Whenever we visit a garden, public or private, we always look for ideas for our own garden. On this visit to the Chicago Botanic Garden we paid particular attention to foliage plants. We're looking to add more shrubs to the garden, so seeing mature specimens is the ideal way to gauge what might suit our situation.
The first plant that caught our eye was this Rhododendron yedoense var. poukhanense 'compacta'. I have been growing the regular size version of this Korean Rhododendron for the past ten years with few problems. Since it's hardy to Zone 4, my larger plant came through our miserable winter with no damage other than lighter bloom count than prior years. But I love the idea of this Rhodie as a groundcover shrub, suitable for shade to part shade! Until I saw this variety I had no idea there was a version with such a low, tight profile. The biggest problem will likely prove to be finding a source for it.
The next surprise we discovered was this beautiful Korean Arborvitae: Thuja koraiensis 'Glauca prostrata.' We first thought it was a Russian Arborvitae until we saw the tag. Russian arborvitae (Microbiota decussata) is a Zone 3 shrub capable of growing in full sun to part shade, making it a very versatile plant for Northern gardeners. We have 3 of them in different locations in our garden.
This Korean version is hardy to Zone 5, full sun to part shade. Though I am trying to steer clear of Zone 5 plants, this grows low enough that snow cover should protect it.
We snapped this photo of a Weeping Beech since we are also growing one: Fagus sylvatica 'Purple Fountain.' This is to remind us of what it will do if left to its own devices. Ours will need some pruning down the road to keep it within the space allotted for it.
We are also growing two Dawn Redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides) trees and two shrubby versions. We bought one of the trees under the impression it was a weeping variety but it is growing outward and eating up space. It had not occurred to either of us that we might sharply prune it to the size and shape we want. Clearly this trio of Metasequoia glyptostroboides trees have been seriously sheared. Up close we could see branch tips that had been cut off and the new growth seemed to be growing more upward than outward, a solution that would be perfect for our tree.
Two other shrubs that caught our eye were Magnolia stellata 'Waterlily,' a Star Magnolia pruned into a big globe. And a wonderful Northern Bayberry that came out of the Chicagoland Grows program: Myrica pensylvanica 'Morton Male.' Both of these are Zone 4 plants and given all the sun we now have in the garden from loss of big trees, they might actually prosper in our garden now.
We spent last weekend out in the flatland at Mark's 50th high school reunion. During a break in the action we managed to squeeze in a short visit to the Chicago Botanic Garden as it was only a few miles away from the reunion location.
The last time we were at CBG — in May, 2013 — the garden was a little water-logged as you can see from these images taken at the same locations on the two different trips. Note the height of the water under the restaurant deck in both images.
Check out the top of the railing in both photos.
Note the curving hedge below and above. Also note the brick path in the two images below.
The weather was almost perfect this time, allowing us to hit all our favorite spots: Dwarf conifer garden, Japanese garden, English walled garden and we even discovered a couple of areas that were new to us. As usual, we took lots of pictures and notes. Though this time, we got smart and Mark shot the i.d. signs so I didn't have to write down all that Latin.
A visit to CBG never disappoints as it has lots of all of our favorite garden elements:
For the third year in a row Smithsonian Magazine has published a list of the 20 best small towns to visit. One of our local favorites, Spring Green, WI is number 11. Healdsburg, CA where my best friend from college has her beautiful jewelry shop came in at Number 2.
Topping the list is Chautauqua, New York. One of my sisters lives nearby, so Mark and I have wandered all around the area including visiting the famed Chautauqua Institution (which I've written about here and here). Since we were in the area for a family wedding last summer, we stopped in Westfield, NY, just down the road from Chautauqua. This charming little town is home to wonderful old houses, great antique stores and a statue of Grace Bedell, the young girl who convinced Abraham Lincoln he should grow a beard.
It's also home to Brazill's On Main, the restaurant my cousin Bill and his wife Teri opened on the historic town square last summer. Alas we were only able to eat there three times in two days! If you are in the area, you won't want to miss this great restaurant. Though the area has much to offer we never found a restaurant that we wanted to return to until Brazill's opened. And I'm not saying this out of family loyalty.
The restaurant is located in an old commercial building that has been beautifully restored and includes a huge old wooden dumbwaiter, along with plank floors and brick walls. I was transported back to my New York state childhood with some of the restaurant's memorabilia like this beer tray. It depicts Dooley and Schultz, the two characters used to advertize Utica Club beer on TV when I was a kid.
We didn't really snap many photos of the restaurant as we were too busy eating and visiting. I'll just note that it's a light airy space with every detail carefully considered. But it's the food that makes it memorable.
This is last summer's menu (below). We went there for lunch two days in a row and came back for dinner on the second day before we left the area. Everything was delicious and had just enough of a twist to make it stand out from the norm. As we were eating our dinner, I remember thinking how much I wished Brazill's was close enough that I could eat there on a regular basis.
I'm hoping we'll get back there again this summer so I can indulge myself some more. To keep up with their news and menu specials, follow them on Facebook. If you stop in, be sure to tell them Linda and Mark sent you.
NOTE: The woman who restored and operated a restaurant at this location, called Cafe Barista, says that the dumbwaiter I refer to in this post is actually a rope driven elevator! I stand corrected.
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.
The last few years we've taken to stopping at the Cleveland Museum of Art on our way back to Wisconsin after visiting family in Pennsylvania and New York. It's a quick on/off from the Interstate making a museum stop very easy and convenient. Not only that but the Cleveland Botanical Garden is across the street and the Natural History Museum is around the corner. One of these times we'll spend the day visiting all these institutions.
Here are a couple of gorgeous Central Asian robes we saw on our last trip. The one on the left was very large which is not obvious without a person standing near it for scale. The whole gallery was filled with stunning treasures.
Here's what the Textile Museum in Washington, D.D. has to say about these garments: "Central Asian ikats are distinguished by bold, original designs using vibrant colors and are prized for their great beauty. In the streets of Central Asian oasis towns, a man’s clothing defined his status in society and proclaimed his wealth. In the home, and during family ceremonies, ikat textiles provided luxurious embellishment. Today the influence of ikat designs can be seen in contemporary fashion and home décor."
Many of these garments are lined with small floral prints, which was the subject of Susan Meller's book, "Russian Textiles: Printed Cloth for the Bazaars of Central Asia."
At the other end of the spectrum was this wonderful coat of chain maille, which I snapped for my sister who makes jewelry using this technique. The earrings she made me for my 65th birthday are my go-to favorites for all occasions.
As on our other visits to the museum, we saw many people whose expressive faces captivated us.
Just before we left we stopped in the family room which used a variety of techniques to engage younger visitors. The one that grabbed us was the wall of digitized images of everything in the museum's collection. You could search by themes or artists or eras, each designation more fascinating that the last.
Digitizing a musem's entire collection is a long, difficult process. But the end result seemed well-worth it to us. We were as enthralled with this wall of images as any kid in the room.
On our trip to the Chicago Botanic Garden's Antiques Fair last year about this time, we made a stop in Evanston to visit friends. While we were there I went with our friend, multi-talented artist and garden designer Julie Siegel, to visit Ausrine's Art Room, a fiber arts gallery/shop near Julie's design studio. Julie tended to be at her studio when Ausrine's was closed, so off we went on Saturday morning in hopes of finding the shop open.
The window display of an amazing felted coat gave us a clue that we had found a treasure. (Most of these pix are from our phones so not the best. Visit Austrine's web site for better images).
The morning we stopped in, Ausrine was just taking down an exhibit of her felted shawls and scarves, many with filmy inserts of silk. Right inside the front door (above) was a wall of felt, leather and silk flowers, many with beaded details.
I could hardly get past these beautiful reminders of the upcoming garden season. Since our visit was near my birthday I treated myself to three silky flower pins. You can see from these photos how many variations Ausrine had created. I could easily picture buying an armful and decorating one of my felt jackets the way she had embellished the coat in the first and second photos above.
Julie bought two scarves for good friends who needed a special treat. I also bought a felt "bracelet" with more flowers on it along with beads, buttons and leather. And a necklace of felted orbs in reds and purples, strung on thin black cord so they look like wooly planets in orbit.
The pictures dirctly above and below give you a glimpse of the variety of the shawls and scarves that Ausrine makes and was selling that day. She had actually just taken down the scarf display and got them all back out so Julie and I could have the full range for shopping.
If I lived in Evanston I would definitely be taking classes at Ausrine's Art Room. We spent a long time talking to Ausrine about her plans and ideas and looking at her current art work. The space iself was big, bright and welcoming. I could easily picture working in it day or night. Ausrine has her March classes and workshops posted on her website under "calendar." If you are in the area, Ausrine's is well worth a visit.
These shots are from the small but elegantly planted and structured garden outside the entrance to the Turtle Ridge Gallery in Door County, WI. We walked all through and around the exterior plants before we even set foot inside the door of this wonderful shop.
What caught my eye was this pair of topiaries. The owner/gardener was not around so I could not get a definite identification as to species. The could be white pine or Scots pine. I am not good with evergreen id's but the bark reminds me more of Scots pine.
Note the turtle motife in the stone walkway that leads to the shop and the turtle stepping stones that guide you to the bench. Click on the picture to enlarge it so you can see these details.
Using topiary pruning techniques means that you can keep a very large specimen under control and in the scale you want. It's a great way to have cake and eat it, too.
These are just a few quick shots taken at Whytefyshe before 7 a.m. as we were stripping beds, taking out the garbage and generally picking up and packing up before we left for Madison the morning after the Labor Day holiday.
Our friend Pat Whyte's house offers "2800 square feet of rusticity and sophistication, with four bedrooms, three baths, a great room, fabulous kitchen (which I have fully outfitted with everything one needs for gourmet cooking), wood burning fireplace, screened porch with great comfy gliders, decks, three car garage, all on four private acres of woods and meadow," according to her website. A great place to unwind and you can rent it!
This view shows back-to-back couches, the wood-burning fireplace and lots of original art.
The wall opposite the scene above gives diners a great view towards the woods. You'll also note the screened-in porch on the outside of the dining room wall.
The kitchen area features a long counter for cooking, eating and spreading out a buffet meal which we did on Labor Day. That's me dealing with garbage in the background.
Mark and I stayed in the huge bedroom above the Great Room. Lots of space for a family, nice bathroom and beautiful light — as well as views of the stars visible through the skylights.
Plenty of beds for children or friends and a folding screen to privatize the area.
Room for lounging, reading or game playing.
Plus this room offers this great view out into the prairie and woods' edge.
All in all a great house in a great setting.
The yin and yang of barns are juxtaposed on this property in northern Door County, Wisconsin. Cost of materials and construction — to say nothing of skill and knowledge — mean that pole barns like the red one tend to be the rule of the day in most farming communities. But American life and culture are the poorer for the lack of new structures built to allow for the beauty that comes with vernacular architecture and with age. Click on the picture to see the cluster of outbuildings around the old barn.