Thursday, December 31, 2009

Visit Zorn & Bertha Palmer & Spring

I am reflecting on how we spent last New Year's in the Swedish countryside in Dalarna. This year's Christmas card from my mother-in-law is pictured above in front of the traditional Swedish Christmas Goat, really more a pagan reminder of seasonal shifts. The card reproduces a painting by Sweden's greatest painter, Anders Zorn, whose home and studio are part of the world-class Zorn Museum in Mora (home to the world-famous Vasaloppet cross-country ski race that embodies the area's history of locals' land-owning bravery and solidarity) .

Many times I have heard of Zorn's fame through a tale about the staggering cost of a 19C portrait of Chicago's reigning Society Grande Dame after the 1871 fire, Bertha Palmer...surprisingly, the most interesting web link about her is Wikipedia's which details some of her progressive work on behalf of women & children and landscape. She had the Zorn portrait commissioned in 1893 to celebrate her position as head of the Columbian Exposition's Board of Lady Managers so vividly documented in The Devil and the White City (a must read for fans of the grandaddy of American landscaping: Frederick Law Olmsted). I finally saw Zorn's portrait of Bertha Palmer with its marvelous rendering of white on white at the Chicago History Museum's exhibiton of Mrs. Palmer's fashion. If you can get there this weekend before it closes on January 4, 2010: do so! Since photos are not allowed in the exhibit, the only place I could locate an illustration of the portrait on the web is this blog post (you will have to read nearly to the end) by a former Chicagoan who appears to move in the same social circles where Bertha held court.

And so now that I've cited 2010, here's a gesture to celebrating the New Year: a hyacinth with promise of (despite bad economy/war/partisan bickering) SPRING.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Winter Solstice Cheer

(Well, the lighting was low at Ikea...)

On this short day of long darkness, I hope this image inspires your inner sun.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Landscaping at the de Young

At the de Young Museum in San Francisco: fantastic architect and internal landscaping. Outdoor plantings more problematic to me. For one, the modern style does not integrate with the period sculpture. Secondly, all I think is "monoculture and high maintenance". Which means an unsustainable plant palette and high labor costs. Plus, there is a lot of turf that wants irrigation, although that probably comes more reliably from nature in San Francisco.

I know this was a challenge given the needs of public landscaping in the context of a new building and venerable collection...transitions between diverse styles (all the while incorporating circulation and heavy foot traffic) invite divine inspiration and minute problem solving.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

3rd Pix of Arthur Siegel Photos at the de Young

The RCA photo is to the right of the young woman's shoulder. Though I can't see this couple's eyes, their posture clues me into the intensity of their looking.

More Arthur Siegel Photos at de Young

This is one of the few museums I've visited where I believe the internal landscaping is as compelling as the architecture.

Also, I appreciated that the exhibition gallery was spacious enough to view the works individually or in groups. Or from across the room.

Arthur Siegel Photos at de Young

So I am back from an actual vacation and hope to catch up here with photos of museums and gardens and landscapes.

The reason for my visit was a show, "Towards Abstraction," that was conceived around a donation to the San Francisco museum of 15 of my dad's photos from the 1940s through 1960s. I loved the way the curator, James Ganz, "matched" images among the various photographers (there were also prints by Mapplethorpe, Callahan, Weston, Cunningham etc.) via form or weight or concept. I was pleased to discover that the specific photos were very good representatives of Arthur's work black & white early to mid-work.

No fashion slouch, I dressed for the occasion.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

The Red Spirit Retreats

Ground Totem

It's been about a week since I facilitated a weekend at the Red Spirit Retreats. The topic was on Landscapes: Inside & Out. We used Julie Moir Messervy's classic book: The Inward Garden as our jumping off point. Unlike the last workshop I led when the skies were perfectly crisp & clear, this weather was the opposite. While the cold damp gray atmospherics meant many cups of tea, there was no internal gloom: nature just gave us a different path of exploration. We entered into several diverse archetypes en route and, I would hope, saw the land through changed lens when we left for home.

With several last minute cancellations due to dog allergies, we were an intimate band. This resulted in group members really having an opportunity to explore the landscape exercises and to get to know each other.
As always, when I teach, I learn tremendously AND I have some wonderful new friends.Too, I am grateful to Karen Shanks for making these times possible.

One of the attendees is part of a CSA in MI: Fat Blossom Farm. Just the name brings a smile to my lips, let alone the veggies! If you wish to help support sustainable ecologically-sound practices when you eat: join up! They have drop-off points around Chicago area.

The soon-to-be-larger pond

Zeppy, Mastiff & Mascot

Thursday, October 29, 2009

iPhone Leaves Everywhere

At the neighbor's...

...downtown Chicago in front of 4th Pres. Church

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Tale of Two Maples

Since it's next to my office, I get to observe this yard on a daily basis. I know that this garden is not maintained, so it is an interesting laboratory that shows how plants fare with no coddling.

Above you can see the Japanese Maple that has grown as bred and is diffusing light like a garment spun from fairy wings.

Below you can the Japanese Maple that is reverting to the stock upon which it was grafted. Yes, that is one tree. Maybe someone can market this as "Year-Round Christmas."

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Burnham Pavillions

Go with an open mind and body: The Burnham Pavillions in Millennium Park in Chicago through Halloween. I went expecting to like the one by Zaha Hadid and was surprised by my magnetic attraction to Ben van Berkel's "UNStudio." Perhaps our experience was not fair since the lighting and slide show wasn't working in Hadid's construction. But the UNStudio really delivers on its claim to highlight the city skyline. It juxtaposes the sense memory of FL Wright's architectural proportions with a 21st Century slideshow and 3D interaction.Even though we went on an unseasonably cold & windy night, I was mesmerized and felt that time stood still even as the Pavillion morphed like a Mobius strip.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

No Turf

A few weeks ago I went to check in on a city garden we installed a decade ago. At the time, at the request of the client, we only put in two tiny sections of turf in a large lot (60' x 125') where the house sits on the back sixth. The clients tired of the turf and a few years ago we replaced those sections with perennials. Did I mention the rabbits? And more rabbits?

Through the branch of a crab apple, above you can see grasses, onions, mints and some barren strawberry.
Below is an ornamental thyme. The white pine was around 6' when planted: now it covers the neighbors' third floor porch. Plant small and the trees will grow faster since they won't have to endure as much transplant shock.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

WPGC Lecture Series: "Native landscape"

Looking North Down The Pond

Even though my current favorite landscape is the Mojave desert, I must still be a city girl at heart. Why? Because my favorite US garden is Alfred Caldwell's Lily Pond (in Lincoln Park east of the Conservatory, north of the Zoo and south across the street from the Notebaert Nature Museum).These photos just hint at the place that defines "sanctuary in the city." It sits next to major city attractions and heavy traffic and yet most people walk right past its modest entrance gate...this means you can almost always feel private when you are inside its regional stone walks and native plants and idiosyncratic structures. I believe tucking it away was intentional. For me, the Lily Pond has remained a space of endless nurturing, intrigue and education for more than 50 years. It was magic when I was a kid and it was neglected and full of bird poop and called "The Rookery." It still endlessly compells me now that I understand it professionally in its historical context.

This context will be artfully constructed (or maybe deconstructed?) through the Wicker Park Garden Club's Lecture Series "Native Landscape: Created - Conserved - Evolved" between now and March 2010. The Club's fearless leader (and he can be so because of his tireless energy, dedication & vision and because he has a strong group of supportive members terrific in their own right), Doug Wood, kicked off the series last night with "An Historic & Philosophic Overview of Selected Designers." The series concludes with a presentation on Caldwell.

I compromise my carbon footprint to attend because I have found this garden club always inspires me & makes me feel at home. In my industry, I am on the constant lookout for landscape discussions about design, history, philosophy, politics, sustainability and culture. WPGC is one of the few groups that delivers. Interestingly, it is a community gardening group, not professional (though some members are)...full of experience, knowledge, generosity & fun. [Of course, I have to mention MELA as one of the other groups I value highly.]

Every one of the lectures is on my calendar. Even though I have heard more than 2/3s of the speakers, I know this will be time well spent. Check them out and I promise you will leave connected. And perhaps, Wicker Park garden Club will become part of your routine too.

Water Fountain

Monday, September 28, 2009

A Day To Reflect: Seeds

Grasses & Tree Peony...

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A rose is a rose is a rose...

Except that Gertrude Stein lived in Paris, not Chicago.

On one of my rare Facebook visits, a childhood friend asked me about overwintering her Parade Rose on a balcony. I had never heard of this rose, so I did a little net-surfing. It turns out the rose is really bred to be a cute centerpiece, not a long-term investment. That being said, a few people on-line said they did manage to make this rose last. For my friend's sake, I will say a few things that may help overwinter roses in general:
1.) Plant your rose in a container at least 18" by 18."
2.) Line the pot with insulation material (that pink, coiled styrafoam from Home Depot works).
3.) During the growing season, give it plenty of ventilation. But during the dormant season, bunch the rose pot up with your other plants close to the building wall in order to retain heat.
4.) Mulch the base of the rose with hardwood mulch.
5.) Pray.
6.) Look at it as a science experiment.
7.) If it doesn't make it, next year get a Knock Out shrub rose (they come in several colors now.)

I've pictured some of the original Knock Out. Above, see it in-context at a client's garden yesterday. Unlike most roses, Knock Out is not fussy or disease or pest attracting. It was bred in Milwaukee and blooms from June to frost. However, this year's swarm of Japanese beetles ate many plants they hadn't paid much attention to before. Image below tells you why we have so many of these shimmery green insects: everytime I photographed it this year, the beetle was (to mix a metaphor) making hay while the sun still shines.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Veggies: Reconnecting (Part II)

This is a follow-up to my post of July 1st. In that, I described a bit about an engaging (and now garden-engaged) client who was trying her hand at growing veggies for the first time. We met last week to discuss the future of her family's veggie garden. Not only had everything grown since my last visit, but she recounted some stories that embody why I love doing what I do. Below I quote her words. The pictures are hers as well.

"This is definitely a before and after situation, I will send Julie some photos of our lush veggie and butterfly garden as it is now. I said way back in February if I was able to cultivate even ONE vegetable from our seedlings I would be happy, it was beyond that: many snap peas, squash and cucumbers have been harvested. Today my grade schoolers had friends over and did a MYOS (make your own salad) playdate picking cherry tomatoes, mixing mint and basil and the little stinkers prematurely picked my Chinese eggplant@! I will admit I cheated on the tomatoes and peppers and bought the plants from the Farmers' Market, but there is always next year. We are so grateful to Julie for issuing us the passport for this journey, it has been exciting and restorative all at the same time."

I saw those lovely Chinese eggplant and have their intense purple coloring my memory...

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

More Madison Gardens: Part II

What strikes me about Mark's & Linda's garden is how careful maintenance is part of the whole...sometimes accompanied by the mutterings we gardeners can make, but mostly practiced with loving kindness and self-knowledge. This garden & its gardeners are a testimony to process. After all, isn't that the real joy of gardening?

Mark does most of the hardscape, Linda is the plants person.

Marvelous Gardens in Madison Part II

Well, I have finally kept my promise and can show you a few photos of Linda Brazill's & Mark Golbach's special garden in Madison. The reasons I rave about it are those qualities that are implicit in them and made manifest in their garden. This space is the sort of garden that makes me so content, I don't want to leave. It's subtle and yet endless intriguing. It forces me to pay attention and I am rewarded by myriad details that enchant and provide contrast so the whole resonates more than the sum of its parts.

They sometimes document their garden process in their marvelous blog for which Linda writes and Mark photographs: Each Little World.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Fun, Funky & Fuzzy Arum italicum

So the gardener part of me loves this plant. I cheat and grow it in dry soil when it wants rich. (Maybe that's why I don't have to worry about it being invasive). It wants to be protected in our zone 5 so at least I provide that. The fantastic foliage [large, veined, boldly shaped] isn't even in these images since the leaves are dormant this time of year. But I confess I had to show the fruit here because it is striking. I have seen many people passing by and being awed. Grown-ups and kids. Our friend, Steve (who is in from San Diego to paint our new energy-efficient windows) tells me that as he stares out the window while painting he has seen tons of folk stop and photograph. I have tried to take a good picture several times and have been defeated by the light conditions and my own artistic shortcomings. So, since I promised I would document for Mark & Linda in Madison, here are two fuzzy shots that at least give a sense of the red red berries on the how-can-you-ignore-it stalk.

It's companion plants are Hydrangea 'Annabelle,' Vinca, some Valerian I cut as soon as it flowers, Christmas Fern, a Toad Lily whose species I've forgotten and Variegated Solomon's Seal. It all survives a lot of shade from the evil Bradford Pear on the city parkway and continuous dog pee. And winter salt.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

More Allen Centennial Rock Garden

The Amazing Perk: By implementing this style of rock garden, you can create actual typography! In the tradition of Asian gardens, you could develop metaphorical landscapes in flat Midwestern green fashion via recycling & lower water use.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Marvelous Gardens in Madison: (Part I) Allen Centennial

After recently visiting Volo Blog, I then meandered through the rain up to Madison. There I spend a wonderfully relaxing, sustaining weekend with dear friends, Linda Brazill & Mark Golbach. When the clouds parted, we toured the UW-Madison garden: Allen Centennial, an educational delight. The garden really engaged me. Linda with her 25 years of outstanding journalistic experience and Mark with his art background and fine camera tell the garden details on the August 12th post on their marvelous blog: Each Little World. Some of my photos assist in the telling...

The one observation I'd like to add can be seen above. What a creative solution to recycling left-over flagstone! One of the most interesting rock gardens I've seen.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Birds in Volo Bog

Mystery bird creates atmosphere...

...Great Egrets: from a distance, I saw ten!

Volo Bog In A Nice Rain

Last Friday was a lucky day for my first visit to Volo Bog, the only Quaking Bog with an open-water center in Illinois. Who would have imagined it would be 70 and raining? Just me and the plants & the birds and insects galore.

Couldn't photograph much due to rain...above see boardwalk through bog in all its marvelous green. Below I was able to take shelter in a blind.

For best quick summary, Google Chicago Wilderness article: that inspired me to go.

Friday, July 31, 2009

Red Rock Canyon: July

Hot Fun In The Summertime! So the only kind of bet I would make is that I was the only one on the plane to Vegas flying out for a night to see my chiropractor...

Despite the 105 temps, I drove out to my beloved Red Rock Canyon and surprised myself by doing a little hiking (hydrate & more hydrate). There were hardly any tourists and for the first time I got to walk Keystone Thrust alone. Luckily I didn't run into any stinging or biting creatures...and I returned feeling my landscape soul renewed.

View from the hike above. Below you can see the burnt Joshua trees along the main road. A fragile ecology while the land heals.

Friday, July 24, 2009

UnCommon Ground Cafe in Chicago on Devon

You really gotta go! Uncommon Ground Cafe (I visited the one on Devon) is not just organic & hip & lovely, but the menu is interesting too.

The roof top amazes. The space is so lovingly conceived, constructed & tended that I just wanted to camp out. Here you can also see some of the solar panels...and small plants given our spring & summer seasons of first rain & cold and now dry & cold. Veggies like heat.

My adventure companion was Kristen Kepnick, a MELA Board member and director of marketing & special projects at Christy Webber Landscapes. She remarked that perhaps the vegetables in this garden were chosen by their names: example below. Check it out yourself: rooftop tours happen during the Farmer's Market there on Fridays from 4 to 8 pm.

Rosa Jordan Wins ASPCA Award!

Our dear dynamo, Rosa, was in town (Chicago) a few weeks ago to accept a 2008 Henry Bergh Children's Book Award from the ASPCA. Rosa preceded me as the Earthways Project Director for the AFOPADI reforesting project In Guatemala. Her book The Last Wild Place won the Young Adult's Award. What Rosa inspires in me is to meet life with great joy & determination. And to speak truth to power. Also, she really practices what she preaches and lives a sustainable life. But mainly she is loving, fun and game to try most experiences: can't beat that!

Above you can see her in one of our client's gardens in with some spiritual elements I promised to detail, but am, of course, behind on.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

MELA Summer Fiesta at the Shedd

Despite drizzle, the crowds had good cheer. Then we split into groups to view the new gardens by Christine Nye (horticulturist at the Shedd Aquarium &, like me, former MELA board member) and Roy Diblik (supreme plantsman from Northwind). Fun gardens on two inches of soil & rubble with wind & bunnies sustainable methods & plantings important. Christine has been doing this for years and we look to Roy for amazing plant info as he works from nature. Some natives, some ornamentals and a lovely design. Good to see forward work at a public site.