Monday, February 27, 2017

The Garden - Writing it down

"For those who have not got very good memories for the names of plants, I strongly recommend them if they can draw to make a little colored sketch, however small on the pages of a gardening book next to the name of the plant.  This will be found a great help to the memory."
- Mrs. C.W. Earl

Looking back is often the best way to look ahead . . . . 






The Gardening year begins for me as soon as the new year arrives, and arriving with it are much anticipated new plant and seed catalogs as well as new- fallen snow. Waking  up early in the morning after a snowfall, I am always reminded of the beauty of "bones" in my garden. Frosted like pastries, the trees, shrubs and garden structures take on new dimension.




My attempts at keeping records of my garden have taken many forms over the years, beginning with lists and notes written hastily at the end of a hot day in 1990, and continuing today with my ongoing efforts to include  illustrations with my notes.



I like to experiment with markers, 
colored pencils and watercolor on the page



I recently discovered a garden journal written by the 
gardener who lived in my house over 60 years ago.



The pages inspired me as background 
for a new series of paintings, to be turned into note cards.



Finished notecards, themes taken from the 
heading of each journal page, 
Vegetables, Tulips, Narcissus and Plans



Rumpled pages, rusty tools, soiled gloves and mossy pots, more inspiration for looking back, forming new ideas and making plans. What worked well, what didn't work as planned, what to move, what to divide, and what to add . . . its all there in the notes.  




Thursday, January 12, 2017

Winter Garden



There comes a time when the risk to remain tight in the bud is more painful than the risk it takes to blossom - Anais Nin












The garden outside is having a winter's rest,  but inside I still need the blessing of blooms, 




Time to bring some life into the house, 
time for making a merry mess, 
gather the pea gravel, soil, bulbs and pots.




Those tiny fingers of green will soon stretch to become graceful green ribbons, finally topped with fragrant white blossoms.
TIP - for shorter, less floppy stems, a splash of vodka in the water of your Paperwhites , especially at the beginning of their growing period, works wonders!



The wonder of bulbs, the magic of growth!
Sleeping beneath the frozen soil, the perennial Daffodils I planted last Autumn are not nearly ready to spread their cheer . . . .



 . . . .but no worries as the Paperwhite Narcissus are only too happy to share their sweet fragrance inside, bringing with them a promise of Spring to come.




Narcissus Tete a Tete, like warm butter on the window sill






Take the bulb into your hands
Feel the dry skin, the lifeless tangle of roots at the bottom

See the little green finger emerging at the top
Hope, is it hope?

Make a bed of soft soil or small rocks
Tuck the bulbs in with a drink of water
then wait with hope

Days later look at the green sprout, taller now, 
growing towards the light in the kitchen window
It is hope, hope lives


My Winter Wonderland inside, let the ice and snow cover everything outside! I can wait . . . .
















Sunday, November 27, 2016

Glimpses of Gold


"Let us have gardens then, where we may see our friends, and parade our vanities if you will, before the eyes of the world. Did you ever know anyone who was not delighted with a garden"? - John Sanderson, Luxembourg Gardens, 1837





Paris in November is a study in neutral tints, with unexpected shots of warm yellows and golds punctuating the city's parks and markets.  The etchings of bare branches against a canvas of blue and gray skies is relieved here and there with the glow of the ginkgo, not yet having surrendered it's golden fans.






Sketching in the Luxembourg Gardens, a way to capture the day in my travel journal.






Pere Lachaise Cemetry, a village of stone and iron, final resting place of some of the most famous artists writers and musicians of all times.


Ah, the tragic story that is hidden somewhere around this monument, with the artist's palette and brush immortalized in bronze.  yet there, at the base, golden flowers, someone still remembers . . ..





A final sketch on a rainy day, meandering the paths and avenues of this city within a city, reflecting on the past and the present.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

No man is an island

For whatever we lose, like a you or a me, it's always ourselves that we find at the sea . . . . one of the best things to find at the sea is your own special island, for me this summer that island was in Maine.

Monhegan, 10 miles out to sea, a million miles from the voices of the rest of the world,  just for now.




A smaller island, uninhabited now, sits across from Monhegan, creating a quiet harbor for the boats . 




"MANANA - a mountain hidden by the sea, her secret body descends in depths unmeasured , touching the floor of time." - Kate C Chappell






The houses and cottages settle into the rock, their faces turned expectantly towards the open sea.







"Here, on the cottage deck, beneath the flag. petunias, white as gull's breast, flap against cerulean sky"- ISLAND MORNING, Frances D. Vaughn










Oh, you wont know why and you can't say how, 
Such a change upon you came
But once you've slept on an island, 
You'll never be quite the same.  - Rachel Field




Small tokens from the beaches and the woods, pencils sketches in my journal, ways to save and to savor the memories.







Island Sunset



The days may end with sunset or fog, 
but the memories linger on and on.






Saturday, August 20, 2016

Summer Madness

How quickly the natural world returns to it's own order after we have passed through, shouting our names - Pocketful of Names, Joe Comer


Returning from a two week "vacation", my garden greeted me with less than a welcome and I found myself looking out and down, mostly down as I went straight to work on the weeds that had flourished on neglect. The days were hot and muggy, I was hot and muggy, and I grumbled more than I hummed.  August, I mumbled to my self, not a favorite time for this garden!





When I finally straightened up my beds and my body, satisfied that I had conquered the encroaching wilderness, I looked up and out and I saw the zinnias . . . and the swallow tails, and . . .how had I missed all that?



The basil was enormous, full of blooms and bubble bees, perfuming the air all around it.




All the hydrangeas seemed to be abundant with blossoms



The Chinese lanterns had never been so bright and unblemished



Even the phlox were brilliant, no mildew in sight.




The petunias literally glowed, I think they had doubled in size while I was away.




Soon the tapestry of my late summer garden took hold
 and I headed to the garden shed for my flower snips . 
 August after all is the best month for gathering bright and beautiful bouquets.



Friday, July 22, 2016

Cicada Serenade



Cicadas and katydids
Sing from the branches of the lilac bush
And whippoorwills call 
From the lacy green weeping willow tassels

And fragrant buds unfurl their petals
While owls hoot to each other
And the Moon looks silently on
While Fairies dance and sing


- Marian

Its July and the hot nights are filled with the sound of the cicadas singing in the trees.  It's the song of summer here in the Midwest, one I have heard for as long as  I can remember.





We called them locusts as kids, and I was slightly terrified by the empty shells I found clinging to the rough bark of trees. The angry buzz of a live insect can still startle me, but my fear has evolved into fascination and I've discovered this noisy insect in some unexpected places -like France.






The Cicada motif can be found everywhere 
in Provencal France, even in the fabrics!




These weighty little clips are used to keep the picnic cloth from blowing away






This ceramic wall vase holds a handful of garden blooms





Souvenirs from trips to the south of France are sure to include some cicadas, especially in pottery. 


My favorite "soap on a rope" in the shape of a cicada with the scent of lavender is only a memory now, but the serenade of the cicada continues to evoke memories of summers gone by.


Sunday, June 12, 2016

Pining for Peonies



"This morning the green fists of the peonies are getting ready to break my heart as the sun rises, as the sun strokes them with his old buttery fingers."
- Mary Oliver





I pick May as my favorite month in the  garden, and Peonies are no small part of that decision.

There are more than 30 species and many hybrids and cultivars to choose from, but my peonies have all chosen me, shared by friends, rescued from forgotten gardens and transplanted from the backyards of parents and grandparents. Some day I am  going to figure out just what varieties I do have, but when the peonies begin blooming I usually find myself lost in the task of  just enjoying them .


T

Early in May the tree peonies bloom, with blossoms so blowsy and big the stems can hardly hold them up. 
Happy in a partly shady spot, they stand tall and graceful above the newly unfurled ferns .





The month long parade of blossoms in my garden is lead by the deepest shades of magenta, this one's delicate silken petals open
 to reveal centers of powdered gold






Pinks of every hue soon follow, until finally there armloads to gather and  buckets full  to  share. 





As cut flowers, peonies are outstanding, with strong stems and intense fragrance. Vases are filled and brought into the house to add beauty and fragrance (and an occasional hitchhiking ant) to every room.  







As May comes to a close, the last peony to bloom in my garden is this beauty, thick with blush satin petals touched by tiny cerise kisses 




The peony is a flower surrounded by tradition and sentiment, and in the garden it's one of the longest-lived and most dependable perennials. Drought tolerant and pest free, it's the flower you are most likely to find blooming away for untold years in old cemeteries and abandoned farmsteads. With colors from deepest burgundy, magenta, pink, coral and  yellow to the purest white, and unmatched fragrance, it's no wonder peonies have been a cherished favorite in gardens for hundreds of years.






As a wedding flower, if you are fortunate enough to pick a date in May, a bouquets of peonies combining fat buds and full blown blossoms is exquisite.





I'm sorry to see then go as summer continues into June, but the memories remain, and this year my peonies were the privileged participants in a beautiful May wedding celebration - An honor for the flowers and for the gardener who lovingly grows them.