Great day in Madison and so many other cities around the country and the world as women marched with friends, lovers, families, co-workers, neighbors and strangers to let Donald Trump know the whole world is watching.
About 16,000 people in Madison said they were attending the event via the organizers' FB page. Madison police prepared for double that number to show up. When they saw the actual crowds they changed their estimate to 75,000 - 100,000! Having been at the massive protests at our State Capitol in 2011-12, I'm going with the higher figure. And I must note that — unlike those protests — this crowd skewed young which was one of the most encouraging things about the day.
Mark took over 500 photos. These are a few of my favorites.
Knowing that the crowd would be a sea of pink . . .
I wore my bright yellow beret so my group could use it to find me at our meeting place! Worked like a charm.
The scene in Madison via The Wisconsin State Journal newspaper.
It's a rare occasion when a book is not at the top of my list for giving or getting. First on my list of suggestions this holiday season is this incredible set of books by the pantheon of American women writers: Louisa May Alcott, Willa Cather, Zora Neale Hurston, Sarah Orne Jewett, Katherine Anne Porter, Gertrude Stein, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Edith Wharton. The eight-volume set includes novels and short stories and is published by Juniper Books, an imprint of Library of America. Of course, it's ridiculously pricey at $395.00, but oh so clever.
When I checked the website on the weekend, the set appeared to be out of stock. But that did not seem to be the case yesterday should you seriously think about purchasing it. The set weighs twelve pounds but qualifies for free shipping. The truth is that I have the Library of America Willa Cather volume home from the public library. It has the very same titles just no Charles Dana Gibson on the spine. I know I am much more likely to just dream about this set rather than buying it. Maybe I can figure out how to cover my own books in such a highly visual format.
. . .
I was never a big fan of writer Lois Lenski as a child. In fact, I don't think I read any of her books and I am not sure why that is. But Lenski herself is another matter. I am deep into the fascinating biography/appreciation of Lenski written by my friend Bobbie Malone (below left) who's a historian and educator. Bobbie came to Madison via Texas and New Orleans and knows how to tell a story as this book so beautifully demonstrates.
Lois Lenski created a body of children's literature that she both wrote and illustrated and is still in print, a rare achievement. Her first books were published while she was raising a family during the Depression and living in an old farmhouse in the countryside in New England. Lenski had to carve out time and space to create, which was even more difficult then than it is now. Kid lit, American history, cultural history, urban and rural life — all these strands come together in Lenski's work and make Bobbie's book a great read. You can find it on Amazon or locally at A Mystery to Me Bookstore on Monroe St.
Bobbie regularly gets together with a like-minded group to discuss children's literature. They are currently reading their way through the winners of the Newbery Medal. The Newbery is an annual award given by the Association for Library Service to Children, a division of the American Library Association, to the author of the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children. If you look at the list of Newbery winners you are likely to find many books that you've read.
Bobbie's group just finished reading "Miss Hickory" and she called me to say she was stopping by to loan me the book as she thought I would like it. "Miss Hickory" won the Newbery in 1947, the year I was born. The author is Carolyn Sherwin Bailey and the illustrator is Ruth Gannett. I sat down with "Miss Hickory" later that day not quite sure what Bobbie thought I would like or what this queer-looking little book was about.
It only took a few pages before I was sucked into this beyond-quirky story about a doll made of an apple twig with a hickory nut for a head, thus her name. Miss Hickory is a feisty character who's crabby and cranky and much older than the word "doll" would suggest. She lives outdoors in a little corncob house but comes into the family house in the winter. Until they go away and forget all about her. Suddenly Miss Hickory must fend for herself out in the world, surround by creatures who may be friends — or not. Her hard head means she's not very good at figuring it all out.
This is a story that is so clearly the product of a different era. It portrays a surprisingly violent world for a children's book; but perhaps one that was familiar to those who'd grown up during the Depression and WWII. There are words that are not explained or defined like wastrel, Daphne and Persephone, treble and bass. There are occurrences that are described with such subtlety that you may miss them altogether. The story is filled with moral lessons large and small about responsibility, behavior, friendship and personality.
There are also beautifully evocative descriptions of animals and the natural world. Look at Miss Hickory's shoes on the cover of the book: they're Lady Slipper Orchids and that's a Hepatica growing next to her! The author actually made me feel kindly towards the animals who were foraging in gardens.
I read "Miss Hickory" in a day, loved every minute of it, and think gardeners and those who love YA books would like it as well. But I am not sure it is really a book for children. If you do buy the book look for a hardcover version with the original cover and illustrations. Like so many classic titles, there are new versions lacking all the charm of the originals.
Since my niece Sarah comes from a family of architecture buffs who particularly like Frank Lloyd Wright, visiting all the FLW buildings in Madison seemed like a natural. For those of you who are not local, I will just say that FLW is a native of Wisconsin and that Madison and the state are home to many of his landmark creations, including Taliesin, his home near Spring Green. So Sarah, Mark and I spent last Thursday visiting FLW shrines around town.
The Meeting House of Madison's First Unitarian Society was commissioned by the group in 1946. To help defray costs the congregation helped with the construction, including hauling the quarry stone, building furniture and doing interior finish work. As you can see here, the building is an excellent example of the soaring triangular shape that FLW used to great effect in a number of his projects.
The Society now has an adjacent new building used for many events including public concerts. The FLW building is still used especially for weddings and memorial services. I've attended many of both over the years and can attest that the seats are a bit on the low side but moderately comfortable. It's a wonderful space and visiting it — like visiting any FLW site — is a bit of a religious experience.
FLW used a soaring triangle in a different manner in the Gilmore House, known more familiarly — in Madison at least — as the "airplane house". Wright placed this 1908 house just below the crown of the highest hill in the University Heights neighborhood, according to my 1987 Heggland/Rankin tour booklet.
The main living rooms were on the second floor giving the Gilmores a spectacular view. The jutting triangle is a balcony. Still a great house on a wonderful site.
But I've always thought the entrance was overgrown and it never felt welcoming. I was in this house years ago and I admit I have no memory of the interior. I am guessing I was only on the lower floor because I can't imagine I would forget the view.
I love to imagine how the Buell family — who built the first home at the top of the hill in University Heights in 1894 — felt when the Gilmores and Wright put up the "airplane house" directly across the street and just above them. Perhaps Charles Buell had the last laugh since he was the first person to build so far from downtown. By the time he died in the late 1930s his house was surrounded by the homes of Madison's movers and shakers.
I have to say I've never been sure which house I'd rather live in: The Gilmore or the Buell. You can't tell it from the photo below but the land drops sharply away from the Buell house as the street turns tightly around their corner lot. Conover and Porter, architects.
If you're rambling around the Heights, you can't miss the Bradley house. My guide booklet says this massive Prairie style building from 1910 was one of the last works — and a rare residential design — of Louis H. Sullivan, Wright's mentor and one-time employer. The house was a wedding present to the Bradley's from the bride's father but they found it too large. They sold it to the Sigma Phi Fraternity in 1914. The house was "meticulously rebuilt" after a terrible fire in 1972.
The members of this house are known as "the gentlemen on the hill" according to their Rush Week signs. While we were debating walking up to the door and ringing the bell, one of the Fraternity members invited us inside and gave us a tour of the public rooms. From his presentation and answers to our questions, it seems these young men know the history and value and popularity of their house very well.
The detailing on this house — inside, outside and on the leaded glass windows — is gorgeous. The scale is so dramatic that you can stand on the curb and enjoy the design. I've been inside this house many times over the years and it's always a treat, though I'm not sure I could live with so much dark wood on a daily basis. Still, I'd be willing to give it a try.
When Mark and I went house hunting for our first home, we'd read the newspaper ads on Sunday morning and then I'd go look at the houses we noted during the afternoon while he was at work. I always remember the time I saw a little west side house that I thought was too cramped, too boring and too expensive. As I was driving down the block I saw the house below, pulled over and thought, "Now there's a great house." It took me a bit of drooling and dreaming to realize it was a FLW design.
This is the Jacobs House, built in 1937, for Katherine and Herb Jacobs. He was a newsman at The Capital Times so you know his salary was modest. The couple challenged Wright to build for less than $5,000. The house came in at about $5,550 and there are lots of stories about where Wright got some of the building materials to stay within that figure.
The house is also known as the first "Usonian" house, a word FLW coined that means the building was designed to relate directly to nature. This house does it with its L-shape with windows facing an open area surrounded by trees, swaths of prairie grass and Midwestern plants. The side street view of the house is more accessible than I remember in past years so we were able to get a good look at it. And yes, I've been in this one as well. Mark and I once spent an afternoon there with Jim Dennis, the UW-Madison art history professor who lovingly restored the house over the course of many years.
Being the home of someone who supports a progressive political agenda means there are always messages on display on the street corner where the house is located. (Not my best look ever but I love the sign!)
We ended our FLW tour with a triumvirate of Wisconsin icons: We went to Smokey's, a landmark supper club, where Sarah had her first Brandy Old-Fashioned Sweet (Wisconsin's unofficial state beverage) and deep-fried cheese curds. A perfect day no matter how you slice it.
The Spring 2016 issue of Olbrich Botanical Gardens' newsletter arrived at the end of last week. It contained a short but very disturbing article. Olbrich is suspending their annual leaf mulch sale. The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources is recommending that leaves not be spread throughout Dane County due to the possibility of spreading the invasive and highly destructive jumping worms (Amynthas app.), according to the newsletter.
Typically Olbrich gets massive amounts of local leaves helping the city keep them out of landfills. Olbrich turns them into wonderful mulch that I've been buying just about as long as they've been selling it. It is a great product and an important source of revenue for the gardens. Jumping worm cocoons have been found to survive the winter in Wisconsin and can be spread through soil, compost, and mulch (hardwood and leaf), according to the Olbrich web site.
Dane Country is at the western edge of the section of southeaster Wisconsin where the worm has been reported. They were discovered in the UW-Madison Arboretum in 2013. To find out more about the worm, what it looks like and what to do if you find it in your garden, visit the DNR website here. You can print out a jumping worm identification card and a brochure from the site.
A newly planted and mulched bed in 2010.
The worms are long (a gardening friend measured one at 11 inches!), and slither and jump like snakes. "They change the soil by disrupting the natural decomposition of leaf litter on the forest floor. They turn good soil into grainy, dry worm castings (poop) that cannot support the understory plants of our forests. In residential and urban areas they can also harm ornamental plantings and turf," according to the DNR site. This is very serious stuff and besides, the worms are creepy. I have learned to live with many critters during the years I've gardened but snakes have never been one of them.
On the heels of that news came word that the West Side Garden Club will not be selling plants from member's gardens this year for the same reason: to avoid potentially spreading this invasive worm. They will sell the plants that they get from a commercial grower since those folks use sterile potting soil. This is a blow to gardeners as the West Side sale is one of the best in the area. All of my wonderful Primroses have come from there. Not only that, but the organization — like most local garden groups — donates the profits from their sale to public gardens like Obrich and Allen Centennial Garden to name just two. I've also talked to some members who say they will not buy any plants at local plant sales that come from area gardens because of this issue.
The worm is a recent enough problem that there is not enough research to suggest any solutions at this point. Bad news any way you look at it and not the way any of us want to begin the gardening season. Makes all those big yellow x's marking the Ash trees to be removed in the onslaught of the emerald ash borer seem not so bad.
Mark dumping a load of Olbrich mulch in our driveway a number of years ago.
I have been following the Plant Evaluation Notes from the Chicago Botanic Garden for so many years that I no longer remember when I first discovered them nor when I first heard the director of CBG's Plant Evaluation Program, Richard Hawke, give a talk in Madison. Suffice it to say that the published findings of the program under Hawke are one of the top resources for gardeners in the Upper Midwest.
If you are unfamiliar with it, CBG's Plant Evaluation Program is one of the "largest and most diverse in the nation," according to the recent PR information they emailed me. They noted it is also one of the few programs in the U.S. that formally evaluates perennials. Typically most of us are the ones evaluating perennials in our gardens and sharing the results with gardening friends.
This is the one place I know to find reliable data on a long list of perennials suitable for our area. The latest study — on Lady Ferns and Japanese Painted Ferns — is number 39 in the series. The fern report is ten pages long! I am growing a number of the ferns evaluated which makes this particular report both interesting and useful for me.
Athyrium 'Branford Rambler' below / Photo by Richard Hawke
Richard Hawke points out that catalogs and magazines showcase the hot, new plants, but he is "all about the tried-and-true."
The goal of CBG's program is "to determine, through scientific evaluation, which plants are superior for gardens in the Upper Midwest. Plants are rated on ornamental qualities, cultural adaptability, winter hardiness, and disease and pest resistance. It is the intent of the program to study and recommend plants that are readily available in area nurseries. Study results are published and reported to both the professional industry and the gardening public." What more could you ask?
Among the pperennials CBG has evaluated over the years are small leafed Rhododendrons, boxwoods, clematis, shrub roses, and Monarda and powdery mildew resistance to name a few. The plant trials last four years for perennials, six for shrubs and vines and seven to ten years for trees.
Athyrium 'Branford Beauty' / Photo by Jessie V. Stevens
Among the results of the fern evaluations:
Winter hardiness was generally not an issue for the evaluation group — only Athyrium filix-femina ‘Plumosum Axminster’ suffered plant losses in two winters.
The uniqueness of each Japanese painted fern cultivar was often indiscernible at a glance. (Something those of us who grow this fern can attest to.)
Athyrium filix-femina ‘Frizelliae’ aka tatting fern: Athough reputedly prone to reversion, ‘Frizelliae’ remained true to type throughout the trial. (Mine is always reverting.)
Here's what the report has to say about the gorgeous fern pictured below:
"Athyrium filix-femina ‘Encourage’ was one of the top performers in the trial. All pinnae were tasseled or crested at the tips, giving the light green fronds a frilly look. Slow to develop the first summer, ‘Encourage’ had a robust, vase-shaped habit by the second year and was particularly densely robust in the fourth year. Plants were in full sun by 3 p.m. so some leaf scorching was occasionally observed in July and August. ‘Encourage’ is a selection of ‘Vernoniae Cristatum’."
Athyrium filix-femina 'Encourage' / Photo by Richard Hawke
If you just want the results without looking at the full report, here they are:
"The majority of taxa in the trial received a five-star excellent rating or a four-star good rating for their overall performance. Top- rated plants displayed consistently attractive foliage, robust habits throughout each growing season, and winter hardiness during the evaluation term. The five-star plants included Athyrium ‘Branford Beauty’, A. ‘Branford Rambler’, A. ‘Ghost’, A. filix-femina, A. filix-femina ‘Encourage’, A. filix-femina ‘Victoriae’, A. filix-femina ssp. cyclosorum, A. niponicum var. pictum ‘Apple Court’, A. niponicum var. pictum ‘Pewter Lace’, A. niponicum var. pictum ‘Regal Red’, and Deparia acrostichoides."
You can read the entire fern report HERE and access the list of individual reports HERE.
I did not receive any remuneration for this post. I am merely a long-time fan of the CBG, especially these plant evaluations.
I recently added two fiber purses, containers or what-you-will to my ongoing collection. This basket caught my eye as I walked past the door to the UW Arboretum's shop on my way to a class I was taking there this fall. I have a couple of these baskets in solid colors that I use to hold winter necessities. A navy blue basket holds hats while a teal basket contains scarves and gloves. I have a third one that is straw colored with black leather handles that I use as a summer purse. One friend uses hers as a market basket and another uses one to hold textile projects. This basket is so graphic in both form and pattern, that so far I am just displaying it as pure sculpture. The Arboretum's shop had a number of different and equally attractive baskets.
A detail of the handle construction.
World Bazaar on Madison's west side always has interesting items from around the world. Currently they have great Indian print curtains and wonderful Kantha carryalls. The bags are nice and roomy as you can see from the two funky photos of me holding one of these bags.
Both sides are composed of different fabric scraps. There is a snap closure at the top and a zippered compartment inside. Alas, can't find my receipts for either purchase at the moment, but I think they both were in the $30-$40 range.
I found this sweet little spotted vase at a new art gallery, Dillon, on Willy St. on Madison's east side. We wandered in on Gallery Night and I was instantly smitten. Not that I need another vase. But how could I resist one that looks perfect without any flowers in it to distract from its precise shape and pattern. Just the vase for after a snowstorm when the garden has mostly gone underground until Spring. The gallery is operated by local artist Pat Dillion and the vase is the work of Jennifer Darner Wolfe
When we got home from Gallery Night, I just plunked the vase in an empty spot on the living room mantle. When I stepped back I realized how well it fit into our new arrangement of mostly blue artwork . . .
especially how the dots on the vase echoed the motifs in Tom Sargent's beautiful painting.
A note to all you gardeners, paint the handles of your tools a bright color or tie ribbons on them so you can see them when you set them down and get distracted. While working in the garden a couple of years ago I lost the pair of Japanese Ikebana clippers sitting behind the vase. I discovered them this fall as I was planting bulbs and hit something metallic buried in the dirt. I replaced them with a new pair of clippers which have hot pink plastic ribbon tied through the black leather fastener!