stage of my life is wondrous.
  • Listen to me.
  • Look around and notice who my neighbours are, which butterflies, bees and flies like to pollinate me, if I am tasty to any wild creatures.
  • Sometimes leave me alone. Just like any friend, I need quiet at times.
  • I enjoy your small gifts of thanks, but the best gift of all is an appreciative heart. Or lovely water (especially in a dry year).
  • Other thoughts?

    Harebell Photo Credit: Chantelle Bonk, Qu’Appelle House of Prayer

Friday morning in the coulee

Alas! I set out early Friday morning to paint in the coulee just after the first flush of green! It was not to be – painting that is. The handy dandy yellow bag (pictured below) that holds my water had sprung a leak after many years of such expeditions. I watered the hill instead. Then I wandered the hills. They were  alive with bloom and blossom, with new plants pushing up through dry earth. I ventured from to hill to hill, smartphone in hand, bending low to look at all the amazing growth. Some are pictured below.

the leaky yellow bag and a sketch of

the leaky yellow bag and a sketch of what I think might be Missouri Milk Vetch(unsure)

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Missouri Milk Vetch (maybe). What I love about this wee flower are the leaves, a silver sage that are beautiful just on their own.

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Narrow leafed milk vetch (above) maybe and cushion milk vetch I am pretty sure

A hillside of cushion milk vetch

A hillside of cushion milk vetch

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Ground Plum?? I know I have seen plums on the hills arter flowering… I will keep an eye open.

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Grandfather Rock

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A view from Grandfather Rock

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The Hawthorne (but I didn’t go in) . A tick haven at this time of year!!

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Silver weed just before blooming. Aren’t these leaves amazing???

Silver weed just blooming

Silver weed just blooming

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Bear berry, kinnickinick

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Wild strawberry

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This photo soothes me

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the eye of sister aspen

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pussy toes

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Moss phlox

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A guess: Low Townsendia just before opening?

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Another guess : Plains Cymopterus?

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Guessing again: Sand Bladderpod?

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By the creek close to raccoon tracks

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Hoary Puccoon about to burst

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