I’m so thrilled to share this beautiful red-white-and-blue botanical composition that we commissioned from Connecticut-based artist Ellen Hoverkamp.
I’ve known Ellen for a number of years through the Garden Writers’ Association and we first me virtually when I reviewed the award-winning book she created with Ken Druse called Natural Companions (Stewart, Tabori & Chang, 2012) for an article in the Los Angeles Times.
Recently, I spent the day with Ellen. She served as my local chauffeur and host when I traveled East for the Connecticut Slow Flowers Meet-Up. That event took place in early October at Trout Lily Farm, which is owned by Michael Russo and Raymond Lennox. Learn more about Trout Lily Farm in my recent interview with Michael for the Slow Flowers Podcast.
As it turns out, Ellen and Michael go way back as friends and fellow art students in both high school and college. Ellen’s work, which is termed “scanner photography,” utilizes freshly-picked flowers, foliage and other gifts from nature as her raw material. When composed into a botanical still-life and then scanned, the resulting digital image can be printed on archival, museum-grade paper for framing, or printed for other products, such as note cards or Ellen’s beautiful silk scarves.
After reuniting with Ellen and seeing her beautiful work again up close, it occurred to me that I wanted to commission a piece in which she created a red-white-and-blue floral portrait for American Flowers Week 2018.
Given the season in New England, it was possibly the last moment when I could have requested that Ellen create a piece for us! Fortunately, Michael and Raymond still had a few dahlias and other goodies on their flower farm for her to clip and incorporate into her floral portrait. Plus, Ellen told me that she also had several cuttings being stored in her refrigerator for (it seems) just this purpose.
I hope you love this gift from the garden — as interpreted by such a talented artist — as much as I do! The graphic branding, which Jenny Diaz created by adding our American Flowers Week typography, will be used in a number of ways to promote next year’s week-long campaign.
HOW SHE DOES IT
Here’s more about Ellen and how she developed this method and style for her work. The text from our Q&A comes from a 2015 article I wrote about her for Garden Design magazine.
Ellen Hoverkamp first started composing images from nature using an early model flatbed photo scanner in 1997, she didn’t even own a camera. Nor did she know the names of most of the plants she used. “It was all about form and color for me.”
Fast-forward to 2005 and Hoverkamp’s evocative and artful assemblages of botanicals and edibles have been profiled in The New York Times. They’ve since been exhibited in museums and graced covers of books (Natural Companions) and periodicals (Organic Gardening and Sweet Paul). She arranges flowers, pods, branches, vines, gourds and roots as vivid still-lifes against striking black backdrops. If Hoverkamp had been born three or four centuries ago, she would have been a Dutch master painter. “I love the hyper-real details of my images,” she says.
Hoverkamp relies on cuttings from public gardens, nurseries and private landscapes to create her pieces. “I scan what other people grow,” she jokes. “I’m forever grateful to the people and places that supply me with plants. The mission of my work is to bring attention to the efforts of gardeners and to the beauty of nature.”
WHAT TO READ
“I created 144 botanical images for Natural Companions: The Garden Lover’s Guide to Plant Combinations (Stewart, Tabori and Chang, 2012), with author / photographer, Ken Druse. He provided plants for 66 of my scanner photographs. Sometimes I worked at his place in New Jersey; occasionally, cuttings were shipped to my studio. Once, Ken delivered plants to me at a parking lot. He would provide lists of Latin plant names for sampling at particular private gardens. That year, the growing season seemed to be about 3 weeks off schedule in CT. I would see all sorts of beautiful floral material that wasn’t on Ken’s list prompting him to say, “Pick whatever turns you on and we’ll figure it out.” I will forever be proud of our collaboration.
SUMMER FLOWER COMBINATIONS TO PHOTOGRAPH
“My most favorite (and also the most challenging) flowers for scanning are peonies from private gardens. I love this composition of Sandi Blaze’s peonies with beauty bush and ninebark, picked from her cottage style gardens, dubbed, “Pixie Perennials” (pixieperennials.com) in Wilton, Conn. An image I composed at Jennifer Brown’s garden, in Greenwich, CT, shows the beautiful diversity of peony forms and petal colors.”
SUMMER VEGETABLE COMBINATIONS TO PHOTOGRAPH
“I used edibles for my art long before the popularity of the farm-to-table initiative. I’ve always liked combining organic vegetables with ornamental floral material. I collect the vast majority of edibles at Trout Lily Farm (trout-lily-farm.com) in North Guilford, Conn. They are grown by my longstanding dear friend Michael Russo, vegetable and flower farmer and floral designer. Michael has collaborated with me and sustained my work since the early days. He has expanded his gardens at Trout Lily Farm offering me more variety – and his farm stand customers reap the benefits, as well. The cool thing is that I can set up my scanner in his barn and work directly from the garden.”
FAVORITE PUBLIC GARDENS
“I love the Northeast’s many public gardens. I have had two solo exhibitions in the Alice Milton Gallery at Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston, Mass. (towerhillbg.org) and I was their first Artist in Residence. On August 22nd, I’ll be teaching ‘APPetizing Edibles,” an introduction to imaging food using a flatbed scanner and to editing scans using mobile-device photo apps. On September 10th, Trout Lily Farm and I will be vendors in the marketplace as part of “Gardener’s Day 2015: A Celebration of Plants” at Blithewold Mansion, Gardens and Arboretum in Bristol, Rhode Island (blithewold.org). The personable team of gardening enthusiasts and horticultural professionals guide and welcome visitors to the lovely grounds of this historical estate.”
“I consider Broken Arrow Nursery (brokenarrownursery.com), growers of rare and unusual plants in Hamden, Conn., a favorite destination. The Jaynes family and their knowledgeable staff are longstanding contributors of cuttings, and have provided great information and general support for my work.”
FAVORITE GARDEN ACCESSORIES
“I love using Florian pruners (florianpruners.com). They are handy, dependable and made in the U.S.A. I wear Foxgloves (foxglovesinc.com), which made of soft Lycra fabric and are perfect for flower picking. They were created by my friend Harriet Zbikowski, a landscape architect and professional horticulturist.
NOTE: Ellen’s American Flowers Week 2018 piece will be available to order as a print early next year — and we’ll share the link to her online order page soon. For now, you can peruse her catalog of botanical images, prints, cards and scarves — HERE.