What, technically, is a collage? I'm resisting googling the term (which in my mind refers the magazine cut-outs of childhood, the overlaying of colour, shape and image) because I'm simply happy documenting the garden in a way that delights me—the flat-lay, the horizontal arrangement of flowers—a version, I suppose, of botanical collage. Wilting within the hour, I regard them as an artistic exercise, but also a means of recording the seasonality of blooms.
To head out into the garden searching solely for a single colour is to open your eyes to possibility. A sprig of phlox, a clover, or the green umbel of a parsley might call. Adding shape and size to the hunt elevates the challenge. "I need a long one there," I might say, and scurry off with my snips, only to return with a new shape to incorporate, a new puzzle to solve.
I've been travelling this month and after doing a whack of bouquets for sale, and watering, etc. upon my return, the first thing I wanted to do?
But, and this turned into a big but, my worktable is a worn bluish grey, streaked with minty paint. While I have had some success with photographing pinks and purples on it, the colour and planking limit my designs. What background could I make that would be neutral enough for different plants, not take up much room in my studio, and be in action in an hour or two?
I headed out to a small interiors shop a couple of miles from the house, a place I knew carried Farrow & Ball paint from England— gray was on my mind, something earthy and matte. I left with three tiny sample cans, and ordered a quart of 'Downpipe' which is as black as it sounds.
Within the hour, I had an old stretched canvas painted in 'French Gray', (pictured above) and was off. The plants are, starting in the upper left, by row: Brunnera 'Jack Frost', Clover, Daphne, Dahlia 'Small World', Hops, Lamb's Ear leaf, Daucus 'Queen Anne's Lace', Parsley, Daucus again, Dahlia ', Persicaria 'Red dragon', Sweet pea 'Jilly', Chamomile?, Euphorbia 'Glacier Blue', Daucus seed head, Hosta leaf, a mystery mallow, Phlox paniculata 'Tiara', and Sweet Pea again.
If you don't have a canvas, don't fret. Use your dining table and stand on chair for the photo. It will be one of the happiest hours you've ever spent.
I can't wait to work August's yellows on 'Hague Blue' next!