Monday, December 27, 2010


Calicantus, watercolor and pencil 8" X 10"

Chimonanthus praecox_-- Calicanto in Italian--fitting since the only bush I've ever seen sits in my mother-in-law's Italian garden.

I like it for its rather wintry, austere angular form; unprepossessing in its drabness. It's a bony plant, somber and sad in Winter when the leaves are off but it carries a scent that invites meditation and introspection.

I've been trying to do a still life/watercolor of this plant for years. The snows abrubtly ended the day after we arrived and 5 full days of steady rain made for some indoor painting.

It blooms in late December or early January and is one of the few truly fragrant winter flowers. As a garden plant it is a bit drab and coarse; it makes an oval shrub 2-3meters in height and 2 in width. The leaves are lanceolate and a nice yellow green in Spring and Summer but it Winter, if they don't just fall off, turn a vague parchment/paper yellow brown.

The flowers are small, dime-sized and waxy, pale to bright yellow and have 8 outer petals and four reddish/orange inner petals. The white central pistel opens well after the flower.

It has a strong floral tuberose-like fragrance and merits planting near a window or where it's scent can waft into the house or at least near enough to be handy to cut branches to bring it inside.

It looks much like the American Witch Hazel plant but the petals are less showy and it appears to belong to a different genus--although the habit, fruit, winter blooming and scent have me wondering if not the same plant if they are at least related?


  1. I like the monotonality, like a Morandi but with foliage...

  2. It was underpainted with a pale yellow to give it an overall yellow/hazy look.
    I used Fabriano Ruvido--a drawing paper--that isn't sized and much of the fadedness stems from the subsequent color being soaked into the paper.
    I had hoped to mask the twigs and flowers better with a more subtle color background but the paper ran and I had to leave it alone after the dark blue. Hope to revisit this with another try on good paper.