Worms and Flowers

Fake Plants ARE Artful

Posted in Sightseeing by Lzyjo on September 22, 2009

Yes, I said and I did mean it. This summer MOMA unveiled an inaccessible roof top garden made recycled and synthetic materials. The garden,  designed by New York-based landscape architect Ken Smith, is intended as art to be enjoyed by residents and workers cloistered overhead in nearby skyscrapers.

View from Warwick Hoel, Sixth Avenue and 54th Street (Photo: Peter Mauss/ESTO

The design was inspired by camouflage, not only the pattern, which happened to be photocopied from a skateboarder’s pants, but also from the definition of the word camouflage which suggests imitation, deception, and decoy. In other words things on the MOMA roof garden are not what they seem.

Close-up View of South Roof detail (Photo: Peter Mauss/ESTO)

I must say Smith did an admirable job of working with numerous the guidelines and limitations, including weight limits for the roof and a recommendation not to use living plants.  Using a relatively small budget and black and white gravel pre-purchased by the museum, Smith created an oasis, turning an expanse of green plastic and rubber coated grates into lush greenery, turning recycled crushed glass into tranquil ponds bordered by foam walls. It is all an optical illusion on a grand scale. For a full narrative of the project and a list of material sources check Smith’s entry on the American Society of Landscape Architect’s website. There are also many other green roof projects, with living plants!

Hey, Hey, Henry Horton

Posted in Sightseeing by Lzyjo on June 25, 2009

One of our favorite new places to visit is the Henry Horton State Park, it’s only  a 20 minutes drive, although it is two counties away.


This resort park, including golf course, cabins, campgrounds, and restaurant was founded on the estate of Henry Horton, the 36th Governor of Tennessee from 1927 to 1933, not to be confused with Tim Horton, Canadian hockey player and founder of the Tim Horton’s coffee and doughnut chains. The family of Horton’s wife operated a dam and water-powered mill along the Duck River for 100 years, which now has its own trail.


The most impressive thing about the park is its rock features.


I’m not sure what the geological term is, but there are a lot of these type of crevices in the park. The one above, has very prominent clues that water once carved this space out. There were college students collecting data in one of them.


The rocks themselves are beautiful, making me wonder how they got to look the way they do, but best of all is the beautiful moss in the moist forest.


This is where I make my quilts.


Before the renovation, of course!


Weirdo alien fungus.


This pretty flower was along part of the trail. I would be delighted if anyone could tell me what it is.


This particular trail so goes through one of Tennessee’s unique Cedar Glades. Literature from the state park describes the glades as natural rock gardens. Amazing!


There is a total paradox to seeing a strong weathered tree seemingly growing out of the rock.

Henry Horton is a nice place to visit and a lot less crowded than parks closer to Nashville The Warner Parks and Radnor Lake.

Underground Gardens

Posted in Public Gardens by Lzyjo on May 18, 2009

Underneath a commonplace lot in a Fresno, CA mixed-use neighborhood is  the Forestiere Underground Gardens a subterranean oasis hand-hewn, shortly after the turn of the century, by Sicilian immigrant Baldassare Forestiere in the dry California Central Valley. The ten-acre complex is made up of over one hundred chambers, including patios, grottos, and living areas all connected by passageways.

The complex was built by hand, room by room, without a plan, with the most rudimentary tools, a pick, shovel, wheelbarrow and mule team.

The story is that Forestiere left Sicily to escape his wealthy and iron-willed father. In America Forestiere worked as a digger in the construction of both the New York and Boston subway systems. Forestiere used this practical knowledge of engineering in the design of his underground villa. The lowest levels of his complex are used for drainage, passages of varying width control the air flow.

Forestiere created the underground villa, in part, to escape the brutal semi-arid heat. The subterranean design creates a cool environment in the summer and a warmer environment in the winter, especially when combined with shade-producing vines and plants he used for “facade greening.”

The gardens include mini orchards at ground level and many types of citrus, loquat, jujubu, almonds, figs, and numerous types of grapes. Forestiere grew some of the plants in planters within the rooms through sky lights. Many of the trees are sixty to ninety years old and still producing fruit.

I think there is something to be learned from this achievement, which was almost certainly ahead of its time. Forestiere created an ingenious home tailored to the climate he was living made almost entirely of nothing. He was even concerned with passive energy for heating and cooling. Most of all, he was self-taught, like many of the greatest minds in history.

Looking Forward to Irises

Posted in Flowers, Public Gardens by Lzyjo on April 24, 2009

Irises are one of my favorite spring flowers. Despite their short bloom time, their many colors, shapes and artistic form make from a delight. Perhaps viewing the iris gardens at New York’s Bronx Botanical Gardens, as a child, made me have a deeper appreciation for the iris. I can still remember, with photographic exactness, a bright egg yolk-orange iris with tremendous ruffled edges and behind that a luscious velvety deep dark purple bloom and around those many others of equal beauty.


Here in my Tennessee garden the irises are covered with buds and the first flower popped open this morning.


Iris gardens, often operated by private homeowners, are an amazing spectacle at peak bloom time.


If you happen to live near Rockland County, NY or Bergen County, NJ I recommend you check out Gray’s Iris Garden, one of the best-kept secrets in the area.

Gray’s Garden is located at 140 Upper Saddle River Road, Montvale, NJ 07645 (just across the border with NY State).  Upper Saddle River Rd is right off of Chestnut Ridge Rd, with easy access to many highways. It is in a very nondescript location. One could drive pass the road everyday and not notice it.  The road is a very quiet no outlet and there is plenty of parking on both sides of the street.  On a fine afternoon at peak season, May 27 – June 10,  you will find many visitors quietly wandering and numerous artists set up in the gardens. I true delight. I highly recommend it to any residents or visitors to the Tri-State Area. Even sulky teenagers, like I once was, will appreciate the special beauty this garden holds.

For more information on Iris Gardens check these links:

Nationwide Network of Iris Display Gardens sponsored by the Median Iris Society

Gray’s Iris Garden Directions and Information

Gray’s Garden Photos and Visitor Information

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