The annual Spring Flower Show at Olbrich Botanical Gardens is nicely themed towards families with young children. But there is an abundance of inspiration for home gardeners as well. The following are some of the ideas that caught my eye.
An arbor that's not made of flowering vines but a pair of some variety of Chamaecyparis obtusa held in place by stems of dogwood.
This gate (above and below) could easily be made by a handy homeowner. It could also be put in position just like this, without being part of a larger fence.
My garden has been overrun by Peter Rabbit and his siblings. They don't seem to pay attention to signs. But I would love to try a fence like this looping circle composed of dogwood twigs held together with a few upright stems.
One of my favorite displays was this overturned stump that sheltered tiny storybook characters. But I could also picture it as pure garden sculpture or as the base for a Clematis.
One of the things that can be frustrating about flower shows like this one is that many of the plants aren't hardy here and must be grown in a greenhouse. But these exotic-looking checkered lilies (Fritillaria meleagris) are hardy and easily grown here.
This grouping of pink and white Hyacinth bulbs and pale blue Muscari along with a silvery Heuchera is a subtly beautiful combination. Most of my Heucheras look good almost immediately in early spring but I never thought to pair them with bulbs.
Soft pussy willow catkins against the sky reminded me that I should find room for another willow in the garden.
The Spring exhibit included a little garden shed tucked into a corner, something that almost every gardener dreams about. At the very least, I always have some terra cotta garden pots on hand. Some old, some unusual, always useful. Plus they remind me of the long history of gardening that I am part of.
Even one rain barrel with an adjacent watering can comes in handy. I am a sucker for an old container like this rather than a new plastic one — even black plastic!
I'm not a fan of PJM rhododendrons but I love old tin pails and watering cans. And nothing's nicer in a vegetable garden than terra cotta rhubarb forcers.
This is the garden season where we are making lists of everything we have to do as soon as we can work outside. Be sure to schedule some time to sit back and enjoy your garden, perhaps with a carrot and the daily paper.
And remember that there's no better place for thinking about the garden, designing it or making garden notes than right out in the midst of it!
Last Sunday Mark and I went to the opening celebration of the spectacular new exhibit at the Ruth Davis Design Gallery in Nancy Nicholas Hall at SOHE. I'm already planning my next visit to "Woven Gardens of Hope" because this is a show you will want to see more than once. It is so visually rich that it's almost impossible to absorb it all in one trip.
The opening events last Sunday included an inspiring talk by Connie Duckworth (below), the founder of Arzu Studio Hope whose company works with women in Afghanistan to produce high end carpets for sale around the world. Many Arzu carpets are in the exhibit. So many people turned out for her presentation they had to bring more chairs into a very large lecture room that had already been set up for a big crowd!
Many of the carpets on display came from the Minasian brothers who have a store in Evanston and are also collectors. The opening included traditional music with food by Kabul Restaurant. It was a vibrant celebration with a huge crowd filling the gallery and every level of "The Link," the atrium surrounding it. The Miniasian Rug Company and Sergenian's Floor Covering funded the opening.
Though you may have missed this special opening, there are other events on the schedule (see link below). But it's the rugs that are the real draw. The exhibit includes new and antique carpets of every size and style on the walls, the floor and hanging from the ceiling. There are rugs running like waterfalls down the wall and puddling in ripples on the floor.
These rugs have to be seen to be believed: the scale of many of the carpets is mind-boggling and the workmanship is supberb. And unlike many fiber exhibits, we are allowed to touch the carpets and even to walk on them! Items from the Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection that are on display, however, can only be enjoyed visually.
The gallery is filled with an explosion of color, pattern and texture. Walking through it is like rambling through a souk or bazaar, with a surprise around every turn.
There is enough information to provide context for what you're looking at but not so much as to be either annoying or overwhelming.
In addition to the wealth of carpets, there are also many articles of clothing ranging from robes to hats to shawls like this semi-sheer example covered with embroidery.
All of us got up close and personal in order to fully appreciate the rich detail on so many garments.
Many of the articles of clothing are not only covered with embroidery but they glitter with mirrors and beading, like the items hanging behind Liese Pfeifer, Academic Curator for Ruth Davis Design Gallery at School of Human Ecology, UW Madison.
One of the more impressive groups of textiles are these tent bands draped overhead and trailing down to the floor like giant ribbons.
Woven Gardens of Hope: Afghan Women's Carpets runs through March 1. You can find information about gallery days and hours here.
Here are details on all the events related to the Woven Gardens of Hope exhibit.
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.