A florilegium is a book of flowers, a group of botanical paintings depicting a particular collection. Florilegium: A gathering of flowers is an imaginatively-curated exhibition of botanical illustrations of rare and endangered plants at the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh. Founded 350 years ago, with a collection of 13,500 international species, its mission is ‘To explore, conserve and explain the world of plants for a better future.’
Botanical artists were invited to submit illustrations of plants from the RBGE Living Collection. Forty artists were selected from Australia, Austria, Barbados, Brazil, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Nepal, Qatar, Russia, Singapore, Slovenia, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey, UK and USA.
Thutploy Kaewpradub presents a scientific dissection of Caryota Urens with feathery catkins, buds, seeds, fruit and silky leaves, with such delicate, detailed precision.
Maria Alice de Rezende exhibits a flourishing image, Brownea grandiceps – the coral-red petals, soft tendrils and glossy leaves, each given an extraordinary tactile texture.
The soft pink and yellow petals of Abutilon megapoltamicum as well as the tiny stamens and curling, crisp dry green leaves are all beautifully painted, by Jessica Daigle.
Cupressus sempevirens – the Italian Cypress – by Giovanni Cera is exquisitely detailed with the slender branch, spikey needles and hard brown fir cones, cracked open to release the flutter of seeds.
Just a few highlights of these finely crafted, watercolour masterpieces, which combine botanical accuracy with artistic perfection.
To complement this showcase, four contemporary artists were invited to share their own personal, cultural and geographical response to the natural world.
Wendy McMurdo has curated Night Garden, inspired by the blossoming Spring flowers, a series of photographs accompanied by her Lockdown diary entries: ‘The sunsets were spectacular. Night after night, the May skies were filled with lilac and purple. My wisteria flowered for the first time.’ During this time, her mother became ill and soon passed away.
Meanwhile, in Wendy’s garden, an unidentified plant began to grow, buds bursting into beautiful flowers – ‘large waxy trumpets filled the night air with their scent that summer.‘ The plant was named as the very rare Cardiocrinum Giganteum, a welcome sign of new life at the time of sadness and loss. Out of the dark, a lily grows.
Annalee Davis from Barbados has created an illustrated family history entitled As If The Entanglements Of Our Lives Did Not Matter; her grandparents were of mixed race as part of Colonial life on a sugar cane plantation, as seen in this proud portrait, called Ivy.
Pictures of sugar beet, ivy leaves and Paw Paw fruit are painted on the pages of a 1979 Ledger over a handwritten list of sales figures and wages, while pressed specimens of the related plants are shown in display cases.
Taiwanese-American artist Lee Mingwei pays tribute to his late Grandmother in his art project, 100 Days with Lily (1995). Lee cultivated a single lily, photographing every moment from seed to blooming flower, until it finally shrivelled and died.
Lyndsay Mann’s film, A Desire For Organic Order gives an insight into the work taking place at the Herbarium and Centre for Middle Eastern Plants at the RGBE. The meditative film shows an archive of journal entries, letters and a plant from Afghanistan dating back to the 1820s.
‘From common weeds to exotic cultivars, flowers are deeply embedded within our lives. We hope the show will encourage visitors to treasure their encounters with the art and the amazing diversity of flora in our Garden and Glasshouses’. – Emma Nicolson, Head of Creative Programmes, RBGE
With thanks to Vivien Devlin for this review