Nature Journaling for Gardeners

posted in: Nature journaling 2
Native violets sketched with ink, gouache and watercolour pencil.

Nature journaling is another great way to enjoy gardens – either your own little green space, or the gardens of others. As I’ve written elsewhere, nature journaling is fun and relaxing, it sharpens your powers of observation, and it’s a doorway to learning new things. It gives you an ‘excuse’ to spend time in nature. And you end up creating your own unique nature journal.

I’ve spent a lot of time in gardens over the years, as a gardener, plant enthusiast, artist and just general nature-lover. Last week I dropped into the marvellous Pioneer Women’s Garden in Adelaide to listen to some of the Adelaide Writer’s Festival. And I also found a seat where I could sketch these palm trees as I listened – bliss!

Palm trees at the Pioneer Women’s Garden, Adelaide, sketched with watercolour pencil.

Later on I found myself in the Adelaide Botanic Gardens and had a lovely time sketching near the lotus pond with some ducks.

Lotuses and ducks – ink sketch (to be completed later…)

It’s fun to experiment with toned paper too. I did these sketches of Eremophila flowers in one of the fab native plant sections of the Adelaide Botanic Gardens:

And also a simple tree sketch:

It seems that whenever I try to do some sketching in a garden, my drawings are nearly always invaded by animals. A few months ago we went to visit our dear friend the Mongrel and his family, in northern New South Wales. After an unresolved argument with a Hippeastrum, and a happier conversation with some cornflowers, my page was taken over by chooks, a snake and a honeyeater. No pictures of the Mongrel though, you’ll have to keep guessing…

The Mongrel’s garden, part one. Ink sketches.

The snake was quite amazing, it was just grooving around nearly under my feet as I sketched. I was then drawn to this beautiful flowering flame tree, but was once again distracted by marauding birds:

The Mongrel’s garden, part two. Ink with gouache.

As you can see, plenty of my pictures remain unfinished, and that’s ok. Nature journaling never needs to be perfect. Just do what you can in the time available, and come back to it later, if you like.

In my own garden there are always distractions of the canine variety:

Jasper and Esther, sunbathing. Sketched with water-soluble graphic pencils.

And a few chooks too:

But sometimes the plants take centre stage:

These are just a very few ways nature journaling can be applied by gardeners. You can also use it to plan colour schemes, flower beds, landscaping and vegie gardens. Record which native animal species turn up in your garden. Or track the growth and seasonal changes of your favorite plants.

Happy nature journaling, or just happy nature-loving! Make a date to get out and enjoy nature soon – you know it’s good for you.

Postscript May 2020:

Take this Book for a Walk – A step-by-step guide to nature journaling

Take this Book for a Walk is my brand-new interactive nature journaling book, written in a friendly, simple style for kids and adults. It includes 33 nature journaling activities and many samples of my own nature journals for encouragement and inspiration. Printed on high-quality ‘colouring book’ paper, Take this Book for a Walk is designed for you to draw and write directly into the book to create your own unique nature journal.

Take this Book for a Walk and discover your own personal response to nature.
The journey begins with nature, a pencil, a page and you. But so many treasures await!

Slow down and observe nature, and feel yourself becoming calmer and more connected to place.
Think analytically to explore how nature works, and fire up your curiosity to learn more.
Use your imagination to view the world from a bug’s perspective, to dream up stories, and to reflect on your own memories.
Explore your creativity by using colours, shapes and lines to respond to what you see and hear.

A nature journal is your conversation with nature. Enjoy!

Released in May 2020, created and printed in Australia on recycled paper. Order your copy now from the Paperbark Writer shop.

2 Responses

  1. Michael Fox
    |

    Love the way to capture the feel of place you are drawing.
    The Flame Tree is amazing showing the bright red flowers without the clutter of leaf coverage … which is exactly how these trees work … losing their leaves then flowering and the Rainbow Lorikeets fit in perfectly.
    However, my favourate is the chooks!

    • Paula Peeters
      |

      Hey thanks Michael. I’m glad you see flame trees that way too. I keep meaning to ‘finish’ that flame tree sketch, but something always stops me. I think the scatter of red on white is pretty good as is. And yes, you can’t get much better than chooks. Great personalities! Cheers, Paula