Category Archives: Art & the Garden

Orange Monsters*

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“The morning of the Weigh-Off. Carefully lifting a giant pumpkin.” Taken on October 1, 2010 by David Politzer, via Wikimedia Commons. This photo was under the categories: “Giant Pumpkin exhibitions,” “Agriculture in Ohio,” and “Fairs in Ohio.” 

(*No, the title is not a reference to our president.)

I’m going to be crotchety today. Since Halloween is on the horizon I thought I would post about kids and jack o’ lantern carving (with super-cute photos, if you don’t mind seeing kids with knives, which I don’t), but then that seemed too “ordinary” so I thought I’d do a little research on giant pumpkins.

What I discovered is how much the idea of “giant pumpkins” has changed in recent history. It used to be, if a baby could fit inside of a pumpkin, that was one big pumpkin! Now the pumpkins have to be picked up by forklifts to qualify as giants. Now, at pumpkin competitions, the pumpkins lie there like beached whales looking all flat, deflated, and, to me, forlorn. 

I think it’s gone too far.  

Sometimes when I’m at the gym, I see that “My 600-lb. Life” is airing on a few of the dozen TV monitors. (Yesterday, it was “My Big Fat American Gypsy Wedding.” Hmmm. I sense a theme.) When I see “My 600-lb. Life” playing, I feel a little heartsick. Some days (most days?) it seems that our whole society has turned into a freak show. Affliction as entertainment.

Maybe it’s crochety-ness, but I thought of “My 600-lb Life” when I saw these pumpkins–and I can’t help seeing them as another affliction. They make me think of the madness of over-competitiveness and about obsessions, especially obsessions with all that is

BIG.

But mostly, with these pumpkins, I thought, Where does it end?

Last year the largest pumpkin in the world (grown in Germany) was 2,624.6 pounds. Congratulations go to  Mathia Willemijn, the prize-winner, who seems to wear a very satisfied look that says (to me, anyway), “Look at me, I am the KING of pumpkins!” 

I blame Howard Dill, in part. Dill’s famous ‘Atlantic Giant’ seeds are what really got the super-sized pumpkin competitions going. Dill patented his seeds after breaking a world’s record in 1981 for a pumpkin that weighed 493.5 pounds (rather petite by today’s standards). I found it interesting to note in the description of the seeds for sale: “These pumpkins aren’t suitable for much but novelty, though some do attempt to carve them, they make a spectacular and fun addition to any garden (if you have enough space)!”

Aren’t suitable for much. As a gardener, I always think of the water it takes to grow one of these monsters. (Yes, another bah-humbug! Apologies to all of you who love the idea of giant pumpkins.)

As to,”Where does it end?”–more research took me to a Smithsonian article where I learned that the potential for size (for a round pumpkin) is 20,000 lbs. You read that right, twenty thousand pounds. The article also explores one grower’s desire to mess with the DNA to go even bigger.

Now that’s scary!

Here are some, IMHO, ugly giant pumpkins for your contemplation, all found through Wikimedia Commons.

(If you have some thoughts on this issue, I’d love to hear them in the Comments!)

I would name this photo “Gee, Those Porta-Potties Look Small!”  Another by David V. Politzer – “A view of the line-up at the Weigh-Off, pumpkins at an Ohio county fair,” October 2, 2009.

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“Giant Pumpkin,”  by Alex1961, dated October 8, 2004.

“Twin contestants at the Weigh-Off,” October 3, 2009, by David Politzer.

 “Pumpkin Exhibition, Jucker Farmart in Aathal-Seegräben (Switzerland),” October 13, 2002, by Roland zh.

 

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“Giant pumpkin fan and Weigh-Off spectator’, October 2, 2010, by David Politizer.

“A giant pumpkin in the patch, early morning,” David Politzer, October, 2, 2010. (I have to confess, I LOVE this photograph.)

A Twist:
After posting the photos above, I discovered that David Politzer was not a farmer (as I had assumed after finding the first photograph) or simply a man obsessed with giant pumpkins who takes great photographs.

Nope. David V. Politzer is an artist in Houston, Texas, a photographer obsessed (for a while, anyway) with the monsters. I agree with critic Kelly Klaasmeyer, who describes Politizer’s photographs as capturing “views of ‘nature’ that are decidedly unnatural.”

I love it. 

 

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“Documentation of David Politzer’s ‘Heavyweights’, an exhibition of Giant Pumpkin photographs at Houston Center for Photography,” January 12, 2018.

My daughter Lily, who just read this post, thinks I am a party pooper. She also argues that pumpkins-as-monsters is fitting for Halloween!

I guess it depends on your point of view.

I hope you all have a fabulous “Pumpkin Day”/Happy Halloween on the 31st.

— SK

 

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Simon’s Snowdrops (with a poem)

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Galanthus nivalis and Galanthus nivalis forma pleniflorus ‘Flore Pleno’, by Simon Garbutt, March 2006, via Wikimedia Commons.

 

The Snowdrop

by Lord Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892)

 

Many, many welcomes,
February fair-maid,
Ever as of old time,
Solitary firstling,
Coming in the cold time,
Prophet of the May time,
Prophet of the roses,
Many, many welcomes,
February fair-maid!

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I love this upbeat end-of-winter poem by Lord Alfred Tennyson. Just what we need (or, at least, just what I need!) on a grey February day.

I found the image on Wikimedia Commons this morning. The gardener/photographer writes:

“This is a direct scan, which I made myself, from bulbs of two different common snowdrops; the normal Galanthus nivalis and its double-flowered version, Galanthus nivalis forma pleniflorus ‘Flore Pleno’. Both are common in gardens throughout Britain, and are also found naturalised in woodland.”

Thanks, Simon, and Lord Alfred, for sharing your work, your flowers!—SK

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Jack Frost Mystery

Jack-Frost

 

A couple of weeks ago Virginia Gambardella sent me a few lines of this Jack Frost-themed poem (below). I “Googled” the stanza and found the rest of the poem in an old textbook. Then I found this image (above) on Pinterest. The strange thing is that I haven’t been able to find the artist of the illustration or the name of the poet. Hence, “Jack Frost Mystery”!

How fun it is to read the poems during grandma or great-grandma’s time. Can you imagine how magical it must have been to read classroom books that featured poems and stories about  fairies and Jack Frost?
—S. K.

The Little Artist

Oh, there is a little artist
Who paints in the cold night hours
Pictures of wee, wee children
Of wondrous trees and flowers;

Pictures of snow-capped mountains
Touching the snow-white sky;
Pictures of distance oceans
Where pygmy ships sail by;

Pictures of rushing rivers,
By fairy-bridges spanned;
Bits of beautiful landscapes,
Copied from elfin land.

The moon is the lamp he paints by,
His canvas the windowpane;
His brush is a frozen snowflake;
Jack Frost is the artist’s name.

(From Essentials of English: Lower Grades by Henry Carr Pearson and Mary Frederika Kirshwey, copyright 1921, American Book Company)

By Angela-Marie-from-NRW-slash-Germany-via Wikimedia Commons

“Ice-Crystals II” by Angela Marie from NRW/Germany, via Wikimedia Commons

 

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The Monthly Museletter—September 2017

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“Lunar Libration” by Tomruen, via Wikimedia Commons

 

Karla sent in her September newsletter two weeks ago and I’m just now getting the green bits to you today. So sorry for the delay! It’s a list of goodies with a focus on the soulful, the beautiful, the green. Again, thank you so very much, dear Karla, for sharing! —SK

P. S. If you’re local (Colorado Springs) and would like Karla’s full newsletter that includes local events, you can write her at karlaann45 @ gmail.com.

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Eco-brilliant: These portable, inflatable, solar-rechargeable lanterns were invented by a woman and help folks who have no electricity. You can also put one on your car dashboard to recharge your phone as you travel! Buy them directly from luminaid.com so some of your money will go to help those who can’t afford them.

“There’s no problem so awful you can’t add some guilt and make it even worse.” —Bill Watterson

Being used as a college text, Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming, was written by a host of experts & edited by Paul Hawken. I never buy a book I haven’t read, and only buy “keepers” — this one I knew right away was a keeper.

And one more book recommendation:
“Faery energy, the Gaian presence, the Goddess, Mother Earth: every culture has had a name for this awareness of the Life Force in Nature.” (p.17) “Water is an optimist . . . always willing to take on the more powerful positive structure of thoughts and intentions. It wants to be healthy, strong, and beautiful . . . even a small quantity of positively charged Water [can] communicate with and transform a large area or body of Water.” (p.54) —from The Garden Awakening by Irish wild-gardener Mary Reynolds. Illustrated by Ruth Evans. Here’s a short film about the book:

Mama Moon is NOT dry—there’s a water-rich interior & polar canyons! Check it out here.

Are you drawn to Ireland? (So am I!) Watch Ireland’s Wild Coast for free.

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Causeway Coast, Antrim, Northern Ireland. View looking west towards Giant’s Causeway. Image via Wikimedia Commons

It’s the Bees Knees! Check out Chicago’s airport – it hosts beehives!

Raise food on the roof of a grocery store where you sell it—that’s called “hyperlocal” GreenCityGrowers.com

Think Small! “Nothing is more responsible than living in the smallest space you possibly can.” —minimalist F. Marcia

Have you heard of “ABEEGO”? it’s a re-usable beeswax wrap that lets food breathe. “Keep food alive!” says our friend.

A Beautiful Gift Idea: A RESIST BIG MONEY IN POLITICS stamp to put it on all your dollars, even on the $20 White House! It’ll let those who you do business with know your values!

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Going Places: Check out this electric walking bike which has a treadmill instead of a seat—you can exercise AND get places fast!
and . . .
Volkswagen electric vehicles are on the way!

Women Chief Judges of two west coast tribes are the center of this POV film TRIBAL JUSTICE. Their Native systems focus on restoration, not retribution . . .

Word! “2.4 billion people lack sanitation: more people have a cell phone than a toilet.” —Matt Daimon

And, to end on a fun (and admittedly political and not green, but I couldn’t help myself) note: 

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Clowns in wedding dresses confound the loud KKK with silly WIFE POWER! This is a brilliant story and shows how laughter can be more than medicine—it can be the perfect way to ridicule Nazis!

 

 

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In the Flowery Garden With My Calico Cat

 

Pechán_In_the_flowery_Garden_with_my_panelvourite_Cat_1899 (2) József Pechán

József Pechán, “In the Flowery Garden With My Panelvourite Cat”, 1899 

 

I discovered this József Pechán painting browsing Wikimedia Commons. I could not find that the word “panelvourite” translated into calico, but it makes sense, doesn’t it? Of course, I could be wrong.

I loved this painting – the colors, the happy woman and kitten, and that aloe! We all love our gardens.

József Pechán was born on February 21, 1875 in , Dunacséb, Hungary (so he was 24 when he painted the above painting), and died on March 6, 1922 in Verbász. Both cities are now in Serbia. This was the only painting I found with a garden-theme, though I didn’t do a thorough search.

I found the history on where he was born and died, Hungary, interesting (and sad) [from Wikipedia Commons]: “Hungary’s current borders were established in 1920 by the Treaty of Trianon after World War I, when the country lost 71% of its territory, 58% of its population, and 32% of ethnic Hungarians. Following the interwar period, Hungary joined the Axis Powers in World War II, suffering significant damage and casualties. Hungary became a satellite state of the Soviet Union, which contributed to the establishment of a four-decade-long communist dictatorship (1947–1989). The country gained widespread international attention regarding the Revolution of 1956 and the seminal opening of its previously-restricted border with Austria in 1989, which accelerated the collapse of the Eastern Bloc. On 23 October 1989, Hungary became again a democraticparliamentary republic.”

So, there it is – is a little art for the soul, and a history lesson.

On a personal note: I hope you are all doing well. I received an email from a reader/contributor wondering about me, because she hadn’t seen a Flora’s Forum post in a while. There have been personal issues going on (an illegal two-story house has been built next door to our home and garden that has stolen our privacy, and we’ve been dealing with that, read about what’s going on here, if you’re interested), but as far as health, I am fine and dandy! I hope you are, too!

XO to all,

—Sandra Knauf

 

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Paper Roses and Marigolds . . . and Costumes!

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Image from VintagePrintable.com via Pinterest

This week I received a note from a friend. She’s read about my life through my newsletter, so I was very happy to finally get a glimpse into her life. When readers share, a connection is made. It’s beautiful!

Virginia (she signs her emails “Virg”) told me about her gardening history, how she’d had a lot of fun over the years tending gardens that she didn’t actually own. One she tended for 14 years, a church garden across the street from where she lived. When the Episcopalian priest went on vacation, she’d also take care of the “manse.” (Oooh, I thought, a manse! I wanted to see it, and the garden!) Other adopted gardens were a vacation rental by the water every August, and her son and daughter-in-law’s garden. As it was nearing Halloween, Virg mused on how she wished she had some marigolds. They would be just the thing for her black Depression glass salt and pepper shakers. Earlier she’d written to me about how her mother put garden flowers in the tiny containers, so fairy-like, so charming.

After mentioning the marigolds she wrote, “If I were my mother I’d just whip up a few crepe paper  marigolds! If I were only a witch I would conjure up a few. Concentrate, concentrate, visualize——I’m in a trance—I’ll let you know if it works.

No, no not daisies, marigolds!”

I grinned reading that—and thought about marigolds, the favorite flower of El Dia de los Muertos, or the Mexican Day of the Dead. I’ve been fascinated with that celebration for a long time—so much more meaningful than just dressing up and candy!

The thought of crepe paper marigolds really intrigued me. My mother had mentioned making flowers and decorations out of paper as a kid, but by the 1960s it was considered pretty “old-fashioned.” Decorations and fake flowers were now mass-produced.

I looked it up and found that others were intrigued by these delicate creations. Of course they sold them on Etsy. WHAT FUN!

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12 Button Mums, 1″ size, for only $4.80 on Etsy at ZoBeDesigns!

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From SnootyBlooms on Etsy – 12 for $12.99!

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I thought these were amazing. They’re not for sale, but you can learn how to make them at the website Simple Craft Ideas.

I wrote Virg back with the links to these blooms. I asked her if I could share her thoughts on crepe paper flowers and the holidays. She wrote back,

“I’m flattered, be my guest. I remember sitting in my crib downstairs when I was sick watching  Mom making crepe paper flowers at the dining room table after supper while listening to Wayne King (the waltz king) playing The Waltz You Saved For Me, The Lady Ester program—radio, of course.  I Remember Dennison crepe paper. This was BIG business back in the day. Look up the Dennison crepe paper costume books from the 20’s and 30’s, you will not believe Marie Antoinette in crepe paper complete with roses.!!!!! Do you have your black candles ready?”

She then sent me the link to a book on crepe paper costumes, which I ordered, and then she sent me a link for a free PDF of the book, How to Make Crepe Paper Flowers, now in the public domain, from the Dennison paper company.

Again—WHAT FUN. I was especially happy to the marigolds! Maybe next year I would (finally) be all set for El Dia de los Muertos. Maybe I would have some black candles, too!

Last night I found another free book, this one from Internet Archives. How to Make Paper Costumes, also from Dennison. It gives instructions for all kinds of enchanting costumes, including those that celebrate nature—flowers, vegetables, butterflies, birds, even “the elements.”

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Lily, Sweet Pea, and Jonquil

Somehow I feel that I will try this craft—or at the minimum enjoy some beautiful flowers from Etsy.

Perhaps poinsettias?

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Crepe Paper Flowers, by Chris, via Wikimedia Commons

Thanks for connecting with me, Virg. You certainly brightened my Halloween!

—Sandra Knauf

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Sandra Knauf is the one-woman-show behind Greenwoman Publishing. Her books include the six-volume series Greenwoman, (a literary digest), her young adult fantasy novel, Zera and the Green Man, and an anthology of sexy gardening stories that she says is the feminist gardener answer to Fifty Shades of GreyFifty Shades of Green. She was a 2008-09 featured “Colorado Voices” columnist for The Denver Post and her humorous essays have appeared nationally in GreenPrints and MaryJanesFarm. Sandra lives in Colorado Springs, Colorado with her family, dogs, huge urban garden, and lots of books.

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Through a Garden Gate

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Framing the Garden in Photo and Poetry

Gardeners and photographers have in common a reverence for “frame.” Gardeners prune to get the right view through a bush to another plant, a stone, a gate. The photographer crops a photo to change the focus. When a poet collaborates to hone to the essence of a garden, a beautiful book of poetry and photos of a large garden results: Though a Garden Gate.

The photographer and landscape designer of his own garden is Vincent Covello who is well-known as a risk and crisis consultant. The poet is Charlotte Mandel who has received widespread recognition as a poet from New Jersey who recently retired from teaching poetry writing at Barnard College Center for Research on Women.

Mandel issues “A guided invitation to a garden path” in one of her poems. The book is a leisurely stroll through a carefully designed ten-acre garden landscape that catches the frames of a Chinese Garden and gate, dark wood torii gates, standing stones at sunrise, falling water, a Japanese fountain and the reflections of oak leaves in a pond. The seasons kaleidoscope through poetry and photos of the flowering cherry in its “breeze-sent dance,” the vernal equinox’s “report on summer’s evolving designs,” how October acts like a season’s traffic signal, and the first footsteps in snow through an aging gate garden waits through winter with the animals in their burrows. The book captures both the joy and wabi sabi of gardening.

In the middle of this collaboration, the poet and photographer stop at “Enclave –”

Later afternoon, a cloisonné tray
will be brought with two
crystal stemmed glasses
of dark red dubonnet
and on other days
a golden sherry

This is where the gardener rests after “assiduous caretaking – lift dig prune weed” and the poet gets to raise her glass to the twilight and assemble the spirit that comes close to the end of the collection:

Let the garden teach patience
in changes of earth, water, rock, wind,
the play of wills by a gardener
who has gazed at starved ground,
a straggle of brush and skeletal trees,
and said, “Let there be this.”

We gardeners know the hard work of arranging, rearranging, cutting, digging – creating garden frames that lift us out of the ordinary into transformation into quiet beauty. This book may well serve as an inspiration to other poet-gardeners like me to revere our work from the sky blue morning glory in August heat to the quiet winter garden in repose. It did that for me.

—Tricia Knoll

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The author and photographer; photo by Carol Ann Mandel.

Through a Garden Gate, a collaboration of photographs by Vincent Covello and poet Charlotte Mandel, (WordTech Communications, 2015). 57 pages of poetry and color photographs. Available at Amazon for $20.

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Tricia Knoll is an Oregon poet with two books in print – Ocean’s Laughter (Aldrich Press 2016) and Urban Wild (Finishing Line Press 2014). Website: triciaknoll.com

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