Thursday, December 31, 2009

Twelve Months of Nature in the Gardens

Come take a pictorial stroll with me through the last 12 months of nature gardening in 2009.  Lots of flower shots would be easy, but these images convey where and how I garden so much better.

The first visitors of the gardens in the new year.

Needing something to do in February, so why not start early!

Simple beauty of the late winter

This is why I don't plant until late May

My favorite yearly transplants return - May 10th this year

Finally getting nice and green, at the end of June

Ok, so I threw in some flowers, since they were so pretty

More feathery friends

The garden snakes leave presents like this each year in September

These Agastaches didn't get to bloom long this year before the snows came

Hard to believe there was only 1 week of fall

November pots will stay this way till spring

Winter has left its quiet blanket of cover

As we end this year, and this decade, please take time to be thankful for the things that you have:  your families, friends and food; your home, health, and happiness; your minds, money and mysteries of nature; your plants, planet and pursuit of a better life; and your sun, souls and spirits.  Wishing you all the best in the New Year and new decade.  Kathy

Monday, December 28, 2009

A Bit of Tropics in the Tundra

While celebrating Thanksgiving this year in the Twin Cities, Minnesota, I had the chance to visit the Como Park Conservatory in St. Paul. I have been there many times, perhaps more than 100, over my lifetime, since I grew up just a few blocks from this beautiful place. I wanted to see the annual Holiday Flower Show, but it was not quite ready yet. Since I was there at Thanksgiving, the Autumn show was in its last week, so instead I saw many chrysanthemums, along with swiss chard, which I thought was an extremely odd accent. I guess “everyone” is into vegetable gardens this year.

Each year since 1925 the main room, called “The Sunken Garden”, of the conservatory is filled with poinsettias, azaleas, and other festive plants during the Holiday season . Thousands of people come to visit, and to step into a tropical oasis while the snow flies outside. The statue at the end of the gazing pond is always surrounded by koi, and this time was no exception.

Como Park includes the Como Zoo, the Como Park Conservatory (renamed Marjorie McNeely Conservatory), and the surrounding 300 acres of parkland. The Conservatory originally opened in 1915, and has had several facelifts during its lifetime. It houses thousands of plants, many of them decades, if not centuries old. It is on the National Register of Historic Places, and is open 365 days of the year.

The Como Park Conservatory holds 7 indoor and 3 outdoor gardens, including the Palm Dome, which is 64 feet tall and holds more than 150 species of tropical palms and cycads. Orchids and Bromeliads fill in the nooks and crannies.

The North Garden is my favorite, which holds plants from all over the world, a pond and the gateway to the outdoor Japanese Garden. The plants in the North Garden are mainly those that supply food, spices and medicines for us!

The newest garden in the Conservatory was finished just a few years ago, and is called the "Tropical Encounters".  It houses both plants and animals, and has lots of child friendly learning centers.  The sloth in the pictures below hangs out for everyone to see.

I have been so fortunate to grow up with this beautiful, amazing, and best of all free collection of plants practically right outside my back door. In fact, I lived so close to the zoo that some times the peacocks would fly out of their fenced area, and visit the neighborhood at night. Talk about frightening sounds, the peacock’s “screech” will wake anyone up! Living so close to the park for so many years helped me to develop the love of nature I have today.

If you are ever in St. Paul, MN take the time to visit the Como Park Conservatory and the Zoo. You won’t be disappointed!

Como Park and Conservatory Information:
1225 Estabrook Drive
Saint Paul, MN 55103
24-hour Information: 651-487-8200
Opening times - All year. Daily. Open 10am to 6pm, April thru September,  10am to 4pm October to March.
Admission - Free
Website - Como Park Zoo and Conservatory

Monday, December 21, 2009

Happy Winter Solstice 2009

Today marks the end of fall and the beginning of winter, celebrated the world over as "Winter Solstice".  We leave autumn behind us, remembering the crisp air, clear blue skies, and crunchy leaves.  We slip into the darkness of short winter days, but only for a moment.  As the Winter Solstice passes, the sun starts to slowly warm us again, pulling our hearts and our minds towards spring and the promise of new leaves unfurling, new flower buds opening, and grand gardens awakening.  It is only a matter of time until then, so enjoy the quietness of winter and all of her splendor.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

I Garden because I am

Mary Ann Newcomer, of "Gardens of the Wild Wild West", is putting on a contest to find out why people garden, and more to the point, why do we keep on gardening. For me, the answer to that question is simple. I garden because I am. That probably sounds strange, so I will elaborate:

I garden because I am "a naturalist".
I am a lover of all things in nature, including the good, the bad, and the ugly. Mother Nature is my idol.

I garden because I am "a scientist".
I love to experiment, in the garden, in my businesses, in the world we live in. If you don't fail, you will never succeed.

I garden because I am "an artist".
I love colors, textures, shadows, materials, combinations. Gardening provides me with the ultimate palette for creativity.

I garden because I am "an environmentalist".
I vow to protect the waters, air, land and earth to the best of my abilities.

I garden because I am "a teacher".
I love to teach others about the wonders of gardening and nature, about photography, about soils, bugs and creepy crawlies.

I garden because I am “a botanist”.
I love to explore the world of plants.

I garden because I am “a photographer”.
Gardens and nature are always changing, and allow me countless vignettes to choose from.

I garden because I am "a designer".
I love the challenge of creating something beautiful and useful. Designing comes naturally to me, in many different forms, from Software to Web to Gardens to Life.

I garden because I am "an engineer".
I love to research, to build things, and to solve problems.

I garden because I am “a life long learner”.
Even after gardening for more than 40 years, I still have much to learn.

I garden because I am "blessed".
I live in an absolutely beautiful place, with mountains, clean air, lots of wildlife, and wonderful possibilities for plants. And, I have a family who puts up with all of my gardening obsessions.

I garden because I am "alive".
What more can I say?
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