I Will Be the Gladdest Thing

I will be the gladdest thing under the sun! I will touch a hundred flowers and not pick one. ~Edna St. Vincent Millay

pink foxglovesI touched more than a hundred flowers last weekend, though with my eyes, and I didn’t pick one, except perhaps with my camera. Going to a large flower show in late winter is always a delight for winter weary senses.  Never mind the artificiality of plants forced into early growth and assembled in great halls to mimic a garden – there they are, to be seen and smelled and enjoyed.  I spent a day at the famed Philadelphia Flower Show and my senses are still reeling. It took the better part of the day to see most of the exhibit – this year’s theme was “Brilliant!” – an ode to British gardening style. Any large flower show, in the U.S. at least, is an opportunity for the green industry to strut their artistic stuff – that includes garden designers, florists, plant specialists, and various other vendors. Walk along with me through the show to sample a few of the gardens and flowers.

Living on a wooded lot in which I am trying to expand the native habitat, I was drawn to the naturalistic garden displays. I looked for the treetops in this great hall, which led me to various woodland scenes, complete with small buildings, shade plantings, and open areas filled with flowers. I found myself visiting these displays more than once, especially one that I call the “Greenhouse Garden” created by Hunter Hayes Landscape Design, a specialist in ecological designs.  Frankly, I wanted to move into this place and never leave. (Click on any photo to trigger the photo gallery viewer, click on X to close gallery)

The British garden theme “Brilliant!” was carried out in many exhibits, both in gardens and floral displays. It was interesting to see how Philadelphia area companies interpreted the English garden and floral look.  “The Scorer’s Garden” by J. Downend Landscaping featured a pink and blue cottage style garden full of roses, snapdragons and salvias. “Hidcote Holiday” was a large garden construction by Stoney Bank Nurseries with many lovely components, culminating in a gated garden view that had visitors lining up to take their photos. The floral displays were no less extravagant.  My favorite was “A Proper Hodgepodge” by Robertson’s Flowers that featured “stylistically iconic time periods” ranging from a 1960′s Mod Gala to a lavish Medieval Feast. (visit their blog to see more photos of this spectacular exhibit)

Sometimes it was just about the flowers. The Raymond Evison Clematis display featured his spectacular clematis – I put “Parisienne” on my “must get” list. The Netherlands American Business Association featured Dutch bulbs in colorful combinations and throughout the show, home growers competed for best displays of forced bulbs, including lovely groups of colorful daffodils.

Not only were visitors dazzled by the colors and scents, they were educated as well. Organic Mechanics potting soil display cleverly touted their product while educating consumers on eco-sensitive potting mixtures and the beauty of growing herbs and veggies. The Pennsylvania Horticulture Society featured a spectacular wall of brassicas anchored by a clever wheelbarrow sculpture on one side and a hanging garden of glass birdfeeders and cottage garden flowers on the other. Many schools contributed attractive and educational displays; the Williamson Free School of Mechanical Trades featured a vegetable kitchen garden based on 18th Century Horticulture practices in America.

I hope you enjoyed visiting the Philadelphia Flower Show 2013 with me.  Think spring!

Facing the Light

Come forth into the light of things, let nature be your teacher. William Wordsworth

As daylily season winds down, I spend each morning removing spent blooms and reflecting on how new blossoms turn towards the light.  When I first began gardening, I was dismayed to find that the daffodils and daylilies I had planted along the paths turned to face the sun but often faced away from garden visitors.  It was like being in a hall before the concert starts and looking at the back of everyone’s head and an empty stage.  It took a while to get the hang of planting flowers with faces in the right spot, often with a sturdy shrub at their backs, so that they turned towards the light and the garden visitor.

I cannot help but see the metaphor of this, of trying to find one’s place in life, preferably with a friend at one’s back, so that it is easier to face the light. As always, the garden teaches me a gentle lesson. Here are a few photos of daylilies and other flowers with faces as the garden nears the end of the July flower extravaganza. Enjoy!

To see more photos of light in nature, visit Carol’s Light Words and Robin’s Life in the Bogs; Kerry has a wonderful series of light filled photos of the Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks of Utah in his Lightscapes Nature Photography Blog.  I will be taking a two week vacation from the blogging world; I look forward to catching up in August, the first anniversary of this blog.

All photos ©2012 Lynn Emberg Purse, All Rights Reserved

Every moment of light and dark is a miracle.  Walt Whitman

Beauty for a Day

Hemerocallis or daylily – from the Greek “hemera” (day) and “kalos” (beautiful) translated as “beauty for a day” –  a hardy perennial native to China, Japan, and Korea whose flowers last for only one day

Although I have been deep in multiple projects for the past two weeks, I found time the past few mornings to grab a few photos from the garden.  The intense heat has driven garden bloom from rose season into daylily season.

I love daylilies for their huge variety of color, shape, size and durability. If you are only familiar with the orange roadside dayilies, you may be surprised to find that there are literally thousands of modern hybrids to choose from, often with fanciful names and exotic shapes and patterns.  I love coordinating daylily bloom colors with other flowers and foliage. One of my favorite color beds in the garden is the “grape and lemonade” bed – cool lemons and deep purples, a color scheme inspired by daylily ‘Etched Eyes’ hybridized by Matthew Kaskel.

Here are a few portraits of the early season bloomers. For more information on the wonderful world of daylilies, visit the American Hemerocallis Society.

All images ©2012 Lynn Emberg Purse, All Rights Reserved

Breakfast in the Treetop Bistro

All happiness depends on a leisurely breakfast.  ~John Gunther (American journalist & author)

This morning was a perfect moment – the air cool but not chilly, the sky a clear blue, and a light breeze bringing the fragrant scents of the garden up to the deck. I celebrated with a long lingering breakfast in the Treetop Bistro, the name for our upper deck.

The two decks along the back facing the woods were a big factor in choosing this house. The upper deck, reached by a spiral staircase, was where I originally planned the garden. The perfect place for morning coffee, it started out as a calm blue and cream place with wicker chairs, a birdbath, and some potted plants, and served its purpose well. 

But then two years ago, with a thunderous crash, a huge old oak fell on the house on a calm windless day, taking out the lower deck, part of the roof, part of the upper deck, and most of the furniture and pots.  Fortunately, no one was hurt, but the garden and decks were a construction zone all summer.

It seemed a good time to rethink the upper deck; I wanted to create a colorful hideaway for a cup of morning coffee or a glass of evening wine. Taking into account the dark brown house and the green wall of treetops, I settled on a mix of rose, coral, orange, gold, and dark red.

 The area rugs are actually woven vinyl, called Mad Mats, an inexpensive but attractive way to create the feel of an outdoor room, easy to hose down all summer and roll up to store for the winter. Brown outdoor paint pulled together a mish mash of furniture, a few pillows were added, and the “bistro” was born.

Not only did I want a certain color scheme that was warm and cheerful, I wanted the feel of a secluded bistro like so many I have visited in France, Italy, and Spain, tucked away in a side street and surrounded by old trees. Hayracks and pots holding flowers, herbs, lettuces, and tomatoes turned it into a lush kitchen garden as well.


The bench invites a quiet moment in the treetops.
Sometimes Angel Eyes takes a nap on the bench.
And breakfast? It was delicious!
Want to see what the plantings will look like by the end of summer?  See a slideshow from last September that includes some photos of the Treetop Bistro’s first season.
I had to delay the video deconstruction of “Breath” until a later date because of work on several projects; next week, I hope to premiere the second part of The Four Elements – “Light”.  Enjoy your weekend!

The Space Between

Breathe out, breathe in, Balanced in the space between.
Silence, stillness, Until the breath moves through again.
~ from “Breath” by Lynn Emberg Purse ©2012

A few weeks ago, in Breathe In, Breathe Out – I wrote about “Breath” – the piece I composed this spring as part of a larger piece The Four Elements. Deeply immersed in recording “Breath” this past week, I’ve also found the lyrics to this song moving from my head as an ongoing mantra to flooding my creative veins and taking over my life.  It’s not only about remembering to breathe, it is about finding balance in “the space between.”

So what is “the space between”? When I practice deep breathing, I often imagine the astonishing amount of open space in our atomic structure, the space between the photons and electrons and neutrons, the vast space between the cellular structure of our bodies.

But I also think of the idea of liminal space.

Threshold between gardens

The term “liminal space” comes from the Latin word līmen, which in part signifies the boundary between one space and another, meaning that “betwixt and between” space, the threshold of a door or the threshold between stages of life. This is not a new idea by any means – consider the practice of carrying a bride over the threshold, of the ceremonies involved in the rite of passage from one stage of life to another, the superstitions and ritual practices surrounding the opening and closing of doors, windows, and other passageways. In garden design, the liminal structures of gates, archways and paths become the defining elements of the garden and invite the visitor to move through the space rather than look at it from a distance.

The “space between” – liminal space – also has deeply spiritual and metaphysical connotations. In Christian traditions, liminal space is the sacred space occupied by those seeking the presence of God, either as individuals or as a group gathered in worship. Like breathing in and out, one enters into a space of infinite possibilities, then leaves refreshed to engage in the world. For a thoughtful blog about this, see Rev. Jeff Johnson’s Liminal Space, especially his reflection on the day after Easter.

Fr. Richard Rohr, founder of the Center for Action and Contemplation, had this to say about liminal space. “Nothing good or creative emerges from business as usual. This is why much of the work of God is to get people into liminal space, and to keep them there long enough so they can learn something essential. It is the ultimate teachable space.. maybe the only one. Most spiritual giants try to live lives of “chronic liminality” in some sense. They know it is the only position that insures ongoing wisdom, broader perspective and ever-deeper compassion. The Jewish prophets… St. Francis, Gandhi, and John the Baptist come to mind.”

Window on the galaxy

As an artist and musician, I am always seeking the point of entry to liminal space which, for me, is the marker of creative engagement. Quantum physics suggests that all possibilities exist until observation or intention selects one possibility which then becomes “the” reality. As a composer, this is exactly the process through which I move. I start with an idea, I do research and entertain many possibilities, then I withdraw into that “space between” to let everything cook and stew while I seek to become quiet and receptive and balanced.  I stand on the threshold, poised but not ready to commit.  Stepping through the threshold, moving from possibility to a chosen act or decision, always seems the most difficult part – actually stepping through and be willing to choose “this” but not “that” becomes an act of creative courage.

A series of thresholds

Of course, that is only the first step; it is actually a series of decisions, reflections, and more decisions, an ongoing process of stepping into a threshold, a liminal space, then continuing on through the process, over and over again.  Singer/songwriter and artist Joni Mitchell once drew an analogy between painting and composing – when the painting was finished, it was finished, but the music demanded an ongoing commitment to bring it to life – this is probably true of all performing arts. (Photo courtesy of Joka2000 on Flickr)

The next time I post, I hope to have a piece of music to share. (You can now here the music for Breath) For now, I stand poised on another threshold, seeking the silence and stillness between breaths that nourishes me, balances me and leads me to the next step, through the next doorway.

Reality is that place between the sea and the foam. Irish Proverb