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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Not Natives Only!

I’m not gardening with all native plants! Life is too short to limit one’s garden to plants that are “indigenous to a given area in geologic time.”  Sure there are lots of benefits for that approach in gardens but I’m diversifying.  Every garden travel adventure introduces me to new plants.  The Missouri Botanical Garden’s Tropico’s plant database reports “Botanists have published more than 1.2 million plant names since 1753,” so there is no way I will ever see all the genus, species, and hybrids. Just thinking of all the possibilities for my little piece of earth makes me do a happy dance. When I find a Bat flower (Tacca chantrieri) blooming in the shape of a flying bat or the African turtle plant, (Dioscorea elephantipes) that grows a big woody base resembling the shell of a turtle, I get curious, I get excited, I want to see if I could grow it in my garden.

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Coastal View

Driving down a coast road I wondered, “What will grow along the sea, with salt air, wind and waves?”  Turns out really quite a lot of wonderful things. I knew immediately a grand gardener lived here as we arrived at a coastal side patch of grass and waves of orange gazanias (daisy style) blooms accented by a rustic bench set to enjoy the views of the rocky beach. Coast Haven garden on the Taranaki Garden Festival tour has been under the care of one gardener for the past 30 years.

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Kudzu Baskets

Visiting Piedmont Park in Atlanta, Ga I arrived just in time to take in the Dogwood Festival. I love street art fairs. I feel so inspired as I wander through seeing the original creations made by artists who see the world in a unique way creating powerful expressions of their view.  The Dogwood Art festival began in 1936 and it is hard to imagine how many incredible new art creations have occurred in all the years of this event.

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Blithewold Mansion and Gardens, Bristol, RI

The Blithewold, Mansion sits surrounded by woodlands and a grand lawn looking out on an ocean view. Established in 1895 the last surviving family member lived in the home until  1976.   These old estate gardens change over the years but some specific elements remain to help you see what was there.  The word Blithewold means “happy woodlands” and so trees were an important part of the landscape.  A 90 yr. old Sequoia is doing very well. 

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The Bethlehem Fair

Visiting gardens I see so many beautiful plants growing from the ground, on the vine, the bush, the stem.  Yet gardeners have a bit of a competitive streak and when fair time rolls around the very best of the garden is picked, cleaned, and shined to taken to the fair.  The Bethlehem, CT fair had some great garden specimens on display.

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Untermyer Park, Yonkers, NY

There are truly special days when I wander into a garden and it is perfect and it was just such a day at Untermyer Park.  It is a walled garden, the size of a football field. Persian gardens inspired the creation of this walled space with its four quadrants defined by low water ways. Classical Greek columns and a Temple to the sky are part of the white stone framework of the space. In 1922 it was described as “America’s Most Spectacular Garden.”  Now as a public park of NYC it underwent a revitalization beginning in 2011.  This year’s planting worked with a limited palate of plants with black foliage, deep purple, lavenders, chartreuse and spots of yellow.  The plants were elephant ears, sweet potato vine, verbenas, anemones, and hostas.  Mid September, put the plants at a peak of growth.  Enjoy the photos and if you are ever in Yonkers, NY, do stop and be dazzled!

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Innisfree Gardens, Millbrook, NY

“I will arise and go now, and go to Innisfree.”

W.B. Yeats, “The Lake Isle of Innisfree” (1888)

A garden with a Scottish poet’s reference for its name, a woodland plant palate, a lake and a Asian influence creating a garden of individual style.  This isn’t a flower garden, yet there are blooms.  This isn’t a Chinese garden, there are no statues of Buddha.  This is a woodland of trees, moss and ferns.  Set among all of these ideas are stones creating pockets of space for a visitor to linger and inhale the scent of trees, and contemplate the intimate space within the 200 acres of grounds.  A landscape designed by one inspired landscape architect , “Lester Collins, FASLA (1914 – 1993), with important contributions by his clients, artist and teacher Walter Beck

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Vall Kill Cottage, Eleanor Roosevelt’s favorite place

I am not alone in my admiration for Eleanor Roosevelt and the contributions she made during her life.  She is, I believe, one of the most remarkable, compassionate, empathetic individuals to influence our country’s history.  Her cottage, Val-Kill (Kill is Dutch for Stream) is part of our National Park System in Hyde Park, NY.  Touring her home you see a comfortable, welcoming space which was visited by famous and infamous leaders from around the world.  She was not only First Lady of our only four term president, author of 13 books, 7000 “My Day” newspaper columns, first U.S. representative to the U.N and author of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to name just a few of her accomplishments she was also considered the First Lady of the World. Looking through “A Personal Album by A. David Gurewitsch’s book about Eleanor, I was stunned to see this photo of her gathering flowers from her garden to bring into her home.  She loved having fresh flowers especially marigolds in her home, and enjoyed arranging them for her guest’s room.  

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