The wet Summer of 2012 was very unfavourable to tree reproduction, and to any artist looking to find good examples of tree fruit!
Artist Sarah Simblet has travelled far and wide to find good examples of arils, berries, cones, drupes and fruits this Autumn for The New Sylva. Talking about her work Sarah said:
“In all of the botanical plates I am seeking to give the reader the experience of having walked up to a tree to grasp a branch and pull it close to them. The drawing then shows the reader what to see.”
This horse chestnut Aesculus hippocastanum was growing near to Sarah’s studio just North of Oxford. This year there are not many trees of the species with healthy leaves, especially without severe damage from the leaf miner. This one also had fully-formed fruits on its lower branches, which were just in reach. It was essential that the fruits were mature for the drawing, but at this stage are attached delicately to their stalks and fall off easily, so the sample needed careful handling.
As any gardener will know apples and pears have had a poor cropping year, while the less common and heavily scented quince Cydonia oblonga has fared similarly. For this drawing of a quince fruit Sarah used the white of the paper to model the form of the fruit and to suggest light reflecting off its skin.
This quince is just one of a number of flowers and fruits sampled from trees in Oxford Botanic Garden, the others being Plymouth Pear, Sorbus spp., Black and White Mulberry and Medlar. While in another of the Garden’s collections a few miles south of the city, at the University of Oxford Harcourt Arboretum, the collection of conifer trees there has been an essential source of drawing and research materials for the authors.
We are very grateful to Tom Price, curator of the hardy plant collection at University of Oxford Botanic Garden, and to Ben Jones, arboretum curator at University of Oxford Harcourt Arboretum, and to all their staff.