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!

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Water Gardener

The energy and dedication it takes to maintain a public garden is Herculean, perhaps even Sisyphian in nature.
This was brought graphically home to me watching the water gardener at Longwood. I watched him in his chest-high Cabela waders as he walked about in the pools picking up the leaves and slapping them back down... I suppose to shake off accumulated debris. Once is a while he would surprise me by cutting off a lily bud that looked perfectly good to my eye. The swiftness with which he would pluck it off told of the depths of expertise behind the act.
It was a very hot, sunny day and neither Pamela nor I envied him his job. It cannot have been so wonderful inside those waders.
And his caretaking was the most visible of all, I assume because it did provide a bit of theater for the conservatory visitors. I imagine there is a small army of gardeners that must rise up at dawn every single day and on their hands and knees free the gardens of unsightlies before the visitors arrive.
To all of these caretakers whose job is strictly behind the scenes, I give my deepest thanks also.
The outdoor water lily display is a sight not to miss at Longwood Gardens. For the delight of photographers, the waters are tinted with an organic black dye. As a result, remarkable portraits of perfectly framed water lilies are possible. Actually, the dye is not for the likes of me. Rather, it is for the benefit of the plants themselves and simpler maintenance. It's presence in the water slows algae growth by reducing the amount of light. There are also small golden orange fish keeping the mosquito and other pesky insect populations down and the ponds healthy environments for both plants and humans to enjoy.