Hello! It’s spring again. The roadsides are abloom, the air is full of birdsong (and pollen), and the urge to chart tiny wildflowers is irresistible. Luckily, my own front yard–untamed and as yet unmowed this year–can provide plenty of source material.

The neighbors and the HOA are not amused.

I’ve been dreaming of vetches all winter. These lovely little annuals with their grabby tendrils mostly come in shades of purple from red-violet to violet blue. The flowers are papilionaceous, a fancy way of saying that they have the typical pea-family shape, with one large banner petal, two smaller wing petals, and a further two petals fused into a keel. Often, the petals are different shades, and fading flowers may be different as well.

Photo Larry Allain

Vetches have pinnately compound leaves, and each leaf axis ends in a forked or branched tendril. Underneath each leaf is a large, leaf-like stipule.

Photo by Larry Allain

We have four species common locally, two native and two introduced. (A fifth species, with pale yellow flowers, pops up from time to time locally as a weedy waif.) I drew Vicia ludoviciana, Deer Pea Vetch, one of the natives. It has multiple, medium-sized, light blue-violet flowers, which distinguishes it from V. minutiflora, which has single tiny flowers of the same color; V. sativa, which has big single or paired red-violet flowers; or V. villosa, which has big clusters of large, red-purple flowers that can rival bluebonnets for showiness on the roadside.

My drawing includes barely open flowers, fully-open flowers, faded flowers, flowers that are starting to show the developing legumes, and the legumes–which look just like miniature snow peas!– in various stages. The leaflets on V. ludoviciana can be narrow or rather rounded, blunt or a little pointy.

Translating the sketch to squares took forever. There are a lot of leaflets, and tendrils are fiddly!

Charting this up took several hours. I probably used more colors than Gerda would have, choosing five shades for the leaves (the lowest leaf, not shown below, is yellowish and fading), three for fresh flowers, two each for faded flowers and fruit, and one each for stipules, calyces, and stems. All of the colors were already in my palette–this is the first design for which I have not had to introduce a new DMC color to the project. If I were being absolutely faithful to nature, the calyces would be suffused with purple, but DMC doesn’t make anything that matches. Do you hear me, DMC? We need a paler red-violet with green undertones.

You can see that I added one more flower to the top right cluster. It looked funny without it.

This is not going to be a barrel of laughs to stitch.

There will be a LOT of stops and starts. For the most part, though, the leaf axes and tendrils are stitched with the same color as the leaflets, so if I end up stitching on a fabric count that lets me use the same number of strands for backstitch as cross stitch, I can do both at once.

Here’s how the top of it might look.

I can’t get the program to render the light green of the fruit accurately. It wanted to make it screaming neon and I’ve toned it down twice. It will look better than this.

Here’s the whole of it.

If and when I work all my flowers into one large design, I will rechart parts of this. If there is anything to clamber over, a vetch will clamber, so you can be sure that some of those freely-waving tendrils will be glommed onto all of the neighboring plants.

I’m not sure how Gerda-ish this one looks, but I’m happy with it. I hope that I have my charting mojo back and that it won’t be a further eight months between designs!