Tuesday, December 30, 2008

The Passionate Bee

In the waning days of the year, I return to fulfill a promise made in one of my earlier posts, http://a-gitate.blogspot.com/2008/09/why-gitate-and-in-city-no-less.html - to the story of how a flower, albeit not your common everyday garden-variety flower, beguiled a bee to the very end.

The blue passion flower, Passiflora caerulea, self-seeds generously in my Brooklyn garden. From July through first frost, seedlings sprout spontaneously. I do not complain, reveling as I do in the beauty, fragrance and profusion of blooms. I must confess that I have on occasion, weeded out numerous superfluous growths, their long taproots do not lend to transplanting ease.

But the bees. The bees - they love the passion flower. Yes, yes - what's not to love? One asks.

One, one bee - our passionate bee - has had his love story immortalized in a triad of memorable photographic images.

Do not be sad, dear reader, for the passionate bee and his lovely flower mate will return next summer. I promise.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Winter in the Garden

It is sere in the winter light: the hop clings to the vine, the feathers and pods of the autumn clematis catch in the wind. And so winter comes to the garden.

The heart can't help but stir and a garden writer succumbs to the wax of flowered poetics.

There is a light in the winter garden that is like none other. The needles of the amsonia glow along the garden path; amber light hits the witch hazel leaf curl.

And below the surface of the garden pond, fish roam in silent slo-mo...

(But those fallen leaves need to be fished out of the pond, they cannot be allowed to decompose into the water, which can cause a build-up of gases harmful to the tiny pond's fish and turtle.) So, every once in a while there is still some work to be done in the winter garden.

But mostly one sits or stands back and catches one's breath.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Nature in Culture - Part 2: The Flowers and The Foliage

Still looking at architecture at The Cloisters, one finds, among many others, another Medieval interpretation of one of nature's most basic forms: the stylized forms of flowers mostly compositae in format: flower petals radiating from a central flat disk. This is the flower we all drew as children when asked to draw a flower. In yet another capital to a column, this one located in The Cloisters' Pontaut Chapter House, we see a column with this unusual capital.

The classical Greek orders don't generally feature flower forms. The primary form of the graceful capital in Corinthian Order derives from the acanthus leaf. (See my post on this subject from Sept. 21, 2008.) The Middle Ages witnessed an influx of garden and nature motifs in paintings, woven tapestries, and artifacts from jewelry to architectural ornamentation.

Water lilies (picture on right,) and lotuses in ponds, coneflowers, tibouchinas (see below,) and sunflowers are only a few examples of the compositaes that are the basis of the five or six petaled images so dominant in our collective consciousness when we think of flowers.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Nature in Culture - Part 1: The Grapes

(above photo, obtained, uncredited from the internet)

Frank Lloyd Wright - not an impartial observer - called Architecture the "Mother Art." But then, we are all aware that artists have always looked to forms in nature for inspiration. And in architecture, one might riff off Wright and say that nature is Mother's milk.

Any skeptic's doubt can be countered with an injunction to look at this capital on one of the double columns surrounding an enclosed garden at The Cloisters, the museum in northern Manhattan which houses a large portion of the Metropolitan Museum's Medieval Art collections. The building that comprises The Cloisters incorporates the Museum's collection of architectural fragments from five distinct medieval French cloisters. Three gardens designed around these medieval colonnades hew closely to horticultural principles and concepts gleaned from literary and art historical treatises from the Middle Ages.

One need not be a literalist. But it is hard to resist posting an illustration via this dramatic darkling shot of Vitis coignetiae, the ornamental grape vine, otherwise known as the Glory Bower vine.

Or the sun-drenched fruits in the lead-in photograph of grapes above.