Sunday, May 31, 2015

wild roses

The beaches of the northeast are often rocky and gray. But these marvelous rugosa roses grow wild in abundance. And they are so fragrant! Imagine the scent of roses mingled with the smells of the sea, blowing in the breeze, while waves crash against the rocks.

In my previous post some of you expressed a preference for simple,
low-petal count roses. The bigger
ones weren't blooming on my recent trip to the Brooklyn Botanic Garden,
but these sweet ones were, climbing trellises and welcoming bees.

 I have a couple of those in my garden too. They haven't bloomed yet, but here's a picture from another summer. My peonies are still tight buds. I noticed they were sticky, and discovered the most interesting thing in an old botany text--that it is related to the color of the flower. Inside the plant cells are vacuoles filled with cell sap: water, sugar, and salt. The pigment dissolves in the sap. So I imagine the sap acting as a stain, though I'm not sure that's accurate. But what is accurate is that nature is mind-blowing. I try to pause frequently and allow myself to fill with the wonders of nature--flowers, thunderstorms, bird song. It helps me get through the hard parts.

Monday, May 25, 2015

on roses and peonies

I love all flowers equally. So why, I wondered, am I so obsessed with painting roses?
The answer came to me last winter, when I was snowbound and leafing through the David Austen rose catalogue, fantasizing about the rose borders I would plant come spring (didn't happen).

Charlotte: approximately 100 petals. Lady of Shalott: approximately 60 petals. Thomas Becket: approximately 63 petals. (Love the odd number.) Buttercup: approximately 25 petals. Approximate. Variety. Ah-ha.

 Variety is the key. There seem to be infinite variations in the colors, but also the structure of roses, which, for one as vague and messy as myself, is most appealing.

And yes, I do know that these are peonies, not roses. 
I was at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden last week, 
the roses were just getting started,
but the peonies were in full glory.
(And aren't their centers interesting?) 

They have some of the same characteristics as roses. 
All those petals! And the way they fold and curve. 
I always think of ball gowns when I see them. Princess dresses.

 No wonder brides love them.

It looks like an individual. Distinctive. A bit shy and flirty.

I've gotten used to the big diva-like ones that are so popular
(hundreds of petals, thousands) 
and it was nice to see some that are a little more demure.

My own peonies are still wrapped up in their tight buds. 
I look at them every day, hoping to catch them unfurling.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Providence, so close

Providence, Rhode Island is only an hour from Boston and I recently made a one night jaunt there with my son Matt. Home of Brown University, Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), and Johnson and Wales Cooking School Providence has beautiful old houses, great restaurants and a colorful history.

We stayed in the pleasantly quirky, tastefully minimal Dean Hotel,
which I am only mentioning here because I found it interesting--
there was fresh creativity and thoughtfulness in the design, such as
bunk beds in some of the rooms, nice not only for children, but young adults (or old adults) can share a room dubbed "the classmates" with two sets of bunk beds for $120 a night.

As the mother of three young adults, that kind of thinking impresses me, 
and as someone on the costly Boston---New York axis, the prices delight me.

John White Alexander, The Blue Bowl 1898

We had lunch at the charming Duck and Bunny,
across the street from a restaurant that advertised 
Ethiopean and Eritrean Comfort Food,
and I couldn't stop thinking about the phrase
Eritrean Comfort Food,
wondering who are the souls in need of it.

We spent a lot of time in the RISD Museum,
 a large, rambling place
with an encyclopedic collection. 
It was a little haphazard and a lot of fun.

Mary Elizabeth Furber (11 yrs) and Matha Nelson Furber (3yrs)
painted by self-taught traveling artist Joseph H. Davis, 1830's.

A room of classical art bumped up 
against one of contemporary minimalism,
and then suddenly you were in Egypt!
Or Provence! Or surrounded by 1950's design icons!

Striding Lion, Babylon 604-562 BCE

Foreground: Joan Mitchell Mooring 1971
Background: Grace Hartigan Homage to Matsse 1955

Andy Warhol,  Race Riot Birmingham, 1963

Buddha, Japan circa 1150-1200

It was a pleasant evening for wandering. Galleries were open,
we found a good dinner and a river walk.

Breakfast was at a cafe where little two-seater tables
had charming flower arrangements .

I love it when people care so much about flowers.


Thursday, May 14, 2015

flowers everywhere

You were right. Spring arrived.
Ten days ago I only had a few scilla and andromeda flowers.
Now there are cherry blossoms, viburnum,
and lilacs (not pictured).

(and a day of unexplainable blurry photos)

 lilies of the valley



and rabbits.

 Inside, an elegant orchid from my sons,

and a new season of painting.

I'm savoring the long light-filled days, bird songs and blossoms,
and dreaming of touring English gardens. This book, 

I hope that you are enjoying spring,
or fall, if you are on the other side of the world,
that there is light and beauty in your days.

xo, Jennifer

(Because that's who I really am--Jen was a phase brought about by the desire 
for a shorter email address. I can't live up to the perkiness it implies.)

Thursday, May 7, 2015


 There are forests, rolling hills, small craggy mountains, barns and farmhouses galore,
but for me the centerpiece of our place in the country is the water. 
The waterfall and stream that are part of the watershed

From the top of those hills and mountains snowmelt runs into streams and,
 supplemented by rainfall travels on downhill, 
making its way into the Pepacton Reservoir. 

From there it funnels via aqueduct to New York City,
 in a surprisingly low-tech way. Gravity.

The Catskill/Delaware County Watershed provides 90% of New York City's water.

 This means there are lots of restriction on land use, 
and that the waters and surrounding lands will remain pristine and undeveloped. 

This very morning the water that streamed past as I hunted for wildflowers last weekend
could be pouring, unfiltered from the faucets of my sons who live in New York City.

Monday, May 4, 2015

tiny flowers and brilliant Brits

 The only flowers in my garden are these petite blue scilla. 
Several years ago I planted lots of bulbs, but every year fewer appear. 
I assume squirrels have taken them. Or garden gnomes.
 No daffodils bloomed this year, or even crocus. But lilies of the valley are on their way 
and before you know there will be so many pictures of peonies here
that the internets will break and we'll have to start sending each other letters
and photographs. On paper.

Doesn't Aji look like a giant?

My andromeda shrubs are laden with delicate bells.
After the winter we had I'm especially grateful for these sweet small blossoms.

(The wedding was almost a year ago, and I've finally framed some pictures.)

After reading this piece in the New Yorker, I've been on a Barbara Pym
kick. Her novels of domestic life in post World War II England are witty and delightful, with enough astringency to keep them from being too cozy, but they also fall into the category of comfort reading. I thoroughly enjoyed Jane and Prudence ,  Excellent Women and Some Tame Gazelle.

Also, Wolf Hall on PBS via BBC is brilliant (as are the books it's based on).

Now, visit Small but Charming for more Flowers in the House
and to see our dear friend Jane.