Friday, October 2, 2009

Forrest's Flowers

Forrest Smoot was my husband's grandfather. Already well into his 80s when I first met him over 25 years ago, I was instantly drawn to this big burly man who reminded me a bit of my own beloved Grandfather who had been gone for over 10 years. Forrest had been long widowed and lived in a retirement community in Ventura County where as a former electrician and mechanic he was essential as a local handyman and Mr. Fix-it - especially for all the widow neighbors.

He had a small, but busy, patio garden and in pride of place among the birds of paradise (his late wife's favorites) were these rather unattractive prehistoric looking plants with big fleshy green leaves - some of them in terracotta, but others stuck in old paint cans which had been painted an odd green. My husband tells me that the green came from all the leftover paint in the garage thrown together.

After his sudden death these various tacky cans and pots arrived in our garden courtesy of my husband who has never been known to throw away a plant. I thought they were hideously ugly and wondered why we had to give them room, but Glen lovingly repotted them into new terracotta and put them in the back of our patio against the aged redwood fence.

The following spring these strange plants burst forth with the most spectacular vivid blooms I had ever seen. Red, Schiaparelli pink, white, yellow, cascaded rather wierdly from nodes on the big green leaves. I have since learned that these are Epiphyllums, a true cactus, often called "Cactus orchids", "Orchid Cactus" or "Epis" for short. they bloom spectacularly for a single day and some only for a single night. They have bloomed every year since and are a highly anticipated event in our garden - a reminder of Forrest.

A few years ago I started photographing them with the thought that they would eventually end up in an art quilt. I was inspired by my art quilt group the "Fiber Fanatics" to take some of these images, manipulate the color and images in PhotoShop Elements and then print them on ink jet canvas. I've used these images in combination with commercial printed cotton (an especially luscious gradated green from Carol Breyer Fallert), cotton batiks, machine applique', and glass beads in the small quilt at right which is now named "Forrest's Flowers". Click on the image for a link to a larger image of this quilt on my web site.


  1. Dear Sally,
    Epis aren't much to look at except when they bloom! Lovely quilt; like the photos and the composition.

    Keep up the good work,
    Linda Laird
    quIlt LaDy aT sAn dOt rR doT cOm

  2. Linda - Thanks so much for your comment! Yes, they are pretty ugly plants except for those precious few weeks!

  3. Fabulous way to memorialize the family patriarch's collection.

  4. Beautiful, and what a nice way to remember someone

  5. Wow! What a stunning quilt-- and such a beautiful story. Thank you so much for sharing. :)

  6. Your art quilts are quite beautiful. I love your Stairway to Heaven.

  7. Ooooh, I LOVE the way Forrest's Flowers continually blooms to remind you of your beloved FIL and MIL too!!! : ) What a lovely story and garden inheritence. Thanks for sharing!