In the garden at Chihuly Garden and Glass

In the garden at Chihuly Garden and Glass

I’ve spent the past 10 days taking my sister and her husband to some of my favorite places in Seattle and the Pacific Northwest.  Audrey’s vacation priorities were family and National Parks, but before heading off on a couple of road trips, she wanted to spend the first day after their arrival in Seattle recovering from jet lag.  The highlight of our day out and about Seattle was our visit to Chihuly Garden and Glass, which showcases the work of glass artist, Dale Chihuly.  It is located at the base of the Space Needle at the Seattle Center.  When we arrived, workers were cleaning up from the annual Bumbershoot Festival.  (Bumbershoot is another name for umbrella.)

Bumbershoot Alley at the Seattle Center

Bumbershoot Alley at the Seattle Center

Two of my favorite spaces are the Persian Ceiling Room and the Glass House inside Chihuly Garden and Glass.  My sister liked the gardens outside, where glass sculptures are artfully placed next to a diverse selection of colorful plants.

Sculpture in the Sealife Room

Sculpture in the Sealife Room

Persian Ceiling with reflections on the wall

Persian Ceiling with reflections on the wall

Detail, Persian Ceiling

Detail, Persian Ceiling

Mille Fiori Room

Mille Fiori Room



Macchia Forest Room

Macchia Forest Room

Glass House

Glass House

Garden outside

Garden outside










Tulips in a garden

Tulips in a garden

Watercolor sketch of tulips in a row

Watercolor sketch of tulips in a row

A favorite book of mine is The Wild Braid: A Poet Reflects on a Century in the Garden by Stanley Kunitz and Genine Lentine.  A large part of the book focuses on the poet’s garden in Provincetown on Cape Cod, a garden that he built from scratch and lovingly tended for forty summers.  Needless to say, the garden is full of metaphors, “symbolic of the surprises and ramifications of life itself in all its varied forms.”

One of the tasks in making his garden was choosing the paths through it.  And in this exercise, Kunitz sees its similarity to finding meaning in a poem.  “I avoid straight lines as much as possible,” he says.  “One of my principles is never to try to explain what a poem is about.  That’s a straight line to me.  The path to understanding of the poem is for me always circuitous, it’s a winding path . . . The poem holds its secrets and keeps its tensions by closing out the opportunity to explain.  The fact that it is so secret is what makes it so immediately touching and searching. . . . Art conceals and reveals at the same time.”

Closeup of tulip

Closeup of tulip

With poems and gardens, you can focus on a small part or the big scheme of things.  Both can be enriching experiences:

“Though you learn the meaning of a poem, the sense of a poem, word by word, in the end what you have is a fusion.

In the poem, there is an impulse that moves from line to line, from image to image, but complete revelation is not achieved until the poem arrives at its terminal point, at which time what has been secret before the poem begins to reveal itself, and you really have to mediate on the poem.”

In building his garden, you get the sense that Kunitz was creating a “living poem.”  He says, “I conceived of the garden as a poem in stanzas.  Each terrace contributes to the garden as a whole in the same way each stanza in a poem has a life of its own, and yet is part of a progressive whole as well.

The form provides some degree of repose, letting our mind rest in the comparatively manageable unit of the stanza, or terrace.  Yet there is also a need to move on, to look beyond the stanza, into the poem as a whole.

Often, when you finish reading a poem, the impulse is to revisit the beginning now that you’ve been all the way through it, and then each subsequent trip through the poem is different and colored by having see the whole thing.

Once you have perceived the garden as a whole, the individual tiers of the garden take on a different form because you have seen them both as a part and as a whole.  One of the mysteries of gardening is that the garden reflects the viewer’s own state of being at the time, just as your response to a poem lets you know something about your preoccupations or your susceptibility as you read it.

The garden communicates what it shows to you but you also contribute to the garden some of what you are seeking in terms of your own life, your own state of being.  One reason a garden can speak to you is that it is both its own reality and a manifestation of the interior life of the mind that imagined it in the beginning.”


The Fat of My Experiences

December 30, 2013

Winter in the garden: decaying leaves hanging like a row of furry bats

Winter in the garden: decaying leaves hanging like a row of furry bats

“If the writer would interest readers, he must report so much life, using a certain satisfaction always as a point d’appui.  However mean and limited, it must be a genuine and contented life that he speaks out of.  His readers must have the essence or oil of himself, tried out of the fat of his experience and joy.”
— Henry David Thoreau, from Winter: The Writings of Henry David Thoreau, vol. 8, December 23, 1856

More advice to ponder from the seasoned writer and thinker, Henry David Thoreau.



Ice Armor

January 10, 2013

Frost-rimed grasses in the garden

Frost-rimed grasses in the garden

“Every leaf and twig was this morning covered with a sparkling ice armor; even the grasses in exposed fields were hung with innumerable diamond pendants, which jingled merrily when brushed by the foot of the traveller.  It was literally the wreck of jewels and the crash of gems.”
— Henry David Thoreau, Journals, January 21, 1838

I remember ice storms from my childhood in Minnesota — every tree, branch and twig was coated in a clear shield of ice.  Too bright for unprotected eyes.  Precarious footing.  And yes, merry tinkling when the shards of ice fell down.

These frosty January mornings in Seattle are a less piercing pleasure — no crashing crystals, just a silent icy edging.  Here are some photos of this magical world:

These grasses looked like ribbon with their white edging giving a pleasant contrast

These grasses looked like ribbon with their white edging giving a pleasant contrast

Petal pattern, with frost

Petal pattern, with frost

Edged ferns

Edged ferns

Christmas colors!  Red and green.

Christmas colors! Red and green.

In the winter garden

In the winter garden

Layered maple leaves

Layered maple leaves

Nature's calligraphy

Nature’s calligraphy

The frost gives a new meaning to the idea of a white garden.

The frost gives a new meaning to the idea of a white garden.









Gifts from Garden and Coop

September 6, 2012

Pastel-colored eggs from Anne’s “girls”

Gifts from the garden and chicken coop.  I’ve already shared recipes for blackberry jam and zucchini pancakes, and here are just a few more garden gifts I’m enjoying right now.  This is truly a season of abundance, and I appreciate those who have shared this bounty with me.

Eggs from Anne’s chickens — they’ve been gracing my breakfasts

Eggplants from Katie’s container garden

I used the eggplants in this recipe: Eggplants with Chickpeas in Peanut Masala

Row of windfall apples

Windfall apples from Colleen’s tree

Rustic apple pie from windfall apples

View of the Seattle’s Space Needle from Chihuly Garden and Glass

The garden part of Chihuly Garden and Glass is varied, colorful, and as visually arresting as the glass sculptures inside.  I tried to pay particular attention to the juxtaposition of the plants and art, and I imagine that there will be new points of interest as the flowers, foliage, and trees move through their seasonal changes.

Lily with orange glass forest

Blue spires and fallen logs

Greens in foliage and glass

Detail, garden sculpture

Silvery leaves and glass ball with metallic colors

In the garden at Chihuly Garden and Glass

Glass like a vine

And glass like a slender tree trunk

Chihuly Garden and Glass sculptures among the plants

Detail, blue glass in the garden

The price of admission included a return ticket to the garden in the evening.  We were tempted to skip the evening return visit, but we were so glad we made the effort to go back.  At night, the garden is a magical place.  The sculptures are lit and create an enchanted atmosphere.

Glass House at night. Lighting shows off the 100-ft. suspended sculpture.

New view of the Seattle Space Needle

Hall of chandeliers by the outdoor patio

Chihuly Garden and Glass at night

Monumental outdoor sculpture, Chihuly Garden and Glass

In the garden at night

Glowing glass sun
















Exhibit of my watercolor sketches at the Elisabeth C Miller Library

An exhibit of my watercolor sketches is now on display at the Elisabeth C. Miller Library at the Center for Urban Horticulture in Seattle.  The exhibit, which runs through September 28, is available for viewing during the library’s normal visiting hours.  Please check this link for hours and driving directions.

I spent a delightful couple of hours yesterday morning with a group of six women who drove down from Bow, Washington to see the show.  This is the first time I’ve actually met new friends through my blog, and they are each kindred spirits — some painters, a couple of librarians, some with ties to the Midwest, fellow travelers.   I am touched that they made the effort to see my work and it was a real pleasure to meet them.

Magnificent bouquet from the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market.

I was also very honored to see a stunning bouquet from the Seattle Wholesale Growers Market delivered to the Miller Library to celebrate my show.  The bouquet is so beautiful, and it is such a thoughtful gesture of support from my friends at the Market.  The bouquet was quite a showpiece of local, seasonal blooms — I was tickled to see a stem of blackberries tucked in among the flowers and greens!

Display cases show sample blog posts, some photographs, and tools of my trade — watercolor sets and journals.

The framed watercolors are arranged by season — spring, summer, fall and winter.

I invite you all to stop by the Miller Library to see my show.  And to spend some time visiting this wonderful horticultural resource in the city.  Tomorrow’s blog post will take you along the trails of the Union Bay Natural Area adjacent to the Miller Library.  And Friday’s post will introduce you to the Otis Douglas Hyde Herbarium, also part of the Center for Urban Horticulture.  I’ll close here with some photographs from the demonstration gardens.


This purple trumpet flower is called “the devil’s trumpet,” or datura

Bed of sneezeweed

Sneezeweed, so much variety in one bed



I loved the range of colors here, too.

A hanging curtain of green

Looking through the curtain

Grape leaves like stained glass

Jon B Dove garden cottage, Georgetown Garden Walk

Yesterday was the 2012 Georgetown Garden Walk.  My friend Carol and I strolled around, map in hand, enjoying the garden ramble.  We re-visited old favorites from last year’s Walk, and eyed a few new surprises.  This year the Garden Walk was made extra special by art in the gardens, a co-event called “Cross Pollinate.”

My absolute favorite part of the Georgetown Garden Walk was Jon B. Dove’s garden cottage.  I would love to have a garden retreat like this to write, paint, and work on my blog. Here are some photos:

The Jon B. Dove garden cottage interior

A relaxing spot to read a book

Dove garden cottage, another view

A profusion of clematis, Dove garden

Honeysuckle blossom, Dove garden

Another garden shed being made over into an extra living space

Red poppy

A small backyard space converted into a magical oasis, lined by votive candles


Garden gate, Georgetown Garden Walk

Garden arch, a cool, green spot

Many gardens sported interesting art objects, like this vintage toy airplane

Foliage from Solomon seal

Purple and green grape leaves

We saw borders lined with hubcaps, bowling balls, and this one with bottles

A gardener and her passion flower

Pink hollyhocks

Old-fashioned flowers — hollyhocks

Tea in the garden

Carol resting on a bench in Oxbow Park

Parasol and long braid

This woman with her parasol was perfectly attired for the garden walk.

Plein air painter in a garden

Budding artist, Piper, painting in her garden

Poster for 2012 Georgetown Garden Walk

“It was the morning of the sixth of May,
And May had painted with her soft showers
A garden full of leaves and flowers.
And man’s hand had arranged it with such sweet craft
There never was a garden of such price
But if it were the very Paradise.”
— Geoffrey Chaucer, from The Canterbury Tales

A man’s hand crafted the lovely grounds of the Washington Park Arboretum in Seattle, and it has become one of our city’s paradises.  The city of Seattle hired the Olmstead Brothers (successors to Frederick Olmstead, who designed New York City’s Central Park among other famous commissions) to develop the landscaping plans for the Arboretum.  The Olmsteads were proponents of connecting urban dwellers to wild and natural spaces.

Here are some photos of my Spring visit to the park:

Signpost for Seattle's Washington Park Arboretum

The paths are perfect for strolling, jogging, and walking the dog.

Magnificent trees and wild spaces

Mushroom along the path

Bottle-brush plants in a low spot

A bed of ferns



Bench along the path, Washington Park Arboretum


Green foliage





Jello Mold Farm

Jello molds decorate one of the garden sheds at Jello Mold Farm.

This weekend I returned to Jello Mold Farm in the Skagit Valley to see what a flower farm looks like in winter.  It is very much the dormant season, with the fields at rest.  But that doesn’t mean rest for the farmers!  Dennis was out making compost, and Diane was busy with her work spreading support for sustainable flower growing practices among local and regional growers.

Diane and Jello Mold Farm were recently featured on an episode of PBS’s “Growing a Greener World.”  I urge you watch the broadcast.  It’s a great introduction to the practice of local, seasonal, sustainable flower growing, and you’ll “meet” Diane, whose enthusiasm and passion for her work are infectious.  The episode  showcases some beautiful scenes from Jello Mold Farm during the summer when the gardens are a riot of color.

Winter at Jello Mold Farm has its own kind of beauty.  The palette is more subtle.  I’ll be sharing more photos from my visit in the next few days.  Here are a few to set the stage:

Droplets of melting frost sparkle on some netting over a flower bed-- enchanting!

View of snow-capped Mount Baker from Jello Mold Farm

Bed of sunflower stalks

Robin in corkscrew willow. I like how the branches frame the bird's silhouette.

Greenhouse, garden stakes, and chair

Roll of netting seen through the greenhouse plastic

Straw-covered flower beds

Bucket of string, ready for the new season

Garden stake

Plant starts through a greenhouse window