Tuesday, December 1, 2009

A Christmas Cave of Orchids

A classic, Blc, "Jewel Box", an inter-generic Cattleya-cool growing, perfect for window culture. Click any image to enlarge
One of the "Black orchids" Encycla colchealatum-easy and fun to grow, light green and almost black...stunning
OOPS! bad shot, sorry!
A Species Encycla...apple green and red, perfect! (the lights change the color some...)
A sea of art shade Phalaenopsis ready for the perfect Holiday gift, months of elegant pleasure!
Oncidium Grandis, This has a New botanically correct Genus now, but it escapes me, so we'll use the former name instead!
A Fragrant Early Cross, something to protect and collect!
A Classic Cattleya Hybrid, all 40's Glam with fragrance too!
I'm fortunate to have a friend who has created an amazing wold of rare Orchids and plants that he grows deep under ground in a complex of caves. At first, it seems absurd...and why? The answer is genius for David Bird, of Bird's Botanicals, in Kansas City, Missouri.

I met David when he was working at our local Botanical garden, Powell Gardens. He grew orchids on the side, and I'd buy his plants from his home greenhouse. The business grew and grew as he won more awards, and participated in National shows and competitions. At one point, he was driving by some industrial underground caves that were used for various businesses, warehouses and wholesalers.It dawned on David that his need for more growing space would be perfectly met by cave growing, and Bird's Botanicals was born! The secret to cave growing is the perfect humidity level, and even temperatures year round. The air is buoyant from a well planned fan and exhaust system, and perfect lighting from industrial Halide and fluorescent bulbs give an unmatched perfection of light, year round. The small additional heat the Orchids need, is provided by the lights, eliminating heating bills, as well as cooling bills in the summer!

David is a delight to visit, and you can't leave without at least one treasure! There are THOUSANDS of amazing Orchids here, as well as unusual Streptocarpus, Eroids and much, much more.

David is open to the public on Tuesdays, and by appointment on Wednesdays, if you're in the Kansas City region, come for an amazing visit of fragrance, color and form!

David does not ship, but if you're into Orchids, check out the local shows in your area, he travels all over the country, and he may be at a show near you!

I sell Bird's Orchids, and always have a carefully selected group to share with my customers, so if you don't make it to the Orchid Cave, come visit me at Bergamot and Ivy in the West Plaza area of beautiful Kansas City, Missouri!

Monday, November 16, 2009

Too Wet to Plant...I'll Paint Instead

a small water color sketch for a client commission

midway through- I left the sketch with the client, so I used the laptop as a reference....decided to change the sky to something less "threatening".
The final painting with it's first coat of glazing, several more layers came next. This is the largest painting I've done, 44"by 60" I love regional landscapes, the way the light changes all over the country, the air and the terrain are constantly changing into something new. Our atmosphere here is moisture filled, giving a bluish green look to the surrounding landscape. I really enjoyed painting again, something I used to do more frequently.The painting is the physical part, but learning to really see something is the true art. My father always said to draw or paint something every day...think how good you'll get! he'd say.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Post Halloween Post...

The Fire Burned well Past Midnight....
Flames jumpin', Jack O' Lantern in the Distance
Another Side
Runish design
A memory altar for my family....chocolate and wine, of course!
I had a busy day at work on the thirty- first, then went home to my private Celebration. I had needed to burn old business records for some time, everything past seven years needed to be put to fire! These records have credit card numbers and canceled checks...tons of personal information I feel responsible for. The easiest way to eliminate these worries is to burn the whole kit and caboodle(what does that mean, anyway?)

I made a massive pile of said papers, and waited to finish up inside the house. I made a good dinner, opened a bottle of a nice red wine and carved my umpteenth jack o' lantern, but my first for me! I went for a neo Celtic knot look...it looked like a bunch of runes when I was done, but it worked out just fine! My house was lit with lots of candle light, and I had Irish music borrowed from the American Irish blog site(thanks Steve) My Mom loved that type of music, as well as bagpipes...and swing music, if the truth be told!

It was a good cathartic evening for me, I'm a bit of a Pyro, so you can't have a bad time with flame! I do feel responsible for all that paper information...so it's a task that needed to be done!

Before Midnight, I took a long walk to the Chinkapin Oak where my Godmother's ashes are planted, lit her a votive and gave her some one on one time...Dorothy was a very important woman in my life, like a second mother. The woods were full of moonlight and smoke, and I had a great time! Time to plant more bulbs around these tribute trees, they get better each year.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Celebrating Samhain("sow-wan") the Celtic Origin of Modern Halloween

The Bittersweet End of the Season-but the Celtic New Year Begins! I love Fall, and frankly- I'm ready to put the garden to bed for the Winter. I always use lots of elements from Hiddenfield farm in my work at Bergamot &Ivy, and Autumn is no exception! Wonderful lime green Hedgeapples are a fragrant pleasure now, and they a reputed to repel spiders and other home invading insects. University tests show a natural repellent is present in the strange fruit, so maybe those wives's tales are right! Our native Bittersweet is so pretty now, I've used much of it this season, always special. Remember to never plant the invasive Asian species...it takes over habitat, and shatters as well, our Celastris scandens is more brilliant and the preferred variety for florists. When planting this excellent vine, always plant one male to every three to five females for good pollination. The foliage turns a bright gold as well! I have a big Halloween party to create for one of my favorite clients. The two biggest Pumpkins of the season will be transformed for the Friday night event!

I'm not into wearing costumes anymore, but I love this time of the year! To the ancient Celts(I'm Scots Irish) This is the night where the Vail is thinnest between the two worlds. The spirits of the dearly departed are welcomed back to this earth by lighting candles in the windows and placing food and drink at an empty place for the spirits to enjoy. It's not really a scary time, more of a celebration like the day of the dead in Mexico...very similar motivations and celebrations. In the Celtic language it is Samhain ("sow-wan"), and it is also the start of the New Year-we ask our ancestors to join us in ushering out the old year, and bringing in the New! Incidentally, before The Irish came to the New world and adopted pumpkins for vegetable lanterns (Pumpkins are native to the Americas) We used Turnips hollowed out to hold a coal and a bit of fire to light the hearth for a New Year.I hope everyone has a wonderful time this weekend!!!
Pumpkin Man, by Native American painter Hoke Malsells-1951 (East coast)
The Biggest Pumpkin of the Season-and the Smallest, Getting ready for the Holiday
A John Hulsey painting of the entrance several years ago....on a sunnier day!
Late fall Entrance Gate
Maiden Grass Plumes
Brilliant Kousa Dogwood foliage
American Bittersweet, Celastris scandens at the water's edge
Hedgeapples or Osage Oranges or Bois D'arch....in the Mulberry family
19th century Japanese bronze crab and Hedgeapples(Maclura pomifera)
Beautiful Fresh Eggs
These mimulus come from tropical America, but we have native species that are charming as well. Jeff and I were hiking at the Maroon Bells by Aspen Colorado, and found a special light yellow one growing at the base of waterfalls along the trail. The flowers were smaller, but it was great to see the plants flourishing in their perfect environment.

Jeff and I went to a wedding of close family friends of Jeff's in Dubuque Iowa...a beautiful area of the country! I had no idea that it was on the Mississippi river, hilly and lush. His family has farms outside of the area, and we had a blast with family and friends for the weekend. I guess I thought it would look basically like Western Kansas, kinda flat and uneventful. Well, it was like a grant wood painting, patchwork beauty. His Ma, Bev, happens to be a master quilter-I think she's probably good at what ever she wants to do, and that's a great many things! We went to a spectacular park overlooking the grand river and it's locks, called Eagle Point Park. Yes, they have Bald Eagles there, and a incredibly well designed park system with dinning pavilions, walks, GORGEOUS native Oaks and sugar Maples....even a hundred plus year old Koi pond, really neat. Well I'll tell you my frustration...I forgot my camera! Couldn't have been a worse time to do such a lame thing, but that's why there are no pics of said attractions. I brought back a grove worth of acorns...planted them in pots in the greenhouse only to go out the next day to find that the mice dug up all but four out of twenty or so! I was so mad!!! Every Fall I have a mice invasion out there!
This past week went by so fast, I was actually in five states one day! My friend Jeff came back from Colorado, bringing with him two replacement hens to keep my poor pullet company. I've already had fresh eggs from the new gals, and everybody seems happy as can be. Jeff always brings the best gifts; first off, the hens! then a load of fresh eggs from his birds, as well as a beautiful Autumn toned Mimulus from his greenhouse.I've had this type before-"Monkey Magic",appropriately enough! I love these...they come in wonderful colors and patterns, you never know what you'll get!

Friday, October 16, 2009

An Urban Paradise: The Garden of Designer Tim Super

"Akita" The Mystery Dahlia!
a side view of the Gravel Garden, Hornbeams at the back
Shag Bark Hickory bark siding, aplied one piece at a time...lichen covered beauty
lower fountain garden
Neoclassic pool house, on the middle level
As the Autumn garden has it's final show, before a hard freeze ends the final act for the season, I stopped by my friend and ex partner Tim Super's house last week. The pool was still open and we had enough light for a few quick shots. Tim had the early fall garden photographed for a local shelter magazine, it will be great to see it shot in a proper way(not mine!) The garden is composed of several outdoor rooms, all created by his own hand. The front of the property has beautiful tiered stone work, complete with hidden steps and beautiful vignettes. A blue stone path leads the visitor through a copper topped gate , in to a small formal gravel garden, framed in columnar European Hornbeam. Tim has used fantastic, shaped brick as design elements. These antique architectural brick is difficult to find, these aren't you run of the mill pavers!

Tim had designed a small garden house to fit underneath the branches of a veteran Magnolia (souloungiana?) He was using wonderful windows and tung and groove wooden paneling, salvaged from gracious homes throughout the city...homes that were being replaced with bigger and supposedly better homes. This little gem of a building is all about charm, that's for sure! I suggested that we try to use Hickory bark from my farm to side the gnome building...and it looks AMAZING! We harvested the bark from a dozen trees...no trees died for this project! , it's like cork trees. The finished building will have a slate roof with a thatch overhang and thatch at the peaks.

these were just quick shots, it looks so much more amazing in person! there are so many separate areas to explore. Tim even built the fabulous pool house, chimney stack and all. I will do more posts about this great garden, beautiful in all seasons!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Indian Summer

Baby Snake basking in the Sun
Spicy Ginger Blossoms
Mystery Dahlia, like crushed strawberries
Late Season Sunflower with Bumble Bees
Hawk Eye Belle
Siberian Aster, a pass-along plant
The weather in the heartland has been cooler than normal, but we've had a pleasant reprieve with an Indian Summer Sunday. I took a long walk, scouting out Bittersweet for my business, as well as potential pods, seed heads and interesting branches. I use many elements from Hiddenfield farm to use in my work. Hedge Apples are usually abundant for me now, but a cold wet Spring reduced the usual glut.

Many flowers are still holding their own, one of my favorites is a pass along Aster that I've known as a Siberian Aster...but I don't think that's what it is. At six plus feet, it commands attention and the hoards of Bees and migratory Monarchs love it! Brilliant purple is just right with the golds of the early Fall leaves.

The Roses are still putting forth a few blooms, an older Buck hybrid Rose "Freckles", and a new one for me, called "Hawk Eye Belle", a hardy, lovely plant. These Buck Roses get better and better, each year.

The last Sunflowers are feeding the Bumble Bees-did you know that our native Sunflowers are one of the earliest carbon dated cultivated crops?An amazing, beautiful plant.

Dahlias are putting out their last hurrah, They always seem at their finest right before a hard frost...Some people hate them, but I think they are pure garden luxury.

I thought my gingers had done their thing, but spotted a last spray of blooms on this peach colored plant. I don't know it's name, it was a gift from my dear friend Lisa, and it smells great!

I spent a few minuets basking in the warm Sun, then went back to garden chores. I looked over at a low brick wall, and saw two small snakes doing the same thing I had been doing moments before. I love snakes, they do a great job of critter control on a farm, believe me! I have Black snakes, Western Ringnecks, Blue Racers, water snakes, Garter snakes...but these are different. I have little rock on my farm, and Copper Heads and Timber Rattlers both need that environment to be happy. Could these be baby Copper Heads?? Cute, but they look a little venomous to me.Their eyes are fogged over, so they must be moulting...all snakes are more dangerous when they moult, they can strike out of confusion with the temporary blindness of shedding.

Here's wishing everyone a golden, Indian Summer, if only for a day!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

A Post Autumnal Equinox Post....

"Pearly Mae", a Griffith Buck hybrid Rose
Alright, it's early Fall....but fall.I've been fighting it for a week or so, thinking that fall is WEEKS away, but no, it has happened. As a school child, the singing of the Cicada's was the aural signal that school was not far away. I actually like the rhythmic, pulsing sound the creatures make. One Summer a few years ago, three separate species came in to the world at the same time...it was deafening! There was a small sort, that had red eyes, then a much larger one with glossy black beads, that sparkled in the light. I don't remember what our third denizen of the deep looked like- but it was loud. These insects have very specific maturation rates...seventeen year locusts (a misnomer-Cicada) and I think there is a twenty year one, spending all those years feeding on the juices of deciduous trees. Once and awhile, I'd be digging in the garden, and accidentally unearth the pupae in there ivory whiteness, legs splaying in a sloth like stroke. I never killed them, but carefully re in turned them to there earthly bed. I'm pretty sure our native people here, Osage and Shawnee Indians ate the hell out of them in season, a late summer bounty of protein and flavor-they are supposed to taste a bit like Cashews...no thanks. For the native people, school was not the enemy, but the onslaught of Winter was. I wonder if that was what the common thought was.."hmmm, Cicadas=Winter is near". There are these giant Cicada killer wasps that hatch out in sequence to the major Cicada emergence. These things are BIG. they catch the harmless Cicadas in flight, and then drag them into their nest holes, usually in a gravely or rocky area. The big bugs are stung, but not dead. The pregnant female wasp lays her eggs into the body cavity of the Cicada, so that when they hatch, they have live food to subsist on. I've never known anyone to get stung by these prehistorically large wasps, but they can do it! School has begun for all the kids now, and the Cicadas are on there way out...but you can still find there translucent shells, anchored on the bark of Maples and Oaks, Earth suits that have outlived there usefulness. My dad, Jack, would always sing the Irish ballad about the last Rose of Summer, just when the nights would start to get cool (now), I walked the gardens, looking to see what roses were indeed, the last ones. the winner this year was "Queen Bee", a Griffith Buck hybrid. I'm not a red rose fan (being a professional florist/designer) because they have been bred to the point of uselessness. if you didn't know, most red florist roses are bred for lasting quality, and stem length, not scent. this rose was bred for garden use, and maintains a lovely scent, as well as "some of the most beautiful stamens in rosedom"...not my quote. All griff's roses are super hardy, he bred the first "blue " rose, and all the silver to lavender /blue Roses have his breeding in their background. I recently received an amazing rose from a shipment of mixed cut varieties. It had a smoky green layer of gard petals, and the center was filled with pale lavender/bluish petals, with a strong tea fragrance. If you want a scented rose when ordering from a good florist, order lavender...almost always it will be highly scented. I took a few stems home with me, and after I'd enjoyed them a few days, attempted to root them. Miracle on top of miracle, they both rooted! Now I'll trial them, and see if they are hardy. One will go in to the greenhouse, the other will brave the cold and we'll see if it survives. I'm betting on survival,, because this new mystery Rose almost certainly has Griff's hardy blue in it's genes...well see.

My friend Jeff and I would wait for the first hard frost warning, the one that cuts everything down and ends the season? We would go to a large civic rose garden that shall remain nameless, and gather ARMLOADS of beautiful roses, all under the pre-frosty cover of night. We knew where all our favorite varieties were, so no need for anything more than Moonlight to guide us. Folklore, Mister Lincoln, Double Delight, Chrysler Imperial....so gorgeous. I always felt so rich, especially when we would drive by, and see all those blackened stems the next day, waiting for the compost pile. All week, I would treasure those flowers-filling vases in every room, savoring those last scents of Summer. What a great memory....say,when is that first hard frost warning...? Hope it waits till mid October, don't you Jeff?!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Year of Change

This past year, I have taken more risks in my life than ever before. I've tried to do things that you dream about, but would never do. I believe that, if we all followed our dreams, literally, the world would be in a totally different place. This can be a terrifying and daunting challenge, is a terrifying challenge. But the truth is, that we only have one life on this beautiful earth and we would be squandering the most amazing gift if we don't accept it, and go toward fear in an attempt to learn, share,and better ourselves. I have a lot of dreams and hopes. For one dream, I always have found solace and energy from reading amazing authors. One of my favorite authors is the incomparable Dan Hinkley. Dan has the golden touch...he takes the reader with him, sharing all the truths that a hard journey really is. My first correspondence with Dan was after I read an article by him in Horticulture magazine. I had been casually reading the magazine, not paying attention to the headings, just the prose. I was taken deep into the story, and thought to myself how much it felt like his writing. When done, I looked up to find that yes, indeed it was Dan. His style was so distinct-I didn't need the authors printed name to know it was him. I had to smile, and I decided to send him a thank you, via e-mail, for his inspirational work. This was several years ago, and I don't know what trip he was on, but he was exhausted from the journey, at some remote airport, waiting to come home. He responded with thanks and unbelievable grace...a true gentleman. I've never met him in person, I don't need to, because he shares so much in his writings. A dream had formed in my mind, that a collection trip with him, would be a journey of a lifetime. I ruminated on this for a long time, never allowing myself to see if it could actually happen. So yesterday, I took a risk, and contacted him with my epistle. I explained that I knew I wasn't qualified to make such a journey, but had decided to put it out in the world. In typical Dan behavior, he responded immediately to my out- there request. Never discouraging me, but the opposite-recounting his first major collection trip to South Korea, by himself, and the non glamorous school of hard knocks, that the trip was-but he did it, and the rest is history. In my opinion, he is a modern day Chinese Wilson, and we have all gained some of the most garden worthy plants from his gifted eye, formerly through the old Heron's wood nursery.I wish it was still what it was, but things always change, the only thing that does stay the same. I didn't feel let down, because I had at least tried to actualize that dream, and had gained some wonderful insights from a great author and plantsman. I'm taking some big career risks right now, and my plate is more than full, believe me on that one! I feel that this past year, has been the most amazing year for true growth in me. I had always wanted to write, but as we all know, the printed word is becoming rare, and the virtual word is taking it's place. In February, I took another risk, and began this blog, as a tool to learn how to express myself, and share some aspects of my farm and horticultural life. I'm not sure if any of you know that I'm a interior designer, a florist, a garden designer and I produce special events, but my degree is actually in jewelry design. This blog is my private self, what I like to do when I'm not doing all those other jobs. I am a natural designer, it comes easily for me,from a lifetime of exposure to cultures, and most of all from really learning to "SEE", and disseminating what is worthy and beautiful...because there is no right or wrong, but there is educated opinion, but it's still just opinion. I get real energy from the natural world, from putting my hands in to the earth, from observing all the life forms around me, and trying to learn each day. When I was eight years old, I joined the Orchid society, a very intimidating thing for a introverted child. My parents would drop me off for the meetings and pick me back up at a predetermined time. The members were less than encouraging in those days, and after some bad direction from some of the members, I began my own study of the Genus. I found so many amazing books on the subject, I was amazed! I should re join our local chapter, since all the old Gard have passed away. The new generation has an open, encouraging attitude, and I'm sure that the next eight year old little boy to walk in that scary door, will be cared for in a different way-our future plantspeople. The intergeneric Orchid at the top is a symbol of all my combined hopes this year, I'm going to continue to take scary risks, and hopefully, reap the rewards of following positive dreams. I hope all the readers heed my call to take a risk, look toward your fear and make a change in your life, go for what you truly desire-it's worth it, as are you.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Beyond Bounty

Elegant Trycirtis-Toad Lilies
Fall Blooming Cyclamen coum
Golden Orb Spider (her name is Agatha)
Spiranthes odorata, Fragrant Lady's Tresses
Monarch Caterpillar, almost ready...
Chris eye to eye with a fine Bass
Early Autumn Bouquet
Lilac Seed Ready to Gather

I can't believe the Summer is so close to an end, and her sister Autumn is taking her place. We gardeners in the Midwest, have had cooler climates and so much more rain than we're used to...good and bad. I'm trying to enjoy the good parts, and plan for a great spring.I took my ancient camera out this past weekend, and tried to gather as many fleeting glimpses of all the bounty that this year has brought.

My Bees have done well, I had to combine the feral Bee colony I captured, with the hive that was failing to thrive. The feral colony lost their Queen, and it was too late to buy another, as well as too late for a natural Queen to be raised. The experts tell me that you place a sheet of news paper between the colony's that you want to combine(stacked). By the time the Bees have eaten through the paper, the hormones have combined, and they unite.It seemed to have worked, so now I have two strong colony's, at least for now. I need to harvest my first honey from the strongest hive, the other one needs all the natural honey it can have, so it will survive the Winter. From my sample tastes, the honey is light gold clover honey, someday, I want to have varietal honey, by placing the mature colony's in a plant specific field, like Asclepias (milkweed)- the Bees will gather the glut of that nectar during the nectar flow for the milkweeds.Evidently, it's supposed to be very fragrant and delicious.

All the Syringa(Lilac) seed is ready to gather, I made many crosses this Spring, and I must label all the seed, then methodically remove the papery seed from their brown seed capsules. This takes HOURS, but it is pleasurable for me, kind of like a meditation. I will have fields of them someday, if the Green Ash borers don't kill them! For the most part, the healthier seedlings will survive the onslaught. The air is almost narcotic with lilac in season, now that's my kind of drug!

I've been bringing more flowers in to the house, just to enjoy the fleeting season even more. I usually have flowers on the kitchen window sill, maybe the bedside, and always something on the main table.

Very few of my "city" friends venture to my neck of the woods...literally. I know it's not convenient to come out here, but one of my best friends always takes the time to come and enjoy it with me. Chris is a Fisherman, and a catch and release one at that. I need to learn how to clean fish...the large pond has an abundance of Bass and Crappy, both good eating fish. We have the best time, cracking ourselves up over the most idiotic things, what else could you ask for?!

Lawrence Kansas is the home of Monarch Watch, a group dedicated to saving our precious Monarch butterfly. Besides all the wild Asclepias (milkweed), I've added more species to the mix. I spotted a plump Monarch Caterpillar on some Asclepias tuberosa, a joyful site! by the next day, they had gone off to create their amazing jade green and gold chrysalis, awaiting the journey to Mexico in a short time. We should all plant several kinds to offer food and habitat for these regal beauties.

I love all seasons, and I like living in an area that has distinct climate changes, and we have it all here! Autumnal blossoms seem all that more special, because their time is so short, almost like the Spring ephemerals.The Toad lilies(trycirtis) are so amazing, I want them all, but the voles always seem to terrorize the root zones, and cause havoc. The woodland Cyclamen coum are just emerging, the chocolate brown color of the leaf litter and the pale pink of the Cyclamen always makes me think of Neapolitan ice cream!

When I moved to the farm, I knew I would find Orchids one day, if I was patient. My father Jack, died September eleventh (yes, that day, that year) he had lived a long interesting life, and was loved by many. On the day of his funeral, I had gone outside to look about and drink my coffee. A gorgeous Orb spider web was stretched between two Apple trees, dotted with morning dew. I remembered a favorite poem, I think by Keats, and began to recite it " A spiders web be-decked with dew, holds beauty far more rare than any diamond necklace worn on throat of lady fair" (close anyway) As I recited this, I looked through the web, and in it's sight, was a lovely lady's tress orchid, right in front of me! I was grieving, but it gave me overwhelming joy to see this sight, and it almost felt like a tribute to my loving Dad. I've spotted them since, but that first sighting was like magic.

I visit Blotanical on a regular basis, and I've loved "meeting" many of you amazing garden Bloggers at Blotanical, thank you for your friendship! I never had looked at the AWARDS before today, I'd just skip to my faves...you know. Well, I looked this evening, for the first time, and was shocked to have been nominated six times...who knew! So, Who ever you are that nominated me, I'm so very flattered, really. If you like what I do, or try to do, please vote in these categories: Best United States Blog, Best Kansas Blog, Garden Blog of the Year, Newcomer Blog of the Year, Blog you'd Most Like an Invitation To Guest Post, and Blotanist of the Year...WOW! I wouldn't expect to win, there are so many wonderful and amazing blogs, but it's great to have been thought of and nominated, so thank you :)