Garden Paths

Perennials, Russell Steven Powell oil on canvas, 14x11

Perennials, oil on canvas, 14×11

THE FLOWER GARDEN is a dense, opaque place. Perennials blend and blur waves of color in a fragrant sea of green. Plants emerge and grow, blossom, and go to seed like a succession of tides, rearranging my design, flooding every space. After some early weeding, I wisely retreat and get out of their way.

Seedlings, Russell Steven Powell oil on canvas, 10x8

Seedlings, oil on canvas, 10×8

The vegetable garden is my vain attempt at order. Flowers inspire and entertain, but when it comes to food I draw the line, literally. I plot straight rows between perfect aisles as if they could persist, as if they could keep native plants and insects away from my delicate hybrids.

But the soil I enrich for my slim strips of vegetables is manna to invaders, and no line is truly straight. By August the spinach will bolt, cucumber vines will overrun the tomatoes, string beans will sag under their own weight. Sourgrass and pigweed will sprout faster than it can be pulled, and purslane will sprawl over all. It will take repeated hacks of a hoe and editing fingers to maintain my orderly fiction. No amount of weeding, though, will keep bugs and beetles from poking holes in this illusion.

Tulips, Russell Steven Powell oil on canvas, 11x14

Tulips, oil on canvas, 11×14

In May and June, the contrast between flowers and vegetables is at its peak. The jungle of perennials churns and sways, while 20 feet away the pristine rows of newly sprouted vegetables proclaim my willful, utilitarian aims.

By mid-summer, when I inevitably surrender to nature’s sheer force, with luck I will be compensated for this optimistic rite of spring with a bounty of fresh food and a touch of humility. The perennials will blossom until frost with or without me, and the weeds will lie fallow again until spring.

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7 comments

  1. Hey Russ, three very strong canvases. The vertical in the top one makes a great contrast to the rest of the painting. Can we do a middle of the week expedition instead? I’m having trouble getting a free weekend. EG

  2. Just out in my garden and lived in your “Perennials” painting for a glorious moment–all color, light and sensation! I like all of these paintings and the narrative, too.

    EB

  3. “Flowers inspire and entertain, but when it comes to food I draw the line, literally.” How true! I hope we can garden visit soon!

  4. A welcome respite from a frantic weeding of emails, Russell~ Thanks for the inspiration in word and color. I love the harmony and contrast of these three. jgo

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