Every so often I check what Google has to say about “Tamlin Blake”. Mostly the results are expected and unsurprising, more like a walk down memory lane. There are listings of exhibitions I have taken part in, past reviews, some pleasing, some irksome, all seemingly permanent.
Recently however I discovered to my great surprise that I have a plant named after me. This I wasn't expecting.
When I was busy with my botanical art studies, I was privileged to be helped by Ernst van Jaarsvelt. Ernst is a botanist and horticulturalist and the curator of the Kirstenbosch Conservatory in Kirstenbosch Gardens, Cape Town. He has written numerous books including Succulents of South Africa (Tafelberg),Waterwise Gardening (Sunbird), Catyledon and Tylecodon Handbook (Umdaus) and Gasterias of South Africa (Ferwood Press).
Ernst would lend me strange and beautiful plants to paint and study. He is a fountain of knowledge when it comes to plants and on the many occasions that I visited him at Kirstenbosch Botanical Gardens he would share the dry scientific fact and figures but also enthuse about the quirks and idiosyncrasies of specific plants. It was in Ernst’s article New Gasteria Cultivars by Ernst van Jaarsveld published on www. kambroo.com that I found the following:
Gasteria ‘Tamlin Blake’ (G. batesiana var. dolomitica × G. batesiana var. batesiana)
(named for the artist Tamlin Blake)
Rosette 180 mm in diameter. Leaves spreading, lorate, 80 × 25mm; surface olive green,
tubercles in transverse (zebra) bands,margin denticulate; apex obtuse, mucronate.
During my studies I would often came across plants that had been named after great explorers and plant collectors and, in more recent history, plants have been named after some of the more prolific and dedicated botanical artists. For example in Albuca batteniana is named after Auriol Batten (b. 1919) and Crassula lettyae and Aloe lettyae after Cythna Letty (1895-1985) both prolific artists who have added greatly to the knowledge of botanical art in South Africa.
To find myself among their ilk is an honour, as well as humbling.
Also artists, like most humans, are not immune to a little recognition… and ego flattery.
Thank you Ernst!
Post script: I have sometimes wondered why I took the detour into botanical art and illustration when honestly I love to make things and get frustrated working with watercolour. I am constantly grateful for those years though. It is a demanding art form that requires time and patience. Through the study of illustrating plants I learnt to pay attention to detail, to work carefully and with perseverance, a blessing when it comes to working with tapestry.