Garden Greetings

This recent article in the nytimes about the exhibition “Walker Evans and the Picture Postcard” at the Met was particularly interesting, not only because I am always fascinated by other people's creative process but I am always looking at vintage postcards myself for work. I look at them primarily to look at how color degrades, how print fades, how paper discolors and stains, where the creases folds and scratches are. It's not in anyway scientific, it's just something I like to do and it informs my work more by osmosis than anything else.

It was interesting to learn that Walker Evans was an avid collector of these 'folk documents'and their aesthetics influenced his work in particular how scenes are cropped. Although a great fan of them myself, I've never collected them - I go religiously to flea markets in Manhattan most weekends sifting through all kinds of ephemera, just looking. If I buy anything its usually books or textiles- except this one time I bought about six postcards, all garden themed with roses as the motif.

The one shown is typical of the general style, very 3 dimensional- either by letterpress (which makes the reverse as you can see quite interesting) or by adding another cut layer. The one shown also has allowed age to soften the vibrant Magenta ink wash and enrichen the paper color to a deeply warm beige. "From your teacher" its says "for good spelling".

+ OccasionalOasis:Nature Tent

Rethinking Weeds

The temperatures slid down again over the last week. A perfect time to revisit the images I captured on my walk in Central Park after the last big snowfall. I worked with one image, and am extremely pleased with this reimagining of Winter Weeds.

Apart from the reworking of a somewhat bleak and wintry scene I'm also enjoying working with a subject that's ostensibly mundane which may explain my fascination with weeds in general. I'm adding to the vintage library, Common Weeds to explore/research the subject more which will be a continuing theme I feel this year because weeds are without doubt - hot. They are intrinsic to the growing interest in foraging for wild foods for which I might sign up for Wildman Steve Brill's tour of Central Park at some point. I know I paid good money for a bunch of wild spinach at the farmers market only to discover later I could have probably got this for free.

Apart from a revival of interest in their culinary and probable medicinal value, a move in general to the aesthetics of rusticity and simplicity could very well mean that the humble weed as beautiful object is also very much on the cards - see Albrecht Durer's 1503 masterpiece The Great Piece of Turf. Yesterday I purchased seeds for what I thought was a beautiful weed I came across in Central park last year, now re defined on the seed packet as Sea Oats, a perennial that's 'a centerpiece for Garden or Table'.

Green Lilacs

The spoils of my weekend in Mamaroneck- a bunch of cut lilac branches. They were plump buds when I brought them home. The image is from a couple of days ago and they have progressed even further, I can now see flower buds but they remain green. I went to remind myself when exactly last year it was that I discovered the lilacs at the Brooklyn Botanic. It was in May, a full two months away. How lovely to have this jump start. I haven't had the greatest success with cut spring branches, they sputter out without looking anything like the beautiful displays I catch glimpses of in the many Manhattan restaurant interiors that have them at this time of year. I know this is my fault, so I put in a little more effort this time. I googled, pounded the stems, changed the water after three days. Lets see if my green lilacs turn red white or blue.

February Light

The views from the house in Mamaroneck always surprise me as a city dweller not used to looking out at gardens and trees. For some reason this time I became aware of a little more - the distortions of the views through old glass, their reflections caught in mirrors, diffused through lace curtains. The February light seemed to drive distorted pictures of the outside deeper into the house, abstracting them randomly on the glass of bookcases or framed artwork. There were ghostly apparitions of trees caught in the net of fabric shades. It felt like another dimension where the outside had actually seeped in.

Tough and Tender

I noticed the Heuchera the last time I came up in January. It didn't seem quite right, leaves intact and clearly alive. Here it is again even a little lusher and colorful. I had followed with interest this article and the ensuing discussion about how difficult they were to grow. Turns out the one we have, 'Obsidisan' has been successful with a few other gardeners. I didn't know until now however, after looking it up that Heuchera's are semi evergreen- so they're really tougher than I thought, although it looks like summer is when they may have problems.

These tender pink shoots are from the Euphorbia Bonfire which is getting better every year. Both Euphorbias and Heucheras, are species I'd love to get more of into the beds, both have the kind of complex foliage colors that I want more of to slowly replace some of the plants that I'm not so fond of. The Heuchera's may not happen, they're expensive and seem less dependable. Euphorbia's on the other hand, I've had more experience with, I had the tall Euphorbia Characias Wulfenii and the trailing E.Myrsinites in my London Garden and they seemed easy enough.

Moss and Broom

Due to a last minute cancellation, the family dog up at Mamarnoeck was left without a sitter while the family went on vacation, so I went up to take care of Mayzie this weekend and got a chance to have a good look at the garden in February and even spent a little time gardening- not something I usually do until May . I cleaned up the vegetable beds, turned it over a little and did a little clearing and pruning in the main beds. There were a few surprises, the first one being the amount of green in the garden. There was the box shrub and the gold thread cypress but the new Broom planted last June looked really green and fresh. Something I haven't really noticed before is how lovely and mossy the paths between the beds are. Usually those spaces drive me a little nuts because they are always in need of weeding usually grass. But at this time of year the primary occupant is moss and I guess its been getting more established over the years.

Next September

I need to start reminding myself that I need to do some planting at the beginning of the season that will make some impact later in the season. The Mamaroneck garden looks best early in the season, then it goes a little off in July, although it was a little better this year and comes back strong in August when the Japanese anenomes peak then September sort of falls flat. So for next September, I must, must, must try and get some asters like the ones above which were almost magenta. The color intensifies with a red neighbor, I like the salvia but I loved the red tassel flower. I like Russian Sage but I thought it might too whitened or cool in color to look good with all the warm tones but this combination changed my mind- I can just see that now- the sage next to the berberis behind the Sedum. I think I like the texture and structure mainly, at this time while things are getting a little floppy. All images were taken last September at NYBG.

Tangled up in Blue

In the recent edition of Bloom that I mentioned before, there's an article called Grassland- with transportive images of grassy meadows full of flowers tangled up with tall grass. Typically this is always a riot of mixed color but when I saw this section at the NYBG, I saw the posibility of keeping that flower and grass pairing to a restricted palette - in this case some kind of blue grass and a blue mistflower. This could be really interesting in a container - if you don't exactly have the room for a meadow - so I've been poking around looking for ideas. The color combination here of limes is cool. A dark combination could be interesting- a chocolatey knautia or cosmos with chocolate sedum and a chocolate carex. I noted this picture in a book on Highgrove of Camassias which look gorgeous in that meadow setting. Some great books on the subject Piet Oudolf's Gardening with Grasses and Christopher Lloyd's Meadows. You can get a hefty not so limited preview of both those books if you search for them on Googlebooks.

Hot Botanical Nerds

Thanks to a recent op ed by Maureen Dowd, I now can't get the term 'hot nerds' out of my head. I shed a tear on reading that both from laughing hysterically at the word pairing and from joy that it could possibly be true - please let it be true- that we may now be in a new era where smart people are - hot. Hallelujah.

So when I come across the top 100 Botany Blogs which is not exactly all experts and Ph.d's and not exactly all botanists and not all actually blogging (a couple stopped in 2006), but there's certainly enough material here for me to manufacture a thought bubble that reads 'wow, hot botanical nerds'. They're here. My google reader will shortly runneth over. Posts like this about foods that are only eaten when the plant is diseased are just blowing my mind and I know that tonight I will very likely be dreaming about a shrub with beautiful cracking fruit.

I happened to come across the link by accident on discovering a blogger, nycgarden, whose resume includes artist, gardener and who lives in NYC, (all of which are also incidentally, hot). Love all the posts about weeds.

Graphic Flowers

I'm currently working furiously on designs for Spring Summer 2010 and one interesting development is a move to designs that are more graphic, monochromatic and bolder. I thought I'd translate this to a botanical theme and work on an image of Black Barlow from early last summer- perfect candidate for a stamped, inked silhouette. I'm reminded of the illustration work of Vanesa Bell for Virginia Woolf's book covers - the image one the right is for The Years- a graphic black rose with modern motifs. The image is one I took as I happened to notice the book in the window of an antiquarian in the West Village. I might work on a series of black flowers.

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