Friday, June 25, 2010

And Now For Something Completely Different...

Today the thermometer in my garden registers 90 degrees. I need some dirt therapy; I have brick edging to lay out, my new flagstone steps off the terrace need a little something extra, and the 'Creepy Charlie' really should find another yard to invade. Do I jump into my projects, or just laze about another day? I decide to make it a productive day in the garden, so I don my sunhat, a long-sleeved shirt, and my toe-protective Keenes.

I had to mow yesterday; the grass was looking pretty shaggy since I had abandoned ship and headed down to Florida with my family for a few days of fun on the beach. Upon my return from Key Biscayne, I find the garden in new bloom...a variety of colors and textures from the scarlet bee balm, the old climbing roses, the soft pink heads of Queen of the Prairie, the lilac trumpets of hosta, and the fringed white of ragged robin. The garden is beautiful, altho begging for some projects to be done!

I got busy and pulled all the bricks from the original edging, then laid them into their new channel. I had used the garden hose a couple weeks back to lay down a new edge 4-6 feet out from the perimeter edging laid out years ago. Bigger beds mean less mowing and that is always a good thing, right? After getting that most gentle curve just right, I cut the new edge into the turf, popped out the sod clods, and hauled them off to the compost pile.

Anything seems like more fun than 'writing my thesis', so working in the garden is a joy. School has a funny way of interfering with my 'other' life, but this summer I am once again becoming closely acquainted with manual labor in the garden. Rather than turn over umpteen million square feet of sod, I had decided to lay down sheets of newspaper, then cover them with soil. I still have six large garbage cans of rich, black loam that I excavated shovelful by shovelful when I dug my pond. So today I have also been scooping that same soil from 1, 2...and now 4 barrels and hauling it back across the yard to cover my newspaper. It seemed easier than turning sod at the time I was planning all this. I now know that earth-moving should be the exclusive work of worms and ants, studly men, and Big! yellow Caterpillars.

My other project is tied to this bed expansion...building steps down the slope off my patio and then tying in the new edging with the stair steps. I have a concrete slab patio, but these new flagstone steps have transformed it into more of a snooty 'terrace'. I have been re-working this garden for 19 years and I just never got around to this project. Was never quite sure how to approach it, but it is amazing how clear things become when I have options...building a thesis or building a few steps. Steps seemed like the way to now they are done...sort of. The last tread needs to extend further out into the yard; the rhythm is off. I went back to the stone store and purchased two 20x22 flagstones to replace the short-treaded ones. They are bastardly heavy, so I must possess all my early morning strength, before the heat of day can zap my energy, to tackle this last phase of step building. Maybe next week this project will finally be finished.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Sacred Vacation of 2010 - Day 3

This is the day the Lord hath made...and it was a most productive one for me. Lots to do and see. I awoke early, early because I wanted to visit Oldfields, the estate of the Lilly pharmaceutical family. The house museum and grounds adjoin the Indianapolis Museum of Art. As I drove along the White River to the site, the morning mist hung low over the landscape. I watched the sun rise through this veil of moist air and it was a dawn to remember.

My major professor had worked on a project restoring the gardens of Oldfields. She encouraged me to visit the grounds if I had the time. The gardens were open from dawn to dusk, so I had decided Thursday night to take in the Indianapolis River Promenade and the ball game, then visit the Lilly Gardens early Friday morning before my monument preservation workshop at 9 am. As it turned out, Oldfields was across the way from Crown Hill Cemetery, so the logistics worked out perfectly.

The gardens were beautiful. Heavy with morning dew, every leaf, every blade, shimmered in quiet beauty. I arrived long before any employees, so I had the place to myself. The textural effect of the plantings magnified the morning light and shadows across the open landscape. Prof, thanks for the heads up about this place. It was magnificent.

I confess that I had not done my homework to uncover who designed these gardens, but the signage helped me out. Percival Gallagher, a landscape architect working with the Olmsted Brothers, designed the border gardens in the early 1920's during the golden era of the country estate. Thanks again to Prof for a solid foundation of landscape architectural history that placed this estate in its proper context. The strong central axis runs from the house to a circular skim of water in a low concrete basin. The statuary beyond is nestled in a lush green surround of conifers at the base of towering evergreens. Again, I have discovered beauty in simple design.

After a glorious walk throughout the grounds, I headed to the workshop at Crown Hill Cemetery. I was early enough so I got to circle the perimeter of the cemetery to get a feel for the neighborhood, then drive through the cemetery to snap some fotos before the morning lecture began. Robert Milne, Superintendent of Crown Hill Cemetery, is a trained horticulturist formerly with Scotts Lawn Care Co. I think he has found his niche. The cemetery is beautiful. He has strong backup from the Crown Hill Heritage Foundation which raises money and awareness of this beautiful historic cultural landscape.

Crown Hill Cemetery, the third largest cemetery in the U.S., was established on the Martin Williams farm and tree nursery in 1863. This landscape makes up a significant portion of Indianapolis' urban forest. The ''107 Trees of Crown Hill" map provides a self-guided tour identifying beautiful, old Indiana native trees. The cemetery was originally designed by Fredrick Chislett, a landscape architect who became the first superintendent. In 1866, land adjacent to the original cemetery was purchased by the U.S. Government for a National Cemetery which is now surrounded by Crown Hill. In 1973, Crown Hill Cemetery was placed on the National Register.

Jason Church, Materials Conservator of NCPTT conducted the workshop which was well worth the drive to Indianapolis. The morning's lecture was informative, as well as entertaining. Over the lunch hour, we boarded the Crown Hill Express and dined from box lunches as we toured the 555 acres of Midwestern rural cemetery. The afternoon found some of us scrubbing...ever so gently....the buildup of lichen from several headstones....of the Lilly family!

With the conclusion of the workshop, I headed out the pearly gates and found my way onto the interstate. This next cemetery was a special treat requiring an extra day of travel to experience the grand-daddy of Midwestern rural cemeteries just down the road in Cincinnati, OH.