Garden-inspired art: Keep your garden year round!

Member Spotlight: This is a guest blog with GrowIt! member Mary Ellen Sanger. Mary Ellen moved from Manhattan to the wide-open spaces of Colorado. She loves sharing her photos with the GrowIt! community and transforming her images into beautiful artwork. Connect with Mary Ellen (tap from mobile) on GrowIt!.
My first summer gardening in Colorado after a decade in Manhattan was…illuminating. I grew everything from seed — Zowie Zinnias and Naughty Marietta Marigolds, Cosmos in Sonic Red and Petunias in African Sunset, Osteospermum, Gaillardia, Gazania, and Geranium! I was an ecstatic gardener, too long away from the delights of watching a bud form, burgeon, burst open, and bloom.

I documented my garden through photos, carrying my phone through the garden and snapping close-ups of zinnia faces, posting to Facebook, Instagram, (and now GrowIt!) all summer long. As summer gave way to fall and fall brought the snapping frost, friends asked what I would DO with my summer’s worth of flower photos. I was already missing the color as I snapped a bloom of a Blue Cascade Petunia laced with the fall’s first frost.

I searched online for ways to save these photos, inexpensive ways to print or mount and I stumbled across a transfer method some craft people use to transfer magazine prints to wood, metal, or glass. I tried it with my petunia photo, opting instead to transfer to heavy-gauge watercolor paper. I brought up the colors a bit, fiddled with the print in Photoshop and printed it on an everyday ink-jet printer.

The results were buoying! Sure, it needed a little work, but my Petunia was going to survive the winter after all!

Flower 1

Art 1

I set to choosing more photos of my summer blooms to transfer and spent an entire fall learning how to play in Photoshop and practicing my transfer technique. It’s pretty simple: I print the photos, smear them with transfer medium, stick them on some good watercolor paper and wait for them to dry. Then the fun part happens! I wet the printer paper – get it as soppy as possible. Then rub and rub until the printer paper is worn away, and the original print remains, a little diffuse and impressionist-ic!

The Petunia was my first, and I moved on to Peonies and Zinnias all winter long, and into my second and third year gardening in Colorado. I made the prints into note cards, calendars – and even made a collage of my manx cat using the same procedure! You can see more of my prints on my blog at Maybe some of you have other ideas on how to transfer and preserve your garden through art. Comment below or let’s connect on GrowIt! to share ideas so that our winters do not seem so long.

I never tire of photographing my garden. Just today I took this budding sunflower and altered it to print tomorrow – in two colors! What surprises did your garden bring today, and how will you remember them?