Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Eid Mubarak!

Today is Eid ul-Fitr or عيد الفطر, the holiday that marks the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan as well as of the dawn-to-dusk fasting usually maintained during that month.

Stone screen in the complex of the Tomb of the Mughal Emperor Humayun in Delhi, India


عید مبارک

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Garden Update

I am starting graduate school next week - well, technically I already started since we had orientation yesterday but classes do not start until a couple of days from now - and thus had to leave my family's garden in Michigan behind to once again move to the Northeast. My new abode is an apartment in a building without a garden or much landscaped ground to speak of but luckily I have both inside and outside window sill space that should allow me to grow a nice array of plants. In the meantime, however, I wanted to post some pictures of the exciting - or so I think - developments underway in the Michigan garden when I left it:

Purple passion flower (Passiflora incarnata) setting fruit

The oldest of my crape myrtles (Lagerstroemia indica) just beginning what might its best flowering season yet

Japanese fiber banana (Musa basjoo) in its late-summer glory

Hopefully tomorrow I will get a head start on my new indoor and window sill garden before things start to get too busy with classes...

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Monday, August 15, 2011

Places to Visit: Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe in Kassel, Germany

The people of the German city of  Kassel - my extended family included - are proud to inform anyone who will listen that their city has the largest Bergpark, or 'hill park', in Europe. To those of us who spend most of our lives in places without 'hill parks' of any sort, that distinction might not mean much. What, one might ask, is so special about a park that happens to be on hilly terrain? Well, as it turns out there is lots that is special about the Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe. Representing landscape architecture on a truly gargantuan scale, the steeply-sloped park and its monuments tower over the city, with its central axis extending all the way to the city center in the valley below in the form of a wide, dead-straight street known as the Wilhelmshöher Allee. A colossal status of Hercules, set on a large pyramidal base, crowns the highest point of the park and is visible from almost anywhere in the city. Below it a massive baroque cascade descends down the slope. Even further down the hill sits the large palace whose garden this park once was. It now houses an art museum that features a notable collection of antique sculpture as well as one of the most important collections of paintings by Rembrandt in Germany. The park further features  artificial castle ruins  from the late 18th century called the Löwenburg or 'lion's castle', a conservatory, various ponds and pavilions, a collection of shrub roses, and a slew of other features.

 The palace as glimpsed through the trees on the approach uphill

View along the central axis of the park from the parterre in front of the palace towards the Hercules statue

A classical statue flanked by Inula magnifica and various rhododendrons

The parks massive size and scattered attractions invite leisurely exploration. Coming from either the parking lot or the streetcar stop at the foot of the hill, it is a relatively short and moderately steep walk to the palace with the art museum. From the palace entrance the conservatory is visible to the right, surrounded in summer by elaborate Victorian-style bedding. Straight ahead lies the central vista of the park up the steepest part of the slope, along the cascade and towards the monumental Hercules at the top of the hill. To the left the land drops steeply towards a serious of ponds connected by a small stream, on the other side of which further woods as well as broad meadows rise gently towards the Löwenburg. In addition, the park's large collection of antique and modern shrub roses is arranged around the banks of these ponds.

 The central section of the conservatory, known as the Große Gewächshaus or 'great greenhouse'

Beds of annuals in front of the conservatory

Fragrant heliotrop (Heliotropium arborescens)

One of the various ponds

Some late roses in the shrub rose collection

Climbing roses conquering the trees

Light and shadow

The Löwenburg

 One of the broad meadows below the 18th-century "medieval"  castle

The design of most sections of the Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe follows the precepts of the English landscape garden. This is due in large part to the work carried out beginning on 1785 under local ruler Wilhelm IX. He also razed an older residence on the site and replaced it with the neoclassical palace still in existence today. The name of the palace and ultimately the park and even the surrounding part of the city is also part of his legacy, for prior to his reign the hill at Wilhelmshöhe or 'Wilhelm's height' was known as the Karlsberg or 'Karl's mountain' after one of his predecessors, and the old palace was known as Weißenstein. However, in the uppermost third of the park the most conspicuous features of 'Karl's mountain' survived, namely the huge baroque Hercules monument and the Italianate cascade which had been created for Karl beginning in 1701  under the guidance of the Roman architect Giovanni Francesco Guerniero. One can climb up the stairs on either side of the cascade all the way to the base of the massive monument, which on clear days offers amazing views of the whole city and surrounding countryside. The water in the cascades and fountains does not run constantly but usually at set times twice a week from late spring until mid-fall.

 View across the Fontänenteich or 'fountain pond' halfway between the palace and the cascade

 A smaller artificial woodland at the edge of the woods next to the central vista

 A small bridge, another one of the playful monuments along the ascent towards the cascade and the Hercules statue

 View towards the Hercules from the bottom of the cascade

 View from the top of the cascade towards the city

The Bergpark Wilhelmshöhe is open to the public year-round and free of charge. If you want to know more about it, the Wikipedia pages for it in English and German are a great start, with lots of information and further links. There are also tons of videos on YouTube if you want to get an idea of what the cascades and fountains look like when the water is turned on; unfortunately most are not of particularly high  picture or sound quality, which is why I did not bother to include one in this post.




Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Seedling Swamp Rose Mallow

While I was not able to transplant the established swamp rose mallows (Hibiscus moscheutos) from my old garden to my family's new property when we moved two years ago, I did take along some seeds. I have planted a number of new, nursery-bought swamp rose mallows in the new garden since then (see this recent post) but I was still particularly delighted this morning when the first of the seedling descendants of my old Hibiscus moscheutos opened its very first blossom.


The flower turned out to be almost exactly like that of the parent plant. There is quite a bit of variation in the leaves between some of the other seedlings so I wonder if any of them will also eventually produce different-looking flowers.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Nasturtiums

I sowed some nasturtiums (Tropaeolum majus) for the first time in years this June. Up until now the little plants were not doing much but now they are starting to pick up, producing more flowers everyday.




My favorite flower color so far is the one in the third picture, which also seems to photograph the best.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Crape Myrtle Season

My crape myrtles (Lagerstroemia indica) have begun blooming over the last couple of days and one of the newer dwarf ones which I planted the summer before last when my parents moved into this house had a little surprise for me last morning. Its regular flower color is a deep pink - and that was the color of most of the first couple of blossoms that had already opened - but one little branch near the base of the plant had produced a light purple flower!

Flowers of the "regular" kind

The "odd" purple flower

Maybe there had actually been a second plant in the pot? Could the plant have been grafted and the purple-flowered branch a sucker from the rootstock? Or is it a random mutation? In any case, I think both colors are lovely and I hope that the purple-flowered part of the bush develops as well as the rest of it has.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Cool Whites

Many of the flowers currently in bloom in our garden delight with bright, bold colors  - shades of red, orange, purple, and deep pink that I absolutely love. However, there are also some cool white blooms  that are just reaching their peak, and one section of the front border dominated by pale flowers and and foliage that is looking particularly good right now.

The "white" end of the front border

'Limelight' hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata 'Limelight')

A white morning glory (Ipomoea purpurea)

White garden phlox (Phlox paniculata)

Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus)

While I sometimes think that "white gardens" are a bit overdone, I can definitely see the appeal...

Monday, August 1, 2011

Happy Ramadan!

Today marks the beginning of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, during which observant Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset.

 Corridor at the Sultan Qaboos Grand Mosque, Muscat, Oman

To learn more about the special significance of Ramadan and the traditions associated with it, you can start at the Ramadan Wikipedia page here.
رمضان كريم
وكلّ عام وأنتم بخير!