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Archive for the ‘“English Garden”’ Category

Yard Sale

I’ve been known to diatribe about something, and then turn around and contradict myself due to an urgent “change of heart”.  Awhile back I was holding forth (I think it was on http://northernreflections.wordpress.com/) on how Spring in Wisconsin is supposed to be cold and rainy, how we can’t expect it to be anything other than cold and rainy.  I guess at that point I was just happy to see a Canada goose!

But now I am turning around and contradicting myself.  I’m ready to at least hope Spring will be something other than cold and rainy.  What did I do in those pre-watercolor years without a palette from which to express my desires!  I guess a recalcitrant Spring was compensated by colorful yarns, and wishful thinking was projected by my painterly poems. 

Well now I’ve added paints.  Okay . . . so let’s get on with it:  “Yard Sale” above, and “My Arbor and Beyond” below.

My Arbor and Beyond 

Southern Wisconsin, at least my garden, will have to dry out considerably before we sink my still-in-the-box-from-HOME DEPOT-arbor between two old-fashioned, hardy rose bushes.  But yard sales could begin most any slightly warmer weekend, albeit by changing the title to “garage sales”.

Meanwhile, I paint.  🙂  And, as afore mentioned in another place, for those of us who love the growing things A COLD AND RAINY SPRING IS ALWAYS THE BEST!

Margaret L. Been, ©2013

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After six years of direct painting either on wet or dry paper, I’m finally developing the courage to tackle the essence of traditional watercolor art—transparent layering.  Up until recent weeks, any forays into layering that I did were accidental—and if these attempts yielded anything better than the artist’s dreaded “mud”, then they were the quintessential “happy accidents”.

Perhaps I’m a bit thick headed!  It has taken years of constant immersion in books and DVDs—especially by watercolorists Barbara Nechis and Wisconsin’s own Karlyn Holman just for me to decide to focus on layering.  What a satisfying focus!  The subtle nuances of the initial wash shining through subsequent layers of varying color is a never ending source of surprise and delight.  One never knows what will emerge, and each painting is different from the last.

There are some guiding principles for the process:  thin layers of transparent paint work best, with gradual rather than radical color variations, and each layer must be thoroughly dry before applying another.  Some artists speed up the drying with a hair dryer.  I simply move on to another project, and give each wash more than enough time to dry.  It’s fun to go from painting, to soap making, to knitting, to my piano, to a good book.  After all, the name of my stage in life is LEISURE WITH NO STRESS—and that’s a wonderful thing!

I’ve been thinking a lot about how beautiful a city scene can be, when venerable old (or tasteful new) architecture is accented by gardens and the natural life which abounds therein.  Years ago, my husband and I traveled 2200 miles of back roads in Scotland, Wales, and England—staying at sheep farms along the way.  On the last day of our vacation we took a train from the village of Dorking to London, a journey of about an hour.  As the train catapulted (British trains do exactly that!) through back alleys of London residential neighborhoods, I was totally charmed by the gardens complete with picturesque potting sheds in even the tiniest back yards.  The plethora of vines and plantings pressed against old buildings (some being centuries old!) was a sight I love to recall. 

From that day on, I’ve passionately loved the English garden look—not those formal, ostentatiously groomed plantings on the large English estates but rather the cozy “cottage gardens” which ramble in profusion outside back doors of country and city homes across the UK.  When delineated by stonework, a wall, some fencing, or some other architectural detail, the cottage gardens exude a timeless sense of nostalgia and ambience. 

I have created the cottage garden look outside my own door with perennials, culinary herbs, and “garden art”, and this is the kind of garden I love to paint.  Hence the above rendering, the most multi-layered watercolor I’ve done to this date.  Things are finally clicking inside my skull, and I think I’m “getting it” at last!  🙂

My favorite part of the above painting is the shading of hues above and within the arc which represents some kind of architectural detail.  But I also like the “in your face” flowers which shout at you from the foreground.  These were painted in gouache, that wonderful opaque watercolor which builds texture similar to oils and acrylics but does not destroy one’s precious high quality watercolor brushes!

I like to say I am 1/2 Celt, as my mother’s family surnames were either Scottish or Irish.  But according to my records, many of these ancestors married people with English names—Blake, Wood, Soper, etc.  So it figures that I immediately felt at home when I discovered the English cottage garden, and have been (at least mentally) living in one ever since!

Margaret L. Been, ©2012

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Our outside thermometer registered 105° F this afternoon, in the sun.  Later in the day, near sunset, the reading dropped to 100°.  Perhaps the temperature gage (not showing in the above photo) is a bit off, as it was a “cheapie” sale purchase which I bought mainly because the instrument is encased in a cute crow which presides over that area of garden.  But give or take a little, 100° is HOT!

Yesterday Joe and I did something totally unprecedented for us:  we turned on our air conditioning.  We never had AC before we moved to our present home, and certainly never believed that we needed it.  For 30 years we had deep woods homes with large windows shaded by commodious overhangs, and rooms aired by ceiling fans.  Now we have plenty of lovely trees, but no deep woods on our side of the park.  We do have a ceiling fan in each room here, helpful but suddenly not quite helpful enough.  So we are running the AC.

At first it seemed downright eerie to me, being encased indoors with all of beautiful nature barred by closed windows and doors.  But every time I step outside, I realize that nature has gone a bit berserk.  Given the heat and Joe’s heart condition, cooler air has become a priority for us.

Still, we have early mornings and evenings to live outside.  For 2 mornings, I’ve pulled weeds and watered gardens at 6:00 a. m. when the thermometer registered a reasonable 75°.  At night I lie on the patio lounge for awhile, watching fireflies and basking in the warm night air which is pleasant in the dark.  (Happily, we have no mosquitoes!)

For two days I’ve been reflecting on our pioneer history, trying to imagine what it was like traveling west in a wagon train through places like Kansas and Death Valley, California.  Those intrepid souls contended not only with heat (or cold!) but with brutal winds, dust, potential hunger and thirst, realities of sickness and death on the trail without the comfort of a home, arduous labor, and the ominous possibility of getting scalped! 

I’m as comfort-loving as a cat!  I think I might have preferred to stay “back east” in a shady little town, rather than to venture into the unknown!  Yet who knows?  I love to read about the American West.  If I’d been a young wife in the mid 1800s I just might have gone there with my man!

Meanwhile if weather promises count, we’ll experience relief in the next 24 hours.  A forecast of 85° sounds WONDERFUL.  If and when that happens we’ll turn off the AC, throw open the windows and doors, breathe the outside air, and live beside our garden once more. 

Margaret L. Been, ©2011

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Virginia creeper creeps up 2 trellises, reaching for the sky.  Also called woodbine and Engleman ivy, Virgina creeper is my favorite name for this hardy vine because that is what it’s called in English novels.  Behind the creeper on the left, a grapevine thrives—amazingly because it scarcely gets any sun on that wall.

The rest of the plot is packed with numerous perennials and herbs.  Lavender, sage, chamomile, chives, mint—all back from last year—fill our lives indoors and out.

Around the corner—in my garden pictured below—lemon thyme, rosemary, sweet basil, and additional ubiquitous mint rejoice with another grapevine, mums, hydrangea, daisies and other perennials whose names I’ve forgotten.  Whereas the above garden is private just outside our living room, my below-pictured garden can be enjoyed by anyone who walks on the public sidewalk which borders the plot.  Get those delphiniums!  They are nearly finished, yet still gorgeous.

I wonder if those who live where things grow all year can possibly appreciate the fleeting garden weeks as much as we do here in the north.  The cycle of blooming goes so fast, it’s breathtaking.  Roses were blooming in a parkside garden last week.  Now they are gone.  My daisies are just opening.  After their season in the sun, they’ll fade and give way to black-eyed Susans.  The mums will follow, vibrant yet poignant, signalling that the 2011 glory days are nearing a close. 

Bird song will diminish to an occasional whisper.  That final, blatant burst of color will explode in the sumac, goldenrod, wild asters, maples, and oaks—and then, silence again.  Beautiful Wisconsin.  We store the garden moments in our hearts, against whatever lies ahead.

 

Margaret L. Been ©2011

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Our daughter, Laura, made this whiligig at a workshop near her home in Washington State.  The beauty is a composite of treasures culled from rummage and estate sales in her area.

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Those of us who enjoy junking are NEVER BORED—and we’ll probably never be tempted to go off the deep end financially with our passion for collecting, because the stuff we prefer doesn’t normally cost that much. 

The items we love best are those which many folks disregard, discard, and even look down their noses at.  These people don’t get it.  They’re missing a huge chunk of abundant living to be found in foraging garage sales, scrap yards, and curbsides!

Now that rummage season is in full swing, our joy cups run over on a regular basis.  We come home from a morning of foraging renewed, refreshed, and super charged with creative ideas as to where we will place, or how we will use, our newly acquired treasure.  One thing is certain:  where junkers are concerned, there are no two homes alike.  Our decor is highly individual.  It can be simulated, but never cloned!

In celebration of junk, junk, wonderful junk, here are some outdoor shots of our comfy little condo where Joe and I live contentedly with loads of junk:

↑  The small blue granite pitcher peeking out of the Hosta is mounted on an upside down lamp base from one of those derelict “Made in China” lamps which, after 2 years of use, tend to become electrically unsafe.  The base (hidden in the photo) was too pretty to discard, so I cut off its cord and glued my vintage blue pitcher on its bottom.  Behind the pitcher is a broken, circa 1930 plate.  I never discard broken china or pottery, as it can always find a pleasant home among my garden or house plants.

And observe the old watering can, complete with its “rose” on the spout.  These are pricey now, as most everyone wants an old watering can.  Fortunately, I found mine years ago.  🙂

 ↑   A saxophone playing frog leans against the bird feeder, with our mutant Bleeding Heart providing a background.  Froggie was actually a new purchase, a gift from our daughter Laura. 

Note the Virginia Creeper creeping up the trellis—one of my all time favorite vines, also called Woodbine or Englemann Ivy.  It’s indestructable in our northern climate.  More damaged pottery rests on a handmade-by-Joe bench on the right as you view the photo.

↑  A closer look reveals the frog’s companions:  a bunny and a skull from the Southwest, reminiscent of artist Georgia O’Keeffe.

↑  The hangy thingy next to the hummer feeder was assembled by a local artist who has a business called FUNKY FINDS.

You can see the tops of a couple of old screens.  Screens and shutters with chipped, peeling paint are always welcome—indoors or out.  One can never get enough of those!

↑  Here is our patio, right off the living room so that we savor a year ’round indoor/outdoor atmosphere.  The patio is the setting for many lazy spring, summer, and autumn days spent sipping iced tea, reading, snoozing, and cloud gazing.  The patio faces east, so that we can sun bathe in the morning and rest in the afternoon shade. 

This picture was taken in a downpour.  The card table gets covered with a lovely vintage cloth on sunny days.  It also serves as a place for my art equipment and afternoons of sketching and painting.

The smashing antique croquet set was a rummage sale treasure which cost $5.00.  It has all its mallets, balls, and arches—with an old rag tied to each arch.  We can take the croquet set up the berm to the park, just a few yards away, for killer games.

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In closing, here is one of my most precious photos of our grandsons, Nathaniel and Joelly, with their creation from their finds from a junk yard near our up north home.  Nathaniel is the driver of this unique vehicle.  I’m not sure what Joelly is doing with the stick—I think it’s a car window cleaner.  ↓

Upon all the evidence, I rest my case!  Junk is wonderful! 

Margaret L. Been, ©2011

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Here it is, after 4 months of growing weather.  The garden faces due east and is protected on 3 sides, so it thrived victoriously—spring frosts notwithstanding.  Our hot, humid summer has agreed with this garden, as it gets sun in the morning and shade from 1:00 p.m. on.

The rose bushes which were decimated by slugs have been restored, and they are blooming in there among the other perennials and herbs.  For an account of the rebirth of the roses, and a photo of them in all their new glory, see http://northernreflections.wordpress.com/

Every day I glean messages, inspiration, and a fresh sense of wonder from my gardens.  I have several around our part of our condo, but this patio garden pictured above is my favorite because—as you can see from the photo—it’s an extension of our living room.  The little garden is with us every day, all day, and we love it.

Margaret L. Been, ©2010

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Back in 1993, Joe and I went abroad for our first and probably last time.  We spent 17 days traveling back roads of England, Scotland, and Wales—in a rented car which Joe drove on the “wrong” side of the road.

We stayed at sheep farms and small town inns, and it was wonderful.  Touring the British countryside had long been my desire, and we were not disappointed.  Adventure and beauty greeted us around every bend, and we were not in the least bit tempted to venture into a city . . . .

. . . . except for on the last day.  Scheduled to fly back to the U.S. from Gatwick, which is 30 miles or so out of London, we spent our last night at a farm near Dorking.  We decided to ride the commuter train from that village into London, where we planned to transfer from Victoria Station to Paddington Station and (hopefully) buy a Paddington Bear to take home as a souvenir.

The train ride into London was fascinating, as the track ran through the back yards and alleys of old—I mean OLD!—neighborhoods.  From the windows, we saw one consistent sight in even the tiniest city yards:  carefully tended, interesting plots with funky “art” and a sweet little potting shed in the corner of most every garden.

How the Brits love their gardens!  I was totally captivated by the concept of a LITTLE garden.  At the time we lived on acreage, and I had very unruly gardens scattered hither and thither—plots which I couldn’t begin to manage.  The idea of a tiny garden right outside one’s door got planted then and there in my head, where it has remained dormant until just 2 weeks ago.

Now in our small condo, I’m enjoying a tiny garden plot alongside our patio—with about as much space as the gardens we saw where the train ran along the back yards of London.  Bleeding hearts, chives, tulips, and a couple of hardy rose bushes had already been planted here, and I am dividing and adding.  By the end of May, I hope to have an English garden packed with perennials spilling over each other in quest of the morning sunlight, and then relaxing side by side in the afternoon shade.

On clear days, I toss colorful fabric and a Southwestern Indian rug over patio chairs—and my Teddies go out to bask in the sun.  Sometimes Paddington Bear goes out too, although when this photo was taken he was “still sleeping” so I left him inside.

Incidently, there were no Paddington Bears at Paddington Station.  I got my Paddington Bear at K-Mart, in Waukesha, Wisconsin.  Go figure!  🙂

Margaret L. Been—All Rights Reserved

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