Saturday, August 22, 2015

Summer gardening with nice weather and good soil...

Every year, we travel to Indiana to visit Jeff's family.  About an hour north of Indianapolis in farm country, it's like a breath of fresh air.

The weather is cooler, the soil is blacker, the life is simpler.  I feel the stress of life back home drift away as we whiz by field after field of corn and soybeans.  Each visit includes some exploration into native plants and unfamiliar gardens filled with peonies, lilacs, conifers and other plants that would turn to toast in Central Texas.

My mother-in-law's planters are always stunning.  The feathery grass between my toes provides a sharp contrast between the no-bare-feet-ever policy I adhere to at home to protect myself from biting fire ants.

And then there are the tomatoes.  Oh my.  Seriously delicious.  Real seasons, rich soil, cooler summer nights ... I don't know why, but Eleanor's tomatoes seem better than any others here on earth.  And we ate them, along with fresh sweet corn, morning, noon and night. Yumm-o.

Jeff's family also raises Belgian draft horses - gentle giants that punctuate the landscape.  Four mares are making their home there this summer, but 20 years ago there were 28 in the lots and barns around the farm.  One of the highlights of our summer visit, the Indiana State Fair Draft Horse Show has been run and worked by Ellers for four generations now.

Jeff, his sister, Lisa, and nephew, Ashton.

I'm also a junk food junkie, and I avail myself of every opportunity to eat something fried, greasy, or sugary.  This year, I had a beef sundae for breakfast at the beef producers' tent.  Tender, pull apart roast beef, covered with mashed potatoes, corn and gravy.  Mmmmmm. So good.  My nephew, Ashton, who is on the State Fair Board, took us to breakfast in his golf cart and then we toured the Agriculture and Horticulture building, which he helps oversee and run.  He opted for a hotdog -- the $2 Tuesday special that day.  Two lemonade/iced tea shake-ups and some cheese fries found their way into me before we left for the day.

My favorite in the Ag/Hort Building?  The giant cheese sculpture!  How.  I could really make some queso with that!

Can't forget the midway.

Look at that HAIR!!!!

Our last event of the day -- the dog show.  These wonderful rescue pups performed daring feats of acrobatic skill and delighted the crowd.  And the cute factor was off of the charts!

One morning we woke to a cool, damp 57 degrees, with a whisper of fog settling over the fields. This photo captures the peaceful, picturesque countryside of Indiana farmland.

Back home in Indiana, 2015.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Artful garden blends blooms and mixed media...

In addition to the beautiful blooms and creative designs we enjoyed at the Toronto Garden Bloggers Fling earlier this month, we were also treated to some amazing mixed media art entwined into this landscape on the hilly shore of High Park’s Grenadier Pond. 

Filled with the work of sculptor Wojtek Biczysko, the garden reflected upon itself through various metal sculptures that brought light and movement into the landscape.

This piece evokes the image of a hammock in the trees (to me) -- a place I would love to spend time with a good book and the sounds of nature.

Bordered by a vining metal railing, the  upper balcony appears to be weaving in and out of the treetops overlooking the pond.
Metallic strips dangle loosely from a line strung between two trees, mimicking the movement of limbs and branches blowing in the breeze.
Hidden behind oversized hosta leaves, this Buddha statue seems to give a Zen nod to the peaceful nature of the garden.
More art dangling in the trees -- these metal orbs suggest the opening of seed pods, spilling their precious cargo into the garden below.
Were this my garden, I believe you would find some Christmas ornaments on these perfect little evergreens come December!
I did a little dance with this red-winged blackbird down on the shore of the pond. His flashing, brilliant red wings commanded my attention. In spite of my best efforts, this was as close as he let me get as he flitted around the branches.
Behind this colorful pot, the metal railing looks like vines growing right out of the planter.
I was taken by the rock work in this garden -- the steep slope required a carefully crafted hardscape - intricate yet sturdy.
Gail, of Clay and Limestone, admires the garden from below.

I'm particularly fond of the use of hidden mortar and cement to stabilize retaining walls, leaving the rocks to look like a dry stack, which would never work in this space.
This simple stone fire pit at the base of the garden was the final punctuation point at the end of the rocky stairs.  

Saturday, June 13, 2015

Heavenly hillside gardens on Garden Bloggers Fling in Toronto

Last week marked my participation in the 8th Garden Bloggers Fling.  Held this year in the lovely city of Toronto, I flew to Canada with Fling travel mate, Pam Penick, of Digging.

The weather, at least 10 degrees or more cooler than back home in Austin, welcomed us as we prepared for 3 days of jam-packed garden tours.  On the bus at 8:30 a.m. each day, our itinerary was filled with eye-opening private gardens, public gardens and other interesting Toronto highlights.

On our first day, we toured a series of hillside gardens located around High Park's Grenadier Pond.
Nothing says "welcome to my garden" like an open gate -- inviting almost 80 garden bloggers to meander about, enjoying the cool morning and oohing and ahhing over luscious plants, vivid vignettes and beautiful views.

This cozy little corner window was framed by a lush green vine, delightful square flower pots and some a variety of pretty plants.
There were many amazing plant specimens to take in on our garden tours -- some of which I recognized, but many of which we cannot grow in my Zone 8b garden in Central Texas.  So I thought of the landscape beds as beautiful arrangements filled with eye candy.
While many of the plants shown here -- like these wide-leafed hostas -- won't be part of my plant palette at home, there is a place for good garden design in every landscape.
I particularly like seeing interesting garden decor adding a focal point to an otherwise ordinary space in the garden.

I feel like I didn't do this garden justice with my photography.   I was on the phone for 15-20 minutes, working with the AT&T rep, trying to authorize my husband to buy me a new phone.  I left mine somewhere in the Chicago O'Hare airport.  Thus ,my photography was limited to half-hearted, one-handed snaps.  But I managed without a phone.  In fact, it may have helped me focus more on being in the moment - once I quit trying to get one via Fed Ex!
As we walked down the street, even small spaces in the limited front yards were filled with pretty plants, all tucked into the rocks.
One of the things I observed was the frequent use of burgundy and lime-colored foliage in the landscape.  With the sunny days, they often made for beautiful design contrasts, but tricky photo-taking.
I loved happening upon these darling metal flowers towering over the real ones.

Large, lush plants dotted the hillside down to the pond - which you can see here off in the distance.  I guess that's what happens in gardens with good soil and abundant rainfall.
Little bits of rock retaining walls partnered with sweet little plants to adorn the way down, or the way up, depending on how you look at it!
Almost to the bottom, here's a shot of the broad expanse of the pond, a lovely reward for making the trek down the hill.
Gardeners are all about the details.  Framed by a gnarly piece of wood, this pod viewing spot is a something to see all on its own.

I took a total of 1,415 photos on this trip, so it may take me a while to post about the entire excursion.  There were so many wonderful sights to see, and our Toronto Garden Bloggers Fling hosts, Helen Battersby, Toronto Gardens, Lorraine Flanigan, CityGardening Online, Veronica Sliva, A Gardener's World, and Sarah Battersby,  Toronto Gardens and Fiesta Gardens, did an amazing job of delighting us each and every day.

Next up -- an artist's garden, full of inspirational creations designed to wow as much as the landscaping itself.  Check back for some design insight and beautiful art in my next post.