Category Archives: Gardening Mentors

THE GARDENERS

 

One of the thing that intrigued me

About Monet’s garden

Was how you keep it looking so good

For 500,000 visitors a season.

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A challenge to say the least.

So I was curious about the gardeners.

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Normally in this situation I would simply

Sic Debra on them.

After all she is a most curious person

And has a way of interrogation that is

Gentle and charming.

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But we had a couple of problems,

One, the gardeners were at work.

And we were there during their busy hours.

So we were asked not to bother them.

Then there was the fact

That they spoke French

And I don’t.

But you can learn a lot

By observing from afar.

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One question was about poppies.

They pulled them up

By the root

Just as the last bloom wilted

Before the seeds had matured.

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Yet they look like

They have self-seeded.

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So the unanswered questions was

How?

Do they dry the green pods

And save the seeds

To sprinkle in the snow?

My suspicion is that they return

To the garden

Via compost.

I never got the answer.

But sometimes mystery

And unanswered questions

Are just as much fun!

So since I wasn’t sure

Of the fate of these green pods

Packed with seeds of a color of poppy

I had never seen before.

A few seemed to find their way

Into my pocket.

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Couldn’t wait to get them home

And dried

And sprinkled

Into my own garden.

But….the last night

Someone commented about how fast customs moves

With the use of drug dogs.

And since these are the very variety

Of poppies that the USDA has banned in quantity.

We decided to leave them behind.

Kristina really wanted to see her children again.

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And not get caught up

In a gardening tour

Drug bust!

You would think that pulling all these poppies.

Would leave giant gaps in the color.

But as soon as one plant was pulled

Someone else came along

With a plant just as tall in hand

And planted them in the empty space.

While we were there

They replaced the poppies

 

With Cosmos.

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Three foot tall cosmos.

Which took me to

Wander through shall we say

The “guts” of the place.

The greenhouses.

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And cold frames

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Where they are grown.

They were filled with plants

Ready for the big show.

I found the  yellow wheelbarrows

I had noticed throughout the garden

Brimming with plants

Headed to the compost pile.

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They were stacked against the fence

Just like mine at home.

For me

Seeing the process

Was just as interesting

As the finished product.

I think it was there

That I found

My gardening Monet muse.

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Gail

“It’s on the strength of observation and reflection that one finds a way.  So we must dig and delve unceasingly.”

Claude Monet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Compost, Cosmos, Garden Photography, Gardening, Gardening Mentors, Monet's Garden, Garden Travel, Trip of a Lifetime, Elizabeth Murray, Nature, Poppy, Seeds, self seeding annuals, Uncategorized

MONET’S GARDEN

There are some gardens

I have dreamed of seeing

All my gardening life.

This month I was lucky enough

To spend time in one of them.

Monet’s garden in Giverny, France.

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It was an extraordinary opportunity.

A week staying in a manor house

With private access each morning

Before the garden opened to the public

And each evening

After it closed.

As John put it when I first told him about it

“You have to go.”

Fortunately Kristina was up for a trip.

As was Debra.

So the three of us

Set out for France.

Spending a few days in Paris

Where chocolate mousse is served

In a soup tureen!!!

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Before traveling north to the countryside.

We were part of a group of 12 women

Mostly from the west coast

Who had some connection to

Elizabeth Murray…

Who years ago was

The first woman gardener at Giverny.

She has returned each year for 33 years.

Maintaining friendships with gardeners.

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And making more friends along the way.

This was the first year she has taken a group

To the garden.

We were along for the second week.

And fortunate to have learned about it.

Over the next few weeks

I want to share this experience with you.

So let’s begin at the beginning.

I first became aware of Elizabeth

When I bought her book “Monet’s Passion”.

It was a resource book for my garden design days.

I highly recommend it.

Decades later I would learn that she offers

“Days of creativity” in her home.

And journey to Monterrey

With friends for my 60th birthday.

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When she emailed last fall

Telling me about the trip

I got just the tiniest bit excited

And spread that to Kristina and Debra.

I would like to thank my friends

Who patiently listened to me for 6 long months

Anticipating our trip.

We gathered at La Reserve just outside Giverny

On a Sunday afternoon.

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Twelve women

Two from Australia

Two from Oklahoma

One from Colorado

Seven from Northern California.

Some had come to paint.

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Some to draw.

Others to photograph

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And me who wanted to sit

On one of those famous green benches

And write.

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To wait for my Monet muse.

To walk the paths of this garden he created.

To see the famous light that so inspired him.

To breath the garden air.

To simply take it all in.

Because our time in the garden

Was before it opened

Each day began with a “pre-breakfast snack”

At 6:30

Which is really no problem since the sun

Came up at 5:30!

We gathered at the gardeners gate

And entered through their “shed” which was Monet’s first studio.

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Images etched in my mind over decades

Pale to the reality before me.

Color everywhere.

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Flowers I have known and grown

Others that are new to me.

Then there is the famous light

Ever changing

Moment by moment

Turning poppy petals into small stained glass works of art.

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Elizabeth points out the window to Monet’s bedroom

And tells me that each morning he would open the windows

To see what was in bloom.

A habit I have with my own bedroom window

Overlooking my garden

You can tell this is a garden

Created by a gardener

Who also happened to be an artist.

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Thanks for indulging me.

Gail

“I perhaps owe having become a painter to flowers.”

Claude Monet

The photos I will share over the next few weeks are from Debra, Kristina and me.  I’m guessing you can tell which ones are from Debra!  Thank you for sharing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Gardening Friends, Gardening Mentors, Monet's Garden, Garden Travel, Trip of a Lifetime, Elizabeth Murray, Poppy, Uncategorized

PASSING IT ON

I consider myself very fortunate to have a garden.

It’s the place I go to work

Get sweaty

And think things through.

Or as my dad used to say

“To think the long thoughts.”

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Lately it seems I need that place

The “long thoughts” are occupying my mind

Much of the time.

Perhaps it’s a stage

Or my age

Or summer

When my schedule is a little freer

Than the rest of the year.

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One thing I do know

Is it’s important to pass this along

To the next generation.

As a toddler Elliott was by my side

In the garden

Then like all kids

He grew to want and need more freedom

And began to roam the neighborhood.

There were days in junior high

That I thought I had failed

To teach him to love the soil.

Not so

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He’s grown into quite a capable gardener

Growing vegetables for their family

And flowers for Kristina to arrange

And share with friends.

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I’m certain Elliott’s time on the farm

With my parents

Contributed to his deep appreciation

Of this earth.

So is it nature

Or nurture

I’ve wondered

As the next generation has come along

These past two years?

Can a child being raised in the center

Of a major city

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Grow into an appreciation

Of the earth

And the things that can be learned there?

Even at two

It seems we have our answer.

Both Harper and Henry

Love being outside

Constantly wanting to check in on

Sally the salamander.

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Who lives in the valve box

Of the park’s sprinkling system.

Or helping with Jojo’s “work”

In the yard.

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Henry seems especially interested.

So perhaps it’s both.

Being born into a family

With dirt under their fingernails

On both sides.

Carrying the name of family members.

And watching their parents

Love and appreciate nature

And the gifts that God has given us all.

Gail

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I’m home from vacation now and will get back to regular gardening stories soon.

Thanks for indulging m

 

 

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Filed under cleome, Gardening, Gardening Mentors, Gloriosa Daisy, Grandchildren, Uncategorized

MAXINE’S VASE

If you are going to grow flowers

You’ll eventually need a vase

Or two………….dozen.

Somewhere over the last few decades

I developed the habit

Of finding old vases

At garage sales

And estate sales.

At first I wanted crystal vases.

That’s what my mother had

And now her vases grace my dining room china cabinet.

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Mother loved crystal.

And so do I.

Then early in our marriage

John & I ventured to Europe.

Where we discovered pottery

In Florence

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And Barcelona

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And lugged a bit of it home.

But my vase collecting

Really kicked in after we settled in here

And began to make connections with people

Of all ages.

Many of these were women I knew from church.

It seems when you’re a Presbyterian in these parts.

You have a long

And interesting life.

So as these and other ladies around town died

I would go to their estate sale

And find a single thing

That would remind me of them.

The first was this vase

From Gladys.

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Gone now probably 30 years

I still remember her spunky nature.

Eventually I focused my purchases

On painted pottery from the 40’s and 50’s

McCoy is the best known brand

Thus you can find many knock offs

Of their soft color palette.

I’m partial to white, yellow, soft blue and lime green.

My mother in law’s blue pitcher is a favorite

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Along with a yellow vase my friend Marilyn

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Brought from her mother’s home in Louisiana.

Then there is this terrific lime green Claire Lerner

That I found at a neighbor’s garage sale

At a cost of $1.25!

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I have two rules.

Don’t go crazy on price $10. – $15.

Is usually my max.

And you have to know where you are going to store it

Before you bring it home.

The second rule has forced me to slow down a bit

Since my garden house cupboards are filling up.

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So it was this history

That followed me to the estate sale of

My friend, my neighbor, my fellow Presbyterian

And wise women extraordinaire

Maxine Sanford Austin.

Maxine died this year at the age of 102.

Her life

And her home

Were filled with treasures.

She was a poet

A teller of tales

A loyal friend

And fiercely opinionated.

I just loved her.

When she married in 1933

Her mother made her wedding veil.

Long and trailing

With lace flowers embroidered on it.

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Her daughter Ann wore it in 1961

And Maxine wore it when she married again in 1993…

At the age of 80 something!

She was both traditional

And non traditional

All rolled into one.

It took me three trips of wondering through her home

To find my memory memento of Maxine.

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I can’t tell you anything about this particular vase

I’m guessing it was from her mother’s travels.

She told me once that after her father died

Her mother began traveling around the world.

It’s very different from any other vase I own.

Doesn’t fit the mold.

Won’t have a shelf of similar stuff to join.

It’s unique.

It’s Maxine.

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AWARENESS

by Maxine Sanford Austin

In every day we have, dear Lord,

Let us truly see

The things we should:

The flight of bee.

The flash of bird,

Sun on a brilliant flower,

Then thunder heard

Before a sudden shower.

In all things, dear Lord,

Let us truly know

That this is Thy World

And in our actions show

That we truly know.

Thanks Maxine,

Gail

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Filed under Flower Arrangements, Garden House, Gardening Friends, Gardening Mentors, Hydrangea, Uncategorized, Vases

VISION

Three years ago Elliott & Kristina bought their first home.

To say they had “vision” is an understatement.

Their timing was incredible.

The house had been on the market for sometime.

The front had a mammoth awning.

I’m thinking it distracted couples with lesser vision.

Then there was the backyard.

It was….well…frightening!

But this is no prima donna couple.

They are after all, both descended from gardeners, farmers & ranchers.

They could see what it could become.

Vision.

Not everyone has it.

But they possess it.

And they weren’t afraid of work.

So they began.

I guess you would call the first stage demolition.

Thankfully, I’m a state or so away so I missed this stage.

There was not  a lot to save.

The decision was made to take out even the Aspen trees.

Since, though they are lovely

They actually are a bit of a nuisance.

A single wispy tree will turn into a grove of Aspen

Right before your eyes.

Great for mountainsides.

Not so much for backyards.

The giant deck

Was replaced with a lovely flagstone patio.

Carefully layed by Elliott with help from friends.

My parents used Colorado Red flagstone

Inside and outside the “new house” at the farm.

So there was symmetry here.

Meanwhile in my garden.

I was potting up babies from all over my garden

And buying a few.

By June my friend Vivi and I loaded it all up

And drove this garden to its new home.

The humidity in my car was stifling.

Kristina and I spent a long weekend planting away.

Adding roses and hydrangea from a local nursery.

There’s a saying about perennial gardens

The first year they sleep

The second they creep

And the third they leap!

Welcome to year three

We visited again a few weeks ago

What a transformation.

Perennials are oozing onto the grass.

Morning glories dance along the fence

Greeting each new day

Thyme suns itself on the flagstone.

Cleome spills over the edge of the narrow bed

And little juicy golden tomatoes grow practically wild.

Elliott seems to enjoy puttering around the yard.

Growing not only flowers,

But vegetables as well.

Kristina never misses a chance to make a flower arrangement.

Taking them to friends, her office

And sending guests home with a freshly cut bouquet.

They both enjoy foraging dinner from the garden

And entertaining as well.

This year the Kentucky Derby fell on Cinco de Mayo

Calling, of course, for a Cinco de Derby party.

It’s reported that a good time was had by all.

And…the creeping thyme can handle a lot of foot traffic.

Vision.

It brings sunshine to the world.

Enjoy this glorious week

Gail

Peg at the Morning Glory Gate

Peg at the Morning Glory Gate

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Filed under cleome, Flower Arrangements, Garden Planning, Gardening, Gardening Friends, Gardening Mentors, Gardening;Perennials, Herbs, Hydrangea, late summer garden, Lupine, Morning Glories, Perennials, roses, Sunflowers, Tomato, Uncategorized, Vegetables

Perspective

Debra's view of the garden house

Debra’s view of the garden house

 

A few weeks ago

My friend Debra came for a visit.

This is not unusual.

She comes often.

Usually we have an agenda.

But this time we had a few unscheduled hours.

And she wanted to take pictures in the garden.

Now, you need to know that Debra loves photography

And…she’s very good at it.

You can easily tell which pictures are hers

And which are mine.

Her avocation photography

Connects to her vocation mammography.

She is trained to see detail.

To look for the smallest speck on a mammogram.

When she finds them.

And unfortunately she finds many.

It’s life altering.

For her patients…for her.

So seeing my garden through her eyes

Makes me see it differently.

In more detail.

Poppy and Poppy Seed Pod

Poppy and Poppy Seed Pod

To relish the small things.

The accidents of nature

The purposefulness of it all.

Now that I’m into my 6th decade

I’m making a conscious effort

To broaden my view.

Not to get stuck where I’ve always been.

To look at things differently.

To value what I’ve known.

But keep looking forward.

To see my world through a new lens.

Through someone else’s lens.

These past few years have been a constant awakening.

Wise women Jane & Betty with Debra

Wise women Jane & Betty with Debra

In many aspects of life.

I know where I’m anchored.

Where I really began to learn this

Was in my garden.

Thanks, God.

Gail

P.S.  You, too, Debra.

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Filed under Garden House, Garden Photography, Gardening Friends, Gardening Mentors, Larkspur, Perennials, Poppy, Shasta Daisy, Uncategorized, Wise Women

FARMER’S MARKET

 

Growing up on a farm in the 50’s

Meant that we always had a garden.

Something was growing all the time.

Seed wheat on a saucer and paper towel

In the kitchen window.

Mother’s roses

And vegetables.

Even when we moved to the city

For a few years.

We had a garden.

Daddy’s job came with a house

And a huge yard.

Mother planted tomato plants

All the way around the edge of it.

By mid summer

There would be 5 gallon buckets of cherry tomatoes

Every day or so.

Last fall's green tomatoes

Last fall’s green tomatoes

And cucumbers.

Endless cucumbers.

Summer's bounty sampling

Summer’s bounty sampling

Now there are only so many times a week

That you can work cucmbers into the menu

So we made pickles.

Lots of pickles!

Recently I ran across mother’s pickle recipe

In her own handwriting.

A treasure.

I copied it for my friend Laura

And she began the tradition all over again.

But what if you want to make pickles

And have no cucumbers.

Luckily Farmer’s Markets  have come into their own.

If you don’t have a Farmer’s Market habit

Develop one.

They are popping up everywhere.

So hopefully you can go once or twice a week.

There you’ll find

Wisdom

In the form of wise gardeners

Who know how to make things thrive.

And baker’s

To tempt you.

Blackberry & Blueberry Pie

Blackberry & Blueberry Pie

And natural products.

Who’ll even make wonderful goat’s milk soap

Unscented for me.

And friends.

Mary at this moring's market

Mary at this morning’s market

And last month

These amazing blackberries

Grown by a young couple who have planted

An acre

That’s right  I said an acre of blackberry bushes

And 2 acres of blueberries.

Can’t wait for next June.

But most of all

You’ll find people commited to providing

Fresh, local food to their neighbors.

Next week is Dog Days at our Farmer’s Market.

Aptly named for the first Saturday in August.

That means that even your 4-legged friends

Can enjoy the fun.

So… dig into the heart of summer

At the Farmer’s Market.

Enjoy,

Gail

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Filed under Blackberries, Blueberries, Cucumbers, Farmer's Market, Gardening, Gardening Mentors, Pickles, Tomato, Vegetables