May 8, 2013 § Leave a Comment
Please join me Monday evening for a tour of the butterfly gardens I designed for Willowdale Estate. Come experience a taste of Briar’s gracious hospitality and enjoy refreshments served in the conservatory. The tulips are at their peak and look simply spectacular this year. I will also be showing several of my short films. Please RSVP to Sarah at: Sarah@WillowdaleEstate.com ~ 978-887-8211.
I hope to see you there!
April 22, 2013 § Leave a Comment
April 18, 2013 § 1 Comment
Briar Forsythe, proprietor of Willowdale Estate, and her staff, threw a lovely bridal shower for Audi Lane. Audi works at Willowdale and is getting married this weekend to Gloucester’s Peter Sousa, the sea shanty singer.
March 8, 2013 § 1 Comment
Four Brides Judge Each Other’s Weddings. Even with Superstorm Sandy threatening to dampen Enza and John Procopio’s special day, Willowdale takes the cake!
“In Italian tradition, rain is supposed to be good luck. We have the hurricane, so that means we are going to have life-long happiness.” said groom John Procopio.
Willowdale Estate pulled out all the stops to make the event a success. The competing brides loved the catering “My sea bass was fantastic!” said one competing bride. Willowdale received a perfect score for the catering and also achieved the highest score for guest experience. The couple walked away with a luxury vacation in the Caribbean Islands and a wedding story that will be in the family for many years.
Watch the full episode:
Willowdale Estate is a special events venue in Topsfield Massachusetts that provides celebrated restaurant style catering for all events, as well as complementary planning services. Willowdale’s fieldstone mansion is surrounded by over 700 acres of forest, the Ipswich River, and beautiful flowering gardens (designed by me!), with sweeping views, privacy, and endless possibilities for any event. Willowdale Estate is a full service venue with many amenities including a pristine Sperry Tent, equipment, and guidance from our experienced event planners. For more information about planning your wedding, corporate event, or fundraiser contact Info@WillowdaleEstate.com or call 978-887-8211
December 5, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Lisa, Lora, and Briar sang to a packed house last night. Their solos, and voices in unison, of traditional classic songs, made for a beautiful evening of holiday music. My favorites were Carol of the Bells and the tender lullaby by Paul Williams and Joseph M. Martin: Still is the Night; also by Joseph Martin was the joyful O Come Emmanuel and Listen to the Stars, both from The Voices of Christmas.
Sisters Lisa and Lora Tamagini and Briar have known each other since they began their opera careers in Boston. Lora and Lisa have toured the world over and Lora’s original music can be heard on three CDs: Joy in My Soul, Sing to the Lord, and Sing Gloria. Briar is passionate about supporting local artists and it has been her dream to host musical concerts. The success of Willowdale has made it possible for her to create unforgettable holiday performances for everyone to enjoy!
November 11, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Adjacent to where we noticed the Japanese maple tree, Dale Resca, the Facilities Manager at Willowdale, discovered an American Red Squirrel (Tamiasciurus hudsonicus) midden.
A squirrel midden is essentially a squirrel’s favorite place to eat; the fallen scales from consumed seed cones collect in piles, called middens. Sitting on their claimed stump, fallen log, or branch, the squirrel pulls the scales off the cones to get to the seeds.
You can see from the above photo why the American Red Squirrel is often referred to as the Pine Squirrel. Ripening in late summer, the squirrels collect pine cones and store in a central cache. American Red Squirrels do not hibernate during the winter months; the caches of cones supply nourishment when food supplies are running low.
The American Red Squirrel is widely distributed throughout North America. They are smaller than a gray squirrel and somewhat larger than a chipmunk, with reddish fur and white venter, or underbelly.
November 7, 2012 § Leave a Comment
October 7, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Last evening was a combined celebration of the ribbon cutting ceremony for the completion of the Willowdale Estate Coach House AND the 5th Anniversary party for the estate. Willowdale is a shining example of the Massachusetts Historic Curatorship Program. Senator Tarr was there to show his support for the curatorship program and to congratulate the family on their tremendous success.
The hostess and guests were dressed in smashing 1920′s inspired costumes, champagne and crazy delicious refreshments kept the party-goers energized, a swing band had the joint jumpin’, the tent was beautifully illuminated and aglow, and the garden glistened in the warm misty rain. A roaring time was had by all!
The Roaring Twenties, or as the French dubbed the period “Années Folles” (“Crazy Years”), was the time during which Bradley Palmer entertained in high style at Willowdale Estate, formerly referred to as the Bradley Palmer Estate. Willowdale Estate is the absolutely ideal venue for a twenties inspired celebration!
September 11, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Willowdale Estate Courtyard
Monday night I was filming at Willowdale as we are in the early stages of creating a web page about the butterfly gardens for the Willowdale Estate website. I was hoping to film the Ruby-throated Hummingbirds at dusk and did succeed! They were nectaring from the Rose Mallow, hosta, Snowberry Bush, and butterfly bushes.
I love the new bistro lights in the courtyard garden–so romantic!
September 10, 2012 § Leave a Comment
The Ciaramitaro Family stopped by Willowdale for a tour of the butterfly gardens. We were lucky to see several Monarchs and dozens of Painted Ladies.
Madeline was determined that a butterfly would climb onto her finger–first trying the Painted Ladies and then very, very patiently, and holding very, very still, encouraging the Monarchs. She was thrilled when one did–and it did so several times–very sweet to see her joy. Madeline and Eloise were expertly identifying the male and female Monarchs and explaining to all in how to tell the difference.
June 17, 2012 § Leave a Comment
The Luna Moth, one of the most stunning and easily recognized moths, belongs to the Giant Silkworm Family or Saturniidae. Moths in the Sautrniidae are generally medium to large, with bulky bodies, dense, fur-like scales, and eyespot patterns on the wing. There are roughly forty species of Saturniidae in North America, including the Promethea Moth, often seen at twilight, and the giant Cercropia Moth, with a wingspan of a half-foot or more! The caterpillars of the Luna Moth feed on many trees including alders, beech, cherries, sweet gum and willows.
Male Luna Moth found at Willowdale Estate early Thursday morning. Photo courtesy Dale Resca.
June 11, 2012 § Leave a Comment
I never know what interesting species I am going to encounter when at Willowdale– usually tending to find more of the native variety–
From wiki: Indian Peafowl, Pavo cristatus, is a resident breeder in South Asia. The peacock is designated as the national bird of India and the provincial bird of the Punjab. The term peafowl can refer to the two species of bird in the genus Pavo of the pheasant family, Phasianidae. Peafowl are best known for the male’s extravagant tail, which it displays as part of courtship. The male is called a peacock, and the female a peahen. The female peafowl is brown or toned grey and brown.
Come join us tomorrow evening in the garden at Willowdale.
June 4, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Reminder to save the date ~ A week from Tuesday, on the evening of June 12th, I am giving a tour of the butterfly gardens at Willowdale Estate. We will be showing my short film about the gardens at Willowdale and Briar’s delicious refreshments will be served. I am very excited to share the gardens and show how to translate this information to your own garden. I hope you can join us for what promises to be a lovely evening!
R.S.V.P. to Info@WillowdaleEstate.com.
June 3, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Trumpeting the Trumpet
Early blooms are an important feature for the vine planted to lure hummingbirds. You want to provide tubular-shaped flowers in shades of red and orange and have your hummingbird feeders hung and ready for the earliest of the northward-migrating scouts. If nothing is available, they will pass by your garden and none will take residence. Hummingbirds can easily distinguish red contrasted against green. We go so far as to plant vivid Red Riding Hood tulips beneath our hummingbird feeders, which hang from the bows of the flowering fruit trees. Although hummingbirds do not nectar from the tulips, the color red draws them into the garden and the flowering fruit trees and sugar water provide sustenance for travel-weary migrants.
Lonicera sempervirens, also called Trumpet and Coral Honeysuckle, is a twining or trailing woody vine native to New England. Trumpet Honeysuckle is not at all fussy about soil and is drought tolerant. Plant in full sun to part shade. If Trumpet Honeysuckle becomes large and ungainly, prune hard to the ground—it grows rapidly and a vigorous pruning will only encourage more flowers.
‘Major Wheeler’ flowers in a deeper red than that of the carmine of ‘Dropmore Scarlet.’ ‘John Clayton’ is a cheery, cadmium yellow, a naturally occurring variant of Lonicera sempervirens, and was originally discovered growing wild in Virginia. The blossoms of ‘Mandarin’ are a lovely shade of Spanish orange.
Trumpet Honeysuckle has myriad uses in the landscape. Cultivate to create vertical layers, in a small garden especially. Plant Lonicera sempervirens to cover an arbor, alongside a porch pillar or to weave through trelliage. Allow it clamber over an eyesore or down an embankment. Plant at least one near the primary paths of the garden so that you can enjoy the hummingbirds that are drawn to the nectar-rich blossoms. I practically bump into the hummingbirds as they are making their daily rounds through the garden flora. Did you know they make a funny squeaky sound? I began to take notice of their presence in our garden, when at my office desk one afternoon in late summer, with windows open wide, I heard very faint, mouse-like squeaks. I glanced up from my work, fully expecting to see a mouse, and was instead delighted to discover a female Ruby-throat outside my office window, nectaring at the vines. Trumpet Honeysuckle not only provides nectar for the hummingbirds, it also offers shelter and succulent berries for a host of birds.
Lonicera sempervirens is a caterpillar food plant for the Snowberry Clearwing moth.
June 2, 2012 § Leave a Comment
This past week at Willowdale we planted the stunning tree peony ‘Keiko’, which means “adored.” Briar’s favorite color is pink so I am always on high alert for rose-hued blossoms. I took one look at this drop dead gorgeous plant and just had to have it for Willowdale. Don’t you find in nature there are seemingly infinite shades of pink? The beautiful blowsy blossoms of ’Keiko’ possess myriad.
Did I mention ‘Adored’ is delightfully fragrant? The fragrance is sweet, but not cloying–very light and fresh.
May 19, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Click any photo to view slideshow-
For weeks I had planned to photograph the tulips in bloom at Willowdale, but only in the late afternoon sun. Each afternoon I headed out, the sky grew overcast. Last Monday the sun shown gloriously the entire day.
Fortunately I caught the tail end of North Shore Wedding Magazine photographing their Premier Issue in the gardens at Willowdale. North Shore Wedding Magazine is a brand new biannual publication featuring quality North Shore wedding professionals and venues, and is the sister publication to New Hampshire Wedding Magazine.
Sarah Boucher’s (Willowdale’s Planning Manager) lovely table styling for the North Shore Wedding Magazine photo shoot.
Kristina Hathaway with model
I hope this does not sound boastful however am mentioning because I just love it when people understand the design intention of a project. Kristina Hathaway remarked that she loved the feminine quality of the garden’s design juxtaposed against the masculine architecture of the stone mansion—music to my ears! The design challenges at Willowdale are multifold, yet rewarding, and from April 1st to until the first week of November you will find the gardens in bloom!
Tuesday evening, June 12, at 7:00 pm come join me in the gardens at Willowdale Estate. Enjoy refreshments and a tour of the garden, followed by a showing of my film “The Butterfly Garden at Willowdale Estate.” RSVP to Info@Willowdale Estate.
Click any photo to view slide show-
May 11, 2012 § Leave a Comment
I hope you can come join me in the courtyard garden I designed for Willowdale on Tuesday June 12th at 7pm. The event is free and should be lots of fun. I am looking forward to showing my film and the garden and Briar will prepare her wonderful array of refreshments, within the setting of the beautifully restored Arts and Crafts mansion and gardens that is Willowdale!
RSVP to Info@WillowdaleEastate.com
May 9, 2012 § Leave a Comment
April 26, 2012 § Leave a Comment
This is a view into the courtyard garden I designed for Willowdale Estate. The tulips are at their peak. I call this mix of colors my ‘Bridal Mix,’ because it provides a symphony of watercolor hues for the April and May weddings. Don’t you think too that the satiny sheen of the tulip petals looks like the silk satin gowns of wedding parties?
Click photo to view larger image. More from Willowdale spring to come.
March 15, 2012 § Leave a Comment
February 16, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Happy Birthday Briar!
As many know from reading my posts, my dear friend, and one of my favorite design clients, is Briar Forsythe, proprietor of Willowdale Estate, located in Topsfield. I was delighted to attend Briar’s birthday party, which was a wine and food tasting event, and held in the new conservatory at Willowdale. Usually when there I am up to my elbows in design projects so it was a real pleasure to get a sense of how it feels to be a guest.
The party started at 4:00 and the late afternoon sunlight streaming through the conservatory windows lent a warm and welcoming glow to the event. The service was absolutely impeccable (do you find that is not often easy to say?). Chef Joe Joyce and staff had prepared simply the most elegant and divine tasting courses, paired with wines that perfectly complemented each dish. All the wines were delicious and I can imagine they would be great paired with any number of meals.
Unfortunately, I did not take a snapshot of the first course, which was a Duxbury Oyster with Champagne Foam and Blood Orange Caviar, served with a sparkling Dibon Cava Brut. I love sparkling wines and found this perfectly not overly sweet. I am not going to go on and on telling you how super delicious was all–it was–and hope the photos give an idea. The wines were provided by Geoffrey Fallon.
Visit Willowdale’s website—they are a full service special events venue, specializing in their own in-house fabulous catering. Tours are offered throughout the year and many Gloucester companies do business with Willowdale, including several of our local florists and photographers.
Click last photo to see slideshow of all party pics.
November 30, 2011 § 1 Comment
The Butterfly Garden at Willowdale Estate
October 23, 2011 § 2 Comments
Come join us Thursday, November 3rd, at 7:00 pm at the Friend Room of the Sawyer Free Library for the premiere of my new series of video specials titled Through the Garden Gate, featuring “The Butterfly Garden at Willowdale Estate.” The event is free and open to the public and refreshments will be served. I hope you can come!
Premiere Sponsored by the Sawyer Free Library
Just a few of the many butterflies, and their nectar plants and native host plants, featured in The Butterfly Garden at Willowdale Estate:
August 3, 2011 § 6 Comments
Startled! is an apt description of the reaction most gardeners experience when first they encounter a clearwing moth. Hovering while nectaring, with wings whirring rapidly and audibly, is it a miniature hummingbird, enormous furry bee, or mutant new world creature?
The family Sphingidae are easily identified in both their adult and caterpillar forms. The medium-to-large-sized sphinx, or hawk, moths have characteristic robust, chunky bodies tapering to a point, and slender wings, which are adapted for rapid and sustained flight. Often mistaken for hummingbirds, the Hummingbird Clearwing Moth (Hemeris thysbe), with green tufted body and ruby colored scales, suggesting the male hummingbird, and the Snowberry Clearwing Moth (Hemaris diffinis), with the gold and black striped color pattern similar to that of a fat bumble bee, mimic both the bees and birds they fly with during the day. The ability of certain Sphingids to hover in mid air while nectaring is unusual in nectar feeders and has evolved in only three species: Sphingids, bats, and hummingbirds. Sphinx moths also do an exceptionally unusual movement called “swing-hovering,” swinging from side to side while hovering, it is thought, in an effort to escape predators lying in wait amongst the flora.
Sphinx moths are grouped together because their caterpillars hold their head and thorax erect in a sphinx-like fashion. Most larvae have a horn protruding from their last segment. For this reason, they are often called hornworms. The adult sphinx moth is a powerful flier and usually has a long proboscis suitable for tubular-shaped flowers with a deep calyx, such as trumpet vine. The slender wings must beat rapidly to support their heavy bodies. The names of many sphinx or hawk moth species correlate to their caterpillar host plant, to name but a few examples: Catalpa Sphinx, Huckleberry Sphinx, Paw Paw Sphinx, Cherry Sphinx, and Elm Sphinx.
The order Lepidoptera is comprised of butterflies, moths and skippers. The name is derived from the Greek lepidos for scales and ptera for wings. Their scaled wings distinguish them as a group from all other insects. Shortly after the Hummingbird and Snowberry Clearwings are born, they immediately begin to shed their wing scales, hence the common name clearwing moth. While nectaring, moths receive a dusting of pollen as they brush against the pollen-bearing anthers. Their fuzzy, fur-like scale-covered bodies are an excellent transporter of pollen. Because moths are on the wing primarily at night, moth-pollinated flowers are often white and pale, pastel-hued and tend to be sweetly scented. White flowers are more easily distinguished in the evening light, whereas colorful flowers disappear. Adult clearwing moths are diurnal (day flying) and nectar at a variety of flowers. In our garden, they are most often spotted at our native Phlox ‘David,’ bee balm (Monarda didyma), purple-top Verbena bonariensis, and butterfly bushes with blue and white flowers. The larvae of Hummingbird Clearwings feed primarily on viburnum, honeysuckle, and snowberry (all Caprifoliaceae), and less commonly on hawthorn, cherry, and plum (Rosaceae). Snowberry larvae feed on honeysuckle and snowberry.
For the most part, Sphinx moths are on the wing at night, although the beautiful White-lined Sphinx (Hyles lineata) is often seen at dusk. The forward wings are dark olive brown streaked with white. The hind wings are black with a vivid band of rose-pink. Found throughout North America, both larvae and adults are consummate generalists. The caterpillars feed on the foliage of apple trees, four-o’clocks, evening primrose, elm, grape, and tomato. The adults nectar at a wide variety of flowers including larkspur, gaura, columbine, petunia, moonflower, lilac, bouncing bet, clover, Jimson weed, and thistle. White-lined Sphinxes are drawn to lights and those that remain in the garden the next morning are quite subdued, and may come to your finger.
Orchids often have a symbiotic relation to very specific sphinx moths. The starry white, six-petalled Comet Orchid (the French common name, “Etoile de Madagascar” means “Star of Madagascar”) produces nectar at the bottom of an extremely long corolla, nearly a foot in length. Star of Madagascar (Angraecum sesquipedale) was predicted by Charles Darwin to have a highly specialized moth pollinator with a proboscis at least that long. “Angraecum sesquipedale has nectaries eleven and a half inches long, with only the lower half filled with very sweet nectar…it is, however, surprising, that any insect should be able to reach the nectar: our English sphinxes have probosces as long as their bodies; but in Madagascar there must be moths with probosces capable of extension to a length of between ten and twelve inches!” (Darwin). The giant hawk moth Xanthopan morganii praedicta (“the predicted one”) was named appropriately upon its discovery, after Darwin’s death.
Co-evolution, the specialized biological embrace of two species, bears both benefits and risks. Each partner benefits in that no energy is wasted on finding ways to reproduce. The risk lies in becoming too dependent on a single species. If one half of the co-evolved partnership perishes, the other will surely become extinct as well.
All photos shot at the Butterfly Garden at Willowdale Estate with Fujifilm x100.
June 24, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Driving into Willowdale this morning I encountered our neighborhood Indian Blue Peacock. Daily sightings have been reported and the entryway sign is his choice perch. The Fujifilm x100 performed remarkably, despite the lack of sunlight and steady drizzle.
From wiki: Indian Peafowl, Pavo cristatus, a resident breeder in South Asia. The peacock is designated as the national bird of India and the provincial bird of the Punjab. The term peafowl can refer to the two species of bird in the genus Pavo of the pheasant family, Phasianidae. Peafowl are best known for the male’s extravagant tail, which it displays as part of courtship. The male is called a peacock, and the female a peahen. The female peafowl is brown or toned grey and brown.
June 6, 2011 § 2 Comments
Dear Gardening Friends,
Come join me this Tuesday, June 7th at Willowdale Estate, from 4:00 to 6:00, for a house and garden tour of this beautiful, and beautifully restored, historic Arts and Crafts manse. Members of the Willowdale staff will be giving guided tours of the house and I will be available to talk about the garden, including how the Arts and Crafts movement influenced our horticultural decisions. Admission is free and the event is open to the public.
Thank you for all the thoughtful comments and praise for last week’s column “The most highly scented lilacs…” Next week I will send you information on lilac culture as this is the ideal time of year to trim and shape your lilacs for maximum blooms next year.
Reader Irma wrote the following: I picked my lilacs at their height. In water, in the vase they lasted 2 days and drooped! Last year the same. I couldn’t believe it. Do you know why?
Hi Irma, Lilacs have woody stems and do not easily absorb water in the vase. Depending on whatever tool is handy, I do one of two things,. With a hammer, crush the stems, at least six inches along the length, and immediately place in a vase filled with tepid or warm water. Over the years I have also discovered that peeling the stems with a vegetable peeler is just as effective, and less messy. Peel away the woody outer layer, all around the stem, again at least six inches up the stalk (peel down to green). Still, even with treating the stems, the arrangement will be fleeting and only look beautiful for several days. The scent of the lilacs permeating throughout your home is worth the extra effort!
Many wrote last week to say they enjoyed the excerpt from Amy Lowell’s gorgeous poem Lilacs. Here it is in entirety:
May 26, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Congratulations North Shore Garden Club and Willowdale Estate for a fabulously successful show!
A wonderful time was had by all and Willowdale looked gorgeous. The expert hands of seasoned event organizers Helen Glaenzer (North Shore Garden Club president) and NSGC event co-chairs Susan Barry, Didi Blau, and Cathy Ebling were in evidence throughout with their beautiful design touches and thoughtfully presented exhibits.
Many thanks to the staff at Willowdale–Emily, Lenna, Chef Joe, Dale, Sarah, Greg, and James– to name only a few of the hardworking crew that makes Willowdale sing. The new conservatory is exquisite and will allow Willowdale to host larger events throughout the four seasons. Stunning light was cast from the conservatory skylight, illuminating the exhibits beautifully.
May 21, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Dear Gardening Friends, Think Spring! Come join the North Shore Garden Club for what promises to be a wonderful event. I will be there and available to answer questions about the butterfly garden. Hope to see you there! Warmest wishes, Kim
March 28, 2011 § 5 Comments
Dear Gardening Friends–What do think about this title for my tv show? Through the Garden Gate with Kim Smith
I am working with Lisa Smith over at Cape Ann TV and she is terrific. Lisa is teaching me Final Cut Pro. Extraordinary, don’t you think, that the same editing program used by major Hollywood film makers (Francis Ford Coppola, to name one giant in the industry) is available to any resident of Cape Ann to learn (for free!) at Cape Ann TV?
Additional candidates for the title:
Kim Smith’s American Gardener’s Journal
Welcome to the Wild Garden
Wild Gardening with Kim Smith
P.S. I am under strict orders not to mention by name who is the person singing Bizet’s La Chanson du Fou, uncovered in my itunes account. I am sure you can guess. Don’t you think the evocative layer of warmth and beauty added by her voice compliments perfectly the lush gardens and movement of the pollinators?
March 26, 2011 § Leave a Comment
C’est la Vie! ~ Wednesday May 25th, 1:00 to 5:00
The North Shore Garden Club is hosting a beautiful exhibition of all things flowers, which will be held at historic Willowdale Estate in Topsfield, Massachusetts. The grounds are open to the public and the event includes classes in flower arranging, photography, and horticulture, and all is free.
The North Shore Garden Club (established in 1915) is a member of the Garden Club of America and was created for the purpose of stimulating interest in all aspects of gardening as well as to support civic beauty and conservation of natural resources.
March 15, 2011 § Leave a Comment
Dear Gardening Friends,
We are sending our most heartfelt thoughts and prayers to the Japanese people. Viewing the broadcasts reminds me that it was just over a year ago that the devastating earthquake struck Port au Prince. Can a person ever fully recover from such an event? The utter destruction of the tsunami is confounding, now coupled with threats of nuclear meltdown. My wish for the people of Japan and their nation is as speedy a recovery as is possible.
We are so very blessed living where we do. Perhaps I mentioned that I am developing a television series, which will air on our local cable television station, Cape Ann TV, as well as other cable stations. I believe it was early last summer that Donna Gacek, the director of Cape Ann TV, approached me about the possibility of creating a show based around my writings and butterfly photos. A tv show would be a magnificent medium to share about the joys of creating organic habitats designed for people and pollinators. We can visit gardens, fields, meadows, and wildlife sanctuaries–and connect how to translate habitat information found there to our own gardens, examine gardening trends, loves, and literature, conduct interviews, undertake how-to projects–the possibilities are limitless. I hope, too, for some room for spontaneity and fun–once I get a handle on the process. I knew what I was getting myself into and knew it would be enormously time consuming, which it is, however I am so pleased with our initial progress and thought I would bring you this trailer for the first episode as well as behind the scenes updates.
Instinctively it was clear that the first step in development would be to film and photograph as much as time would allow, especially as this past summer, gratefully so, was THE summer to photograph Lepidoptera–day after day of hot, dry, sunny weather–a butterfly, and a butterfly photographer’s, dream conditions The past few months have been spent organizing all photos and footage from this summer, as well as footage and photos from previous summers, into handy categories from which I can draw, while simultaneously writing the first script, and thinking about future scripts.
I chose the butterfly garden I designed at Willowdale to be my first subject for several reasons. I know the grounds and garden intimately; the Lepidoptera seen there are the same species seen all around the northshore, and throughout New England for that matter; the setting is undeniably gorgeous; over the past few years I have shot many photos there and some video footage; and because the garden is on occasion open to the public.
While writing the script I tried to imagine how the information would relate to, and be of interest to, a wide audience. Creating ‘wild gardens’ (by wild gardens I mean to say gardens that utilize native wild flowers that support wild life) is meant to be joyful and easy for everyone– for the millions as well as the millionaire! The next phase was to organize the video and still photos, loosely, around the script. Then, and this part was really new and challenging for me, came layering the narrated voice tracks and precisely synching it to the footage, and still retain existing ambient nature sounds audibly. Much tweaking was necessary. Have you ever wondered where your speaker is on your computer? It took me the longest time to locate mine (iMac)– a pinhead-sized hole in the center of the top, right above the camera lens–and they do not produce very good or usable quaility input sound. All the audio will have to be redone at the tv studio, however, it was time well spent as I was able to experiment and learn the basics on my own time.
The first production meeting with Donna went really well. The next phase will be to redo the audio tracks, under the guidance of the staff at the tv station, and continue to work on the next two episodes. In developing a series, it is suggested that you have at least three to begin with – getting all your ducks in order, so to speak. I am working furiously on all because spring and summer are my peak seasons for garden design work and for presenting lectures and programs.
So far, everything has fallen into place, from the gorgeous weather of last summer, to finding a beautiful recording for the into and outro, to working with Donna and the staff at CATV!
My mission for this wonderful project is to create as vibrantly beautiful, and as informative and interesting, a viewing experience as is possible. I am also very interested in working in collaboration with anyone who may have an interest.
Perhaps after reading the above you can help me decide the title of the show–so important to get it right! I love the title of my book Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities! because there is no other like it. Perhaps I shall call it The Garden of Fresh Possibilities Show.
Some other candidates:
The American Gardener’s Journal
Through the Garden Gate
Garden for All Seasons
Welcome to the Wild Garden
Any comments, thoughts, or suggestions would greatly appreciated.
November 1, 2010 § 1 Comment
Exquisite Flora in Autumn
Green leaves ignite, transformed by a kaleidoscope of incinerating colors—devil-red, burnt tangerine, caramelized amber, searing saffron, and smoldering crimson-purple. The air is impregnated with the aromatic perfume of orchard fruits ripening in the fleeting flush of the sun’s warm light. Hazy, slanting rays gild the late season glory in the garden. Surrounded by flowers of dissipating beauty and juxtaposed against the dazzling brilliance of autumn foliage, we are urged to spend every possible moment savoring our gardens before the onset of winter.
Blossoms thrown in autumn, as opposed to those of spring and summer, are perhaps the most keenly appreciated. Our rambling ‘Aloha’ rose embowering the front entryway abounds in blooms in June, flowering again and again throughout the summer. With a twinge of melancholy, I cherish most Aloha’s lingering remontant rose—inhaling deeply the sensuous fragrance when approaching or upon leaving our home, knowing all will be dormant in only a few short weeks. Manifold members of the composite family hold their flowers well into fall. Forming a substantial clump (four feet wide and equally as tall) is a passalong from a generous friend. From a few cuttings of this heirloom chrysanthemum (Chrysanthemum ‘Single Apricot Korean’), with apricot pink-tinted, daisy-like single flowers, we now have a patch of our own to share with friends. Arrayed with a single row of ray flowers encircling the nectar-rich cadmium yellow disk florets, the Korean daisy is host to sundry late on-the-wing pollinators, including butterflies, bees, and beetles. The form is loose and lovely; opposite in appearance to that of the ubiquitous blobs of mums commonly seen in autumn.
Chrysanthemum ‘Emperor of China’ begins its lovely tableau in mid-fall and continues to bloom through the first hard frost. Plum rose with silvery highlights, the quills shade paler toward the outer margins. When the plant is in full bloom, the rich green foliage shifts colors to vibrant hues of bronze and scarlet red. The ‘Emperor of China’ exudes a delicious lemon-spice fragrance noticeable from some distance.
As with asters, it is helpful to pinch the tips of each shoot to encourage branching and more blossoms. Repeat this process at each four- to six- inch stage of new growth until the middle of July, or when the buds begin to develop. ‘Emperor of China’ is hardy through zone six and thrives in full sun to light shade in well-drained soil. This cultivar forms a 2 and 1/2′ mound in only a few years. Give the plant a top dressing of compost and mulch after the first hard frost.
An ancient variety of chrysanthemum originating from China, the ‘Emperor of China’ resembles and is thought to be the chrysanthemum depicted in early Chinese paintings. Chrysanthemums are also grown for their medicinal properties, and their purported magic juices were an important ingredient in the life-prolonging elixir of the Daoist. Fragrant chrysanthemum tea was considered good for the health, and tonic wine was brewed from an infusion of their petals.
Chrysanthemum tea is a tisane made from dried chrysanthemum flowers. The flowers are steeped in boiling water for several minutes, and rock sugar or honey is often added to heighten the sweet aroma. Popular throughout East Asia, chrysanthemum tea is usually served with a meal. In the tradition of Chinese medicine, the tisane is a “cooling” herb and is recommended for a variety of ailments including influenza, circulatory disorders, sore throats, and fever.
Although thought to be rich in healing properties and lovely in form, a more modest well-being was conferred by the vigorous blossoming of the chrysanthemum. Perhaps the late flowering chrysanthemum suggests their connection to a long life, for other plants have finished flowering just as the chrysanthemums begin.
The techniques for learning to paint the orchid, bamboo, plum blossom, and chrysanthemum comprise the basis of Chinese flower and bird painting. They are referred to as “The Four Gentlemen” and are thought to symbolize great intellectual ideas. The orchid is serene and peaceful, though sophisticated and reserved from the world. Bamboo is vigorous and survives throughout the seasons, forever growing upright. The plum blossom expresses yin-yang dualities of delicate and hardy, blooming through snow and ice to herald the arrival of spring. Chrysanthemums continue to flower after a frost, are self-sufficient, and require no assistance in propagating themselves.
China owes its astonishing wealth of plant life to a combination of geographical incidents. The mountains escaped the ravages of the great ice caps and unlike much of Europe and North America, where many plants were wiped out, plant species in China continued to evolve. Additionally, the foothills of the Himalayas are moistened by soft winds from the south, creating an ideal climate for alpine plants. In this warm and moderate environment three different floras– that of the colder, drier north; that of the sub-tropical south; and that of the alpine species—all mingled and crossed freely for thousands of years.
Ernest Wilson, one of the world’s greatest plant hunters, was not the first collector to explore this botanical paradise, but his determined efforts to push through to remote areas led him to the “richest temperate flora of the world.” From 1899 to 1911, Ernest “Chinese” Wilson sent the seeds of more than 1,500 different plants to the United States and England. Altogether his collection numbered 65,000 plants, representing about 5,000 species, all gathered from the wild. Through his exploration, and the work of the nurseries for which he collected, more than a thousand plants were established for Western cultivation. Despite the wealth of flora collected by Ernest Wilson and his fellow plant hunters, Chinese gardens remained wholly unaffected. Although shiploads of plants were sent to London, St. Petersburg, Paris, and Cambridge, Massachusetts, Chinese horticulturists continued to develop plants their ancestors had loved and that had long since been domesticated. The tradition of conferring qualities of morality to plants and plants’ allegorical to intellectual ideas made the newly collected wild plants unsuitable for the Chinese garden.
The love of flowers was and continues to be a passion among the Chinese. Trees and plants are genuinely loved as living creatures.
Enjoying flowers with tea is the best, enjoying them with conversation the second and enjoying them with wine the least. Feasts and all sorts of vulgar language are most deeply detested and resented by the spirit of the flowers. It is better to keep the mouth shut and sit still than to offend the flowers. —from a Ming Dynasty treatise on flowers Walters Art Museum
The idea that flowers can be offended by bad manners reflects the belief that the world we inhabit is an organism in which all phenomena interrelate. By the same reasoning, someone who drinks tea from a peach-shaped pot will live longer (peaches symbolize longevity), and someone who dips his writing brush in a peony-shaped bowl will have good fortune, as the peony is a metaphor for success and wealth.
Several passages from above were excerpted from Oh Garden of Fresh Possibilities! (David R. Godine, Publisher).
May 6, 2010 § Leave a Comment
The bridal season has begun and the grounds are topfull of tulips and sweetly scented jonquils. While photographing with eyes and nose at flower height, I am intoxicated by the the heady perfume emanating from the narcissus and the splendorous hues and broken patterns of the shimmering satin tulip petals–and dreaming about making cocktail dresses in every colorway! Lenna (from Willowdale) and I are creating a book of garden photographs for the brides, and because all the flowers and butterflies are so gorgeous, it is a challenge to decide what photos to include. Dan Pritchard, who works for my publisher, David Godine, suggested that I post regular updates on what is currently in bloom at Wdale and I think it is a great idea. The following are a few potential candidate photographs to add to the spring section of our photo book.
The new pergola designed by Gerald Fandetti, Architect
Native dogwood (Cornus florida) with tulips
Wisteria Arbor in the Butterfly Courtyard