Himalayan Birch (Jacqumontii)
Rhapsody of a Himalayan Birch | Jenny Joice – The idea behind this painting was generated around fourteen years ago whilst designing my new garden in the foothills of the Brecon Beacons, soon after migrating from the flat lands of East Anglia. Late, one winter’s afternoon after dark, whilst passing through Monmouthshire, I happened to pass Raglan Garden Centre. Keen to explore their range of herbaceous plants before closing time, I ventured in to have a quick look round.
As I passed through the sliding doors, my eyes immediately fell upon the striking flood-lit tree standing proudly central to the horticultural displays, perfect in shape and looking very much as if it had been painted gleaming white.
I recall standing in awe, muttering muttering to myself “Wow, that’s amazing”! I ventured closer to check if this awesome spectacle was for real! I reached out to touch the gleaming bark with its white betumin veneer, punctuated by occasional horizontal grey/amber lenticils. Indeed it was ‘for real’!
Imagine how a tree such as this must look with the back-drop of its native snow-drenched Himalayan mountains! And what, indeed of a back-drop of snow- capped Brecon Beacons? After an enquiry of what I might like for my approaching 60th birthday, my family kindly gifted me one such tree …. and, what a gift!
After several years of pleasure, I was sorry to leave the Beacons and my beautiful and now maturing Jacquemontii in order to be closer to my growing family here on the southern Welsh border. Now, with a growing interest in painting trees, I returned once again to the Raglan Birch in order to capture the qualities of this amazing bark….. with, if possible, that stunning ‘Wow’ factor! Firstly I needed to see it in leaf and in sun-light. The long winter catkins that mature over the autumn season, had been replaced by newly emerging firm stubby shoots that ripen later in the year, with leaves typical of the pointed 7 veined Birch species. The bark, however was now readily peeling back its ‘skin’ surface area in horizontal, papery, curled rolls, revealing a salmony-creamy toned bark underneath, yet to be weathered and bleached by the sun. A Crane-fly rested motionless on the trunk whilst soaking up the sun.
To capture the subtle tones of this amazing bark, presented a significant challenge! Indeed, the tree needed to be allowed to celebrate its own personality —- to speak for itself! All I had to do was to remain faithful to that vocation , and not get in the way of that responsible process. A challenge indeed!