Flower Power – Feeling Groovy

A long time ago (in my misspent youth), probably around the late 1960’s or early 1970’s, I had a brilliant idea. Looking around at the sparsely decorated white walls of my teenaged bedroom, I thought nothing would do but that I decorate those painted walls with brightly colored, very groovy, mod, abstract flower-power stickers. Think about the decorations of a VW or perhaps a Peter Max poster and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what those stickers looked like. In fact, they are widely available and they bring a smile to my face whenever I see them. The hippie in me will never fade, I guess. Do these look familiar to anyone?

I was particularly attracted to the most vivid, brilliantly colored ones: bright pink petals and an orange center! Chartreuse circular centers surrounded by shocking yellow and, just to tame it a bit, purple and blue stickers were scattered in between those really big, bright, colorful ones. I’m pretty sure I added a peace sign or two but it was the flowers that made it a masterpiece. Did I mention how sticky they were? This was in the day before removable stickers that could be repositioned were sold – once one of these stickers was placed on a wall, there they stayed. I gave absolutely no thought to peeling off the paper backing and sticking them all over my room. I stepped back, looked at my artistic mastery and immediately smiled. It was so happy, so much fun and lively!

My mother thought otherwise and, years later, when it came time to transform my room into one for guests, I think my parents spent hours painstakingly removing them (if I look really closely at the wall, I think I can still see where one had to be chipped out and there’s some spackle and paint as evidence). Now, as an empty nester myself, I understand their displeasure but at the time, all I can recall is the feeling of pure joy. I was feeling groovy.

I think about those days and the joy Flower Power stickers brought me and wonder if some of that exuberance and desire to be surrounded in color hasn’t, in some way, carried over into adulthood. Although I’ve always loved – actually, I crave – color, it hasn’t been until the last decade or so that that passion for strong color combinations has been channeled into gardening and the types of plants I am consistently attracted to. And maybe, just maybe, that’s why in these months when it’s harder to get my “color fix” just by wandering around a garden outdoors, it’s even more important to me to continue coaxing bulbs in the colder months. I need the colors growing throughout winter: bulbs, blooming plants and the occasional indulgence of a bright bouquet (there’s nothing quite so satisfying as a bright bunch of tulips in a vase during these cold, winter months). Now, as I look around my house, it’s pretty easy to see hints of the teenager in me:

I’m NOT an orchid person and yet? The sunny, floor to ceiling window in my dining room is filled with blooming plants. It’s actually become somewhat of a joke because, despite my protests, I take withering, half dead orchids from my friend, Kelly, and somehow – despite my lackadaisical approach and complete lack of orchid education – they thrive. The stronger the color, the more delighted I am. The plants with what I consider unusual color combinations (e.g. purple and chartreuse) are personal favorites and when I see buds forming on a plant I had long ago give up for dead, I can’t help but be excited to see what will unfold. Sure, I have a few standards and solid colored orchids and I love them – they are reliable bloomers and bring a sense of calm to the cacophony of color – but when these “Kelly Orphans” were recently revived? As Jimmy Cliff sang, “Here is that rainbow I’ve been praying for . . . it’s gonna be a bright (bright) sunshiny day.”

 

 

 

 

 

Starting in December, it is, for our family, Amaryllis Time. Previously I’ve written about my family’s tradition of selecting a traditional amaryllis to give to family and friends as a holiday gift. It’s a process my mother started years ago and has continued, thanks to my father, despite her passing almost six years ago. I know he carefully reviews the choices, makes sure we’re not repeating varieties and I like to think that he tries to incorporate my mother’s aesthetics into the year’s selection. Last year’s “Caprice” was a stunner and some of us are trying to bring it back to flower this year.

While waiting for the traditional amaryllis to bloom, I enjoy coaxing other bulbs to bring color and life into the house. The waxed amaryllis are lovely not only for their colorful wax but for their reliable, brilliant flowers and ability to grow without any maintenance (though they are controversial as they are “one and done”) and I’ve enjoyed watching their progress. They bring the same vibrancy and exuberance as those stickers did long ago without the permanence and aggravation In addition, when I’ve sent one to a friend, the progress is excitedly chronicled via Facebook and they, too, are embracing nature’s beauty:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paper whites, cut flowers and assembling greens from the yard mixed in with herbs, seasonal vegetables (I especially love using unusually shaped fruits mixed with different colored artichokes) also bring life indoors and I find myself drawn to using whatever plates and dining accessories I have that represent nature when setting a holiday table. Obviously the teenager who once decorated her room in groovy flower power stickers has matured but she’s not gone.

 

 

 

 

 

One of the bulbs I have growing was selected because it’s one of the few that produces a striped flower. Instead of the more predictable, single petal (and quite lovely) red flower, this copper bulb promises to produce at least two stalks of brightly red striped white flowers. Of all the waxed amaryllis I’ve been coaxing this winter, it is this one that has proven to be the most anticipated and the most stubborn. I inquired and was told that yes, the striped variety is slower to start but assuming the bulb stays in tact, the results are well worth it. I’m now in the stages – I’ll admit it – of expecting a magnificent show any minute now. There are three stalks on this amaryllis and now, late in January, they are beginning to put on a show – yes, it’s worth the wait:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Amaryllis ‘terra mystica’ (my father’s Annual Amaryllis selection this year) has also been slow to start and I’ve placed these bulbs together in a warm spot by a sunny window in my bedroom. They are one of the last things I see before going to bed and one of the first things I see when I wake in the morning. Watching their growth has been delightful and the color adds so much to the “view” during these cold weather months. The traditional amaryllis began slowly but it’s now beginning to produce blossoms in earnest. This year’s selection did not disappoint and the beautiful earthy color is rich and unique:Now things seem to bloom daily and it’s almost as exciting as my summer ritual of touring the garden to seek growth and change. No doubt about it – I’m feeling pretty groovy with Flower Power.

Public Art . . . Beautifully Enhancing The Landscape

In this post, Guest Blogger Dana Davis describes her life-long passion for public art. With an appreciation for public art’s history, significance, aesthetics and practical applications, Dana explores several magnificent examples of public art and how they made her appreciate the “view” (and purpose) from many different perspectives. Whether visiting Botanical Gardens, an Arboretum, touring a city or taking a stroll around the block, Dana encourages all of us to embrace (and notice) public art’s role in the landscape. Take a look . . . you, too, will be inspired.

Dana Davis, Former Past President and Board Member of the Valley Art Center in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, often posts unique public art installations on Facebook. This is her first – but we hope not last – post on Roots in Reality. Ms. Davis represents public art, and Cleveland, proudly. Thank you, Dana!

My sister and I had the pleasure of visiting the Atlanta Botanical Gardens (atlantabg.org) on a hot and steamy day this past July. The organization is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year and invited celebrated Dale Chihuly (chihuly.com) to install his amazing work in the gardens all around the property. The end result was an awe inspiring exhibit of glass that mimics and enhances the gardens in seemingly impossible ways. It was so beautiful and inspirational that I am still thinking and talking about the exhibit months later. The artist was able to weave his glass into the natural elements so completely that visitors felt compelled to discover each piece with feelings of excitement and anticipation. What a joy for a first time visitor to learn every nook and crazy of these gardens in this fashion!

Courtesy artsatl.com

pastedgraphic-2

pastedgraphic-1

I am a fan of public art. Public art has been around for hundreds of years, often in tandem with gardens. All over Europe, a visitor can enjoy sculpture in public spaces and private gardens. The Hapsburg Dynasty alone left Austria, Spain and France covered with amazing giant horses and warriors perched high atop beautiful white buildings, leaving one to wonder how the heck did they get those heavy bronzes up there? I still don’t know.

bronzes

 

 

What is exciting, thought, is how public art can also be an economic development tool. In Cleveland, where I have lived all my life, public art is generating new life into neighborhoods and parts of downtown. Witness, for example, how exciting our Playhouse Square (playhousesquare.org) looks like with an “outside the box” chandelier reigning over the street:  playhousesquarechandelier

 

At the Holden Arboretum (holdenarb.org), a lovely 3,600 acre horticultural gem located a half hour east of Cleveland, a visitor can climb an architectural marvel of a 120 foot tower to view miles of trees and Lake Erie from above the treetops and walk a canopy walk through the tops of the trees to see what it feels like to be a bird. Families are streaming into the park to visit this new addition. Sometimes, though, the kids are more excited about that height than the parents! I witnessed more than a couple of dads nervously climbing those stairs.  tower-text_000

On a smaller scale, the Valley Art Center in Chagrin Falls (valleyartcenter.org) recently turned a concrete block wall into a lovely mural, garnering lots of discussion and attention about the role of public art in historic towns. Chagrin Falls is a lovely old mill town with a fantastic waterfall and the powers that be guard its traditional elements carefully. Painting a mural was a huge topic of discussion (and a bit of a battle). However, the result of installing a mural on the side of the building was a huge increase in visitors and support for a community art center. Full disclosure — I am a Board of Trustee member at the VAC.

valley-art-center-mural-deihl_3_orig

Of course, there are hundreds of examples of how use of public art is translating into visitors and economic boost. I have enjoyed a sculpture competition in Sioux Falls, SD where you voted on your favorite of over 30 sculptures installed on the downtown sidewalks. That contest forced you to walk all over the downtown. I have seen amazing installations in gardens to Montreal to Tokyo. I regularly post unique pubic art installations on my Facebook page, many of which feature the use of ordinary items like logs or sand to create amazing art. Unfortunately, though, sometimes locals are the ones who miss out . . . after visiting the Chihuly in the Garden exhibit, my sister and I mentioned to everyone we met how amazing it was – and not ONE of the Atlanta residents had seen it.

So . . . . spread the word for public art!!!

NOTE – Photos credits: misssmartyplants.com (purple Chihuly), artsatl.co, (Chihuly “flames”), atlantaabg.org (curly Chihuly). 123rf.com (bronze horses), cia.edu (Playhouse chandelier), holdenarb.org (Emergent Tower) and valleyartcenter.org (mural).

A Gardener’s Twelve Days of Christmas

On the First Day of Christmas

Mother Nature Brought to Me:

A Partridge in a Pear Tree 

Partridge in Pear Tree

Partridge in Pear Tree

On the Second Day of Christmas

Mother Nature Brought to Me:

Two Mourning Doves

Two Mourning Doves

Two Mourning Doves

And a Partridge in a Pear Tree

On the Third Day of Christmas

Mother Nature Brought to Me:

Three Bird-Seed Wreaths

Three Bird Seed Wreaths

Three Bird Seed Wreaths

Two Mourning Doves

And a Partridge in a Pear Tree

On the Fourth Day of Christmas

Mother Nature Brought to Me

Four Nesting Birds

Four Nesting Birds

Four Nesting Birds

Three Seed Wreaths

Two Mourning Doves

And a Partridge in a Pear Tree

On the Fifth Day of Christmas

Mother Nature Brought to Me:

Five Waxed Amaryllis Bulbs

Five Waxed Amaryllis Bulbs

Four “Nesting” Birds

Three Seed Wreaths

Two Mourning Doves

And a Partridge in a Pear Tree

 

On the Sixth Day of Christmas

Mother Nature Brought to Me:

Six Twinkling Trees

Six Twinkling Trees

Six Twinkling Trees

Five Waxed Amaryllis

Four “Nesting” Birds

Three Seed Wreaths

Two Mourning Doves

And a Partridge in a Pear Tree

 

On the Seventh Day of Christmas

Mother Nature Brought to Me

Seven Blooming Tea Balls

Seven Blooming Tea Balls

Seven Blooming Tea Balls

Seven Blooming Tea Balls

Seven Blooming Tea Balls

 

 

 

 

 

Seven Blooming Tea Balls

Seven Blooming Tea Balls

Six Twinkling Trees

Five Waxed Amaryllis

Four “Nesting” Birds

Three Seed Wreaths

Two Mourning Doves

And a Partridge in a Pear Tree

 

On the Eighth day of Christmas

Mother Nature Brought to Me:

Eight Gleaming Glass Gourds

Eight Gleaming Glass Gourds

Eight Gleaming Glass Gourds

Seven Blooming Tea Balls

Six Twinkling Trees

Five Waxed Amaryllis

Four “Nesting” Birds

Three Seed Wreaths

Two Mourning Doves

And a Partridge in a Pear Tree

 

On the Ninth Day of Christmas

Mother Nature Brought to Me:

Nine Nature Books

Nine Nature Books

Nine Nature Books

Eight Gleaming Glass Gourds

Seven Blooming Tea Balls

Six Twinkling Trees

Five Waxed Amaryllis

Four “Nesting” Birds

Three Seed Wreaths

Two Mourning Doves

And a Partridge in a Pear Tree

 

On the Tenth Day of Christmas

Mother Nature Brought to Me:

Ten Tiny Nests

Ten Tiny Nests

Ten Tiny Nests

Nine Nature Books

Eight Gleaming Glass Gourds

Seven Blooming Tea Balls

Six Twinkling Trees

Five Waxed Amaryllis

Four “Nesting” Birds

Three Seed Wreaths

Two Mourning Doves

And a Partridge in a Pear Tree

 

On the Eleventh Day of Christmas

Mother Nature Brought to Me:

Eleven Spotted Toadstools 

Eleven Spotted Toadstools

Eleven Spotted Toadstools

Ten Tiny Nests

Nine Nature Books

Eight Gleaming Glass Gourds

Seven Blooming Tea Balls

Six Twinkling Trees

Five Waxed Amaryllis

Four “Nesting” Birds

Three Seed Wreaths

Two Mourning Doves

And a Partridge in a Pear Tree

 

On the Twelfth Day of Christmas

Mother Nature Brought to Me:

12 Blooming Bulbs

Twelve Blooming Bulbs

Twelve Blooming Bulbs

Twelve Blooming Bulbs

Twelve Blooming Bulbs

Eleven Spotted Toadstools

Ten Tiny Nests

Nine Nature Books

Eight Gleaming Glass Gourds

Seven Blooming Tea Balls

Six Twinkling Trees

Five Waxed Amaryllis

Four “Nesting” Birds

Three Seed Wreaths

Two Mourning Doves

And a Partridge in a Pear Tree

Seasons of Change

The past few weeks have been filled with several significant milestones: my twins turned 25, my husband celebrated his 65th birthday and June marks our 30th wedding anniversary. We could say “where have the years gone” or “my, haven’t the children grown so quickly” and/or other predictable, appropriate exclamations but, true to form, I look to the landscape as a way to measure the Seasons of Change.

 

 

 

 

 

For some parents, one way to mark Seasons of Change can be found on a wall with pencil lines and a date. Often, those treasured “growth charts” are an annual tradition and visible reminder of their children’s physical growth. For a while, through the sleep deprivation and struggle to make it through a day much less a year with twins, I marked their growth on a wall. But those lines were painted over when the twins decided their rooms needed a fresh coat of paint. It didn’t bother me – for some reason, I wasn’t sentimental about that growth chart.

Seasons of Change is a composite picture: growth charts, photographs, art projects, report cards, records of all those “firsts” and so much more. For me, especially as we celebrate the milestones in May and June, Seasons of Change, is strongly evidenced in our landscape. It’s the little maple tree in the backyard, planted by the previous owners, that is now a large tree providing much needed shade on a hot summer day and requiring serious pruning in spring. When we first moved into the house almost 30 years ago, the tree couldn’t have been taller than 6’ and it looked as sad as Charlie Brown’s Christmas Tree before Linus lovingly put his blanket around it to encourage strength and show that tree some love.

It’s not just the maple tree that marks the Seasons of Change – it’s the yard’s transformation and the stories it could tell if able. Our yard began as a serviceable place, it was the hub for neighborhood children to gather and play games. What little grass grew was soon ruined under the wear and tear of childhood games, inflatable swimming pools, colorful plastic play equipment, an occasional sleep out and a plastic picnic table. The landscape was one of childhood games, birthday parties and a lot of antics I probably don’t want to know about.

Over time, as we developed one part of the yard into a Children’s Garden and the inflatable pool was retired in favor of a neighborhood pool, the landscape grew and we viewed the yard as more than utilitarian. The metaphoric pencil mark was drawn, indicating growth, but it wasn’t just the maple tree’s growth that survived toddlers. The change marked our yard’s slow movement to blend aesthetics with purpose. The first “real” garden bed was planted while the yard was still a neighborhood hang out. The trees were strong enough to support a hammock and I was carving out a few areas to begin my own garden – staking my claim for a colorful garden to satisfy my strong craving for colorful blooms and the hope of attracting winged creatures to my yard. While the children were gathering fireflies, I was looking for the first hummingbird.

The first “garden” I worked on was, what I thought, an ideal spot: sunny, out of foot traffic’s way, near the outdoor water spigot and in a location I could admire whether indoors or out on the patio. It was my first perennial bed. Plants were selected impulsively and there were more than a few weekend trips to local nurseries to buy whatever looked nice. I bought things in bloom – I needed “Instant Pretty” and didn’t think about bloom times, growth patterns, good planting practices, soil conditions, maintenance . . . or anything other than it looking pretty right then and there.

Always craving color, I selected plants I liked – I gave little or no thought to plants that might like my garden. But I learned a painful lesson when, after a few weeks, those beautiful blooms (previously tended to in ideal conditions) disappeared. How dare they? I remember buying my first daylily crown (at the time, I thought it was an extravagant price) and only knew I didn’t want the orange ones I saw growing in massive clumps along the streets. Thirty years later, the one lovely crown has divided into many and remains, sentimentally, one of my favorite summer blooms. It reminds me of having very little money to spend on decorative plants, knowing almost nothing about planting and yet somehow, after 30 years, the daylilies have multiplied, bloom reliably and make a lovely addition to the perennial bed.

After many Seasons of Change, a lot of trial and error and with the help of two experienced landscapers (Sam Nelson and Serena Masters Fossi), the landscape has now matured – it’s still on the growth chart and I know there will be a lot of change in the years to come – but it is now a more mature garden, based on good gardening principles, an overall plan for its structure and it is filled with the color, textures, interest, purpose and blooms I love.

What began as a bunch of plants crowded into a space and looked great for a few weeks has become my established perennial bed. With Serena’s guidance, and a considerable amount of impatience and doubt on my part, this is what it looked like in its infancy:

It still includes many of the plants I invested in, such as the daylilies, but it has now gone through enough seasons to grow up and become the beautiful sight I had always craved. Those Seasons of Change were a necessary part of maturing and I know there are more to come – nature will always evolve – but it’s clear my landscape has grown up. It’s getting closer to the top of the growth chart. Below are pictures of the perennial bed as it looks this week:  

 

 

 

Today, the perennial bed is filled with the colors I love, the spring’s bulbs emerge, are replaced with early summer’s green and fresh colors and soon will transition to more blooms, different colors and eventually, in the fall, I hope it will surprise me with the late season bloomers I impatiently look for even though I know it’s too early for signs of the toad lilies, asters and peacock lilies (among others). I love these Seasons of Change.

The Green Bed, formerly the Children’s Garden, taught me to appreciate the beauty of a monochromatic garden (with a few pops of color) and most importantly, I learned how to impatiently be patient and wait for the different greens to grow into each other, forming a map of green whose boundaries are marked with different shapes of green plants. Here’s the Green Bed “before” –

And, with more than a few years of “pencil marks on the wall” and quite a few planting seasons, here’s the Green Bed now:

It’s not just the growth of plantings in our landscape that remind me of our milestones and the Seasons of Change, though their growth and the lessons learned have been important and enlightening. There’s another piece of our landscape that, for me, is the most beautiful and obvious reminder of an earlier era. It is permanently imprinted in our home’s landscape (or at least for as long as we live here).

When the twins were 6, we spent a few very warm summer days painting the outside brick walls in our courtyard. They are a daily reminder of the passage of time and for me, no line on the wall indicating physical growth could replace these paint strokes.

The drawings are colorful and full of life. I remember when we stood in the unbearable heat as they carefully painted, delighted with the permission, and encouragement, to color our walls with whatever they wanted. Some are joyful scenes of trees with fruit, fish swimming in the ocean and birds flying high in the sky. Courtesy of my son’s obsession with history, a detailed scene of the doomed Titanic – complete with the distress fireworks high above the sinking ship in the ocean – takes up an entire section of the courtyard. I treasure each and every picture and cannot bear the thought of being in this house without them.

 

It has taken the better part of our 30 year marriage to reclaim the garden and slowly (very slowly) turn it into something that I love. I’ve treasured the process as much as I love what it looks like today. Our leaveslandscape has it’s own chalk marks indicating significant milestones: the Harry Lauder Walking Stick my parents bought us to honor a significant anniversary, the Scotch Broom we planted when my brother married his wife in Scotland, the azalea my friend Denise brought over to plant in the garden after my mother suddenly passed away, the lilies of the valley my other gardening friend, Denise, was kind enough to share with me and so many other generous additions to the garden.

I’m grateful for the milestones we’re celebrating and know we have been fortunate. Forever, nature’s growth and meaning helps me appreciate our Seasons of Change.

“Saw It Written and I Saw It Say . . . Pink Moon Is On Its Way”

As the last of winter melts slowly away, the Pink Moon, April’s full moon, rises on the 4th and with it comes promises of new growth, of burgeoning and becoming.  Named for the creeping phlox, and other pinkish early Spring flowers that add color to the slowly greening landscape, its rosy name sounds especially sweet and dreamy right now with snow here, still covering much of the ground.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As I picture it hanging in the cold spring sky, I hear, in my head, Nick Drake’s beautiful album of the same name, and it seems like it will be a moon both full of promise, yet tinged with the last remnants of winter’s melancholy (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3sQv04CFSdE) – take a listen.   

 But that is how the season feels to me right now.  Spring is clearly swelling in the wet ground and the still bare branches.  I know that the waxing moon is literally pulling green shoots up and out into the daylight but winter remains, evident everywhere, blanketing us in white, and shading things with blue.  

In the first hours of April 5th there will be a rare total eclipse, turning the Pink moon into a blood moon and lasting about 5 minutes.  This eclipse is part of an even more rare lunar tetrad where four lunar eclipses happen in a row. As this intense and unusual astrological moment approaches, I feel a budding within me too: tender but persistent, just as I know it is happening in the earth.  

The longer sunlit days are coaxing me upward and outward, but slowly.  I have to admit that the short days of winter have perfectly suited me this year.  I have wanted to curl up with my son at 8:00, reading to him, letting the day draw to a natural close. I resented daylight saving’s time, unwilling to stop hibernating. It has been cozy. Cozy even to spend late nights alone in my usually light and laughter filled studio.   Serenaded by Drake’s haunting voice and gentle guitar the not always intelligible words of Pink Moon so soothing after all these listenings.  The big, night blackened windows reflecting back my six paper lantern moons, turning my 4th floor into a glowing corner in the Massachusetts night.  I’ve ben comfortable in the dark but I am now ready for the light.

This slow dance into Spring is happening, accompanied by single guitar and an achingly beautiful song, like a bulb sending up its heart.  You might find your feet moving to the rhythm as you sway under the big full moon.   

Submitted by returning Guest Blogger, Emily Rosenfeld. Readers will recall her previous blog (“Oh, Happy Earth Day”) which included, among other things, the inspiration she receives from nature and incorporates into her beautiful line of jewelry and other gifts. To see more of Emily’s work, visit her newly designed website: www.emilyrosenfeld.com – I know you will be inspired.

Gardening With Heart

With Valentine’s Day approaching, it’s hard not to see, hear or think about hearts, flowers, cards and/or chocolate. But isn’t it always a good time to give/receive flowers (and chocolate)? Don’t many people garden with their heart(s) – emotions and meaning, (not only aerobic) – to achieve a landscape they fall in love with? I know I’ve blogged before about being an emotional gardener but maybe this is a good time to revisit the concept and renew the effort.

Gardening with heart has as many different interpretations as there are flowers. Sometimes it’s gardening in your mind’s eye (catalogues, photographs and nature inspired decor, especially visible courtesy of social media) and this past week was a great example of that. While looking at a possible Valentine’s gift, I was amazed by a few offerings sold on Etsy (below). Many options are beautiful combinations of artistic talent with an appreciation for nature and a nod towards love. (Intentionally, I’ve excluded jewelry, some made by family and friends, for the purposes of this blog to shift focus to other, less traditional, options):

 Courtesy of FancyKnittles

https://www.etsy.com/shop/FancyKnittles?ref=l2-shopheader-name

Courtesy of DanasPaperFlowers

https://www.etsy.com/search/handmade?q=danas%20paper%20flowers&order=most_relevant&ref=auto2&explicit_scope=1

The paper flowers intrigue me – there are over a hundred varieties and can be customized with names, dates, personal messages and even, with photographs (below), to commemorate special events and milestones.   

 

 

 

 

 

Roots in Reality’s Facebook page often highlights beautiful, unique and diverse “finds” inspired by nature. The same diverse supply also applies when selecting flowers and plants – there are many wonderful florists and plant catalogues, making a selection can be overwhelming.

One source that simplifies sending flowers and offers a streamlined, unique on-line process is www.bloompop.com. Just take a look at a few selections from their gallery and I think you’ll want to search their site.  

 

 

Bloompop prides itself on partnering only with quality florists offering artisan arrangements. Whether you live in Colorado, Ohio, Illinois, California, Maine, Utah or South Dakota (and more), Bloompop has a partner. I’ve sent flowers to New Hampshire, Cleveland and in the Washington D.C. area – all with spectacular results. They also offer a subscription service that, in my opinion, is a real gift of love (hint hint).  

 

 

 

 

Some of the most beautiful gardens are those that evolve: through trial and error, with additions and development of new plantings, spending some resources on the hard-scaping and, importantly, via the simple process of maturation, adjustments, naturalizing and good basic gardening techniques. Collecting flowers from your own garden either for your own enjoyment or as a gift is a bouquet from your heart, not just your garden’s beds.  

 

 

 

 

 

Gardens evolved with plants that mean something to the gardener are landscapes of love. Corny but true. The apple mint my son and I discovered at a festival last year became one of the most coveted items in our edible garden and the development of the woodland area in my yard reminds me of childhood walks through Cleveland’s beautiful natural parks.

Plantings given as a gift for a special occasion and others commemorating life events are more than beautiful, they are visual reminders of life events and fill the beds with meaning. Daffodils and other spring plantings remind me of my mother’s love for signs of spring and the hens and chicks were planted in memory of a dear friend, Sandy, and her beloved chicken coop at her home in Austin, Texas. The area in front of the trellises is being altered to house a White Chiffon Rose of Sharon my father gave me for my birthday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Many people garden with love and there are gardens across the world, residential and commercial, filled with meaning. Roots in Reality encourages everyone to incorporate the beauty, and meaning, of nature into your lives – Valentine’s Day is an obvious and beautiful way to think about the gift of nature – please think of every day as an opportunity to love nature.  

 

 

Oh, Happy Earth Day!

Oh, Happy Earth Day!

It’s my pleasure to introduce artist Emily Rosenfeld’s first, but not last, blog on www.rootsinreality.com. The timing with Earth Day is not coincidental – after reading her blog, you will understand and appreciate her work’s inspiration and influence(s). In addition, there is a special opportunity to win a piece of her jewelry – a unique, personal locket to be treasured and kept close to your heart.

“I never saw a discontented tree. They grip the ground as though they like it, and though fast rooted they travel about as far as we do.” John Muir

I hear my garden talking to me again. I have been looking for signs of green since the beginning of March when the snow began to recede, only to pile up again before finally and definitively disappearing towards the month’s fickle end.

My variegated tulips were the first to shout, “have faith, we are coming” by sending their purple veined green through the brown leaf cover .   .   .  

 

 

 

 

 

 

And now my scilla are blooming, “we are here,” their bowed purple heads cry and in a week’s time might there be a hellebores elegantly elaborating on the coming of spring?


 

 

 

 

 

Oh Happy Earth Day, I want to sing back to these first arrivals.

I am not the only one who hears our garden talking. “Mama, Mama, Mama,“ I hear my 9 year old son, Jasper, calling urgently and out of breath.  As I steel myself for what could possibly have happened in the minutes I trailed him out the door, he runs back to the porch, eyes shining, “Your tree has buds, its covered with buds on every branch.”  He has not broken an arm or a window.  He has simply been filled completely and is bursting with the magic that comes with spring.

 

We stand together, in front of my formerly beleaguered Stewartia.  Severely pruned at the tree’s top after a harsh, snowless winter a few years back, what a beautiful, unfamiliar sight it is to see my little tree now covered with furry silver leaf buds.    

What deep and utter happiness we both feel at this sign of indomitability, of life sprouting up and out.  Buds so subtle we could have walked right by them on the way to the grocery store.  Buds that instead, called out and brought out such a burst of happiness that we feel our own kind of sap, running and vital. And here in my little postage stamp yard, my tiny tree is suddenly the archetypal Tree.  The tree that Jasper and I have been reading about in every book we pick up:  Narnia’s protective Tree of Life laden with magic apples; Lakota Chief Black Elk’s sprouting branch of living in harmony and peace.  It is the great tree that Pippi Longstocking and her friends met inside and the enormous pine Sterling North slept under with Rascal, his pet raccoon.

It is a miracle, an inspiration, a survivor and a humble little sprout.  Happy Earth Day. It is the voice of nature that informs my work as well.  Whether it is a sterling branch paired with sparkly gems to wear around your neck . . .

 

 

 

. . . or a Songbird Mezuzot for your home, the grounded and joyful images of the natural world are where I turn for inspiration.      

 

 

 

As a way to introduce you to what I make and to say Happy Earth Day (the other Mother’s Day) I want to send a Pewter Tree locket (picture below) to a randomly selected name. The winner will be announced on Mother’s Day (May 11th, 2014). There are several ways you can enter your name for this opportunity:

With a stylized Tree of Life on the front and a songbird on the back, this contemporary locket can hold two pictures and is an artful way to hold those you love close to your heart. I hope that in this deep heart of springtime, as the earth sends out its billions upon billions of tiny green shoots and its million upon millions of brilliantly colored blossoms, that you can stop for a minute and hear what your garden is saying to you. I’d love to know what you hear.  Happy Earth Day!   I look forward to staying in touch!

Sincerely,

Emily Rosenfeld

Emily’s work can be seen, and purchased, on her website (www.emilyrosenfeld.com) and on www.Etsy.com (https://www.etsy.com/shop/emilyrosenfeld?ref=search_shop_redirect)

Fractals

This year, Sentimental September, my moodiest month, is punctuated and influenced by, among other things, the Jewish calendar. We are in the Days of Awe; the 10-days beginning with Rosh Hashanah and concluding with Yom Kippur.  Often this introspective and spiritual time is also referred to as the Time of Repentance. Most Jews use this time to think about the previous year’s sins and, before Yom Kippur, repent.

When I was young, I felt particularly anxious during The Days of Awe and stayed awake at night wondering what I had done wrong, how I would make things right and above all, would G-d hear and believe me? Would my name be inscribed in the Book of Life? As it was explained to me, the High Holidays were when G-ds book was opened and in it, names written. G’d used the time to write the names of the people who will live as well as those who will die. I distinctly remember thinking this was a whole lot harder than writing Santa a letter saying I had been a good girl and promising exemplary behavior in the year ahead.

Whether it is Sentimental September, The Days of Awe, New Year’s Eve, a life cycle event or an undistinguished, average day, there are always opportunities to reflect, reconcile with anyone who may have been wronged over the year, atone for sins against G-d (atoning for sins against another person starts with reconciliation with the individual and righting any wrongs) and think about how to lead a meaningful life.

For the scholars who might be reading this blog – either look away now or pursue this post, knowing my intent is not to offend (I know this is a gross over simplification).  However, a few things recently happened in my personal life that punctuate themes of the High Holidays and I would like to try and weave those experiences together because I feel like on whatever level they are viewed, they are connected.

During services, when the ark is opened to reveal the Torah scrolls, the congregation rises as an act of respect, sanctity and reverence. I always find it moving. All the more so during the High Holidays when the scrolls are specially dressed in white coverings. It doesn’t take a formal religious education to feel emotional when the Torah is revealed and the prayers chanted – the Days of Awe bring a shiver to the most jaded.

The first time I stood before a Torah scroll is etched in my memory and heart. I felt small, though I was an adult in my 40’s, and couldn’t help but think about the history the scroll represented. My hands shook as the Torah was unrolled and I began to chant my assigned reading. Those beautiful scrolls contain the words, stories and lessons of the Jewish people and for me, someone who learned and really understood their significance relatively late in life, those scrolls seemed untouchable (the truth is they really ARE untouchable by human hands.  Torah readers use a Yad – a pointer – to follow the letters). I felt a huge responsibility to do justice to the words, my Torah portion’s meaning, and to those who created the actual scroll.

The Torah’s parchment, sheets from a kosher animal, is soaked in limewater to extract hairs and other unwanted fibers and then stretched over a frame to dry. The scribe uses a moose feather and special ink for the intricate lettering.  After the Torah is complete, sinews are used to sew the sheets together, forming one long scroll. When the scroll is sewn together, it is attached to wooden rollers.

During these Days of Awe, I experienced the emotions of seeing another scroll that resonated strongly with me and it was not in another synagogue. Only days after attending Rosh Hashanah services, I was fortunate enough to view an art exhibit, “Nature Extracted” at Marymount University’s Barry Gallery. The exhibit, curated by Trudi Van Dyke, shows the work of Patterson Clark and Pam Rogers. As a long time reader of Patterson Clark’s column, Urban Jungle, in the Washington Post’s Health and Science section (Tuesdays), I was eager to view his work in a gallery setting. It was when I saw Patterson’s piece, “Scroll of Labor,” that I was filled with awe.

 Scroll of Labor

Weed-soot ink on paper from Morus alba. Supports made from PhyBostachys

Patterson’s journey probably began long before he starting clearing up parkland behind his home but for purposes of this blog, and explaining the artwork in “Nature Extracted,” suffice it to say things built up steam when he got a permit from the National Park Service to clear a park of invasive weeds and vines, many of which were making it impossible for indigenous species to grow.

Patterson’s respect for invasive weeds is evident – he talks about them reverence. My tone, when it comes to weeds, is less than reverent. The artist and botanist in Patterson experiments with the properties in invasive plants and weeds such as Ivy, Garlic Mustard, Mulberry, Mahonia, Rose of Sharon, Wineberry, Japanese Honeysuckle, Norway Maple and others to discover their potential use(s) in his art; some leaves, if not composted, can be used for inks or to make paper. Pigments are not only extracted from flowers, seeds, roots and stems but he also uses a process to use the soot as pigment.  Some wood is used for printing while other might be incorporated into the artwork’s frame.  

 

 

 

By understanding the unique properties extracted from the weeds, the plants’ materials create art. It’s just as much about process as it is product. Every piece displayed represented the process and many incorporated information about the weed itself, such as the number of species portrayed in the work:

They are beautiful works of art, enhanced when the intricate, laborious process is respected and understood. Hence, “Nature Extracted.” I wandered through the exhibit and suddenly, felt like one very uninformed, limited gardener.

The invasive bamboo many of us work hard to contain in our yards can be problematic for most gardeners and I must be honest, the thought of repurposing them, or thinking of them as anything remotely useful usually doesn’t cross my mind. As can be seen on www.alienweeds.com, Patterson uses bamboo culms for drawing pens:

Patterson strips, cleans and cooks Multiflora Rose’s tender spring bark and extracts the thin and thick fibers to make paintbrushes.  The fibers are grouped and glued to the end of a bamboo culm make the brush.

Fibers are also used to make paper; young ones produce soft pinkish hues and coarse, dark ones produce deeper tones. When the Multiflora Rose’s roots are cooked (in an alkali), Patterson extracts a rust colored ink.  Alternatively, if he boils the roots in water, a different color is produced.

Triad

Invasive plant pigments on Acer platanus wood

 Wineberry

Pigments from Mahonia bealei and Rubus phoenicolasius on Ailanthus altissima wood

Whether getting ink from ivy, identifying edible elements from what he collects or painstakingly processing paper, Patterson views these invasive weeds – yes, those weeds most of us groan and swear at – as honored, respected partners.  I admire that attitude but must be honest – it’s highly unlikely I will ever love mahonia or take the time to cut into the stalk and examine the colors much less use the plant for art or anything remotely beautiful. Patterson’s understanding and respect for these invasive weeds is stunning and admirable.

Below is a picture of one of Patterson’s pieces that, for me, exemplifies the aesthetics, labor, joy and partnership in his work with nature.  “Intersection” tells a story:

 

 

 

 

Intersection

Invasive plant inks and papers

 

I admit to feeling pangs of guilt as I learned more from Patterson because only hours earlier, I went the easy route when my son needed art supplies. I didn’t collect weeds or think of another source other than heading off to the art store. There before us were tantalizing rows of pigments in every conceivable form and hue. I could buy them. I didn’t think about their source.  My son needed a sketchpad and it was easy for us to select a few different colors and weights of paper.  We’ll just have to see if anything needs a frame.

Scrolls are literally and visually, the balance and harmony of old and new.  With that in mind, this coming Friday night as I, with the other past Presidents of our synagogue, ascend the bimah and hold the Torah scrolls during the chanting of the Kol Nidre declaration, I think I will be able to close my eyes, just for a minute, and visualize the new scroll I saw just a week earlier.

May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year.

For more information about Patterson Clark’s work, check out the links below:

http://www.npr.org/2011/02/28/134054004/the-art-of-war-on-invasive-species

http://www.alienweeds.com/index.html

http://www.washingtonian.com/blogs/capitalcomment/washingtonian/spotlight-patterson-clark.php

http://craftcouncil.org/magazine/article/alien-harvest

http://www.gazette.net/article/20120404/ENTERTAINMENT/704049845/1148/digging-into-field-work&template=gazette