Friday, December 13, 2013

Red Rock: More Nature vs. Man-Made

Reflecting on this image from my recent trip to Red Rock Canyon National Park outside Vegas, I was wondering why I feel so connected to this place. Is it the overwhelming expanse of sky that puts me in my place? The muted palette that forces me to notice subtle detail? The spareness of plant material that reminds me of the deep meaning of adaption and sustainability? The rock formations that expose me to geologic time?
And then, there is the jet-trail, a reminder that even though I feel I am surrounded by nature, I am also surrounded by human effects on nature. And while I heard it snowed in Jerusalem today, it it forecast to be raining in Stockholm tomorrow. Something is out-of-joint...and of course, I fly to Vegas, Sweden and Guatemala. 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Plant Artifacts from the 1893 Columbian Exposition

Interesting small exhibit in the Chicago Field Museum from their vaults. I was most compelled by this rope, which I believe was made of hemp (but don't quote me)! Here is a touching artifact for plant geeks...

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Last Week in Illinois' Landscape: Marriage Equality and Tornadoes

Two impressive events occurred in Illinois last week. I can only say that it took long enough for our Legislature to pass Marriage Equality, but I am glad it finally happened. The law takes effect in June 2014 and I believe I will be attending several weddings. At long last, my LGBT friends will receive wedding gifts from me instead of visa-versa! 
Here I have only photos related to our tragic weather story: we were one of the last flights to leave O'Hare airport Sunday morning before it was shut down for tornadoes. Ironic how what speaks of tragedy can look so beautiful. For those who don't live here, I can only say that tornadoes are normally a Springtime event and it's not lost on me that they occurred in Illinois during the week of the shameful Warsaw Climate Change Conference and in the week following Typhoon Haiyan's horror. As usual, you can find good coverage on Democracy Now (11/22/13, another day steeped in national tragedy, 50th anniversary of JFK's murder). 

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Botanical Joy: Merz Apothecary

For more than three decades I have been shopping at Merz's Apothecary (the Lincoln location). It used to be one of the very few places in Chicago to get homeopathic remedies...
Last night, their botanical window installation delighted me; it includes lavender, loofah sponges, eucalyptus and peacock feathers. My favorite products include YuBe Moisturizing Skin Cream (great for gardener's dry hands) and Kneipp's Bath Oils, especially Orange and Linden Blossom for Harmonizing. Om...I will be indulging the latter after Thanksgiving when we finish our outdoor work. 

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

A Few Fall Plants Before The First Snow

Photos by K. Bergson...a client whose urban garden we did (under this established Mulberry) many years ago and which, she tells me, still gives her joy every morning when she walks down the stairs. Ah!
We had snow two days ago and almost all the leaves are down.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Chicago Botanic Garden Glorious Autumn 11.8.13

Above: Nature vs. man-made Nature.
Below: Landscape as Metaphor.

Mesmerized by the scent of Katsura:
Burnt Sugar!

Couldn't resist playing with different photo effects...

Thursday, November 7, 2013

The Landscape of Gender Bias: Sweden and Guatemala

This morning's Guardian contained an interesting article on a new Swedish rating for films that addresses gender bias. Called the Bechdel, it reminded me of the opposite feelings stirred up about the position of women when my travel includes Sweden and Guatemala. I imagine life as a girl and then woman, will be very different for a Swedish friend's daughter (above) as opposed to these girls I saw with their mother during my most recent SSG site-visit to Guatemala (below). Working with gender issues is always a part of any program we support in Guatemala, but frankly, the US has a long way to go in terms of women's rights. All you need to do to get a fix on the current backwards pulse here is to look at Hollywood and Texas. This makes me miss my years as a high school teacher, an educational period when it is so vital to introduce teenagers to both external and internal reality, good tools and empowerment. 

Friday, October 25, 2013

Seasonal Change...

Grayer skies.

More time indoors at drawing table than on-site.

Annual trip to IKEA for candles.

Monday, October 21, 2013

William Kentridge & State of Mind

A few weeks ago, I read my U of C Alumni Magazine and found two excellent reasons for visiting Hyde Park. The first was a "lecture," more a performance piece, called "Listening to the Image" by William Kentridge. It explored "the relationship between sound and image." Even though his physical style is more literal than I usually prefer, I believe he does very creative work in his methods and questions. And he deals with deep stuff. I couldn't get photos of the performance, but I do have some images here from April when I saw Kentridge's work up at the Milwaukee Art Museum. The program was terrific and especially so because it wasn't the typical U of C intellectual process. The website says the audio will be available here 10.25.13, so try back.

You have until January 12, 2014 to visit the Smart Gallery's fun exhibit: "State of Mind: New California Art Circa 1970." It brought up a lot of nostalgia in me for times when artists weren't starting out selling for millions at the large NYC galleries. I particularly gravitated to a landscape piece by John Baldessari

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Killing Time, Artistically

The Patina of Age can be witnessed

in its many artful guises

at my favorite, soulful, urban oasis

in Chicago: Graceland Cemetery.
What to listen to while strolling there? Bach Partita for solo violin No.2 in D Minor. I have the version played by Arthur Grumiaux.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Landscape of Hospice

My stepdad died in his home early Saturday with this view from the hospital bed. Actually, he faced a birch swaying in the hot breeze out the front window. I like to imagine he could hear the tree, although it's unlikely.  You never know if you might need this information, but Horizon Hospice was exceptional. My have things improved since my dad died at home in 1978 a year before Horizon was around...

Monday, September 9, 2013

Chicago Botanic Garden: Sept. Views

Rare for me to see a public garden during growing season, so I was thrilled when the opportunity for an hour visit arose last week. Where else does one head in Sept., but to the Fruit and Veggie Island? Passed the Prairie Garden en route. The big plant in front, a Silphium, will out-compete everything around it if not vigilantly maintained...

The apple branches were heavily laden. This is not it, but there was one fragrant tree. I thought it was "MacCort," but can't find that type on-line.

I liked these sculptural sentinels near the bee hives. See how they read better against the "open" space than against the evergreen hedge.

Here I tried to show the lovely light through the Smokebush. That didn't translate so well, but I like the photo for other reasons...And, below, I felt amused by the shadows on these benches.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

MLK: Dream Speech 50th Anniversary

I have nothing profound to add that others haven't phrased more eloquently on this historic occasion.

The image here is from the University of Chicago's Logan Art Center looking to the South side. I still have fond memories of living in Hyde Park during college, one of Chicago's few integrated neighborhoods...

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Illumination: I am Bradley Manning

Why am I showcasing this beautiful bloom on Franklinia alatamaha that we planted for a client this season? Because, in my mind, beauty and illumination are intertwined. This wonderful tree was named for Ben Franklin who embodied many of the early values of this country that are vital, in my opinion, to a functional Democracy. Transparency and debate are included in those values.

With that, I urge you to watch the video: "I am Bradley Manning." It's just a coincidence that I found about it today, the day after Manning's 35-year sentence and the day we learn that Manning's attorney says Manning wants to live the rest of his life as a woman, Chelsea. I can't imagine how hard it must be to live in society without the truth of what one feels is one's true gender. To me, that must be like trying to grow an authentic English Garden (that wants temperate, rainy, non-extreme conditions) in our Midwestern Prairie and Urban Soils.

Your thoughts?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Enjoy These End of Summer Days...

You still have a few more days to enjoy the beach at the South Shore Cultural Center on the south side of Chicago. I took an out-of-town guest there yesterday when I pointed out the birds and the prairie and wetland habitat. Recently, we had a great tour there during a MELA program. I find it quite an amazing sign of the times that this lovely country-within-the-city spot is now accessible to all; it was restricted to African-Americans and Jews in the past during its incarnation as a country club.

Monday, August 12, 2013

The Mark of Humanity

What a great quote I heard on a BBC Radio interview today (12 August 2013). President Bill Clinton said this while in Tanzania: "I think that the true mark of humanity is being able to empathize with someone whose experience you don't share."
Photos: West Virginia House of Delegates in Charleston, WV and SSG Board Member with AFOPADI staff and participants at GoldCorp open pit Marlin goldmine in Guatemala.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Cloud View with Topography: WV

Thirty years ago, I drove through West Virginia en route to the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts (VCCA). Last week I was lucky enough to have a real visit in that mountainous state. With great natural beauty, poverty and extreme environmental degradation, WV reminded me of the NW Highlands in Guatemala where we at SSG work with AFOPADI. Details as time allows...

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A Virtue of Flat Terrain: Cloud View

Looking West past Buckingham Fountain.

Looking up near Western & Foster.

Looking East towards Lake Michigan on Roosevelt Road.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

SSG: Celebrating Our Tax-Exemption!

Even though we are polar opposites of Tea Party groups, Sustainable Sharing with Guatemala (SSG) still waited a long time (15 months!) to receive our Tax Exemption from the Cincinnati office of the IRS. It will be nice to remove the "pending" from our 501 (c) (3) tagline on our website! So now we are a "public charity" and the real work of educating people about our Guatemala/Chicago non-profit and the amazing people it serves can begin in earnest. And now we  can fund-raise to make things happen. If you haven't seen our website, please visit us on-line. You can read about the Guatemalan non-profit (AFOPADI) we currently assist here. If you don't read Spanish, it's very easy to click on the picture pages and get a sense of the people, the places and the projects.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Northwind Perennial Farm Talk: 7.20.13

I was shocked to realize my last visit to Northwind Perennial Farm was in September 2010. If all nurseries were as outstanding as this, not just in plants, but in the educational and engaging way they grow and present the whole place, we would all be better, happier gardeners.

Since July 20 (this Saturday at 10:30 am) is the only date I am able to speak (hot summer, although hopefully our heat wave will break the day before), I chose to focus on their non-plant  offerings. I am such a snob about garden objects that I love Northwind for being one of the few establishments that always tempts me with their superb selection.

Things are displayed so artfully that it will be a pleasure demonstrating Design Concepts on the ground...also, I knew I would be so busy this year: I needed a topic that did not require a PowerPoint.

So, if you can't join us on Saturday to hear and see my take on how to "Accessorize Your Garden," please make a trip to this valuable institution another time. And support it by buying something!

Friday, July 12, 2013

Process#3: Sustain Nature...Plant Some Natives

This native shrub we recently planted at a client's is Cephalanthus occidentalis or Buttonbush. Can anybody ID our winged friend?
The question of what is Native and whether or not to use all or some is complicated. So, I generally try to get in as many as I can, starting with some trees that will attract a good number of desired insects. For details check Douglas Tallamy's BRINGING NATURE HOME: How Native Plants Sustain Wildlife in Our Gardens (Timber Press).

Monday, July 8, 2013

Process #2: Placing Perennials

I confess that I have never found any adequate formula for computing the number of perennials to order for a site. Large, non-custom companies unlike ours, usually place perennials 18" on center. This will not do for me because perennials range greatly in size; one may ultimately require 5' and another 1'. So it was with great delight last week, on a huge job (above shows about 1/5 of the site), that I found I had ordered the perfect amount of perennials. This process I call "Plant Voodoo." Why? Because it is the result of doing things very systematically and then adjusting the numbers very intuitively. My husband says it works because of my many years of experience, but (after talking to some colleagues who have encountered the same struggle to get amounts right), I think it was Grace.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Process #1: Placing Plants from the Inside Out

Make sure you look from client's viewpoint inside to place important plants outside. Here it was the trees, but I was pleasantly surprised that these chartreuse Hosta read so well from above.