Last year I took this picture in my front entry garden on April 14th. This is just at the edge of where the driveway meets the garden and as you can see, I hadn’t even finished clearing out the leaves from the miniature rhododendrons. The bulbs are all starting to come up and the azaleas behind the tree stumps are getting green. The Cercis canadensis ‘Covey’ or Eastern weeping redbud tree is not yet in bloom and I haven’t turned the water on at the little globe water feature. I haven’t even gotten around to planting the hayracks on the deck banisters.
This second photo was taken a month later on May 17th and what a difference! The azaleas, which were here when I bought the property in 1989, are in bloom in the entry garden and in the distance in the front garden. The Uvularia grandiflora or Bellwort is spreading itself in front of my globe. A hosta named ‘Diana Remembered’ that I bought from Terre Nova Nursery is sprouting to the right of it on the curve. The miniature yellow green hosta to the bottom left of the image is called, ‘Green Eyes’. I love growing all different kinds and sizes of hostas but I like even better when the slugs don’t spoil the view. These mini’s I find are particularly vulnerable to becoming salad for the slugs but I like the challenge of changing their minds.
I don’t have much seating around my woodland walks other than tree stumps since it is a place for a meandering journey rather than a destination. But I do have one bench that allows me to sit and take a break if my phone rings while I’m gardening.
It also is very much a destination for my grandsons since they use it as a stopping and starting position for their many excursions with the dinosaurs and forest tigers they’ve found roaming the woods.
This first bench I bought in 2000 to commemorate my graduation from Farmingdale State with a degree in Ornamental Horticulture. By the time this photo was taken in January of 2007, the bench was beginning to sink if you sat on it so it truly became merely a garden ornament.
This next bench I bought in September of 2008 to celebrate my birthday. I found it on the web at shop-nc.com:
It surpassed my expectations in the quality of materials and the beauty of the design. I would certainly recommend the product and the company.
I took this photo in April with one of my Rhododendron PJM’s in full bloom. A few years ago I transplanted this rhodi from another part of the garden and positioned it behind the bench to give a sense of enclosure. The view beyond is borrowed scenery since my property line is about 10 feet behind the bench.
Here is a view from behind the bench looking towards my home. If you look closely you can see that I have secured the bench to the adjacent oak tree to prevent it from getting legs and walking out of the garden. Some years ago I found that my wood chipper had disappeared from the garden and it took me quite some time to get over the sense of violation and intrusion.
As a botanical artist, I use my garden as the inspiration for my work. I also use it as a fitness gym to keep me healthy, strong and flexible. The other side benefit that no gardener ever mentions is that the more gardening you do the more ice-cream you can eat without gaining weight. Isn’t that enough reason to take up gardening?
My witch hazel, otherwise known as Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Arnold Promise’, begins blooming in February in my neck of the woods. I’m located in zone 6, on Long Island, NY in the United States which is latitude 40.900N and longitude -73.343W. The elevation is listed as 59 feet but I’m at the top of a series of hills so I’m a bit higher up from the town harbor. This means that I get a little bit more snow than other parts of my town and it lasts longer.
This photo was taken on March 1, 2008 and it shows the view from my kitchen window. Looking slightly left, through the V shaped branches of my Paperbark maple, you can see the witch hazel in bloom. I planted that shrub in August of 1999 and it lights up the garden for close to two months beginning in February.
I positioned it as a focal point to pull my eye out to the woodland walks. I wanted to see the cheerful yellow color from warmth of my kitchen without having to brave the elements on a cold late winter day. It is such a welcome harbinger of spring that it often seduces me to brave the cold to see what else might possibly be in bloom so early in the year.
Ribbons of paper thin confetti dangle from the branches as if in anticipation of celebrating the spring season.
On January 5, 2008 I was featured in an article in Newsday titled “Dream Chasers.” The subject was the choices and sacrifices some people make when deciding to step off the corporate treadmill in order to pursue more emotionally or spiritually rewarding careers without regard to financial restraints.
The author of the article, Arlene Gross, wrote about the choices, decisions and sacrifices of five different individuals. The various paths we chose to explore in our second careers are as different as our paths in our initial and primary wage earning pursuits.
Noel Rubinton, the editor of the Act Two section of Newsday, however, hit on a different issue when he encouraged people to use the New Year as an opportunity to explore yourself even if you couldn’t at this time make the giant leap of a whole new career.
Noel wrote that, “A line that really resonated in our cover story came from Mary Ahern… finding that switch took work. ‘The hard part at first was trying to find inside myself what that dream actually was. You spend so much time marching forward and doing what you do, you lose the essence of yourself’.”
When my husband Dave gave me as a wedding gift, which coincided with my 50th birthday, the opportunity to re-invent myself you would think I would have immediately jumped into my studio. Instead I whined and anguished for a months over what I wanted to do with this great new vista open to me.
I was so overwhelmed with the immense possibilities I now had available to me that I suffered each day trying to make the right decision with this precious gift. I spent so much time trying to fathom what makes me tick, what intellectually interests me, what direction would support my value system, what new career would be feasible and sustainable for the next 30 or so years, what would not impinge on the home life that we had just found together and cherished so much.
I talked about it endlessly. I beat it to death. I’m sure there were times that Dave wished he hadn’t made the offer since I was so annoying in my pursuit of the “what if’s”. Massage therapist? Lawyer? Chiropractor? Quite frankly, I never even considered Artist.
I knew one thing for sure. I was tired of computers and wanted to become a Luddite. And then one Saturday morning, sitting on our deck having coffee surrounded by the gardens I designed and have worked on for decades, Dave suggested that since we loved the gardens so much and they gave such joy to people, why not design gardens for others.
Ten days later I was enrolled as a full-time student in the Ornamental Horticulture Program at Farmingdale. I knew I wanted to be a landscape designer and this was the best beginning. Two years later I graduated with my degree and a new career.