Monday, June 27, 2011

Milwaukee Art Museum: The Emperor's Private Paradise

Well, I've been going up so often, I finally bought a membership to MAM...this excursion was to see Treasures from the Forbidden City. Their Summer of China theme includes five diverse exhibits. You can see my companions in fun: Dave (painter, singer & reader), Sam (architect & gardener) and Nick (painter & gardener). The area with the cool sculpture is the first interior space you enter from the garage and normally very static. This installation charged up the space!

I was totally intrigued by The Emperor's Private Paradise, but you can never photograph inside the traveling exhibits. So instead, I have the experience of learning more about gardens, art, history and culture, not to mention awe for the craftsmanship. Maybe the Chinese reverence for poetry, art and certain principals will stand it (and the rest of the world) in good stead as they grow in power...although there is that nagging issue of climate change and how to approach it. Not that the US is doing such a sustainable job on that political front.

It will not surprise you that the daughter of a mostly black & white photographer took many shots upstairs in "Emerald Mountains: Modern Chinese Ink Paintings from the Chu-Tsing Li Collection."

We were going to park in the cheaper lot to the north & east. But the architect amongst us ponied up the extra bucks to park in the MAM garage. To me, it is always a spiritual experience.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Courtyard Makeover

Google uploaded these 5 images incorrectly, so the order is: During, After & Before. Hope that's obvious...

I am going to use this as an example in the class on path-making that I am teaching for the Chicago Botanic Garden on October 22. (Check their website when it's updated.)

Important to take advantage of East/West axis, especially when one side of courtyard is shade, the other sun.

Note how birdbath is near food source (Serviceberry), but away from big branches where predators can hang out.

Well, hopefully you can tell this is how it looked when we BEGAN...but you can't see the fantastic clients (half Co-op & half rental apartments) who made this job such a joyful process.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Bounty of the Summer Solstice

It's a properly hot summer's day (muggy near 90 degrees with nearby thunderstorms) to mark the occasion. But I am grateful because I celebrated it with my first morning walk down by the lake in....maybe a month & a half. The Cottonwoods had amassed their stash, children's voices denoted summer camp down by the breakwater and I could now see the clearly dead Ash tree next to where the path meets the rocks. Whether it was Emerald Ash Borer, I don't know, but it did make me realize that several of the dead trees I noticed recently were mostly Ash and a few Elms. I confess the Ash don't pain me as much as the loss of the Elms, but a lost tree usually gives me pause.
Since this is a day to do that, I reflected on a few things. Most of them seemed to fit in the category of things or experiences or people coming back into my life, making me feel "rich." Above you can see the literal currency that emerged unexpectedly from a pants' pocket: the Guatemalan 50 Quetzal note (usually about 8Q to the dollar) which I hope had only been there since my March trip to AFOPADI, not the previous one last July. The other reflections had to do with a resurfacing of connections during this past week with three women I met at the Ragdale Foundation (an artist's colony) during the 80s and 90s while I was there on writing retreats: Danielle Sosin, Ronnie Dreyer and Katherine Kadish. Even though I had read about the changes at Ragdale since my last visit in the late 90s, I was surprised to note my response upon returning (for a reading by Danielle from her recent, critically acclaimed novel: The Long-Shining Waters, this year's Milkweed National Fiction Prize Winner).
What most impressed me was the visceral feeling I experienced of how the landscape had changed. How the giant elm tree branches had expanded where they touched the ground like a benign the old Arbs had grown leggier and reached out further shading the path down the south side of the the canopy of over-story trees had been diminished for the construction and made the old house appear immodest...and how the prairie had shifted and consumed what used to be a meeting place beneath several hawthorns.
I have great gratitude for Ragdale as it nurtured me both as a writer and as a future landscape person. For about 15 years, I was lucky enough to roam the prairie during all seasons when I was in a receptive state. I am sure this is part of why I love landscape. You can access that prairie now through the Open Lands Foundation Skokie River Nature Preserve in Lake Forest, Illinois and experience it for yourself...

Friday, June 10, 2011

Trip to Milaeger's

Last week, one of our clients on the north shore decided she needed some more roses. So, on the spur of the moment, we drove another hour north to Milaeger's family-run nursery (for 50 years!) in Racine, Wisconsin. It is renowned for a reason...We got some captivating roses: 'Cinco de Mayo' and 'Pumpkin Patch'...I was not familiar with either the former, an American Rose selection for 2009 or Pumpkin Patch' which was just introduced last year; here's a video from the growers, although the colors are much nicer in reality...and more orange. You can see from the Lychnis above that I appreciate orange.

So, she got three roses and I bought one plant: Hosta 'Paul's Glory.'

The funky part of me loved photographing these clay mushrooms below:like a wild ride in an amusement park for plants!

But the subtle part of me was drawn to the aquatic plants...