Posted tagged ‘photography’

A Visit to Kenrokuen Garden

December 1, 2016

Last month, I took a photography trip to Japan led by the incomparable Sam Abell. Our itinerary was unusual since most of the cities we visited were off the beaten track for most tourists, and I didn’t expect it to include any memorable gardens, especially since we weren’t headed to Kyoto, known for its stunning public and private gardens.

To my delight, I quickly discovered how wrong I was. In almost every city we visited, there was at least one breathtaking garden, often associated with a local temple, whether small or large. And in Kanazawa (located on the Sea of Japan in north central Honshu island), we spent most of a day exploring Kenrokuen, which is considered one of Japan’s three most beautiful gardens.

In 1985, Kenrokuen was designated as a National Site of Special Scenic Beauty by the government (having been merely a “place of scenic beauty” for several decades prior to that). Its construction began in the late 1600’s as part of the feudal lord Maeda Tsunanori’s creation of a garden adjacent to Kanzawa Castle. “Kenrokuen” means “having six factors,” and refers to six attributes considered by the Chinese and Japanese to create a perfect landscape: spaciousness, tranquility, artifice, antiquity, water sources, and a magnificent panoramic view. This garden, which extends over 25 acres in size, has them all.

Although we encountered rain off and on during our visit (not surprising given Kanazawa’s reputation as a “distinctly wet” city with over 190 days of rain a year), we enjoyed taking in the peak fall color of the leaves and watching the gardening staff taking part in yukitsuri. Yukitsuri, which literally means “snow hanging,” is the name for the annual process in which garden staff erect ropes in a conical shape over garden trees and shrubs in order to create structure to keep their branches from breaking in the wet, heavy snow the region gets every year. The resulting structures are not only practically useful but aesthetically appealing – a ‘win-win’ situation for garden visitors. The pine trees, in particular, are carefully taken care of; there is one that is over 200 years old and has many of its lower branches supported by sturdy wooden ‘props.’

Kenrokuen is visited year-round by many people, especially now that bullet train service is available from Tokyo. In the winter, the landscape must be breathtaking in snow. Spring brings cherry trees, azaleas and irises in bloom, and in summer the landscape views are all green and lush. In fall, when we visited, the trees are ablaze with golds, reds and yellows of countless varieties of Japanese maples. And year-round there are ponds to visit, paths to stroll, and teahouses placed for their views and to offer sustenance and contemplation for the visitor. By the time I left, at the end of the day, I had resolved to return in another season, and I hope you will be intrigued by these images to consider a similar resolve.

Kenrokuen Garden is located in Ishikawa Prefecture in Japan. It is open year-round from 7 am to 6 pm during March to mid-October, and from 8 am to 5 pm from October 16th to the end of February. Admission fees vary (free for senior citizens with ID). More information can be found on its website.

Beauty Within and Without – Visiting the Franciscan Monastery

November 21, 2015

In Northeast Washington DC, in the Brookland neighborhood, sits the lovely Franciscan Monastery.  Earlier this week, a group from my camera club took a field trip there.

Although I had been to the Monastery before, it was only in springtime, and I didn’t venture inside.  That time of year, tulips are lavishly planted on the grounds and around all parts of the garden areas.

Franciscan Monastery_20140428_0094

A statue of Mary, arms full of flowers, in the lower level of the gardens, the week before Easter.

Franciscan Monastery

More tulips near the Church, with the Rosary Portico in the background.

On my more recent visit, although there were still a few roses in bloom here and there near the Portico, most of the visual interest outside the Basilica came from the Rosary Portico, the statuary, and magnificent trees in the last stages of fall color.

FranciscanMonastery_20151116_0026

A magnificent oak (I couldn’t identify the kind) serves as a backdrop for the Rosary Portico, which frames the main area surrounding the Basilica, and the Ascension Chapel (right background).

FranciscanMonastery_20151116_0024

The Rosary Portico contains plaques (not visible here) with the text of the Hail Mary shown in nearly two hundred ancient and modern languages.

Around the corner from the Basilica, planted next to a stone building that was closed when we visited, I spotted what seemed to be Ilex verticillata (winterberry) shrubs in fall color, still hanging on to their berries.

Franciscan Monastery

Ilex verticillata with berries. Guess the birds hadn’t discovered these yet!

Eventually we made our way into the Basilica and before starting to photograph, had a fascinating tour about the history of the building – including a walk through some catacomb areas. Then we re-emerged into the sun-lit interior, where for an hour we were allowed to photograph to our heart’s content, using tripods as we looked for large vistas and small detail images. Hope you enjoy what I came home with.

For more information on the Mount St. Sepulchre Franciscan monastery, visit its website or read more about it in Wikipedia.

Cylburn Arboretum and the Vollmer Center

November 6, 2015

Several weeks ago, my friend Sarah and I drove up to the Baltimore area to visit the Vollmer Center at the Cylburn Arboretum and walk the grounds. (We were also there to take in an exhibit of photos by my colleague Roger Foley, from a recently published book called On Walnut Hill, about a private garden in Baltimore.)

Cylburn Arboretum, over 300 acres in size, is open to the public year-round, with an historic mansion (available to rent for events) and miles of woodland walking trails. There are some cultivated garden areas up near the mansion, including one small garden space with a gazebo that was serving as the setting for a wedding when we saw it. Cylburn Arboretum

There were also a number of beautiful old dissected Japanese maples on the grounds.

A shot from the inside of an area where four Japanese maples had grown up in a circular planting area, making them look like a single, enormous tree.

A shot from the inside of an area where four Japanese maples had grown up in a circular planting area, making them look like a single, enormous tree.

It was the area nearest the Vollmer Center (and the Center itself), however, that I found most appealing the day we visited. The Center, designed by GWWO Architects, is nestled down in the landscape below the Cylburn Mansion, built into a slope and boasting views into the surrounding trees that were nothing short of spectacular the day we visited. It is modest in both size and aspect but extremely well designed, and has a number of  “green” features, including geothermal heating and cooling and composting toilets. Hope you enjoy these photos of it and its surroundings, and do plan a visit if you’re in the area.

Perfect Gardens in Virginia’s Piedmont Area

October 23, 2015

In mid-October, the Association of Professional Landscape Designers held their national design conference here in Washington, DC. In addition to a full day or more of sessions on sustainability in gardens, marketing, design topics and the like, the conference included three full days of visiting gardens, two in the DC suburbs and one in the Piedmont region of Virginia, outside Charlottesville.

I had been involved in helping select the Maryland and northern Virginia gardens conference-goers visited, so I didn’t sign up for those two days. But I was really curious about two gardens scheduled for the Monday ‘Piedmont region’ extension of the conference, and so joined a number of good friends for a day trip to see them.

Our first stop was Mt. Sharon Farm, in Orange, VA. Designed by landscape architect Charles Stick in collaboration with the owners (Mary Lou and Charlie Seilheimer), the garden sits on a hilltop overlooking beautiful vistas that Mrs. Seilheimer described as thinking she is “lucky to come home to” every day.

Association of Professional Landscape Designers, Mt. Sharon Farm, APLD

One of the views from a path at Mt. Sharon Farm.

The garden itself was begun in 2000 but feels as though it has been there for many decades, in part because of the massive boxwoods that help create several ‘rooms’ and which Stick insisted should remain (another landscape architect whom the Seilheimers interviewed recommended removing all the boxwoods on site; he was not hired). Stick designed the garden with the principle in mind that all aspects of it should relate to the surrounding views outward, and it shows, even in spaces like the rose garden and the adjoining boxwood parterres.

Mt. Sharon is probably at its loveliest in the spring, and occasionally has been open to visitors during Virginia’s Garden Week. For more images of it during that time of year, visit Roger Foley’s website or check out his wonderful book, A Clearing in the Woods, which includes a chapter on Mt. Sharon.

After a too-short stay at Mt. Sharon, our bus took us onward to Warrenton, where we visited Marshfield, a 40-acre estate whose 12-acre garden has been designed by C. Colston Burrell. The current owner’s grandmother, Mrs. Samuel Appleton, was a founding member of the Garden Club of America, and so the gardens have been named the Appleton Gardens in her honor. The modest brick house at the top of the drive is tucked in among old oak trees and Japanese maples, but it was Burrell’s magic farther away from the house that drew me and my camera. We had plenty of time here, and ate dinner outside in the outer reaches of the garden. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves, but this was for me the highlight of the trip.

Stopping By the Chicago Botanic Garden

October 9, 2015

On the same July trip that took me to Chicago and the Lurie Garden downtown, I also made a stop at the Chicago Botanic Garden (no, not in one day!). For years this garden has been on my list of public gardens I really wanted to see. It’s huge – 356 acres spread out over nine “islands,” with 26 different display gardens. Even in a full day, a visitor couldn’t do justice to all of it. So in a post-flight stop of several hours before dinner, I barely scratched the surface of a few of its offerings.

First of all, I have to say that regardless of where I was, the container plantings were spectacular. Even those inside the administrative buildings were awesome.

Chicago Botanic Garden

Interior plantings in one of the administrative buildings at the Chicago Botanic Garden in a color palette that I loved.

My friend and I visited the Heritage Garden, modeled after the first botanic garden in Europe, in Padua, and dedicated to Carl Linnaeus. It was bustling with visitors and full of mid-summer blooms.

Chicago Botanic Garden, Heritage Garden

A view of one of the rills in the Heritage Garden

From there we discovered the Circle Garden, which is apparently regularly planted with unusual annuals, beginning with a display of spring bulbs and ending in October with masses of chrysanthemums. We saw it lush with dahlias and Verbena bonariensis, one of my favorite annuals because of its airy nature and tendency to self-seed (although not, unfortunately, in my own garden).

Chicago Botanic Garden, Circle Garden

In a small “side room” of the Circle Garden, four boxwoods are underplanted with a chartreuse sedum – a great color combination.

Verbena bonariensis dances in front of a fountain in the Circle Garden.

Verbena bonariensis dances in front of a fountain in the Circle Garden.

Chicago Botanic Garden, Circle Garden

Verbena and red fountain grass in a mixed planting along a path border in the Circle Garden.

After the Circle Garden, we walked to the Japanese Garden on a separate island.

Chicago Botanic Garden, Japanese Garden

The center hedge is of Hinoki falsecypress, the first time I’ve ever seen that tree used in such a fashion.

Chicago Botanic Garden, Japanese Garden

A view from the main island of the Japanese Garden over to a separate, smaller island not accessible to visitors.

By the time we left the Japanese Garden, I thought there could hardly be anything more impressive than what I’d seen, particularly since our next destination was the vegetable and fruit garden. (Confession time – I have never found gardens devoted solely to fruits and vegetables particularly visually appealing.) However, I was in for a real surprise. Known as the Regenstein Fruit and Vegetable Garden, the area features 400 kinds of edible plants that do well in the Chicago area. It offers family activities and educational programs. But it was the garden’s clever use of hardscape choices and designs (raised beds, decorative brick paving patterns, vertical surfaces for growing herbs and veggies) that took the garden into the realm of ‘art.’

Chicago Botanic Garden, Regenstein Fruit and Vegetable Garden

The raised beds visitors see as they approach the Fruit and Vegetable Garden by bridge is spectacular.

So I leave you with a sampling of images from the Fruit and Vegetable Garden, and I urge you to visit the Chicago Botanic Garden when you can. I can’t wait to return.

 

 

 

The Guests That Won’t Leave the Garden

June 12, 2015

Now that I can work in the garden again, I am overwhelmed. Spring’s abundant rains here have encouraged lush new growth not only of hydrangea buds (which were sadly absent last year)

Hydrangea 'All Summer Beauty,'

Hydrangea ‘All Summer Beauty’ began to bud last week.

but also of what I call “garden rogues” – plants I planted in small numbers (or not at all) which have become travelers all over my garden. There used to be a modest bed in my side yard between my arbor and a thriving Styrax tree, originally planted with selected shrubs and hostas, Carex, a few Heuchera, and a couple of toad lilies purchased from a local nursery. The other day I photographed it stuffed full of those plants and a million ‘volunteers.’

Mayhem in the borderl

Mayhem in the border

The toad lilies have gaily seeded themselves everywhere, as have a species Geranium (G. maculatum). Both have the good grace to be easy to remove (once the temps drop below 92, I’ll think about it . . .). What bugs me most is the constant proliferation of spiderwort (Tradescantia), which spreads by runners all over the damned place. It’s the blue-flowered perennial below. You can’t get rid of it without digging out the roots, which is an almost impossible task. I’ve settled for cutting it back at the base, knowing it will come back.

Tradescantia (spiderwort) and Indian pink have spread in this border without any encouragement from me.

Tradescantia (spiderwort) and Indian pink have spread in this border without any encouragement from me.

I’m happier about the spread of the Indian pink (Spigelia marilandica), shown above with the red blooms. I ordered three plants of it many years ago from an online nursery. Today I find it throughout the garden. It likes shade – what a surprise to see such a strong red color in a shade garden!

Felix-femina 'Lady in Red'

‘Lady in Red’ fern has red stems.

Another perennial with a little red in it that has spread unexpectedly in my garden is the fern ‘Lady in Red’ (Athyrium felix-femina ‘Lady in Red’). It was a new introduction when I splurged on it (having lots of deer who wander through the garden has increased my interest in and respect for ferns, which they avoid). But now I’ve found it a hundred feet away from where I first planted it. No problem for me.

Other plants I’ve been happy to see self-seed in my garden include dwarf goats-beard (Aruncus aesthusifolius), another stalwart for the shade, and – to my great delight – the lacecap hydrangea H. macrophylla ‘Blue Billows,’ which has appeared in two locations other than the two where I originally planted it. Now there’s a real bargain.

 

Hydrangea serrata 'Blue Billows'

‘Blue Billows’ in my back yard, with ferns and a variegated boxwood in the background.

 

Awestruck at the Library of Congress

February 21, 2015

The first time I visited the Library of Congress was in late 2005 (ten years ago, yipes!), when my camera club was able to arrange a field trip for us, complete with tripod permission. I didn’t know what to expect. When I walked in, I was speechless. So when I returned last month for another field trip, I understood completely when a young Australian  woman who had just entered said simply, “Oh my God” on looking up.

Jefferson Building, Library of Congress

One of two bronze statues on the ground floor of the Jefferson Building, Library of Congress.

The Library of Congress opened in 1897 and serves as the research arm of Congress. The Main Reading Room is open to members of the public only two days a year; the rest of the time, you need a Reader Identification Card which is valid for two years and obtainable on application. Photography is allowed (without tripods) on the floor on the two Visitors Days each year, and from a gallery above during other times.

There is an abundance of information online about the Jefferson Building’s artistic glories so I will not try to reproduce all of it here. Suffice it to say that the building is a marvel in both substance and aesthetics. Do not miss it if you are headed to our nation’s capital.


%d bloggers like this: