Human Flower Project

Orrington, MAINE USA

flag flower bed

parker basket thumb
Princeton, MAINE USA

Sunday, August 16, 2009

St. Luke in the (Urban) Fields

Hot town, Summer in the City!” John Borden discovers a green, flowering hideaway in the West Village of Manhattan.


A visitor relaxes in a rare pool of New York City shade,

the garden at the Church of St. Luke in the Fields

Photo: Garden at St. Luke’s

By John Borden

It was a completely unexpected find: through a small, arched brick entry into a courtyard of flowers, trees, birds, butterflies, and—gloriously, in Manhattan—nice shaded benches. 

On a hot summer day of morning errands, I treated myself to lunch of pho and a pulled pork sandwich at a small West Village restaurant.  Combining Vietnam with North Carolina is the kind of meal you find at New French; at a lunch special $12, that’s a bargain in downtown.  I was ready for a nap, out in the heat on the corner of Hudson and Barrow, when the archway beckoned from across the street.

What’s that? Am I allowed?  On entering, the feeling of an urban oasis takes shape.  It’s empty—is it safe?— it must be.  I take a seat in a secluded corner and a pigeon the size of a small chicken ambles up, relaxing next to my feet.  That seemingly attracts several tiny birds who begin to hang out in my corner as well.  A butterfly hovers.

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Posted by Julie on 08/16 at 03:49 PM
Culture & SocietyEcologyReligious RitualsPermalink

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Flowers Cheer on a Muted Holiday

Concern hangs over Independence Day in India this year, but celebratory flowers in Bangalore keep spirits high. Thank you, Lubna!


A dinosaur made of 50,000 flowers, at the Lalbaugh Botanical Garden’s Independence Day Horticulture Show 2009, in Bangalore, India

Photo: Lubna Kably

Tentative celebration describes today’s observance of Independence Day, marking India’s freedom from British rule, gained on August 15, 1947.

Across the nation, festivities took place under heightened security, this being the first Independence Day since the tragic terrorist rampage in Mumbai last November.

Tensions have already turned deadly in Kashmir; four Muslim separatists were killed Saturday by authorities. “Since 1989, when insurgents launched a revolt against New Delhi’s rule, (Kashmiri) separatists have marked festivities honouring India’s independence as a ‘black day’ in the Muslim-majority region.” This year, it’s black indeed.

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Posted by Julie on 08/15 at 10:52 AM
Gardening & LandscapePoliticsSecular CustomsPermalink

Thursday, August 13, 2009

A Walking-Think ~ Shaw’s Corner

Head to walking shoes, John Levett has what it takes to relish Shaw’s Corner. 


The home of George Bernard Shaw, Ayot St Lawrence

Photo: John Levett

By John Levett

In 1972 I left London and went to live in the small market town of Hitchin in Hertfordshire. I’d taken my first permanent teaching job in Watford the previous year and moving somewhere closer to work was a life-preserving move. For eight months I’d motorcycled the twenty-five miles from south London to Watford & back each day. Falling off the bike at Hyde Park Corner one evening rush hour was the closest I ever got to believing in messages from god. God came in the guise of a Jack Palance figure urging me in the nicest way to get out of town before sundown.

At that time I would have preferred to be moving to Stevenage New Town. As I was a product of the 1945 Labour government, it seemed somehow more heroic and Brave New World, more right-on for a young(ish) visionary teacher who believed with the fever of a Jesuit Stakhanovite in the virtues of education as social engineering. But Hitchin it was. I still had the bike ride to work each day but now it was countryside most of the way. Six months later I passed the driving test, got a car (of sorts), got more protection.

And so it went. By the end of the decade I’d moved schools and for the first time could see green fields from my classroom window. I’d started teaching in temporary jobs on Merseyside and even today I have a quiet regret that I never stayed in Liverpool during the turbulent times in that city in the ‘70s and ‘80s. It wasn’t the centre of the universe any more but for any teacher (and there were multitudes) who carried within them a ‘mission to the city,’ Liverpool was a place to head for. I got used to green fields instead.

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Posted by Julie on 08/13 at 09:32 AM
Art & MediaCulture & SocietyGardening & LandscapePermalink

Monday, August 10, 2009

From Elizabeth Lawrence: Past, Passalong, and Future

Allen Bush remembers his correspondence and visit with famed Southern gardener Elizabeth Lawrence—and her gift of a “reasonable” plant.


Lawrence at her garden gate with Clematis armandii 1957

Photo: Charlotte Observer

“This is the gate of my garden. I invite you to enter in: not only into my garden, but into the world of gardens – a world as old as the history of man, and as new as the latest contribution of science; a world of mystery, adventure and romance; a world of poetry and philosophy; a world of beauty, and a world of work.”

from Elizabeth Lawrence’s first Charlotte Observer column in 1957

By Allen Bush

Nursery folks – God bless ‘em – stoke the dreams of plants that can’t-go-wrong. Gardening requires eternal hope. Fortunately, there are ornamental garden plants that approach being bullet-proof. These are passalong plants that needn’t cost a thing – beloved gifts from the plant kingdom shared from one gardener to another.

The passalong routine among friends and acquaintances goes like this: “You’ve got to try it!”  And before you have a chance to think twice, this is followed with: “This has grown great for years!”  The generous gift offer of a never-grown-before plant is temptation too great to resist.  I’ve been the beneficiary of this unrestrained enthusiasm more times than I deserve.

I wander through my garden every day and think of these pass-alongers. It’s a packed house. There are dozens of tough as nails plants that include an aster from Raydon Alexander, a black gum from Mike Hayman and a gladiolus from Dick Bir.  None has been with me as long as the Oxford Orphanage Plant, a gift from Elizabeth Lawrence.

I found Elizabeth Lawrence’s Southern Gardens—A Handbook for the Middle South at the Asheville, North Carolina, library in the early 1980s. The book, first published in 1942, is a wonderful garden tale and plant resource. I’d never heard of her.

Writer Eudora Welty was a friend and admirer. Both she and Elizabeth were single daughters who dutifully shared the burden of caring for widowed mothers.  Katharine White, who sang Elizabeth’s praises in The New Yorker, corresponded with her for over twenty years. Emily Herring Wilson edited Two Gardeners: Katharine S. White and Elizabeth Lawrence – A Friendship in Letters, published in 2002.

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Posted by Julie on 08/10 at 07:04 PM
Gardening & LandscapePermalink
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