Thursday, December 18, 2008

Beauty and magic takes a lot of work

Finn & I are packing up the sleigh for a Christmas road trip.  
The weather has warmed up just in time for me to clean out the car, rake the last of the leaves from the yard and carport, pack and drive to Virginia. 

I love the timing of a sixty degree, dry day right when I really need it.
I stayed on top of the maple leaves all fall, but the oak leaves fell with the cold snap a month ago, and pretty much buried my lawn. I was beginning to get real depressed about the garden view from my window.  

It was so delightful to get outside and hear the birds tweeting happily while I raked. Finn was glad to get out too. We have had three days in a row of rain and fog.  I always feel better when leaving home if these things are done. Now I am freed up to feast and play.

I did get a start on a series of garden paintings I want to do this winter.  I have been wanting to paint this scene for a long time. 
I couldn't get the true colors to come through the scan. In real life it does not look quite the same. It is really a bit more greenish than it looks here. It looks like I was hoping it would, though I may fuss with it a bit more after the holidays. 

It makes me want to write and illustrate a story book for my granddaughter. Maybe that will be one of her Christmas presents next year. 

I just had a giggle over that last line I wrote..........
I have always said I wanted to grow up and live like Tasha Tudor.  I read her books to my daughters when they were little. The link takes you to Tova Martins book with all the beautiful photo's of Tasha's garden in Vermont.  Ms. Tudor finally let go of her garden last summer, I was sad to hear when she went over the rainbow.

I never even thought about illustrating children's books until I did this painting.  My father always gave my sister and I beautifully and whimsically illustrated fairy tale books. He encouraged us to believe in Unicorns and such.  He imprinted in me a love of magic and beauty. Just by investing in some great books. I used to spend hours staring into those images of the beauties and the beasties. The beasts were so beautiful and horrific at the same time. The beauties were so enchanting and tragic.

My parents sent my sister to art school. Every line she ever drew was frame worthy. Some people have that gift. I don't. They sent me to gymnastics. I was not born with a green thumb either. My mother never even kept a houseplant.  The only garden I remember planting with her was when I was two and she let me poke some zinnia seeds into the little holes she made in the earth. We moved around too much to ever garden as children.  

But, I did have this love of beauty. When I figured out I could create natural beauty in gardens, that was it....I studied everything I could about garden design. I tore up and re birthed hundreds of yards learning my craft.

When I was thirteen I loved the beauty of harmony in music, so I made myself learn how to play a guitar and sing harmony. It didn't come naturally, I begged friends to teach me. I locked my self in the bedroom for several years, fingers raw on the ever plucked strings, until I finally did not sound like a cat in heat. It turns out, I could make people emotional when I sang. Even grooms at weddings.
I gave it up professionally when I was being asked to sing at too many funerals. I didn't want to make people sad with my music. I was young and didn't want to be around all that grief.  But I had found a sense of beauty that spoke to my soul.

It is the same with my new love of painting. I hasn't happened naturally. But I am getting better at it all the time. I do know, that when I watch the colors spread out on a piece of white paper and form a flower or a landscape, I get that sense of the soulful harmony in the act of creating and I know when I hit a perfect tone, or note.  Something magical is trying to happen. 

Speaking of magical, Christmas is always magic!  Morgan and Barrie were trimming the Christmas tree together the other night. Every now and then Morgan would step back and look at the tree and ask little Barrie, 'Isn't it beautiful'?  Barrie would step back, hands on her hips, just like her Mom, and said 'Jus gorejess". Who knows how she picked up such a big word, she won't be two until spring. Must be magic.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


For two years I have ignored my old website. It was still tied to the nursery in Virginia and just soooo out of date.  Finally this week I dove into the land of website building and powered through the resizing of photo's to be Internet friendly for your easy loading...and learning to use the software.  So, no painting this week, but I did manage a new creation after all. has been reborn. Take a look if you like and let me know of improvements I can make. 

It is a joy to have this off of my to do I can get ready for Christmas. Amen

Friday, December 5, 2008


We have had quite a cold season for the end of Fall. So we are hibernating.  Days are now spent feasting on Thanksgiving leftovers, reading and being generally lazy.  I have enjoyed cleaning up the house, rearranging things and finally, I have a studio in the basement.

Finn is getting used to the stay at home routine now after a brief confusion over our new schedule. Instead of packing lunch and leaving the house at the same time every day to go outside and play, we are now unscheduled for a brief while and I am soaking it up for all it's worth. He is bored and follows me all over the house. He loves to ride with me to the store, and patiently waits for me in the drivers seat while I shop. He loves his afternoon naps, the big old fuzzy brown dog that looks like a bear.  I find him on the bed, with his head on my pillow, snoring away, often. I do owe him some good hikes when we get a warm spell. He is so patient with me and my quiet hours of painting.

I have been painting winter trees with India Ink. I think I'll use this one for my Christmas cards.

It is a quiet thoughtful time as the year draws toward it's ending. I love my peaceful winter days with so few interruptions. It his heaven. I am truly in the painting mode, so many things I want to try now that I have some room to spread out and work. I have things I need to frame for gifts as well. December will go by quickly no doubt. 


Saturday, November 22, 2008

Snowing and Blowing

It is unbelievably cold this last week or two. We have been dashing out to do last minute plantings and pond cleanings on the warmest of the days, but those have been few. The Ski resorts are thrilled with at least six inches of snow falling just in time for Thanksgiving. I am thrilled to be winding up the planting season and starting on the painting season.

I spent last weekend looking through and organizing hundreds of old photo's of the historic gardens I have worked in or visited over the last thirty years. I was getting ready to speak at the Highbriten Garden Club about my experiences working at Oatlands Plantation restoring the gardens with Alfredo Siani during the late 1980"s. 

I found a photo I had taken of the orangery at Dumbarton Oaks.  I decided to paint the scene. It was my last watercolor project for class. It makes a wonderful vignette of the corner of the room with the creeping fig scaling the walls and growing through the window. Garden scenes like this have always thrilled me. Much like the fairy tale books my father brought me filled with enchanted paintings of fairy tale gardens.  I am sure I had a painting in mind when I shot the photo way back when. Art and gardens combine so beautifully.  I love the vines growing around the oriental wood carvings along the walls of this building. 

I used to spend a lot of time at Dumbarton gardens, visiting at all times of the year. It was designed by a woman, very rare in the USA, Beatrix Ferrand from 1922-1947. It is one of the most beautiful gardens I have ever explored. Please enjoy the photo tour of the garden at the link above.

When I finished this painting I started reclaiming my kitchen, which has been an art studio mess for about a year. I moved all my art stuff into the basement I prepared last summer for a studio. It's amazing to have such a cozy painting space, I don't know why I clung to the kitchen counter for so long, except that that is where the sun shines into my dining room, and I get to look at my garden from the big glass  doors. I have many garden scenes I want to paint this winter. It is so nice to be able to see my dining room table again. It is also amazing how much I have painted in the last year. But that is what I set out to do, just about a year ago...I wanted to practice the discipline of painting everyday. 

What a difference it has made. Last winter, the last painting I did was frame able, after three months of disasters and experiments. It hung in an art show this summer. Today I realized my first painting done this winter is worth putting a frame on.  I can't wait to see what I am creating by the end of this winters painting marathon. 

Saturday, November 8, 2008

It is peak fall color here in the foothills of western North Carolina. It is so radiantly red and gold around here that I am feeling light headed from all the beauty! North Carolina is also now a blue state!
This painting is my homework for my
Monday evening art class. I have little experience with landscapes and water, but I do kind of like this one. Practice, practice....

It is fun to be painting the fall colors in the evenings that I am working in every day. Peak season has passed in Blowing Rock, but I did hit the peak season in Virginia on Halloween weekend. My fall color season has been wonderfully long. The leaf raking is continuous. Yesterday, I cheated and borrowed Michael's leaf blower.

Working is the word...we have started landscaping some of the apartment
buildings in Boone this fall. Some big and badly needed projects. Students living in the buildings kept thanking us for the transformation of beds full of cigarette butts and beer cans into living gardens. The weather was beautiful and cool,
which we were grateful for because we had to fill raised beds with amended topsoil, one wheelbarrow at a time, maneuvering around all the parked cars in
front of the beds. We are sore....but a great work out.

Michael was down after jumping out of his truck bed and badly spraining his ankle. So it was up to Matt and I to get the heavy work done in good time. One student, Thomas, did play the banjo for us one afternoon from his third floor balcony. We really loved that. 

Finn had to spend the week tied to a tree while we worked in the center of town. He was bummed, so many garbage dumpsters, full of remains from the tailgate parties at ASU, so little freedom.

The first project was done by Thursday, a great week, and we have a new President elect! 

I visited friends and family for Halloween weekend, taking Miss Barrie Ann trick or treating in Waterford made for some great laughs and memories. I loved Airynee's glow in the dark horns....and once Barrie got a taste of an M&M she wouldn't let go of her little pumpkin bucket full of treats even though her hands were about frozen by the end of the evening. 

The gardens in Waterford were transformed by the elementary school classes into Halloween celebrated around the world. Neil Keller's gazebo, became a Greek setting with people 
in robes with lightening bolts in their hands. The barn was a Mexican celebration of the day of the dead with a mariachi band. Another garden depicted Halloween in Japan, another had an Egyptian pyramid. It was awesome. I got to celebrate with so many of our clients in town, so great to see them all again. Lot's of hugging. 

Saturday we girls picnicked in Middleburg, and toured Goodstone farm in the gators so Barrie could see the new baby cows and sheep. It has been a long time since Airynee, Morgan and I spent an entire day together, just being. 

Barrie fits right in, with our giggles and stuff. We played in piles of leaves and on Barrie's new playground. 

I do love fall, and my family. 

My daughters both called, after they voted and after the election. It feels so good to talk to them at such an important moment. We all just hopped onto another timeline, in the history of things.

Barrie is just the happiest and busiest little thing. 

She knows it's all good.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Although she died when my mother was thirteen, Winnifred Vermilion was a big part of my family oral and preserved history. I have spent the cold Sunday morning leafing through her journal written in the 1920's.  On the first page, dated Nov.4th, 1920, Sherman, Texas, she has written the alphabet with symbols underneath each letter. 'A Written - 'code' she notes underneath. 

It is an accountants journal with its charts of weight per bushel of grain, and it lists the quantity of seed required to plant an acre of parsnips and any other vegetable. Also charted is the carrying capacity of a freight car and so much more, typed on the inside binding, front and back, loaded with business information. Each page is numbered. The pages are crisp and yellowed and it looks as though many have been ripped out. It smells musty, she wrote in pencil only. On page 11 is her first entry.
But there should be -love-hope-faith-honor and chastity. 
Truth like a white winged dove-should reign supreme.
Love next-faith and faithfulness; walk hand in hand.
Beauty and  contentment_ in close communion.
If unselfishness were the ruling Monarch, the whole earth and the people on it_ the beauty of it would completely out rival the brightness of the sun_ where no cloud could ever hide. 
But Selfishness has blackened the whole world. 

Winnie, as folks seemed to have called her in her younger years 
was a radical in her day. She wasn't a baptist. My mother recalled having rocks thrown at them as they walked down the street because of this. There are many rants in her journal on this subject, especially after  a minister stops by unannounced hoping for dinner, for whom she killed and cooked a chicken, though he was behaving strangely. 
She wonders if he has some deep trouble which is the cause of his peculiar manner, writing 'No matter_the world is full of people in trouble. I wanted to be kind but I fear I failed.'  
She didn't think much of organized religion. Though most of her writing is spiritual in nature.

She questioned whether he was a landmark baptist, or a convention man. Whatever he told her, she was not convinced. "He left just like he came_without warning", she writes.

I look at her photo, yellowed, she is sitting on the floor listening to the Victrola. Hair gone wild. Of the hundreds of photo's I have seen  of her, this is her only hippie shot. My sister Vanna inherited her hair for sure.

She looks much more together in this one with her daughter, my grandmother, Aubrey.
 They weren't popular in town because there were no permanent men in the household for many of their years in Texas, she rented out to boarders. I think her maiden name was Craig, due to letters from old friends that are tucked into the journal addressing her in quotes as 'Winnie Craig'.
Foster was her married name, a son died very young in that marriage, I saw his birth/death certificate in an old box a long time ago with a very scary looking Klu Klux Klan ID card. I don't remember the name on the card, it is long gone. 

I was told by my mother that during the depression she married a man she hated. She had a young daughter, was widowed and felt she had no other choice. She couldn't stand to bear his children, and gave herself two abortions with knitting needles. 

He eventually shot himself in the foot and died of gangrene. (I get a glimpse of her on that run down farm, refusing to use her healing skills as well as she should have at the time)
They were not too popular either, due to his temperament. He was always threatening to shoot people. There is a receipt for a memorial stone for Robert E. Vermillion tucked into the Journal dated Jan, 22, 1940.

Apparently the horror stories she told the neighborhood children who sat at her feet, captivated, while she quilted and chain smoked on the front porch, came from that time. They were stories of murders, suicide and disappearances. My mother also told variations of these stories to roomfuls of little girls tucked into sleeping bags at the slumber parties my sister and I had often when we were young. We loved to hear them, huddling together for comfort, as she recounted the bizarre in the darkness of candlelight for us.

Aubrey, my grandmother grew into a graceful beauty, 
did some modeling and soon married a tall handsome wildcat oilman, but he was gone soon after my mother was born. It was  up to Winnifred, Aubrey and Barbara to raise each other, this was during the war when money was scarce and most things were rationed. Whatever memories Aubrey carried of her childhood she kept to herself. But at times, bursts of anger and rage erupted out of this gentle, peaceful woman that did tell a story of feeling overwhelmed at times. Growing sweet smelling roses brought out her gentle beauty. 

My mother called Barbie Jean, spent her pre teen years, watching the Hardy boys, Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. She taught herself to dance from these movie stars so she could go on to become something other than a fatherless, poor and somewhat lonely little girl in El Paso

She formed big dreams while working in the gardens with her grandmother playing with her chickens and kitties while her mother was away working as a traveling saleswoman who peddled brassieres between Tulsa and Dallas. Her dreams were in bright living color too.
My mother sent a letter to the seed company asking for some baby seeds. They sent her a pack of baby pea seeds instead. She had been wanting to grow a sister. She thought the seed company was so stupid they didn't know what baby seeds were.

My mother loved her chickens and kitties. They even had a pet pig that rode in the convertible with them into town. 

They quilted a lot. I still have a few lace doilies my great grandmother created, though all of the quilts have worn to dust.(My sister Vanna has just taken up quilting with a frenzy!)

I don't get that Winnifred was an outgoing, affectionate woman. She seemed to have high standards and integrity. She did hold great love, poetry and beauty in her soul. That is evident in her journal. 

Later as a dancer, my mother sewed all her costumes, and fought hard for abortion rights. Our family has never gotten over the knitting needle story. One thing is clear in the journal, when facing difficulty and hard choices, she based her decisions on the inner energy of love and from a higher perspective.

Three pages of Winnifred's Journal have all her trees shrubs and flowers listed. In another section she has listed all of her tools. It was her garden that fed them in the tough years.

There are loving letters to Aubrey tucked in there, pamphlets and receipts.  There are sketches of dress patterns and a few sketches of faces as well. The photo;s of her standing in front of the morning glories resemble my houses and gardens before I ever found these lists and photo's.  When I discovered the journal I realized the same exact plants were growing in my garden that year. 

I have always felt a connection this woman who I never met. It is evident in her journal that she was sensitive and brilliant. An intellectual and a thinking woman. Her heart had definitely been broken somewhere along the line. She knew a lot of trials. There is a recurring theme of feeling an outsider in her writing over the years, few personal or daily details. She mostly pondered a big bright picture of the what the world could be.

Winnifred always said she was just going to die in her sleep one day, and she did, the same year Aubrey married again, and life got much, much better in many ways for both Aubrey and Barbara. It is clear in their letters the three women loved each other deeply. None ever felt they married a true love. These women married for survival. Which is funny, because they all worked for a living, everyone of them, even when they didn't have to.

Miss Barrie Ann Walker has the ancestry of some very interesting, and loving women in her DNA. At times my daughters and I have to overwrite a belief system that life is a struggle due to some sort of cellular memory in our blood. But, that is only because we also know that sometimes, not having a lot of monetary resources doesn't mean that we aren't with out the talent, wit, grace, beauty,brains and common sense that we inherited from her as well.

I have her woven native american basket on my dresser, I always have. 
It is filled with little trinkets from her lifetime and now mine. Someday Barrie may want to root through the basket as she learns to empower herself by learning who she is and hears the stories about the women who paved the way before her. I have added her mothers baby bracelet and other such things. 

She enters a world that is so different, so much improved, yet still so much the same, as the one her great, great, great grandmother traversed. She raised her daughter and granddaughter as a single woman amongst religious intolerance, during two world wars, the dust bowl and and the great depression. Dang!

In spite of their dire circumstances there is much evidence of beauty, passion and joy that accompanied them on their journey as well. I am grateful for knowingabout her, even a little.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

The next Generation

Meet Miss Barrie Ann Walker. 

She is hard at work at her mother's nursery getting it ready for Halloween.

She has been raised on the job these last 19 months.  She is the sixth generation of gardening women in our family. Her Aunt and grandmother are professionals, as well as her Mom.

 She keeps pet guinea hens and a chicken  in a pen in the back of the nursery.  

When customers come in she greets them with a friendly 'Hey!' Just like her Mom. She takes the visiting children to see the hens, so the parents can talk shop. 

On the hot days you can find her feeding the fish in the ponds, or cooling off in a fountain. 
I would say, she loves her job. 

Her Great-Great Grandmother, Winifred Vermilion, gardened and raised chickens like no other in her day in El Paso Texas. Barrie's great grandmother Aubrey, grew roses. 

Barrie's grandmother grew me to love nature, allowing me to spend my childhood adventuring in the outdoors with little supervision or restraint.

Her mother, by age six could plant dead squash plants and bring them  back to life. 

Her Aunt Airynee has fairies that hover around her feet as she walks amongst the gardens. 

I love this sweet and tough little soul who already promises to be  remarkable in her own special way. Gardening is in her DNA. I am pretty certain she can see and talk to fairies, like her Great Aunt Vanna, my sister. 

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Everyday is an adventure

I used to tell my employees working with me in the gardens that everyday was an adventure.

It truly was.  I have always found myself in challenging situations and enjoyed the always great results at the end of the day. 

Last weekend was no different. Although, I wasn't gardening or hiking, I was campaigning for Senator Obama. I have never donated to a political campaign before. The amounts of money they work with is mind boggling to me and I figured they really didn't need my sweat and blood cash. But the insanity of this election year has caused me to actually send in some money and volunteer as well. I thought, why not get to know some of my neighbors here in town and see if I can help out. 

So I showed up at the local mall, which really isn't a mall, though I do take art classes there, where the Obama campaign has an office. There was a young woman, Katy from Illinois there to meet with and show me what to do. This girl was amazing! So bright and informed and organized. 

She went over how to register voters and ask about their concerns and who they may vote for. Since I was the only person to show up she let me have my pick of areas to visit, so I picked Bradford Mountain Road. Did I mention that I have never campaigned before or that I am in a very religious and republican area?  I am. So, I drive off by myself, because no one else showed up, with my maps and voter addresses, less than a quarter tank of gas (This was the weekend there was no gas in Western North Carolina) and headed into an area I had never been before. I loved the names of the roads I would be visiting, like Mystery Trail, and Rural Retreat, so what the heck, I was on an adventure. Even though, I was feeling alone and somewhat disturbed that they didn't send us out in groups. Fortunately a lot of the people weren't home. Especially the ones in the more scary looking houses and trailers. I dropped off pamphlets and ran from those.

I did hop out of my car at one run down trailer and was halfway to the door when a man came out rather aggressively.  So I said 'Hey How ya doin, my name is'......and started the conversation. 
He said "Isn't that guy a N......?  At that point I didn't really know what to say and started waving my arms around and said 'Well half and half really, but I think he has the potential to become a great leader'. I asked if he was registered to vote and he said no, I'm a felon. By this time I'm thinking I'm way over my head, this place could be a Meth lab, who knows..... but I kept talking.  

It actually turned into a good conversation, and we agreed that the world needed some help right about now. I suggested he not let color hold him back and we waved goodbye. 

I talked with another woman who was firmly for Mr McCain, so I filled out my form and said so you're voting for the same?"   'Yes Maam'  she replied. I thanked her for listening to me and for her time.
Some of the other McCain people just shut the door in my face saying 'I don't want to talk to you'. We had a special code to circle for each type of response...that one would be a refuse.

The Obama voters though were more numerous, very nice and enthusiastic, some did invite me in and I found one voter who thought she was registered but she wasn't. I didn't run out of gas either. I think we need more volunteers here in western NC, badly. This town has lost 10,000 jobs in the last few years...why do these people keep voting for Republicans?  They worry about abortion, but it is a fact that in Democratic administrations abortion rates go way down.

So, it was a day spent in an altered reality, but a good one I think. I have also done some phone calling and I am getting a little better at talking to people about the issues. 

What I would really love to do though is give them all a copy of this article from Rolling stone Magazine called the Make believe Maverick. Sadly it tells a story of a man who is very opportunistic, but not very effective. Much of the article comes from Mr. McCain's own book, which is basically a bragging fest on what a loser he is. It is a rerun of the Bush resume. 

I won't even get into the Palin issue.....It is all just too crazy that half of America believe these people know what they are doing~ or if they do know what they are doing...that's the scary part. It is all the pundits on the news, nobody gets a straight and full story. The undecideds were so torn and confused.

I invite people to study up. Study the issues deeply, be informed on the facts, and make intelligent choices based on what you find to be truth. For those of you I talked to who have families that have closed minds, I know it is confusing and the pressure is great, but be sure to keep yours open.

Thank you for listening to me.  www.voteforchange/com  Please vote sanely.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

My African Foxglove are finally blooming. I have saved the seed for years now of this rare annual. I had begun to think that the few I had tucked into my narrow, overcrowded and slightly shady border would not bloom this year, but they did. So sweet they are. 

It is seed collecting time in the garden. I have zip lock bags filled with the seed of my pink morning glory,now intertwined and blooming with the Sweet Autumn Clematis, Datura, and Moonvine, which are all blooming so beautifully these cool moist evenings.

The Night Blooming Jasmine is also having a great year, putting out it's
third flush of fragrant little green flowers after dark. I did get to photograph it one rare morning when the blooms remained open after sunrise. As did this  moon flower. I was also enchanted by the dewy bud of tomorrow evenings bloom.

These are the little miracles I experience in my garden that remind me that the world is beautiful, in spite of the Grand Irrationality of the human world as corrupt structures implode for the purpose of renewal and growth. 

Soon these lush plants will succumb to the destruction of a hard frost, until then, I delight in the grace they add to my world. These night blooming wonders remind me of the magic that this world is truly made of.

Monday, September 15, 2008


You can't be suspicious of a tree, or accuse a bird or a squirrel of subversion or challenge the ideology of a violet.

Hal Borland

I gathered with the High Country Water media Society for a workshop on Daring Color with Ann Abgot.

It was great, no politics, beautiful weather.....and I produced my first still life. I removed myself from the stress of hurricanes and the state of the world.

Great works of art are never produced in a workshop, but so much is learned. You can see my notes scribbled in the sidelines. The drawing was done in a hurry, I need to learn so much more about shadows and backgrounds, but this workshop was a big growth spurt for me.

As always I am inspired by the workshops offered by this amazing group of artists. I am now inspired to look for little silver vases in the thrift shops. Ann does a great job of sharing her technique and is so worth attending her workshops if one gets a chance.
I did notice the people who had already worked through her book had an easier time putting the info into practice.

Finn hates workshop days. It is the only time I ever leave him in the house all alone for a full day.
I made up for it on Sunday and took him for a long morning swim at Wilson's Creek. No one there, the summer crowds are gone. Finn looked like a sea otter swimming in the clear cold water. The moss on the rocks in full bloom from last weeks rain added more beauty to the scene.

I tried to sketch while there but Finn kept shaking water onto the sketchbook after delivering his retrieved stick. He came home tired and very happy. I had the rest of the day to mow, do laundry and finish up the workshop painting.
I love weekends!

Friday, September 5, 2008

End of Summer Projects

Heather asked for a painting over a year ago.

I have mulled the concept over for the longest time.

Her daughter's middle name is Magnolia. She was born in North Carolina. I wanted to paint this one in honor of Miss Rowan Magnolia Boothby. A young girl dear to my heart. Heather has the most beautiful tattoo's of a Magnolia for her daughter and a Jack in the pulpit for her son Jack.

It is matted, framed and ready to send off to Iowa where they now live. Just in time for Heather's birthday.

I had a lot of fun with this one. Painting it on these beautiful rainy days we've had lately. Someday I will turn my Jack in the Pulpit sketches into a painting for Jack.

I have been painting and staining the shed, at last. Though I have been through several shades of red, and am about to try another. I just can't seem to get the right shade, very frustrating, but I must say it has even been a joy to spend the last two weekends up on the ladder, doing the work while listening to the crickets sing. It has been a quiet and peaceful endeavor and nothing makes me happier than making my garden beautiful. The Million dollar Red I tried last weekend is much to much!

I do want to wrap it up and build some shelves inside this weekend. I think I finally found a Moroccan Red color that is perfect...I hope. It is getting repetitive, two coats of primer and 3 coats of colors later. I feel the urge to get a lot of work done this fall. I am working on getting a new roof for the house. It is needed and I can match the color of the new tin roof to the roof of the shed.

I have some beautiful compost from all the leaves I collected in the fall, ready to mulch my beds with for winter. It is also time to get the bulb orders made for clients. People are asking for designs and I have a big fern and native woodland plant order coming in soon. We were just waiting for the rains to come.

Thanks to all the hurricanes it looks to be a beautiful fall coming up. The fall planting season begins! We have a lot to accomplish in the next few months. That's OK, we are ready.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008


The rains have come!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Bounty Season

It is late August already! Where does the time go?

The beach trip accomplished what it needed to put me into the wonder zone. The season of the golden light arrived on a Friday, August 8th. A clear golden breezy day at work, that shifted me into the awareness that summer will soon fade. The enjoyment of it's last moments has become priority. Everything I see is so fully blooming and lush, in spite of a serious dry spell. It puts me in a beauty buzz. All I want to do is hang in the gardens, water thirsty plants to make them happy, dream and paint.

I arrived home to the harvest season. Celebrating with large pots of gumbo, tomato sandwiches with whole leaves of basil and fresh mozzarella on crusty ciabatta, and an out this world squash casserole that my friend Carol recommended, with her recommended additions of peppers and such. Yum! I harvested a beautiful bag of carrots this week that will go into a batch of samosas, as will some potato's dug last month. The samosas, frozen and reheated make such a simple, delicious meal after a long day of work. I am addicted to the cilantro chutney I dip them in.

In between cooking and painting I stare at my garden. The Nicotiana 'White Jasmine' is beautiful and so fragrant, bouncing back easily from the neighbors clumsy golden retriever, who has no respect for plants.
I love Pans crown. I keep photographing him in different light. Someday I will try to paint the image.

Finn unlike the retriever, 'tippy toes' into the beds more often than not, to fetch the occasional ball from my wild throws. He also steers the other dogs away from the garden if things are getting rowdy. I do try to heft the ball or stick over the hedge into the neighbors yard. They have no gardens. But they did recently mow. Finn brought home four balls he recovered from the field over the hedge yesterday. I have a large collection of sticks on my roof.

Finn stashes balls on every property we work on. I'll catch him plunging his head into a huge hosta to grab a saved and treasured toy when he needs one on the job. Michael has been away, putting in another beautiful pond, leaving Finn confused and whining for him at work.

Fortunately Matt helps out a bit making Finn very happy. When I am working I am not as easily distracted by ball playing as the boys are. Actually, he barks obnoxiously at them til they relent and throw the thing. Finn knows, when I grab the hose, it is time to hunker down in the shade of an evergreen and supervise me.

I do enjoy this cross quarter season before labor day. I call it bounty season. A stillness accompanies these golden days, the plants seem to pump up their life force, knowing time is short for showing off. The insect chorus provides the background music, I watch the 'Empress of India' nasturtiums glow in the sun, the moonvine and datura glow like the moon, and the butterflies flit from bloom to bloom.
It is magic, and makes all we did in the spring so worth the sweat and effort.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Traveling out of the Norm

I'll return in a week or so, but I am traveling off the hamster wheel to play on the beach with Finn & family. The gardens are all looking amazing at the hieght of the summer season, all weeded watered and groomed. They will be fine til I get back from dancing on the beach.

Speaking of dancing, I love this video.......

Where the Hell is Matt? (2008) from Matthew Harding on Vimeo.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

50th Annual Homes Tour

Blowing Rock's 50th annual home tour is next weekend. We will be getting the gardens of Miramichi, a Cherokee word, meaning happy retreat, ready for busloads of visitors.

Miramichi was restored in 2006, we began restoring the gardens in November of that year. At the time they had suffered from years of neglect and two years of construction.

With the help of Graham, Michael and Robbie, who befriended me when they were working at Shadowlawn, which is also on this years home tour. I was working in a small garden across the street.

Robbie's dog Sophie was Finn's first friend. She patiently taught Finn how to puppy play, while we worked in neighboring gardens.
We dug out massive overgrowth of Iris, orange daylillies, Black eyed Susan and blackberry. They helped me bring in loads of good soil, spread mulch, and hauled away mountains of debris.
It was like digging for treasure, in an archaeological dig, peeling out columbine babies from massive networks of ancient Iris roots. We kept plenty of the plants found in the gardens while sifting through the overgrowth. The peonies, baptisia, fragrant Hyperion daylillies, trillium and Turkscap Lilles, Iris and Phlox. We added Helleborus, Hydrangea endless summer, Echinacea 'Big Sky' , bleeding heart and ferns.
Last Fall we added two 'Million Dollar Red' Trellises, matching the trim on the house for the massive 'New Dawn' Rose and Clematis used to screen the generator. Which I just realized I have never photographed....
But, the gardens are coming along nicely, and ready to be seen.
This is the last big event we have to complete from our spring agenda. I am also putting a beautiful new coat of paint on the walls in the basement. A project I have put off for way too long. It is cooler down there, and after today I will have a beautiful and cool studio to paint in. I have come come a long way since the basement flood two weeks ago. After this wonderful but demanding spring, I think I need a vacation~
Saturday I am heading to Cape Hatteras for a week with the family by the ocean. Finn has never met the ocean, he will love it, as I will love spending time with my family and granddaughter. I will be packing my watercolors.