Sunday, December 30, 2012

Celebrating New Horizons & SSG

Even though I am not calm about our Congress, part of me is at Peace because we finally have had some cold and SNOW! The horizon down at the lake was so dramatic the other day that I actually interrupted my peace and brought my phone on my walk again to photograph.
I thought this image was a fitting one to usher in the new beginning of the NPO I began two years ago. It's called Sustainable Sharing with Guatemala (SSG).

We have fabulous board members (Wesley, Melisa, Kristen, Greg, Paula and formerly: Stephen) to whom I am so grateful!
Our Mission: "We work with indigenous Mayan communities served by established organizations who share our vision and values to build working models across borders and cultures. These models promote and sustain social justice, education, agriculture, environment and health."
We are currently set up to support AFOPADI in Guatemala. Read more about us on our new website here: SSG. And if you want to donate: click here.

Meantime: since we will be celebrating the New Year quietly at home in Evanston, we went to hear the Roy Hargrove Quintet last night. You can take in more of their great performances through January 1, 2013 at Jazz Showcase in Chicago.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

New Deal Photographs of West Virginia, 1934 - 1943

I always joke about the end of the year as "the fabled down time" in my profession. I wish...

One of the many wonderful things I've been doing beyond work and my new non-profit (more about that soon) was hosting Betty Rivard from West Virginia. She just finished editing this book on New Deal Photographers in her state and it includes some images by my dad, Arthur Siegel, when he was in the OWI. I am learning so much from Betty's book, not just about the time and some of the same issues about poverty as there are now in our country, but more about my dad's history as well. Because info on my dad is hard to come by, Betty came to Chicago to do research on Arthur. She is doing a small show in W VA for the 100th anniversary of my dad's birth. All the photos from this time are available through the Library of Congress.

Born in Detroit and having gone to Berkeley, Betty was intent on staring at Lake Michigan before she returned to her mountain home.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Happy Chanukah & Merry Christmas!

Animal Menorah courtesy of my friend, Deet, in Antigua, Guatemala.

Christmas cactus photographed by my friend, Liz, in Boston, MA.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Lite Seasonal Fun

Every year during the holidays, I get a kick out of this yard down the block from my office in SW Evanston. Each year, it is very American in being bigger; this year I saw a multi-generational family installing these totems and the people also looked like they were enjoying themselves.  I feel very fortunate to have my work space in a residential neighborhood about a mile from my home. A bunch of us in a four block area have modern-day offices in what were formerly butcher, baker and perhaps candle-stick maker shops.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving Horizons...

We had dense fog this morning so I did something rare and took my iPhone camera along while I walked. Interesting how the horizon being made invisible made the views more horizontal. Above you can see the boats gone and the snow fences in the process of being rolled out down at the beach. Below are the remaining leaves that have fallen from the trees along a lakefront park.
The moody landscape affected me and I couldn't help but reflect on how odd it will be tomorrow when we celebrate Thanksgiving at around 60 degrees...I hope Climate Change does not bring us such a trying weather year as this past one. I hope Climate Change becomes something in the coming year that Movers and Shakers take on as the Global Environmental Crisis it is.
As always, when I partake of Thanksgiving, I am so grateful for all the things we have here, those that most Americans don't even know are astonishing (except maybe if they were intimately effected by Hurricane Sandy or travel to developing countries), like functional infrastructure: water, heat, electricity, roads, public transportation, hospitals, schools, grocery stores and citizenship.
Wherever you are, whomever you're with, whatever you do and whatever you eat: I hope your holiday is joyful and inspires gratitude!  

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Tis The Season!

The up side of Climate Change is that we had some beautiful weather yesterday while installing these client containers. What I thought was interesting was that we used the same materials for two completely different clients with differing tastes and home settings.

In the two shots of the entering and exiting views of this pot, you can see how we have made it elegant for the exterior, but fun for the client view from her door. Two of these frame the entry to a lovely Victorian row house in the city. Since it was our last installation for the season, we shared a celebratory drink with the client and reflected that we had been working together 14 years! I am really incredibly blessed with clients and work that gives me joy...

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Vegas: Real & Fake Plants

Here is the nature I was imaging in my previous post...thank you for all your emails, especially far-flung Shay! Above was my one-minute of sunshine in the parking lot at the Red Rock Canyon visitor's center. This is in the direction of Vegas which is about a 45 minute drive. Lamentably, my plane was delayed so I only had the opportunity during my 22-hr trip for a half-hour hike. But, as always, being in this incredibly spiritual spot recharged me.
This time, I realized the trail I hike here is about the same elevation as the village where we stay in Guatemala, at 5000 feet, the lowest of the dozen or so villages AFOPADI serves in the Cuchumatanes. I wished I lived in Vegas so I could train and up my stamina and red blood cells. I was also jealous of the moderate grade and well-groomed steady trails in Red Rock, so different from the climbing paths of loose dirt on deforested slopes in the mountains of Guatemala.
Just Below: Can you find the Juniper?
Just Below That: You can't miss the fantasy trees. Palm trees of this sort don't even grow in the Mojave desert where Vegas is located. I really enjoyed these faux trees though, holding up the airport vault.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Day After the Election...

A few weeks ago, I visited my parents in Indiana. Their cabin is in the midst of the most incredible nature, but since it was pre-Election, they were focused on the t.v. (no Internet access out there). But, on my way home, my mom sent me down a special road because the trees were at the height of their fall color. It was especially breathtaking since our extreme drought this past summer left me with low expectations.
And now, because my expectations on the Election were surpassed, and because, even though Climate Change was not mentioned during the campaign until Sandy, I believe the more realistic candidate for addressing its effects is still President, I can rest and enjoy nature for a day. Hope you can too.
Luckily, I know just the place to do that tomorrow....

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Garth Conrad: 1955 - 2012

My dear friend and colleague, fellow landscape designer, Garth Conrad, from MELA passed away Thursday. For once, dumb luck was on my side and I saw him a few hours before he passed away. Garth was a remarkable person: kind, intelligent, generous, modest and visionary. He was always leading us in the membership and on the board towards a sustainable future. I hope his inspiring life sustains his soul as it does the rest of us still in body.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Piet Oudolf's Dream Park

I've been meaning to report on the high point of our Swedish trip: visiting Piet Oudolf's Dream Park in Enkoping! The garden was even better than I imagined...and I loved it for years on the basis of the book illustrations I've seen.
The concept are these large, scattered, tri-part Beech hedges with organic paths throughout. Note the yellow plant: it is Ligularia. In the States, it requires so much water that it is sold as a shade plant. In this garden, it is out in full sun, so that tells us about differing experience with Swedish soil is that it also tends to be more acidic. This is near Stockholm which is Zone 6; Chicago is Zone 5.

One of the many things I found Piet did masterfully, is setting these white blooms out so they diffuse the light. Even though these photos were taken mid-day (you can tell by how washed out they are), you can see how the lower angle of the light makes plants sparkle. Here, in particular, note the Astilbe (lower right) and the gigantic Persicaria polymorpha (taller, shrub-like perennial mid-left to right of beech hedge with bench).
This bottom image captures the one plant that Piet seems to have scattered around the garden (not massed), it is a form of Sea Holly (Eryngium). The effect manifests in its jewel-like quality being repeated and knitting together the garden. Oh la la!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Fabulous Ferns!

I learn something from every client (not always what I anticipate learning...), but I do have a few who are remarkable gardeners and have taught me much about plants. Just recently, I had the good fortune to visit one of these people and their garden on the south side of Chicago...that is to say: a very urban garden. Due to the mid-afternoon timing, my photos were not terrific; yet I have several to give you a sense of this wonderful space, mostly about the gardener's fern collection.
The garden is located behind a Victorian row house, next to an alley and underneath a large, mature Silver Maple which, if you've ever dug beneath one, you will remember for its impenetrable roots. Above, you can see the entrance path off the back porch.

Here the collector proudly shows off myriad spores on the fronds of a Japanese Tassel Fern (Polystichum polyblepharum). Below stands a glorious specimen of Remote Wood Fern (Dryopteris remota).Take note, Linda and Mark! These ferns are not typically found in our regional gardens. In fact, my client has had many adventures with ferns in far-flung places. While I cannot travel to all those spots, visiting his garden is a transporting trip and a worthy substitute. Mostly, what I enjoy is his never-ending enthusiasm. This interest by shared by the famous neurologist, Oliver Sacks. Look him up on-line with ferns and you will find many compelling documents including his Oaxaca Journal.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Chicago Botanic Garden After Dark Tour

Last night, 16 people chose to spend their Friday touring the Chicago Botanic Garden in my company. We were blessed by the perfect weather: 50s, no wind, and a nearly full moon. Above is the Linden Allee from beneath its sculptural limbs. Below, you can see its geometrically pruned shape from outside and up to the right of the storybook moon.

A participant took these photos with her iPhone; the App that came in really handy was the flashlight as we climbed steps on the hill to the council ring through tactile Switch Grass. At night, spaces assume different characteristics. One totally different garden was the Bonsai exhibition where the back panels provided a luminosity that highlighted plant personalities in a magical way.

I felt magic at work in our animal companions. The tour was initiated at dusk by a heron down at the lagoon shore. Its white stripe of a beak presaged the theatrical light plays to follow. This two-inch spider guided us down the garden path as we left wishing we could alter time, like Charlotte.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Northwest Horticultural Society Tour

About a month ago, I was lucky enough to lead a tour for the Northwest Horticultural Society from Seattle. It's always eye-opening to hang out with gardeners and designers from other regions. This group was especially on the ball, so they kept me on my toes. We started out in downtown Chicago at Millennium Park's Lurie Garden (above). Then, we moved north to Alfred Caldwell's Lily Pool (below).

Finally, we ended up at the Lincoln Park Conservatory, where I got a break. My neighbor, Rick del Visco, led the tour through the Conservatory. Turned out that his favorite and mine (since chidhood) was the Fern Room.
Another favorite garden of ours belongs to friends, Linda Brazill and Mark Golbach, in Madison. The NW Hort Society's tour continued there after Chicago. You can read about it on the August 28, 2012 post from their fabulous blog: "Each Little World" (The link isn't working this second, but try it yourself!). I will be lucky enough to visit them, their garden and some others in Wisconsin this week.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

More Swedish Lichen & Leaded Windows

In answer to Ms. Wis/Each Little World's question in the last post: Where is this lichen growing? It's on the roof tile of an outhouse built in the early 1970s to look like the other log cabins at my husband's mom's home. I don't have a photo of it, but it has leaded windows similar to the ones on this nearby sleeping cabin. Swedes seem not to build additions, rather, they find an old cabin somewhere and move it. Or they build a nice modern one. But when you are a guest (outside a city), you are often sleeping in your own little abode.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Swedish Lichen and Moss

Altoon Sultan's post today, in her marvelous blog about Art & Landscape: Studio and Garden, details lichen in the countryside of Vermont. Reminded me of what we saw in Sweden last month.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Hummingbirds and Heptacodium

Last week a client emailed to say that a Hummingbird had visited her Heptacodium (Seven Son Flower). So I had to stop's the large shrub/small tree covered in white flowers. Of course, how could I ignore the luminescent BailTiger Sumacs?

Monday, September 10, 2012

Actual Weeding plus Autumn Cematis

Finally weeded!  Yesterday: just mostly English Ivy,  wild Eupatorium and some giant (7') yellow weed with 6" deep roots as thick as big parsnips.

In two hours, I nearly filled up our recycling green waste bin with five bucket loads.
Even in the daytime, I could smell the fabulous, grape-like fragrance of the Autumn Clematis, whose botanic name, they keep changing. Here it is at night:

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Weeding Inspiration

Usually, I don't mind weeding. In fact, I find it soothing because in this world, there's not much you can do that provides immediate satisfaction like weeding does. But with the extreme drought this summer, weeding was challenging. So, I was looking forward to our seasonal weather shift...which seems to be happening (cooler temps and some rain)...after returning from Sweden. Of course, now I have too much work, so every time I walk our dog, I am tortured by signs of my own pathetic garden stewardship. I put the image above (from my March trip to AFOPADI...see their updated Guatemala) as my iPhone screensaver in the hopes of inspiration.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Swedish Abstract

The fall installation season is upon us which means less blog attention. So, I will try to catch up on some posts about Sweden...starting with this: my favorite image from our August visit. It's from an island in the north section of the Stockholm archipelago.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

My Chicago Botanic Garden Tours: At Night & In Rain

In a month (Friday September 28th), I hope to lead a tour at the Chicago Botanic Garden: "The Garden After Dark." We'll include viewing "Lighting at Night," (one of my favorite postcard collecting categories), and, as well, approach the garden experience in terms of the other senses. Please register here and also, pass along the info. to your friends.
So, last Sunday, I scoped out our tour trail during a rare summer visit to the CBG, probably one of my nicest ever since it was in the rain. Of course, that meant all my iPhone shots (rain ruins it like the Wicked Witch of the West), were taken from covered areas. Above, you can see one of the bridges leading to Evening Island and below another bridge leading off the Island. Below that was my new BFF: Peter who gave me a superb tour of the Buehler Enabling Garden. Full of fragrant plants, it will be included on our tour. Please join us and add to the discussion...I find the teacher always learns more than the student.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Zorn's Home & Studio

It was just as exciting as always to make our annual pilgrimage to the Zorn Museum in Mora. But it was a nice change to visit when it wasn't freezing and when it did have lots of visitors including many families with infants (Sweden is more family-friendly logistically, socially and politically)! See the compound above, the house below and the studio below that. The top photo shows you a bit of a typical sky during our visit: Sweden's coolest and rainiest summer in about 20 years. Such a relief for us Chicagoans during this season's extreme heat and drought.

The traveling exhibit introduced me to a contemporary of Zorn's: Julia Beck (1853 - 1934). The fact of her being one of those rare women artists of her time stirred me more than her work. However, I did find one of her paintings really exceptional. Looks like the Museum's website bio is only in Swedish, so here is some useful info about her from a blog called "Swedish Thoughts." To me, seeing her paintings just reinforced what a master artist I consider Anders Zorn to have been. That is his sculpture (probably a replica of the real one inside the museum) below, just outside his studio.