currently in Austin


Botanical artist, fruit tree solutions, growing potatoes

Warming up a brisk start to the New Year, my Matchstick bromeliad (Aechmea gamosepala) lights a fire in a shady nook beneath my mountain laurel.

Unbothered by cold, heat, drought or bucketing rain, it sticks to its evergreen job.

Weather sure has thrown us for a loop the past few years. I guess that’s really not unusual, but 2017 was especially unkind to people and plants.

Questions about fruit trees made it into CTG’s 2017 top five list, along with tree questions in general and fungal disease.

We called on Jim Kamas, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Associate Professor and Fruit Specialist, to explain why we had problems with flowers and fruit last year. Find out what affected our trees, what we can do, and things to leave off our worry list.

Get Jim’s detailed info about fruits and nuts of all kinds, including best varieties and which trees need another pollinator.

Now, don’t be in a rush to tidy up those freeze-dried plants! Little birds value your seed heads to fuel them through the cold. My crew has been chomping on asters and white mistflower among others.

Daphne advises why we should simply treasure the winter landscape. Stately, frothy clumping grasses still have lots of pep and comfy shelter for little creatures and butterflies.

Hang on for a bit and catch up on those other chores we’ve all put off. Dare I mention those dust bunny baseboards?!

One chore is prepping potatoes to plant in February. Trisha digs into how to do it and which varieties to select for May mashed potatoes.

On Tour
Wherever she goes, artist Valerie Fowler discovers visually captivating stories through plants and scenes she encounters.

Back in her studio, she interprets her impressions on canvas and paper to invite others into her world of introspection.

This story begins in 2016 at the Georgetown Art Center’s then-exhibit Botanicals, a collection of interpretations in all media by very talented women.

We all fell into depths of fascination with each intricate or exaggerated viewpoint.

Housed in a renovated firehouse in the bustling historic district, Georgetown Art Center is run by volunteers. Civically active curator Nick Ramos, a graphic designer, arranges innovative exhibits and public events to promote visual literacy.

So, that’s where I discovered Valerie Fowler. I simply had to meet the artist behind the magical agave oil on canvas, ‘Summer, Saturday Morning Cartoons,’ inspired by a garden in her Travis Heights neighborhood.

“I really wanted it to look like the plants and the rocks were animated. And that’s why it’s called ‘Saturday Morning Cartoons’. I was thinking of the old Road Runner cartoons, but I didn’t want to put animals in. I wanted the plants and rocks to be characters,” she told us.

After capturing the human figure for years, Valerie turned to botanicals when she became a mom. Home bound, she took up gardening, and began to see plants through the eyes of very small children: “Staying close to the Earth and seeing what’s actually there and going deeper and deeper into it.”

Oil on canvas ‘Winter, Keep the Fire Burning’ was inspired by tree roots that carry on life until spring rebirth.

On a spring drive through Fredericksburg with her then-young daughter, the ephemeral beauty of peach tree flowers—like youth—became ‘Spring, Everything Changes’.

Emergence after the Bastrop fires, new leaves bright red in their determination to survive, became ‘Earth Has a Long Memory, Dedicated to the Lost Pines of Bastrop County’.

Closer to home, Valerie’s influenced by radical changes in neighborhood landscapes, including trees tagged for safety or removal, as in ‘Ponca Street’, a mixed media on four sheets of paper. “I want to document that neighborhood as it’s changing before all the wildness is gone,” she said.

Valerie returned to human figures when husband Brian Beattie, a musician, song writer, and record producer, wrote, produced and recorded Ivy and the Wicker Suitcase.

A book, a record, and a movie for your ears, Valerie and Brian have performed this family musical for delighted audiences across the country. Set in the 1930s, you (and the kids in your life) will be hanging on to the end and singing right along!

Since Brian’s studio is just one floor below Valerie’s light-embraced one, they’re aligned by more than architecture and marriage as they bounce off ideas from their own creative spheres.

“Ultimately it’s just about communicating emotionally somehow. That’s the nice thing about this going upstairs and downstairs with us here,” Brian said.

They collaborated again on the CD for a young musician they’ve known since birth, Anna Roenigk, the daughter of Valerie’s best friend Lucinda. Brian was honored to produce Anna’s debut album with Born Again Virgins. What a wonderful voice!

Valerie offered to do the cover: “I drew her face and it was really nice to be able to draw my best friend’s daughter after all these years.”

Find out more, order prints to size, and check out Ivy on Valerie’s website.

And many many thanks to Brian for composing the gorgeous music for this very special story! I know that you’ll find an intense emotional connection with Valerie and Brian, as we all did.

So, watch the whole story now!

Thanks for stopping by and see you next week! Linda