There was a finality to typing the number 52. I’ll admit to feeling a bit wistful. When I embarked on this journey of discovery, it was to explore what I might learn about inspiration and creativity by regular and frequent visits to the same small space. I learned more about myself than either of those two things.
I learned with even greater conviction that I don’t like the constraints of regularity…there were Mondays I wanted to skip…but didn’t. I learned that seeing out the project no matter where it lead was important despite the regularity of it. I learned that even in a small space that’s less than 300 square feet, there’s always something special to be discovered or celebrated…I needed to be reminded of that.
The snow cover is making this difficult. It’s knee deep on the way into and out of the garden. The image was taken from the sidewalk 35 feet away since what immediately interested me was the forms the melting/windblown snow was making on the path. Like earthwork sculpture but not.
This should be No. 48, but last week I was so busy that I didn’t even think about going out to the garden until it was dark…
This week is much the same, but I’ve made time since I haven’t been out there since the snow two weeks ago. Shadow play, animal tracks and skeletons of summer shrubs are the norm now. What delighted me today were the icicles on the bulkhead. I didn’t expect that. I refused to have the doors painted when the house was done this past summer since the patina is so beautiful. I was right.
Snow. Too much to go out into the garden where the drifts are well over three feet. My boots aren’t that tall! The photo was taken from the warmth inside to the garden through the bathroom window screen.
It was bound to happen. A new member of a carefully adamantly warned lawn and clean-up crew went nuts with his string trimmer. I didn’t catch him totally on time. I abhor string trimmers and gas powered garden tools in general. I really dislike when my instructions aren’t followed. I like the mess. I don’t want my gardens to look like a nuclear winter in winter. DAMN. At least I didn’t take it out on the foreman who apologized and reconfirmed that I didn’t want anything cut back–I can do that myself thank you very much.
It’s grey. It’s damp. It’s winter. It’s challenging to find something interesting going on. I’ve hit a wall of mostly sticks and stones. I suppose that’s fine since there’s so much going on at this time of the year outside of the garden…
The colors of winter. It’s gotten very cold and except for some oaks, there are no leaves clinging to their branches. It’s a time of texture in the garden. A quick trip in and out tells the story most days.
I went out into the garden this morning with clear intent. I found what I was looking for, but it was not the most interesting to me. Last night was cold. Frost was still on the remaining leaves of plants I’ve come to know very well over the past months. I shot some images of that…they were pretty but weren’t what really piqued my interest. This was…frost on the arm of my old Adirondack chair.
I have a new contender for the last blast of color for the year. One of the new plants I added to the garden this year was a Cotinus coggygria ‘Golden Spirit’. I used the one I planted for a client a few weeks ago as a post about color inspiration, but mine was never that subtle. It rivals the Fothergilla gardenii in another part of the garden for fall drama. I am delighted that after 41 weeks there’s still something wonderful in this small garden space…
The view from my studio is totally red…but this is about the garden. Every year in mid-November this street tree, an Acer rubrum, puts on the most reliable and spectacular show. It is only marginally visible from the far end of the ‘Mondays’ garden, but its fire beckons and teases me through the browning foliage.
Today it really feels like winter is settling in. The wind is blowing, the last of the leaves swirling in the air and the sky above is grey.
Color is more subtle now. It will be another month before it has reaches the high contrast of midwinter. Even though they are elegant in their neutrality, somehow the subtle tans and browns seem drab after the show of high summer and the blazing display of fall foliage. Its another signal of change–one I would not notice if I wasn’t in the garden.
Today was a mad dash between two late season garden design projects and I didn’t get into my own until late. I was totally fascinated with the light and debris on my simple path. I won’t love it so much next spring when all of those Lychnis coronaria seedlings grow up…
Gardens are also about sky. The open, infinite and mysterious beyond. I spend too much time looking down. Here’s what was up above the red maple at one end of the garden this morning. It was definitely worth the look. There’s a storm coming.
October is precious. The finest weather time of the year–cool crisp mornings and warm golden afternoons. Why am I always surprised when the leaves are suddenly glorious in their fall color? It sneaks up on me every year. Autumn seems more fleeting than spring– as if the cold heart of winter is pounding at the church door.
I’ve been out of town for more than a week. I skipped last week since, obviously, I was elsewhere. I was in other people’s gardens in fact. Having observed one of my own so closely for more than half the year has taught me to be decisive and critical in my viewing. As a designer, I need more than pure observation. I need to gauge the mood of a place, its nuances. What looks right to me? What looks forced? What simply is–like rain held in the concave leaves of a young Cotinus.
Cool mornings. Slow bees. Long shadows. I’ve always been interested in light and shadow in gardens and have never been able to master manipulating the experience. I know I’ve said before that my favorite tree, the one I originally built the garden around, will have to come down next spring before it falls on the house. This will be its last fall casting shadows so this image is a sort of memento mori before the fact.
The days are getting shorter. I’m going out into the garden later in the morning now. The long season of decline has started, once accepted all things become possible again. In my garden I can say with ease, ‘I’ve made my mistakes and it’s time to accept them and move on.’
If only the other areas of my life were so simple.
Change. Within a single day, the mature garden that was here has been cleaned up, rethought and redone. Within my own gardens this is a fact of life. Almost as soon as the end of the first season a garden in planted, I want to change it. Sometimes the change is out of my control. The wonderful leaning American hornbeam branch that anchors one end of the garden is dead. It’s been in decline for years but I’ve left it since I liked it–it’s in danger of falling on the house…it has to come down.
Change is what I love about gardens…they are in constant flux. I don’t want to know that this or that will be blooming in that particular corner on in that particular month. I don’t want static. I want to experiment and be surprised. I’ll take the good with the bad. The great idea with the one that fails…it’s how I train my mind and eye.
The slowest painters in the world are gone and it’s getting cooler. There is rain in the forecast so maybe, just maybe I’ll be able to make some order out of chaos–this is what a month or more of total neglect and painters looks like. I’ve found that I like the disorder almost as much as I like the intent and wonder how to design controlled disarray…or is that an oxymoron?
I never really know what I’m going to write about on these Mondays. I always have the garden image first and then backtrack. I wonder, why did that particular aspect of the garden attract me? I try to be honest in my choice – both from an aesthetic viewpoint as well as being true to the discovery aspects of the project.
Now for the discovery part. I’ve been foggy. My brain full of cobwebs. Mid-summer heat brings me a lack of focus that lifts with the cooler weather. So…on this foggy morning these spiderwebs were the moment.
Finally a cool summer morning after weeks of oppressive heat and humidity. The slowest painter in the world should be finished this week and the most damage will be done to the garden–he left the foundation for last. I am at the 1/2 way mark and I’m still not sure what this exercise is about.
Six months of images. Six months of Mondays. Six months of commitment. Unexpected forks in a path that I thought would be somewhat straight forward. The close observation makes me want to tear it all out and start over. The last 26 weeks (actually only 24 since one didn’t have a photo and the other was a photo taken in Buffalo). I am giving up control here too since I’d rather have even rows of three and the last only has two…maybe that’s the lesson.
I went outside today expecting nothing. The garden is in a state of profound neglect. Heat, no appreciable rain, deer and the slowest painters on the face of the universe have had their effect. What I found suprised me.
There are two small stands of this roadside phlox. It was blooming despite years of neglect when I first moved to this house 12 years ago. When I built the garden I left it to honor the garden’s past. It survives everything. It made me smile.
I thought I would take a lovely picture my only rose in the garden, but when I looked up I saw something completely different. I manipulated the original photograph in PhotoShop because it’s the linear geometry in this image that I like.
The rose (R. ‘Joseph’s Coat) attracted me to this corner but in the end it wasn’t what I was really looking at. Interesting how, with a critical eye and no real plan, things got unstuck and went in a new direction. More and more I’m hoping this project will beckon me down those unstuck paths.
I went out to the garden this morning and found my lilac in bloom a month early. Last week’s heat wave must have forced it. I don’t usually take loving pictures of flowers, but this seems so out of context. In fact, it seems so crazy that I decided to alter the image…after all isn’t this project about observation, exploration and creativity?
March is teasing me. I had hoped there would be some sure signs of spring beyond yellow tipped daffodil shoots pushing through the earth in the garden. Next week the Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’ will be the show and then the work will start. For now, though, there are still shadows.
I am visually drawn to architectural decay. To me, abandoned buildings and their remnants have a ghostly beauty. These old and rusting away bulkhead doors are in the middle of the garden. I don’t try to hide them and I’ve purposely left them just as I found them when I moved in 12 years ago. I think they are beautiful.