Sound of the Season: A Morning in Spring

note: Often the purpose of links is to indicate further information is available on related topics. Most links are independent, but some help support this web site. If you prefer, feel free to donate instead.

The oil painting Bluebells (1899) by Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema shows two women, one sitting on the ground, one standing by a tree, in a refreshing woodland scene loaded with bluebells in flower.
Bluebells (1899)
Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema

In the late 1990s, I had a recording of this piece, D’un matin de printemps, for more than a year before I listened to it one day on accident. Boy was I ever surprised! I had certain expectations about a piece titled From a Morning in Spring written by a French woman, so I had avoided it on purpose until then. The reality was nothing like I thought. What the music presented is a conception of spring I still find difficult to explain. Read more

Do You Appreciate the Wabi-Sabi Effect and Early Flowering Time of Ornamental Quince?

a white quince in a 3 gallon container at the nursery showing blooms before the leaves come outIn temperate climates, one of the earliest shrubs to bloom is the Ornamental Quince. The display will usually peak at the same time as forsythia, and you can make spectacular combinations by putting them side-by-side. Since the red form of quince seems most common, I thought I’d point out that they come in other colors too: orange, pink, and white.

white crocus blooming in a lawnA few of these shrubs with Iris reticulata at the base would make a fine show that in most parts of the country would appear in March. Or consider planting with crocus, creeping phlox, Siberian squill, Puschkinia, or Chionodoxa. Read more

The Gardening Mistakes Often Made By People Who Think They’re Doing It Right

note: The purpose of links is to indicate further information is available on related topics. Feel free to donate if you’d like to support this web site.

a color photograph of a garden journal with a pen beside it

The only thing we have learned from experience is that we learn nothing from experience.

Chinua Achebe

Problem #1: Most of us start doing things without a way of keeping it organized.

Thomas Jefferson kept a garden journal and so should you . . . or a folder or a 3-ring binder or something!

Ever had this experience? Where did I plant the . . . Read more

Why Didn’t Macon, Georgia Learn This Lesson from History?

Monoculture shouldn’t be encouraged the way this one has been.

Listen patiently, quietly, and reverently to the lessons, one by one, which Mother Nature has to teach, shedding light on that which was before a mystery, so that all who will may see and know.

Luther Burbank

If you violate Nature’s laws you are your own prosecuting attorney, judge, jury, and hangman.

Luther Burbank

a color photograph of double white cherry blossoms against a clear blue sky with tiny green leaves and dark branches nearly blackAs spring arrives, communities nationwide are holding blossom festivals that of course have no connection to the pagan cultures we often rebuke and nature worship that predates Christianity. No, they’re about tourism and promoting the local economy. They’re also about bringing people together, creating unity rather than division based on wealth, religious beliefs, and politics that often yield acrimony.

As we crown blossom queens and spoof kings who were added not long ago to remedy the inequality and sexism of a beauty pageant (note to self: watch Drop Dead Gorgeous again), there’s a glaring problem behind some of these festivals that many people in the community aren’t aware of Read more

Free Book on Raising Vegetables

painting Planting the Garden from 1909 by William Coffin
Planting the Garden (1909)
William Coffin

If you plant a vegetable garden, or haven’t before but want to grow some vegetables this year, you should know that there’s an excellent book that’s free. You can find it on the University of Missouri Agricultural Extension Service web site. This volume by Dr. James Knott (1897-1977) was first published in 1956; the download is the fifth edition (2006).

If you like to print things, you should know that this one is 600 pages. If you’d like an opinion besides mine, here’s a review.

Expert Interview with Scientists About Spring

a woodland plot loaded with lavender crocus in bloom

Don’t miss this!

The New York Times talks to scientists in different fields, including marine biology, and asks them how they know when it’s spring. Beyond the usual signals from plants or perhaps the return of your pollen allergy, there are many natural indicators, and it’s fascinating to hear them described.

Also fascinating is a phenomenon called precession of the equinoxes, Read more

In a Persian Garden by Liza Lehmann

Note: the timing of this post is meant to tie in with both Women’s History Month and the Persian New Year known as Nowruz or Norooz.

Often the purpose of links is to indicate further information is available on related topics. Most links are independent, but some help support this web site. If you prefer, feel free to donate instead.

a 17th Century Persian panel of tiles in shades of blue and yellow showing people enjoying themselves outside in a setting of blooming plants and trees
Fritware wall panel now in the Louvre, 1500s-1600s, showing entertainment in a garden
(similar to this one at the Victoria and Albert Museum)

The word “paradise” comes from an old Persian word that means “a walled garden.” The intent of that walled garden, however, was indeed to create an earthly paradise. At the beginning of the Old Testament, Genesis 2 mentions four rivers in the Garden of Eden, so these spaces were traditionally divided into quadrants, known as chahar bagh. In addition, so was the country.

oil painting showing inner courtyard and garden at the Palacio del Generalife and Patio de la Acequia near the Alhambra in Granada, Spain painted in 1848 by Wilhelm MeyerThat design sounds formal, and often these areas were courtyards with pavilions and elaborate tile work. You might wonder: what did Persians plant there? Most had rows of trees such as cypresses, sycamores, or date palms, possibly low boxwood hedges, and perhaps sycamores, beeches, lindens, palms, or other trees such as mimosa or redbud at intersecting points or just planted around for shade. But despite its formal tendencies, Read more

The Shocking History Behind Two Brides of Spring by Edmonia Lewis

note: Often the purpose of links is to indicate further information is available on related topics. Most links are independent, but some help support this web site. If you prefer, feel free to donate instead. Also, this writeup is long and strays from the topic of gardening. Initially all I wanted to do was share a lovely sculpture pertaining to the season and raise awareness of a little-known artist. As you’ll see from the background I uncovered, how could I not tell you about this?

 

“There is nothing so beautiful as the free forest. To catch a fish when you are hungry, cut the boughs of a tree, make a fire to roast it, and eat it in the open air, is the greatest of all luxuries. I would not stay a week pent up in cities if it were not for my passion for Art.”

letter from 1864

a statue of a draped figure of spring carved by 19th Century sculptress Edmonia LewisAt the end of the 1870s, while living in Rome, American sculptor Mary Edmonia Lewis appears to have made two personifications of Spring evoking the Roman goddess Flora. Both figures are veiled and pose identically, but one statue, decked with beautiful garlands, is more elaborate. There is a fine essay by Theresa Leininger-Miller describing that piece. The simpler second one, exhibited in Boston in 1881, is shown here courtesy of Skinner, Inc.

A veiled figure was very challenging to portray convincingly in stone, so one was always undertaken to demonstrate mastery. Part of the inspiration for a veiled figure may have been Read more

Sound of the Season: Claude Debussy’s Enchanting Music for Spring

note: Often the purpose of links is to indicate further information is available on related topics. Most links are independent, but some help support this web site. If you prefer, feel free to donate instead.

painting The River Epte by Claude Monet (1885)
The River Epte (1885)
by Claude Monet

To be interested in the changing seasons is a happier state of mind than to be hopelessly in love with spring.

George Santayana

a portrait of Claude Debussy by Marcel Baschet (1884)
portrait of Claude Debussy by Marcel Baschet (1884)

As a young adult, when the French pianist-composer Claude Debussy was living in Rome as a laureate of the Rome Prize, he was expected to send works back to Paris indicating his artistic progress. One of them was supposed to be a symphony or a piece of similar scope for orchestra. In fact, he hardly completed anything because he was trying to write music “that is supple and concentrated enough to adapt itself to the lyrical movements of the soul and the whims of reverie.” It also helps to acknowledge he was a meticulous craftsman and re-writer who held himself to an exceedingly high standard and an innovator who wasn’t content to write music the way it had been before.

One of the few things he did complete and send was a piano duet called Spring, and he added that the full score for orchestra, piano, and chorus had been lost Read more

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