Naked Ladies


I usually write about paintings but today I’m starting from a source of inspiration – growing plants.  I love gardening and we have a tiny and fascinating garden (at least to me it is).  Except my source of inspiration just now isn’t growing in the garden but on my studio window ledge.

Lino Cut of Autumn Crocus

These are autumn crocus which seem to have the gift of flowering wherever the sun shines on them.  The linocut above, made quite some time ago, was designed from a drawing I made of some crocus that had been given to me late one autumn, by my mother.  The slender white stems and gorgeous mauve chalice of petals emerge from a golden brown bulb, unplanted but placed in an empty dish.  They have a sculptural elegance no doubt prompting their name – Naked Ladies.

Enticing Steps in Città della Pieve

This year we (my husband Tim and I) visited Città della Pieve, a beautiful medieval Umbrian hill top town where the crocus has been adopted and is cultivated.  Being Italy this affection has inevitably something to do with food, and so it makes sense that they grow the saffron crocus.  On the particularly glowing day of our visit I was enchanted by a small shop selling all things saffron and there I bought an egg box holding 6 saffron bulbs with instructions on how to grow them.

The photo below is just for an Italian coffee break – I wish technology could bring it alive for you!

Un espresso a Café Matucci

Now is confession time.  Once home, I didn’t plant the bulbs right away – I wasn’t really sure quite where would suit them.  It is important to choose the right place – sunny, protected from squirrels, somewhere they won’t get lost or forgotten when they are dormant – all the usual gardening dilemmas.  BUT when I opened the egg box maybe a whole month later . . .  astonishing  . . . they were growing.  Immediately the egg box was elevated to my sunny studio window cill where the stems grew even more.  After a few days the top of one of the stems seemed to change colour and then, much to my surprise, it  became a flower, which opened  . . . thrilling . . .  within a few more days all the stems had grown, with more flowers.  Three stems per bulb with two flowers on each stem and three deep red velvet stamens in each flower which meant a harvest of somewhere around 24 honey scented saffron threads!  Riches indeed.  

Joyfulness on my studio window cill

If you think that my maths is a bit skewy – I had given 2 of the initial 6 bulbs away to a gardening friend .

Gli instruzione per i bulbi

Two more things – well three now I think of it

To those of you – like me – who think I have been neglectful, I have a wide, shallow flower pot filled with a careful mix of compost and once the flowers finish, the bulbs will find another home.  One that is more long term, I hope.

We did return to Città della Pieve a few days after our first visit, but I had forgotten to bring my rose-tinted glasses, which suggests that many things can be beautiful, or not.  How we see, makes the magic – it’s up to us!  

Inspiration – as long as the bulbs like their new home I am hoping for a terracotta pot full of flowers again next autumn and that is when I shall paint them.  Fingers crossed 

Il teatro delle Dodici Luni – Certaldo Alto

Wonderful puppets – each one the size of a small child.