When someone tells you a destination is “wonderful” or “beautiful” and how they “loved” a particular city, you never quite know what it will be like for you, so it was for me as I headed to Barcelona, Spain. I had heard great things about this unique city and in just a few days of my arrival, I loved it beyond words. It is a city by the sea with a climate that draws the people, both locals and tourists out of doors to enjoy life walking tree-lined streets such as the Ramblas, enjoying the cafes, admiring the ironwork railings of balconies, and decorative doorways.
My summer road trip began in Mesa, AZ and went as far east as Niagara Falls, Ontario, CA. I’d heard about the beauty and power of Niagara Falls since I was a kid, but this was my first look. The center of the Niagara River marks the border between the US and Canada. It is overwhelming to see the volume of water cascading over the falls. All my years of living in a desert landscape makes the exposure to swift moving rivers, great lakes, and the accompanying bridging structures quite startling. Everywhere you look there is water moving, alongside the road you are traveling, and then surprise, the location you are seeking is across yet another bridge. It is difficult to imagine living around so much water, there is moisture in the air, plants grow in abundance, and trees are everywhere. The change in landscape was demonstrated so clearly in the two gardens I explored, one on each side of the Falls.
Matthaei Botanical Garden, Ann Arbor, MI affiliated w/ University of Michigan.
We were confused about where to park and as a result we ended up at the far side of the office building away from the main entrance of the conservatory. This turned out to be the best possible start to the day.
I arrived on Mackinac Island for the 70th annual Lilac festival in June 2018. The ferry ride takes about 30 minutes to reach the island and it was a blue sky, puffy white cloud day with calm waters day.
“a landscape of a painting of a landscape”
Wander into the painting
Topiary Park in Columbus Ohio is an amazing landscape. It is in the words of its creator, James T Mason, “a landscape of a painting of a landscape. … If an artist can paint a picture of a landscape — art mimicking nature — then why not a sculptor creating a landscape of a work of art — nature mimicking art? The topiary garden is both a work of art and a work of nature.”
Its summer and I’ve been traveling for 6 weeks, driving highways in 16 states. Winding my way home I arrived in Dodge City KS. Dodge City, cow town, the place of wild west stories of Bat Masterson & Wyatt Earp. But I found another story, one that wasn’t the stuff of the cowboy movies.
For the past month, I have been on a long road trip driving highways in Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and western New York. The long distances of highways are tunnels of green with tall maples and soaring oaks on either side. The view is occasionally broken up by homesites of impressive farms with huge barns and fields of green. I’m looking for gardens along the way.
Hortense Miller Garden, Laguna Beach, CA
On a steep hillside of Boat Canyon overlooking artistic town of Laguna Beach and the Pacific Ocean is the two and a half-acre garden of Hortense Miller. I’ve never met a person named Hortense, but if you are given such a name, the derivative of which is Hortus as in garden, it seems likely you would love a garden. Hortense experienced a magical moment when she was five years old and her kindergarten teacher took the class on a walk “to look over a picket fence into the neglected front yard of an empty house. Thousands of dandelions had opened in the sunshine, standing knee-high in long grass”* and the glory of that moment influenced her for the rest of her life. By age 12 she declared she would: Never eat animals, never marry, and never have children.
For those of us who love flowers, it is hard to imagine anything more delightful than Daffodils. This sunny yellow flower trumpets the return of spring showing up in gardens, paintings, and poems. Its arrival promises to end gray winter days. If they are not sprouting up in your garden, you may find bundles of closed buds appearing in markets in early March. We snatch them up to bring the promise of sunshine into our homes. They are for me an addiction, I am determined to see them open and believe in the season to soon follow. The sweet scent entices me to close my eyes and think of green shoots, fertile soil and blue skies. Addiction may be the right word as “Victorians once thought the scent of daffodils to be as dangerous as any narcotic.” (Kingsbury) We truly can be made to be fearful of anything.
When you really, truly, deeply love gardens you are inspired to share this love with all you meet. When your work in landscape design spans 40 years, while earning you and your landscaping firm 250 design awards, recognition from three US first ladies, (Johnson, Regan, and Carter) and every day you have ideas about what you would like to grow, why not make a garden as a gift to the land you love? Create the garden on land in the south, where your family has deep horticultural roots, where your grandmothers passed on their love of gardening to you. Seriously, why not?