The storm that has just started was downgraded. But I don't really know what that means. The original forecast said 1 to 6 inches of snow, rain, freezing rain and sleet. Also wind and thunder. Well it is mid-morning and so dark it looks like about 4:30 in the afternoon. It's snowing heavily, much more than these photos indicate.
The one below was snapped about 15 minutes after the one above. You can see how quickly the snow is sticking to the shrubs and branches. And it just thundered. We used to get snow with thunder quite often when I was growing up in the snowbelt, south of Lake Erie in Buffalo, NY. One of my favorite weather moments. Oh, joy! Just thundered again. And the plow went by.
Mark made a fabulous beef stew yesterday with lots of leftovers and I just took rice pudding with ginger out of the oven. We're set. Frankly, my garden is barely covered with snow and needs more insulation, so I am OK with a bit of winter returning again.
I love European magazines and have stacks of old issues cluttering my house, mostly World of Interiors and Gardens Illustrated. But now and then, I grab a Tattler or the British edition of Vogue when the issue contains a bit of fashion fantasy. These poetic pictures are from a fashion layout from the December 1984 Vogue, styled by the great Grace Coddington and photographed by Bruce Weber.
Coddington was a notable model back in the day, but I think her true talent lies in her editorial work. This week Coddington announced she's stepping down from her role at American Vogue to freelance. The photos below are from one of my favorite Coddington creations.
The spread was titled "In an English garden: A style that could grow on you."
The introductory paragraph of text goes on to say: "Englishwomen are best at this — a look where pieces have been pruned but the whole is wreathed with imagination. Here the tradition branches out into charm and charade, tweeds are tweeds, but mackintoshes and especially hats go further into the landscape . . . "
One reason these images grabbed me so forcefully is certainly the garden theme. But they remind me of the time my roommate Mary and I adorned ourselves in 1950s evening gowns, long gloves and corsages made of vegetables; radishes for me and banana peppers for her. Thus attired, we made a late entrance at a housewarming party for a recently divorced male friend and brought down the house.
In her autobiography, Coddington described these clothes and the photo shoot as "ravishingly romantic." Though Mary and I were clad in outfits and bouquets that were not quite as romantic as these, I think they were equally memorable.
You'd be hard pressed to find a book as different from "Oudolf Hummelo" as "The Gardens of Arne Maynard." Given that I deeply appreciate the work of both men, I should have a much more chaotic garden than I do. I confine my Oudolf worship to trips to Lurie Garden in Chicago and my Arne adoration to drowning in the pages of his book while sipping tea and sitting by the fire. I bought both of these books the minute they were published, unable to wait to see if they appeared under my Christmas tree. But they would make perfect presents for the gardeners on your list.
Unlike "Oudolf Hummelo," this is a big book: 10" x 12" and an inch and a quarter thick. It's got glossy photos, double-page spreads and even tri-fold images. The photography is the work of Maynard's life partner, William Collinson, and captures the history of his work, especially at their two personal gardens. The book also has the most beautiful endpapers I've seen in years: elegant black and white drawings of Fritillaries by Jane Hyslop. The book covers twelve gardens in great depth with both text and images. Only two are outside the UK: one in East Hampton, Long Island in the U.S. and the other in Italy. I found them well-thought-out-and-designed but less interesting than Maynard's gardens in the UK.
With a big, coffee table style book like this one on Maynard's gardens, I often just revel in the images, read the cutlines and dip briefly into the text here and there. The minute I started reading this, I couldn't stop. Not only are there fascinating lessons about how Arne looks at existing landscapes and then discerns what to save and where to start afresh, it is a beautifully written book. Intelligent, evocative and highly personal — at least in terms of the subject at hand. The long pieces on specific gardens are divided with shorter sections that look at the things that Maynard considers "essential" to his gardens: Roses, Topiary, Kitchen Gardens (below) to name a few. These short pieces are about 6 pages long and heavy on examples.
I was very taken with most of Maynard's gardens for clients and his discussions with them about appropriate solutions. He also mentioned differences in working in the UK and the U.S., in particular, our lack of the kind of quality specialist nurseries that pepper England. Because many of the gardens he designs are for people with lots of land and money, he is able to hire skilled craftspeople to make furniture, gates, build walls and such. These aren't things that most of us can afford but we can learn from Maynard's approach about how to incorporate such items into the landscape and link them with our own house and history. I think of the Arborvitae tree trunks we saved when we took out a tree to put in the pond in 1997 and how many places we've used them in the garden. And of the few skilled artists we were able to hire, like Matt Wineke who did our recent driveway project.
But most of all I enjoyed reading about the gardens that Maynard created for his own houses. I remember when I saw this tree (above) at his first garden at Guanock House and marveled that someone had the sense to leave it right there in the middle of the path. I should have realized that this was the work of a very thoughtful gardener.
Listen to Maynard describe his current house and garden, Allt-y-bela in Wales (below): "The moment I saw the garden, I said the house was like an exotic pearl sitting on a cushion of green velvet, and now we're embroidering the cushion with native and species plants. The topiary is the Elizabethan stump work on the cushion, and my rarities are the occasional golden threads that give it another dimension. It is all very delicately crafted, all hand-stitched."
I fell in love with gardening while researching a piece of Elizabethan stump work, so his words caught at my heart. The last words — "delicately crafted, all hand-stitched — certainly speak to all of us whose gardens are the work of our own hands (and backs and knees).
Despite the size and complexity of many of the gardens shown in this book, my copy of "The Gardens of Arne Maynard" is chock full of scraps of paper marking pages with bulbs I want to order and combinations of flowering plants I want to try. Everywhere I looked and read I found something of value, like these incredible crab apple trees (below). No, I won't do an elegantly topiaried pair like this, but I am seriously thinking about growing this variety ('Red Sentinel') where we just lost an ancient Macintosh apple tree in our garden.
Editor's note: I purchased this book on my own and did not receive any remuneration for this post.
We were greeted by this glowing green apparition on the screen of our front door this morning. Stayed around long enough to be photographed by the iPhone and a traditional camera and tripod. But I liked this iPhone pix best of all Mark's shots because it captured the interior of the hallway right throught the screen. Amazing bug, amazing phone.
I believe the bug is a common green darner Damselfly (male). We get lots of dragonflies on the pond but this is the first damsel I've seen.
Last summer the couple who live behind us got a dog and needed to fence their yard. They were concerned to get something whose quality and design would not detract from the beautiful fence Mark built across our joint lot line. Ultimately they went with a simple cedar fence and gates from Struck & Irwin. We thought it looked so nice we had S&I replace the rusty old wire fence on the east side of our property with the same cedar design. Mark had them set 9' tall 6x6 pressure-treated gate posts in cement with the intention of designing our gate himself. This will be a permanent fixture replacing his bamboo gate.
He began construction late last week. He was moving along so rapidly, I noted that he needed to take a few pictures to record the process. At that, he turned to me and said, "You have a phone, don't you?" So this is my "phone" record of the first stage of building what we've always referred to as the "East Gate."
This fence and gate is not intended as the entrance to the garden, so we decided to make it simple and serviceable. Its purpose is to hide our work/materials yard from the driveway and front of the house.
The design is an alternating pattern of boards and bamboo poles. It is somewhat similar to the gate we built on the west side of the garden that links us with those neighbors. The bamboo has been sitting outside for a long time developing a nice patina.
If you garden seriously you always need a materials yard where you stockpile supplies, pile junk, have a potting bench, compost pile, whatever. As we completed different areas of the garden over the years, our work area moved to whatever spot was incomplete.
This narrow area adjacent to the garage has been our work area for quite a long time. There are no windows in our house that look directly on this and our neighbor often puts his ladder etc. on his side of the fence. The black plastic bags hold garden debris which we take to the city compost/recycling site. The other side is filled with assorted building materials which we might need for a project.
Since we are nearing the end of major garden projects, what doesn't get used soon will probably be given away free to neighbors. That's how we got much of it in the first place.
There will be a double gate that looks the same as the fence just a bit lower as the bar indicates in the photo below. The gate will have a board roof rather than shingles. The roof angle matches that of our garage overhang which is adjacent to this area.
We've always talked about the East Gate and West Gate areas of the garden and what kind of gates they might have: physical or symbolic. These gates, the interior of the Tea House and its surrounding garden area and the west driveway slope are the last few garden areas that still need significant work. While there's still lots of do, this is probably the shortest list of garden projects we've ever had. Once we get them all done we can work on the areas that need attention due to their age — and ours.
I first became interested in gardening through Elizabethan textiles, English country estates and the photos of Edward Steichen. Those ideas and images of gardens eventually led me to the real thing: creating my own garden. I dreamed of someday growing a shad blow tree (below) like the one Steichen photographed in a famous pictorial series that I first saw in the mid-1960s. Steichen spent his early years in Wisconsin and left a record of that time with scenes of misty Milwaukee woods (bottom) and a stunning portrait of his sister, Lilian, and her husband, Carl Sandburg (directly below).
On December 29, 1907, Sandburg met Lilian Steichen when she stopped by the Milwaukee headquarters of the Wisconsin Social-Democratic party to say hello to her socialist friends. It was Sandburg's first day on the job as an organizer for the party. You can read details of their romantic correspondence and relationship here, in an article published in the Wisconsin Academy Review.
But what I love most about this young couple is their passion for progressive politics. According to the Wisconsin Academy Review, Lilian was actively involved in politics, translating socialist pamphlets from German to English, and vice versa. She and her mother were often the only women in attendance at the Social-Democratic party meetings. Among their friends were famed Wisconsin socialists, Victor Berger and Emil Seidel.
In 1908, the year Lilian and Carl were married, he was often away working on the presidential campaign of Eugene Debs. The following year they moved to Milwaukee where Carl was a newpaper reporter. When the Socialists took office in the spring of 1910, Carl became secretary to Mayor Emil Seidel.
If you know your Wisconsin history, then you know that this state has a proud history of socialism. It was under their leadership at the local and state level that some of the most progressive legislation in Wisconsin history was written and and passed into law.
So today I'll be voting in our local elections channeling the spirit of Lilian and Carl. Then I'll go home and remember Edward Steichen as I work in my garden.