Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Designing a Garden Considering Autism and Special Needs:

Is your garden providing too much stimuli, or too little?

What makes a soothing area in which to re-center?

What should pathway surfaces be like and how wide?

How do environmental noises make an impact on the garden experience?

One of my favorite (and award-winning) websites is the Therapeutic Landscapes Network. It’s an extremely thorough resource for those specializing in combining their landscape design skills with concepts of health and well-being.

Two months ago I asked its founder and director Naomi Sachs, if by any chance she had ever done a story about landscape design for autistic children. I already knew Naomi had her finger on the pulse of her field. Lo and behold, she and Tara Vincenta (both ASLAs) were in the process of writing an extended piece about Autism and Special Needs. Tara is founder and principal of Artemis Landscape Architects, Inc. and Naomi not only runs the resource website but runs her own landscape design and consulting firm. Below you can link to the article.

I urge you to head right to these links for some valuable information on how to make your landscape, your garden, your park of optimal benefit for these individuals. After all, April is Autism Awareness month. All of us know of folks with special needs.

The publication article: Outdoor Environments for Children with Autism and Special Needs. It outlines research and design considerations for creating outdoor, nature based spaces that allow children with autism and other special needs to play and learn at their own comfort level, overcoming common challenges in a safe, fun environment that is equally engaging for any child. Find the article via: http://www.healinglandscapes.org/blog/2011/04/outdoor-environments-for-children-with-autism-special-needs-in-informedesigns-implications/

True to thorough form, Naomi has also collected a list of Resources on Autism and Access to Nature posted here. http://www.healinglandscapes.org/blog/2011/04/april-autism-awareness-landscape-architecture-month/implications-resources-2/

Check out Therapeutic Landscape Network — a site that emulates enormous dedication, research and study. http://www.healinglandscapes.org/about-mission.html

Nancy R. Peck


Read Full Post »

Hill Top Farm, Cumbria

Beatrix Potter's Hill Top Farm

One of my first memories of the gardening topic is the belabored Mr. McGregor shoo’ing Peter Rabbit away. As unfair as pilfering from the garden is, the reader finds him or herself “rooting” for Peter Rabbit’s safe return home.

The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter was first published in 1902 and remains one of my favorites. Still in my mind are the vivid illustrations—watercolors of personified fluffy animals outfitted in pastels.

The family lives under the roots of a “very big fir-tree.” The widowed Mrs. Rabbit in her puffy blue sleeves and white apron explicitly warns “you may go into the fields or down the lane, but don’t go into Mr. McGregor’s garden” and by the way “your Father had an accident there; he was put in a pie by Mrs. McGregor.’

Oh my.

And off they go, Peter in a sky-blue jacket and sisters in pink-red ones. Peter—who must have had cotton stuffed in his ears—of course doesn’t heed and makes a bee-line for Mr. McGregor’s garden, squeezing under the gate.

This image is familiar: Peter, in his black slippers, enjoying “some lettuces and some French beans; and then he ate some radishes” alongside a robin perched on the handle of a shovel (his conscience??). Then Peter moves on to find some parsley to settle his exploding stomach.

Well, needless to say, pandemonium ensues involving lost slippers, brass buttons, a gooseberry net, sieve, watering can, sneeze, and a resulting scarecrow of Peter’s lost jacket. Peter cowers unclothed, shoeless, trapped and scared. He and the reader are left with a huge guilt complex for disobeying. [Add to this plot the loss of some homework. You are now privy to one of my top ten recurring nightmares.]

If you’d like to revisit the illustrated source of your own primordial guilt complex find The Tale of Peter Rabbit at The Gutenberg Project here http://www.gutenberg.org/files/14838/14838-h/14838-h.htm

Beatrix Potter was prolific and much of her work was published in quick succession. By the end of 1903 Peter Rabbit had sold over 50,000 copies and royalties were accumulating. Visit Beatrix Potter’s “Hill Top,” the first farm property she purchased with royalty income. It is pictured here and is located in Cumbria, the Lake District in England. See visitor information here http://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/main/w-hilltop

A wonderful fully illustrated biography of the author-illustrator is Beatrix Potter 1866-1943: The Artist and Her World co-published by The National Trust and Frederick Warne & Co., the original publisher of her works. I found a copy at a local library.

Picture sources: Flickr Creative Commons ‘mkisono’

Nancy R. Peck

Hill Top Farm, Cumbria

Read Full Post »

floral arrangement by Sue Redden

Winning Design Entry by Sue Redden

If you’ve been a garden club member for any length of time you probably have been exposed to The Standard Flower Show. The Standard Flower Show tradition started a very long time ago. But it is more than simply tradition. It basically—still and after all these years—sets out to educate and develop aesthetic sensibilities. If you’ve ever been swept up into its whirlwind you at least know this much.

Now, aside from horticulture entries, you may have been asked to try your hand at creating and entering a floral arrangement into the Design category. This request may have come about in the form of arm-twisting—in which case you definitely need some de-mystifying about how it will be judged.

And, voila, if you already have been on the receiving end of judging and scoring for your floral arrangement, you probably want to know just how that panel of three judges came to their decision of Honorable Mention.

So, for this post, I have consulted with Sue Redden, a demonstrator and winner of many blue ribbons and top NGC Exhibitor awards in Design and Horticulture. Sue has been a leading member of two garden clubs in Rhode Island for, well let’s just say, decades and she has filled board positions for the Rhode Island Federation of Garden Clubs Inc., the New England Region, and National Garden Clubs, Inc. She has judged Design and Horticultural exhibits in New England, Philadelphia, and Cleveland.

Here is Sue’s basic introduction to The Standard System of Awarding:

  • The Flower Show’s “Schedule” is “the law.”
  • The Handbook for Flower Shows is the ultimate authority for judging. [Accept no substitutes and get the latest edition. See below.*]
  • Three people make up a judging panel and use The Standard System of Awarding.
  • In a Standard Show, four arrangements would compete within the same pre-determined “schedule class.” [We’ll leave definitions of schedules and classes to another post.]
  • Only one first place (blue) ribbon per class is awarded; must score 90 or above.
  • Only one second place (red) ribbon per class; must score 85 or above,
  • Only one third place (yellow) ribbon per class; must score 80 or above.
  • One or more honorable mention (white) ribbons as merited; must score 75 or above.

Judges award the blue ribbon to the highest scoring design, again it must score 90 or above. (Note: There are times when multiple entries in the class achieve the sought-after 90+ score, and this 90 above score will be indicated.)

In order to win the top additional exhibitor awards—such as the Tricolor, Designer’s Choice—one must have scored 95 or more.

And here’s what the judges look for:

Scale of Points for Design

Conformance –20 points if all the requirements for the design are met.

Design – 42 points is the next consideration – 7 pts allowed for each of the following met principles:

Balance – Is the design visually stable?

Proportion – Is the design in proportion with its allotted space?

Scale – Are the components in scale with one another?        

Rhythm – Does your eye carry through the design?

Dominance – Do one or more elements dominate?

Contrast – Is there interest in the design?

Artistic Concept – 12 points – Is there creative and appropriate selection and imaginative organization of all components according to the schedule guidelines?

Expression – 10 points – Has the exhibitor interpreted the class well?

Distinction – 16 points – Is the plant material conditioned? Does the exhibit have marked superiority in all respects?

And we have the TOTAL—a rarely attained 100 points.

Sue says:

“To win a top award a lot of thought must go into selection of plant material, color, texture, spikes, rounds, etc. and one must adhere to schedule parameters . . . i.e. read the show’s schedule carefully and follow directions!” 

With subjective opinion, personal taste, and whim minimized as much as possible, the scoring standardization almost makes it appear as an exact science. Not quite—they are mortal beings after all—but judging is a learned art in and of itself.

To learn more about how to become a judge yourself, contact your state federated NGC Flower Show Schools Chairman for further information.

Also you might be interested in Flower Design Study Units. Explore here: http://www.gardenclub.org/FloralDesign/DesignStudyUnits.aspx

*The Handbook for Flower Shows, revised 2007 edition is available from NGC headquarters – Member Services. Order your copy by calling 800-550-6007. National Garden Clubs, Inc.  4401 Magnolia Avenue, St. Louis, Missouri, 63110-3492.

Let me know if you’d like to hear more about de-mystifying The Standard Flower Show!

Nancy R. Peck

Read Full Post »

“The first impression for a visitor arriving in a town is often formed by their view from a train carriage, and it is a disgrace that view is so often a degraded and dirty one that suggests a lack of care or pride in the area.”—Bill Bryson


How many times have you ridden on a train where railway property litter is just part of the scenery? I can’t think of a train trip when that wasn’t the case. Especially entering and emerging city rail stations, I’ve seen the strangest combination of things strewn—car seats, discarded wheel-less strollers, open-for-business signs, crumpled venetian blinds, things I haven’t been able to identify, hair-dryers, wigs. And everything plastic known to Man has just “blown” over the embankment.

As it turns out, this is also a serious pet peeve of Bill Bryson, current president of Campaign to Protect Rural England. (He doesn’t know it, but Bill also has the distinction of being one of my favorite Laugh Out Loud armchair-travel writer-humorists.*)

“This generation of people has a duty to pass the countryside on in as good a condition as we can.”

“In one of the most beautiful countries in the world,” (Bill, is it ok to call you Bill?) says “I just can’t understand how someone could open up a car window and toss out an empty pizza box.” That is something that has baffled so many of us over many a decade.

Since 1926 CPRE has been “campaigning for the beauty, tranquility and diversity of the countryside.” It is spearheading a movement to use a little enforced law requiring rail companies and public highway agencies to keep their properties clear of litter and rubbish. If written requests to agencies go unheeded, then anyone in the public can use a legal mechanism and file a Litter Abatement Order to enforce the law. Introduced by the Environmental Protection Act of 1990, this also applies to local councils, schools, colleges, hospitals, port authorities and airports. If you live in England, CPRE has instructions for you.

There are many conservation and landscape preservation issues CPRE addresses—over and above preserving hedgerows, championing for forests, deterring roadside advertising, sprawl and traffic, fly-tipping (sneaky dumping on the fly). Explore the CPRE website http://www.cpre.org.uk/home and their publication library http://www.cpre.org.uk/library.

On the right sidebar here at Garden Club Salon, see the “Blogroll” if you’d like to link to similar organizations in the U.S.—Keep America Beautiful, Scenic America, The Cultural Landscape Foundation, The Trust for Public Land. Use your favorite search engine to locate those U.S. states that have their own organizations dedicated to landscape protection.

*Bill Bryson was born in Iowa in 1951 but has spent most of his professional life living in England when he isn’t traveling. Among his many books are A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail, Notes from a Small Island, Down Under, A Short History of Nearly Everything, Made in America.

Thanks Bill, and thanks to all our friends at CPRE.

Nancy R. Peck 

Read Full Post »


I distinctly remember pulling the petals off a daisy—over whatever boy was the object of my affections in a given youthful summer. But I never seemed to get the desired outcome. Should I start with “He Loves Me” or start with “He Loves Me Not?”

I suppose I could have counted the petals beforehand, applying some practical mathematics. Alas, at a tender age I was unlucky in love . . . unlucky in math, too, come to think of it.

He loves me. He loves me not.

This child’s play is actually a centuries-old game—thought to pre-date even 1800. See in Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Tragedy of Faust, published in 1808, how it is an already established game. Excerpted and translated—Scene XII: The Garden 

Faust: Sweet darling! 

Margaret: Wait a moment!  (She picks a Marguerite and pulls the petals off one by one.)

Faust: What’s that for, a bouquet? 

Margaret: No, it’s a game. 

Faust: What?

Margaret: No, you’ll laugh if I say!  (She pulls off the petals, murmuring to herself.)

Faust: What are you whispering?

Margaret: (Half aloud.) He loves me – he loves me not.

Faust: You sweet face that Heaven forgot! 

Margaret: (Continuing.) Loves me – Not – Loves me – Not

He loves me!

Faust: Yes, my child! Let this flower-speech

Be heaven’s speech to you. He loves you!                                              

Do you know what that means? He loves you!


Source: www.poetryintranslation.com

Also readable through Project Gutenberg.

Picture source: ‘Vortesteur’, Wikimedia Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike

Nancy R. Peck

Read Full Post »

It was a round about way that I discovered multimedia artist, Elsa Mora. And “multi” is right. She has applied her talent in limitless ways. Her website made my eye-candy day in an otherwise gray one. It is time to interject some spring pastels even if spring is months away.

Blossom Buddies by Elsa Mora

Blossom Buddies by Elsa Mora

One of Elsa Mora’s many creations is her book Blossom Buddies: A Garden Variety (available through Amazon and some independent book stores).

“She carefully reconfigures plants to create a universe of unique characters. Inspired by time spent with her young autistic son . . . These floral personalities will draw you into their world of wonder and whimsy.” The book contains 133 beautiful bright color photographs of characters that she created using natural elements like flowers. You can see more Blossom Buddies at her website .


Be sure to look at her ‘galleries’ link too: jewelry, homemade fashion, illustration, papercutting and much more. Elsa lives in Los Angeles and her biography and written life observations offer an interesting read. I love her gift of whimsy and artistic versatility! More importantly, it seems every minute of her life is noticed, cherished, and expressed.

Elsa Mora’s blog http://elsita.typepad.com/elsita/

Read Full Post »

Tony Todesco creates striking arrangements often using exotic plant materials. Unexpected structural components may be included and he makes use of dimensionally dominant containers.

floral design by Tony Todesco

Floral design by Tony Todesco

Tony can often be seen demonstrating at trade shows, and his work is seen at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. He is a National Garden Club accredited Master Judge. Add to that list NGC Flower Show Schools’ Design Consultant, and owner of One Main Street Studio in Stow, Massachusetts.  

It’s no wonder that, with his knowledge of trends and technical expertise, he is a sought-after speaker. A recent Todesco standing-room-only program—hosted by the Barrington (RI) Garden Club—seems to indicate that interpretive floral design is very much alive and well.

Flare noted: his experienced hands are in rhythm, manipulating curvature, attaching elements just so, tweaking the third dimension and depth, working with finesse and all at an impressive speed.

This expressive arrangement, seen here in an impromptu click of the camera, is just one of many large-scale contemporary arrangements he created for the mesmerized audience. Can you identify the specimens used in this arrangement? 

Others of Tony Todesco’s creations can be found in the photo-full book Designing by Types available through the National Garden Club Inc. “shopping page”. The book includes the interpretive work of thirty-one designers.

Nancy R. Peck

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »