Friday, June 26, 2015
With summer in our part of the Northern Hemisphere not quite in full swing, I thought this would be the perfect time to tell you about three of my favorite summer flowers that are also very easy to grow - hydrangea (seen above), lily, and dahlia. Any of these perennials might be available right now at your local nursery or grocery store in gallon pots, ready to plant. This is a great way to add instant color to your yard and have beautiful flowers that grow back each season, producing more blooms in subsequent years.
Hydrangeas come in several colors - white, blue, purple, and pink, and it truly is a flower for all seasons. In early summer they produce big beautiful showy blooms, with soft dreamy petals. Then in the autumn they can be cut and brought inside to display in your home. Once dried, they will last for a very long time.
Lilies come in a range of colors as well; I think that the best lilies are the fragrant kind, such as this Oriental variety:
When there are several of these blooming all at once, a heavenly scent fills the air. What a pleasure it is to sit in the backyard on a warm night and take in this perfume! Plus, you might see a hummingbird or two flitting around looking for some nectar!
Dahlias come in what seems like an endless variety of sizes, shapes, and colors. My favorite type are these cactus, or spider-like ones shown below:
Not all dahlias are perennial, so reading the label is a good idea. Although some of the first dahlia starts that I planted a few years ago were labeled as annuals, some of them have come up every year as if they were perennials. So who knows? It's all fun.
One thing I've learned about gardening in general, is that the seasonal potted flower starts you see available for purchase in stores are there because someone has already done the research, and figured out that those certain plants will grow in your particular zone. So trust your local garden center or even your grocer, if they have plants for sale. Chances are that once you've planted and watered and cared for your perennials, you'll see them again next season.
Tuesday, June 23, 2015
Friday, June 19, 2015
This is the face of The Priestess of Culture. She symbolizes artistic awareness, and offers to you her abundant knowledge of the arts, which she shares in the hope that it will lead you to an understanding of the problems facing all of humankind. Come along with me and explore her past...
One hundred years ago, sculptor Herbert Adams displayed his representational works of art, The Priestess of Culture statues, as part of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, a 635 acre world's fair that took place in San Francisco, California from February to December of 1915. Conceived as a celebration of the completion of the Panama Canal, the specific themes expressed through the art and architecture of the Exposition were those of aspiration, progress, achievement, and victory. The people of San Francisco also viewed it as an opportunity to showcase their city, newly rebuilt after the devastating earthquake and fire of 1906 destroyed over eighty percent of the municipality.
The eight Priestess of Culture statues were placed around the base of the dome within the rotunda of the Palace Of Fine Arts, the only remaining building of the eleven exhibition palaces originally built for the Exposition. The Palace consists of four unconnected structures: the rotunda, shown below with its classic Roman style architecture, two detached peristyles, or open colonnades, one on either side of the rotunda, and an art gallery, situated at the back of the rotunda.
The Palace Of Fine Arts still stands today, thanks to the ongoing support of the citizens of San Francisco. After the close of the Exposition, when the fair site was slated for demolition, they rallied in support of allowing it to remain, not only as a landmark embodying the spirit of the Exposition, but also as a visual symbol of the meaning of the arts in society. Over the course of the past century, the Palace has undergone periodic rebuilding and refurbishing, and it appears that of the original eight Priestesses, only two still remain in existence, with their places under the dome of the rotunda taken by reproductions created for the rebuilding.
Imagine my surprise, when one day, while visiting family and friends in the San Francisco area, I came face to face with these two Priestesses! They were temporarily housed in the art gallery, which at the time also contained the Exploratorium, a family science center. I was standing on the second floor of the Exploratorium, looking out over the crowd onto the lower level when I noticed them. At first I couldn't believe my eyes - they seemed very large, and even from a distance I could see that they were, if not ancient, at least from another era. My curiosity got the better of me and I had to investigate.
There they stood, flanking either side of a massive old ornamented metal door. Facing this scene, I could see that the Priestess on my left appeared almost perfectly preserved, while the Priestess on my right was rather severely time worn. Their size was overwhelming; I think they are over 10 feet tall, with a width of about 4 feet. And their faces! Do you agree that it feels as if you are looking straight into the eyes of a real fellow human being? I'm not sure I've ever seen such a realistic depiction of a human face on a statue at first hand.
Juliet James, author of Sculpture of the Exposition Palaces and Courts (1915), said of Herbert Adams: "There are few sculptors with greater refinement or more cultured reserve than Herbert Adams. He understands the selection of the significant and in many ways seems most fitting to represent The Priestess of Culture."
Indeed, the details of these sculptures are worthy of attention; not just the expressive faces, but also such features as the draping of the garments and the gentle curve of the wings.
Notable also are the graceful manner in which the Priestesses' hands ever so slightly curl around the ends of the cornucopias and the delicate flower-like detail of the cornucopias themselves.
Juliet James continues: "This figure at the base of the dome of the rotunda of the Fine Arts Palace, on the inside, is eight times repeated. Simple, dignified, beautifully balanced, with elegance expressed in every line of her garment with its rich border sparingly used, she holds in either arm an overflowing cornucopia, the symbol of what she is able to give you."
These Priestesses, I've since learned, were among more than 1,500 sculptural works of art on display throughout the Panama-Pacific Exposition. Sculptor A. Sterling Calder, appointed acting chief overseeing the sculptors and responsible for the overall character and harmony of the works, conveyed his thoughts about the role of sculpture within the Exposition in his essay, Illustrations and Descriptive Notes of the Sculpture and Mural Decorations of the Exposition (1915): " - it is not too much to claim that it supplies the humanized ideality for which the Exposition stands - the daring, boasting masterful spirits of enterprise and imagination - the frank enjoyment of physical beauty and effort - the fascination of danger; as well as the gentler, more reverent of our attitudes, to this mysterious problem that is Life."
Since this year marks the 100th anniversary of the Panama-Pacific International Exposition, and because I've become fascinated with these Priestesses, I thought it would be fun to share both the wonder and excitement I felt when I first discovered them, and what I've learned about them since that day.
Here is a video I found about the Exposition, made in the 1960s using film clips from 1915:
Have you ever attended a World's Fair or Exposition, or visited the site of a former one? What impressed you the most?
Sunday, June 14, 2015
Welcome back to another season of From Garden To Table, where I share ideas for cooking with the seasonal foods grown in my small backyard garden. Today, we'll be making Leek And Potato Soup, using the chives from my herb bed.
Chives, also known as Allium Schoenoprasum, are related to the onion family; this hearty perennial herb is very easy to grow. For the first two or three seasons its size will increase, until, before you know it, there is an abundance of beautiful long slender leaves. It also produces very pretty purple flowers that make a colorful bouquet for the table.
Here is what you'll need for this recipe:
2 T. oil
3 to 5 leeks (about 6 cups sliced)
3 russet potatoes
1 - 32 ounce package chicken broth
2 cups water
1/2 cup unsweetened soy or rice milk
pinch of nutmeg
salt and pepper
a small bunch of chives
- Wash and trim the leeks - you only want to use the white and light green parts. Cut in half lengthwise, then cut into 1/4" slices.
- In a large soup pot, heat the oil and cook the leeks until tender, 6-8 minutes.
- Meanwhile, wash, peel and dice the potatoes.
- Add the potatoes, chicken broth, and water to the cooked leeks.
- Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until the potatoes are tender, 15 to 20 minutes.
- Remove from heat and let cool.
- Puree small batches, about 2-3 cups at a time, in a blender, pouring each batch back into the cooking pot as it's blended. (For this I use a large glass measuring cup and a slotted spoon.)
- Stir in the soy or rice milk and add the nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper.
- Garnish with chives and serve warm or chilled.
I hope you and your loved ones enjoy this soup - it's a family favorite around here.
Friday, June 5, 2015
For me, growing flowers in the garden has become one of life's great pleasures. For most of the year, there is a parade of ever changing spots of color, viewable through the large glass doors from my kitchen. In early spring, there are daffodils, muscari, and crocus, followed by tulips, blueberry, and strawberry blossoms in mid spring, and in late spring, iris and lily.
Being a collector of vintage home decor items who also enjoys creating seasonal displays with them, I decided to grow a few varieties of flowers that would complement an Asian design aesthetic. As May came to an end, I was anticipating the blooming of the yellow irises in June, and planning how I would style this beautiful flower in my home for this month's Styling The Seasons. To make it happen, I assembled these items: a single stem of yellow iris, a ceramic vase, a paper banner I had crafted, a framed poster, and a tray with a red bird statue upon it.
For this styled surface, my vision was to choose various items that would create a color scheme of gold and white, with seasonal pops of color. I also wanted to complement the two large metal birds and the black iron 'artist palette' shelf with Fiestaware on it, that are always on display here, bringing all of these items together to create a simple arrangement that celebrates the season in a place where family and friends gather.
One of my favorite flower arranging techniques is Ikebana - a simple yet elegant Japanese style that focuses on the inherent beauty of whichever flowers and plants are used. The iris in our garden grows to about four feet tall, so in order to show off its natural beauty I had to cut quite a long length of it, then trimmed it until it appeared to be growing spontaneously out of the vase.
The white ceramic vase, with a painted scene of a flowering tree, is made in Japan, and while I don't think it is necessarily vintage, it is probably from the 1980s or 1990s. Still, I am fond of its traditional shape and beautiful screen print.
The paper banner was created using a sheet of 12" x 12" scrapbook paper from the Nest collection, designed by Brandi O'Neill for Webster's Pages. It's a map themed paper that has a white background and the continents are brightly colored in a 'crazy quilt' fashion. To employ the gold color I was seeking to incorporate into this vignette, I decorated the edges of each flag with gold embossing powder, then strung them with white tassels on gold and white cording. Banners are a nice way to add a celebratory flair to your decor, and I enjoy making them in different themes, styles, and colors.
The poster is from Flow Magazine's Book For Paper Lovers, which was published last fall. According to Flow, it has 'More than 300 pages of paper goodies', and it truly is a thick book with a wide variety of paper delight! I matted the poster with green card stock, then placed it in a gold frame. It's nice to have a reminder to always look for the good in every day.
Can you tell that I am a bit 'bird crazy'? I have loved birds for as long as I can remember, and enjoy looking for ways to display them. This vintage Japanese ceramic bird is a special favorite of mine - I love its bright orange color and the way the brown paint blends with the orange paint to give it a beautiful natural look. I placed the bird on a vintage decorative paper-lined tray, also made in Japan, along with a doily that was given to me a very long time ago by a neighbor who loved all things Victorian. I placed one stem from a Tuesday Farmer's Market bouquet at the base of the bird, because I like how the natural flowers blend into the ceramic leaves of the statue, giving the appearance of a bird sitting in a real flowering tree.
It was a pleasure to style this seasonal month of June, bringing together nature, collectables, and color as an expression of life, and as a celebration of the good things in it.
If you are interested in styling a surface in your home and then sharing it, and if you would like to know more about Styling The Seasons, visit Katy Orme's blog Apartment Apothecary and Charlotte's blog Lotts and Lots. You can also search their hashtag #stylingtheseasons on Instagram. Either way, you will find a plethora of inspiration and ideas. And if you have any questions I can answer, leave me a comment!
© Under The Plum Blossom Tree | All rights reserved.