Plant Choices · Trees

Hawthorn & Elderberry – Margaret Fitzpatrick

I chose the common hawthorn, Crataegus monogyna for my submission, as hawthorn was one of the first plants that I painted when I started on my botanical journey some 20 years ago.  I live on the edge of the Cotswolds and many of the hedgerows along the lanes and roadsides around the area are filled with hawthorn such that in May the hedgerows are white with blossom. In the early autumn these hedgerows just glow red with the gorgeous berries and provide food for flocks of fieldfares that feast on the berries late into the autumn.

When approaching a large subject like this, I cut a number of sprigs and branches from the hedgerow and make lots of drawings and sketches to arrive at the layout that I am looking for.  I find that no one branch is ever just right so I combine sprigs and branches to create a layout that gives the feel or habit of the plant and how it grows.  I drew and made studies of the flowers and put these to one side to include in the final composition.

I then waited for the autumn for the fruits to develop.

I wanted to include the range of leaves that were on the plant in the autumn ranging in colour from the palest of green to the lovely rusts as they change colour through the season.
The berries ripen gradually on the branches and I wanted to include the range of colours of these too as they change from pale green to bright red on the one branch.

Farmers so often cut the hedges, so it is only at intervals, usually at a gateway or a field entrance where you can get a complete fully-grown specimen. Sometimes there is also a stand-alone tree in a field or near some woodland.  It was one of these complete specimen trees that I sketched to show the growth habit of a mature hawthorn which I wanted to include in the composition in graphite.

I felt it was both important to illustrate the growth and habit of the plant but also the graphite echoed the grey of the bark at the top of the branch thus creating a balanced composition.


Elderberry – Sambucus nigra

I choose elderberry as my second submission as I love the deep purple black berries and always pick them in the autumn to make elderberry jelly with its wonderful woody flavour.  I also make elderberry cordial, which keeps all year and is great to combat coughs and colds.  I cut a number of pieces of the elder and made lots of sketches.


It is a very busy subject with lots of leaves and branches and I wanted to reflect the feel of this quite dense leafy habit.  I felt to achieve this entirely in watercolour would be too busy; therefore, I chose to illustrate all the berries and enough of the leaves in colour to represent the plant.  I then included more leaves and branches in graphite to create a foil for the coloured berries and leaves. It was a most enjoyable subject to design, draw and paint.

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