Thursday, December 31, 2015

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

John Vinci's House & Garden: Crabtree Farm plus Sullivan, Nickel, Adler and Shipman

The day before the icy storm hit, I was lucky enough to visit Crabtree Farm with some colleagues. Having only been there about 15 years ago, it was a real treat, especially this more recent building, Crabtree Guesthouse. I was surprised and pleased to learn the architect was John Vinci, principal of Vinci Hamp Architects, an old family friend who designed my father's gravestone (as well as their dear friend, the Louis Sullivan champion: Richard Nickel's) at Graceland cemetery where you can also see the grave of my dad's mentor, Laszlo Moholy-Nagy. [The landscape at Graceland was designed by the great O.C. Simonds.] Above is the view out onto the pool and fields at Crabtree Farm. It's hard to see but, you can make out the perfect garden structure there in the image below.

Of course, Crabtree Farm abounds with history. You can catch a glimpse in this view through a current veggie garden towards the indoors tennis court (one of a dozen in the U.S. from the 1920s) by architect, David Adler.

And this bench anchors a section of the original garden by Ellen Biddle Shipman next to the Adler-designed residence from the 1920s. I was so impressed by her work, I hungered for a decade before finally visiting the garden on the cover of the above book, at Stan Hywet in Akron, a few years ago. Homes and Gardens wear, styles change, but it is still moving to see how certain visions and concepts retain their power.

This post should have enough links even to engage Lynn, my inspiring neighbor of architectural expertise. 

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Holiday Greens through the Gates of the Lord

You have through Jan. 3rd, 2016 to see this fantastic show at the Art Institute!
Meantime: Enjoy The Holidays!!!

This is a family tree...

What's with the horse and elephant?

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Virtual Flowers and Pollinator

Some cheer for late November days: classic Swedish linen...

...and WF mural.

NY Times Magazine 11.29.15 "Domains"

Here are a few other photos I took two months ago at the client job that is featured in today's NY Times Magazine, "Domains" Feature pp 20 and 21.
"At Home with the Wildlife of Industrial Chicago"

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving: Guatemala on my Chicago mind

While we experienced early snow, setting a 120-yr record here in Chicago (client palette highlighted above by white ground), my mind is on the recent photo (below) sent to SSG from our Guatemalan friends in AFOPADI.

I am sharing gratitude for the bounty of the harvest and everything else.

Today is a big day in Chicago with the release of the police video. May we all move towards Justice.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Work like being in a candy shop...

Above: View from wholesale shopping cart...

...Views of client installations, below.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Adam & Ezra Siegel: Works

Oldies but goodies. So nice to live with art over time.

Top one by Adam, full and with detail.

Bottom one by Ezra, full and with detail.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Pure Joy: Children in the garden

Imagine my delight and satisfaction to hear from a client that: the day after we installed this walkway... of their children spent her morning running back and forth on the path. This reminds me of a garden I designed years ago. The budget did not permit a literal water feature, so I designed a little triangle of blue blue recycled glass. Soon after it was installed, that client contacted me. He sent a photo of their son playing with a toy dump truck in the triangle, moving the glass back and forth. I love when kids manifest their inherent sense of play in the garden.

P.S. Don't worry: that downspout is moving soon!

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Pre-Day of the Dead + Sunchokes

It's a rainy day in Chicagoland. Pity the poor Trick & Treaters...I am reminded of a Day of the Dead (Nov. 2) which factored significantly in novel I wrote about Guatemala many years ago. More recently, I did spend one of those holidays in the pueblo near where I stay with AFOPADI during my SSG site visits in Guatemala. Yes, there were lots of Calla lilies, plumes of smoke from cigarettes, and alcoholic fumes. But the images I primarily recall are a small metallic radio shiny against the pale, matte stucco of a face-level tomb. And children running across the grave roofs, kites in tow. In those villages: November is the month of Wind... 
To remind us of how compost is essential to our life process, here is a photo taken by my great veggie gardener friend, Bernie. It's from his community garden (which land the city of Evanston is considering selling to a private enterprise)...oh, the curse of Northwestern (as a NPO) not paying property taxes. Nothing is too dear for our municipality to take it off the table.
Anyway, these are Jerusalem artichokes or Sunchokes. They are Sunflowers, in the Helianthus genus. I just love these tangled roots. It is what keeps us upright. We should never forget what is beneath our soil.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Fall Color in Another Client's Garden

A long-term client just sent this splash of red; it is Nyssa sylvatica or Tupelo tree. It grew well when I worked on Martha's Vineyard (likes more acidic soil than Chicagoland), but rarely do you see such a fine specimen as this beauty. This tree is also mature enough to demonstrate its horizontal branching, a desirable trait given that few trees here embody that characteristic.
I have learned more about gardening from this client than any other. This is a small section of her larger landscape where she has been generous & knowledgable enough to share a unique collaborative process over many years. With a science background, she has taught me much about chemistry, water, compost, vegetables, pest & diseases, proper planting technique and of course, design. In our dynamic, I have stretched considerably. Of course: that is a gift. So too, her garden: it is a bit like my step-child. I have been privileged to know it intimately, watch it grow & evolve and to love it like my own.
Especially, since "the cobbler's children" applies to my own garden, I am lucky for this client in a multitude of ways. I wish we all had the good fortune of a terrific mentor.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Fall in a Client's Garden

Leaves, leaves!

Monday, October 5, 2015

Arthur Siegel and Ellen Soffer

My long-standing friend, Ellen Soffer, recently sent me this photo of my dad's from The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Below, you can see it and its caption. As well, an image from a painting (my first art purchase)I bought from Ellen in 1984. For several years in the 80s, wherever I hung that painting: that was home. Check out her website; Ellen is the real deal.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

John Greenlee & Jeff Epping at Intrinsic

One of the joys and rewards of working in the industry is learning from global experts.
Plant people are generally grounded & passionate.
They know that for plants to survive, we must not only share them, but pass along knowledge, so they are also usually generous.
Yesterday, I was fortunate to hear/see presentations by 
John Greenlee of Greenlee & Associates (Meadows & Grasses)
Jeff Epping, Director of Horticulture at Olbrich Botanical Gardens
(Meadows & Gravel Gardens)
at Intrinsic Perennial Gardens run by Brent Horvath.
By the time John gave a tour of the garden (below) that he had just put together,
Jeff had already left to drive back to Madison (so no pix of him).
I was inspired by their commitment to sustainability,
their practical advice
and their aesthetic concepts.

It was quite a dramatic weather day with the types of
clouds we witness in The Midwest.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Insects #2: Not good eyes: just enlarged image

For all of you who wrote me to comment on my good eyesight: In the previous post (Insects), I didn't see the insects when I photographed them. It wasn't until I saw the photo enlarged on my computer that I noticed the insects in addition to the plants.
Why did I use this photo in today's post? Because it shows another example of the virtue of the camera (mine is just iPhone these days): I was photographing this downspout at a client's while measuring for a basemap, but it wasn't until I saw the image later that I "saw" the nice red plant hoop.

Yippee! We are finally starting to get a little rain...we need it for the plants, of course. And, I love the fresh smell of the rain and the sound of car tires rolling through puddles.

Sunday, September 6, 2015


It wasn't until today, because I had this date's photos on my screen saver, that I noticed these two insects on the Hibiscus August 17th. Can you ID them? Especially the blue and red one? The other looks aphid-like.

Friday, September 4, 2015

The Little Petunia That Could...

Plants do many things, including Surprise, Delight and Inspire...
Enjoy Labor Day weekend in the context of Gratitude.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

A Smart, Sustainable Green Wall

Green Walls are very hip...and expensive. Not to mention that they are very difficult to sustain outside in our climate. Whatever zone Chicago is called these days, we still can get the deep cold with no snow cover and that does in a lot of plants. Every year, there is a plant that suffers from stress: cold, hot, dry, wet, insect, disease or human mistreatment; every year, some plant doesn't make it. This past winter, both mature and newer Harry's Walking Stick all seemed to perish.
So, why not have this dried Green Wall to lift your spirits? I do not know the price, but if you treat it as a good piece of art, you will have your money's worth.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Cultivate Urban Rainforest & Gallery

Here are a few random literal/visual/otherwise reflections on a vibrant addition to our local Evanston spaces. Cultivate Urban Rainforest & Gallery.

What a delight to experience others creating an environment that is both stimulating and calming with plants, art and "objets." I love how they use the back of this expensive piece of furniture for a blackboard (with that variegated Iris to pop the black): very out-of-the-box.

Reflecting my predilections, the place shows off carnivorous plants, ferns and succulents to their advantages (light conditions mid-day made photographing "interesting"). The owner, Louise Rosenberg, "founded Cultivate on the belief that plants, art and community create a wonderful synergy that is self-sustaining." (Quote from Magic-on-Main 7/27 blog post.) I felt the manifestation!

While Cultivate works as an integrated creation, I was engaged by exploring so many vignettes that also work independently. There is also a lively extension of the space on the back porch. No pix, but I did put my money where my mouth is and support locally when I bought a vintage, white-painted, metal hanging basket for 4-season interest for my dark, covered, north-facing back porch.
Below, you can see one of the otherworldly light reflections.