There are four days until the summer solstice, which happens at 11:45 AM, ET this Friday. This is part two of my self-directed assignment to record in painting the spring birds and flowers that arrive here at Sunwise Farm and Sanctuary. Is there anything more uplifting than to see the first flowers pop up, often through snow?

Here, the first are these daffodils. I forget their name, but who cares when you are under the influence of their delicate scent. Usually they stay together outside, it’s more enjoyable to look out on bleak territory to see a touch of color. This one I picked so I could paint it indoors. It was my first painting with gouache. What I appreciated about the process was how close it brought me to its essence. It helped me loose all sense of time.

© Kathleen O'Brien, "Daffodils", gouache, 2019

© Kathleen O’Brien, “Daffodils”, gouache, 2019

For some reason, it always surprises me to see the leaves of Bleeding Hearts forging their way through the leaf mold mulch. It might be that I don’t expect perennial gifts. In gardening there are often failures to pests, or other causes. Bleeding Hearts have the most unusual form and delicacy. They can be forgiven for not having a scent. Not wanting to abandon collage I pressed and glued specimens along side the painting.

© Kathleen O'Brien, "Sunwise Bleeding Hearts", gouache, 2019

© Kathleen O’Brien, “Sunwise Bleeding Hearts”, gouache, 2019

Lilacs are the reigning queen of the spring around the gardens. When we first moved here my mother gave us four Sensation Lilac bushes. They are so tall now, and have produced many suckers that we have planted along the west porch. They are now creating shade on that side, at about ten feet. Then there’s the grove that forms a semi-circle enclosing the front lawn. The fragrance is intoxicating, I move all activity out to the west porch, but I really don’t get much done except enjoy their season. Then the work comes of pruning all the blossom stems. It takes at least a week solid, well worth it. Watch a video tour here.

© Kathleen O'Brien, "Sun© Kathleen O'Brien, "Earth Day Lilacs", gouache, 2019

© Kathleen O’Brien, “Earth Day Lilacs”, gouache, 2019

Our poppies are my favorite color. How would I describe it? Salmon, pale Vermilion, coral, definitely not pink or red. The deep contrast of the center with its thousands of sepals holds my focus. It’s another one I leave outside. When I cut this one to use as a model I witnessed how quickly the form changed, petals moving. It connected me to its vitality.

© Kathleen O'Brien, "Sunwise Poppy", gouache, 2019

© Kathleen O’Brien, “Sunwise Poppy”, gouache, 2019

Comfrey is a powerful plant ally. A tincture made from it will instantly relieve sore muscles and joints, and other aliments. It grows quickly, so we can harvest it many times to make vats of sun tea as green manure for our plants, especially tomatoes. It’s flowers unfurl in a unique spiral signature. It can propagate from a small piece of root. We brought this from Colorado, it faithfully comes back each year.

© Kathleen O'Brien, "Sunwise Comfrey", gouache, 2019

© Kathleen O’Brien, “Sunwise Comfrey”, gouache, 2019

Speaking of Colorado, Columbine is its state flower. I have to have a bit of it around me in the garden. That’s why I painted a view of Longs Peak, where my husband liked to hike. It’s an annual, so I let it go to seed, to have some for next year.

© Kathleen O'Brien, "Long Look at Sunwise Columbines", gouache, 2019

© Kathleen O’Brien, “Long Look at Sunwise Columbines”, gouache, 2019

This Iris is from Longs Garden in Boulder. It bloomed around my birthday, it’s much cooler there. They used to sell stalks for fifty cents. My treat was to go there and choose a huge bunch. They have the biggest selection of colors I’ve ever seen. I brought three varieties of bulbs with us. This color knocks me out.

© Kathleen O'Brien, "Last Peach Iris of the Season", gouache, 2019

© Kathleen O’Brien, “Last Peach Iris of the Season”, gouache, 2019

Yarrow is lauded by Rudolf Steiner as a must for gardens and compost building in bio-dynamic gardening. It has a pungent scent and very straight stalks, very dry. They have many herbal uses and for making  I Ching sticks. Sun Bear regards it as the June flower in his The Medicine Wheel: Earth Astrology.

© Kathleen O'Brien, "Sunwise Yarrow", gouache, 2019

© Kathleen O’Brien, “Sunwise Yarrow”, gouache, 2019

Last but not least, my favorite flower which is my birthday flower, Royal Lily, another one I brought from Colorado. The fragrance is divine, probably one reason why it is often used in religious symbolism. It is an astonishingly tall five feet, with multiple blooms that top the stalks. It was challenging to paint, being white with mauve ribs.

This painting was a birthday souvenir. I wasn’t thrilled about working a show that evening. As I was leaving my black snake slivered across the path, and dodged under the porch. It was my biggest surprise. It makes its appearance only on, and for EVERY birthday. The first time years ago was when we found it caught in bird netting. My husband held it while I gently cut the fibers that had embedded into its skin. We can’t help but think it returns as a thank you and reminder that it’s here to help keep down pests.

During the day, Ruby Throated Hummingbirds keep energy flowing. That night hundreds of fireflies mesmerized us with their show.

© Kathleen O'Brien, "Birthday Snake, Firefly, Lily, Hummingbird", gouache, 2019

© Kathleen O’Brien, “Birthday Snake, Firefly, Lily, Hummingbird”, gouache, 2019