Showing posts from January, 2014

William Morris notebook - Photo of the Day

"All artists love and honor William Morris" --- Frank Lloyd Wright 
One of the most influential British designers, William Morris (1834-1896) was an English writer, artist, craftsman, and designer who is considered the father of the Arts and Crafts Movement. He blurred the line between art and craft and eschewed mass-produced items. His aim was to "bring art back into people's lives" and therefore sought out craftsmen from whom he could learn dying arts, such as weaving, stained glass, dyeing or printing.  His philosophical approach of combining use with beauty, profit with pleasure and work with contemplation is still alive in the 21st century.
 Morris enjoyed gardening and he called his home, Kelmscott Manor, 'Heaven on earth'.   He wrote this note about gardening at Kelmscott to Mrs Burne-Jones:   "I am just going to finish my day with a couple of hours work on my lecture  but will first write you a line...... one thing I long for which will certainl…

January's Dream - photo of the day


Naumkeag White Birch by Rich Pomerantz - Photo of the Day

Richard Pomerantz is a professional photographer. He won a commendation from the Garden Photographer of the Year website in the 'Beautiful Gardens' category. This is what Rich wrote. It helps if you know the iconic shot of the blue stairs at Naumkeag...

"Fletcher Steele's 'Blue Stairs' is the centerpiece of the landscape at Naumkeag, a property of the Trustees of Reservations [in Stockbridge, Ma]. 

Everyone photographs this staircase from the same vantage point - head on. 

You can find the tripod hole marks in the ground to make that postcard photo, but I wanted to interpret it in my own way. 

Working on a book, 'Great Gardens of the Berkshires', I decided to create my own interpretation of this truly beautiful and innovative landscape design feature. I visited the site numerous times over a two year period, in all seasons, photographing the stairs from several angles.

 I realized autumn would give me what I was looking for and found this angle. It was perf…

A January Moon Gate Reverie

Once, driving along a road in open farm country, I watched as the January full moon rose over a snowy landscape....

The large white disc shining brightly in a liquid gray sky was spectacular! I now understand why animals howl at the moon - it must be a sympathetic show of appreciation and awe.

The grandeur of the full moon made me reflect on moon gates, the traditional Chinese circular entryways that lead into contained gardens and cities. The rounded opening alludes to the full moon and the Chinese adage that says, 'Flowers are more beautiful when the moon is full.'

Stepping through a round portal is symbolic of so many things. Like our entrance into this world, an enveloping enclosure calls to us to see what is on the other side. This sort of entry speaks to us of mystery and delight - no soaring Calatrava-like bridge or ornamented portico -  a moon gate beckons quietly, saying 'all is well, come see for yourself..."

One of the most lovely moon gates that I have had th…

Majorelle Garden, Morocco - Photo of the Day

The Jardin Majorelle in Marrakech, Morocco took French painter Jacques Majorelle (1886-1962) forty years to create. Behind high earthen walls, shady walks meander though exotic plants and burbling streams and pools filled with water lilies and lotus flowers.   The air is laden with sugared fragrance and songbirds' chirping fill the air. My Blue Heaven.

The Magic of Tree Groves

Waldeinsamkeit is one of those untranslatable German words that means “the feeling of being alone in the woods.” It is a lovely sentiment, meant to convey the sweet solitude of being alone with your thoughts amidst an atmosphere of natural peace.  But how to use it in a sentence? 'Waldeinsamkeit descended upon her as she trudged on, the only sound being the crinkled leaves beneath her footsteps".... 
not so great a sentence? Well, I tried.

Groves of trees have been planted throughout history to try to simulate or induce a feeling of waldeinsamkeit. Geoffrey Jellicoe writes about groves in his classic reference, "The Oxford Companion to Gardens" saying,
"The Greeks adopted the mystical nature of a sacred grove, but also accepted it on intellectual grounds. The Platonic Academy was conducted among formally planted olives, not merely because they provided shade so essential in the Mediterranean countries, but also because the planting rhythms stimulated thought and c…

Gardening makes us Happy - and Serene

"The best place to seek God is in a garden. You can dig for him there. " ~ George Bernard Shaw
The  plot of earth outside your door is an everyday conduit to the life that flows within plants, water, trees, sunlight, rocks, birds and assorted creatures.

Looking at nature in this way is nothing new. The idea of outdoor space as being rarified or special can be seen in the sacred groves of the Egyptians, Indians and Greeks. It is evident in the medieval world’s labyrinths and the Native Americans’ 'medicine wheels'.  And of course Chinese geomancy,‘Feng Shui’, and Indian ‘Vaastu’ both tell us how to read the land.

We have re-discovered this way of seeing the natural world and modern science corroborates this.  Today amazing, almost mystical, scientific discoveries reveal the vital interconnection between us and nature. It tells us we need to be outside.

Great thinkers such as Lao-Tzu, Pythagoras and Emerson, among others, praised Nature and its enlivening effect upon th…

Hardy Sedums - Some Great Varieties to Try!

Sedums seem to be taking over the plant world and for good reason - these small but tough succulent plants are well suited to the growing conditions of rock gardens, green walls, dry harsh environments and green roofs.   They can survive with very little water (in the first year they will need extra watering during a dry period). And many have small but numerous flowers which are amazingly eye catching.

Today low growing sedum varieties are more available than ever thanks to the popularity of green roofs. There are companies that sell Sedum Mats which I think are a great way to install a sedum garden. Just unroll the mat and there you go!

Sedum mats from green roof

I like to use creeping sedum in the rock gardens that I create - the first year they may look like little clumps but they spread within a year to create a solid cover even on rock outcrops...Sedum 'Angelina' is a fave.

I also like the Sunsparkler sedums.  I wrote a post about them. Click here for that post.

 I could…

Photo of the Day - Jack Youngerman Sculpture

This graceful work takes a flat rectangle and twists it into curving forms; it appears lightweight and to be almost floating. Youngerman has an abiding interest in non-Western art and his work, to me, conjures up a Japanese feeling.
It speaks of waves,wings and leaves, complementing the natural forms found in a garden. The cast fiberglass piece is clean and fresh against the green feathery pines behind it. Without the pines it would not stand out as it does. The landscape and the art are intertwined.
Youngerman was introduced to the arts on the GI Bill in the post-WW 2 School of Paris, which offered instruction by masters such as Constantin Brancusi, Jean Arp and Henri Matisse. These artists and their fluid, organic forms influenced Youngerman greatly. 
He is 87 now and still going strong. I took this photo in 2013 at the LongHouse Reserve in Long Island, NY. This place combines great landscapes with great art - a definite 'must see'.

The Secret Allure of Garden Books Revealed

January is Garden-Book-Time-of-Year.
Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.  
~Charles W. Eliot

I know physical books are going the way of the Dodo and that e-books are taking over...but there is nothing more luxurious than sitting with a good garden book and a cup of tea on a cold January morning.

Dreams of flowers, herb gardens, vegetable varieties, garden gates and more weave their way through your thoughts and light up those parts of your brain that have gone dormant.  'Plant Dreaming Deep', indeed! (a nod to a book by May Sarton)

There are so many great garden books out there on so many aspects of horticulture, garden design, ecology, memoirs, etc. that I cannot possibly list them. So I thought I would regale you with photos of collections of garden books that others have shared on the internet. It is an obsession, you know: garden book collecting. It seems that you just n…

Video short- Heaven is a Garden

The sparkling 'Silver Frost' Pear

The ornamental 'Silver Frost' pear (Pyrus salicifolia 'Silver Frost'), also known as the willow leaf pear, is grown for its  branches sporting 3- to 4-inch long narrow, silvery leaves that look very much willow leaves. It is a wonderful small tree that makes a bright silver accent in the landscape.  It grows to about 15 feet tall and  in late winter has bud tips tinged with pink. In early spring the buds open to expose white, five-petaled pear blossoms. The tree's small fruits are hard and bitter to eat. It has  little fall color.
The 'Silver Frost' pear tree can tolerate pollution and  is not picky about soil type or pH.  Likes well drained soil - not wet soil!  'Silver Frost' grows in zones 4 - 7  but likes temperate conditions  - it is not tolerant of long freezes in winter or hot, arid summers. Grows in sun. In late winter, you will need to prune the tree to maintain its shape. You can also trim and shape it  as a topiary. It makes a great arbor …