Year of Grace, Day 25. A little illustration

Perhaps it is true that I am prone to overrationalizing.  As one of my dear friends described me, I have “a Germanic mind in a Japanese way.”  Or perhaps I just like having some kind of order, within as without. Whatever the case, two days ago I found myself letting the Japanese side have its way — I took up pencil and paper.

I have been admiring the beauty, up close, of the Japanese little cuckoo lily, the hototogisu (Tricyrtis hirta) that is now blooming. I had rescued it as a snail-snacked, yellowing plantling from among the reduced items section in my favourite nursery and all-round craft and DIY shop, Knauber in Endenich.

Cuckoo lily, Tricyrtis hirta

Cuckoo lily, Tricyrtis hirta

If you live in Bonn and haven’t been to Knauber and you like making all sorts of things, from cooking to carpentry, gardening to jewelry making and painting, this is just the right place for you. It doesn’t have the encyclopaedic range of Tokyu Hands in Tokyo as I remember it from the 1980s, but it is satisfying nonetheless. Knauber is regarded as a Bonn institution, and for newcomers to Bonn, it is among the list of recommended places. Thanks to Knauber, Obi, the other DIY mecca in Bonn, and a little shop near the City Hall (Stadthaus), my craft needs are more or less satisfied.

As I was saying before that digression, I nursed the cuckoo lily, together with its companion there, another sickly Japanese plant called Kirengeshoma. Its English name is yellow waxbells. I put them together in Knauber’s potting soil, and they began to perk up. And then came my mistake. Seeing that they had recovered, I tried to give them a bit more nourishment (organic manure), and ended up losing the Kirengeshoma. In desperation, I took out the cuckoo lily from its overfed pot and nursed it and now it has revived somewhat and seems to have forgiven me by blooming. Too much rich food can kill a plant, I have since learned.

The cuckoo lily’s beauty is so astounding that I was inspired, not only to photograph it, but to draw it. I haven’t illustrated anything in over 15 years since my first lesson in botanical illustration. I am thankful to have managed to do a first drawing over two days. In drawing it, I have come to know its unique structure – the way the filaments are fused to the bottom part of the petals – something I would not have seen or been aware of from just photographing it.

I am grateful to have been able to concentrate enough to draw. I am also thankful to have a room of my own in which to do this. I give grateful praise to the beauty of this flower whose colour and form are so arresting and, above all, to its Creator. I hope to be able to do a bit of colouring next.

Hototogisu illust

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