Thursday, December 29, 2011

New Bedford: Whaling & Sustainable Resources

Maybe I am more of a geek than I imagined, since I was totally engaged by the 90-year-old New Bedford Whaling Museum...or maybe my "inner child" was out playing with the supposed grown-up who obsessively snaps photos. I believe part of the museum's success lies in the different ways different people of different ages can engage with a variety of exhibits. Plus, you can interact physically, climbing stairs & ships or listening to whale sounds.

The massive skeletons of the Sperm Whale were mesmerizing, if not only for their scale, for their ritualized totemic effect. Artful too. Perhaps this is even more true of the New Bedford Whaling National Historic Park's affiliated site, the Inupiat Heritage Center in Barrow, Alaska?

Perhaps I forgot, but more likely I never knew that as the whales were hunted past sustainability off our Eastern shores, that commerce moved to Alaska. Until the same thing happened there. Then, around the time of the Civil War, kerosene & gas replaced Whale-oil. It got me thinking about sustainable technology. And how probably no one thing is sustainable for the long-term. And how, though change is almost always disrupting, better usually to be moving forward in the search for new technology or resources or methods.

Whale tail tip.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Starved Rock's Incredible Landscape

Starved Rock State Park, a 2 1/2-hour drive SW of Evanston was a new delight to me. Imagine: canyons & waterfalls in Illinois!

Trees. Above: Nature. Below: Nature mimicked. Both have their charms...

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

New Bedford: Landscape of Color

In light of how our current presidential campaign has brought up covert & overt racism, it was interesting to visit New Bedford, MA and learn of its historically racially mixed communities. From the little I gleaned, this was in part due to whaling, in another part due to the Quakers. It was news to me that part of the town is a National Park and since I have never gotten all the way through Moby Dick, it had not registered that the town figures in Melville's Masterpiece.

Nor did I remember that it was in New Bedford that Frederick Douglass started to come into his own. This combination of escaped & freed slaves; people from the Portuguese colony of Cape Verde and from the Azores; and the nearby native people from Martha's Vineyard, the Wampanoag, made for a community quite unlike any other of its time. Given the importance of whaling in providing the energy for people to see by and the danger of the pursuit, I was impressed by this part of our history.
 There was a tiny audiovisual exhibit on the Paul Cuffe Kitchen, as well as some great drawings by school kids honoring his legacy.

Monday, December 19, 2011

More Luminaries: Boston & Environs

I was lucky enough to spend some time around Boston last week. We traveled to New Bedford, Brookline & Boston. Gardens, museums and the Olmsted Historic Home & Office comprised our itinerary. I'll try to post details and pix soon.  For now, since we are on the verge of the shortest day of the year, thought I'd show some more permutations of light. These from the Whaling Museum in New Bedford, MA.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Holiday Landscape: all lit up!

I love this season because I confess: you can't have too many lights at night!

Above: the view down the block as I walked out of my office last night. AND: the Santa yard was accompanied by audio of "Frosty the Snowman."

Below: the Holiday gift from our local Chinese take-out restaurant. More "Lights at Night" (I have a big category of this in my postcard collection) captured on this 2012 Calendar from the 2010 Shanghai Expo. The cartoonish animal depictions below the blue Gumby-like fellow are Zodiac references to our birth years.  I always felt a bit disappointed to be a Sheep....although this calendar types me as creative & passionate, so I will take that.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Tired, But Happy...

A client meeting tonight marks the end of a long & very creative design process.  I've been working with a nearby Co-op on a historic, somewhat Arts & Crafts property from the 1920s, doing an updated Master Landscape Plan for the next five years. As I see it: I've been trying to integrate 20th C Design with 21st C Plants & People. It's been very exciting, not to mention the challenge of taking into account the views and needs of many of the owners of the building's 50 units.

As I may have mentioned: I still draw by hand. And I still believe that process is a better connection for my hand & eye & brain and ends up with a better product from me for my clients.

Here are some of the remnants of the Concepts plus the final Drawings scattered around my office as I ready the final Plant List. And think about the themes I will once again try to articulate during tonight's presentation. Having Many clients for one job has its pluses and minuses, but in the end: really stretches me!

November's End

This is what the ground next door to my office looked like yesterday...before today's almost 50 mph winds. Today the earth is practically bare: time for down.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Swedish Textures

Wednesday, November 23, 2011


I am grateful to all our clients who put trust in us and allow us the opportunity to be creative such as above with a long-term client's Thanksgiving arrangement. Gilt artichokes make my years in close proximity to theater pale. Life is short and so I appreciate having a little fun...especially during the gray days of November as we inch toward the winter solstice.

I feel this same gratitude towards all those people we work with in the NW mountains of Guatemala. They always invite us into their homes with boundless generosity in face of the challenges of extreme poverty. I am daily inspired by their brightness and courage and goodwill.

Happy Thanksgiving! 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Swedish Managed Forest

I learned something new from a friend/colleague who used to be a botanist and has traveled to Sweden. He identified this beautiful light ground cover as Reindeer Lichen (Cladonia rangiferina) found in northern boreal forests. Being a lazy landscape designer, I had always thought it was a is enchanting and foreign to me!

Below, with slightly-off exposure from my beloved iPhone App., Hipstamatic, is a shot of the nearby forest. You can see how the wood was harvested, but enough trees were left to seed a whole new generation of pines. And pines grow fast.

Monday, November 21, 2011


Today I walked along Lake Michigan. There was a sound of slight surf. I reflected on how still & quiet it had been when we walked along the shore of Lake Siljan just over a week ago (above) in Sweden.

Below is the view we typically see on Siljan around the winter solstice.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Swedish Hoar frost

Even though our Swedish trip included no snow, we were lucky enough to have hoar frost one morning after a foggy, misty night. We never have this condition in Chicago and I seem to photograph its magical effects endlessly.

Many of the landscapes shown in Piet Oudolf's books sparkle with hoar frost. Also, one of my favorite Swedish garden books, Rimfrost och tradgårds-drommar (Hoar frost and garden dreams) by Hannu Sarenstrom captures its spell.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Stockholm: Children & Nature

I admire the myriad ways Swedes treat children well. These range from making sure they all have health-care (paid for by the state) to encouraging them to participate, honor and enjoy nature from an early age.  Here in Humlegårdsparken in the center of Stockholm, you can see the little warming house. Inside, it is filled with play in Ping-Pong and a crafts room stocked with everything a child would want to glue, thread or cut-out with scissors. There is staff and of course, a bathroom.

I appreciated that the Swedish manner of recycling is carried through...

As well, this curtain pattern seemed very typically fun & Swedish to me.

Right near the swing set, I spotted this lovely little garden simply made from Viburnum trilobum and supports that apparently sport Nasturtium during the warmer months. And again: such a treat for me to see leaves!

Stockholm: Floral

Heather and more heather for sale and already potted in public squares.

Stockholm: Raoul Wallenberg Monument

Berzelii Park, honoring Raoul Wallenberg, is just down from the Berns Hotel and the Royal Dramatic Theater. If you don't know of Wallenberg: do a little homework since he was one of the courageous heroes of WWII and saved many Hungarian Jews. Apparently the monument (below) by Danish sculptor Kristen Ortwed is somewhat controversial, in part due to its abstraction. I found it compelling and the kids loved interacting with its heavy, grounded forms.

Look closely and you can discover Wallenberg's signature embedded in metal.

Stockholm: Trees

One of the differences I appreciate is seeing mature trees, as here in this allee in  Humlegårdsparken. Also a treat in the color of fallen and falling leaves...

Stockholm: Gardens

Here we are in the fashionable neighborhood of Östermalm (writing this in English, so no Swedish accent marks) in front of the Chinese Theater, above. Very new perennial planting a la Oudolf (whose work I love). Below, we are staring out from the pastry bar of the Berns hotel, famous as (according to my husband) one of Strindberg's hang-outs. 

I did not see who this monument celebrates in Humlegårdsparken, but enjoyed the planting. A treat to see some perennials as the ground has been covered with snow during the last decade of my visits over the Christmas holidays.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Trees of Autumn: Some Imaginative & Soulful Varietions

Took these first four portraits downtown Chicago on Michigan Avenue right across from John Hancock Building (the SOM landmark of my youth) in front of Fourth Presbyterian Church. This very fancy church has a very visible Social Justice component. I know it from Guatemala where many members are involved in a non-profit that I have supported for years: Common Hope.

Here in October, you can see how they are using trees to draw attention to Domestic Violence Awareness Month. As well, you can view the forest of t-shirts created to highlight the violence which resulted in 77 Chicago youth killed during 2010 - 2011.

To end on a reflective note: here is the view out of our sun porch showing a Midwestern rainbow of autumnal trees: Oaks, Elms, Serviceberrys & Maples.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Bright Memories in November

 Even though the fall foliage is warm with orange, red and gold, we have many gray skies. So, I post these photos from a recently installed client's garden taken  in July.
Did I mention that their son started using the virtual water feature for his toy dump trucks? Success.

 In the rear near the house you can see three of those fabulous Tiger Eyes Sumac. They will double their size.

Below you can see a close-up with truer color. Its color is emphasized by the contrast of the blue leaves from the plant lower left: False Indigo.

I also love the oomph provided by the Sumac's reddish stems. 

Photograph credit goes to my client.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Chicagoland Garden in Fall

Took this at a client's last week during rain. I love the Fall season.