Mahoney’s interest in formal gardens and plants such as auriculas and old roses ‚Äì all deeply unfashionable at the time
‚Äì is typical of the originality and independence of his vision. His unbridled enthusiasm for plants was shared with
Edward Bawden, Geoffrey Rhoades, John Nash and Evelyn Dunbar, with whom he swapped cuttings by post. The
correspondence between this circle is full of exchanges about the discovery, nurturing and drawing of new potential
subjects. Mahoney’s plant studies are so remarkably complete in their own right that it is barely possible to attempt to
mark a line between botanical study and still life. The two became one and the same; and although some of his
compositions were clearly arranged, they rarely appear contrived.
Mahoney was particularly fond of the giant sunflower, Helianthus annuus, capable of outgrowing a man within a season. He made many colour and black and white studies of this species, capturing the convoluted energy of their rough stems and massive heads, and the ragged angles of their great leaves.
Tirzah Garwood records Mahoney’s passion for Sunflowers in several amusing anecdotes recounted in Long Live Great Bardfield (Fleece Press):
‘The next year Edward (Bawden) planted numerous sunflowers. There was a row along the wall by the lavatory and half way up the garden, the cream of the collection, a monstrous double sunflower grew to huge maturity. So large and so splendid was it that looking up to its vast centre I felt that I should never be satisfied with any future sunflower I might grow, this was the limit.
Such a large crop needs strong sticks to support it and what with the number of earwigs they contained and the unfriendly height they grew to, we felt that perhaps we had rather over-done it. Charlie Mahoney made drawings from the top of the ladder, one rather resented his continual presence outside the lavatory.’ p. 134