Lauritzen Gardens, A Heartland Splendor

I’ve traveled cross-country from Arizona to Indiana and back multiple times over the years and each time the goal is to find a different way to explore. If your travels find you driving through the heart of this country, Powell Gardens or Wichita in Kansas are excellent stops. In Illinois, Allerton Park or the Champaign Prairie Walk are great for stretching your legs. If you take a southern route don’t miss both the Dallas and & Ft. Worth Gardens in Texas, or in Missouri the Botanical Garden in St. Louis. However, I would propose there is no prettier mid-point stop in a drive across the continental US than Lauritzen Gardens in Omaha Nebraska.  Located along the Missouri River where the soil is rich and fertile, gardeners have worked magic in 20 thematic spaces.

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Art Deco Landscape in Gardens of Napier, NZ North Island

Napier, NZ is a remarkable cityscape of Art Deco architecture. As beautiful as it is, its very existence is the result of a great destructive tragedy. In 1931, a 7.8 magnitude earthquake lasting 1:31 minutes demolished the city, rearranged the sea coast and forever changed the topography of the area. During our seven week visit to New Zealand, we experienced a brief 10-second rock and roll aftershock of the devastating Akaroa earthquake in 2016. I found it a sobering glimpse of what an earthquake means to a community.  For Napier in 1931, the added economic weight of the Great Depression would seem to dash any hope the town could rebuild itself. Commercial buildings and homes all needed to be rebuilt. But within two years Napier did rise from its destruction and as a result built a modern, artful city.

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Fantastic Flowers by Susan Stockdale

Fantastic Flowers, Written & Illustrated by Susan Stockdale Children’s nonfiction/nature, Ages 4-94    222.peachtree-online.com

Learning to see involves looking closely and learning the language to describe what is right before our eyes.  Fantastic Flowers is a perfect introduction for budding gardeners to explore the blooms in the flower beds of the world.  Susan Stockdale’s beautiful illustration of the shapes of flowers that look like upside down pants, prim ballerinas, or wild baboons introduces early readers to an imaginative view of nature.  A flower is not just a flower but can be compared to the shapes of other known objects. A hybrid Osteospermum spirals out in the shape of spoons, the hybrid Calceolaria represents a purse with a flap.  Teaching children to name what they see helps them remember and will spark their curiosity to look more closely at the beauty of the world.

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Most Memorable Garden Moments 2016

During 2016 Rich, my husband, driver, and photographer, and I, flower fanatic, writer, and gardener, visited 134 new gardens. We traveled in the west to Seattle, San Francisco, Cheyenne, Boulder, and Ft. Collins. We did a tour through Alabama, South Carolina, Georgia, and a small area of northern Florida. We traveled seven weeks in New Zealand visiting 102 gardens. Viewing the world through the lens of a garden has given us a further education in history, geography, sociology, botany, art, and cultures, especially horticulture and agriculture.

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Peace Flame Garden, Wellington, NZ

Wellington Botanic Garden,  NZ

In the capital of New Zealand, Wellington Botanic Garden is a remarkable public space. The beautiful grounds include a significant collection of plants and trees. A small Peace Flame Garden is found just inside the entrance. I found this space emotionally touching. A bronze plaque tells the story, “This Peace Flame is the preserved fire from the atomic holocaust of Hiroshima, 6 August 1945 and Nagasaki, 9 August 1945. The Flame calls attention to the indiscriminate and uncontainable nature of nuclear weapons which kill beyond borders and generations. It implores us to honor the Principles espoused in the United Nations Charter of settling all disputes by peaceful means.”

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Plant, Exploring The Botanical World

Plant  Exploring The Botanical World  Phaidon Editors, C 2016

My Christmas gift to myself is this glorious compilation of botanical art, all 350 pages of brilliant renderings of the plants of the world. I judged this book by its cover, it was so beautiful I wanted it for the art piece alone.  The idea to pull together the oldest of illustrations of plant life to the newest technology renderings from artists, photographers, illustrators and scientists all in one volume was bold. The enormity of the work to select and arrange these is inspiring.

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