The Density of the Everyday World

We need to love things that are ordinary and banal. We must look at them and respect them. We must open ourselves up to the density of the everyday world. Mindfulness does not need any special environment in order to happen. True, some surroundings can be more helpful or favourable, but mindfulness can come to us anywhere. As long as we make a little effort. As long as we remain awake and present.

— Christophe André  in  Mindfulness: 25 ways to live in the moment through art

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I love the phrase “the density of the everyday world.” How can we ever hope to sense it all, to take it all in and process it? The colour, the pitch, the tone, rhythm, pattern, texture, taste, scents? And then, our reactions and response to it all, complicated and tangled in experience, memory, wish, desire, fear, attachment, grief, hope.

These are photos from two fairly random days in my garden last year, 17 July and 27 August. The pics obviously transmit just visual stimuli, when there was also sound scent, breeze, and so on.

I know I wasn’t aware of even .01% of the things I could have noticed, but my brain or heart might have exploded if I had been.

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Nasturtiums (with insects):

rednasturtiumbloom17July2014

yellownasturtiumbloomclose17July2014

creamandorangenasturtiumbloom17July2014

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“The greatest gift of the garden is the restoration of the five senses.” – Hanna Rion

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Veggies (also with insects):

greenbeanplantandflower17July2014

carrotseedlings17July2014

squashplantswithshinyyellowblossoms17July2014

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The day is coming when a single carrot, freshly observed, will set off a revolution. ~Paul Cezanne

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Flowers with critters:Dolichovespula norvegicoides (Northern Aerial yellow jacket) on 'Ice Ballet' asclepias

Dolichovespula norvegicoides (Northern Aerial yellow jacket) on ‘Ice Ballet’ asclepias

bumblebee on veronicastrum
bumblebee (and ant?) on veronicastrum
Echinops (globe thistle) bud with harvestman (Opiliones ) on it
Echinops (globe thistle) bud with harvestman (Opiliones ) on it
Tachinidae archytas (possibly Apicifer) fly on 'Summer Pastels' yarrow
Tachinidae archytas (possibly Apicifer) fly on ‘Summer Pastels’ yarrow
juvenile grey tree frog on echinacea
juvenile grey tree frog on echinacea
Common green bottle fly (Lucilia sericata) on tansy
Common green bottle fly (Lucilia sericata) in motion on tansy
firefly (?) on echinacea
a kind of Ellychnia (firefly) on echinacea
bumblebee with pollen on gentian
bumblebee with pollen on gentian
hovering bumblebee by gentian
hovering bumblebee by gentian
yellow tansy and red clover
yellow tansy with aphid, red clover
light brown dragonfly on hellebore
light brown dragonfly on hellebore

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“This is the first, wildest, and wisest thing I know, that the soul exists and that it is built entirely out of attentiveness.” – Mary Oliver

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Flowers without very obvious critters:

variegated filipendula bloom
variegated filipendula bloom
Veronica spicata 'Nana'
Veronica spicata ‘Nana’
red gladiolus in bud
red gladiolus in bud
borage
borage
Blue Cadet hosta bloom
Blue Cadet hosta bloom
crocosmia blooms
crocosmia blooms
'Red Fox' veronica blooms and buds
‘Red Fox’ veronica blooms and buds
'Anita Kistler' phlox bloom
‘Anita Kistler’ phlox bloom
'Rozanne' geranium blooms
‘Rozanne’ geranium blooms
pink chelone (Turtlehead) bud
pink chelone (Turtlehead) bud
pink, blue, and orange annuals from the Botanical Interests mix
pink, blue, and orange annuals from the Botanical Interests mix
perovskia  (Russian sage)
perovskia (Russian sage)

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“There is a beauty in the world, though it’s harsher than we expect it to be.”
― Michael Cunningham, The Hours

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Critters on foliage:

blue-eyed Northern spreadwing (Lestes) damselfly
blue-eyed Northern spreadwing (Lestes) damselfly
Yellow-collared scape moth (Cisseps fulvicollis) on comfrey
Yellow-collared scape moth (Cisseps fulvicollis) on comfrey
Riley's Clearwing Moth (Synanthedon rileyana) on Joe Pye Weed
Riley’s clearwing moth (Synanthedon rileyana) on Joe Pye Weed leaf
milkweed tussock moth on asclepias
milkweed tussock moth on asclepias
Cabbage White butterfly (Pieris rapae) on clover
cabbage white butterfly (Pieris rapae) on clover
Sciapodinae condylostylus or Amblypsilopus scintillans fly on asclepias leaf
overlit teensy Sciapodinae condylostylus or Amblypsilopus scintillans fly on asclepias leaf
spider eating a bug in asclepias
spider eating a bug in asclepias
damselfly resting on lilac leaf
damselfly resting on lilac leaf
Japanese beetle on grass
Japanese beetle on grass
light brown dragonfly on grass
light brown dragonfly on grass

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“A woman’s whole life in a single day. Just one day. And in that day her whole life.” ― Michael Cunningham, The Hours

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A Sudden Softness: Flower Shows

anotherviewroommapleCanaryIslandbroomInteriorsbyMSdisplayBostonFlowerShow15March2014

“Garden design is all about concealment and surprise.”
― Andrew Crofts, Secrets of the Italian Gardener

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‘Tis the season … for flower shows!

I plan to attend the Boston Flower & Garden Show next week (runs from 11-15 March) at the Seaport World Trade Center (with the theme “Season of Enchantment”), and until then I’m contenting myself with looking at other people’s photos from other cities’ flower shows. And reviewing photos from past years at the Boston Flower Show — those are the photos decorating this post.

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“A garden should make you feel you’ve entered privileged space — a place not just set apart but reverberant — and it seems to me that, to achieve this, the gardener must put some kind of twist on the existing landscape, turn its prose into something nearer poetry.”
― Michael Pollan, Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education

(not sure I entirely agree that the existing landscape isn’t poetry already)

BrouwersBeautyAndromedaBostonFlowerShow15March2014

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A list of flower shows already held or soon to be held, and some of my favourite flower show photo accounts so far this year:

The Northwest Flower & Garden Show in Seattle, WA, held on 6 acres at the Washington State Convention Center from 11-15 Feb. The theme was “Romance Blossoms.”

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The Portland (OR) Yard Garden and Patio show was held from 27 Feb to 1 March at the Oregon Convention Center.

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pigeonsonstoneeggPeterSadeckgardenBostonFlowerShow15March2014

Be pleased with your real garden, don’t pursue the perfection of a picture. What you see in a photo lasted only as long as the shutter snap.
— Janet Macunovich

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What else?

The Connecticut Flower & Garden Show was held 19-22 Feb over a 3-acre space. The theme was “The Spirit of Spring.”

  • Cathy Testa at Container Crazy blogged about it — CT Flower and Garden Show Photos — In Case You Didn’t Go Last Week — with photos galore. She includes landscape displays by local designers, quite a few miniature garden exhibits, photos from the floral arts competition, and a few of the plants for sale.
  • Kathy Diemer at A Garden For All also posted a few snaps from the Connecticut Flower & Garden Show 2015, along with her (positive) comments on the show overall.
  • No commentary here, but CTNow posted 84 photos, a mix of candids and photos of flowers, landscapes, and products for sale.
  • Thomas Mickey at American Gardening (…with a love for the English garden) found one particular flower at the Connecticut show to write about, the primrose called Victorian Lace Primrose (Primula elatior ‘Gold Lace’).

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The Vermont Flower Show ran from 27 Feb to 1 March at the Champlain Valley Expo in Essex Junction.

Eva Sollberger reports, in a 6-minute “Stuck in Vermont” video, about the Vermont Flower Show, with interviews and images from the show.

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lavendartwistedredbud

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The Philadelphia Flower Show began 28 Feb and ends on Sunday, 8 March. It’s on a 10+-acre space. The theme this year is “Lights! Camera! Bloom!” (celebrating the movies, specifically Disney and Pixar movies). The Pennsylvania Horticultural Society has its own blog, with photos; recent posts relate to the flower show, with topics such as Five Pro Tips About the Flower Show, Flower Show Plants: Practically Perfect in Every Way, International Designers Set to Stun Show, and The Birds, the Bees, and the Butterflies.

  • Pamela Copeland at Posh Palettes blog wrote two postings to give us a glimpse into the Philadelphia Flower Show, Part I, focusing on displays and plants, and Part II, looking at jewelry and collage made from organic materials as well as heirloom seed packet art. Her photos, with minimal commentary, tend toward the posh, as you might expect (Cinderella’s wedding!), and they are exquisite.
  • More Than Ordinary Days takes us on a tour with lots of photos and commentary. Displays included are Peter Pan, Winnie the Pooh, Finding Nemo, Tarzan, Parent Trap, Cars, Cinderella, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Frozen, and a Disney princess section. There’s also a butterfly exhibit!
  • (added 3/15) John Boggan’s posting title, at DC Tropics, says it all for him: I hate the Philadelphia Flower Show. He suggests that the marquee “should read: abandon hope, all ye who enter here.”  Mainly it was the crush of the crowds, which prevented him from seeing many displays. He focused his time and attention instead on the  Hamilton Horticourt, “where all manner of beautiful, interesting, bizarre, and rare plants are exhibited and competitively judged.” Most of his photos are of these plants.
  • (added 3/15) Claire Jones at The Garden Diaries divided her report into two posts: Lights Camera Bloom! Philadelphia Flower Show-Part 1, which covers, with mostly close-up photos, everything but the miniature gardens, which she shares in Lights, Camera, Action! Philadelphia Flower Show, Part 2.
  • (added 3/12) Ashley Youwakim’s photos of the show (about a dozen), with her commentary, are at Garden Rant.
  • 2 Little Birds Planning posted about a dozen photos from the show. Looks very lavish!

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JapanesemapleandrhodosBostonFlowerShow15March2014

I think having land and not ruining it is the most beautiful art that anybody could ever want to own.
— Andy Warhol

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The Portland (ME) Flower Show is ongoing, from 5-8 March, at The Portland Company on Fore St. Its theme is A Taste of Spring. I haven’t found anyone who’s blogged it yet. Only about 9,000 people attended it this year — compared to 250,000 at Philadelphia’s, for instance.

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“Humphry Repton, the leading garden theorist of the nineteenth century, defined a garden as ‘a piece of ground fenced off from cattle, and appropriated to the use and pleasure or man: it is, or ought to be, cultivated and enriched by art’.” ― Tom Turner, British Gardens: History, Philosophy and Design

knittedpatiofurniture(yes, those are knitted)

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The Chicago Flower & Garden Show is starting soon, 14 March through 22 March, at Navy Pier. Theme: “Do Green, Do Good.”

Update 3/31: Shawna Coronado posted Flowers Everywhere at the Chicago Flower and Garden Show with some introductory info and about 10 photos.

Update 3/31: Louise at Two Girls with a Purpose visited the Chicago Flower & Garden show and took pics. (Not much commentary.)

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maybeliquidlandscapedesignsgarden

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The San Francisco Flower & Garden Show runs from 18-22 March. Theme: “Movies.”

Update 3/31: Saxon Holt at Gardening Gone Wild photographed the show, with comments (posted 3/25). He got to see the whole thing from a scissor-lift machine!

Update 3/31: Anne of Green Gardens also went to the show and brought back photos, including of the Pollinator Pavillon. She comments that “[a]lthough California is in a drought, it was interesting to note that many gardens featured water as a major component of their landscape design. It just goes to show how important water is for a garden whether its specifically for the plants or if it’s a part of the garden by design.”

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stonearchwaterfeature

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The Cincinnati Flower Show, at Yeatman’s Cove, is held from 15-19 April.

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redgerberacloseBostonFlowerShow14March2013

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And across the pond, The Chelsea Flower Show in London runs from 19-23 May.

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kestrelheadon

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“Harshness vanished. A sudden softness

has replaced the meadows’ wintry grey.

Little rivulets of water changed

their singing accents. Tendernesses,

hesitantly, reach toward the earth

from space, and country lanes are showing

these unexpected subtle risings

that find expression in the empty trees.”

–  Rainer Marie Rilke, Early Spring

A mood, an atmosphere, a series of limitations, a world

If you haven’t seen the social media brouhaha about #the dress this past week, count yourself lucky, and sheltered. But it does raise fascinating questions about what we see, how we see it, and how what we perceive may not necessarily be what objectively exists. In the case of #thedress — or rather, the photo of #thedress — some people see it as gold and white, and some as black and blue (it’s “actually” black and blue).

(Click on any photo below to enlarge it.)

“What we do see depends mainly on what we look for. … In the same field the farmer will notice the crop, the geologists the fossils, botanists the flowers, artists the colouring, sportsmen the cover for the game. Though we may all look at the same things, it does not all follow that we should see them.” ― John Lubbock

What we see, hear, taste, smell, touch are subject to complex neurological, physiological, and psychological filtering, distortion, and interpretation. For example, when it comes to sight, context — in the case of #thedress , the lighting of the object — determines what colour we think we see, as do factors like our prior experience, our expectations, the patterns our brain knows, the effectiveness of our eye mechanism (including the rods and cones in our retina), optic nerve, visual cortex, and so on.

As Isaac Newton noticed, color is not an inherent property of things. What we see when we look at an object is the light being reflected by it. And yet, as shown by the fervour of certainty displayed in #thedress kerfuffle, most of us are certain that when we see gold, we are seeing gold, and that when we see blue, we’re seeing blue. (In fact, probably many of us are certain that we can discern teal from mint.) We rarely stop to consider that an object that looks blue to us is not physically colored blue. (see note *)

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“What I’ve always found interesting in gardens is looking at what people choose to plant there. What they put in. What they leave out. One small choice and then another, and soon there is a mood, an atmosphere, a series of limitations, a world.”
― Helen Humphreys, The Lost Garden

I bring #thedress up — you were wondering, right? — because of Michelle Chapman’s blog posting at Veg Plotting yesterday, referencing both the viral phenomenon of #thedress and her 2011 article on Colour Theory for Garden Design at BBC Gardening. In the Veg Plotting post, she lists some factors that determine what we see: “our education; what’s in fashion; our cultural background; the impact of light, the weather and seasons; where we are in the world; our mood and other psychological factors; our experiences; our age; and a whole host of other things.”

“Mood” is one factor in her list that stands out for me. It’s long been thought that colour affects one’s mood and also causes physiological reactions.  But the idea that the reverse is true, that mood may affect our perception of colour, is very intriguing to me. It’s an idea that’s not new — we talk about “seeing the world with rose-coloured glasses,” for instance, implying that one’s view of the world can be filtered by one’s mood or attitude — but it points to the complexity of our neurological and psychological processes and how they may strongly influence, without our awareness, what we see.

In one small study at the Univ. of Toronto in 2009, test participants in a good mood actually took in more visual information about what they were looking at than those in a bad mood. In another study, in 2011, participants interpreted visual input differently depending on the kind of music (happy or sad)  they were listening to as they looked at images.

In other words, what we hear, see, smell, taste, or touch can change our mood, and our mood can change our perception or interpretation of what we hear, see, smell, taste, or touch. It’s an interesting cycle.

If you take a flower in your hand and really look at it, it’s your world for a moment. — Georgia O’Keeffe

delphiniumveryclose23june2010

Back to Chapman’s article at BBC Gardening: She says, “I’ve found the yellow of March is just right for now. Not only because it lifts us away from the gloomy days of winter, but also the angle of the sun is perfectly poised to make our daffodils glow.” Of course, we have snow and not daffodils here in northern New England in March, but her point is taken, that a certain yellow in a certain late winter light lifts the mood.

daffsandtulips2may2011

Chapman says that one summer, she realised that all the flowers in her seasonal pots were white, which she puts down perhaps to a need to visually balance those yellow daffs, April tulips, and late spring alliums: “By the time I came to choose my summer plants, I think my eyes and brain had overdosed a little (this is a known phenomenon) and needed the calming influence of white to help them chill out.”

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We may well choose the colour of our garden plants and flowers to match our mood and/or our concomitant physiological need (e.g., for energy when our mood is low, for tranquility when it’s frenetic, for a sense of elegance when feeling messy); perhaps it’s also our mood in late winter that causes us to perceive the March daffodil yellow as yellower, or glowier, or richer, more dynamic and cheering, or like soft butter to the hard crusty soul of winter.  If the Univ. of Toronto study I cited earlier is indicative, it may be that when we’re in a good mood — expectant and hopeful as the seasons turn from winter to spring — we simply see more of the light reflections than otherwise.

And, in this mood, we may also selittleparkwithstatuesRiverwalkWilmingtonDE8June2013e more of the context around the yellow flower, more of the “negative space,” or ma, a Japanese word for space, which, as Japanese Gardens Online describes it, “refers to the interval, space or void between two or more stationary objects — the area between two rocks or a couple of trees, for example.”

In a Kyoto Journal article, Gunter Nitschke talks about how the ideogram for the Japanese characters we translate as ma reflects both objective and subjective reality:

“Originally, this character consisted of the pictorial sign for “moon” (月) — not the present-day “sun” (日) — under the sign for “gate” (門). For a Chinese or Japanese using language consciously, this ideogram, depicting a delicate moment of moonlight streaming through a chink in the entranceway, fully expresses the two simultaneous components of a sense of place: the objective, given aspect and the subjective, felt aspect.”

When we see (visually register) this “space around” an object, or the space between one object and another, we may have a deeper experience of the object and its relationship to its space; we may feel a heightened awareness of space, place, and time, of what feels real; the object may not only “look” different but it and its surroundings may feel different to us.

Nitschke’s example of ma in a garden design is the “layout of traditional Japanese stroll gardens and, on a smaller scale, in the placement of tobi-ishi (“skipping stones”) used to make garden paths. By a sophisticated placing of the stones, our foot movements can be slowed down, sped up, halted or turned in various directions. And with our legs, our eyes are manipulated, and our visual input from spatial phenomena is structured over time.”

Time for you and time for me,
And time yet for a hundred indecisions,
And for a hundred visions and revisions,
Before the taking of a toast and tea.
— TS Eliot, The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock

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Of course, this is what good garden designers know — how to structure our visual input, inasmuch as it’s in their control — and use in developing a garden that feels balanced and unified, while at the same time alluring, welcoming, dramatic, peaceful … with Mother Nature being one of the best designers on the planet. Most of us have heard that using cool colours (blues, some pinks, violets, silver, sometimes green) or pastels in the garden creates a landscape that feels peaceful, while warm colours (yellows, oranges, reds, neons) and bright ones create a more vibrant, energetic feeling space, and neutrals (whites, greys, brown, and sometimes greens) provide a restful backdrop.

 You can put a gardener behind the wheel, but you can’t keep her eyes off the landscape. Janet Macunovich

But there is so much more to our visual experience of a garden or any landscape than this. A space like a garden holds within it dimension, plane, curvature, linearity, circularity. It speaks of the here-and-now and may remind us of a time far away. It comforts us and enchants us. With the addition of “skipping stones” as mentioned above, curving walkways, fences and gates, covered arbors and pergolas, teepees, swaths of flowers of a single colour or a meadow-like intermixing of many colours, dramatic focal points at the end of a grassy lawn, kinetic sculpture, hillsides and slopes, thickly wooded areas and open areas, chimes and waterfalls, strongly scented flowers, rain gardens, rock gardens, textured plants, waving grasses, ferny wet spaces, ponds and pools … With the addition of these elements and more, a garden or landscape speeds us up, slows us down, changes our rhythm, changes our awareness of time and the dimensions of space, feels remote or accessible, elicits whimsey or solemness, makes us feel at home or takes us to exotic lands, piques our curiosity, soothes us, rebalances or re-energises us, reassures us that all is well.

Of course, we don’t need to be in a good mood to be susceptible to ma, to the space between things (though being in a good mood may enable us to visually register the periphery better than otherwise), or to be receptive to the other mood-altering design elements found in gardens and wild lands. But it might help.

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A piece on the website Mokuri’s Temple about ma suggests that it connotes the idea that “there is openness in everything and nothing exists alone. All objects interact with one another in space. In fact, the space of the garden only exists because there is a larger space outside of it.” This reminds me of the system thinking concept found in permaculture (and other disciplines), which holds that it’s not the elements themselves as much as the relationship among all elements in a system that determines the effectiveness of the system. In permaculture, emphasis is more often on functional relationships — how well soil, water, structures, plants, animals, etc., work together to maintain a healthy, sustainable ecosystem– but smooth functioning in the garden (as in other aspects of life) often relies on auspicious spatial relationship, as described in this piece about the placement of a compost site, a fruit tree, and a tomato plant, creating an effective and low-maintenance functional relationship by placing elements in good spacial relationship and letting them mutually benefit each other.

In the same way, when we design a garden for visual impact and beauty, placing plants and other elements with an awareness that “all objects interact with one another in space” and “nothing exists alone,” we open the possibility that the viewer can enter into both the objective world (the garden) and the subjective world (the effect of sensory input on mood and soul) in each moment.

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daffodilsandhyacinthsforsaleBostonFlowerShow15March2014We may never know the difference between the way I see a yellow daffodil and the way you do — and how we see that yellow in March may differ from how we see it in May, and how we see it in the garden may differ from how we see it in when it’s cut and in a vase in the kitchen. Yet we can ponder and appreciate the interactions of objects, the relationships among them, and the notion that our perception is liable to be influenced by many factors of which we’re only obscurely aware.

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* Detailed catalog of theories about colour and where it’s located: in the object, in the brain, or in the relationship between the viewed and the viewer.

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Bonus: Fascinating article at Kyoto Journal (again by Gunter Nitschke) with a section on the difference between the activity of seeing and the passivity of hearing and how a Japanese garden takes this into account. And this beautiful meditation on the boundaries between nature and non-nature, while sitting in a Japanese garden, by Marc Keane, also in Kyoto Journal.

For more on garden design elements (form, line, repetition, balance, etc.):
Design Principles in Garden-Making (Linda Engstrom, APLD)

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All gardening is landscape painting. —  Horace Walpole

meadowStGaudens8July2012

 

Seeds: The Whisper That Shapes A Song

“There is a way to see inside
By looking directly through
to seed or marrow

Within the bone vessel
a world is made
Red and milkweed
it flows between us like
wind

Within the seed’s case
a secret is held
Its fertile whisper
shapes a song”
–   Joan Halifax, Marrow

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Theoretically, it’s time to start early seeds indoors here in northern New England. If you look at a seed starting app, e.g., the one Johnny’s Seeds offers, all you have to do is input the date of last frost in your area and voilà , you will be told when to start seeds inside to have them ready for transplanting outside at the appropriate time.  (You can find an estimate for the last frost date by zip code at Dave’s Garden.)

seeds, 20 May 2014 (few survived transplanting)
seeds, 20 May 2014 (about half survived transplanting)

In reality, it’s a bit of a crap shoot.

When I enter my zip code in the Dave’s Garden tool, I get this in response:

Each winter, on average, your risk of frost is from October 4 through May 11.
Almost certainly, however, you will receive frost from October 17 through April 28.
You are almost guaranteed that you will not get frost from May 25 through September 21.
Your frost-free growing season is around 146 days.

In other words, my last spring frost date is between 29 April and 25 May.

If I want to play it safe with regard to the frost, but perhaps not leave enough time for plants to fully mature and fruit, I’d plan to plant frost-sensitive seedlings out on 25 May or after. But many gardeners, especially here in northern New England, like to get a jump-start on the season, and so they start seeds earlier with the hope that the soil temperature will be warm enough (and the snow gone!) on, say, 10 May, so they can transplant the seedlings to their hospitable outside home. If conditions are such that the seedlings started early are not able to be planted out then, they could become spindly and/or may need retransplanting (if they have outgrown their tiny seedling containers) to another container before being transplanted yet again outside. And if they are planted out on a warm 10 May day, it will take only one frost after that to wipe them out or slow them considerably. Which is why some gardeners plan for both cases and start the same variety of seeds early and late, hedging their bets.

For the sake of example, I input 20 May as my last frost date into the Johnny’s app, which then immediately tells me when each vegetable and flower seed needs to be planted inside. I apparently should already have planted onions, leeks, the edible salad green mâche, parsley, peas (?), spinach, asclepias, delphinium (in January!), digitalis, verbena, viola, and other flowers.

One problem with this concept (that there is one date or short period to plant out each veggie) is that there are many varieties — including specifically labelled “early” season varieties — of each vegetable and many flowers, so knowing that “squash” seeds should be started from 6-13 May is really only a guideline, and for better estimating you need to know how many days it takes from planting (or planting out) to harvest.

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yellow squash seedlings (sown directly), 9 June 2014
yellow squash seedlings (sown directly), 9 June 2014

“The seed has no idea of being some particular plant, but it has its own form and is in perfect harmony with the ground, with its surroundings … and there is no trouble.  This is what we mean by naturalness.” —  Shrunyu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind

I am actually not starting any seeds indoors this year. I have tried various seeds, structures, and strategies over the past 3 or 4 years and finally realise I just don’t have the light or warmth needed in my house in early spring to germinate seedlings and allow them to thrive. I could get grow lights, warming pads, etc., but I don’t have the interest in doing it, especially because we often travel between March and May, when watering and/or misting must be done every day or so.
side yard planted with seeds and seedlings, 29 May 2014
side yard planted with seeds and seedlings, 29 May 2014

Instead, I ordered seeds that can be planted out in May and June and still be harvestable where I live before September, and I will also buy transplants from the local farm stand for cherry tomatoes, bell peppers, and perhaps some others.

“Many things grow in the garden that were never sown there.” —  Thomas Fuller, Gnomologia, 1732

These are the seeds I’ve ordered or have so far; following are links to other gardeners’ 2015 seeds as well as links to others’ seed-starting experiences so far this year:

My Seeds for 2015 (to date)

VEGETABLES
Amaranth edible Red Leaf heirloom (Botanical Interests)
Arugula: Astro and an organic species (Fedco)
Beans: Provider and Scarlet Runner (Fedco)
Beets: Early Wonder organic heirloom (Botanical Interests)
Carrots: Red Cored Chantenay and Yaya (Fedco)
slicing Cucumber: Ministro and Marketmore (Fedco)
shelling Peas: Green Arrow (Botanical Interests)
Radish: French Breakfast (Fedco)
Summer Squash: Gentry and Early Summer Yellow Crookneck (Fedco)

HERBS
Amaranth: Autumn Palette (Botanical Interests)
Chervil (Botanical Interests Beneficial Insects mix)
Cilantro (Botanical Interests Beneficial Insects mix)
Dill (Botanical Interests Beneficial Insects mix)
Lavender ‘English Tall’ (Botanical Interests Beneficial Insects mix)
Lavender (Fedco)

FLOWERS

Bring Home the Butterflies mix (Botanical Interests), with about 25 perennial, annual, and biennial flowers and herbs. I used it last year and found that the Mexican lupine, Mexican sunflower, cosmos, crimson clover, balsam camellia, borage, and sunset flower were predominant.
Agstache ‘Sunset Hyssop’ A. rupestris (Botanical Interests Hummingbird Nectar mix)
Alyssum ‘Compacta’ Aurina saxatilis (Botanical Interests Hummingbird Nectar mix)
Bee Balm ‘Lambada’ Monarda hybrida (Botanical Interests Hummingbird Nectar mix)
Bishops Flower ‘White Lace’ Ammi majus (Botanical Interests Hummingbird Nectar mix)
Cardinal Climber Ipomoea x multifida (Botanical Interests Hummingbird Nectar mix)
Cleome ‘Fountain Blend’ C. hasslerna (Botanical Interests Hummingbird Nectar mix)
Columbine ‘McKenna Giants’ Aquilegia hybrida (Botanical Interests Hummingbird Nectar mix)
Cypress Vine ‘Funny Valentine Blend’ Ipompea quamoclit (Botanical Interests Hummingbird Nectar mix)
Marigold – Lemon and Tangerine Gems Tagetes tenuifolia (Botanical Interests Hummingbird Nectar mix)
Penstemon ‘Firecracker’ P. eatonii (Botanical Interests Hummingbird Nectar mix)
Zinnia ‘Thumbelina’ Z. elegans (Botanical Interests Hummingbird Nectar mix)
Zinnia ‘Fireball Blend’ Z. elegans (Botanical Interests Hummingbird Nectar mix)

*   *    *    *    *    *    *    *

cucumber seedlings (sown directly), 12 June 2014
cucumber seedlings (sown directly), 12 June 2014

The only actual PLANTS I have ordered this year are (all from Fedco):

1 Black pussy willow Salix gracilistyla ‘Melanostachys’
1 Dwarf Korean Lilac  Syringa meyeri ‘Palabin’ (to replace a different lilac that died)
3 Sweet Cicely Myrrhis odorata

*   *    *    *    *    *    *    *

scarlet runner bean seedlings (sown directly), 26 June 2013
scarlet runner bean seedlings (sown directly), 26 June 2013

Other Gardeners’ Lists of Seeds Bought So Far:

Red Dirt Ramblings (Oklahoma, zone 6a-7b), organised by seed company and then by cold-season veggies, warm-season veggies, and flowers.

Growing with Plants (Boston area, zone 6a), including lots of tomatoes, zinnias, and primulas, from a variety of sources, including Johnny’s, Chiltern (UK), The Cook’s Garden, Stokes, and Swallowtail Garden Seeds.

Skippy’s Vegetable Garden (near Boston, zone 6a) lists hers by planting date and for the most part doesn’t include sources.

Daphne’s Dandelions (outside Boston, zone 6a) lists her seed orders by source, including Dixondale, Fedco, Pinetree, Renee’s. (update 3/17) She’s posted an update on her seeding: her parsley, celery, and celeriac seeds have sprouted, and she’s now also planted “a couple of different kinds of black-eyed-susans, some gaillardia, and some edibles – lettuce and baby Asian greens.” Next week: major set of brassica seedlings. She’s concerned with timing, if the season is late starting.

Pam’s English Cottage Garden (in Pennsylvania’s Poconos, zone 6) has ordered seeds from Annie’s Heirloom Seeds and Burpee for her kitchen garden, and also won seeds from Baker’s Seeds, including some new ones for her:  eggplant ‘Ping Tung,’ pepper ‘Quadrato D’Asti Giallo,’ cabbage ‘Red Express,’ beet ‘Chioggia,’ and three heirloom tomatoes, ‘Kellog’s Breakfast,’ ‘Pink Accordion,’ and ‘Minibel.’

Hillbillies in Training (north-central WV, zone 5b-6a) ordered mainly from Seed Savers Exchange, plus a few (asparagus, parsley, peanuts, and rhubarb) from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds.

(3/10 update) Donna at Gardens Eye View, who lives near near Oneida NY (zone 5b), posts photos of her seed-starting area, schematics of her planned veggie planting, and a list of seeds she has already started, including pansy/viola (late January), snapdragons, petunias, 5 varieties of eggplants, 10 varieties of peppers (2 types of green chiles, 3 sweet pepper, 5 hot pepper), started celery.  She says that basil and tomatoes will be started in mid-April.

Margaret at Homegrown Adventures (southern Ontario, USDA zone 5) lists hers from Aspragus to Turnips, with sources that include William Dam (local to her), Pinetree Seeds, Baker Creek, Renee’s Seeds.

Simplify, Live, Love (eastern Iowa, zone 4b-5a) lists hers, about 30 varieties, all from Pinetree Seeds this year. They include the same Red Cored Chantenay carrot I ordered!, as well as green Oaxacan corn, penguin gourd, pineapple tomatillo, May Queen lettuce, sugar sprint pea, several kinds of pumpkins, Easter egg radish, Aunt Ruby’s German green tomato.

Sue’s Garden Journal (northern Michigan, zone 4) ordered all her seeds from Fedco, including bush blue lake green bean, Ambrosia sweet corn, Mokum carrot, Easter egg radish, Revolution bell pepper, several lettuces, etc.

(3/10 update) Kathy at Violet Fern, who lies in zone 4 in upstate NY, has a great schematic of her veggie garden and a list of the many veggies she will be planting there when it’s time, including on a rustic obelisk, cherry tomatoes (Sun Gold from Johnny’s and Black Cherry from Bakers) and squash (Zephyr from Johnny’s and Ronde di Nice Zucchini from Renee’s).

 

*   *    *    *    *    *    *    *

carrot seedlings (sown directly), 17 July 2014
carrot seedlings (sown directly), 17 July 2014

Other Gardeners’ Seed-Starting So Far:

Skippy’s (near Boston, zone 6a) has started Botanical Gardens mixes, onions, leeks, broccoli, cabbage, eggplant, and radicchio.

Chiot’s Run (Liberty, Maine, zone 5a) has started eight types of gardens, two cold tolerant tomatoes, celery and a flat of cold tolerant lettuces and endives.

For something a little different, The Alchemist’s Garden has started a flat of wolfsbane (Aconitum anthora), among other seeds.

Bonus: A quick, useful primer on indoor seed-starting indoors and direct sowing seeds from Mountain Rose Herbs. (3/10) This just in: how to start seeds: 18 confidence-building tips from A Way to Garden. One tip is to use a germinating mat or other underneath heating source.

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“Think of the fierce energy concentrated in an acorn! You bury it in the ground, and it explodes into an oak! Bury a sheep, and nothing happens but decay.”  —   George Bernard Shaw

 

 

Snow, Blessed Snow

It’s been a snowy winter so far in my area, central New Hampshire. The U.S. National Weather Service posted a map on its Facebook page (I can’t find it on its website) for snow totals for the Eastern U.S. through 22 February:

snow fall totals 2014-15 season for Eastern U.S. to 22 Feb(Thanks, Bill Garrity)

The city closest to my area is Concord NH, which had received more than 84 inches of snow as of 22 Feb, compared with an average snowfall to that date of 45 inches, or an 86% increase in snow from average.

*   *    *    *    *

I am loving it. In fact, it’s hard to imagine going back to only 45 inches of snow. It’s hard to imagine moving south to Georgia or South Carolina as we have been vaguely planning. Much as I love the low country, island life, shrimp & grits, marshes, tropical warmth, wide white beaches, and flat terrain, more and more this winter I am dreaming of living near the coast of Maine, because while the beach is necessary, I can’t give up its alter ego, snow.

blowing sand, Jekyll Island, GA, 26 Dec 2010
blowing sand, Jekyll Island, GA, 26 Dec 2010
beach with snow at Hampton Beach State Park, NH , 27 Nov 2014
beach with snow at Hampton Beach State Park, NH , 27 Nov 2014

*   *    *    *    *

The snow that’s fallen since December has been deep and powdery, perfect for snowshoeing and cross-country skiing;

hemlocks and snow, local trail, 17 Jan 2015
hemlocks and snow, local trail, 17 Jan 2015
trees and shelf fungus, local nature park, 25 Jan 2015
trees and shelf fungus, local nature park, 25 Jan 2015

MwithsnowshoesontrailLP17Jan2015

trail with evergreens in snow, local trail, 7 Feb 2015
trail with evergreens in snow, local trail, 7 Feb 2015
trees in deep snow and sunlight, The Fells, 22 Feb 2015
trees in deep snow and sunlight, The Fells, 22 Feb 2015
snowshoeing to island in Lake Sunapee, 22 Feb 2015
snowshoeing to island in Lake Sunapee, 22 Feb 2015
snow path through rhododendron, The Fells, 22 Feb 2015
snow path through rhododendron, The Fells, 22 Feb 2015

 

beautiful to look at, adorned with birds (click each for caption) …

… squirrels, playful dogs …

snowy grey squirrel, 19 Feb 2015
snowy grey squirrel, 19 Feb 2015
red squirrel in apple tree in snowstorm, 30 Jan 2015
red squirrel in apple tree in snowstorm, 30 Jan 2015
dogs playing in snow, 17 Feb 2015
dogs playing in snow, 17 Feb 2015

… plants …

row of cedars in snow, The Fells, 22 Feb 2015
row of cedars in snow, The Fells, 22 Feb 2015
dwarf 'River King' birch in snow, 3 Feb 2015
dwarf ‘River King’ birch in snow, 3 Feb 2015
plants in snow, local trail, 14 Feb 2015
plants in snow, local trail, 14 Feb 2015
hydrangea blooms and branches against snow, 22 Feb 2015
hydrangea blooms and branches against snow, 22 Feb 2015

… itself, mixed with sun, stark, shadow … ;

mid-winter backyard with mid-afternoon sun, 16 Feb 2015
mid-winter backyard with mid-afternoon sun, 16 Feb 2015
turkey tracks in snow, local nature park, 25 Jan 2015
turkey tracks in snow, local nature park, 25 Jan 2015
bridge with snow and sunlight, local trail, 10 Jan 2015
bridge with snow and sunlight, local trail, 10 Jan 2015
Norway maple, late afternoon sun, 10 Jan 2015
Norway maple, late afternoon sun, 10 Jan 2015
animal tracks, shadows, local nature park, 25 Jan 2015
animal tracks, shadows, local nature park, 25 Jan 2015
birch and building, 24 Jan 2015
birch and building, 24 Jan 2015

 

… and easy to walk through, even when it comes to my mid-thigh as I transverse the parts of the back yard where I haven’t shoveled a path (there are paths to the bird feeders but not to the birdbath or the motion camera).

path to one feeder, 22 Feb 2015
path to one feeder, 22 Feb 2015
path to another feeder, 22 Feb 2015
path to another feeder, 22 Feb 2015

 *    *    *    *    *

The sound when it falls,

that specific anticipatory silence,

is a tangible peace.

snowing, 30 Jan 2015

The fresh smell of it,

an airy icy messenger

from the cold wide sky,

intoxicates, invigorates, vitalizes.

winterskysnowtreesfeb2009

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *  

Snow

by Anne Sexton

 

Snow,

blessed snow,

comes out of the sky

like bleached flies.

The ground is no longer naked.

The ground has on its clothes.

The trees poke out of sheets

and each branch wears the sock of God.

*

There is hope.

There is hope everywhere.

I bite it.

Someone once said:

Don’t bite till you know

if it’s bread or stone.

What I bite is all bread,

rising, yeasty as a cloud.

*

There is hope.

There is hope everywhere.

Today God gives milk

and I have the pail.

The Deep Roots Never Doubt

The deep roots never doubt spring will come.” ― Marty Rubin

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This is my garden nowadays.

veggie garden, 10 Feb 2015
veggie garden, 10 Feb 2015

some of the shade garden, 10 Feb 2015
some of the shade garden, 10 Feb 2015
the back border, 3 Feb 2015
the back border, 3 Feb 2015
the fruit guild, 3 Feb 2015
the fruit guild, 3 Feb 2015
the kitchen garden, 10 Feb 2015
the kitchen garden, 10 Feb 2015
most of the back yard, 10 Feb 2015
most of the back yard, 10 Feb 2015
front walk and perennial borders, 10 Feb 2015
front walk and perennial borders, 10 Feb 2015

The Same Nature Park, Twice (or Nine Times)

Each solstice is a domain of experience unto itself. At the Summer Solstice, all is green and growing, potential coming into being, the miracle of manifestation painted large on the canvas of awareness. At the Winter Solstice, the wind is cold, trees are bare and all lies in stillness beneath blankets of snow. — Gary Zukav

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Nature park entrance: Nov 2013; Feb and Oct 2014; Jan 2015 (click on any photo to see it enlarged):

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Bittersweet around the tree: Oct 2013; Feb, Oct (10th & 18th), Nov 2014;  Jan 2015:

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 I am a book of snow,
a spacious hand, an open meadow,
a circle that waits,
I belong to the earth and its winter.
— Pablo Neruda (1904 – 1973)

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Main meadow: Nov 2013; Feb, July, Aug, Oct (10th & 18th), Dec 2014; Jan 2015:

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Vernal pool: July 2013; May, July, Aug, Oct, Nov, Dec 2014; Jan 2015:

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Pond: July, Oct, Nov 2013; Feb, May, July, Aug, Nov, and Dec 2014:

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Blueberry bushes in meadow: Nov 2013; Feb, July, Oct (10th & 18th) 2014; Jan 2015:

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Boulder:  Oct 2013; Feb and Oct 2014 (2); Jan 2015:

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One trail: Sept 2010; July (2) and Nov 2013; Oct 2014; Jan 2015:

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To learn something new, take the path that you took yesterday.

— John Burroughs

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Other trails: July, Oct, Nov 2013; May and Aug (10th and 16th) 2014; Jan 2015 (2) :

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Field House:  Nov 2013; Feb 2014:

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Milkweed: Sept 2010; Oct, Nov 2013; Feb, July (2), Aug, Oct (3rd & 10th) 2014:

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