Her medium is fiddleheads and forget-me-nots

| 24 Oct 2016 | 03:29

More than most artists, Mireille Munnelly’s work is dictated by the seasons. Her May garden is bursting with deep purple violas, forget-me-nots, bleeding hearts, and fiddlehead ferns. Since early morning she’s been busy harvesting and drying these flowers to use in her pressed botanical pictures.

“For me the flower is art,” Munnelly explained. She grew up in the South of France where her mother was a teacher and tended a garden around the school’s playground.

“I wanted a small piece for me,” she said. “I planted daisies.”

Decades later, living in the Hudson Valley with her husband Dennis and two little girls, she hit upon the idea of combining her passions for gardening and art with a plan that would allow her to work from home.

She took courses in flower arranging with dried flowers. Then, using plants she’d grown herself, began making botanical arrangements on paper. Her garden has grown along with her business, De Mon Jardin.

In spring and early summer, the Munnelly family spends many hours tending to the garden, which expands into the woodland behind their home. Through trial and error, Mireille has discovered which plants dry well and retain their colors.

By August, the drawers in her workroom are full of delicate pressed flowers and herbs, and boxes of fern fronds, curled like the tails of seahorses. The stalks of plumes of feathery grasses poke out from between blotting paper in phonebooks weighted down with bricks. In September and October, Munnelly turns her attention to collecting the rich fall foliage for her leaf prints. Summer and fall are also the busy season for craft shows. Mireille and Dennis spend many weekends on the road travelling around the region.

When the garden has been put to bed in winter it’s time to work on commissions and make enough artwork for next year’s busy season. Each piece is unique and highlights the individual beauty of the plant. As the price of the acid free mounts and olive wood frames has risen, it has become difficult to live off her craft, Munnelly confided.

She shrugged and laughed. “It’s a labor of love.”