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OGRs in the Garden

Ogres are fairy tale creatures, meant to scare the listener or reader with their fearsome looks or behavior. A charming exception to this image are the movie characters, Shrek and Fiona.

To a rose lover and history buff an OGR is an Old Garden Rose! Generally, these are roses that were known to cultivation prior to 1867, at which point the first Hybrid Tea rose, “La France” was introduced. This was the beginning of modern Hybrid Teas, Floribundas, Grandifloras, Miniatures and Shrub roses.

Old roses existed in Europe long before but were generally once-blooming per year. These include the Alba, Centifolia, Damask, Gallica and Moss roses. The famous “Apothecary’s Rose” or “Red Rose of Lancaster” is a Gallica.

In the late 1700’s there was fierce competition by explorers, collectors and botanists (plant scientists) to bring back the newest and rarest of botanical “finds” from their distant travels. In the mid 1790’s several China roses made it to Europe causing a sensation with their ability to be ever-blooming. One of the botanists active during 1843- 1861 was named Robert Fortune. He worked in China, Japan and Taiwan collecting some 250 plant species.

Fortune’s Five Colored Rose (before 1844) also known as Smith’s Parish (red), rediscovered in Bermuda in the 1960’s.

Once China Roses (and “Tea-scented China Roses”) were introduced, their ability to bloom multiple times per year brought them into breeding programs resulting in the Bourbon, Hybrid Perpetual, Noisette and Hybrid Tea roses.

Rosette Delizy a charming Hybrid Tea Rose with tea fragrance. Nabonnand, 1922
Monsieur Tillier, lovely multicolored Hybrid Tea rose of salmon, pale pink and purple. Berniax, 1891

Bermuda Mystery: Priscilla’s Rose, found in the garden of Priscilla Brewer

Lovers of OGR’s and Antique Roses know that rare or varieties thought to be extinct can be found in surprising places like old homesteads, very old church grounds, towns and countries with a long, sea-faring history such as Bermuda. Bermuda Mystery Roses include candidates for “Hume’s Blush”, locally known as “Spice”, “Slater’s Crimson China”, locally known as “Belfield” and five others.

Bermuda Kathleen (a sport of Mutabilis) on left; Mrs. B. R. Cant and Mons. Tillier at center; Bermuda Trinity at right.

Older roses have a soft charm to them, are scented, and are remarkably care-free; requiring little pruning, are hardy and remarkably disease-resistant. Organic rose gardening is a balancing act, allowing beneficial insects, using compost tea, mulching with compost, amending the soil to feed the plants and the beneficial soil microbes.

My thanks to Antique Rose Emporium, (rose search), Dave’s Garden, Wikipedia,, and the Bermuda Rose Society for their websites and published works. Any omissions or mistakes are my own.

Thank you for joining us as we do Pandemic Projects, meant to keep you energized, curious and learning!

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The Annunciation in Many Mediums

The spark of inspiration, combined with artistic skill and patronage by wealthy families or the Church are often the “back story” to many of the world’s great art pieces.

On a trip to Italy, we amused ourselves by capturing the many attitudes and poses of Mary and the Angel as we toured museums.

I’m particularly fond of the story of the Annunciation, where an Angel of the Lord visits a young woman, saying, “Hail, Mary!” Here, I found that angels can have multicolored wings.

As we are avid readers, we were laughing to see how Mary is often seen reading. Sometimes she is surprised, or annoyed, or turning away from the interruption.

Annunciation, Alesssandro Filipepi, called BOTTICELLI c.1489-90 Tempera on wood

The earliest examples we saw of the Annunciation were done as fresco (pigments painted into wet plaster on walls) or egg tempera (pigments bound with egg yolk and/or egg white) on animal skin parchment or painted on wood panels. We were astonished to see how brilliant the egg tempera was even though 600 years had passed!

Only in the later Italian Renaissance were the pigments bound in oil medium, usually upon a ground of gesso on panels or canvas. In contrast to the tempera, some of the oils had darkened. Or, reactions had set up between the lime in the fresco and the pigments themselves.

Annunciation, Alessandro Allori, Firenze, c.1603, Oil on canvas.

In most of these and other paintings of Mary, her gown and robe are painted in the most valuable and expensive pigments of the day. Both she and the angel (and a dove) may have haloes of gold, are surrounded by gold leaf or by rays of shell-gold paint. Great care was taken in depicting her surroundings, whether she is kneeling, sitting by a tapestry, or architectural elements- the artist used the “newest” style of perspective.

Our sincerest thanks and appreciation go to the fine art museums of Italy especially in Rome, The Vatican, Florence and Venice for their exceptional collections and efforts to maintain and restore these treasures for future generations to enjoy!

At Ancient Earth Pigments we strive to make sure that the pure pigments we sell are as versatile as possible. In the individual descriptions of each pigment, you can read whether it will be suitable for the medium you use, today, or the type of art you wish to learn in the future! Families of artists or friends can share a stock of pigments, each artist mixing with the binder or medium of their choice for their project- be it pastel, fresco, egg tempera, watercolor, gouache, oils, acrylics or even ceramics. One of my teachers is using our pigment to tint the grout around her inlaid turquoise jewelry!

Here is one of my works in progress- “The Annunciation” in egg tempera on sheep skin parchment. I’ve completed Mary’s face and headdress. I’ll deepen the values of her blue gown. The archways and background will be detailed now that I’ve established where I want the dove’s beam of light to fall.

The Angel is sometimes depicted as a child. The Angel’s face has had its under-painting of green shadows. Now, I can add the layers of translucent skin tones on top. Lastly, I’ll define the fingers and hands with stronger highlights and shadows. I’ve also shown some of my favorite tools. Wish me luck!

The above image, copyright Linda D. Nelson, 2020. This image may not be used for any purpose without permission by the artist.
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Resin Art With Ancient Earth Pigments

Our friend, Heather, makes beautiful resin art, usually with acrylic inks and mica powders. We’ve asked her to create a painting with her choice of Ancient Earth Pigments, to highlight applications of our products. Enjoy her slide show of her process!

Resin Art requires many layers, so the artist needs to be patient and plan ahead for drying time between transparent and translucent layers. The artist must develop a strong sense of design, a very good understanding of values (light to dark), and excellent grasp of color. The artist may choose complimentary colors, a triad of colors, analogous colors, or to neutralize, tint (lighten) or shade (darken) for the best outcome.

The finished piece, “Sea of Dreams”.
All images this page copyright C. Heather Liu, 2020

We at AEP thank Heather for sharing her process with us and her great photos with you. Visit Heather’s Instagram page, where she shows other examples of the art she is doing.

Thank you for joining us as we do Pandemic Projects, meant to keep you energized, curious and learning!

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Tomato Times!

We love a good organic tomato; preferring a home-grown and heirloom variety or from the Farmer’s Market. Growing your own food is a great activity with kids, a satisfying way to teach organic gardening and the value of feeding the soil.

Do a little research to find out which plants do best in your climate. Our incredible propagating (plant growing) friends at “Island Seed and Feed” in Goleta, help us to figure out which tomato plants did well last year and what might be better this year. Of course, the amount of rain may be too much (fungus problems) or too little. We use a drip system linked up to a controller for reliable watering even if we’re busy or away.

Ask a few local irrigation companies if you’d like recommendations for setting up a drip-irrigation system with a controller. There are many ways to do-it-yourself and with help.

We use a good organic _potting_ soil in 15 gallon pots because the gophers will destroy our tomatoes if we plant in-ground. (Don’t reuse last year’s potted tomato soil to avoid transferring diseases; use that old soil with other non-tomato plants.) Be very cautious not to use contaminated soil or pesticides on your food plants.

Dr. N stirs in a few handfuls of organic plant food.

Then, hand waters with a B vitamin liquid + water to prevent “transplant shock.”

He leaves enough room at the top for an occasional deep watering by hand, and a sturdy tomato cage. He always puts the plant tag in the pot so we’ll remember which ones did well at the end of the harvest.

Just planted.
The original four tomato plants at 3 weeks and a new one on the right, at 2 weeks! Happy growing times.

Thank you for joining us as we do Pandemic Projects, meant to keep you energized, curious and learning!