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Archive for the ‘Garden History’ Category

Golden Gate Park Japanese Tea Garden

Japanese Tea Garden, Golden Gate Park

The Japanese Tea Garden in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park is, of course, a favorite attraction. On April 3 the azaleas, magnolias and cherry blossoms are in full bloom, the sun is shining, 75 degrees—what could be better?

This 5-acre garden, the oldest Japanese garden in the United States, was originally created as a “Japanese Village” exhibit for the California Midwinter International Exposition of 1894. Makoto Hagiwara designed and paid for the bulk of this rural-type garden and was officially appointed caretaker the same year. He passed away in 1925 and his family continued to live there in a 17-room house in the Sunken Garden area. In 1942, as with others of Japanese heritage, the family was forced to leave. The San Francisco Recreation & Park Department has maintained the garden since.

Though late in coming, Hagiwara Makoto and his family were honored in 1974. A road along the garden is now named Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive.

Link http://japaneseteagardensf.com/

Also of interest: San Francisco Parks Trust http://www.sfpt.org/

Golden Gate Park, Japanese Tea Garden

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Golden Gate Park, San Francisco

Conservatory of Flowers, Golden Gate Park

Golden Gate Park Conservatory of Flowers

Lowland Tropics room, Conservatory of Flowers

Golden Gate Park in San Francisco offers a number of sites for the plant lover. In a view from the road, we see two sun-lovers sprawled on a blanket on the wide open lawn space. Annual garden plots set off a strikingly-bright white Conservatory of Flowers beyond. Small chaperoned troupes of delightful children are prancing about . . . taking in the fresh April air between potty breaks.

The Conservatory’s main center dome is flanked by a wing of two galleries on the right—Highland Tropics Plants and Aquatic Plants. The wing to the left of the dome offers a Potted Plants display and temporary special exhibit room. I cross the entrance threshold and immediately find myself in a moist Palm Court of towering green Lowland Tropical plants—a magnificent thick display of ferns, banana, cacao, Jurassic cycads and much more. Here and there blue and orange bits of color are randomly cast, source being the sunshine through the structure’s stained glass.

Through the next door, the Highland Tropics gallery recreates high elevation forests of the tropics. There’s a nice display of mosses and the epiphytes which I like—plants that grow on other plants. The room offers much to whet our appreciation of orchids. This is where a renowned collection of Pleurothallid orchids can be found. Through another door, the Aquatic Plants room is picture perfect as we learn about water lilies and lotus. Also on view is a collection of carnivorous pitcher plants and bromeliads.

This striking building is said to be the oldest public conservatory in the Western hemisphere—opening in 1879—as well as the oldest structure in the park.

Much thanks goes to recent restoration efforts and dollars to do so. With these plants well-established and in such a yesteryear atmosphere, I just might get inspiration for writing a Victorian historical novel. At this conservatory one can get close to specimens: smell the gardenia, inspect the fronds, study orchid details and view exotics from around the world. http://www.conservatoryofflowers.org/

While others might prefer a huge botanical exhibit extravaganza as found in some other large cities, I felt this was just the right size with an ambiance for a mini-retreat—leaving time for other Golden Gate Park experiences. Next stop: Japanese Tea Garden.

Nancy R. Peck

Aquatic Plants room Conservatory of Flowers

Aquatic Plants room, Conservatory of Flowers

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garden in Austria

See the garden gnomes lurking in the corners of this Austrian garden?

The recent Gnomeo & Juliet animated feature film inspired a dear friend-reader to suggest I get to know garden gnomes a little better. Great idea.

Now I know in some circles garden gnomes are considered déclassé (banned from the great Chelsea Flower Show, UK for one). The mass consumerism associated with garden gnome ornaments—and their bold colors—make for cautious use in today’s residential garden.

But regardless of where they stand in our individual taste-meters, it is interesting to note that these figurines actually originated in the 19th century in Germany, where they became known as Gartenzwerg (“garden dwarf”).

In addition, according to Wikipedia, Philip Griebel made these and “terracotta animals as decorations . . . based on local myths as a way for people to enjoy the stories of [their] willingness to help in the garden at night.” Popularity quickly spread across Germany and into France and were “first introduced to the United Kingdom in 1847 by Sir Charles Isham, when he brought 21 terracotta figures back from a trip to Germany and placed them as ornaments in the gardens of his home, Lamport Hall in Northamptonshire.”

Perhaps back in 1847 garden gnomes were smaller and of earthier tones. Can you imagine today’s gnomes here? http://www.lamporthall.co.uk/

My research seems to have hit a wall, but feel free to send in your gnome encounter stories.

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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

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Moon Tree at Tilden

A redwood tree.

Looks like any other coastal redwood tree, doesn’t it?

So, what’s so special about THIS one?

THIS tree was started from a seedling,

which was started from a seed,

which went around the moon 34 times.

Let’s back up. When on January 31, 1971 Apollo 14’s Lunar Command Module pilot Stuart Roosa took off, he had packed away in his personal gear nearly 500 seeds of loblolly pine, sycamore, redwood, Douglas fir and sweetgum trees. Working in conjunction with the U.S. Forest Service, the idea was to see if the prolonged weightlessness of seeds would ultimately affect their growth to mature trees—a good thing to know “should colonization of other planets become necessary.” A control group of seeds stayed back on Earth for comparison.

Once back home, supposedly more than 80% of the seeds were germinated in some U.S. Forest Service nurseries. (After years of observation, by the way, no discernable difference was detected.) Then in or about the bicentennial year 1976, “Moon Tree” seedlings were distributed throughout the U.S. and ceremoniously planted with the reading of a congratulatory letter from President Gerald R. Ford.

Among sites that requested seedlings were botanical gardens, state capitols and courthouses, state parks, state universities, nature centers, schools, libraries, and space science properties. Some areas made their own signs marking locations of the trees, while other trees bear no marking at all. The still-alive sycamore planted at Camp Koch Girl Scout Camp in Indiana bears the hand-painted sign “. . . Long live our beautiful Moon Tree.”

Precise records were not kept with regard to the seedling distribution. But a man named David Williams has made it his own personal mission to track down and catalogue the whereabouts of these seedling/trees. Williams has a list of those he knows about at http://nssdc.gsfc.nasa.gov/planetary/lunar/moon_tree.html. If you know of a Moon Tree planting not listed (dead or alive), he would like to hear about it dave.williams@nasa.gov.

Now, “Half-Moon Trees” are being grown naturally from the discarded and cross-pollinated seeds of original Moon Trees. If you are so inclined, check search engines for those who are selling these babies and also for those who are grafting and cloning the original Moon Trees.

Photo credit: Thanks to Susan Peck who recently photographed this now tall Moon Tree at the Tilden Nature Area, Berkeley, CA

Nancy R. Peck

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National Arboretum Needs Your Help

Azaleas Photo by Don Hyatt

This is a story—a true one—of a few people who made an unpopular decision, and a much greater number of passionate people opposed. How a little piece of blog news exploded. And how we can still find heroes. It’s also a story of what we stand to lose if we’re not careful: The National Arboretum.

If you’re outside the mid-Atlantic metropolitan area, you may have missed this unfolding drama that has been hovering over the National Arboretum for the past four months—an arboretum visited each spring by 100,000 people, 446 vivid acres in northeast D.C. It is the only federally funded arboretum in the United States and it’s been having problems in spite of itself. Read on. (more…)

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Since Presidents’ Day is coming up I assigned myself a little First Lady reading. Excerpts from Eleanor Roosevelt’s “My Day” journal-column touch on a morning view of the White House gardens on a very agenda-ed day, June 9, 1939. There was to be a visit from King George VI and the Queen of England.

“The President told me firmly that I must ready at ten minutes before eleven.”

After making the rounds of every room with White House housekeeper Mrs. Nesbitt and explaining to her the English customs of morning tea, bread, butter and water with no ice, she writes:

“I think Mr. Reeves, the head gardener, has done the most beautiful job with the flowers in and around the house.” She profusely compliments him and his assistants. “It has meant a great deal to him [Mr. Reeves] to have such wonderful flowers sent in from various parts of the country.” Roses have been sent from New Jersey, “pink gladioli from Alabama, and orchids,” to be used that night for centerpiece, “come from a friend in New York City.”

“When I went out on the porch for my breakfast, I could not help exclaiming over the gorgeous vases of deep purple gladioli standing by each column.”

“The railings of the steps leading down to the garden are covered with honeysuckle in bloom and the big magnolia tree planted [in 1835] by Andrew Jackson has opened wide its blossoms.”

She goes on to write that she expects the rest of her day may be “somewhat busy . . .garden party at the British Embassy . . . I do not see that there is going to be any time . . . to do more than remove a hat!”

This was the first visit from a reigning British Monarch on U.S. soil ever—“two people who have impressed their sympathetic personalities upon a continent,” Mrs. Roosevelt writes. The six-day visit started formally but ended casually at Hyde Park for a Sunday picnic of Virginia Ham, Smoked Turkey, Rolls, Cranberry Jelly and Hot Dogs (if weather permits).

Source: The White House Historical Association—The Household Staff Prepares for a Royal Visit http://www.whitehousehistory.org

Additional source: FDR Library documents http://docs.fdrlibrary.marist.edu/royalv.html

Photo source: Serge Melki, Flickr Creative Commons

Nancy R. Peck

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