Monday, March 16, 2009

Carib thoughts.....

With the rain (and occasional snow showers) still coming down , it is hard not to think of the warm water and breezes of my recent travels! The garden clean-up will have to wait for dryer weather. I have all my seeds in hand....just need to get the greenhouse organized for Spring and emptied of all the plants and pots that were hastily put in before our December snows hit. Even my Meyer Lemon tree, housed in a large Italian lemon pot, is looking forlorn. It spends it's Summer outside in our entry courtyard, but Winters here at 1000 feet elevation require that it be brought inside under the North facing skylites of our living room. It obviously perfers being outside, but must wait another month before it will be warm enough to chance it!

This is the time of year when I gravitate to my sketchbooks, preparing for teaching my Spring term 'Landscape Illustration' course at the local Community College. Over the years I have forced myself to switch to sketching with a pen rather than pencil. I combine sketches with my journal writings and have enjoyed the way my sketches help to slow down the pace of a vacation. It takes quite an effort, especially when traveling with others, to sit in one place for 30 minutes and just absorb what you are looking at! The Granadines are a very colorful group of islands, as my last post illustrated ( not only the flowers, but the boats, houses and dress of the people reflect a love for saturated colors washed by the sun), so drawing in black and white can be a challenge. You realize that you are paying more attention to edges and to how the light molds a shape. You must also translate the value of the colors (their lightness and darkness) to the various textural scribblings of your pen.
March in Oregon is a very fickle month! Everyone is anxious for the rains to stop, but still loving snows in the mountains so skiing can continue into the Summer months. Our Mt. Hood has a glacier on it and even boasts a 'Summer Ski Season'. Right now it is still covered with a deep mantle of white. The valley is displaying it's Winter dress of green, with grass, moss and lichen in their glory! During the Summer months when the dry season begins, watering systems will be needed to keep gardens fresh looking. I like these seasonal changes and even though Caribbean weather seems ideal, I think I'd miss the anticipation that change brings.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

In with the new

It's been awhile....After our cold and snowy end to the year we slowly dug out and resumed our normal routine. The garden looked as if a giant had visited and sat down for a long nap! I watched as the snow melted and the deer continued to munch on our back lawn. We put a temporary fence around the new Magnolia 'Edith Bogue' that had replaced our large white pine in the front yard. ( the Eastern White Pine was one of the first trees we planted on our property over 30 years ago, but it had succumbed to a root disease, with needles that became smaller and smaller as each year passed!) Renewal is part of life. When designing a garden you can achieve just as much by editing as by adding, so while I will miss the original soft-needled stature of the larger pine, I am delighting in the open space and new textures of 'Edith'.

With the economy crumbling and the weather severe, I contented myself with ordering vegetable seeds from Oregon based, Territorial Seeds. Cleaning up the garden beds would have to wait, but I have big plans for a larger vegetable garden this year. I am also convinced that, come Spring, clients will be eager to do the same. Edible gardens with decorative touches will be the new niche! Looking back on my garden log of over 30 years, I am amazed at what I attempted to grow and how the garden adapted to our changing family. When our youngest son was married in the garden, roses, flowering herbs, and lawn took over where the corn and beans had I was making room again for the vegies, and the flowers will be forced upwards onto pergolas.

In February we escaped the cold, snowy weather and flew to Southern Florida ( Sarasota and Venice) to visit my sister as well as college friends. Visiting tropical areas is great- you can enjoy the gardens without feeling obliged to remember, or even know the latin names of the plants! I am one designer who doesn't try to grow tropicals in our NW climate! But I certainly appreciate the wonderful colors and intricate compositions of both the tropical foliage and the flowers. The Selby Botanical Gardens in Sarasota is over 9 acres of tropical paradise. The photos that I took will one day form the basis for a botanical drawing.

We continued on our journey East and spent 10 days sailing with college friends who have a 40' boat based in the Caribbean. We've been sailing with them almost every Winter since 1999, but getting there has become harder each year. This year our destination was the island of St. Vincent and the Granadines....not an easy place to get to! Delta got us to San Juan and then LIAT, a Caribbean airline took us to SV. ( we later learned that LIAT stands for 'leaves island anytime, which proved to be true...and another story!) We discovered this year that the short rain squalls and constant winds were more frequent and bigger. Great sailing, but not so great for snorkeling or sleeping. On the last day of our trip we hired a driver to take us into the interior of the big island of St. Vincent. Our destination was a private tropical paradise called the Montreal Estate Gardens, owned by Tim Vaughn. To get there we drove along a rugged coast that reminded me of Oregon.....then up through the lush Mesopotamia Valley to the side of a hillside transformed by one man and a small crew. The photos that I took will provide me with years of sketching inspiration! I especially marvelled at the complexity of the plant and floral structures, not to mention the hidden creatures who suddenly came into focus on a stem or leaf.

So already it is March and I am anxious for the soil to warm and dry up , giving my newly arrived seeds a home in the ground. I am planning my Spring term Landscape Illustration course that starts March 30th, and setting up a few design consults.....I am reading Michael Pollan's The Omnivore's Dilemma, and cleaning out the closets......ahhhhhh Spring!