Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Garden Inspired

The Sakura Teapot
from Janus et Cie
Handmade in white porcelain

Monday, October 24, 2011

Rodin's Sculpture Garden at Stanford

Took a visit to Stanford University in Palo Alto, California recently - I'd heard so much about French artist Auguste Rodin's sculpture garden there which houses a collection of his castings.   I've always thought of Rodin as an interesting character and, okay I'll admit it, I'm intrigued by the story of his collaboration/relationship with artist Camille Claudel. 

Stanford's Rodin Sculpture Garden was dedicated in 1985 and designed by architect Robert Mittelstadt to evoke the style in which Rodin exhibited his public art during his lifetime in Paris.  The garden fronts the Cantor Arts Center which houses a large collection of Rodin's work in bronze, plaster, ceramic, stone and wax.

The garden has a collection of Rodin's Burgher busts.

One large piece in the garden is "The Gates of Hell" which features scenes from Dante's InfernoThe Gates was created as a portal for Paris' future Museum of Decorative Arts (which was never built).  It looks a bit like a collection of miniature figure studies all stuck onto a giant set of cast doors.  There, his "Thinker" sits at the top of the gates, and you can see many of Rodin's future sculptures as studies on the Gates:  The Three Shades, and The Kiss, Ugolino, Fugit Amor, The Falling Man, and The Prodigal Son.
Detail from "The Gates of Hell"

And the famous "Burgher's of Calais"...
covered in blankets to protect against construction activity.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Happy Weekend!

Hello all!

Found this cool cast iron hitching post hidden in the garden of a project site.  I figure it is possibly mid-1800's - could not find any marks on it but there is record of others with the same form created by a foundry in Oakland, California.

Horse hitches were ubiquitous across America until the advent of the motorcar.  In fact, the first recorded automobile accident in the U.S. was in 1891, when John William Lambert hit a tree root and ran into a hitching post.  You can read more about the art of iron hitches and casting in general at Horsing Around.

Love the folk art style...

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Hello Autumn!

With autumn comes changing leaves and our beautiful wine country late-season warm weather.  Work begins to slow down (a bit), and I get a hankerin' to break out the camera again!  I've missed the "focus" and learning that writing in my online garden journal brings and look forward to getting back to it.

This past weekend, we spent a gorgeous fall day in Healdsburg, California...

We stopped in at Francis Ford Coppola's winery.  An unruly ornamental herb garden greeted us at the main gate, starring dark purple Basil and Rudbeckia.

The long line of pool cabanas were nifty looking.

Inside the winery is a museum of objects from the director's films: Tucker, Apocalypse Now, Dracula. And fantastic replicas of french ships created for Sophia Coppola's Marie Antoinette

Just a mile or so south on the highway, we lunched on the lovely Healdsburg town plaza, with a slew of new garden and home shops that I would love to dig into.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Sketchbook Monday

I'm starting a new regular post topic, "Sketchbook Monday," in which I'll be posting a sketch that I whipped out in my sketchbook over the weekend.   A disclaimer, these sketches will not be suitable for framing!

But hey, I love to sketch and would like to improve my skill - and you'll see, there is plenty of room for growth here.   This also encourages me to photograph/sketch on the weekend with my family.  The kids love to draw and it's a great way to get them out of the house.

Sketching is a great alternative to photography - it really helps you understand your subject, whether it be a flower or a landscape or a face.

Above is my weekend Peony (taken from an old photograph - it was raining all weekend)...

Happy Monday everyone!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Today's Plant Combination

Now that I've waxed on and on about beautiful flowers, I wanted to make note of one of my favorite things to do in the landscape, which is to create great compositions strictly through the use of contrasting foliage color.  In this way, your plant palette can be enjoyed in all seasons.  Maybe a little static, yes?  But it works great in high-profile areas where you can't afford to have an "off-season."

This is one of my most favorite plant combinations.  Along the plain, white wall that approaches the front door, we used...

Anigozanthus 'Bush Diamond'
Aeonium arboreum 'Atropupureum'
Senecio mandralisceae, and
Sedum makinoi 'Ogon'

The success of this combination is almost entirely in the foliage color, although the Anigozanthus has a lovely white/light green bloom.

All of the plants are very happy in this sunny, warm and protected spot...which I hope, by the way, is where I'll be spending my weekend (and you, too!)

Thursday, March 3, 2011

The Roses of Chateau Malmaison

Rosa 'Empress Joséphine'

I am again writing about roses, I must be ready for spring to begin!  But, as promised, I wanted to jot down what I've learned about Joséphine Beauharnais and her rose empire at Chateau Malmaison.

Joséphine was not only the Empress of France and the first wife of Napoleon Bonaparte, she was an avid collector of beautiful rare, and unusual plants.   Joséphine's 18th Century chateau, it's name meaning something to the effect of "estate of bad luck" (I've read it had once housed a leper colony?),  Chateau Malmaison had a wonderful garden which came to be considered the finest of it's day in France.

She introduced many exotic plants to Europe that had been gathered abroad and shipped, literally, back to France during Napoleon's campaigns.  In fact, battles were temporarily halted to allow safe passage of a new specimen then carried back to France.  I've read also that Malmaison featured a heated orangerie filled with hundreds of varieties of pineapples.

Joséphine collaborated successfully with her landscape architect Louis Martin Berthault, in the design of her garden and grounds.   At its height, her extensive rose garden contained in excess of 250 varieties, many lost in modernity.  Her goal was to collect every known rose species, her rosarians hybridizing new varieties constantly.  The tea rose, which is in the parentage of many modern roses, was developed at Malmaison.

Rosa 'Madness at Corsica'

Joséphine and her family are immortalized by their namesake roses. There are two roses in existence named 'Joséphine de Beauharnais', and one named 'Empress Joséphine' shown at top.

Napoleon has three roses to his name. The 'Napoleon' also called 'Madness at Corsica' (1835), bred by Jean Laffay - is named after Napoleon's birthplace of Corsica and, well, possibly Napoleon's general demeanor, although who am I to say.

In addition to the Napoleon and Joséphine roses, there are a pair of cultivars named after Josephine's children.   Jean-Pierre Vibert, the breeder who produced 'Joséphine de Beauharnais', also bred 'Hortense de Beauharnais', another pink rose. During her stepfather's reign, Hortense, who was famed for her beauty and charm, was forced to marry Emporer Napoleon's younger brother, Louis. The marriage was unhappy, but produced Louis Napoleon Bonaparte who went on to rule France as Napoleon III.

Rosa 'Eugene de Beauharnais'

'Eugene de Beauharnais', named after Joséphine's son, is a mauve climber. With its strong fragrance and tendency to bloom repeatedly, 'Eugene' may just be the best of the Bonaparte roses.

Pierre Joseph Redouté
Empress Joséphine commissioned the Belgian botanical artist Pierre-Joseph Redouté to record her roses and other favorite blooms, in a series of plates that immortalized her collection.

The plates illustrated two books by Redoute documenting her collection:  Jardin de Malmaison and Description des Plantes rare cultivees a Malmaison et a Navarre, but Redouté's most famous published work was published in 1835, images are below...

Redouté's book "Choix des plus belles Fleurs- 1835"

Plate 132 - Blush Tea China Rose
by Pierre-Joseph Redouté

Plate 94 - Peach
by Pierre-Joseph Redouté

While bare root season in Northern California has already passed me by, I may still celebrate spring's arrival by planting a rose for Joséphine.

Thursday, February 24, 2011


Wow.  Work has been super busy lately, thank goodness.  I hope this is a sign of a reviving economy. 
We're doing a lot of exciting work right now that I can't wait to see completed. 

Of course, there's always time to play frisbee with our little Westie Calvin. 
He always puts his own personal spin on the game...

Have a great day!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Valley Vines in Snow

Well, not real actual snow.  We haven't had snow in a decade.  I took a picture of these vines up at Francis Ford Coppola's winery - this was the only "snow" we'd seen - a blanket of gorgeous white wildflowers.

By the way, construction of Francis' newest winery "Rosso & Bianco" is finally finished and it is a fantastic place to visit in Alexander Valley.  The winery's swimming pools open in the Spring! Bring the kids!  Here's a photo... 

Speaking of snow...this weekend we may be getting snow in the San Francisco Bay Area all the way down to sea level!!!  We are at 84-feet above, so we are very excited about the possibilities/photo opportunities.

Unfortunately, I have to go out and cover up my entire garden.  Everything is budding and it would be sad for it all to freeze.   I need a 10,000 square foot tarp.  Anybody?  I know the wineries are dreading this weather - they've had bud break at all of the vineyards in the Valley.

My daughter felt this vine was sad and needed cheering up!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Photo Series - My View at Lunch

I am a creature of habit.  I often take my lunch break in the same spot at a little park
comprised of a bench, a path, and a grove of pear trees.

I've been taking photographs of these trees as they go through their seasons and I think my series is finally complete, with this week's picture taken on a sunny mid-winter day.  Proof that we do (sort of) have seasons in California!

Here, for your enjoyment, is my view at lunch...

 Have a great weekend!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Napoléon's Joséphine at Chateau Malmaison

In my recent meeting with a sage rosarian at Luther Burbank Gardens we observed the old rose, Rosa francofurtana, or "Empress Joséphine" (a hearty, heavily blooming, bright pink cottage-garden style rose).  This sparked my interest in reading up on the Empress, her beautiful manor garden and her rose collection.

Joséphine de Beauharnais was born Marie Joséphe Rose Tascher de la Pagerie - renamed Josephine by her second husband, General Napoléon Bonaparte.  Joséphine had two children, Eugéne and Hortense with her first husband, Alexandre de Beauharnais, who was guillotined during France's Reign of Terror.

As Napoléon's wife and the first Empress of France, Joséphine was popular with the public but beset by scandal.  From the book, Josephine: A Life of the Empress (1999), I learned that she had difficulties coping with the social demands made upon her.  As Napoléon's career expanded, she was expected to launch herself into the social activities expected of a famous general's wife, which she found exhausting, and she and her new husband were mostly apart.

Much to Napoléon dismay, Joséphine purchased a run-down 150-acre manor just outside of Paris while he was on campaign in Egypt.  Joséphine spent a fortune renovating the house and property, Chateau Malmaison, creating there a "delicious spot" where she and her husband were to be very happy. 


Joséphine sought to transform the estate into "the most beautiful and curious garden in Europe, a model of good cultivation," gathering plants from her native Martinique and from other places around the world.  She acquired exotic birds and animals that roamed freely around the grounds. At the height of her days at Malmaison, Joséphine kept kangaroos, emus, black swans, zebras, sheep, gazelles, ostriches, chamois, a seal, antelopes and llamas.  From the foreword to Jardin de la Malmaison (1803):

                  "You have gathered around you the rarest plants growing on French we
                  inspect them in the beautiful gardens of Malmaison, an impressive reminder of the
                  conquests of your illustrious husband."

The property achieved great acclaim for its rose garden.  Joséphine had some 250 varieties of roses on the property, and her rosarians created an extensive collection of new roses, which I will write on in my next post.

Napoléon left Joséphine in 1810 due to her inability to produce an heir, and she retired to her Malmaison, where she died in 1814. Napoléon returned to Malmaison after his defeat at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815 and before his exile to the island of Saint Helena.

Chateau Malmaison Today

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The School Garden - Part 2

Our school garden construction is nearing completion.  We're fortunate to have a parent who is a talented carpenter/woodworker and he's done wonderful work on the fences, arbors and gates.  The perimeter deer fence is mostly in place, the galvanized metal tubs are set, with irrigation stub outs to each one.  Three inches of playground mulch covers all of the pedestrian areas. 

The middle school children have been working to finish up the garden during their after-school hours and it's really looking nice.

Donations to the garden project have been brisk, with our wishlist of tools already fulfilled.  Our teachers have been developing ideas of how the garden might assist them with their lessons in science, geology, literature, etc. 

Irrigation is set to be completed this winter, and fruit trees for our bosque have been donated.  Some planting should begin in the spring!  I will keep you posted.  Here is a sketch that I put together to assist in the garden's construction...

Galvanized planting tubs have been set and filled with soil

The 5'- 6" tall hogwire deer fence is nearly complete

An interior arbor

An arbor marks the entry to the garden.  We've discussed planting it with interesting gourds as we have a
parent who is a skilled gourd artist and the children love to work on gourd projects. 

Should be interesting to see if this is a success!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Winter Rose Pruning 101

We share a motley row of shrub roses with our next door neighbor. The roses are actually on our property, they were planted by our neighbor before we purchased the home. The row has been fortified over the years by this neighbor, possibly as a prickly barrier against my dogs and children.  My neighbor and I share the responsibility for the roses' care. 

There was no design in the selection of these particular roses; I believe they were the variety featured that week at the local hardware store. The shrubs are spaced unevenly, of varying types, sizes and structure and in a rainbow of colors:  deep red, coral pink, silver, white, orange, lavender and yellow.  

In spite of their lack of refinement, I love the blooms, using them in loose bouquets during the spring, summer and into the fall.  Realizing this past season that my pruning techniques were likely not helping matters...I decided that I needed some expert advice.

January is the month most gardeners prune their roses in our zone (Sunset 15/USDA 9). February already starts to see new growth, which we don't want to prune off.  There are many free rose pruning demonstrations throughout our county during January.

So, this weekend I attended my first official winter shrub rose pruning class, held at the Luther Burbank Art & Garden Center in Santa Rosa and hosted by the Redwood Empire Rose Society, a lovely group of knowledgeable and generous men and women who are passionate about roses and willing to brave the chilly morning in unselfish service to others.  Their advice was extremely helpful and I learned, like many gardeners, I have been waaaaay too conservative in my pruning.

Here are my notes from class...

Pruning is intended to remove old, non-productive wood and encourage new canes to establish.  But, don't do what I've done and mistake a cane for a sucker. As roses grow older, their old wood produces inferior canes are what keeps the rose producing great blooms. A sucker, if left alone, will quickly grow much taller than the rest of the plant, and the leaves look different.

First step, remove all dead wood and weak twiggy branches.  If an old cane produced only twiggy growth, remove that cane at the bud union. 

The cut should be made diagonally at a bud union to avoid creating dead wood above, as nutrients will only go up as high as the last bud union (see photo below).  Buds facing toward the outside of the plant are ideal to maintain the plants shape.

A good bud union cut

After pruning a branch, look at the center of the cut branch's wood. You've cut down far enough if the center is clear, with no dead tissue visible. 

Dead tissue visible

A clear cut

All branches crossing through the shrubs interior should be removed. The idea is to leave the center of the plant open, with blooms on the outside of the plant.

A rule of thumb is to prune shrub roses at about knee height.

Finally, remove leaf and debris buildup at the base of the rose and surrounding area.

Methods and timing of pruning particular types of roses (Old Garden Roses, miniatures, climbers, etc.) vary greatly.  I will list some of these specific recommendations in a later post. 

Thank you to the Redwood Empire Rose Society rosarians for your expertise!  And thanks for the hot chocolate!!!