Expedition to the top of a ladder

Cape chestnut tree blossoms – ‘Calodendrum capense

Finally this week, after admiring my Cape chestnut tree flowering through the season, I decided to paint some of the flowers. As ‘Murphy’ would have it, now that I had decided to get going with painting I could not find any flowers in reach. The few that were left flowering were way up high and I found myself standing under the branches kicking myself for procrastinating and scratching my head at the same time. What to do.

What to do!

Where there is a will, there is a way. Undeterred I marched off to the shed to fetch the ladder. This itself was quite a job – it is a long ladder and cumbersome to carry. Finally I got it under the tree, after a few frustrating attempts at a level spot.

I consider myself fit and adventurous, but I have to confess to a few moments of panic as I tried to steady myself whilst balancing almost at the tippy top of the ladder with a broom in one hand to hook the singled out branch, and the other hand gripped to another branch, hanging on for dear life. I must have looked a sight.

Finally after a few frustrating attempts I managed to hook the branch and pull it down enough so that I could break off the intended flowering tip of it. Needless to say, although I was rather pleased with myself – waving my branch like a flag, I was relieved to be off the ladder!

Salem, aka ‘Black cat’ and sometimes ‘Thug cat’, my painting companion

The vase I had chosen was quite big, ‘urn’ shaped with a pretty pedestal. After my first attempt I decided that my composition was too ‘skimpy’ for the scale and ‘weight’ of the vase. Once it had thoroughly dried I added a leaf and extra blooms which improved it considerably.

Composition ready for gesso – I added onto it later

Cape chestnut or ‘Calodendrum Capense’ trees are found throughout South Africa and are not related to the ‘Horse chestnut’ tree at all. It is reported that the ‘father of South African botany’ Carl Peter Thunberg, was so excited at the sight of this beautiful tree whilst in the Cape in 1772, that he fired his gun at the branches until one broke and fell to the ground. He was the botanist to name it ‘Calodendrum’ – meaning in Greek, ‘beautiful tree’.

If I had had a gun perhaps I could have tried that instead of risking life and limb, swaying at the top of a long ladder armed only with a broom!

The fruit enjoyed by pigeons and doves

Birds such as pigeons, doves and Cape parrots enjoy eating the seeds which are enclosed in a prickly rather large pod. The nectar of the flowers is not utilized by birds, but several species of butterflies do feed on them.

Our Cape chestnut is a beautiful shade tree in the garden and a favorite perch for the two Black orioles which call in their melodious way from the branches. A worthy and beautiful indigenous tree.

9 thoughts on “Expedition to the top of a ladder

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  1. Risking life and limb for art! I do like your painting companion – I miss having a cat around. Our Cape Chestnut is coming into bloom, while several other trees in town are completely covered with blossoms. You have done a wonderful job of depicting their beauty on this vase.

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  2. What an interesting post and I was nervous reading how you risked life and limb for art – I am glad you and the flowers got down to the ground safely.Those early naturalists were an intrepid bunch, and shooting down the prized bloom sound to be in character for someone like Thunberg! The flowers are interestingly spiky and spotty and your painting captures them well. The seed pod is beautiful too, and I love the way they split into segments revealing the black seeds within. The Cape Chestnut on the edge of our garden has flowered better and longer this year than in any previous year for some reason. Your black cat is immensely handsome and has an amazing intensity. I hope he has a paws-off approach as your painting companion 🙂

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    1. Glad you enjoyed thank you Carol. They are beautiful trees. We have quite a few seedlings too popping up every season from it. Black cat is very handsome but also a bit of a thug and bully to the other cats! He has taken an interest it seems to art – his one redeeming quality.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. 🙂 A lovely redeeming quality.
        Btw we have a cat that turns thuggish now and again (less than when he was younger) – usually when he is not feeling well. If I catch him in the act, without any drama I deposit him in the bathroom for about two minutes timeout, and then open the door and let him out without saying a word. It does seem to help dent his enthusiasm for bullying, but I have to be lucky to be in the right place at the right time to catch him in the act. An animal behaviour person at Pretoria University gave us this really helpful advice.

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