The Crown (top view) 2019 © Kristin Maija Peterson
I’m fascinated by the intricate shapes dried native plants morph into at the end of a season. Does that make me a Morticia? She looped of the heads of roses and kept the stems arranged in vases. Does it make me morbid? Not really — it’s just I appreciate a plant (or flower’s) beauty throughout its life stages.
I started taking photos in the fall of native prairie plants and flowers (now brown and dehydrated from frost) that sweep the rolling hills of a wetland preserve just outside my backdoor. Even though all the grasses, plants, and wildflowers would appear lifeless to anyone walking the pathway, I saw characters emerge.
That’s when the idea of a “Royal Court” series came to me. Large portrayals of queens, palace guards, ladies in waiting, dukes and duchesses, all derived from the photos I was taking as reference. This is the first in that series.
“The Crown” depicts a young queen (an Elizabeth or Victoria perhaps) who is flouncing energetically about when no one is looking, her head and torso arching to the left. On the top of her “head” are the points of her crown sitting lopsided on a bounty of curls and ribbons, her right arm pointing upward as if in conversation with herself (“I’ll show them!”) as she makes her way down a castle corridor, her skirts swishing behind her as she strides onward. That’s what I see. For everyone else, it’s open to interpretation.
But let’s take a look at the “whole native dried plant-flowers thing” for a moment.
I know gardeners (myself included) are inclined to clear out their garden beds in the fall and remove all the dead vegetation. There is a case for not doing that. Even though plants and flowers appear to be “all done” for the year, they still serve a purpose if left standing throughout the winter. This would be especially true for rain gardens or any garden made up of native plants.
- The stems of native plants hollow out and become a suitable place for beneficial insects to hibernate.
- The dried flower heads can contain seeds for birds to eat during the winter months.
- The density of native plants and their stems can provide shelter for wildlife.
When it turns to spring, native perennials get busy soaking in snowmelt, filtering pollutants from rain and stormwater (also known as bioretention aka rain gardens) and stabilizing the soil with their deep roots. Most of a native plant is not above ground, but below with roots systems ranging from 6 to 24+ feet long. Above ground, native flowering plants provide food for bees and pollinators as well as habitat for wildlife. They make us happy with their green textures and blooms all summer long.
These are some of the many duties “The Crown” performs throughout her reign. It is any wonder I bow to her grace.
For some time now, my work has had a limited palette of black and white with a mix of earth tones and maybe its time to play with color again. Generally, I am a purist and stay true to the original work after scanning it. Oh, the temptations in a digital world! It happens. After all, her majesty is not limited to one gown.
The Crown La Orangé 2019 © Kristin Maija Peterson