When we began to design our garden, I was not particularly enamoured of gravel gardens even though they are a staple of Japanese gardens. The gravel symbolically represents water with rock groupings standing in for islands. Typically the gravel is raked in patterns that emphasize the water imagery.
Seeing more of that type of garden — in books and in person — slowly changed my attitude to the point where I suggested to Mark that we add a second gravel feature. We now have one in the front garden as well as in the back.
Mark rakes the gravel into patterns whenever we are expecting garden visitors. We had two big garden parties in August and I noticed that he raked different patterns for each event. The images above and directly below are of the front gravel garden which is circular. You can see the two different effects, though both clearly suggest water.
The back gravel garden is more irregular in shape and has a stepping stone path through it. For the first party, he raked it in a pattern suggesting ripples spreading out from the rocks (using that concept out front for the second party).
For the second party, he raked the back gravel garden in a pattern he had never used before. I particularly like the more decorative quality of this design.
The rocks are outlined in a way that suggests ripples from a pebble. But the edges of the gravel are are also outlined to create a border. The two are linked with yet another directional pattern that could suggest waves, though much more informally than the pattern he used in the front garden.
Friends who have a lovely garden that includes many architectural fragments called us just about a year ago to let us know that a Madison monument company was closing and was selling off their stock. Mark went to take a look and came back with two pieces.
The one below — the word "center" — is supposedly from the old Madison Art Center. Who could resist that provenance? What's even better is that the letter "C" has darkened, making the word look like "enter" at a quick glance. I want to set the stone vertically — near our garden's entry path — with the "C" mostly buried!
Mark also came home with this gravestone. I was taken aback to say the least. Not that it bothered me to have such a monument in the garden, but because we were making an effort to edit the art we put in the garden and I wasn't sure if this "fit." But it is definitely a conversation piece! The text reads:
Wife of William Lavin
died April 5, 1868
aged 84 years
Native of Co. Sligo, Ireland
May she rest in peace. Amen.
What an eventful life she must have had, judging from that bit of information on her stone. And what a strong woman she must have been to live to such a great age in that era. I wish we knew more about her.
Mark asked why the monument company had an old gravestone for sale. He thought perhaps it had been vandalized and taken from a cemetary. That's not the case. Apparently old stones are often replaced with new ones; sometimes families add more names or just want one that is legible again. We saw a number of clearly new stones at the Hauge Log Church over the weekend with 19th C. names and dates carved in them. This monument — to an important member of the Hauge Church — has both the original and a new stone in place.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, huge fortunes were being made in a string of American industrial centers: Pittsburgh, Buffalo, Detroit, Cleveland. Today we tend to think of them only as Rust Belt has-beens. But the people making the money used a chunk of it for civic improvements like art galleries and botanical gardens in their communities. Today the wealth of these cities is in their architecture and art and they offer untold treasures if you are willing to look beyond their troubles.
As I mentioned before, we have taken to stopping in Cleveland to spend time at the museum every time we go out East. Their collection is breath-taking in scope and I always find a new treasure like this Mondrian below.
One of the things that has been drawing us off the highway is the fact the Cleveland Museum of Art has been undergoing a major addition. Each time we visit more galleries are open and the final design of the new building is now almost completely revealed. We took these shots when we stopped there last summer.
The classical old building and the contemporary addition are connected with an atrium whose walls and ceiling are glass.
The vast space includes two large areas filled with a variety of mostly green plants and with benches where you can relax and enjoy the greenery up close.
The plants add a softness that nicely contrasts with all the hard edges of the architecture. And the waving bamboo fronds are completely magical in that space.
There are also green spaces on the various roofs. All of these are newly planted gardens, so I am looking forward to watching them grow and change on future visits.
You get glimpses of constantly changing sky and clouds through the dramatic glass architecture.
The exterior of the original building includes formal gardens and massive urns on pedestals holding equally massive floral displays . . .
and sculpture whose mood can change as quickly as the weather.
This house was across the street from Ausrine's Arts Room in Evanston. With nothing but my phone to use to capture this idea as well as too much sun creating contrast and shadows, I'm afraid these are not the best pictures. But you can see what attracted me: curving the front steps instead of alligning them with the front door in a straight shot. Adds a touch of character and makes the house stand out from its neighbors.
However, I am less enamoured of the fact that the sidewalk curves in the opposite direction from the steps.
But that big evergreen tree on the right would have to go in order to make enough room for the walkway to continue the same directional cuvre as the steps.
I'm sure that what caught my eye is that this idea reminded me of the curved walkway we created to the back door steps at our first garden (below). You can read about building this walkway HERE.
Every morning I start my day in a new garden. Sometimes they're located in the next state, sometimes on the other side of the globe. All my visits are courtesy of photographer Mick Hales and his lush little book, "Gardens Around the World: 365 Days." Despite being originally published in 2003, which is when I bought my copy, it's still in print and available from from Amazon.
The book is a calendar with a double page spread for each day of the year. On the left is the name, location and a description of the garden shown on the righthand page. The gardens pictured in the book are arranged alphabetically. I'm currently in the midst of the "b" gardens which continue until mid-February. I've been to the Alhambra, the Bagatelle, Barnsley House and Ballymaloe to name a few. Sometimes there's only one image of the garden, other are featured for a few days.
I used this unusual calendar for the first few years after I bought it. Then I put it away and took a break for a couple of years. That way, when I pulled it out again, the gardens would seem new and exiciting. The book sits on the edge of the kitchen counter where I see it each morning. The years it's in storage, I use the 365 Days in the Met Picture-a-Day calendar, from the Metroplitan Museum of Art. Both beautiful ways to start the day.
I found this fabulous little book not long after it was first published in 1999 and it's been one of my own winter favorites to enjoy ever since. It's also a favorite title to give as a gift. It does for snow creatures what "Play with Your Food" did for dinner.
You can see how wondrous, wacky and witty the snowmen in this book are from the examples below.
As someone surrounded by pine trees, Porcupineneedle has always been my favorite among the many ideas the book offers. In addition to creative snow figures there are a number of castles and forts and concepts to help you turn your drifts and snowy landscape features into snow sculptures.
Editor's note: This is just a book that I love and wanted to share with you; I'm not receiving any remuneration for this mention.
I know the lion/lamb phrase really refers to March, but this morning's weather suggests a comparison since October can be as changeable as early Spring. Today, however, is definitely lamb-like: warm, sunny, breezy — a perfect romp of a day. Though we need rain, nothing beats a beautiful beginning to October. Here's what our garden looks like this morning:
Though the Chicago Botanic Garden calls its annual event an "Antiques and GARDEN Fair" there were not as many items which could actually find a home outside in the garden as I would have liked. On the other hand, there were some wonderful indoor flower and garden displays that we greatly enjoyed. The theme of the show was “Color in the Garden: An Artist’s View.”
As you can see from the picture below almost all the vendors also had some kind of flowers or plants included in their displays. I thought this was a particularly charming idea with its row of matched pots in ascending and descending sizes.
The artist below actually used dried flowers to create flat patterns that reminded me of Indian textiles with their bright colors and repeated motifs. The yellow one uses cosmos and the pink one at the right uses straw flowers. They are pressed paper thin in a hydraulic press.
At the entrance to one of the tents were a pair of charming potager-style vegetable gardens by The Organic Gardner.
Craig Bergmann Landscape Design had one of their usual tour de force floral creations on display in the center of the tent. Can't you just fantasize doing this instead of the typical Christmas tree?
Maria Smithburg with Manfredini Landscape and Design created a dramatic tulip walkway with glossy red cylindrical planters.
Depending on where you stood, the effect of the display constantly changed.
The containers made me think of those painted red trunks in the garden of Jack Lenor Larsen's Long House (below). They both have that same element of scale and drama.
You can see through the doors that the next garden display was equally dramatic but in a much more subtle way.
The space down the center of this gallery has been home to many incredible displays over the years, including this one by William Heffernan Landscapes.
I liked the combination of fantasy with the mirrored reflections and practicality with decorative squares of edible plants. I noticed that someone had added a small square of pink paper on the sign at the beginning of this garden with the hand-written notation "cherry trees." Clearly they'd been getting a lot of questions about the pink branches!
Since there were vendors in the hallways outside the conservatories we took advantage of the location and strolled through three different growing environments.
I've been reading a lot of interior design and decor books lately and the plants above and below both suggested color and texture combinations for paint and fabrics to my eye.
A local gardener who is also a quilter had her textile handiwork imaginatively displayed in her garden on a recent visit.
This totem, however, was my favorite object in her garden and one of the most creative things I've seen in any garden. It was a retirement gift made for her by staff and some of the students at Malcolm Shabazz High School in Madison. They also presented her with an accompanying book.