Monday, September 29, 2008

Re-Thinking Roses

Take a break from Wall Street and Main Street and wander down this side street.
Let the plantings of the Portland Rose Gardens persuade you that beauty is in more than perfection.

Scroll through the pictures just as I strolled through the garden. Remember what is too often forgotten when we create garden spaces. Remember to not think too hard. Remember enjoyment can be its own reward. Remember that roses are not just formal specimens. They are best part of a beautiful landscape, alive in diversity.

Roses are sun-lovers- yet this most gorgeous garden is beautiful not just because it is sun drenched. It is beautiful for more than thousands of shades displayed on perfect blossoms. It is most remarkable because it is abundant in different scents, texture and surprise.

The rock-star of rosarians- Tom Carruth- heralded this heavenly collection of color and scent one of the most beautiful rose gardens in the world. It was definitely on my "bucket list"- of places to see before I "kick the bucket."

Remembering the garden- I have vowed to let go of the cares of the world. The world can take care of herself. I will focus my attention on my garden and the joy it brings.
I will not worry so much about convention and Latin and professional trends. If something is beautiful and the plants are happy- I am not going to worry about how "proper" the arrangement is.
There are no guarantees of rewards on the road to financial riches. We can work hard and get laid off. We can invest and the stock market might crash. We can save- and the banks can fail.
There are rewards guaranteed from seeing a garden. Of smelling a garden. Of walking through a garden. Of tending a garden. To have connected your being to your soul in in a garden is to know how love and truth are divinely married.

Tucked in one side of the garden is this verdant amphitheater. Can you imagine being at a concert here?

From the Portland Rose Test Garden website.
"Founded in 1917, Portland’s International Rose Test Garden is the oldest official, continuously operated public rose test garden in the United States. The International Rose Test Garden is also one of 24 official testing sites for the internationally respected All-America Rose Selection (AARS)."


The Rose Garden Store is open 7 days a week. Hours are the same for all days of the week.

Winter: 10:00 am PST - 4:00 pm PST
Closed January & February
Spring: 10:00 am PST - 6:00 pm PST Summer: 10:00 am PST - 8:00 pm PST
Fall: 10:00 am PST - 4:00 pm PST

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Sense of Place

Fondly emblazoned on bumper stickers is the motto “Keep Portland Weird”. Created to encourage shopping at local businesses, it shouts civic pride in the wonderful eccentricity residing in Portland, Oregon. The creative spirit thrives abundantly in the gardens GWA* arranged for touring. (My apologies to the trees which were brushed by busses adventuring through shaded residential streets).
That spirit was front and center at the Nerd Night Dinner. If there is one thing Oregonians are not, it is boring (not even the citizens of the town Boring). The Goddess Flora Chorus and Deadheading Society's twisted together lyrics, entertaining a banquet hall packed with unrecovered and unrepentant hortiholics.

Happily, the exuberant lyrics were projected on an oversized screen: we could rejoice in our passion for plants, singing along to melodies familiar to anyone raised with popular culture. The chorus’ rollicking energy brought the audience us to our feet, arms waving broadly as though it was a rock concert anthem.

Here’s the one that kicked off the evening:
Nerd Night Theme Song
(sung to "Meet the Flintstones, " music by Hoyt Curtin)
Lyrics by Linda Beutler (mostly- the choir exerts it right to tweak all lyrics to make them incomprehensively fun)
Nerd Night! Yes, it’s Nerd Night!

With your horticulture family.
Come see all the Hort Heads,
It’s a page right out of botany!
Let go find the venders we can greet.
Think of all the new plants we will meet…

While you’re here at Nerd Night
You will have a really swell time,
A K-X-L time,
You’ll have a gay old time!

Back home, plans are underway to place a brand new NFL Stadium just around the corner, in the City of Industry. This project is slated to be nestled within the currently vacant bosom of 600 rolling acres which bisect the largely residential cities of Diamond Bar and Walnut, California.
As a former Planning Commissioner, it is exciting to see the topography utilized to cut construction costs and later for noise reduction throughout the neighborhood. The current entitlements and original EIR to this property are for more intense usage than the proposed complex. I expect what may be the first LEED* certified football stadium will go forward from drawing to reality, perhaps housing two teams and future Super Bowl Games.
As a garden writer who hasn’t yet seen the landscape plans yet, I am eager to find our sense of place in the surrounding San Gabriel Valley reflected in the plantings. It will be wondrous to find the skeleton of this very corporate-interest driven building project enveloped in a regional gardenscape.
Located thirty miles east of downtown Los Angeles, we’re not as quirky as Portland. We’re also not downtown New York. We are a suburban collaboration of Southern California communities. Should it be that later this decade TV is broadcasting images from our stunning valley from a brand new NFL stadium, my dream is that the colorful gardenscape possible in our sunny rolling hills is enjoyed by visitors and conveyed to the world at large.

GWA Garden Writers Association
Linda Beutler is curator of Friends of the Rogerson Clematis Collection. Lyrics used with permission.
Image of serious photographer David Perry is from GWA Awards Dinner
*“The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Green Building Rating System™ encourages and accelerates global adoption of sustainable green building and development practices through the creation and implementation of universally understood and accepted tools and performance criteria. “
EIR- Environmental Impact Report
Architect's rendering of Ed Roski's proposed NFL stadium. Credit: Mike Amaya/Meis Architects.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Trees Frame the View

It is not so much for its beauty that the forest makes a claim upon men's hearts, as for that subtle something, that quality of air that emanation from old trees, that so wonderfully changes and renews a weary spirit. ~Robert Louis Stevenson

I am home. Clothing unpacked, washed and put away. The UPS truck will shortly be delivering a couple boxes of books, brochures, gardening products and plants. There are people to thank. Efforts to acknowledge. Notes to transcribe.

It will take about a week to debrief. Then the lessons from last week's symposium will have rooted. The ideas brought home were not just from well-crafted seminars.

The lessons were also in the landscape. The climate of Portland is very different from my southern California. In Portland, the clouds naturally provide the effect that we must use shade cloth for: coolness. Still there were many lessons that can be translated.

The first of which is trees frame the view. Of what we see. Of how we feel.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Bee Good

This week is the Garden Writers Association annual meeting. The host city this year is Portland, Oregon.
Its an amazing world we live in.
One morning I am in Southern California, having eggs and toast for breakfast with this bee that landed on my weeping hibiscus. Later, that same date, I am enjoying dinner in Portland with my niece, Anka, and her husband, Chet. They made sure I was not only well fed, but escorted me to two Powell's bookstores- including the home and garden storefront.
Not only is travel convenient. But communications- this none-too savvy computer user was able to figure out how to hook up to the Internet via a wireless connection all on my own.
So this is where I am, engaging with 600 people dedicated to making the world a little more beautiful. Some by creating plants, some by developing tools, and a lot of us observers sharing what we learn from them, either with a camera or words.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Respect and Remember

“The Lady”
Author Unknown

I wonder what she thought,
As she stood there, strong and tall.
She couldn’t turn away,
She was forced to watch it all.

Did she long to offer comfort
As her country bled,
With her arm forever frozen
High above her head?

She could not shield her eyes.
She could not hide her face.
She just stared across the water
Keeping Freedom’s place.

The smell of smoke and terror,
Somehow reduced her size,
So small within the harbor
But still we recognized….

How dignified and beautiful,
On a day so many died.
I wonder what she thought,
And I know she must have cried.
Please remember to fly the flag on 9-11.
Thank you to John Forbing for the verse. Back when Diamond Bar was an infant city, he appointed me the first woman Parks and Recreation Commissioner here.
Thank you to photographer Gene Sasse for the image of the flag flying high in the breeze. God Bless You. And God Bless America

Sunday, September 7, 2008

A Remarkable Woman

Do all the good you can,
By all the means you can,
In all the ways you can,
In all the places you can,
At all the times you can,
To all the people you can,
As long as ever you can. -- John Wesley, "Letters of John Wesley

Meet Gracie Sorbello. Barefoot and on a unicycle, she rode just under 4,000 miles, from Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina, to Long Beach, Washington. In the summer of 2006, she cycled through blistering heat and torrential rain. She pushed past pain and exhaustion, raising awareness for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (LLS). You see, her uncle has a plasma cell cancer: Multiple Myeloma.
Sponsored by Coker Tire Co. (the company that makes the big-wheeled unicycle she rode), Gracie used the trip to raise almost $12,000 for LLS. The money has been used by LLS to help fund research and medical treatments to improve the lives of people battling blood cancers.
Of her journey, Gracie says, “Doing it for a worthwhile cause definitely helped me get through countless miserable times of pain and cantankerousness on my trip - I knew that I had a bigger reason to keep going, and even if I was in pain at times, I was riding in honor of those who experienced far worse pain on a daily basis.”
“The number of people who are affected by cancer, directly or indirectly, continues to grow and makes me so glad that I was able to do something to help the situation and give people hope. I feel blessed to have been able to do that trip.”
“I rode alone for the first couple of weeks through North Carolina, then my mom rode alongside me on a bicycle from Asheville, NC, to Memphis, TN. A good friend of mine rode a bike with me from Memphis to Pueblo, CO, then my dad took over for the last leg of the trip from Pueblo to the Pacific Ocean.”
Now you can learn more about this remarkable woman, her journey and find out how you can help her raise funds for the organization which is helping to find medical miracles by logging on to her website at
Thank you to photographer Ilana Panich-Linsman, whose sharing the photograph of Gracie running through the rain provided the opportunity to share this story. The remainders of the photographs in this entry are from Gracie’s personal file.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

September Start

“We garden in fairly small plots where we seek to create sanctuaries that will shelter us from the pressures of our crazy lives… our personal gardens offer us enclosed spaces, retreats, where we can relax, meditate and feel safe.” – Rinda West
Perhaps it is a ritual related to starting every school year fresh in September. This month’s seasonal rhythm always contains a serious perusal of bookshelves for education and inspiration. A recently released volume which really cued my imagination is by Southern California transplant, Debra Prinzing. Published by Clarkson-Potter, who also publishes Martha Stewart and Barefoot Contessa cookbooks, Debra’s Stylish Sheds and Elegant Hideaways features delectable text exquisitely paired with full- color photographs by William Wright.
Some of the building proportions are pint-sized architectural gems. Others are grander in scale than we normally associate with the word “shed”. As a collection of possibilities, Stylish Sheds and Elegant Hideaways is a celebratory feast of intimate structures attached to personal outdoor spaces.
However, Stylish Sheds is more than a compilation of architecture, decoration and horticulture ideas to mimic. Each shed visited in its pages leaves a satisfying aftertaste of nuanced psychology of place. Each building is a perfect fusion of the cultural flavors and heritage of the owners. The menu of featured samplings is as varied from each other as chili is to chow mien. Before you are finished reading, Stylish Sheds will inspire you to think of how an appetizer-sized space can connect your garden to your home and dreams.
Using the matrix Debra used to explain each “shed”- this is the recipe I developed in re-imagining how my own shed could better reflect both my needs and personality.
Mission: My shed is the playhouse for my inner-child. It serves as a big treasure chest of hobby parts in support of my lifestyle (doesn’t that sound so much better than “storage”).
Must- Haves: Finger-tip storage system so that when I am inspired, I can move on a project without delay. Gardening is my most important avocation- so it will have an ample “plant woman’s pantry”.
Inspiration: The leaded and beveled window found on top of a neighbor’s trash. Think denim and lace for color and style.
Design Challenge: To imbue a friendly personality into what is mostly a utilitarian outbuilding and prevent it from degrading back to a catch-all. The storage needs to be as attractive as it is functional.
Creative Solutions: My husband and our sons got this project off to a good start when they built it by maximizing the footprint potential with a 1 ½ story design. Electricity expands the hours it can be used. Lots of open shelving. Creative use of containers. Used bricks elevate the floor just high enough above grade so it doesn’t flood.
Stylish Sheds inspired me. The once overflowing with no-one-remembers- what, is now a colonial-inspired retreat for our puppies. Vases, stained glass and other hobby supplies are attractively organized. And I have a plant pantry to be proud of! Next month I will share tips to keep one supplied for the same success in your garden as you have in your kitchen.

This is my September 2008 column From Lydia's Garden published in Diamond Bar's The Windmill.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

GloW Art

(Art posted is by Gloria Whitley)
Gloria met the dashing naval officer John Whitley while working as a singer in Hawaii. Over the years, the long-married Whitleys lived like many military families- on the move. Change of orders led Gloria and the children to relocate to Seattle, Hawaii and Virginia.
There were long months
when John was deployed shipboard. During those months, Gloria worked full time at a variety of jobs and kept the "homeship" ship-shape for his return. When John was "at home"- he went to work every day, just like other Americans. Unlike most of us- every 5-7 days he would be assigned shipboard for a 24 hour shift.

When she and John arrived in Virginia, she was ready for a turn back to living a more creative life. In all her endeavors, John has been supportive. " He does the majority of the housework and upkeep as long as I cook him good meals."

In Spotsylvania, she and John purchased a new house on 3 beautiful wooded acres. They added 2 small barns and a kitchen garden. Gloria relates, "One of the barns was my art barn and I loved it! I also blazed a neat trail out into our woods where we graveled a clearing at the base of a huge Tulip Poplar tree, added a crude bench and buried one of my dogs and my father's ashes there. It became my little special memory garden with all its natural ferns, plants, bushes and trees around it. There was even a tiny brook which we built a little bridge over. My mom just loved it and walked out there very often while living with us. We had some plain Quaker folks come to bless that little garden when we buried Dad there."
While sight-seeing
during a visit from sister, Edda Gahm and their mother, Hilma Jerzykowski, the trio discovered a little art gallery in historic Fredricksburg. At this point Gloria had not done much art work since college, but she she rented a wall, hung the old pictures and went to painting seriously.
As her artwork sold, the owner of the gallery encouraged Gloria to experiment with her favorite media- pastels. Gloria bought an inexpensive set, and began re-working watercolors she wasn't happy with. So began her affair with pastels.
Gloria loves the feel that working with pastels has- of painting with fingertips. She has found soft pastels to be one of the best methods to recreate the feeling of clouds. Pastel pencils then allow for the very intricate detailing her creative works require.
Gloria became known for her art teaching skills, instructing both through Spotsylvania Parks and Recreation and privately in her home. She found a special bond with the ADHD students, whom she found to be sensitive to their surroundings and filled with creativity.
After serving twenty-seven years in the US Navy, John went to work in the private sector, leading the couple to move yet again. First to Maryland, where they built two more houses, and now back to the Washington State.
This weekend, September 7th-9 th, Gloria Whitley's pastels will be featured at the Mukilteo Lighthouse Festival. While known on the east coast, this is Gloria's first exhibition on the west coast.
For more information about Gloria Whitley's art: