The Master Gardeners’ Bookshelf – American Botanical Paintings: Native Plants of the Mid-Atlantic
By Elaine Mills, Master Gardener
American Botanical Paintings: Native Plants of the Mid Atlantic, a recently published book intended for both artists and gardeners, was created by a local nonprofit group, Botanical Artists for Education & the Environment. This group is composed of botanical artists who participated in painting classes offered by Anne-Marie Evans in Falls Church, VA. The BAEE undertook the publication project with the intention of stimulating an appreciation of native plants and encouraging their use in home landscaping. The introductory text includes a contribution from the renowned entomologist Dr. Douglas Tallamy on the vital role of native plants in local ecosystems.
The main body of the book features reproductions of 60 original paintings which were submitted by artists for a juried show. The requirement for works submitted was that they portray plants which are native to the mid-Atlantic, the region defined as extending from New York State to North Carolina. The high-quality illustrations are presented in full-page format, and most are in color. The featured plants, which range from large trees such as the tulip poplar to tiny bluets, are organized alphabetically by common names, and botanical names for family, genus, and species are also provided. Accompanying many of the plant illustrations are paintings of pollinators associated with them such as butterflies, moths, bees, flies, beetles, and birds. Larval forms of some insects are also shown. Engaging descriptive text was prepared by Keith Tomlinson, Interpretive Naturalist and Manager of Meadowlark Botanical Gardens, in collaboration with Nancy Christmus, a conservation horticulturalist. Information is provided on habitats, related plant families, early uses by Native Americans or settlers, and environmental importance (food and habitat for animals and birds). Tips are also given for successful growing in home gardens when appropriate.
The back portion of the book contains indices of flora by botanical name and fauna by common name, as well as biographical notes on the artists. The latter provide interesting insights into the painters’ approaches to art and native plants, as well as their reasons for selecting the plants they chose to paint.
This highly acclaimed book is the Gold Award Winner of the 2015 Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA) Benjamin Franklin Awards, recognizing excellence in editing and design in the Home & Garden category, and the winner of the 2014 USA Best Book Award, also in the Home & Garden category. Readers may may find hours of enjoyment in savoring the book’s beautiful illustrations, while finding inspiration for what new native plants they might wish to introduce into their own gardens.
AMERICAN BOTANICAL PAINTINGS: NATIVE PLANTS OF THE MID ATLANTIC