my new earrings (via collaboration of Molly M Designs & Roberto Burle Marx)

You know how one thing leads to another, and before you know it there’s a new pair of earrings coming in the mail? Let me explain.
There’s a Roberto Burle Marx exhibit right now at the Jewish Museum in New York (review here, “The Builder of Jungles” by Martin Filler.)
I admit to being slightly confused as to how a museum exhibit could possibly do justice to the work of the great Brazilian modernist landscape architect.
But Burle Marx was an outsized, protean artist, “a painter and sculptor; a designer of textiles, jewelry, theater sets, and costumes; a ceramicist and stained-glass artist.”
Therefore, he’s eminently worthy of an indoor exhibit, though I have to agree with Mr. Filler that:
The primal presence of nature—even in this designer’s highly stylized manner—is needed to fully explain the atavistic magic that emerged from his jungle fervor.”
(If you’re going to the Olympics in Rio this August, in addition to the famous Avenida Atlântica, the Copacabana boardwalk, you’ll want to research some Burle Marx-themed road trips.)


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Avenida Atlântica, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, via The New York Times

After reading the NYRB review, I confess my next thought was on the low-brow side: museum shop!
Maybe there were some special prints for sale made for the show, such as a print of this:


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Burle Marx’s design for a rooftop garden, Ministry of Education and Health, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, 1938, via NYRB

or this:

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“A detail of Roberto Burle Marx’s design for the garden of the Ministry of the Army in Brasília from the early 1970s.”
The New York Times – “Revisiting the Constructed Edens of Roberto Burle Marx

I didn’t find a print, but did experience an aha! moment discovering the jewelry of Molly M. I was beginning to think I was hopelessly tone deaf when it comes to jewelry.
It’s gotten so bad that I’ll find myself at work completely denuded of any ornament, having forgotten to wear even a wedding band before leaving the house. What’s wrong with me anyway?
My indifference to jewelry all my life never really bothered me much, but I’ve begun to notice the emotional attachment people feel to their rings, necklaces, bracelets and earrings.
Frankly, I’m a little envious of that attachment. So I had a couple Etsy sessions recently, dutifully scanning the sites for something to spark an interest. Nothing. Hopeless.
Until I saw the laser-cut creations of architect-trained Molly M in the Jewish Museum Shop tying into the Burle Marx exhibition.

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Finally, jewelry I actually desired. Now I get it! The Tropicalissimo Quill Necklace made a convert of me.
But a necklace is a big step for the newly converted, formerly jewelry phobic. Maybe there were earrings on Molly M’s own site?
Yes, there are Quill earrings available, as shown in the above photo.

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But at almost 2 inches in diameter, I opted for something smaller in “Radial,” made of “natural and charcoal stained birch.”

You can read more about Molly M here. I think I may have found, via our beloved Roberto Burle Marx, the cure to my jewelry phobia.

in the news

Since the government shutdown, I’ve been checking in with The New York Times at an increasingly feverish pace, several times a day, (and doing little else, it seems), so it was in real time that the story on James Golden of the blog View From Federal Twist scrolled across my screen last night. What a welcome frisson of surprise and affection it provided, immediately displacing all that news-glut irritability. Anything Michael Tortorello writes is worth dropping what you’re doing to read, but here he was focusing on our beloved blogger from Federal Twist. Read the sumptuous article here. The article coincides with the inclusion of Federal Twist in the Garden Conservancy Open Days this weekend, October 19, in Stockton, New Jersey. If only…

One of MB Maher’s autumnal photos of New York’s Battery Park from 2010 helps me remember what the East Coast looks like in fall.

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New York’s Battery Park in fall

But wait, there’s more. Also hot off the blogroll (non-secateur) and into the presses comes a piece on blogger and garden designer Dustin Gimbel in the Orange County Register. Journalist/blogger/impresario and constant gardener herself, Cindy McNatt, penned a warm tribute to Dustin entitled “The constant gardener.”


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From Dustin Gimbel’s home garden, Long Beach, California

There you have it. Two nice reads on the profound effects of gardens and plants and the places they take us, proving that it’s not all been entirely wretched news lately.

clippings 9/30/13

While on the subject of concrete, precast manhole covers, stacked. I prefer to have a day’s worth of concrete projects if I’m going to drag all that mess out.


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Found at BHG here, but the link loads slow.


I was continually disturbing the dormancy of the little patch of nerines in the gravel garden by digging in what I forgetfully thought was available garden space, so I moved them into pots again. And not long after they’ve rewarded me for all that rough handling with a bloom. These South African bulbs are fast multipliers.

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Mine were gifts from Matt, who blogs at Growing With Plants. He keeps a wonderful greenhouse full of fall- and winter-blooming bulbs.

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And in the offchance your inbox hasn’t been inundated with friends sending you emails of the Fiona Apple/Chipotle/Willy Wonka Pure Imagination mashup, here’s the link to the video. And some words from The New Yorker on why this pretty little video on eating fresh is raising hackles.


On the subject of inboxes, Gmail users, what are we making of the new segregation system of sorting our mail that Gmail imposed this summer? Personally, I never click on the other categories, “social” or “promotions,” but read only mail labeled “primary.” Retailers suspect as much and aren’t happy about it: “Retailers Fight Exile From Gmail In-Boxes.” — The New York Times, September 15, 2013.
I’m still mad about losing Google Reader and have yet to find an effective replacement for keeping track of online reading.

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Knots. I see knots everywhere. Knotwork for enormous pots at Orange County’s The Lab

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And a photo from their website of the pots without their finery

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unsourced image from Pinterest

Did you ever wonder what holds the center of those heavy sailor doorstops? We have. Marty is a whiz at knotwork, but finding a large, heavy orb has been a problem. Bowling balls are too large. Currently we’re experimenting with bocce balls.


in love with my garden

It’s Earth Day. Or the day after, to be exact. Let’s hope being a day late is not a portent of things to come.
So this morning after, I’m sending mash notes to Earth for making my little garden possible.
I want to thank photosynthesis for everything you do. I want to give special thanks to the atmosphere, to rocks, to continental drift.
Who am I forgetting? Oceans, plankton, magma. You know who you are. I couldn’t have done it without you.
You too, moon and tides. I also want to thank my latitude, nighttime pollinators.
Oh, there’s just too many to thank, and I don’t want to forget anyone. I couldn’t have done it without you.


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Earth, I owe everything I am to you.
(title inspired by “In Love With My Planet.”)

This work is not about landscapes. It is about love.”

which way to the garden?


Ever click on a house tour article that opens with a photo like this, hoping to see a few more photos of the landscape?
If the article is about a house for sale on the island of Barbados, I’m betting on getting lucky.

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Hoping, at a minimum, that maybe the photographer got careless and inadvertently included a bit of the garden.

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Very nice. Now, let’s go outside, shall we?

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Four decks and patios in the backyard are shrouded by lush tropical gardens. The beach is just beyond a hedge.”
C’mon, show some of it, will you? Let’s see some of what puts the tropical in “tropical gardens.”

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Okay. The house will do. Now what about the garden?

contemporary house in Barbados via NYT, http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/14/greathomesanddestinations/real-estate-in-barbados.html?WT.mc_id=RE-D-I-NYT-MOD-MOD-M293-ROS-0213-PH&WT.mc_ev=click&WT.mc_c=208674

Now we’re talking. That’s a pretty good start. More, please.
(Nice definition with the massed sansevieria at the patio’s edge, and that’s an impressive stand of ginger.)

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What you do automatically, everybody does, is walk straight into the garden, and straight to the sea,” said Peter Lewis, an owner.”

Of course we do.


But that’s it. All the rest of the photos are of immaculately clean, spare rooms in a house for sale in Barbados. I mean, the photographer is there already. Why not grab a few photos of the landscape? I admit I’m biased and don’t speak for the typical newspaper design reader, and I know this is a piece on real estate for sale, but at least get photos of all four patios. That’s what I’d need to see before thinking about spending $3.95 million, because that’s where I’d spend all my time. Hasn’t the concept of “outdoor rooms” reached the NYT yet? It’s Barbados, for chrissakes, an island I’ve had a crush on since reading an article about it in my teen-age brother’s Surfer magazine. I forget what I had for breakfast today, but I can easily recall the name of the surfer in the article, Claude Codgen, salt-and-sun bleached blond hair pouring out from underneath a cowboy hat, head tipped back against a wall, eyes squinting into the island sun…but I digress. Help me out here, New York Times. Magazines like Garden Design are calling it quits. A little more landscape with your house tours, please? Especially when the landscape figures so prominently in the appeal of the house. Sure, what the kitchen countertops are made of is important to know, I suppose, but in the owner’s words, with my emphasis:


Here, to be honest,’ he said, “we don’t live inside, we live outside.”

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What he said.

wall street occupies central park

From Wikipedia: “Patronage is the support, encouragement, privilege, or financial aid that an organization or individual bestows to another.”

New York City’s Central Park has found a patron to rival the Medicis. Hedge fund manager John. A. Paulson has gifted Central Park $100 million.

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photo by Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

It’s about time that parks saw some major philanthropic action too.

Asked what prompted the gift, he said: ‘Walking through the park in different seasons, it kept coming back that, in my mind, Central Park is the most deserving of all of New York’s cultural institutions. And I wanted the amount to make a difference. The park is very large, and its endowment is relatively small.’” — A $100 Million Thank-You for a Lifetime’s Central Park Memories, Lisa Foderaro, The New York Times, 10/23/12.

From the Central Park Conservancy website: “Eighty-five percent of Central Park’s $46 million annual expense budget comes from private donations. Central Park has received an unprecedented gift of $100 million from John A. Paulson and the Paulson Family Foundation to help sustain the progress we’ve made since 1980 and ensure that generations to come will be able to make their own memories here.”

New York City parks are really feeling the love lately. What a roll they’ve been on the past couple years:

The gift is the latest in a year in which city parks emerged as major beneficiaries of philanthropy, joining more traditional recipients like museums, hospitals and universities. A year ago, the Diller-von Furstenberg Family Foundation pledged $20 million to the High Line, the elevated park on the West Side of Manhattan; that donation followed two other gifts to the High Line from the foundation, totaling $15 million. In April, Joshua P. Rechnitz, an amateur track cyclist, announced a gift of $40 million to Brooklyn Bridge Park to build a field house with a cycling track.” — A $100 Million Thank-You for a Lifetime’s Central Park Memories, Lisa Foderaro, The New York Times, 10/23/12.

The Low Line (really)

Credit goes to New York for currently being the city with the most moxie, ingenuity, and brass-balled chutzpah in creating new public parks. (See Frank Bruni’s 7/14/12 piece in the NYT’s Sunday Review “Our Newly Lush Life.”) New York’s recent success with parks illustrates two important points: Where space is at a premium, look again at existing, abandoned infrastructure. When money is tight, get creative with public/private relationships. New York is aiming to build on the enormous success of the High Line, the abandoned elevated railway transformed into one of the most exciting public/private garden collaborations of recent years, but this time going underground.

Yes, underground, where the sun don’t shine.


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With a moon-shot, can-do, New York swagger, co-creators of the Delancey Underground project, James Ramsey and Dan Barasch, envision light reaching the abandoned Delancey Street Trolley Station through “a large system of mirrors and fiber optics to transport sunlight from the streets above into the cavernous facility, filling the space with enough natural lighting to even allow plants to grow.” (“The Low Line – New York’s First Underground Park“)

Architectural Digest’s 5/11/12 Daily Ad reported on a soiree held to benefit the High Line and ended with this intriguing snippet:

As for New York’s next great park, Boykin Curry, a partner at Eagle Capital Management, and his wife, interior designer Celerie Kemble, mentioned a project they’re currently championing: the Low Line. ‘Some friends and I have been collaborating on this,’ explained Curry of the proposed two-acre subterranean park that would occupy a former trolley terminal on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. ‘A friend of ours is an engineer who invented the technology to bring sunlight below ground, so you can grow trees and grass there,’ he continued. ‘We’re working on it with the MTA and the city.’ Fingers crossed.”

No, I’m not making this up. You can read more about the Low Line here and here. Initial fund-raising goal was met on Kickstarter this past April.

gardenbrain

I will be forever indebted to *Eric Liu and Nick Hannauer for coining the word “Gardenbrain” in their op-ed in the 7/10/12 edition of The New York TimesThe Machine and the Garden.” I’ve always had one. Turns out our economy needs one too. One of the best reads I’ve had in weeks. Rather than recirculating the same cliched buzz words for our economic woes, the writers show how “We are prisoners of the metaphors we use.”


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The Machinebrain metaphor yields a picture of the world “where markets are perfectly efficient, humans perfectly rational, incentives perfectly clear and outcomes perfectly appropriate.” When we refer to economic “engines” and “fueling” the economy, that choice of metaphor impedes understanding because “economies, as social scientists now understand, aren’t simple, linear and predictable, but complex, nonlinear and ecosystemic. An economy isn’t a machine; it’s a garden. It can be fruitful if well tended, but will be overrun by noxious weeds if not.”

Government spending is not a single-step transaction that burns money as an engine burns fuel; it’s part of a continuous feedback loop that circulates money. Government no more spends our money than a garden spends water or a body spends blood. To spend tax dollars on education and health is to circulate nutrients through the garden.”

Wise regulation…is how human societies turn a useless jungle into a prosperous garden.”

Gardenbrain — what a fruitful metaphor. Nice potful of gears too…



*Authors of “The Gardens of Democracy: A New American Story of Citizenship, the Economy and the Role of Government.”

the spell of the present

Though we may occasionally argue about what a garden is, I think we can all agree that what a garden does is cast a “spell of the present.”

I loved this eminently quotable piece from Diane Ackerman a couple days ago in The New York Times entitled “Are We Living in Sensory Overload or Sensory Poverty?”


The further we distance ourselves from the spell of the present, explored by our senses, the harder it will be to understand and protect nature’s precarious balance, let alone the balance of our own human nature.”

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One solution is to spend a few minutes every day just paying close attention to some facet of nature….for whole moments one may see nothing but the flaky trunk of a paper-birch tree with its papyrus-like bark. Or, indoors, watch how a vase full of tulips, whose genes have traveled eons and silk roads, arch their spumoni-colored ruffles and nod gently by an open window.”

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And the killer opening to the last paragraph:

On the periodic table of the heart, somewhere between wonderon and unattainium, lies presence…”

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Ms. Ackerman’s book, “A Natural History of the Senses,” sounds like it’s right up my alley.

Saturday’s Clippings 4/28/12

I enjoyed this article very much earlier in the week, well worth a Sunday read:

Any patch of earth, large or small, turns out to be a mad surprise party of species — fluid, unpredictable and wild — and a microcosm of what is happening and has always been happening around the corner and around the globe.” — NYT 4/24/12 “Counting Species on a Little Patch of Earth,” by Carol Kaesuk Yoon.

Off to do some species counting myself at the Huntington Botanical Garden plant sale tomorrow, Sunday, April 29.

Catching up on this week but still counting species, what a nice touch it was for Dustin Gimbel, of Second Nature Garden Design, and Laura Dalton, of Agave Coast Landscapes, to include our native Catalina Ironwood, Lyonothamnus floribundus, in their display garden for South Coast Plaza’s Spring Garden Show which I attended on Thursday and which is still open Sunday, April 29. The Catalina Ironwood was in one of three enormous pots, the other two holding agaves in bloom, all three plants towering high into the atrium ceiling — a grand gesture impossible to capture by photo at a crowded garden show held in a mall, so I very sensibly didn’t even try.

Lovely Fermob chairs were featured, too, pale celadon green, from Potted. Burnt orange arctotis and chartreuse Agave attenuata, maybe ‘Kara’s Stripes’ or “Raea’s Gold.’


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And there you have it, proof that garden show display gardens don’t have to be all that complicated. Nice chairs, cool plants, and I’m satisfied.

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And there was some beautifully executed stonework to admire in the display garden by Sarah Robinson

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This show held at the South Coast Plaza shopping mall has room for just a handful of modest exhibits and is really about the plant vendors. Disconcerting though it may be to find yourself hemmed in on all sides by the Apple store, Pottery Barn, Restoration Hardware, Crate & Barrel, etc., the mall’s atrium ceiling has a unique advantage over the typical dark, cavernous settings of most garden shows.

Natural light.
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Orchids, bearded irises, succulents, lilies, African violets, sinningias, Japanese maples. The specialty growers are always generous with their time and knowledge.

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Agave ‘Felipe Otero’

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A special thanks to the nice gentleman at B&D Lilies who spent several minutes explaining why he felt the lily ‘Lankon‘ was the most exciting lily he’s encountered in 35 years in the business. (I tracked ‘Lankon’ down last fall, and it’s now forming buds.)

And it was very moving to find the late Gary Hammer’s nursery, Desert to Jungle, selling plants at the show, with an impromptu shrine to Gary consisting of his photograph, paperclipped to which were cards with the names of the many plants he introduced. The mystery Ecuadorian knotweed I bought from his nursery many years ago still grows in our parkway.


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