Story behind the art of Monika de Vries Gohlke

Out of the Woods: Celebrating Trees in Public Gardens
The Third New York Botanical Garden Triennial

Red Buckeye 

Aesculus pavia
Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Brooklyn, New York

Since my chosen medium for this work was to be an aquatint copperplate etching, printed with black ink on paper and then hand-colored, I wanted to find a tree that would give me both visually complex leaves and colorful springtime flowers. The Brooklyn Botanic Garden offered a plethora of choices and I picked the "Firecracker" Aesculus pavia, a North American deciduous species tree, native to the Southern and Eastern regions of the U.S. I'd noticed it every year for a long time, walking past it in the Osborn garden whenever I visited, and, admiring it, I’d always made a mental note to myself, saying " It's so lovely - I should really try to catch it when it's in its glory bloom". But then EVERYTHING is blooming at that time of the Spring and in the past, I usually didn't return to it till the young nuts were forming a few weeks later.


Well, after the "Call for Entries" for the "Out of the Woods" show went out from the ASBA, I kept my eye on the small pretty tree that year, from first bloom to the formation of the fat seeds in late summer, splitting open the shell to reveal the anxious, poisonous nuts inside already growing the first ambitious roots. There is no leaf color change in the Fall, so it was a bit disappointing to see the leaves already dry up in August and disappear by September. I read that the flowers are pollinated by ruby-throated hummingbirds.  I never saw these birds in the BBG, but clearly they must exist because plenty of nuts were formed for the squirrels to harvest and for me to draw! 


It was a happy experience to follow the summer cycle of this tree; it would be lovely if I could see some of the cultivars grown from this species: dark crimson or white flowered, or low growing with smaller flowers. I'll keep looking for them in other gardens.

Read more about this artist’s work: 20th Annual International


  • © 2016 Monika de Vries Gohlke
    Red Buckeye
    Aesculus pavia
    Etching, aquatint, hand-colored, Chine-collé
    17-1/2" x 12"