Paulette Meldrum – Botanics – Coastal Kowhai Fabaceae

My choice of flowering tree was very easy as we have the beautiful golden flowered Kowhai in our back garden.  From my research I have found there are five varieties of Kowhai in New Zealand.  The Coastal Kowhai is only found in the North Island, south to Tongaporutu River in the west and Waihi in the east.  In the lower North Island it is found in the Kapiti area, on Kapiti Island and around the water inlets of Porirua and Pauatahanui, on Somes Island in Wellington harbour and the Chatham Islands.  Also grows on cliffs near the sea and along streams on calcareous and other alkaline substrates.

The specimen in our garden could grow to a height of 20 m with spreading branches.  Leaves are alternate, pinnately compound, up to 15 cm long and have 12 – 16 pairs of leaflets. With this variety of Kowhai the seed pods from the previous year start dropping when the tree flowers in Spring, They are predominantly a golden yellow, but when the buds first emerge they have a tinge of lime green.  The leaves appear after flowering.  The seed pods can be up to 18cm long and have individual compartments with one seed in each, and the seeds are bright yellow.   The Kowhai attracts our nectar feeder  the beautiful NZ Tui.

Technique – The background is a hand dye (purchased from my favourite source), which is then hand painted.  The other fabrics are in golden yellow, greens and browns from my stock of hand dyed fabric.

The first step was using the leaves as templates for printing on the background fabric and on the tree, using fabric paint and a brayer.  The flowers and buds were sketched, then transferred with a light box to freezer paper to use as templates on the selected fabrics and attached to the background with fusible web.

The piece was finished with coloured pens, pencils, fabric paint and oil pastels. Machine and hand stitched before adding a facing.


Close up view:




  1. 20 M! That’s a tree! Your background fabric is lovely, accented with the yellow flowers. I’d have liked to see even more of those pretty blossoms!

  2. I love the colors of your handyed and handpainted fabric. The yellow flowers really pops up.
    Very nice result Paulette.

  3. It is one of my favourite Paulette ! the contrast between your batik background and the bright yellow flowers is just perfect ! we can easily imagine the real tree in full bloom ! bravo !

  4. Lovely, great attention to detail which works well with the background.

  5. Paulette, a great design, thank you for sharing your techniques, I like how you used the plant leaves as your template a great way to capture their delicate pattern. Bravo


    What a contrast in colours in your piece and what a nice subject you choose. In the area where I leave, we don’t have so many different trees and sometimes I miss the rich look of big trees. But the one you choose is really amazing, so high and the beautiful yellow flowers…. And I looked for the seed pods, amazing as well. You did a very good job by designing your quilt and I love the result.

  7. This is lovely Paulette. The design is great and the kowhai leaves and flowers are beautiful.

  8. There is a lot of attention to detail in your painting and colouring, which means that you have created a beautiful background that works so well with the leaves and flowers of the plant. A very effective interpretation

  9. I like the bright yellow on the dark background. So nice how you did the leaves. I would like to see this tree in real, once!

  10. I love the background with its subtle printed leaves. It really sets up the yellows which make the piece alive. It was a stroke of luck to find the backing fabric. You have spent quite a bit of time researching this tree.

  11. One of my favourites. I love the contrast between the dark blue and the yellow flowers. I love the method you’ve used for producing the leaves

  12. Beautiful, Paulette! You’ve achieved amazing delicacy in the leaves. I love the colors.

  13. A lovely interpretation of Kowhai flowers the printing with leaves is just great

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