Watercolors and Pencils

Quilt on Clothesline

Watercolor of Mountain and Mist

Abandoned House

Picking Up Apples

Rocks and Cacti

watercolor of a rocky coastline

Watercolor of Portland Head Lighthouse

Watercolor of a Lighthouse

Winter Scene

Child after a Bath

drawing in graphite

Still Life in Colored Pencils

Lily in Colored Pencil

Some of my latest paintings.  Most in this section are done with colored pencils, and most are unframed.

Waterlilies at Longwood Gardens

Longwood Gardens is located at Kennett Square, PA.  It’s a popular place for those who like flowers, trees, and waterliles.  Although I’ve visited the gardens many times, it was my first trip during the summer season.  I went because I mostly wanted to see the waterlilies, and I wasn’t disappointed. 

There are seven or eight separate pools, just for the waterlilies.  Many of the lilies were in bud form, but there were dozens of lilies in full bloom. 

Several pools featured the “Platter” lilies.  The Platter lilies hadn’t reached full size and would continue to grow until they were much larger.  But they were gorgeous just the same.  It is said that once a Platter lily reaches full size, it can hold the weight of an average size man. 

After I came home, I did a little research on what I call the Platter lily.  In truth, it’s called the Victoria lily and when full grown, it can measure 6 feet across.  The flowers are enormous and don’t bloom until late August.  They start out as female flowers but develop into male flowers on their second night, at which point they have changed in color from white to a rose pink.  On their third day, pollinated, they sink to the pool bottom to grow sees that, when mature, float.  The Victoria lilies are not for the home gardener, but if you have a farm pond, you can grow it.

Botanists think the raised edge makes the leaf stronger and also stops one leaf from smothering another.  Tiny drainage holes allow the leaf to shed rainwater. 


Next year if I go back, I’ll go later in the season so I can see how big the Platter lilies get. 


Comments to Marilyn


Tomato-Pesto Soup


Tomato-Pesto Soup

2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2-3 cloves of garlic, sliced thin
1 cup carrots, sliced thin
2 cups onions, sliced thin
1 cup celery, sliced thin
3 bay leaves (fresh if possible)
1/3 cup white rice
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
Small jar of tomato-pesto sauce
1 carton of low-sodium chicken broth (more if you like a thin soup)
1 can crushed tomatoes (28 oz)

Saute’ the garlic, carrots, onion, and celery.  Stir about 8 minutes until soft.  Add the bay leaves and cook an additional 3-4 minutes.

Reduce the heat and add the jar of tomato-pesto sauce.  Let this cook a few minutes then add the rice and stir to coat it.  Stir in the red pepper flakes.  Add the chicken broth and crushed tomatoes.   Simmer the soup for 40 minutes, then add salt and pepper to taste.

 Remove the bay leaves and puree with a stick blender until the mixture is smooth.  Top bowls of soup with toasted croutons.


Fall is for Dahlias

Do you grow dahlias?  Mine have been blooming for several weeks now, along with the mums. They’re gorgeous and well-worth the time I spend cultivating the soil, staking, and tying the stems. I don’t disbud my dahlias, but I do cut bouquets.  Dahlias will produce more blooms if you cut them on a regular basis and how delightful is to have bouquets of dahlias on my kitchen table.


A cluster of dahlias I saw on a recent vacation in Boothbay Harbor, Maine.




My dahlias will bloom until the first freezing frost, and after that, I’ll cut the stalks back to 3 or 4 inches. Our winters can be severe here in my part of Maryland, with freezing temperatures and a lot of snow.  I live in Zone 6.

After I dig the tubers, I’ll let them dry and little and then store them in vermiculite.  I’ll keep the tubers in my basement, where the temperature remains between 40 and 50F degrees.  If the roots should start to shrivel, I’ll spinkle them with water.



Next spring, after the soil turns warm and all danger of frost has passed, I’ll dig holes….at least 6 inches deep and spread the tubers out in a fan shape.  Then I’ll drive a tall wooden stake in the soil so when the stalks get tall I can tie them and they won’t flop over.

This past year I got lucky and found a 60% off sale at my local greenhouse.  It was a little late for planting dahlias, but every plant sprouted.  I planted in full sun and good soil, and my plants did very well.  I didn’t need to water much this summer because we had a lot of rain.  My only problem was slugs! I fought slugs throughout growing season, but oh my, what beautiful dahlias I have.  It was well-worth the effort.


Some blooms are striped or tipped with a different color, and some have fringe.  I have yet to grow one I don’t like.



A beautiful pink I saw on a recent vacation in Boothbay Harbor, Maine



Sunflowers. We Love Them

Sunflowers: We Love Them


 The scientific name for sunflowers is ‘Helianthus annuus’, and they have been around for thousands of years.  Nearly 3,000 years ago, Native Americans used sunflower seeds for food.  Lewis and Clark mentioned sunflowers being used by the plains Indians in their journals. 

Sunflower colors are vibrant.  In the early stages of a sunflower, the colors are bright yellow.  As they mature, the yellow turns bronze, and then from bronze to deep brown.  There are eleven species of sunflowers, and most are perennials. 

The artist, Vincent van Gogh, decorated his friend Paul Gauguin’s bedroom with paintings of sunflowers. Most of van Gogh’s sunflowers in vases were painted in Arles, France.  Those he painted in Paris were sunflower clippings.


Farmers grow sunflowers for the seed, which they sell.  On a drive through my state of Maryland, I found field-after-field of sunflowers.  It was a bright sunny day and parents were taking photographs of their children and the sunflowers.   

I grow sunflowers, too.  I love their bright yellow petals and large brown centers. The heads get so heavy they droop, and that’s when their petals resemble tears. 

Sunflowers inspire the poet, the artist, the farmer, and the gardener.  Sunflowers inspire me! 


Recently I’ve been attending watercolor workshops.  In fact, I’ve enrolled in three, and so far I’ve had three different instructors.

I became interested in painting three years ago when my son gave me a watercolor kit. Unfortunately, the tubes of paint had dried up so I couldn’t use them. I went to Michael’s (a craft store) and not only bought fresh tubes of watercolors, but also a pad of watercolor paper.  Then I went to my local library and checked out some “how to paint with watercolors” books. 

To date, I’ve taken two watercolor workshops and one drawing workshop. I draw and paint in class, but mostly, I paint at home.  All classes have been well attended and I’m enjoying every minute of them.  It’s fun to be in a group with other seniors who share my interest in painting.

This summer’s workshop began last week and will continue throughout the summer.  And then there’s another one scheduled for the fall.

                               Some of my paintings.

Winter Window

Mother’s School Bell 


 Pemaquid Lighthouse, Maine

 Fifth Avenue, NYC

 Fenced Out

Retired Buoys in Kennybunkport, Maine

Woman in a Purple Hat

Cat on a Quilt


Cone Flowers and Lilies



Cone Flowers (Echinaceas) are fragrant and drought proof, and both bees and butterflies love them.  Cone flowers are among my favorite perennials and I have several different kinds. I like the double cone flowers because they resemble a pin-cushion, and my favorite double is a Double Orange.


Cone flowers are easy to grow.  They tend to grow tall, but I have one called “Knee-High” that truly grows only to my knees. 


I’ve found that my cone flowers grow best in full sun, in a well drained soil.  The blooms look good for 2-3 three weeks, and when the blossoms start to fade I cut the stems back.  That helps to promote a second blooming.  I always leave a few blooms, however, because finches like to feed on the seed heads. 


I’ve discovered over the years that if I want additional plants, it’s better to divide the plants rather than save the seed.  For me, the seeds have been very slow to germinate, if they germinate at all.

Purple cone flowers are hardy.  I live in the Washington DC area and have no problem growing this popular perennials.  I lost a white one last winter, but it was the only one I lost.  



There are many varieties of lilies, from Oriental lilies to Day lilies.  We’re familiar with the Tiger Lilies, what I call “ditch lilies”, because they’re everywhere.  The Tiger Lily grows tall and the plant is highly invasive. 

The Day lilies I grow are more compact than the Tiger Lilies, plus there is a huge assortment of varieties.  If you want to have some fun, propagate and start your own variety of day lily.

                                A Double Peach Daylily
                                    After the Rain

Many of the newer daylilies have an eye, and this one has a purple eye.

                                  Daylily with an Eye

These are a few of the lilies I grow from bulbs.  They, too, are perennials.



This is the August Lily

The plant appears in early spring, along with the daffodils. The leaves also die back when the daffodils do.  Then in August, stall spikes appear and these are the flowers.


I prefer to grow perennials and I grow both shade and sun-loving plants.  Watch for my future posts on the shade-loving plants I grow.



Want New Varieties of Daylilies? Then Propagate


Propagating daylilies is simple and fun. It’s just a matter of taking the pollen from one plant (from the stamen) and place it on the pistil of another plant. I use a Q-tip for this, but I’ve also just broken off a stamen, carried it to another plant, and rubbed the pollen on the pistil. I have propagated dozens of daylilies and find it very easy to do.

Don’t remove the flower from the plant you just crossed.; Let it fall off naturally.  It will be a few days before you’ll see a seed pod. Then, when the pod is fully developed, which will take between 6-8 weeks, it will turn brown.  It will start to split and inside you’ll see glossy black seeds.
At this point, the seeds can be scattered by the wind, or you could accidentally brush against it and spill them. Take care to gather them before either of these two “accidents” take place so you don’t run the chance of losing them.
After you’ve collected the seeds, put them in a moist plastic bag and put that in the fridge for around four weeks.  After four weeks, you can then plant them outside in the spring, or plant them in a sunny window inside. It’s how you might start tomato seeds or any other seeds.

Once you’ve planted your seedlings in the garden, or transferred those you started in the house, expect to wait 2-3 years to get a bloom. The first time you do this, it will seem forever to see your first bloom.  But if you propagate every year, you’ll always have a new group of plants to look forward to.
Developing and growing your own daylilies is exciting.  I’ve been doing it for many years. One fun thing is that since you have developed a brand-new daylily, you get to name it.

Some of My Own Varieties of Daylilies


 Daylily with a Green Throat


Pink Ruffles

I Call This One Bronze

The following photographs are dayliles I bought for two reasons: First, I thought they were different and would give me exciting new varieties to use in my hybridizing. Secondly, I thought they were striking.

Purple Eye

A Double Gold



The following daylily is one I bought at a local greenhouse. The owner was from Holland and liked to crossbreed his plants. I bought this many years ago and although the bloom is small, I have yet to see a daylily that’s as pure a white as this is. It’s called “Dad’s Best White”.

Not all of my crosses are pretty. Some have white streaks and others have white blotches.  But it’s a fun thing to do and I’m always excited when I see a bud forming on one of my creations.

Pen, Ink, and Watercolors

One of my hobbies is watercolor painting.  I’ve done quite a few watercolor paintings, but more recently I’ve ventured into something a little different.  I’ve begun to work in the mixed-media of pen, ink, and watercolors. 

In February I was in New York City with my hubby, brother, and sister-in-law.  The temperature was 17 degrees and it was COLD!  We weren’t about to stay indoors, however, and so we ventured out on the sidewalk.  I had my camera and took a lot of photographs for future reference.  And now, months later, I’m doing pen and ink sketches of the things I saw. 

These sketches have given me hours of enjoyment because not only am I filling a visual journal of my trip, but I’m also enjoying the memories. 

One morning we spotted a beautiful flower shop and went inside.  It was a tropical paradise….fragrant and warm!  After asking for permission, I took several photographs.

On another day, we visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art (MoMA) and saw the Picasso guitar exhibit. 

The sidewalks of Manhattan are always crowded and during the winter pedrestrians are always bundled up.  We walked and walked, and when we got cold we ducked in a store to get warm.  New Yorkers know how to dress for the weather.

I often see photographers and models when I’m in the city.  I manged to get a snapshot of this scene. 

The bright yellow colors caught my eye.

My hubby pulls out his wallet.

Of course we wanted to see the skaters at Rockefeller Center.

The lines are long for the Two-for-one tickets to see a Broadway show.


My brother and sister-in-law are a fun couple.  I let them walk ahead so I could take a photograph.  Now, several months later, I sketched them in my visual journal. 


This is my first attempt at doing a visual journal but I’ll be doing many more.  I make mistakes but I learn from my mistakes.  If you’re an artist, you’ve probably done many visual journals and worked with many themes.  For my next journal, I want to sketch the flowers I grow. 

Thanks for looking.

E-mail me at: LaraOct7@aol.com

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Hello from my state of Maryland.  I’m a retired senior, married, and the mother of two adult children.  My husband and I live between Washington DC and Baltimore, on a small plot of ground that allows me to grow flowers and a few veggies.  I’ve recently taken up sketching and watercolor painting, and I’m loving it.  I enjoy designing web pages, too, and have a website where I use my own photographs to make graphics.

I’ve been a gardener all my life, beginning at the young age of five, when my father would give me sticks to plant while he hoed weeds in his potato patch.  In years past, I’ve grown a variety of vegetables and fruits, which I canned and preserved for my familie’s winter use.  In those days I had more land on which to grow my plants and trees.

I’m a retired schoolteacher with thirty-two years of teaching experience.  Now that I’m retired, I begin each morning with a 2-3 mile walk, and three days each week, I drive to a fitness center and do strength-training exercises.  I’ve been doing this routine for more than twenty years and I hope to continue for another twenty years.

I hope you’ll enjoy my pages enough to become a follower.  I look forward to your comments.