Saturday, July 22, 2017

Today in Gardening: I Can't Contain Myself

Container gardening is a lot of fun because, if you use annuals in your containers, you can change them every year.  (Annuals are the ones that live just one season and go away).  You only need to be sure to choose annuals that are appropriate for the conditions you have to offer them.  I usually choose and plant my containers in May and June, so that by today, which is mid-July, they're filling out.

 For this spot with its morning blast of sunshine, exposure, I chose a purple and silver theme.  Here are angelonia Angelface Blue, lobelia Lucia Ultraviolet, verbena Superbena Purple, and for silver accents, dichondra Silver Falls and helichrysum Icicles.

I'm continuing the silver and purple theme with the windowbox, another container that gets a blast of morning sun.  

I've had incredible good luck with Supertunia Bordeaux.  I love its delicately traced dark veins.  So I tend to use it someplace in my containers every year.

Here I combined it with a bicolor angelonia identified only as  "Joey's Indestructibles."  Also dichondra Silver Falls.  The dichondra is struggling to make its presence known--you can see it trailing down--because the Supertunia Bordeaux is such a vigorous grower.

I'm continuing the purple and silver theme in this hanging pot, but you can't see it very well, as it's photographed against the sky:

That's callibrachoa Superbells Blue in there.  I've had such good luck with callibrachoa, and you'll see this isn't the only place I'm using it this year.

I broke the purple and silver theme to plant this pot, a shameless imitation of a container set called Pollinator's Paradise offered by White Flower Farm.  White Flower Farm's looks like this:

They've combined cleome Senorita Rosalita with Salvia Amistad.  I couldn't find Salvia Amistad at retail in my area, but I could find salvia Black and Blue, so that's what I used.  Mine looks like this:

But I've only seen one pollinator, a hummingbird, on it.  Huh.  Some pollinator's paradise.  That said, I nevertheless have to admire cleome Senorita Rosalita.  If you've ever grown cleome, you know how wildly invasive it is.  Martha Stewart, for example, has called it a horrible plant because of its intractability. It's also sticky along the stem.  Now someone has changed cleome by developing Senorita Rosalita, a sterile cleome that isn't sticky and won't self-seed.  I applaud that.

I've said that I've had good luck with supertunias.  Here's Supertunia Honey growing in a pot that's also planted with thunbergia alata, the black-eyed Susan vine:

I've grown the black-eyed Susan vine in this spot in front of the garage for years.  Because it works.  That location gets a brutal blast of noonday and then withering western sun all afternoon.  Only tough plants will stand up to that blast, which is made worse by reflected heat off the garage, and the black eyed Susan vine has served me well in that spot.  So far, the supertunia Honey is going strong, too.  My sharp-eyed gardening friends will also see the leaves of Heavenly Blue morning glories in this pot.  Those are volunteers. 

In addition to the supertunias, I've also got callibrachoa in more than one place.  Here's Blueberry Scone Chameleon Calibrachoa in the front of the house:

I think it's called blueberry scone for its blue and yellow color combination.  Here's how one vendor displays it:

Pretty, isn't it?

Another plant that I use and re-use every year is torenia.  This one is basically a shade-lover, but it does well in fuller sun, too.  Here are torenia Catalina Gilded Grape, yellow with a purple throat, combined with torenia Summer Wave Large Blue:

There are torenia in this pot below, too, but I think I put them in a spot that gets too much blasting sunlight, because you can hardly see the yellow torenia creeping out the bottom:

Also in this pot along with the torenia are ipomoea blackie and the red fountain grass, pennisetum setaceum rubrum.  My sharp-eyed gardening friends will also see the heart-shaped leaves of Grandpa Ott morning glories, a volunteer.  That's a polite way to describe Grandpa Ott morning glories.  Another is to call Grandpa a dirty old man who spreads his seed far and wide.

There's one more pot to show you.  On my front porch I have a giant green and yellow coleus, Cong. Jr. Green Halo, the trailing green ipomoea Sweet Caroline, and yellow wave petunias. It's a fresh combination:

Look at all those crazy colors in my container annuals this year!  I can't contain myself.

Here are some of my tips for pot success:

  • Fill the lower third of the pot with empty plastic flowerpots to occupy space the roots won't need
  • Fill the rest of the pot with compost mixed with osmocote plant food and a hydrogel like Terrasorb
  • When you water, use a water-soluble plant food in a dispenser on your hose.  If my friends who garden organically can suggest an organic alternative, let me know.
  • And most of all, enjoy.  Garden like no one is looking.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Report from a Rented Recliner: Crazy Things are Happening

I'm confined to a rented recliner these days.

 Nevertheless, crazy things are happening.

The first crazy thing happened on Wednesday, July 12, 2017, as I was emerging from anaesthesia.

"While you were in surgery, we got a call from Cape Cod Art Association," my husband Joe informed me. "You got first in show."

That would be the Cape Cod Art Association's National Open Juried Show, in which 398 entries vied for 80 to 85 places on the wall.  I'd entered Eastham Low Tide.

 I was so surprised:  I associate "best in show" with large pieces about four feet long and two feet wide.  Eastham Low Tide is a mere 13 by 18 inches, and not only that, it's been in two or three other juried shows and has passed unremarked.  This time, I'm elated that the jurors honored its intricate tidal patterns and overlooked larger, flashier pieces.

That's the second time in a few months I won a prize from the Cape Cod Art Association:  in mid May, two months ago, in the Cape Cod Art Association's All Cape Cod open juried show, I won the Brooks Kelly Award, and Best in Mixed Media.  That was for my felted piece, Last Day of Summer, First Encounter Beach:

Fast forward to my hip surgery. I've been discharged from the hospital and sent home to sit in the recliner and do hourly exercises.

Also take naps. I'm taking a nap when a someone leaves a phone message.  When I awake from my nap, I hear the message: It's from Lisa Ellis of Sacred Threads Quilts, another show in which I have a piece of work.  Lisa said that someone wanted to buy my quilt, Heaven on Earth.

A sale?  This almost never happens.  Okay, well it did happen last March, when I sold a piece called Norfolk Fence at the Spectrum Gallery's Walls, Doors and Fences exhibit.  But until then, a sale was and has been a once-in-a-blue moon event.

Now I undergo hip replacement surgery and promptly win a major prize and then sell a piece of work?  Crazy things, I'm saying.

Meanwhile, about that rented recliner:  It turns out to be a comfortable location for needle felting.  I spent the past few days with a tray of felting materials across my lap, creating these two pieces:

 I think there's something poignant about a picnic table under a load of fall leaves.

This one is the Pemetic trail in Acadia National Park.

Both pieces need to be run under my electronic felting machine, otherwise known as a Baby Lock Embellisher.  Once I do that, I'll be able to add some hand embroidery.  Can't operate the machine right now unless I figure out a way of activating the foot pedal without using my right foot. 

Meanwhile, a couple of other projects are under way.  One is a shibori throw.  My daughters created 9 shibori squares with me on the weekend before my surgery, when our oldest daughter Julia was home for a visit and to speak at our church, the Unitarian Society of Hartford.

 Once I get the pieces ironed and evened, I'll assemble them with sashing made from the solid blue fabric on the right below.  The swirly blue fabric on the left below will be the backing.  This creation will only have a top and backing, no batting.  Thus I'm calling it a throw. 

I'm also working on a photo transfer piece that focuses on the geometry of sand ripples:

I was in the process of quilting this one when I went in for surgery, and now, with my right leg temporarily unusable, the finishing of this piece will have to wait.

When I'm not needle felting I'm working on a hat:

And while I'm doing that, I'm listening to Al Franken: Giant of the Senate, by Al Franken.  There's more crazy there.  I'm recommending it.  In it, Al Franken says he makes all the cracks and remarks he was constrained from making while in practice of his position, that of United States Senator from Minnesota.  He's cracking me up.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Separating from Star

"I have a nasty addiction to brake fluid.  But I can stop any time I want."

That was about the gist of the patter during the silent auction at StarArts week the other night.  When I think about it now, newly arrived home, that corny joke sweetens the bittersweetness of departure.

And we all left this morning.

 Joe, who led the morning stretching class, rode the ferry back to Portsmouth in style:

There was joie de vivre on the ferry back to reality. But the truth is, my week on Star started with a thud when a serious bout of sea sickness sent me to the doctor:

Thanks to a dose of Zofran, a dose of sea air, and a dose of scenery, I'd recovered by the middle of the next morning.

Speaking of scenery, this place has scenery the way Manhattan has traffic:

So many images to carry away!

 Like these :

  •  Joe leading the morning stretching on the porch of the big old Oceanic hotel:

  • The dining room.  I have to admit that every time I walked into that cacophonous space, I felt like the new kid on the first day of school, over and over, looking for a friendly place to sit.  The experience underscored the introvert in me.  Nevertheless, I ended up having many satisfying conversations with the folks at my table even if the initial plunge-in intimidated me.  If I go back to Star, maybe I'll see more familiar faces the more I visit.  That seems to be the way it works with a lot of the other attendees.  Friendships build up over the years.
In fact, this place has quite a following.  There's even a cheer which folks perform as the ferry arrives and as it departs, punctuated by the cry, "You will come back! You will come back! You will come back!"

  • My room:

It was a little bit Spartan, in its own Victorian way, but it had a water view, which is more than I can say for my bedroom at home.

  • The Sons of Poseidon. Where else in the world can you find a singing group called the Sons of Poseidon? That's Peter, on the left, who has a very interesting job in Riverside, California. He interviews actors to play patients for the purposes of medical school training.

  • Lady, who is a black lab, and her owner, Jean, who is blind from birth.  Lady celebrated a birthday during our week, and to celebrate, Jean let her off her harness.
 Lady gave me my dog fix, as I'd left my own two standard poodles at home. I don't just like dogs, I love dogs.
 I bonded with Jean over a discussion of Julia Ward Howe, who was married to the first director of the Perkins Institute for the Blind, the school that Jean attended from kindergarten through high school. I told Jean that according to a new biography by Elaine Showalter, Julia Ward Howe's husband, Samuel Gridley Howe, treated her with tyrannical condescension, for example, forcing her to undergo childbirth without anesthesia  mansplaining to her that "women need discipline: 'The pains of child birth are meant by a beneficent creator to be the means of leading them back to lives of temperance, exercise and reason.'" Jean was very interested to hear all that because the great man was revered at her school.  Take a look at that biography. Samuel Gridley Howe was in love with another man, and Julia Ward Howe wrote a novel about hermaphrodite behavior,

  • The poignancy of the cemetery:

  • The quality of my felting students' art:

I'll never forget the zest with which they created it.  My goodness, those ladies loved felting:

Our sessions only took place from 10 a.m. to noon, but so many of the students spent their off-hours in the classroom, felting away:

Others took their work out to the porch in the afternoon:

It's deeply gratifying to me to be able to share one of my favorite arts and foster a passion for it in others!

I might have taken better photos if I'd taken John Snell's photography class, but of course I couldn't because I was teaching my own class.  I did get to see some of John's work, though, and I want you to see how stunning it is:

  • Conversations.  So many of them.  With Kristin, Pat, Jean, Eileen, Kathy, Ruth Ann, Michele and others.

Shine on, Star!

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Silliness on Star Island

So, here on Star Island, where I'm spending the week teaching The Felted Landscape for Star Arts week,, there are lots of other activities going on besides arts.

The other night there was a storytelling hour.  One of the craziest was told by one of a pair of sisters who lived together in an apartment when they were both young and starting out.  One day one of them presented the other with a penis-shaped candle for a gift.  The other, thereupon, finding an abandoned pair of men's underpants in a laundromat, brought it home and made a display of the underpants and the candle on the other sister's bed.  Soon the two developed a running joke of passing the underpants back and forth between them, with stealth in delivery as one of their goals.  The more sneaky the delivery, the better.  The sister who won the prize for the best transfer of the underpants rolled them up into a tight package,  wrapped them in foil, and baked them into a treat she knew her sister loved and craved. a loaf of Irish bread.

Then there was the story of the thumb.  This story was about an elderly mother who, with her children's help, went to live in an assisted living place.  The children asked her which of her things from her home she wanted to take with her to her new home, and they gathered and took those things.
But after the mom got to the new place, she continually thought of items she wished she had taken with her.  Her kids would try to track down these precious items in whatever thrift shop they had ended up in.  Sometimes they were forced to resort to E-Bay, in the hope that the mom wouldn't realize that she was only receiving a look-alike, not the real thing. Mostly that worked, until the mom asked for a certain little decorative box.  The kids went back to the thrift store where it had been taken, and the box wasn't to be found.  So they went and asked the mom why the box was so important to her.

The mom said that one Sunday, when all the family except the mom had gone out, she decided to saw some wood.  In the process of sawing the wood, she sawed off her thumb, and it flew off yonder, never to be seen again...until a few months later, that is, when she found her mummified thumb in the wood pile.  She put it in the little box as a memento.  And that's the box that her children couldn't find.  Don't know if they ever did find it.

So that's why, after the story hour had ended, one of the other Star Arts conferees came up and asked me on the sly if I could give her enough wool roving to make a three-dimensional thumb.  She made the thumb--I haven't seen it yet--and deposited it in a decorative box that was for sale here as part of the silent auction.  Heh heh.  We hope the buyer gets the joke when s/he opens that box.

Then there's Eileen Frigon.  When we first met each other, she said, "I'm Eileen. I lean."  She's a wild and crazy lady, a former elementary school teacher, who likes to talk about having to warn her students not to make jokes about her last name.  She told them, "It's 'free-gone.'  When you get out of school, you're free, and you're gone."  She tells lots of stories like that with lots of friggin' craziness.  I love her.  Here she is taking her felting out to the porch of an afternoon.

Then there's the wake-up chorus.  Every morning between 7 and 7:40, a group of women goes around to all the rooms in the hotel and in the outlying cottages, singing a wake up song.  The first morning I was here, they sang "Coffee, coffee, coffee," in harmony, to the tune of "Holy, holy, holy,"  On another morning they sang, "We gather together to call you to breakfast," to the tune of the Thanksgiving song, "We Gather Together."  Then they announce the air temperature, the forecast, the menu for breakfast, and the word for the day.  Today the word was "joy."

Good word for this place.  You know what we do instead of applause, in the chapel, when someone has played a particularly lovely song on the violin or the hammered dulcimer?  Instead of clapping, we rub our hands together.  They sound like a chorus of gently rustling leaves.  Gentle and joyful.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Shining from Star

Wouldn't it be great if you could take a picture of your soul?
Then when your mother wanted to brag about you
she could show people the picture and say,
"That's my daughter, doesn't she have a beautiful soul,
all sparkly and many-colored and flowing all around her?"

Wouldn't it be great if we walked around
surrounded by our souls,
so that they were the first things people saw
instead of the last things?

This was the message this morning delivered from the chapel service on Star Island.

Yes, was my answer, yes and yes.

There's a lot of spirituality here, and maybe that's why I'm beginning to feel I'm in a spiritual home.  So much spirit! So much art!

Like this impromptu sing-along this afternoon on the porch:

And this little performance-sing along by a New York vocal coach who is one of the other instructors, accompanied by one of my co-conferees who happens to play the violin:

 And the people who are so turned on by my felting class.  They love it.  Here's my class:

 Here's some of the students' work.  They're blowing me away!

People love it so much that some of them are doing it outside our 10 am to noon classroom time.  Like this gal who took her felting out to the porch:

 It's so gratifying for me to share his beloved creative exercise from my heart.

The view from the classroom window isn't bad either:

How would you like to teach in a classroom with that kind of view?

How about the other activities?  Geology walk, botany walk, boat rides, social hour, auction, swimming, porch sitting...the list goes on.

I love it all, but especially I love the morning chapel services in the 200 year-old chapel.

One of the songs we sang this morning asked the question,

How could anyone ever tell you
You were anything less than beautiful
How could anyone ever tell you
You were less than whole?

Here on Star, they never would.