This Week’s Botanical Illustration and The Irish Connection

Hubei lily

Hubei lily, Lilium henryi
© Aislinn Adams

A botanical illustration with an Irish connection

The botanical illustrations I’ve created for the Washington Post’s “Digging In” column usually have absolutely no connection to Ireland. Gardening in the Washington D.C. area can be a very different experience to gardening in Ireland. The D.C. weather is full of extremes with the temperature sometimes rising or falling as much as 20 degrees Fahrenheit in one day. Ireland’s weather is much milder, knowing no such extremes. Lots of exotic, bright, colorful shrubs and vines that thrive in the hot, moist conditions of a D.C. summer wouldn’t survive a good Irish summer, never mind a bad one that can be “summer” in name only.

Lilium henryi – Henry’s lily

Then one week Adrian Higgins, the gardening editor at the Washington Post, asked me to create a botanical illustration of Lilium henryi. I sat up straight and smiled – at last a plant with an Irish connection. Lilium henryi or Henry’s lily, a tall, orange, turkscap lily, is not native to Ireland but it most definitely has a strong connection to there. Augustine Henry, one of Ireland’s most famous plant collectors from the golden age of plant collecting in the late 1800’s, first described this beautiful plant.

Augustine Henry

Augustine Henry (1857-1930) grew up in Co. Tyrone, Ireland. He trained as a medical doctor but is best known for his plant collecting. After qualifying as a doctor he went to China to work for the Imperial Chinese Custom Service and in 1882 they sent him to the remote posting of Yichang in Hubei province to investigate plants used in Chinese medicine. (One of Lilium henryi’s common names is Hubei lily.) During his time in China he sent back thousands of plant specimens to Kew Gardens, England, and to Ireland. By 1896 25 new genera and 500 new species had been described from his specimens.

I felt proud that week creating a botanical illustration for a plant first described by one of Ireland’s great plant collectors and bearing his name in its species epithet.

To see my greeting card of Lilium henryi click here.

Aislinn Adams

12 Responses to “This Week’s Botanical Illustration and The Irish Connection”

  • what a gorgeous illustration.

    You maybe interested in a few links courtesy of the National Botanic Gardens, Glasnevin, Dublin

  • Aislinn Adams:

    Hi Ena,

    It’s very nice to hear from you and thanks for the links to Glasnevin.



  • Aislinn Adams:

    Thanks Sophie for adding my blog to your “Favorites”. Here’s to plenty of passion in our lives!

  • Brad Johnson:

    Go raibh mil a mhaith agat a Aislinn

  • Brad Johnson:

    Aisling, I love your blogs and have been inspired to look deeper at the smaller world around me as I did when I was a child. Your vision of nature”s wonder and ability to put it on paper as well as in words helps to reconnect!
    Thank you!

  • Aislinn Adams:

    Tá fáilte romhat a Brad.

  • Aislinn Adams:

    Thanks for your comments Brad. I do enjoy being able to draw well as a result of the skills I’ve collected over a lifetime of practice. However, now and again I wish I still drew the way I did as a child. Children have such a clear, open way of looking at the world. I spend a lot of time with the elementary age children at my daughter Sorcha’s school and I love to see their uninhibited enthusiasm about almost everything. I run a nature club after school program there and I get so much from the children’s excitement at discovering some new bug or just finding a worm. Having a child of my own has made me look at the world with new eyes. My daughter constantly inspires me to take the time to really look in an open, unfiltered way.

  • Andrea Bogue:

    Thank you so much for your thoughtful and beautiful illustrations and words, Aislinn. I remember many years ago when Sorcha wasn’t even a year old, you came to visit. I can still see you standing at the window, holding her in your arms after a long sleepless night. It was a snowy day. You were looking out onto my wintered year old garden, dusted with snow, still and frozen. You talked about the plants I could grow and how it could become a butterfly garden. Now, almost ten years later, your vision is in full bloom!

  • Aislinn Adams:

    Hi Andrea,
    I’m delighted to hear that you have a butterfly garden. I’d love to see it sometime. Where have the years gone?

  • martin gregory henry:

    nice to see my grand uncle plant in this form/martin in co derry.

  • Aislinn Adams:

    Thanks for the comment Martin. It’s very nice to hear from a you. It’s a beautiful lily.

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