Botanical Illustrations and Christmas: Paintings and decorations

Story posted: Friday, 19. December 2014 by Lizzie Harper

As a natural history illustrator, and someone who loves colour, decoration, and nature; I enjoy the Christmas season as it allows me to bring botanical subjects into my home.

This weekend saw the family heading off to choose a christmas tree.  Once set up at home, there were plenty of off-cuts.  As in previous years, these get tucked behing the paintings on the walls.

Holly recieves similar treatment.

Botanical illustration of a holly sprig by Lizzie Harper natural history illustrator

Study of Holly Ilex aquifolium in flower and in berry

Finding holly in berry is always a challenge as only the female plant bears the seeds.  If we're going to be sticklers, holly doesn't produce berries, but drupes.  (For more on fruit and seed terminology see my blog).

Holly illustration by botanical natural history illustrator Lizzie Harper

And a slightly better illustration of the European holly.

I tend to tuck greenery behind everything on the walls, including the sheep skull.

Foliage photo by natural history illustrator Lizzie Harper

Ivy and douglas fir (off-cuts from the tree) also get used like this.  Collecting ivy is simple, we have a wall full in the garden, and there's much less prickling involved than when I wander around woodland, questing for holly, with secateurs and an empty feed sack...

Ivy studies botanical illustration by Lizzie Harper

Ivy Hedera helix studies.  Click on the link for more sketchbook studies

Douglas fir botanical study sketchbook illustration by Lizzie Harper natural history illustrator

Sketchbook study of Douglas fir Pseudotsuga menziesii.

Did you know you can flavour vodka with the new tips of firs? I leanrt this from the author of The Garden Forager (to be published in March 2015, illustrated by yours truly), Adele Nozedar.

No Christmasy home is complete without mistletoe, which proved slightly problematic this year.  I know it grows in abundance in orchards, and often up high in ash trees.  However, orchards are mostly privately owned...  It took some time to find an unguarded orchard, and my children acted as look outs as I scurried across the mud to a conveniently fallen apple tree, and cut my mistletoe.  Base behaviour, I know, but at least I have my mistletoe!

Mistletoe botanical illustration by Lizzie Harper illustrator

Watercolour study of mistletoe Viscum album

Mistletoe graphite illustration botanical by Lizzie Harper Natural history illustrator

Pencil study of mistletoe, done for Wildfowl & Wetlands trust many years ago.

I had some trouble stringing the heavy mistletoe from the hall light, and then decided it needed a little something extra, namely a spangly bird.  My son added a christmas ball, and lo, the house was fully decorated.  Now I just need to go and start making mince pies!

Mistletoe decoration by Lizzie Harper Natural history illustrator

Happy holidays to all of you, and may 2015 be a wonderful year.

I'm afraid I've had to turn off the "comments" button on my blogs due to spamming.  If you would like to give any comments or feedback, please do so on my Facebook page or Twitter account or email me at  Many many thanks; and apologies.

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