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 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' 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 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 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!