Major Lawrence Johnston and his Plant Expeditions

Hidcote, red border
Hidcote, red border, Photo courtesy of The Galloping Gardener
Hidcote Ethne Clarke paints a fascinating picture of an American expatriate who designs one of the foremost gardens in Great Britain pre and post WWI in her book, "Hidcote, The Making of a Garden," published by W.W. Norton & Co., 2009.  Major Lawrence Johnston's garden, Hidcote is a garden treasure in England, the first garden to be taken on by the National Trust in 1948.  One of the ways Johnston collected plants was by subscribing to a plant exploration or by going on an expedition.  Ms. Clarke explains that Johnston's prowess in propagation, cultivation, and the recognition of his masterful skills at Hidcote affirmed his application to the Royal Horticultural Society.  As a Society member (voted in in 1922) he could subscribe (help underwrite)  or travel with the Society in search of new plants.  That he did.  The author of the revised edition of "Hidcote, The Making of a Garden," writes, "His plant-hunting began gently, with a trip in 1922 to the Swiss Alps in the company of the great alpine plantsman E.A. Bowles."  Johnston's expeditions took him to South Africa for four months.  Back again to Mt. Kilimanjaro a year later where, Ms. Clarke writes, "…he found a fine hypericum (today Hypericum 'Hidcote' is a favorite yellow-flowered shrub in mixed borders.) Serre de la Madone Major Johnston created a second garden in the South of France, Serre de la Madone, close to Edith Wharton's French garden, Chateau Sainte-Claire in the hills about Hyere.  Johnston's wordily expedition "in the gardens of the northern hemisphere; thus the mountain ranges of Africa, China, India and Persia were (their) prime hunting grounds, since the conditions of these temperate regions most closely simulated those in European gardens," explains the author, Ethne Clarke.  Indeed Major Johnston had the enviable sites of a Northern and Southern European garden to cultivate his new found plants. For more Hidcote pictures go to:

Currier and Ives and a Happy New Year

Courtesy of Springfield Museums, Springfield, MA
Courtesy of Springfield Museums, Springfield, MA


  Date: Undated
Artists: Currier & Ives
Medium: Hand-colored lithograph
Measurements: 14 x 10 inches
Access Number: 2004-D03-106
Gift of Lenore B. and Sidney A. Alpert supplemented with Springfield  Museum Acquistions Funds


Michele & Donald D'Amour Museum of Fine Arts

In November 2013, the Springfield Museums unveiled a new exhibit of Currier & Ives prints from the collection of the Michele and Donald D’Amour Museum of Fine Arts. The display, titled The Connoisseurship of Currier & Ives, is on view through June 15, 2014. The Museum is home to one of the largest permanent collections of Currier & Ives prints.
Nathaniel Currier and James Merritt Ives branded their company as the creators of “cheap and popular prints” marketed towards middle class Americans. When the firm closed in 1907 as a result of advancing technology, the advent of photography and changes in popular taste, much of their material was considered out of date. However, after World War I many Americans yearned for simpler times and sought comfort in nostalgic images. The availability and cost of original prints led to a surge in merchandise created with Currier and Ives imagery as well as reproductions of the original images.
  This exhibition traces the connoisseurship of Currier and Ives over the last century. The images which inspired 20th century artists and collectors to create Currier & Ives themed works will be juxtaposed against original 19th century influences for the firm’s designs. A special section of the show is dedicated to authenticity and explores the differences between original and reproduced Currier & Ives lithographs. This information was provided from the site of Springfield Museums.

Four Things to know about Edith Wharton and her book, “Italian Villas and Their Gardens”

  1. Villa Lante, Itlay
    Villa Lante, Italy, Photo courtesy of Roberto Piperno
  2. Read Introduction by John Dixon Hunt of " Italian Villas and Their Gardens," a book written by Edith Wharton originally published in 1904 by the Century Company, in 2008 by Rizzoli and The Mount Press.  Why did Henry James describe Edith Wharton's villa and garden visits as "excursionism?"
  3.  What is difference between garden writer and travel writer? Which was Edith?
  4. Charles Platt wrote a book about Italian gardens about the same time that Wharton did.  How did their writings differ?
  5. Did Edith approve of  Maxfield Parrish's pictures he painted to portray the gardens she wrote about? Do she have literary control?
Beautiful book to read and that is just the start of it!    

Burghers of Calais and Blush Rose

Blush Rose, Credit CarlisleFlowers The Blush rose is white tinged with red.  When cutting these stems under conditioned water I noticed how straight the stems were.  Not only straight but like a rod with some reinforcement.  First I arranged the roses in a cube, its square holding eight roses in upright fashion.  I studied the arrangement over night and decided the next morning to lop them off as to create a square of Blush roses on top of the cube.  The stems had turned, going in the direction they cared to go. The floor and sides inside the cube were lined with Calathea flowers, big, fleshy, and full of light, dark and a tinge of red. Four Blush roses were planted heads up in glass pyramidal vases. Now the Burghers of Calais struck me.  How the roses slightly turned yet their mass still there.  I had no control over this turning.  Could Auguste Rodin, the sculpture of the Burghers of Calais, commissioned by the town of Calais, France, mold his men cloaked in their robes of importance and have complete control of the movement of the rod and metal of his material?  His men were sculpted in unity and mass, slightly turning a head, a shoulder, to define their acceptance, pride, abjection, defeat.  Yet their lives were spared because the king's wife would not want her expectant child to have the blood of the rose spilt on her cradle's sheets.

“The Garden Diary of Martha Turnbull, Mistress of Rosedown Plantation,” Edited and Annotated by Suzanne Turner

Rosedown Plantation, Image Courtesy of Louisiana State Parks/DCRT
Rosedown Plantation, Image Courtesy of Louisiana State Parks/DCRT
Magnolia is the quarterly publication of the Southern Garden History Society.  You can access it online at  Peter Hatch’s review of the book “The Garden Diary of Martha Turnbull, Mistress of Rosedown Plantation” edited and annotated by Suzanne Turner appears under the Resources section, Book Reviews. “Rosedown today,” explains Peter Hatch, Director of Gardens and Grounds at Monticello, “represents the iconic Louisiana Plantation with its Greek Revival Architecture, live oak avenue and parterre gardens.”  The plantation of 3,455 acres with hundreds of slaves was acquired in 1834 by Martha and Daniel Turnball.  Mr. Hatch notes that Martha as a Philadelphian would be well versed in horticulture.  She put that knowledge to good use in growing vegetables and fruit at Rosedown. Suzanne Turner’s book is a compilation of  Martha Turnball’s garden diaries both before the Civil War and after she returned to her ravaged home. Martha was indefatigable.  Near penniless and widowed after the war she eked out a living with a “truck patch”.  Her diaries as noted by Mr. Hatch depict a woman without yesteryear’s means taking “three trips to St. Francisville (to sell her produce which) yielded a paltry $4.40.”  Author Suzanne Turner shows the love Martha had for her garden. "One marvels at both Turnbull's unrelenting persistence and the life-confirming comfort she found in the gardening process," Ms. Turner writes. Martha's garden knowledge was vast.  Garden diaries' entries include how to scrape moss from a tree, how to graft the Southern camellias and how to plant onions with roses. Mr. Hatch says, “Hats off to Suzanne Turner for unveiling a neglected part of our garden history “  .... a garden created by a Southern American 19th Century woman.

Campbell Soup Flower Arrangement for Thanksgiving

Campbell Soup Flower Arrangement by
Campbell Soup Flower Arrangement by
Rarely when discussed the line-up for Thanksgiving dinner is there mention of soup. Pumpkin pies, sweet potato casseroles, onion dip and roasted turkey might translate into creative ingredients for post-game festivities but the in-between football games dinner certainly would never include a bowl of tomato soup.  So when I arrived at the relatives for our turkey dinner with this Campbell soup can full of flowers, a woman stopped in her tracks.  "A bowl of soup," she said.  "No, it's Andy Wharhol!" The ingredients for our tomato soup include:  mums, roses, sunflowers, carns, eucalyptus, and sunset safari.  The caloric intake, sodium content and how many servings this can contains will have to be referred to Safeway, Towson, MD. Now, back to the game. "Oh, can I interrupt for one more second? Serve these ingredients cool."    

“The Art of Being Nobody,” by Eric Manners, KEYS TO HAPPINESS, A Reader’s Digest Guide to Successful Living

Keys to Happiness, A Reader's Digest Guide to Successful Living copyrighted by the Reader's Digest Association in 1955 was once the property of the Hotel Rockaway.   Thanksgiving is four days away, the oak leaves on the hydrangea bush and trees hang tight in the wind of early morning light.  The provocative title by Eric Manners, "The Art of Being Nobody," was a phrase I had never heard.  Here's a paragraph from the essay:
Photo Courtesy: Hampton Mansion, National Park Service
Photo Courtesy: Hampton Mansion, National Park Service
"You're you.  If it's truly a part of the youness of you, sleep in a tree.  (Charles Waterton, the grand old English naturalist and grander individualist, used to do that every now and then.  He said it gave him the right tuning for feeling like a piece of God's creation, along with the chimpanzee and the owl.)