Did you see the Opening Ceremony of the London Olympics? I really enjoyed the conceptual framework and quirky design aesthetic that Boyle brought to the spectacle. For example, I loved the Marry Poppins umbrellas with the lightbulbs at the tips. And how about the illuminated doves on bikes? I would REALLY love a pair of illuminated dove wings to wear when I ride my bike. BUT my FAVORITE part was the tree at the top of the tor. Here he has millions of pounds to spend and a brilliant imagination and what symbolic element does he choose to anchor the set, draw the eyes of billions, and hold the flags of nations? That’s right, a mound with a tree on top of it! There is a lot of ancient symbolism bound up in the tor/mound/ziggurat and the tree/axis mundi/source of knowledge and I will refrain from lecturing about it here but suffice it to say, I was pleased to see something so humble yet powerful presented as the focus of a multi-million dollar international spectacle.
In May, I enthusiastically planted a number of annual flowers from seed thinking that this beginner’s, from scratch, approach would be the way to go to maximize satisfaction with minimal capital investment. There have been some ups and downs. Well, mostly, the squirrels and chipmunks have enjoyed the all-you-can-eat buffet, but I did finally manage to put together a bright and sunny bouquet this morning. It includes two sunflowers and a few cosmos, including the interesting, older, star-like, dried blooms. I couldn’t bring myself to cut the lone surviving zinnia from the bed and the other survivor, a Mexican sunflower, I will write more about in an upcoming post. In the meantime, enjoy!
Well, I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you that it’s hot out there. I do want to share this little gem with you though. I was at a traffic light and happened to catch these two, plopped down under the shade of a cherry tree, enjoying a frozen treat, presumably from the fro-yo shop with the pink and green banner at the right edge of the photograph. What is most interesting about the situation though is that this is on a major, six lane suburban highway. It’s not the kind of place where you generally want to sit and hang out. But clearly these two did want to sit outside and eat in the shade, so they took what they could get. As a designer I’m always inclined to make spaces where people can enjoy a seat and some shade on a hot day, and it’s nice to see people out there who would put them to good use. And they rode their bikes- makes an environmentalist’s heart go pitter patter.
Check out this fantastic WPA poster found in the American Memory Collection hosted online by the Library of Congress. Like many people, I’ve always been fond of WPA posters because of their collaboration between quality artistry and common sense practicality. We could use a little more of that these days, don’t you think?
Though I’ve perused the offerings on the LoC website before, this poster was brought to my attention because of a book review for American Canopy: Trees, Forests, and the Making of a Nation by Eric Rutkow. The review was good and the book, just like the poster, seems right up the Plants Are Not Optional alley.
Back to the poster: don’t miss the great line at the bottom, “Trees Prevent Wind Erosion, Save Moisture, Protect Crops, Contribute to Human Comfort and Happiness.” That’s right folks, trees make you happy!
My cosmos are blooming! I went out to water the garden this evening after a fist-of-the-season, first-day-of-summer blazing hot day, and found that the cosmos I planted from seed in May have begun blooming. I’m quite excited as I tried them last year but planted too late. I like the delicate texture of the leaves and flowers as well as the bright color palette of the mix I bought.
Here at Plants Are Not Optional Headquarters, we are celebrating the Summer Solstice with a Thai shrimp dish that features Thai basil from the garden and a crisp sauvignon blanc. I hope you are marking this special day in your own way. Cheers!
Another fantastic, informative and humorous, piece in the Washington Post this morning by garden writer Adrian Higgins on the various approaches to training + containing (or not) tomato plants.
I’m not growing any tomatoes this year, though this article has me seriously contemplating a trip to the garden center this afternoon. And if that materializes, I’d put my money on me fitting “The Urban Farmer” profile. I’m pretty tempted to live up to “The Architect” however, mostly because I want to “create the two-dimensional vertical vegetative plane” as I do love a vertical vegetative plane. The one time I was in charge of tending large beds of tomatoes was in 2009 when I was gardening and researching at Dumbarton Oaks, the estate in DC’s Georgetown neighborhood. Things got a little unruly (The Hippie) prompting me to spend a week with stakes, string, and pruners to create more respectable looking beds (The Gardener). Coincidentally, I was interviewed by the very same Adrian Higgins about that vegetable garden and my research on bringing agriculture back to the estate. The Washington Post has archived the article, but if you’d like to read it let me know and I can send you a pdf.
So, what kind of tomato grower are you?
Have you ever read the Urban Jungle column in the Washington Post? I’m a huge fan. It appears weekly on page two of Tuesday’s Health & Science section and covers all manner of urban nature. The column offers easily digested information on plants or animals that are doing something interesting (blooming, migrating, etc) at the specific time. More than once I’ve wondered, “What is that plant that is blooming all over the place?” only to have my question answered the following Tuesday in Urban Jungle. Oh, and the illustrations are beautiful- clearly done by a true naturalist. A big thanks to Patterson Clark and WaPo for giving me a little something to look forward to at breakfast on Tuesdays.
The phrase “Plants Are Not Optional” first came to my attention when a co-worker showed up in the office one Monday morning with the phrase on a bright green button affixed to his messenger bag. It was love at first sight (with the button, not the messenger) and I wanted to know everything about it. Unfortunately, all I could get from him was that he had received the button at the US Botanic Garden that weekend.
I took to the internet and Google lead me to a blog with the following quotation attributed to Douglas Tallamy.
“Plants are not optional on this planet … . Nearly every creature … owes its existence to plants, the only organism capable of capturing the sun’s energy and, through photosynthesis, turning that energy into food for the rest of us.”
Apparently Tallamy has written a book on the subject titled Bringing Nature Home and you can find out more about him and his book here.
I was so taken with the phrase, and the button, that at Christmas time I had a batch made and I gave them out to co-workers, friends, and family. I’m looking at mine as I write this.
Back in May, I was running errands one day and noticed that a set of the oft-wasted interstitial triangles of land, created by clover leaf highway entrances + exits, was full of bright red poppies! This particular installation is at the grade-separated intersection of Routes 50 and 28 in Chantilly, VA and, due to rain, this photograph was taken a few days after the peak bloom.
I will totally confess to getting onto the Route 28 overpass just so I could take this photograph. I will also admit that at that time I realized I could do even better, so I videoed my descent from Route 28 back on to Route 50. Yes, I was that excited. You can watch it here:
I just love the dynamic reveal of the carpet of red as you come around the bend.
I noticed this plant for the first time a few days ago as I walked past a neighbor’s yard. I’m quite taken with the intense contrast between the icy white-blue foliage and the eye-popping yellow flowers. I saw it again by the neighborhood pool, leading me to think it’s common, but I still haven’t identified it – do you know what it is?