Botanical Illustration, Adding Color This Week.

Korean dogwood

© Aislinn Adams  Kousa dogwood, Cornus kousa

Watercolor illustration for a change!

All my blogs so far have featured black and white drawings for the “Digging in” gardening column of the Washington Post. This week I thought it was time to introduce some color by posting a watercolor illustration of Kousa dogwood, Cornus kousa. The Kousa dogwood, also known as the Japanese flowering dogwood, is native to eastern Asia and Japan but has been gracing the gardens of Europe and North America since the late 1800’s.

My neighbor’s Kousa dogwood

I can see my neighbor’s Kousa dogwood outside my side window as I write this blog. Living in an historic home in downtown Salem, Oregon, where the houses stand close together like old friends, I can enjoy looking at my neighbor’s Kousa dogwood without getting out of my chair. The tree is not yet in bloom, unlike its North American cousins, the flowering and Pacific dogwoods. The Kousa dogwood flowers about a month later.

The dogwood flower- not a flower?

I have illustrated the Kousa dogwood three times for the “Digging In” gardening column: once in flower, and twice in fruit. The strawberry-like fruit is very attractive in the fall but the flowers in early summer really steal the show. What we so often admire as the dogwood “flower” is in fact not the flower but the flower bracts. The true flowers are tiny and dark green in the center. When the Kousa dogwood is in flower it has a flamboyant air about it, probably because its “flowers” often point upwards in horizontal rows. It’s as if the tree is holding out its arms to embrace passersby and proclaim how good it is to be alive.

Birr Castle, Ireland.

The watercolor illustration I’ve posted above is from a set of botanical illustrations I painted for an exhibit at Birr Castle’s Visitor Center, County Offaly, Ireland. The story of Birr Castle is a fascinating chapter in the history of plant collecting and I will tell you more about it next week.

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