Friday, January 23, 2015

I've been very busy lately with little time for posting so I thought I'd resurrect my post on having a 'white garden'...

Did you ever think of creating a white garden... a miniature Sissinghurst perhaps? I must admit that I've thought about it... but where would it go as there is no space for any new additions...

I could remove the daffodil/daylily bed... hmmm, sounds like a lot of work... and after all, most winters it is a white garden for at least a few months...


I really do wish I had planted more white flowered crab apples.... I much prefer them to the brighter colors that fade so quickly... I suppose this area back towards the gazebo wouldn't make much of a white garden... then again, it is white for many weeks every year as well...


At least I planted white flowering crabs along the perimeter of the cottage garden which does extend its white season a bit... after all, it's white for a few months every year also...


The path to the northeast garden certainly wouldn't make much of a white garden... by the time the mature trees were removed, it would lose most of its character... then again, it's white for a few months a year anyway...


Perhaps there is some room in the west lawns... digging all that sod would take a lot of work though... and of course, it's white pretty much every winter...


I suppose I could have planted only hostas with white variegation in their foliage to go with the white birch trunks...  but I just redid that area a year or two ago... and it is white a few months of the year...


Most of the magnolias in the magnolia circle are white varieties, but these four from the little girl's series are not... they're really too big to move now, and guess what.... this area is white at least a few months every year...




This Snowdrift crab certainly fits the white theme... too bad its bloom period is only a couple of weeks... but this part of the garden is white about three months of the year or more so...


The brick path garden?... probably not since it's white for several months a year already...


The northeast conifer bed... well the pillar is a start... then again... every winter...


Now that I think about it, I do have my white gardens with

all the personality of a Sissinghurst... they display two 

faces. By day, peaceful, calm... monochromatic. After dark 

the gardens are lurid and romantic... luminous in the 

moonlight... and downright cold !!!

Gosh... creating those dreamy white gardens was easier 

than I thought... thanks to Mother Nature and our zone 5 

climate! Larry



Sunday, January 18, 2015

Reminiscences


Here in east central Wisconsin, we are experiencing a much gentler winter than a year ago this time. Mild January temps have pretty much depleted the snow cover we normally would be experiencing as in the photo above... About a year ago I found myself jotting down some memories from my childhood in New England which I posted to my blog... one of a few writings that my grandchildren might eventually appreciate. Eventually my thoughts made it to the local Vermont newspaper via my cousin and I was asked to update them so that they might be published in the paper. I realize that I haven't been posting much of late so decided to post these thoughts here... it's amazing to me how we eventually emulate our parents and grandparents, continuing traditions that were important in their lives... in this case 'gentle storytelling' of things that make us who we are.... Larry



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I have been a resident of Wisconsin for over forty-two years now, but my mind still wanders back to my childhood in the Mad River Valley just north of Moretown Vermont. On a night such as this, with wind chills to minus thirty and the snow blowing about in the gardens outside our country home, I am not only reminded of the cold and snow of those years long past growing up in Vermont... I find my thoughts returning to times of the warm rains of springs and summers spent on my grandparent’s farm as well. Somehow in the late chill of a night such as this, these thoughts somehow warm my spirit.

Behind me I hear the trickle of water from a faucet left slightly open… a technique learned as a child of Vermont. It was meant as a way to keep the pipes that ran down the mountain from a natural spring, passing through the river, and fed by gravity into my grandparent's ancient farmhouse, from freezing solid. I remember that water and my special drinking glass always set aside for my use throughout the day and into the late evening when my Grandmother and I would sit and talk for hours. It was so easy to stay hydrated back then…  we needn't be reminded that water was good for us… it was in our nature to drink a lot… the water was the sweetest I’ve ever tasted and we drank it with abandon in those days so long ago.

I take note of the hour as I write… 3:00 a.m.  In my parent's house across the road from my grandparent's, the 3:00 a.m. hour often meant a cold house… not unlike what I'm experiencing at this very moment. We burned wood in a large old furnace long before it was considered the contemporary thing to do… the fire would have burned low by this hour. Actually, I'm not at all certain what political convention is saying about wood burning just now, although it is quite common amongst the farmland and woodlands of mid to northern Wisconsin these days. The 'respectability' of these sorts of things does have a way of changing from one season to the next while a well-lived life demands a bit more consistency.

I have turned the humidifier low as a thick layer of ice is frozen about the edges of the windows in this present state of cold despite  their doubled paned properties of insulation. Moist air would feel warmer and my dry throat would be mitigated were there more moisture in the air… as I consider returning to my bed lain deep in down comforter and woolen blankets, I think of the large glass doors not three feet from my sleep. The north exposure has created a layer of ice over a quarter inch thick that radiates cold in my direction through the night as if sleeping next to the open door of a refrigerator. Despite this, I would not change a thing… only a few hours ago I was jarred awake from a dream immediately forgotten, to the trailing path of a falling star in the vast tapestry I observe every clear night from my bed. I am reminded of the Vermont sky at night.  How often we slept beneath the stars on the hillsides with only a sleeping bag for warmth. Was it even more crisp and distinct than what I experience here… surely I appreciate what I see on these clear nights all the more because of what was experienced over fifty years ago.

My thoughts return to those winter days long ago when my mother maintained the moisture of our domicile with large cast iron pots filled with water placed on the few heat registers that existed on the main floor of the 200 year old post and beam structure that was home. In the kitchen a second small wood burning stove often carried another cast iron kettle filled with water meant to evaporate into the home's air on nights that often descended to a minus 30 degrees or colder. I am reminded that my mother felt herself much too contemporary to use the small wood stove for cooking and maintained a gas range for that purpose. Across the road, on the other hand, a marvelous full sized wood cook stove in my grandmother's house would be throwing out heat by five a.m. in all seasons as she prepared the dough for loaves of homemade bread that she baked every morning, complete with the requisite cast iron pot of water that also served as humidifier for the house. In season, the ‘summer folks’ would stop daily and buy a loaf or two for 35 cents each. How special, despite being common to our daily lives, was this warm bread spread with real butter and accompanied by a hot mug of tea.


My mind turns to thoughts of the summer rains in the Green Mountains… often there were vicious thunderstorms with crashes echoing amongst the hills more powerful than any I've experienced any time since. There were stories of the days when my grandparents were young, of fiery snaps of lightening following in the water lines to the kitchen sink, and especially impressive to me, my grandmother telling an incident as a little girl, experiencing a ball of lightening rolling through the open doors of some long since demised blacksmith shop. It was during those storms that my friends and I loved spending the night in haylofts, not far from cattle that somehow provided us a sense of security, protected from the rain by old tin roofs and experiencing the drumming of the rain falling upon them, casting us into a sleep that was deep and restful until interrupted by a sudden crash of thunder. Even as young children we were never afraid although most of these nights we would try to scare each other with frightful tales of ghosts gleaned from old episodes of 'The Twilight Zone' we had seen on television when our parents weren't aware of what we were watching. Even now in my retirement, I love the sound of the rain on the steel roof of our home, reminded of the days when the world was a different place.


I spent many hours of my youth daily searching the hills and mountainsides for the cows as the milking hour approached... listening to the sounds of summer... the drone of insects and bees, the warbles and chirping of birds, and the sound of breezes amongst the trees of the forest... listening also for the sound of the cowbells that hung about the necks of these creatures with names like Hannah and Bess as I searched for their location on the mountainside. This was one of my responsibilities in my pre-teens and I usually was quite dependable in it, having learned the spots where the cows seemed to prefer to be, depending on the weather. Many days were warm and sunny and I did occasionally indulge in a 'quick' nap on a special large border warmed by the summer sun in a small clearing in the forest, this getting me into a bit of trouble with my grandfather when the cows were delivered later than expected. Then too, there were the rainy days when I found the cows often preferred to hang out in swampy areas, particularly by one of the old natural springs that dotted the mountainside. Areas such as this were prone to quick growing clumps of alders that would soon infest the moist soil were it not for the cows containing them. On wet days the sky above the trees might be saturated with soft sheets of fine rain falling towards earth; but under the canopy of alders, the moisture arrived in splotches overflowing small pools gathered on the foliage and giving both the cows and me the impression that we were somehow staying drier than we actually were. Even as a youngster, the sight of raindrops on the flora was a much loved experience and an exercise of observation into the beauty that surrounded me. 

It seems that my life in Wisconsin is inextricably connected to my beginnings in Vermont's Mad River Valley. Our present home, a salvaged 150 year old Wisconsin cheese factory built into a hillside, has been nearly a lifetime labor of love... a case study in which I explore my creativity just as the home of my youth was for my parents. Our two acres of ornamental gardens are somehow grounded in the much loved flowers that persisted in the gardens of my mother and grandmother as well as the massive vegetable gardens that were then such a part of the sustenance of my family and the pride of the men of the family who spent many hours tending them. My passion for creating Tiffany Reproduction lamps surely stems from my family's many quilters and the amazement I experienced at the power of color and design in their work. My career in music and involvement in music ministry and worship leading stem from my love of music first instilled as a child in the junior choir at Moretown's Methodist church and all the encouragement I experienced there. It's been said that memories are a reward of growing older and I do so appreciate these sentiments and impressions from the past. They are more than memories... they are the basis of who we are and strive to be.


I think of my mother, suffering from a weak heart and poor circulation to her brain, eventually having difficulty with thoughts from the realm of the short term.... yet the past remained with her to an amazing degree. As I sat with her
very near the end of her life, she with my encouragement would recite her favorite poetry learned in her youth... poem after poem... each as beautiful as a single raindrop on a flower in my gardens.... growing up in Vermont instilled in me an appreciation for beauty, history, creativity and the joy of life. I have made a life here in Wisconsin and will return to Vermont only for a few days in the years I have remaining, but Vermont will always be with me.