Friday, April 30, 2010

Another Article from The New York Times

Here is another article from the website of The New York Times, this one about an exhibition about the poetess Emily Dickinson at the New York Botanical Garden. As part of the exhibition, there is a garden display that attempts to recreate Dickinson's19th century New England garden as well other displays that aim to highlight the connections between her gardening and her poetry. Here is the link:

Art: The Poet as Gardener and Tiger Lily

I personally really like the approach of this exhibition...I would love to find out about the horticultural endeavors of other historical and literary luminaries.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Spring Break Travels - Part 6: Os Jardins do Palácio dos Marqueses de Fronteira

The gardens of the Palace of Fronteira are probably among the most famous in Portugal, mainly because of their elaborate blue-and-white azulejo tile work. Begun around 1670 by the first Marquis of Fronteira, the palace was originally built as a hunting pavilion on what were then the outskirts of Lisbon in a style of Italian Renaissance architecture heavily overlaid with Portuguese decorative detail. During the horrific earthquake that struck Lisbon in 1755 the family's city palace was completely destroyed but the suburban hunting lodge remained unscathed and subsequently became the family's primary residence. Part of it is still being used by a branch of the family to this very day. The gardens are mainly formal but the ever-present tiling and bright colors give them a whimsical note. Occupying the largest section of the gardens just below the palace and looking towards the city one finds a large parterre of clipped boxwood (Buxus sempervirens) decorated with classical statues.

View towards the parterre from the front entrance of the house

View over the parterre from the second-story balcony of the palace

On one side the parterre is bordered by a canal overlooked by a two-story gallery covered in blue and white azulejo tiles and decorated with statues and small grottoes.

The main garden and the azulejo gallery as seen from the second-story balcony of the palace

The pavilion at one end of the gallery

The gardens behind the palace are not quite as formal and not nearly as well know, yet in my opinion they are actually more impressive and more charming because of the lush vegetation and the bold blue of the surrounding walls. It reminds me a bit of pictures of the famous Jardin Majorelle in Marrakech, Morocco, (Jardin Majorelle Official Website), which I also hope to visit one day.

A pavilion used for summertime banquets; it is kept cool by a spring and its interior is covered with intricate mosaics of sea shells and shards of porcelain left over from royal festivities due to an old rule that china used by the king could not be used by anyone else afterwards

View across the back garden with its central fountain

A niche in the stunning blue walls surrounding this part of the garden

A large specimen of Strelitzia nicolai next to the azulejo-covered back terrace

Another view across the back garden, this time towards the palace - in marked but pleasant contrast to the intense blue color scheme of the garden structures, the palace is painted a soft red

Some of the azulejo decorations and sculpture that adorn the terrace, with Judas tree or European redbud (Cercis siliquastrum) branches just beginning to bud

Finally, a new garden section is being developed below the main parterre. This new garden is decidedly Islamicate in design, with a quadripartite or chahar bagh layout with small water rills intersecting in the center of the garden. There is tilework, but much more geometric and simple and bold in color than most traditional Portuguese designs, and the plant palette appears to be limited to orange trees (Citrus sinensis), cypresses (Cupressus sempervirens), and Florentine iris (Iris florentina). I was pleasantly surprised to find this modern take on the Islamic paradise garden design, especially since the origins of the azulejo tile work for which the gardens are famous lies in the shared North African and Iberian architectural and decorative tradition which the Moors brought to Portugal.

The main parterre of the chahar bagh garden

The continuation of the design in smaller parterres radiating out beyond the main one

After the gardens of the Palace of Fronteira there are still two more gardens I visited on my spring break trip which I want to post about. I know I am horribly behind on these posts but I will try to get them done in the next couple of days. Working on them will be my break and reward in between all the term papers I have to get through in the coming days...

Interesting Article from The New York Times

I just came across this article about Plant Delights Nursery founder Tony Avent on the website of The New York Times and thought that it might be of interest to some:

In the Garden: The Plant Hunter

If nothing else, the article comes with a slide show of beautiful pictures of some unusual plants. I personally have never bought anything from Plant Delights - though I had come across their website once or twice - but now I am tempted...

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Interesting Advertisement Idea

A little while ago my mom - who is amazing - sent me something she had cut out of an Old Navy advertisement. It was a sticker bearing the words "Watch Me Bloom" and "Peel & Plant". When I peeled the sticker off its cardboard backing, its sticky side was indeed sprinkled with seeds and also offered instructions. Apparently the seeds are those of sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritima) and I of course proceeded to plant them in accordance with the instructions, if only to see what the result would be.

 The front side of the seed sticker

The back of the sticker with the seeds and the instructions

I am actually quite fond of sweet alyssum - it makes neat, cheerful edges for flowerbeds and re-seeds charmingly in pavement cracks and other such nooks and crannies. My grandmother has somehow managed to have it re-seed abundantly in her garden for decades. It was there already when my dad was a young boy, and to this day he says that sweet alyssum smells "like fixing his bike in the backyard on a summer day". I, for my part, have so far always had to supplement with bought transplants if I wanted the sweet alyssum population in my garden to stay constant because even though the plants would seed quite freely, over the course of a couple of year there numbers would still diminish. As for the advertisement strategy, I wonder how effective it will actually be...It certainly appeals to me and stands out as unusual, but how many potential clothes shoppers will be charmed by such horticultural overtures? However, if it is actually successful, perhaps we will see more such advertisement in the future...

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Inspirational: Community Gardens in Harlem, New York City

This past Saturday a friend and I went down to New York City for a workshop on Urdu literature at Columbia University, and on the way from the subway station to the university we saw a few heartwarming community gardening projects. They were small but it was obvious how much love and care was lavished on them and they seemed like true oasis in this very urban environment. Here is garden #1:

And here is garden #2 - very different but no less admirable:

As you can see, the Joseph Daniel Wilson Gardens even have a sign up telling those passing by how they can get involved!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Trees in Pink

Pink appears to be the dominant color among the trees currently in flower around here, though I did not realize how monochrome this post was going to be until I actually put the pictures together.

A variety of crab apple (Malus sp.)

A dark-flowered variety of saucer magnolia (Magnolia x soulangeana)

Eastern red bud trees (Cercis canadensis)

A regular variety of saucer magnolia (Magnolia x soulangeana)

Looking up into the same tree  - a dome of fragrant flowers

A young ornamental cherry tree, probably Prunus serrulata 'Kanzan'
I am always anxious to enjoy these delicate blossoms as much as possible for the few short days each year that they appear and I wish they would last longer. Yet then again, if they were not such a fleeting pleasure we would probably not appreciate them as much.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Happy Puthandu, Ugadi, Vaisakhi...

...Vishu, Aluth Awurudu, Pohela Boishakh, Rongali Bihu, Gudi Padwa, Mahabishuba Sankranti, Cheti Chand, Cheiraoba, Chaitti, Songkran, and all the other New Year's Holidays which fall on or around today's date based on traditional South and Southeast Asian calendars.

I know I have been a bit out of the loop with my holiday posts lately. Easter and Passover just blew past me without me even really noticing until I found one of my friends dying eggs in the dining hall, and I also meant to have a post for the Persian New Year Nowroz since it includes some greenery-related traditions. So hopefully this post will get me back in the swing of things...

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Spring Break Travels - Part 5: Portuguese Front Yards

I was really intending to put up a more substantial post today but alas, school work has taken up much more of my time than I had anticipated. This post, therefore, is a simple one, though I think it is worthwhile nonetheless. One of my favorite activities when traveling is to look at the efforts of amateur gardeners, the plant and design choices made in private gardens and on balconies and terraces, and the often astounding horticultural skills on display in sometimes surprising places. As a result, I usually take an inordinate number of pictures of things I see along the way. These are just a few of the private spots of green which really caught my eye on this particular trip.

Front yard in Tavira

Door in the old city of Tavira

Freesias (Freesia sp.) in a front yard in Azinhal

A somewhat unusual assemblage of potted plants in the old town center of Azinhal

A front yard in Azinhal

A front yard in Tavira with tile work and a pergola covered in Lady Banks' rose (Rosa banksiae)

Front yard in the historic old town of Cachopo

A large front garden in Cachopo

Jasmine (Jasminum polyanthum) spilling over a garden wall in Cabanas

A potted garden in a small alley in the village of Entradas

Some of these splahes of greenery might not be the most beautiful from an objective Some of these splahes of greenery might not be the most beautiful from an objective perspective but I think they all attest to someone's love for gardening and are remarkable in their variety and creativity. Particularly for those of us gardening under rather constraint circumstances, I think some of these creations might be sources of inspiration, if not in form then at least in spirit.