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

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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.

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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.

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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).

Fall Into . . . Brookside

Labor Day is a distant memory, the kids have been back at school long enough to be in the swing of the academic year, football season has started, the World Series has begun (GO TRIBE!), the sun is setting earlier and yet? So far, autumn still feels a little like summer. Halloween approaches (in fact, some department stores have already leapt ahead with Christmas displays) and cooler weather clothing is now in the closet but still, it doesn’t quite feel like it’s time to think about nature’s transition into another season. This is a time of the year when I still yearn for the summer’s vibrancy and look at my garden and see some color yet it’s hard to ignore the withering plants and wonder where the summer has gone. August was cruel with heat, little rain and oppressive humidity. As the seasons change, NOW is a fabulous time to explore the beautiful public (and private) gardens – no matter where you live – and see the remaining beauty of Summer and the spectacular, unique and unexpected sights of Fall.

In the DC Metro area, we have a number of fabulous gardens to explore: River Farm. Ladew Topiary Gardens, McCrillis Gardens, Meridian Hill Park, Dumbarton Oaks Park, Green Spring Gardens, Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens and each holds a unique feeling. Because McCrillis and Locust Grove are close to my home, I visit them often and am very familiar with each path. I know Locust Grove’s Native Garden and have enjoyed watching it evolve over the seasons. Its’ natural beauty and meandering trails are accessible, peaceful and always provide spectacular views. McCrillis, too, is a natural, serene setting and in my opinion, it is beautiful year round but many flock to it in the spring for their tremendous inventory of azaleas. Over this past weekend, my husband and I decided to walk through Brookside Gardens (www.brooksidegardens.org) in Wheaton, Maryland because we haven’t been there since their recent extensive renovations and needed a glimpse of whatever summer color remained and experience those unique senses so specific to this season.

Simply driving into the parking lot – before you even go down any of the trails or explore the multitude of diverse, themed gardens, this is what you are treated to:
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img_3167After going through the Visitor Center and entering the grounds, it’s immediately apparent that Brookside’s attention to detail encompasses just about everything from seating . . .

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. . . to how the gardens are organized. Whether you’re in search of gardens highlighting native plants, intrigued by the Fragrance Garden, Aquatic Garden, Rain Garden, Butterfly Garden, Trial Garden and/or more, Brookside has it. It also has two Conservatories and programs year round. There’s is no “best” time to explore Brookside’s 50 acres – it’s a place with year round interest and unique beauty, events and activities. For those who only go to Brookside during the winter holidays for their amazing Festival of Lights, I encourage you to continue the tradition and add another season to the roster. No matter when you go, you’ll be delighted and there’s so much to explore.

There were a few areas I thought were particularly well done and original, starting with the “outdoor school” garden. Even more exciting? It was filled with excited families exploring the area, aware that through nature, all can be taught (and learned). The area is designated by this sign img_3171

and surrounded by a white picket fence. Inside there are separate “subject” areas, such as math, music and science, using plants and decorative objects to unify the “lesson plan. As we wandered through the area – (we brought the average age UP a few years but we didn’t mind) – we, too, were engrossed in the day’s lessons. The explosions of color and use of a little stage area, quotes on signs and groupings of plants to attract and identify pollinators excite a student of any age:

 

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Exiting the Outside School we entered, appropriately, a vignette garden dedicated to COCKTAILS!!! We were greeted by a succulent covered figure carrying cocktail glasses in her hand:

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The Cocktail Garden is an appealing way to display plants that can easily be grown in your garden and used in your kitchen. The display (pictured below) shows how cleverly plants can be identified and better yet? Recipes are available for visitors. It was fun exploring those beds and seeing not only what kinds of plants can be used for consumption, but just how beautiful they are in a garden setting. In fact, many of them, such as lavender and mint, are things you probably already grow. Brookside includes some more unique ingredients, such as Meyer lemons and jalepenos, and the point was well made: think about how you can use plants in your garden for aesthetic as well as practical purposes. It doesn’t have to be one or the other:  img_3196

 

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Leaving the Cocktail Garden to explore new areas brings the eye to so many exceptional sites: the thistle growing in a bed of brilliant textures and colors (nice of the swallowtail to pose on that thistle, wasn’t it?), beds of blooms with so many colors it looked like an Impressionist painting and areas clearly transitioning to a new season and proudly displaying the beauty of seed pods and changes in the coloring of leaves:

 

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Wandering through Brookside was a beautiful reminder that certain crocuses do bloom in the autumn, that sedum and roses can entwine and coexist beautifully and that containers can be exciting:  img_3185

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Brookside’s displays of unique fountains, paths, a gingko themed canopy can be enjoyed while looking at the plants surrounding a body of water or crossing a bridge over aquatic gardens. Said differently? By wandering through such a beautifully planned and well thought out garden, it’s clear that whether one is planting a garden bed, figuring out what to place in a container or adding elements for visitors to sit for a break, they can co-exist perfectly, reinforce nature’s theme and unique beauty and, in fact, be functional, too.  img_3238

 

 

 

As we walked under the beautiful purple plant covered arches to make our way to the exit, I couldn’t help but find exceptional beauty only found this time of the year – seeing the seed pods and other changes in plants reminded me not only to enjoy the season we’re currently in, but that now is a time with a whole lot of hints about what’s yet to be explored:  img_3225

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Here’s Hillwood

If you’re in the mood to step back in time and visit one of our area’s many amazing locations, please consider going to the Hillwood Estate: Museum & Gardens, the former home of Marjorie Merriweather Post. In 1914, when Marjorie Merriweather Post was only 27 years old, she became the sole heiress to the Post Cereal Company and one of the wealthiest women in America. Marjorie’s passion for the arts and access to a world of prominent social figures, serious art collectors, connections to Hollywood, key business leaders, political leaders and more is evident throughout Hillwood. It’s unlikely for someone to visit Hillwood and not become immersed in some aspect of her incredible life.

In 1955, after her divorce from her third husband (Joseph Davies, the second ambassador to Russia), Marjorie Merriweather Post bought Hillwood and renovated the estate, including the massive gardens, with a vision: the 2 year project would be a museum and home to astonishing art collections (specifically known for the Imperial Russian Collection and French decorative arts) and she designed formal garden in the landscape specifically to highlight mature specimens.

The mansion and gardens are wonderful year round and there’s so much to discover, it’s hard to know where to start. If you’re planning a visit, I strongly suggest looking through the website to become familiar and map out your visit – http://www.hillwoodmuseum.org. There’s a calendar with events, hours, entrance fees, exhibits and what’s in bloom (some of the art exhibits change and there are special events) and I highly recommend, from personal experience, making a reservation for their special tea offered only on Sundays – wonderful food, exceptional setting.

Last week, on a rare sunny day, I met two friends at Hillwood to celebrate one friend’s birthday and to finally get outside and enjoy Spring which has been making infrequent appearances during this month. Tired of being inside, our focus was on the gardens and after spending a few hours there, I still feel like there was so much to explore. Here’s what we experienced and I can’t stress this enough – Hillwood is worth making time for and it’s the kind of place one wants to return to no matter what’s on display in the mansion nor what is in bloom in the gardens.

After parking the car and paying a small fee for admission, I walked to the “Motor Court” at Hillwood’s entrance. The Motor Court greeted guests at gates and was designed to allow people to drive around plantings to get an introduction to the Hillwood experience. A statute of Eros, the Greek god of love, welcomes visitors and it’s quite easy to imagine transportation stopping under the porte cochere (a covered drive) as the footmen scurried out of the house to escort guests indoors. Chauffeurs would then take the cars and park them where they would be out of sight. Think PBS and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what you’ll be seeing at Hillwood.

Hillwood's Motor Court

Hillwood’s Motor Court

 

My friends and I then decided to explore the Cutting Garden, made up of long, rectangular, very straight rows of flowers. This is the utilitarian part of the gardens as their purpose would be to decorate the mansion and other buildings on the estate with fresh cut flowers. The extensive Greenhouses are next to the cutting gardens and together, they provided more than enough natural decoration for the massive estate and buildings. The orchids in bloom in the Greenhouse were breathtaking.

Hillwood's Cutting Garden

Hillwood’s Cutting Garden

Hillwood's Cutting Garden

Hillwood’s Cutting Garden

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Greenhouse Orchids

Greenhouse Orchids

Greenhouse Orchids

Greenhouse Orchids

 

 

 

 

 

Next to the cutting beds, in less structured rows but clearly defined planting beds, were tremendous blooms. The foxglove, peonies, catmint, heucheras irises and more blooms were lush, colorful, fragrant and plentiful. It was beautiful – like looking at an impressionist painting.

Hillwood in Bloom

Hillwood in Bloom

 

Peony

Peony

Hillwood in Bloom

Hillwood in Bloom

Hillwood in Bloom

Hillwood in Bloom

Hillwood in Bloom

Hillwood in Bloom

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Rose Garden, though not in full bloom during our visit in mid-May, is an important area on the estate. Marjorie Post had, in 1956, hired Perry Wheeler to adapt the garden to better suit her taste. Perry Wheeler had assisted with the White House’s Rose Garden design and although I’ve no basis for comparison, it was clear that Ms. Post, knowledgeable about so many topics, knew how to seek the best and use that talent and expertise to reflect her interests and preferences. Wheeler worked on Hillwood’s Rose Garden to achieve an intricate balance between each bed and as such, each bed is planted with one variety of a summer blooming floribunda. The Rose Garden also includes early blooming tulips (they were no longer in bloom when we visited), boxwood surrounds the pergola and as white roses climb the pergola in early spring, it is mixed with white wisteria.

Hillwood's Roses

Hillwood’s Roses

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rose Garden Pergola

Rose Garden Pergola

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was Hillwood’s Rose Garden where Marjorie selected to house her ashes. In the middle of the Rose Garden is a large monument with the Post family coat of arms, inscribed with the Latin phrase roughly translated as “All my hopes rest in me.” Many find this phrase only fitting for this intellectually curious, dynamic and self sufficient woman:

Rose Garden Monument with Marjorie Merriweather Post's Ashes

Rose Garden Monument with Marjorie Merriweather Post’s Ashes

Other areas I found particularly beautiful and fun to explore included the Pet Cemetery which welcomes visitors with limestone dogs (poodles, spaniels and hounds) at the entrance. The secluded site feels reverent and clearly shows how beloved Marjorie’s dogs where. Fragrant plants are carefully thought out and it’s a peaceful, beautifully fragrant and special area. I thought it only fitting to see dogtooth violets in bloom around the various graves:  IMG_2403

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Other beautiful sites within the grounds include a secluded Japanese Style Garden with a small mountain landscape and paths following the water as it flows through the terrain, ending in a peaceful, lower pond. This garden includes many native plants alongside Japanese maple, pines and cedars. There are many Japanese sculptural elements, fountains and lanterns. The turtle seemed pretty happy sunning itself on the rocks, too.

 

 

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Here are a few other photographs taken from my recent visit to Hillwood (including the unusual Dacha House in a heavily wooded area, surrounded by rhododendrons and azaleas which was built in 1969 during the Cold War. The Dacha takes a nostalgic view of Russian culture and the bright colors used to paint window carvings and the roof’s dome typify Russian churches) – whether it be the carefully selected plantings, the design of each garden vignette, the materials and styles selected for lights and decorations, it’s clear that by visiting Hillwood’s gardens, you are treated to a spectacular sight and you might even learn a little history. No matter what your reason(s) for visiting Hillwood, please consider visiting this, and the many other natural treasures our area offers, in every season as they change as quickly as the weather.

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Dacha House

Dacha House

Swing Into Spring – Hatchings & Spring Things

 

Spring can be an unpredictable season and these days, it feels like there’s a constant struggle between winter and summer with no clear winner declared (so far). It might seem like it’s hard to get into the Swing of Spring, especially with the temperature’s pendulum going from one extreme to another, but no matter what the weather, there are plenty of ways to Swing Into Spring:

Like thousands of others, I’ve become enchanted by the live cam on the eagle’s nest in the National Arboretum (http://dceaglecam.org). This “bird’s eye view” into the 5 foot wide nest high in a Tulip Poplar is a treat and beautiful sight. In addition, one can participate in (or simply read) the information in the “live chat” forum to learn more about the American Eagle Foundation, specifics about this nest and/or information about other nests (in this area and in other locations, too).

From the first signs of the piping process in the two eggs to watching the tiny grey fluffy eaglets mature and become independent, it’s easy to see why an active bird’s nest helps nature lovers get into the Swing of Spring. Just clicking on the website allows visitors to see lovely sights (day and night), such as the screenshot below of the adult feeding freshly caught fish from the Anacostia to the eaglets:

Eaglets

Eaglets

 

 

 

It’s likely that in your yard and/or neighborhood (perhaps right outside your office window), there are many active nests. Some are obvious, others a little less so. Predictably, the prolific Mourning Doves have returned to my yard, taking up residence in the juniper and holly trees. The first active nest was spotted in the holly tree, nestled carefully behind a thick veil of prickly green leaves and in a sturdy “v” at the top of the tree against a brick wall. Mourning Doves might be common birds and I hope my garden attracts more unusual nests over time but for now, as we’re trying to get into the Swing of Spring, nothing could be as much a hallmark of spring as the sight I was lucky to capture (below): the proud mother dove’s hatchling cuddled up with mom for warmth:

Mourning Dove - Mother & Child

Mourning Dove – Mother & Child

 

 

There are beautiful signs of spring in my garden and I enjoy seeing many of my favorites slowly return this year. For me, spring is like a treasure hunt – I search the garden and surrounding areas for signs of growth. When I spot something coming to life, it’s the same satisfaction as finding buried treasures. Finding spring’s treasures help me move forward with the new season, no matter what the weather. There are days when things seem to change within the course of a few hours but when the temperatures drop, it’s as if the garden stands still for a while – pressed on the “pause button” – waiting for warmer, sunnier days before the blooms really strut their stuff.

I’m a huge fritillary fan and this year, a new variety in the lavender bed has made for a spectacular sight. Watching it grow has been exciting and helped me get into the spirit of spring:

Fritillaria persica - Emerging

Fritillaria persica – Emerging

 

Fritillaria persica - Growing

Fritillaria persica – Growing

Fritillaria persica - Blooming

Fritillaria persica – Blooming

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Throughout the garden, color is beginning to emerge and although the morning ritual of touring the beds is not yet a lengthy endeavor, it’s hard not to feel excited by the beautiful sights (and smells) of early spring:

Tulipa

Tulipa

 

Tulips

Tulips

Epimedium

Epimedium

 

Narcissus Oderata

Narcissus Oderata

Daffodils

Daffodils

One of the best ways to put both feet into this new season is to visit one of the many spectacular gardens open to the public. My personal favorite is McCrillis Gardens located on Greentree Road, right across from The Woods Academy. From its welcoming gates and lovely stone house at the entrance:

McCrillis' Gates

McCrillis’ Gates

 

McCrillis Stone House

McCrillis Stone House

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

McCrillis Garden is a beautiful garden no matter what the season. Paths meander through the property and the mature beds are filled with beauty. There are benches scattered along the property and it’s a peaceful, casual and always interesting setting. The camellias, bloodroot, hellebores, azaleas, witch hazel and more definitely help me get a whiff of the season and all the treasures to be discovered:

Corylopsis

Corylopsis

Hamamelis x Int. 'Primavera'

Hamamelis x Int. ‘Primavera’

Camellia

Camellia

Camellia japonica hybrid Crimson Candles

Camellia japonica hybrid Crimson Candles

Azaleas

Azaleas

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bloodroot

Bloodroot

Japanese Skimmia

Japanese Skimmia

 

 

 

 

Whether it’s taking an interest in nesting birds, appreciating your own garden, exploring the nursery for things that might be fun to add to your yard, taking walks through the neighborhood and/or visiting any of the beautiful sights, especially the public gardens, in our area (even with a winter’s sweater on hand just in case the temperatures are a bit chillier than anticipated), these are terrific ways to get into The Swing of Spring.  IMG_1993

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A Garden’s “Welcome Mat” – The Textures of Plants

The other day while strolling through a nursery looking for signs of spring and inspiration, I saw a lot of pussy willow branches, a sure sign of spring’s approach, and chuckled to myself. Always fascinated by the texture of plants (almost as much as color), I’ve consistently been attracted to plants with “people friendly” textures and shunned those less kind to the human touch.

Pussywillows

Pussywillows

 

 

 

As a very young child, the soft, velvety texture of a pussy willow attracted me much in the same way as babies form an attachment to a soft, cuddly “blankie” and it becomes a child’s cherished, comforting object. Intrigued by pussy willows, I would rub the soft, white, fuzzy buds between my fingers, loving the velvety texture and the way it felt to stroke the softness – rub it any direction and it became softer and more soothing. The advent of spring, for me, was the bunch of pussy willow branches my mother would place in a vase and seeing forsythia line the street.

My admiration for forsythia wasn’t terrible strong (still not a favorite of mine) but those pussy willows? Joy. Pure joy. I still love them and look forward to having a few sprigs in the house as a way to transition to spring from winter. As a child, however, my admiration for the pussy willow didn’t stop with a simple touch or a glance at the artfully placed branches in a vase. Stashower Lore will happily tell you that I, obsessed with caressing those pussy willow buds, took it one step further . . . and as I held a single pussy willow bud in my hand, feeling the deliciously soft texture, I just couldn’t help myself and I brought that bud up to my face to feel the velvety texture against my skin. Somehow – I just don’t “remember exactly how” that bud ended up . . . in my nostril. As in LODGED in my nose. Panicked, I ran to my mother who clearly was horrified and knew that any attempt to remove it would probably make the situation worse. So, off we went to the pediatrician who, with a scary looking instrument, extracted it.

That experience has kept me from shoving pussy willows up my nose but it hasn’t diminished my love for soft textures and an appreciation for plants that, in my definition, are “people friendly.” At the same time, I’ve also developed a strong dislike for plants that are sharp, prickly and to my touch, aren’t welcoming, comforting or soothing. Yes, it’s just another thing to add to my persnickety selection of plants: it’s about color, fragrance, growth pattern, interest and . . . texture.

My preference(s) for certain textures and dislike for others always comes into play when planting, selecting stems for bouquets and/or merely enjoying the scenery. I despise plants with sharp edges because if I can’t enjoy touching them or they discourage exploration, they are banished from my yard. The first to fall victim to my less than rational attitude was removing a Pyracantha (AKA “Firethorn” which I feel is particularly apt) near the entrance to our garden. The orange berries were delightful, I loved the way birds were attracted to it and it took up enough real estate in a not yet developed garden to warrant its placement – it really wasn’t doing any harm. But when I got near it and was pierced by the thorns and found it impossible to prune without “gearing up” I knew it had to go. Those lovely orange berries would have been delightful in a vase near the window, particularly against a backdrop of snow, but those sharp thorns and rigid branches were too big a deterrent so, with help, I was perfectly fine removing it from the garden.

Pyracantha

Pyracantha

 

 

 

In its place are my beloved Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’ (no berries but that corkscrew silhouette during winter more than makes up for the lack of color) and an Edgeworthia chrysantha (providing the brilliant color in warmer months).

Corylus avellana

Corylus avellana

 

Edgeworthia chrysantha

Edgeworthia chrysantha

 

 

 

 

 

To be fair, I appreciate the aesthetics of many plants and landscapes that are strictly “hands off” and when, years ago, we enjoyed the unique, spectacular sights of the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum in Tucson (https://www.desertmuseum.org), I developed newfound appreciation for that magnificent landscape. The shape of the saguaro cactus with white flowers in spring and covered with red fruit in summer is magnificent and a hallmark of the Sonoran Desert. I appreciate their history and ability to adapt to a specific climate but all the same, those spines definitely kept me at arm’s length. The incredible variety of cacti were lovely to observe and learn about – I would love to see the desert in bloom and it is a photographer’s dream any time of the year but when texture comes into play, my preference is to admire these plants through a lens and from a distance. I would love to see the desert in bloom but have no desire to try my hand at growing cacti no matter where I live.

Fish Hook Barre - Sonoran Desert

Fish Hook Barre – Sonoran Desert

 

Cactus Garden - Sonoran Desert Museum

Cactus Garden – Sonoran Desert Museum

I wasn’t crazy about learning about ‘the jumping cholla cactus” and discovering how this plant’s common name came to be. While in Albuquerque one summer for a family bar mitzvah, my husband and I spent an afternoon exploring a shopping district, wandering into cafes, looking at the shops and enjoying a quirky neighborhood. The streets, lined with lovely landscapes of native plantings, seemed removed from foot traffic yet I managed to lose my footing, tripped and fell right into a tiny patch of native plantings – including one of those jumping cholla cacti. I think every single thorn jumped off their cactus and landed directly into my sunburned, already sensitive skin. Hours later, after suffering the indignity of it all and painstakingly (literally and figuratively) pulling out those prickers one by one with a tweezers, I once again vowed to steer clear from plants that couldn’t welcome someone’s skin without protection. It might not be an enlightened gardener’s view or very practical – it might limit my inventory – but at least I won’t feel the pain of gardening merely by walking past a plant!

Jumping Cholla Cactus

Jumping Cholla Cactus

In my own yard in Maryland, the previous owners lined the walls defining our yard with hollies. You guessed it – not a favorite. I appreciate the year round color, I like the berries and the birds they attract and yes, they mask the ugly walls I despise in our yard but slowly, I’m trying to replace those hollies with other choices – leaves that don’t get stuck in bare feet and welcome people into the garden. So far I’ve removed quite a few and found suitable replacements but this is going to be a long, expensive process.

Holly in my Garden

Holly in my Garden

If I could fill my yard with plants that encourage touch, I would. Even if touch isn’t the goal, I would be satisfied with plants that, at the very least, don’t discourage people from appreciating their beauty. I’ve added a smokebush because the fluffy “smoke” hovering above the bush is both beautiful and doesn’t repel someone who might brush up against it and many other shrubs add interest, height, texture and color, helping to evolve the landscape. The succulents I’ve added might not be the sort one would spend a long time touching but they’re not going to harm anyone and I enjoy them all the more when they bloom.

I love lamb’s ears, multi-hued, velvety violets, rows of edibles, exuberant sundrops, feathery amsonia and the way many plants sway in the wind. The lush, almost jelly-like filled succulents, stonecrop, fescue, nepeta, scotch broom, sedum, lady’s mantle and spring ephemerals in the Green Bed add color, pattern and yes, acceptable texture. You won’t find any plants with thorns or stiff textures in my landscape if I can help it. Slowly, over time, I hope to be surrounded with color, interesting, varied, welcoming and people friendly plants that encourage exploration with no fear of injury. I’d like my garden to say, “Please, Touch Me!” It’s OK with me to touch the puffy globe of allium and walk through the native bed to gather phlox, cardinal lobelia, bluebells, daisies, lily of the valley, mountain mint, helenium, camass and more. The fothergill, nine bark, hydrangea, viburnum, witch hazel and little gem magnolia have replaced many hollies and I’m trying to figure out what shrubs and/or trees will be added this year. Like everyone else’s garden, mine is a work in progress and there are so many variables as well as seasons of trial and error. But what you won’t find in my garden will be new plantings that intentionally discourage visitors from touching, smelling and experiencing (safely) the landscape.

Lamb's Ear

Lamb’s Ear

Soft Green Bed

Soft Green Bed

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Soft Green Path

Soft Green Path

 

Phlox

Phlox

 

 

 

 

 

 

As spring approaches and the beautiful beginning of a new season emerges, I hope to soon begin my morning ritual of exploring the garden and delighting in whatever nature brings. No shoes required.

Colorful & Soft

Colorful & Soft

The Gift of Nature – An Annual Amaryllis Tradition

 

It has been over a year since my first post as a Guest Blogger for Behnkes: Grateful and honored for the opportunity to be an honorary member of the Behnkes writing family, I think it only appropriate to return to the same theme from my introductory post – family, traditions and nature.

Guest blogging for a family owned business rich with history is fortuitous because many of my posts reflect my personal history and traditions with nature. Last year I wrote about my family’s annual holiday tradition of sending an amaryllis bulb as a gift (“Sally’s Amaryllis”) . . . and it’s that time again.

In December, when a box arrives at my house marked “Caution. Live Plant Inside” I know it’s officially the holidays. The tradition started so long ago I honestly can not remember those initial years but it has continued – for which we are all grateful – and that bulb is eagerly anticipated.

Many (if not most) have personal and meaningful ways to mark milestones and celebrate holidays – for me, it’s reassuring to know the Annual Amaryllis Tradition continues no matter how geographically scattered we are or how much time passes. The amaryllis’s arrival officially begins our family’s holiday season – it’s not on any calendar, it arrives on the doorstep and continues in a sunny, warm window.

Amaryllis Bulb

Amaryllis Bulb

Amaryllis Beginning Growth

Amaryllis Beginning Growth

 

 

 

 

 

There have been too many amaryllis varieties to recall yet all have been unique and treasured. I know the annual selection process is one of careful review, weighing the pro’s and con’s of each variety, before making the final selection. Last year was Sao Paulo, before that it was Lemon Star and I can recall Apple Blossom, Matterhorn, Candy Stripe and Stargazer. But there have been more . . . and best of all? We look forward to continuing the tradition of an Annual Amaryllis far into the future.

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In truth, it’s not really an amaryllis that makes this a meaningful tradition – it could be anything. But knowing how important it is to see something grow, to bring the beauty of nature indoors during cold weather months, that’s what this is about. My mother used to force paper whites – they sat in the window overlooking mounds of snow, sometimes framed by the icicle daggers forming on the gutters – because she needed the joy of seeing something thrive during the non traditional growing months and it is an easy, often dramatic, way to “garden” in winter.

I purchased paper whites bulbs and placed them in a terracotta bowl on a bed of pebbles (below) – they’ve grown beautifully and the fragrance reminds me of my mother, especially at this time of the year. In the past, I’ve also used bulb vases to bring a single bulb to flower (below on right):

Paper white bulbs

Paper white bulbs

Single Paperwhite Bulbs in Forcing Vases

Single Paperwhite Bulbs in Forcing Vases

 

 

 

 

 

Paper whites in Bloom

Paper whites in Bloom

Gardening doesn’t stop merely because we’re not tending to a garden outdoors during the cooler weather– it might be more challenging, but it doesn’t mean you can’t experience the joy, and reap the rewards, of growing things indoors. The options are limitless – a few herbs grown in a pot in a sunny kitchen window is the winter’s substitute for an herb garden and if you crave some of the delightful colors often found in annuals, just put some seeds in a container and watch them grow. One of my favorite annuals is the zinnia so I decided to put some seeds in a little burlap sack just to see if I could enjoy the beauty of zinnias in winter.

Zinnia Seeds in Burlap Sack

Zinnia Seeds in Burlap Sack

 

 

My mother, Sally, passed away in March 2011 and my father has carried on the tradition of sending the Annual Amaryllis to loved ones. Likely, he made the amaryllis selections every year with my mother but I have to believe it was my mother’s insistence for evidence of life – through nature’s growth – during dreary Cleveland winters that started the tradition. As my father enjoys continuing the process, we also know it brings up memories so it’s a nostalgic time, too. As the winter holidays approach and my family begins to celebrate Hanukah, we’re excited to see what my father’s selection is for this year’s Annual Amaryllis and will enjoy the process of seeing it grow – likely, a subsequent Guest Blog will have some pictures of this year’s lovely blooms.

Under my first Guest Blog, “Sally’s Amaryllis” was a comment from a reader named Lucy. After reading the blog and seeing the photographs chronicling the amaryllis’s growth, she said, “ Your efforts to plant Amaryllis and the way you care for the plant’s growth and maintenance is really appreciable. I am very lazy in growing flower bulbs or any other plant, but after reading your blog I am thinking to grow some beautiful bulbs of probably Amaryllis. I too want to experience the joy of seeing lovely plants grow. Will share my experience with you for sure.” Was another tradition established? We hope to hear from Lucy and perhaps she, too, has started a tradition. We hope we DO hear from readers about ways in which nature plays a role in your family’s traditions.

Thank you, Behnkes, for welcoming me into your family as a Guest Blogger and thank you to my parents for instilling the love of traditions and nature in our family.

My Parents

My Parents

My Roots

While visiting my hometown, Cleveland Heights, Ohio, this summer, I was struck by its beauty. Yes, you read that right. All you cynics who remember when the Cuyahoga River was on fire and imagine Cleveland like this:

Cuyahoga River Burning

Need to reframe your image to something a little more like this:

Cleveland's Lit & Functioning Bridges

Cleveland’s Lit & Functioning Bridges

 

 

Cleveland’s Metroparks (Tom Jones, Photographer)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When I returned from July’s visit, I posted a few pictures on Facebook and received many comments from Cleveland friends. Some friends are scattered across the country and others have remained in the area yet regardless of current residence, the response was universal — there was pride (not surprise) in our hometown and genuine appreciation for its history, reincarnation, tenacity and beauty. 

Most comments were nostalgic, proudly recounted shared childhood experiences and some ratted me out about antics we had, until now, kept under wraps. I was struck by how many friends remembered exploring the numerous parks and recalled field trips to historic sites in Cuyahoga County.

We traded messages about “Pioneer Days” at an area camp (Red Raider) where we learned how to navigate with a compass, tell time with a sundial, build and cook over a fire, live for a week without electricity and identify native species. Many science classes were held in Cleveland’s Metroparks (www.clevelandmetroparks.com), teaching us about geology, botany and biology. On March 15th, some classes traveled to the Hinckley Reservation (part of Cleveland Metroparks –also referred to as the “Emerald Necklace”) to watch the buzzards return to “Buzzards Roost,” a natural phenomena that has occurred every March 15th since 1957.

The reactions to the photographs and ensuing comment string (which continues to this day) brought one central theme and message home: nature’s accessibility (formal, informal, educational and recreational) was an important part of our childhood and has influenced me (and I’m sure many others) as an adult. The memories are precious, often humorous, the lessons have endured and some of the feelings elicited are now reflected in my own garden and appreciation for nature.

One friend’s comment struck a deep, strong chord – after looking at the photographs and thinking about her own childhood in Cleveland, Tipler, said “ . . . after more than a decade in CA it amazes me to remember how gloriously green summer is in Cleveland” – that’s it. She’s right – many of us have attachments to childhood locations and/or preferences for various landscapes but for a lot of us, it’s those childhood memories so intricately tied to nature that captures our hearts and stirs emotions. Cleveland was (and still is) gloriously green.

As my interest in gardening strengthens and reworking our garden is an ongoing project, I think my insistence for certain “vignettes” and preferences for specific plantings is a way of recreating some of the Cleveland feeling(s) and memories that resonate so strongly with me.

My grandparents lived in a lovely white Victorian home within walking distance of our house. With a deep wrap around porch and distinct turret, the house was welcoming, warm and beautiful.  

My Grandparents Home

My Grandparents Home

Without much of a yard, the landscape had a lot of wild violets as groundcover and the walkways were lined with lush, deep beds of hostas – all with purple blooms on their scapes. For reasons that escape me, my siblings and I would approach our grandparents’ home and delighted in “popping” the purple buds before they opened. What were we thinking? Moreover, it was like a contest for us and we rushed up the path, popping as many purple buds as possible. It was like bursting bubble wrap – we couldn’t help ourselves and yet, we were harming the lovely plants so precious to my grandparents’ landscape! I’m pretty sure my grandmother, as patient and loving as she was with us, was none too pleased. Maybe my way of correcting this childish behavior has been to include hostas with purple scapes in my garden. No – I don’t pop them. But when I see them upright and blooming, I smile because it reminds me of my beloved grandparents.

Hosta

Hosta

 

 

 

During one of our many field trips through the “Emerald Necklace” I distinctly remember identifying plants with our teacher, Mr. McDaniels. He presented the lesson as a kind of nature scavenger hunt, arming each student with a clipboard and papers describing what we were looking for while walking through the park.

 

Looking for some of the plants (I have no recollection of the animals – probably I’ve managed to suppress those memories) was a lot of fun and I’ll never forget the delight in seeing Dutchman’s Breeches in bloom (I figured out why it was named as such), the May Apples were more delicate and subtle than expected and I was intrigued by the Jack in the Pulpit. When a plant’s common name aptly describes its’ bloom, it’s hard to forget those lessons.  

Dutchman's Breeches

Dutchman’s Breeches

We loved finding the brown, rough, pliable covering of a buckeye and when not throwing them at each other, we would peel off the covering to discover a shiny, rich brown buckeye – Ohio’s State Tree. Mr. McDaniels said the name was derived from the way the nut looked like a deer’s eye. That I remember. The “real” name – Aesculus glabra – took a little more time.  

Buckeyes

Buckeyes

 

 

 

 

 

Those memories have prompted me to develop a “Woodland” section in the garden. As I watch the Jack in the Pulpit seeds ripen, I think about that clipboard and remember the delight in finding the plant – the same is true as I watch many other plants come to life.  

Jack in the Pulpit Seeds Forming

Jack in the Pulpit Seeds Forming

Ripening Seeds

Ripening Seeds

 

 

 

 

 

 

         

 

 

 

Jack in the Pulpit

Jack in the Pulpit

The fields of trillium, turtleheads, butterfly weed, St. Johns Wort, sedum, bee balm, wild geranium and more were intoxicating (as is defined through a 7th grader’s eyes) and I’m pretty sure some of my enthusiasm and preference for these plants is rooted (couldn’t help myself) in the informal and formal education received by taking advantage of the magnificent Cleveland Metroparks. I notice how many of the plants I remember identifying in Cleveland’s parks now are incorporated into my landscape:  

Trillium

Trillium

 

            

Wild Geranium

Wild Geranium

            

 

 

 

 

 

A few months ago, as I sat on the patio with my father and looked at his garden, I remembered moving into that house and skeptically looking at scrawny trees planted in mud wondering if it would ever feel like home. It was NOT the home of my dreams – where was the big lawn? How could those puny trees ever provide shade on a hot summer day and what were my parents thinking when they left our first house with its deep porch and long backyard filled with fruit bearing shrubs and trees and plenty of area to explore?  

Our First Home

Our First Home

But as we sat there enjoying the morning’s cup of coffee and leisurely reading the paper together, I couldn’t help but enjoy the peaceful setting and look out at the lawn to admire how those scrawny trees and a yard full of mud transformed into a gorgeous, tranquil view:  

My Father's Front Yard

My Father’s Front Yard

My Father's Front Yard

My Father’s Garden

 

 I was lucky enough to grow up on a unique piece of property blending old and new, using elements of a century old estate to enhance the “new” house, built in the 1960’s. It’s easy to wander around the property and understand how big a role nature played for original owners and my family was fortunate enough to see it, daily, and create our own memories.

A century ago, the property had horse stables and bridal paths. Now those stables are used for storage but with the stone horse head clearly identifying its original use, it’s fun to imagine going into the yard, taking out a horse and spending the day riding around the property:  

Old Horse Stable

Old Horse Stable

 

 

 

Old walls and ornamental structures, whenever possible, have been integrated and maintained. The landscaping, much of which has probably grown around the structures to accommodate the architectural details, seamlessly blend nature, history and physical structures.  

Old Wall, Decorative Urn & Plantings

Old Wall, Decorative Urn & Plantings

No longer using plywood over mud to walk through the property, paths are now established and beautifully planted. Mature trees bring warmth and the walks were established to accommodate their placement:  

Property Path

Property Path

 

 


 

 

 

 

This sweet two-story house looks like something straight out of a childhood fable but I imagine that long ago, it was used as a play house for the children living on the property. We refer to it as the “doll’s house” – note the purple martin house in front:  

"Doll House" & Purple Martin House

“Doll House” & Purple Martin House

These were the stone structures, original to the property, where I would go and “hide” when I stormed out of the house in an adolescent hissy fit. Originally they may have edged formal gardens:  

Original Stone Wall

Original Stone Wall

One of my favorite things on the property is this wrought iron arch, probably hand lit at night:  

Wrought Iron Gate

Wrought Iron Gate 

My roots are firmly planted in Cleveland although Bethesda, Maryland has been my home for much longer than I lived in Cleveland. Yet whenever I return to Cleveland, and I continue to work on my garden in Bethesda, I realize – you CAN go home again (or at least bring some of it with you). The very things I treasured in nature as a child are the same I embrace as an adult.

No doubt about it . . . Cleveland Rocks

Cleveland Rock & Roll Museum and Hall of Fame

Cleveland Rock & Roll Museum and Hall of Fame

Months without an “R” No Oysters, Great Gardens

The other day, while searching for seafood to make a celebratory dinner, the saying pertaining to oysters came to mind– are you familiar with it? Basically, it says we shouldn’t expect fresh oysters during months that do not contain the letter R. Did this saying affect our menu? Of course not – there are plenty of ways to enjoy the flavors of the summer season. Yet it shouldn’t surprise you that as I was thinking about the “r-less months” – May through August – my thoughts wandered to how the saying might, or might not, apply to the landscape.

Let me say at the outset – I don’t happen to think the oyster saying really has any direct application to the world of gardening. The four “r-less” months of summer are delicious and that’s pretty much where the analogy stops and starts. But it certainly does make a gardener look at those precious months as a unique, changing color palette that is sure to appeal to anyone’s gastronomic palate. Maybe for a gardener, May – August is like a four course/monthly meal.

For starters, the first month without an “r”, May, is summer’s prelude – an appetizer. The beauty of May is found in the lovely flowers unique to the month. After the delightful, and somewhat “typical” spring landscape of crocuses, daffodils, tulips, snowdrops and flowering trees, May brings us special views of new, fresh starts. After all, what would May be without peonies?  

 

 

The exciting thing about May, however, is that peonies are not the only standouts – during this stage of the gardening season, the peonies, along with bluebells, allium, wisteria, camass, unfurling ferns, flowering shrubs, geum, amsonia and beautiful, developing greens, set the stage for the months to follow.

On my Facebook page, I try and post a Bouquet of the Day (no – they are NOT daily but somehow, the name stuck so I kept with it). In the r-less month of May, I transition from posting this kind of spring bouquet:  

 

 

To this – more descriptive of May’s blooms and colors:

 

As the r-less months progress, gardens seem to change before our eyes and with that, come so many extraordinary sights and smells. Whether it’s your own garden, a landscape you pass while walking somewhere and/or a public garden you visit, the four r-less months serve up a mouthwatering, sometimes unexpected and usually refreshing, beautiful sight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As summer leisurely moves forward, blooms continue, lawns are tended to, treasured perennials are welcomed and songbirds are a common sound. This is the time when we also appreciate the benefits of shade. The trees, now fully in leaf, form a canopy of shade as welcomed as an ice cream truck and/or shaved ice.

The cooling, calm relief of sitting beneath a densely shaded area is unique to these r-less months and it’s a feeling that for many, typifies summer and brings back memories. It reminds me of going to sleep away camp and staying in bunks cooled only by the occasional cross breeze through the opened, screened windows, playing sports in the relentless heat and looking forward to “letter writing time” in the afternoon, often under the shade of a large, old, protective tree.Now it’s officially summer and time to, in addition to the ongoing chores, enjoy our gardens. The palette of spring is changing as summer’s brilliant blooms begin to dominate the landscape. Lawns are still green, leaves are bright and it’s hard not to appreciate the spectrum of colors. Perennials appear and, if well planned, provide a display of colors over the remaining r-less months. Annuals help fill in pots and areas in the garden beds where a little oomph is needed and bright, cheerful bouquets –whether freshly picked and filled with wildflowers, herbs, perennials, greenery and/or any combination thereof – are available everywhere.  

 

 

Summer means blooms on the butterfly bush (I saw my first swallowtail this morning while writing this post). The yellow in a garden is no longer coming from crocuses and daffodils because you might have sundrops, St. John’s Wort, lilies and other vibrant flowers. Brilliant yellow might also appear as buds in your vegetable garden and/or the center of so many lovely multi colored flowers.

Who needs oysters when we can sit on the patio and enjoy a perennial garden filled with color and plants whose blooms are a month or so away? I’m just fine with this view:Sitting outside and enjoying a beautiful view is just about as delicious as the freshest oyster in my opinion.

The Balloon Flower’s bouquet helps celebrate summer’s colors and I really enjoy watching the process of this plant forming the balloon, seeing it “inflate,” deepen in color and then . . . POP! Beautiful balloons.  

This summer, as the four r-less months progress and nature has done a lot of the watering for us (so far), my garden is full of returning perennials and beautiful blossoms are plentiful. As a result, this summer I don’t feel like I’m robbing my garden of its purpose and beauty by cutting some colorful blooms to bring indoors – for some reason, the garden’s almost begging me to gather a brilliant bouquet and the diversity of colors, textures and scents is hard to resist.

The Bouquets of the Day, in my opinion, represent the vibrancy and diversity of summer. Picking the flowers is doing my garden a favor (so I tell myself) – I’m encouraging future growth! My most recent Bouquet of the Day represents early summer colors and diversity. I think they reflect what’s going on in nature. 

 

 

As summer continues, I enjoy watching the Mandevillea vines climb the trellises and can’t wait to see my new White Chiffon Rose of Sharon’s buds open.

 

The Monarda’s blooming and it’s only a matter of time before the hummingbirds drop by for a taste. The deep purple Speedwell’s spires next to the orange Agastache is a distinct summer palette I love. Cleome, butterfly weed, phlox, zinnias, lavender, ornamental oregano, coral bells, penstemon and coleus weave together, reminding me of my Aunt Cora’s beautiful crazy quilts I adore – no neat, perfectly lined and planned rows for me. I love the result of a seemingly unplanned pattern becoming a work of art – planned to be soft, irregular, interesting and artfully worked to blend together.

 

 

 

 

My garden’s planned with heights, blooms times, textures and colors but the goal has always been a garden of interest, relying less on mulch to highlight plants and using plants growing together to form the carpet of my landscape.  

 

 

 

 

When the four r-less months wind down, we will all notice changes: a later sunset, fading summer flowers, emerging fall hues and the hint of a crispness to the air. The dense foliage providing shade from the summer’s heat will be appreciated for other reasons as we enjoy watching the colorful changing leaves. When September arrives, we’ll embrace the “r” and who knows? Perhaps we’ll toast to the new season with champagne and oysters.

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.

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.