If you are interested in buying or commisioning artwork, or would like to  know about upcoming art workshops, please feel free to drop me a line.

Instagram feed

Warning: count(): Parameter must be an array or an object that implements Countable in /home/customer/www/shevaundoherty.com/public_html/wp-content/plugins/eltdf-instagram-feed/lib/eltdf-instagram-api.php on line 242


HomeDatesFrom Seed to Tree

From Seed to Tree

“Every seed is a longing”   Khalil Gibran

Hayani dates
When excavating the Temple of Herod the Great in 1965, a dusty jar of date seeds was discovered. At the time of Herod, the kingdom of Judea was renowned for it’s forest of date trees, which had a distinctive sweet taste. Such was their importance to the economy, the palm tree was depicted on the coins of that time. However by 500AD, all the date trees had been cut down and the Judean palm tree was no more. This cache of ancient seeds was stored for a further 40 years, until  2005, when an inquisitive botanical researcher decided to try to grow one.  Three seeds were treated with a special solution of fertiliser and hormones. To everyone’s amazement, one little seed began to sprout, 2000 years after it fell off the tree, making it the oldest viable seed in the world. This tree, still grows today and is the last of the famous Judean date trees. Palm trees are dioecious (meaning it has separate male and female plants), and this tree is a male. So to continue the line, it is hoped to crossbreed it with it’s nearest living relative, the Hayani date palm from Egypt.
It’s been really interesting to do all this research about date palms. Beside the fact that the dates themselves are such wonderful subjects to paint, there is also a wealth of fascinating history to accompany the date palm.  My main objective this summer though has been to identify the main characteristics of the palm tree, and to figure out just how to portray all those features in six paintings for the RHS.

 One of my paintings will be the story of the seed.

Phoenix dactylifera seedling studies

Walking through the gardens here, I was struck by how many tiny seedlings were growing beneath each tree. I dug a few up and took them home to paint. The first few that I painted are still quite small, 6-10 months old. 

Study of older seedling showing the juvenile leaves which are non pinnate and entire
I also found a larger seedling, probably about 18-24 months old but still showing the juvenile leaves which are quite different to the adult ones. As this is quite large, I decided that I would carefully draw this out on tracing paper for now, backing it up with a few colour studies and numerous photographs.

A larger study on tracing paper which will be used later
But there was still one element missing from this story, and that was the seed itself. A friend mentioned to me that she once had a date seed that had accidentally sprouted in her compost in Ireland. Inspired by her story, I decided to see if I could grow my own. If a 2000 year old seed can grow, then surely I could coax at least one to sprout?
I soaked the seeds for two days in water, and then carefully placed them smooth side down on wet kitchen paper in a ziplock bag. I left the bag open but covered it lightly with a cloth. Fingers crossed!
Little date seeds grow into beautiful trees, so I also need to paint a tree.
Palm tree with fruit, plein air study 2103
Last year I spent a couple of enjoyable afternoons by the pool painting a palm tree, which was laden with fruit. It was great in that it gave me a good idea of what colours to use, but it was hard to fit it all onto the page and I felt that the bountiful fruit set the composition off balance. I wanted to do a study of the whole tree. I’ve been putting it off because this summer has been really hot, making painting outside quite a challenge. Fortunately there is a beautiful tree just outside my window, so I took the easier air conditioned option. 
It’s hot out there!
I haven’t managed to finish it yet because it’s quite a big study (70cm high), and painting all those leaves takes a lot of concentration!  But there’s something quite soothingly hypnotic in building up the patterns within the crown of the tree and  painting all those negative spaces. 

Palm tree study WIP 

Whilst I have been doing all these preparatory studies, the dates have been ripening slowly on the trees. To my delight, one of the gardeners offered to climb up and pick some of the riper ones which hang just out of my reach. My fridge is now full of sweet crunchy dates, some to eat and of course, plenty to paint.
Gathering dates for me!
However the best news of the week has to be this! After two weeks of careful incubation, I have my first sprout! I have so much to paint before I leave.

“The plant reveals what is in the seed.” Ancient Egyptian proverb

By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. more information

The cookie settings on this website are set to "allow cookies" to give you the best browsing experience possible. If you continue to use this website without changing your cookie settings or you click "Accept" below then you are consenting to this.