Archive for January, 2011

January 18, 2011

The Transformation Of An Enduring Memory

I was asked by a dear friend, to style a precious family heirloom. Below, our guest blogger Mary Ann, shares that story. Mary Ann is a Habitat Steward for the Delaware Nature Society, and she is the proud owner of Nando’s Garden, a two acre woodland garden and registered Delaware wetland.  Further, Nando’s Garden is a World Wildlife Federation Backyard Habitat and registered Monarch Way Station.   Nando’s garden is named after her father, Ferdinando.

The Transformation Of An Enduring Memory by Mary Ann

The surrounding photos are of a beautiful container  arrangement of succulents (echeveria) created  by Angela in a wooden salad bowl, handmade by my father, and given to my husband and me as a wedding gift over 20 years ago.   My Dad carefully selected different types of woods for their striking contrasts, and lovingly carved the bowl for us in his workshop.  Despite caring for the bowl, twenty years of steady use has resulted in cracks that made the bowl unsuitable for food.  Unwilling to merely throw the bowl away, my husband suggested a Viking funeral in our backyard stream, but I objected to floating a fire bowl through our neighbors’ yards.  Sadly returning his lighter fluid to the garage, he admitted to being only half-serious about the Viking approach and suggested (seriously, this time) that we keep the bowl as a planter and a reminder that my Dad’s love endures, even though he died several years ago.  As to what kind of planter, his response was, “Anything you say, Dear”; his usual response to garden questions. 

I had no idea what kind of plants or arrangement would be appropriate for a beautiful handcrafted salad bowl, especially given that we wanted the bowl to last for many more years.  Aside from the physical concerns of wood, roots, and light, the plants had to represent the loving care my Dad put into this gift.  Yet, Angela selected the right plants, carefully created the right environment for them, and added just a small token of my Dad’s love of winged creatures.  She captured it all: the spoken and unspoken, and turned a slightly tired, but still beautiful work of art into an heirloom.  My Dad would be so pleased!

January 15, 2011

A Trip Back In Time

The debate continues to rage on, organic vs. local.  Sometimes the two are one and the same, and sometimes they are not.  As I drove into the parking lot of Booth’s Corner Farmers Market, I was immediately seduced by the mouthwatering aromas of what I perceived to be homemade pastries or candies of some sort.  The square building was painted an off-white, or rather appeared to take on an antique-white hue signifying that its existence had prevailed and persisted over many seasons.  As I opened the door, I wasn’t sure what I should expect.  I had driven past this building many times before.  But during the week, the lot looked lonely, even deserted as the market is only opened on the weekends. But today, the lot was jammed packed, presumably with people who considered themselves “privy ” to this local secret, so I thought I would wonder in among the masses.

The Philadelphia area is full of rich, textural tradition.  Not the least of which, being the birthplace of our country.  But there are other, more local traditions, and the Amish market is one of them.  The bucolic area west of Philadelphia is Amish country, and what a beautiful country it is.  With rolling hills, and real horse drawn buggies, Amish culture is full of skilled artisans of all sorts, but perhaps what is little known is that the Amish are also artisans of “slow food” in every sense of the word, and Booth’s Corners is but one of many markets in this area showcasing their delectable expertise.

Barbie's Home Canned

As I walked inside along the shops lining the periphery of the building, I was delighted to find so many artisan shops selling home canned fruits and vegetables.  To resist the urge for produce grown from afar, and embrace the slow food movement to eat what’s in season, or what was in season and lovingly and expertly canned, is pretty cool. Is denial of what is so easily obtainable masochistic?  I certainly don’t think so.  I think my choice pays tribute to the skill and artistry that is required to grow the food that we eat.  This ideal also respects, and honors the local farmers and artisans who have the proficiency of generations and generations of skill to not only cultivate food, but also transform it. Since the Amish generally avoid processed foods to eat what is produced in their own gardens and farms, what better symbol of a food movement rightfully moving back to where we started?

January 10, 2011

The Evolution Of The Garden Cloche

One of the most beautiful accessories to my indoor garden is my collection of cloches and glass domes.  I house my most delicate humidity loving ferns under these beautifully curved transparent works of art, perhaps in much the same way the Victorians may have done during that era.  Cloches have a magical way of tending to make any ordinarily mundane item housed underneath, surprising stupendous.

The ancient cloche is borne of the Italians, but is most closely associated as traditionally derived from the French.  The cloche is easily recognizable as a solid curved piece of glass having a knob on top.  The form closely resembles a bell.  Coincidentally, the word cloche is roughly translated from French to mean bell.  In fact, the English appropriated this beautiful artifact in their Medieval gardens, and began referring to the cloche as the bell jar.
The Victorians used cloches, and Wardian cases as well, to display a wide variety of ferns indoors.  Ferns were, and are today, ideally suited to be housed under a cloche, but other plants are equally suited to the controlled microenvironment these beautiful glass beauties provide.  A few plants to consider for the cloche are begonias, tillandsias, and african violets to name a few.
The timeless elegance of this simple form still resonates as a thing of beauty today.  The cloche has taken on many shapes and sizes, but in all embodiments, the cloche has a way of turning the ordinary into something extraordinary.  Surely I’m not the only one intrigued by this stunningly simple form?