Thursday, February 27, 2014

Sunny Morning

It's such a sunny morning, and my orchid looked so pretty with the sun streaming through, I couldn't resist picking up my camera.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

21 Days Until Spring

Snowdrops, spring 2013

As I sit here on this cold morning with my cup of tea, for the second morning in a row it is snowing. Big, fluffy snowflakes.  But take heart, there's only 21 days until spring. Snowdrops, not snow, are coming. And crocuses, daffodils, tulips, forsythia...just think what is awaiting us under that snow.

Snow this morning

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

A Reason To Go To Paris

Musee du Quai Branly

I am fascinated by these vertical gardens in Paris that I have read about recently.  I think they are so gorgeous.  They were designed and planted by Patrick Blanc, a botanist and researcher, called the inventor of living walls.  He is best known for the living wall (le 'mur vegetal') he planted and designed on the Musee du Quai Branly in Paris, near the Eiffel Tower, and he has created living walls all over the world--London, Singapore, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Berlin, and many more.  He was inspired to create these vertical gardens by the plants that thrive on wet vertical rock surfaces without any soil, and he designed his own patented system to mimic this on the walls of urban buildings.

Musee du Quai Branly

His system consists of a metal frame that supports PVC plates,  on which are stapled two layers of a polyamide felt. These layers mimic cliff- growing mosses and support the roots of many plants, without any soil at all. A network of piping provides water and nutrients for the plants to grow.  The solution flows down the wall and excess water is collected in a gutter at the bottom of the wall,  which is recirculated into the network of pipes--a closed circuit.

Another installation (below) on a formerly drab corner in the 2nd arrondissement of Paris features 236 different kinds of plants, covering 2700 square feet of an 83-foot concrete wall. I love how it was planted in a wave pattern across the wall.

Rue d'Aboukir, Paris

The walls are planted with mosses, campanulas, geraniums, heucheras, ferns, ivies, sages, shrubs such as hydrangea, viburnums, and honeysuckles, grasses, and even small trees at the top, all  interspersed on a base of thick mosses and liverworts. He starts out with smaller plants at the bottom and moves up the wall using larger plants.

And another living wall is at the Pershing Hotel in Paris, formerly the building of the American Legion in Paris. Love this. There's even a pharmacy in Paris with a living wall of medicinal plants. All good reasons to visit Paris. Closer to home, there are Patrick Blanc-designed living walls in Miami, New York's Botanical Garden, and Charlotte, NC. Time for a road trip!

Pershing Hotel (all images via Pinterest)

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Vintage Seed Stamps

Where have I been? I picked up these vintage seed packets stamps at the post office last week and I just might have to write a letter. What?

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

We Are Water

I am a big fan of Wally Lamb's first two novels (She's Come Undone and I Know This Much Is True)  and I wanted to like this book.  We Are Water is a very complex and multi-layered story about the break-up of a family. After moving to New York City to pursue her disturbing yet successful and very lucrative art work,  Annie Oh divorces her husband of 27 years and intends to marry her wealthy Manhattan art dealer (a woman).  The book takes place in the months before their upcoming marriage, and  explores the reactions of her ex- husband Orion and their three adult children. There are lots of back stories, of course, lots of secrets,  reasons why she married, why she falls in love with a woman. There is almost too much going on in the story. And I didn't feel the same connection with the characters that I did in his earlier books, they didn't seem as well developed or likable.  The ex-husband is a university psychologist, yet he misses all the signs of problems and dysfunction in his own family.  There are some disturbing scenes, too, that I thought were over the top. Over drama.  Each chapter is told from a different character's perspective, and the story goes back and forth from the past to the present.  It's a long book, a lot to take in. It's readable, but not in the same league as his earlier novels.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Winter Garden

"Most people, early in November, take last looks at their gardens, are then prepared to ignore them until the spring. I am quite sure that a garden doesn't like to be ignored like this. It doesn't like to be covered up in dust sheets, as though it were an old room which you had shut up during the winter. Especially since a garden knows how gay and delightful it can be, even in the dry frozen heart of the winter, if you only give it a chance."   ~ Beverley Nichols

Friday, February 14, 2014

Snow Day

We woke up yesterday morning to a winter wonderland of snow. We finally got our big snowstorm, closing down the schools,  federal government,  libraries, canceling flights. It was an icy snow, and the plows didn't come round our neighborhood until last night. People were outside all day, though, kids playing, people shoveling, using the snowblowers. We decided that dogs have the most fun in the snow--so fun to watch them running free and playing in the snow!  We had a real crowd in late afternoon, when a car got stuck in front of our house, and the whole neighborhood turned up to help. There was another few inches of snow in the evening, and today all is calm.

Shoveling Snow, by Kirsten Dierking

If day after day I was caught inside
this muffle and hush

I would notice how birches
move with a lovely hum of spirit,

how falling snow is a privacy
warm as the space for sleeping,

how radiant snow is a dream
like leaving behind the body

and rising into that luminous place
where sometimes you meet

the people you've lost. How
silver branches scrawl their names

in tangled script against the white.
How the curves and cheekbones

of all my loved ones appear
in the polished marble of drifts.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Think Spring!

 It's so cold here today and surprise, surprise, we may get some more snow tomorrow.  I do wish we'd get one more good snowstorm, with enough snow to really enjoy it. I have been keeping busy inside these days, looking through old garden magazines for new ideas, painting the trim all around my house (a never-ending job), and the biggest job of all, trying to organize my photos-- moving last year's photos to an external hard drive and generally organizing my photographic life. It's not easy! But as I was looking through last year's photos, I was struck by the beauty of this yellow rose. I love that tight center. Love that creamy color.  I know spring will come, but today let's look at some pretty creamy white fleurs. And then tomorrow, we'll think about snow.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Books On My Nightstand

TransAtlantic, by Colum McCann.  A novel about crossings: of the Atlantic, of national borders, and emotional boundaries. Recommended by a friend.

Under the Wide and Starry Sky, by Nancy Horan.  I loved Horan's first book, Loving Frank, about the wife of Frank Lloyd Wright.  Her second book explores the life of Fanny Van de Grift Osbourne, the wife of Robert Louis Stevenson. Heard her on NPR and I was hooked.

The Lowland, by Jhumpa Lahiri. Looking forward to another great novel by Lahiri.

We Are Water, by Wally Lamb. I loved his first two novels back in the day--She's Come Undone, and I Know This Much is True. Am reading this one now.

Still Life, by Louise Penny. The first in the series that introduces Inspector Armand Gamache from Quebec. I have heard good things about this series and I want to read them!

The Language of Flowers, by Vanessa Diffenbaugh. My brother send me this book because he thought I would like it. About flowers? And I haven't read it?

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Second Bloom for Amaryllis

So the first bloom of my new amaryllis 'Tres Chic' was pretty great. It bloomed for a few weeks right after Christmas,  and then I cut that stem down. This is a second stem which was just starting to show when I cut the first stem down,  and it is now blooming, with eight flowers! I think there were seven blooms on the first stem, so 15 flowers for one bulb is amazing. All that energy stored up inside one bulb!  This amaryllis is definitely a winner, as it has been pretty spectacular this year.

And this is my old amaryllis,  'Apple Blossom,' which I have had for several years and I have always been able to make it rebloom. So far all I have are leaves this year. We'll see.  It looks healthy, so I'm not giving up.

And over the weekend I planted the last of my paperwhites...they'll be blooming in a week or so. It's so nice to have some cheerful flowers for these wintery days.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Thinking of Peonies

It's hard to believe yesterday was sunny and sixty degrees, because it's cold and rainy and miserable  here this morning, and the weather people are talking about more storms later this week. Such a crazy winter.  But yesterday was feeling like spring, and so I went off to Green Springs Gardens in the afternoon for one of their Winter Lecture Series--this one was about peonies, one of my favorite fleurs.  The speaker was Kathleen Gagan, the owner of Peony's Envy, one of the largest peony farms in the US (located in New Jersey), and which grows over 500 cultivars of peonies.   She was an enthusiastic and engaging speaker and she talked about the four different kinds of peonies--woodland, herbaceous, tree, and intersectional (Itoh hybrids), their care, and cultivation. She made me want to grow more peonies, and especially try the newer intersectional varieties, which are a cross between the herbaceous and tree peonies.  And I never even knew there was a woodland peony. It is smaller, will grow in shade, and spreads like a  ground cover. Who knew?

I thought this was a great illustration that she showed of the four different kinds of peonies, and what to expect in terms of size, shape, etc.

She also talked about the history of peonies,  the colors, the flower shapes,  and how to use peonies in the landscape. I learned a lot, and was happy that I went. After the lecture I walked around the gardens, still wintery, but always something interesting to photograph.

And I really have to get some of this helleborus foetidus,  which were showing some buds and brightening up the gardens.