Sunday, May 20, 2018

Front Garden Poppies

Orange is not my favorite color, but I am happy to have orange poppies in my little front garden. They shoot up confidently, while the summer plants are still deciding whether they even like their surroundings. The poppy buds crack open like tardy Easter eggs, a hint of orange showing for a few hours. Then suddenly the crepe paper blossoms are waving in the breeze. When the afternoon sun slides down towards the horizon, the poppies put on a glorious show, posing like divas. This is when I enjoy them the most, in all their flamboyant orangeness. 

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Art Nouveau Buckle

Richmond’s Virginia Museum of Fine Arts boasts a world-class collection of Art Nouveau. Along with the Tiffany lamps and Mackintosh chairs, there is a selection of belt buckles from the collection assembled by Gisela and Karl Kreuzer. Why belt buckles? Belle Epoque women loved to highlight their tiny corseted waists. An elegant buckle was an accessory as necessary as a hat. This fine silver buckle, designed by Archibold Knox and sold at Liberty's in London, explains Art Nouveau in a few square inches: an asymmetrical arrangement of flowers and leaves with a tangle of whiplashing stems. It's a masterwork that deserves its place in a museum.

Sunday, May 6, 2018

Spring Phlox

In the alleys and in overgrown corners of back yards, crowds of phlox find themselves free to rise up and open their flowers. Unlike their many-colored garden cousins, these wildflowers all choose to dress themselves in the same shade of magenta as the blossoming redbuds. The phlox are lovers of dappled light, gathering under trees that have not quite leafed out. I would like to see wild phlox blooming under some blooming redbuds, a sight that would distress those who think that magenta is a somewhat vulgar color. But the redbuds always seem to finish flowering at least a week ahead of the phlox. Enjoying the phlox lit by a shaft of afternoon sunlight is pleasure enough for any spring day.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Spring In the Ripley Garden

This cast iron pedestal urn is a fine complement to the Ripley Garden's three-tiered fountain. The artfully rusted sculpture is a nod to the astrolabes found in many English gardens. This month, the urn overflows with tulips, ranunculus, pansies and fragrant alyssum. None of these flowers are rare or unusual, although there are many remarkable plants elsewhere in the garden, waiting to leaf out or bloom. Instead, in mid-spring, it's a blue and yellow color story, celebrating an ever-popular combination, beloved by impressionist painters and garden-lovers everywhere.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Liberace Neon

My trip to the Neon Museum in Las Vegas has stuck with me. Having visited in both the daytime and nighttime, I’ve been pondering the importance of ambient light and thinking about how darkness helps to create drama. Mostly, I've been reminded of how we often see only what we expect or are directed to see. We miss so much by looking at something just once. In the daytime, I did not notice Liberace's signature. But at night, the glowing pink script is one of the stars of the Neon Boneyard. It's a reminder to look longer, to look more carefully and to look at everything more than once.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Cherry Blossoms and a Blue Sky

A few years ago, our neighbors asked if they could plant a cherry tree in our yard where  both families could enjoy it. The fragile sapling is now a fine tree, larger than the Japanese cherries lining the Tidal Basin, bursting with familiar barely-pink blooms. To stand under it and look straight up is to be immersed in the essence of spring: the beauty and vigor of new growth and a blue, blue sky.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Big Letters at the Neon Museum

Where do the old lighted signs go when a casino or motel is torn down? In Las Vegas, the lucky ones end up in the Neon Museum. Sign up for a tour of the Neon Boneyard and you will see everything from a giant four-leaf clover to humble hand-painted motel signs to Liberace's signature in glowing pink neon. During the day, I was struck by the true colors of the signs, the patterns of the light bulbs and the weathered textures. Here you can see layers of less pristine signs behind letters from the old Stardust Casino. At night, masses of glowing bulbs and lines of neon take precedence. Unrestored signs and isolated letters in artistic groupings slowly change color, bathed in spotlights that add a mysterious atmosphere. Learn more about this intriguing museum here: