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kids and watering can

March brings news of grant recipients especially for schools, expansion of community gardens and residents taking matters into their own hands despite city budget cuts (see Sacramento, CA). And some garden clubs have the fun of giving out grant monies as well.

Get some ideas for clever projects by clicking on the Groups + Grants News tab at the top of the page. Team work and collaboration make for lots of activity.

If your organization has made a difference with a community project in the past month, send a press release or published media url link, tosalonhostess@gmail.com and efforts will be made to include it.

Nancy R. Peck

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.

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

You’ve heard that exercise is good for your physical and mental health. You’ve also heard that being outdoors de-stresses and improves the mood—clears out the cobwebs. I know you’re already aware of how gardening is therapeutic.

Well, now there’s a new name for all of this. . . brought to you by the world of science + copywriting.

Green Exercise—when you combine exercise with nature—when you commune with the outdoors and move about a little bit. What will they think of next, you ask? Nature-deficit-disorder, attention- restoration theory, environmental psychology, biophilia, Green Gym and green prescription—that’s what.

At the University of Essex-UK, using meta-analysis and assessment of multiple studies involving 1252 participants, it was quantitatively implied that even short five-minute spurts of green exercise had long-term health benefits. All types of green exercise were beneficial—and the presence of water in the natural environment created even more positive effects.

Self-esteem especially increased for the youngest subjects. And the mentally ill showed the greatest rise in self-esteem improvements. As Jo Barton concludes about the results “we believe that there would be a large potential benefit to individuals, society and to the costs of the health service if all groups of people were to self-medicate with green exercise.”

In another study at Wageningen University & Research Centre in the Netherlands, gardeners over 60 were compared with non-gardeners over 60 in the same neighborhood. A significant increase in perceived health and decreased stress levels was found.

And in New Zealand, the Get Growing with NZ Gardener television show teamed with the Mental Health Foundation: “. . . gardening is a great way for people to incorporate the five winning ways to wellbeing into their lives—connect, learn, give, be active and take notice.” They add (what to us may seem obvious):

  • Joining a gardening club or community gardening project can help you connect with new people.
  • Gardening can inspire you to take notice of the natural world around you.
  • Learning about plants keeps you discovering new things.
  • Regular gardening can help bring structure to your life.
  • Gardening gets you out in the fresh air and is a good form of physical exercise.
  • It’s a good outlet for your creativity and it is fun.
  • Growing veggies and herbs can encourage healthy eating and save money.
  • You can give surplus veggies or cuttings to friends, family and neighbors as a gift, or trade them with produce from other people’s gardening successes.
  • Gardening is something the whole family can do together.

Hmm. Push-ups today or weeding?  Have you squeezed in your Gardening Green Exercise today?

Photo: Tom Adamson, Flickr Creative Commons

Nancy R. Peck

Tomoko Hayashida, Sogetsu School

Those in San Francisco are in for a treat this weekend March 19 and 20, 2011 for the Ikebana International biennial Flower Show. Much of the proceeds will be donated to disaster relief in Japan. The San Francisco Bay Area Chapter of Ikebana International, founded in 1959, is one of the most active chapters in the world and includes members from seven schools.

Pictured above is an arrangement by Tomoko Hayashida, Sogetsu School. The Sogetsu School, one of many Ikebana schools, has a more free-style philosophy with emphasis on the artist’s expression and message. The school was founded in 1927 by Sofu Teshigahara who believed anyone could make ikebana anywhere with anything.

Unlike the spherical mass of traditional Western arrangement, ikebana is based on the structural concept of an unequal triangle: with scarcity, minimalism, emphasis on shape, line and form. The Sogetsu philosophy: plants are beautiful just as they are and can be arranged in an effective style to be appreciated even more. The school encourages students to be individual and imaginative.

Other Ikebana International chapters in the U.S. are located in Boston, Chicago, Dallas/Ft. Worth, Detroit, Honolulu, Washington, DC, Minneapolis/St. Paul, New York City, Philadelphia, Portland OR and others.

Sources:

http://www.ikebana.org/index.html

http://www.ikebanahq.org/sogetsu.php

blossoms

Fallen blossoms in Japan

In a given lifetime, there are just some instances when all the garden digging in the world will not provide the therapy, times in life when the gesture of bouquet just doesn’t cut it. Something bigger is required for something so monumental

 . . . yet we feel profoundly helpless.

The disaster in Japan is one of those times.

I offer moments of silence.

International Rescue Committee www.rescue.org

The International Rescue Committee responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises and helps people to survive and rebuild their lives. Founded in 1933 at the request of Albert Einstein, the IRC offers lifesaving care and life-changing assistance to refugees forced to flee from war or disaster. They are at work in over 40 countries to restore safety, dignity and hope to millions who are uprooted and struggling to endure.

The American Red Cross www.redcross.org

Press release dated March 15, 2011: “The American Red Cross today announced an initial contribution of $10 million to the Japanese Red Cross Society to assist in its ongoing efforts to provide medical care and relief assistance to the people of Japan following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.”

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