Monday, September 6, 2010

Could this Possibly be Wood Betony?

While coming back down the mountains at Newfound Gap Tennessee, my friend and I pulled over to snap a couple of pics alongside the roaring and beautiful stream. This was only two weeks ago, and the weather was nicely hot and steamy, with loads of large dark butterflies flitting about everywhere. The place we chose for a photo was a standard tourist pull-over spot just above the stream itself. As my friend was positioning himself down the rock wall and into the stream, I was marvelling at the butterflies on a nearby wildflower. It was then that I looked down at my feet. I do believe I spied one of my favorite herbs of all time, right here in its natural habitat. It was a small specimen, and stubby enough for me to doubt my eyes, but I quickly snapped a picture to study when I returned home, since my friend had a plane to catch as soon as he climbed out of the stream.

Upon closer inspection and retrospection, I suspect it truly may be Wood Betony. The blossoms are shorter than my own at home, and the petals appear to be grander in this example, but the shape of the leaf, and the blossom on the long spike definitely spoke of the familiar as soon as I laid eyes on for the retrospection part - I suddenly remembered where I purchased my Wood Betony. I was completely obsessed with herbs back in the late 90s and scoured nurseries for unique plants that one only reads about. The vendors of the Kentucky Herb Festival in Frankfort included this lady from Tennessee who would come every year to sell native selections. She always had truly wonderful things and I managed to cross off several obscure herbs off my wish list when visiting her booth. Ironically, it was the Tennessee lady who sold me my Wood Betony. The one in the National Park may be a slightly different variety, but I'm pretty convinced of the match. However, I also remembered one other experience with her wonderful selection of native careful when shopping at places that offer native wildflowers....I was 2 minutes away from walking away with my very own specimen of Burdock for my garden. Luckily I studied my purchase more closely as I walked away and suddenly recognized it as that giant weed that grew out by the barns on the farm here in Kentucky - luckily she was nice enough to let me have an exchange! One man's weed is another man's wildflower!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Pocket Full of Memories

I was poking around my desk, looking for a certain pen, when I brushed past a little artifact that made me smile. You know those little odds and ends that you just can't throw away, and end up planted in the back of your desk drawer due to months of neglect? I was very lucky this little tidbit didn't sprout itself as it hid there. What looks like a little wadded up piece of fabric is actually a farming family's piece of ingenuity.

When my grandfather passed away in 2006, the natural estate dispersal ensued. However, when we were about to leave for the last time, I noticed this little piece of fabric sitting behind the electric outlet mechanism in the basement. It was dusty and covered in cobwebs, but when I picked it up the memories flooded over me quite suddenly. I knew that my grandmother had placed this little bundle of leftover corn seeds in the basement, in hopes of using them in another season. But the fabric she used to keep these little seeds inside was no ordinary piece of fabric. It was a pocket she had recycled from one of grandfather's old work shirts.

Long before the days of Ziploc or even recycled 35mm film canisters, families used whatever they could think of as containers or receptacles. This was a small piece of that left over farm life that I remembered, and I knew I could not throw it away. Not only did the memories associated with this little bundle involve planting the vegetable garden with both grandparents each summer, but it also involved the shirt that provided the pocket. Growing up, my favorite place in the world was my grandparents farm in Bourbon County Kentucky. At 165+ acres, I could roam as much as I wanted and each visit included some new farm related adventure. Each summer, I watched 'Pappa' (pronounced Pah-Paw) go out to the dairy or out to the field in one of these light blue cotton work shirts. It is remarkable how holding something tactile in your hand can bring back the memories so clearly. In this case the seemingly unimportant little piece of fabric is a much larger representation of the first environmentalists. "Waste not want not" was the order of each day. Life was a bit tougher, but the rewards for a days work were felt even more as the day drew to a close.....complete with iced tea and a homemade desert.....ah, those cool summer evenings on the porch looking out over the I miss those, and the loved ones who sat next to me.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Cherry Blossom Festival at Yuko-En

Last weekend (the 17th-18th), Georgetown Kentucky played host to a couple of wonderful cultural events. Both events were related to each other, held in adjoining venues, but separate in scope. The first event that usually draws more attention from those with families is the annual kite festival. Out past the Cardome Center on U.S. 25, a huge field is opened to participants flying kites. The colorful display is remarkable and a wonderful opener to the spring season! The events for that portion are free, but parking is $5. Games and vendors are included in this event, but a frequently overlooked portion of this celebration is the Cherry Blossom Festival held in the adjoining Yuko-En Japanese Garden.

The Yuko-En on the Elkhorn is Kentucky's only official sister relationship garden with Japan. If you are not familiar with Georgetown, the city has a special sister relationship with the Japanese City of Tahara-Cho because of Georgetown's huge Toyota factory that sits on the northern boundaries of the city. The word "huge" is no exaggeration as the right viewing angle will demonstrate its massive size.......bigger than Georgetown itself!

Opened in 2000, the garden was constructed to be a Japanese garden in design, but Bluegrass region in specimen use. By combining the two elements, the experience is unlike any other. There are several reasons why I love visiting this garden. The architecture alone is quite stunning. I have admired this gorgeous entryway since it was built, and I didn't even live in the county at the time. The visual impact is not only arresting, but when entering through the large gates, they seduce you into this long sunken pathway lined with bamboo. The impact creates an immediate sense of entering a special and slightly mysterious other world.

The architectural elements continue once inside the garden. This large multi-purpose building was recently completed within the past few years, but has played host to several events, such as weddings and educational sessions.

The approach to the multi-purpose building is embellished with this beautiful red bridge that serves as a prime place for a photo-op!

But on the other side of the multi-purpose building, the walled zen garden is truly a peaceful and shady place to sit and contemplate the beauty that surrounds each visitor as they pass through. You may not walk in this portion of the garden, but you may sit on a deck that overlooks this stunningly detailed enclosure which is just as enjoyable. One feature of the festival itself is the zen garden combing ceremony. I missed that event this year, but that only gives me a reason to try again next year!

Across from the multi-purpose building is the lake that holds, what appears to be, thousands of beautiful goldfish and koi. This is usually the favorite spot for the children as there is a place dedicated to feeding the fish. Honestly, some of the old scaled veterans in there look like they are just miniature sharks, but they assure me they are really just koi. I'm not so convinced!

The view looking toward the waterfall feature, as seen below. As you can see, the blooms are exquisite during this festival. The dogwoods, redbud, and other blossoms provide quite the show!
Wandering down below the hill to the small waterfall, keep your eyes open for pieces of artwork that line the paths. This is a fairly new feature to Yuko-En, but a very welcome one. It adds such a visual interest to the surroundings and exposes the local visitors to an unfamiliar art element. In my humble opinion, introducing art into the garden not only enhances the experience, but better connects us to the culture of Tahara-Cho. Nothing conveys a message more clearly than artwork. Combined with the elements of nature, one can quickly appreciate the spiritual influences that are so important to the Japanese culture.

Overall, the events of the Cherry Blossom Festival are numerous all weekend long and just as colorful as the kites flying in the distance. The educational value is priceless for both the kids and the adults. My only criticism is one that could be very easily remedied......I didn't see any cherry trees! There looked to be some on the hill near the Cardome Center, but the blossoms had already reached their peak the week before and were already brown. I couldn't guarantee that they were cherry trees since I didn't get close enough to tell for sure. Needless to say, they should add cherry trees to the this beautiful garden that has ample room for such additions, or change the name of the festival.

If you missed the festival, don't worry, this garden is beautiful year round! If you are in the Georgetown area, be sure to put this on the will be very glad you did!

Sayonara everyone!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Easter Surprise

Since my move into a new neighborhood this past summer, most of my plants are still being watched over by my Mother. Moving and getting adjusted did not afford me enough time to do any fall planting or planning for that matter. However, the landscaping around my house is actually pretty nice....just need to add some of my favorites here and there, and re-do some of the backyard spaces. Today was so gorgeous here in Central Kentucky. This evening it was 80 degrees and I decided to take a backyard stroll to assess the planting situation. I know I have some shrubs and a couple of perennials that haven't made a presence yet this year, but as I took some shots of the garden areas to keep with me as I shopped for new specimens, I spied a tiny little surprise in the top corner near the deck......a very healthy stand of Grape Hyacinths. Such a pretty overlooked little flower, with a great scent and lovely purple shades......little bells similar to the Lilly of the Valley, only perhaps a bit more dainty, with a stronger stalk. As I miss the daffodils and tulips from my previous home this year, I cut a few of these new little delights to brighten the room just in time for Easter Sunday.
Happy Easter everyone!!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Peonies and Pondering the Past

For those of you who have kept up with my blog in the past, I apologize for the year+ long hiatus from posting. Life just became way too hectic to keep up posting with the seasons, so hopefully I can fit this into my schedule....balance is my new mantra, so we'll see if that helps any.

I also realize that October is a funny time to be talking about Peonies, but another part of my life, genealogy, has recently reminded me of this moment when Peonies proved to solve a family mystery.

This gardening tale comes from the northern part of our state in Pendleton County. As so many of you know, small abandoned cemeteries dot the countryside as little testaments to the thriving communities that once populated these remote areas. As we moved away from farming as the main income producer, the familial descendants of these ancestors also moved away leaving the cemeteries to fall into serious disrepair or even complete obscurity.

This little cemetery is known as the Fisher Cemetery in the northern end of the county on number 10. It sits just down from the old Fisher School house. Unfortunately, the cemetery has had most of its stones knocked down and then piled into the middle of the cemetery on a skid by a kind person that cleaned them out of the fence row. Either scenario is horrible since the exact location of the stone in relation to remains was forever lost.
After going through the stones I could lift and checking a similar inventory taken years ago, I noticed that some relatives appeared to be unaccounted for. Let's put it this way, when you get to official burial records for 19th century small country cemeteries, the "official" part can be extremely sketchy. I have a set of 4th great grandparents whose burial location is unknown. They could be buried on previously owned family property, or even more likely, they could be in a cemetery like this one, where the number of related individuals to this couple is pretty high, therefore increasing the odds of a final resting place.

I suspect my elusive 4th great grandparents could be in this cemetery, but I still have not found confirmation, even though a teenage son as well as a grown son and entire family are in this cemetery.....pretty good circumstantial evidence. As I searched for this elusive couple, I also had another individual on my "lost" list that I had very little hope of ever finding.

Her name was Mary Malinda Mockbee. She was the daughter of William Mockbee and Jane (Allender) Mockbee, but was named after her grandmother Mary Malinda (Moore) Mockbee - one of the elusive 4th great grandparents I had been searching for. This Mary Malinda Mockbee died at the age of 14 from Typhoid Fever, and her burial place has been in question.

On a trip to this cemetery in middle March, I was admiring the gravestones of my other 4th great grandparents - James Jackson Allender & Mary (Stout) Allender - whose gravestones were some of the very few still standing. Since it was very early Spring, the Peony stalks were breaking ground at a height of about 6 inches above the grassline on this couple's plot. As I pondered which family members might have planted these peonies so long ago, a small cluster of the same peonies a few yards away suddenly caught my attention. They were growing vigorously with no stone to signify who they might be honoring each year, and the stone could be in the pile at the other end, but I wasn't so sure since I hadn't found any of my relatives in the pile.

I took this opportunity to run back to the car for the tire-iron in my trunk and proceeded to stab the ground around the peonies. Within a few seconds I hit stone and digging only a few inches under the soil uncovered the broken pieces of the stone belonging to Mary Malinda Mockbee. I could read enough to know who it was and even noted that her parents' names were inscribed there as well. Apparently, the pieces had been under the ground for so many years that they had eluded the previous cemetery inventory taken in the 1970s.
The discovery was such a small moment in the grand course of history and small even for my own family history. But she was precious to someone at some time, and I was happy to be able to solve this little family mystery once and for all. The records are now complete as to where this teenager was laid to rest.....right next to her grandparents. It gives me hope that her other set of grandparents might be nearby, but more importantly, it reminded me of how important gardening is historically.

Those flowers were lovingly planted as a reminder of the life renewed and the life that continues even after we are gone. Where did these peonies come from? Probably from Mary's mother's house, or one of her many sibling's homes. Perhaps they came from her grandparents homes and had quite a genealogy of their own. We may never know, but they are a living, breathing, glimpse into the vibrant world that came before us....a link to our families and a celebration of our heritage.

This story serves to represent another reason why I enjoy visiting cemeteries....not only for the historical information and artistry of the stones, but for the colorful gifts planted on the plots of loved ones so many years ago. If you want to begin the wonderful journey of heritage gardening, cemeteries are a wonderful place to start as they have wonderful examples of the varieties grown during the 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries. Plus, they can tell you a little about your ancestors and their favorite choices in gardening!

Happy Hunting!!

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Kentucky Herb Festival 2008

Since our move to Kentucky about 15 years ago, we have made the Kentucky Herb Festival in Frankfort an annual tradition. It is not a large festival, but quaint and just big enough to take up about half of the day allowing the rest of the day to get home and plant what was bought! Last year, for the 15th anniversary, the Kentucky Herb Association decided to move the date from the second weekend in June to the third weekend in May. Unfortunately, only their die hard members got the news and the largest city nearby, Lexington was left out of the this year appeared to be much better attended. To give you a taste of why this trip is worth the yearly dedication, I will provide a sampling of the day's activities, including lunch and another favorite garden center visit that makes the day very special.

The day begins with a stop at the Herb Fest located in the farm buildings of Lakeview Park which overlooks a golf course and nice size lake.

The festival is free to get in, but parking is $3.00 and if you want to stay for their herbal lunch held at the beautiful brick building at the entrance, the cost is $9.00 and limited to 120 people.

Other activities include guest speakers, live music and an auction with proceeds benefiting the Kentucky Herb Association.

Now for a few tasty morsels from this year's festival:

One booth we usually make a bee line for is Wash House Herb Farm's homemade herb breads. They sell out pretty quickly, so we load up before heading around to the rest of the booths.

Chrisman Mill Vineyard (the oldest licensed vineyard in the U.S.) offers a very nice wine tasting with wine bread and cheese spread standing by for a wonderful sampling.

The other booths loaded with wonderful smellygood stuff and books about growing, cooking or crafting with your favorite herbs make for a visually appealing and diverse shopping experience.

And then there are the herbs and plants! So many unique herbs, wildflowers, native plants and perennials to choose from!

In fact, there are so many things to load up with at such reasonable prices, we have adopted the habit of bringing along our trusty antique grocery cart. Simply perfect for bags of bread, wine, herbs and everything else we can pack into it. The opening is also just the right size for laying a flat of plants on top. But as you can see, we only bought a few herbs this year that fit into bags on top of the bread.

As we head back to the car, we have thoughts of lunch at Gibby's (voted Frankfort's favorite place for lunch!) and then more plans for shopping at a local greenhouse - Wilson's.

Wilson's Nursery sits on Frankfort's By-Pass and takes up many acres of growing space.

The displays throughout the greenhouse, giftshop and terraces combine to create a gardener's heaven! Once upon a time Wilson's used to participate in the Herb Festival but left several years ago, preferring to put on a nice herb sale at their own place. In years past, the sale has been very significant, but this year the Herb Fest is a month earlier and so the sale is not as wonderful, but the selection is still worth the trip!

The ultimate fairy garden!

And be careful where you rummage through the plants! You may find a feline hiding in the roses. One of the workers said she was very friendly, but didn't know her name....only that her mother's name was Lola! So keep an eye out for Lola's daughter while spending your Saturday wandering through Wilson's!

A Big Daffodil Thank You to the Blotanical Readers!!

As I promised, May would be a much better blogging month for me. Classes ended about two weeks ago and I wanted to get started right away with some intro posts about the rose garden since I am a huge fan of growing antique roses. I was just sitting down this morning to blog about the Kentucky Herb Festival from last weekend, when I decided to do some poking around Blotanical for some catching up. To my wonderful surprise, the Blotanical readers have been busy little bees and have identified my mystery daffodils (see April post)!!
It all started with Pleasant Hill Rambles' post about his fascination with my daffodils followed by his serendipitous discovery of the same daffodils at his neighbor's farm in New York! As he blogged about my blog and his find, another blogger, The Occasional Gardener, piped up with the solution to our mystery....drum roll please...the Van Sion Daffodil! Linked through these blogs was a wonderful post about the Van Sion....and as a historian, I added a whoop to Pleasant Hill's when I learned how old it least 1620! Ironically, this daffodil is the only daffodil that I planted in the antique rose garden because of readily available space when we moved. It may now lift its head proudly as an ancient regally named variety just as important as the ancient roses that have looked down on it for all these years as a "mystery mutant". Welcome Van Sion, now your story can be passed along when neighbors ask disdainfully..."What is it?".