Saturday, February 7, 2009

Follow the pretty green book cover

Come to my other blog if you are interest in fabric and or quilting design. Interesting things might be occurring there soon.

Friday, September 26, 2008

God is in the details: Olana

Pamela and I just returned from a 3 day trip up the Hudson River ending in the town of Catskill. While there we visited the 19th century home of Frederick Church, just across the Rip Van Winkle Bridge from Catskill.
Frederick Church was one of the more prominent of the Hudson River School painters. One of his best known works was his 7 x 3 ft painting of Niagara Falls.

When Frederick began to work on the design of Olana after an extended family trip to the Middle East, his naturalistic style of painting was already losing popularity due to the emergence of Impressionism.

Whether motivated by this realization or not, Frederick poured heart and soul into every detail of his home and spent the last 3 decades of his life dedicated to it's creation. It is abundantly clear in the design of Olana how enamored he was with the Persian and Moorish art he had seen on his travels. He designed every internal and external decorative element including the mixing of every color used and worked with architect Calvert Vaux to make it a reality.

I could not take pictures inside the house but here are the best details I was able to capture of the outside. Do, if you can, pay a visit. But for those who can't go in person, I hope my photographs give you a glimpse of the extreme pleasure it is to visit Frederick Church's ultimate masterpiece, Olana.

Also remember to click on pictures to get even more of the details. And you never know, whom you will see since God is rumored to reside there.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The last Coca-Cola! or you never know anymore who will visit.

Went out on this Indian Summer day in September to check out the honeybee situation in my garden. Marta had pointed out the the sedums blooming in my garden where one of the last Coca-Colas available to the honeybees and that is why I had so many of them visiting. There are so many sometimes that Pamela and I become a bit wary walking by at times when activity is at peak.

I went out with my close-up lens in the hopes of getting a real good look at them and one that I could share. I was surprised to find a whole new flowering plant. On the tall side, about 4 ft. high, it was bursting out of my 'Dorothy Wycoff' andromeda which had protected it from weeding until now. (Not that it was in much danger.) It sports longish sprigs ( 8-12") of daisy-style flowers about a centimeter ( or 3/8") wide at their largest.

I'm focusing in to get a picture when I notice an unusual black, orange and white pattern on the sprig. I bring that into focus and there is another unknown creature feasting of the nectar of the newly discovered plant!

Notice in the close-ups how furry it seems. (Click on the picture to get a bigger one.) And you can definitely see the proboscis sucking up the nectar quite clearly.

So, please... any one who knows what either of these two are, let me know. And also if you know who the green iridescent fellow is feeding on and adjacent sprig.

And I did take a picture of the honeybees. I particularly like the one where it looks as if the bee has it's head buried in a field of pink posies. (Sedum 'Autumn Joy'). Marta taught me that honeybees are 'honey colored' and not as big or furry as the bumbles but still plumper than the yellow jackets. I pass this on for all you fellow bee novices.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

In Praise of Volunteers or The Kindness of Strangers

For me August is the month to look back over the garden and decide what worked and which gardening approaches and assumptions need revision. A gardener's equivalent of making your New Year's resolutions list.

Even though I work at home I have very little time for actual gardening. As a result the sunny areas in my garden are a bit weedy. I've realized I can only be unrelenting in eradicating garlic mustard. The myriad grasses that adore my patch of earth often are allowed to remain. As a result, by the end of summer I have a hybrid meadow-cottage garden affair in full swing.

There is a very definite upside to this approach however. Some of the most exciting gardening moments this year have come through the "kindness of strangers". As I desultorily pursue my weeding I come upon plants I do not quite remember having seen before. I tend to leave these alone since it could be I did plant something and simply forgot.

The most exciting of all were the 2 dianthus varieties or Sweet Williams that appeared out of nowhere. I had never seen one.

I knew something was up in early spring when I saw this rosette of leaves topped by a fluffy spiky tuft in an entirely different style. I left it alone hoping this augured good things.
A few weeks later I was rewarded by these bright magenta dots in the fluffy areas. And then to my added delight I saw I had another similar plant with paler pink dots about a foot away.
I called my friend Marta, gardener extraordinaire, to help identify my precious new plant. And she congratulated me and told me their names.

For next year I have ordered 3 more dianthus of a new variety patented by John Whetman of Deer Park Farm, Devon called 'Devon Yolande'! How could I resist a plant named in my honor.

Oh! a great thing about these sweet plants is that if you deadhead once the first blooms are spent they will rebloom all the way into September not as thickly but just as brightly.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Queen of the Meadows

This post is specifically so I can convince the world (and Katarina in Sweden in particular. See her Roses and Stuff blog listed in my Virtual Relatives list.) to include if at all possible the wild carrot or Queen Anne's lace in any meadow plans they (or she) might be entertaining.

On a trip 2 years ago to Vermont, Pamela and I visited the Alburg Dunes State Park on Lake Champlain near the Canadian border. There we were treated to the most stupendous close-up display of the Queen in all her stages. It was a floral fireworks display the likes of which I had never experienced.

(Remember a click on an image brings you closer to visual bliss.)

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


Since dragonflies seem to be so popular, I wanted to share this very detailed picture taken a few years ago on the asphalt driveway to my home. Actual size of this dragonfly is about 4 to 5 inches.  A perfect design for a brooch, don't you think. (Remember, clicking on any of the photos will get you a bigger version. Definitely worth the click.)

Sunday, August 10, 2008

By Chance — the fortuitous or incalculable element in existence

Since mid-July I've had many opportunities to ruminate on the concept of chance.

By chance, I refer specifically to that described in the Merrian-Webster as:

1 a: something that happens unpredictably without discernible human intention or observable cause b: the assumed impersonal purposeless determiner of unaccountable happenings : luck c: the fortuitous or incalculable element in existence : contingency

I find the the 1c definition particularly poetic... "the fortuitous or incalculable element in existence."

The first chance occurrence took place at a garden barbecue to celebrate the birthdays of Kirke (the father - 70 years old) and Jeff (the son - 40 years old).

Marta, Kirke's wife, writer and gardener extraordinaire, had invited Joan Ryder, former director of the Reeves-Reed arboretum. Joan walked into the party carrying a baby Wisteria 'Amethyst Falls'. I saw it from about 20 feet away and knew immediately that she had in her arms one of my latest botanical obsessions. (See the July 5th, Garden Dreaming Deep post.) My gasp of delight was immediately noticed and not soon afterwards I had the "baby" in my arms and I was being told I could take it home. Chance had decided, not I, that at last Pamela and I should have a wisteria to nurture of our very own. And amazingly the next day we found it the perfect spot for it to grow and thrive where we had not known there was room. A month later it has grown at least a foot and a half and starting to climb it's very own guardian tree.

The second chance encounter occurred last week. Pamela and I had decided to spend a day at Longwood Gardens and the next day spend it exploring the legendary quilting fabrics store of the Amish and Mennonite country nearby.

We went to Zook's, (so exciting to see 2 of my own lines at Zook's…of course I had to take pictures!) The Old Country Store and Museum both in Intercourse and Burkholders in Denver, PA.

At Burkholder's my attention was caught by a man with a shopping cart piled high with fabric bolts. That he was a man in a quilting store was noteworthy enough. But what was really endearing was that he also would stop once in a while and whisper soothingly in a soft gravelly voice to his Boston Terrier who was also inside the shopping cart lounging on her very own pillow. I asked him permission to take a snapshot and if he wished I would send him a copy. He graciously agreed.

To my surprise, when I began to type the email address he had given me the email program finished it for me correctly. His address was already in my database with full name information which he had not given me on the slip of paper. Small world that we live in... Dennis had subscribed to my fabric and quilting web site a few months before and — by chance — we had come to be at the same place, at the same time in what was for me a place I did not regularly frequent.

The third chance occurrence took place at my friend Joan Bachenko's farm. We had come the evening before to spend a relaxed evening on her horse farm incinerating hot dogs and watching the Olympics, sleep over and have a morning with her the next day.

As we were getting ready to leave in the morning, we drove our car up to where Joan was preparing Mackenzie, her horse, for the trip to the stables where she rides him.

I noticed that there was an unusual variety of wildflowers near where her horse trailer was parked along with an unusual variety of farm equipment. Enchantment took over when I realized I was standing in a chance wildflower and sculpture garden. I whipped out my camera, ever the flower paparazzo and began to shoot. And then someone walked over to stare at me. Chance personified (or horsified.)

Looking over the fence at me was the former carriage horse, Chance. Chance had had the good fortune to be rescued sight unseen by two NYC angels, Steve Nislick and Linda Marcus.

Steve and Linda have been boarding Chance at Joan's until they can find a good permanent home for her. The lot of carriage horses in NYC's Central Park is not a happy one. They are overworked and under appreciated to the point that if they get sick and cannot recover within a few weeks, they are sent for slaughter. Steve and Linda are actively working to find alternatives that will allow for the suspension of these abhorrent practices.

Looking at Chance you would never believe that she came so close to being killed because she could no longer work as a Central Park carriage horse. Her feet were deteriorating from a combination of exhausting hours pounding the pavements of the city as a tourist attraction and bad shoeing by unskilled attendants.

Thanks to Steve and Linda and the gentle care she receives on a daily basis from Joan, Chance is now a good-natured, happy, healthy pasture-munching horse. Her feet are healing well. She is impressively built and looks every bit the young seven-year old teenager that she was meant to be. Upon a recent veterinarian visit she received the ultimate compliment from him: she would be a good choice for a breeding mare. This would be fine by Chance who moons unfruitfully after handsome, Mackenzie, Joan's horse, who unfortunately has lost all interest in such matters.

And her feet are definitely on the mend. On a walk during our visit we discovered a pile of her very distinctive manure —distinctive because her piles tend to be twice the size of all the other horses' piles being part draft horse — in a place where only access was a not-easy jump over a rocky stream. Way to go, Chance!