The Botanical Geek Squad Swings into Action

Ah, there is nothing like the satisfaction of identifying a plant. At least twenty years ago my husband and I bought a single-stemmed plant that was in the bargain bin for $1 because the coloured cactus that had been grafted onto the top of it had fallen off. We thought it was a cactus, but over the years it blossomed into something with leaves, so we then knew it must be some kind of succulent but never tried to identify it. Here it is in the corner of my living room with the aloes:


My sister recently purchased a book with full-colour pictures of cacti and succulents, and when I looked at the preview at Amazon I noticed mention of a Euphorbia that looked quite a bit like our plant, but wasn’t quite right. So I searched around and finally found my plant: Euphorbia trigona rubra, which is often called the African Milk Tree and originally comes from west Africa. The red variety that we have is lovely, really handsome, and it does well outside here in Canada during the summer. In fact, the growth on this one took off when we started putting it outside.

Every year when my daffodils come up I vow to sketch them and then lose the opportunity when they die off. This year I nearly missed them again, but managed to find a few to sketch. I was working very fast as the mosquitoes were swarming us and the poor dogs had their noses bitten repeatedly.


I am hoping when I get my books on watercolour flower painting that I can do tutorials for daffodils, as I got a bit stymied by the shading of these, particularly the lighter petals. I never even attempted to sketch the white Narcissus beside them for that reason.

Live and learn.

And in the realm of colour, the talented Karen Bailey mentioned a site where she likes to view colour palettes called Design Seeds.

These remind me so much of the images and photographs Owen Ransen includes in his program Gliftex, which generates a colour palette when you use the “Colors from an Image” facility. You could use a palette image from Design Seeds as inspiration in Gliftex. I have used Gliftex (formerly Gliftic) since 2000 and it always surprises and refreshes me with regard to colour, so there’s another way to use interesting colour palette for projects.

Just to experiment I took a lovely screen shot of a palette from Design Seeds. She has a Creative Commons license for these, so no commercial use is allowed, they are only for individual inspiration. As a stand-alone for painting you could work your watercolours or coloured pencils out from this.


I took a snippet of the palette into Photoshop and saved it as a 16-colour PNG to take into Gliftex. Then I loaded it into Gliftex so I could use it to generate a palette in Colors from an Image.


And here are some seamless tiles I created in Gliftex using this palette. Gliftex designs are almost like abstract paintings themselves and the colour gradations are a beautiful expansion on the original six colours. All kinds of inspiring here and a few surprises of attendant colour.


As always when you do digital things, the colours will not be exact because of computer sampling issues (a problem that Jessica explains in relation to Design Seeds), but as a jumping-off point to inspiration and colour palettes it’s a great place to start.

There is just something about colour and plants and shading and gradations and the whole world of geeky people tweaking colour and identifying plants and looking for just the right shade of yellow for daffodils.

Isn’t it great?



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