Saturday, October 13, 2007

Photo Catch-Up: Chicago (Day 1)

Being free-spirited, open to adventure, and, most importantly, cheap!, I jumped at the chance, back in late August, to spend a few days in Chicago with my friend Julia who was attending a conference there. I decided that I would try megabus as my means of transportation. Don't get me wrong, I really like both the romance and reality of train travel, but the prices just could not compete, and, well, the frugal German in me won out again (ach Du lieber!).

Photo from megabus website.

The bus was fine, only I didn't realize it made a stop in Detroit first, which meant that the bus was almost full when the folks boarded in Ann Arbor, so I had to sit next to another person. This is, of course, entirely reasonable and expected, it's just that, um, the garden faerie is not as svelte as she never was, and felt just an eeny bit crowded in her seat. Which is of course entirely her own fault and her own problem.

The bus stopped in Marshall (I'm really glad I know Marshall is a lovely small town, having attended a historic home and garden tour there years back, because the rest stop would not have given that impression!) for a break and then rolled into Chicago more or less near the scheduled time.

Now, I've been to Chicago several times before, and I've visited other large cities. I even lived for a time in Stuttgart, which is indeed much smaller than Chicago, but has a similar population density and urban feel. So I should, really, have been prepared for the hustle and bustle and urban hipness of the Windy City. But I was not. I'm afraid I felt very much like the proverbial country bumpkin straight off the turnip cart when I alighted from the bus outside of Union Station. Wow! Chicago is a real city! It's big! Like, really big. With tall buildings that you have to bend your neck way, way back to see all the way up.

Now, we just don't have skyscrapers in Ann Arbor, or Detroit for that matter. We have tall buildings, yes, thank you very much, but not as many, as close together, as tall. We do not have hustle bustle on the streets with cars honking and throngs of people who cross the street well after you yourself would dare only you can't stop because you're part of the mob!

And people dress very nicely. Granted, this was all in The Loop, the business district, during work hours on a week day. Women were wearing high heels and walking at a pace that I was hard-pressed keeping up with in my Clarks. Men wore suits and ties. Fortunately, I had thought to wear skirts and bring my nicest practical outfits, so I didn't feel as out of place as I might have, but I'm sure I still looked like a washed up middle age Hausfrau trying to look like a 30-year-old washed up Hausfrau! Which I'm really about 90 percent fine with, 85 percent of the time!

Fortunately, my spirits were buoyed by a walk through Millennium Park on my way from Union Station to the hotel. (I also congratulated myself four times over for packing lightly so all I had to lug/maneuver was my college-sized backpack.)

Right there, tucked in the middle of the concrete city, is a green oasis! Bless you, designers of Millennium Park (there should be a Real Men of Genius commercial made for you!). There's really cool architecture and art in the park, like the BP Bridge which winds in sloping steel, the Pritzker Pavilion whose crazy cool roofline looks like an onion blossom exploded in a UFO (this is a good thing; trust me), and the mirrored jelly bean Cloud Gate, which reflects the skyline and which you can walk under. And, best of all, there's a flower garden, Lurie Garden, tucked behind a wall of Arborvitae.

And you know what? A floppy skirt, sun hat, and Clarks sandals, along with their wearer, fit right in in a garden! Revived, I was ready for all Chicago had in store for me.

Photo Catch-Up: Toledo

Mmmmm... ketchup. I mean, hi! Welcome to round 2 of catching up with my garden trips in Ohio. Back in August, Amy, Carole, and I headed out to the Toledo Botanical Garden and the Glass Pavilion at the Toledo Museum of Art.

The Toledo Botanic Garden is a very nice place. There are several kinds of gardens near the entrance, and then more mini gardens tucked among a fairy large grounds. This is nice because you never know when you're going to be coming upon the next garden!

I liked that there were benches, gates, trellises, and other "homey" items placed in each setting, because it made the gardens seem very inviting.

I also really enjoyed both the use of stunning, contrasting color and subtle pairing of textures and hues.

There was also art in the garden, which looks nice both close-up and from a distance.

And, of course, I couldn't resist the obligatory butterfly shot:

We then headed to the art museum. We ate lunch and then watched a glass blowing demonstration. I don't care how many times I watch this process, it never seems at all possible that anyone can have the skill and artistic bent to shape molten glass into anything other than a blob. We also toured the Glass Pavilion, which had glass art through the centuries. I was amazed at the colorful, intricate designs that were made B.C.!!! We also headed back across the street to the main museum and saw a Warhol exhibit, which was quite good. A few series were on display, that I had no idea he had done. (Not that I'm an expert, of course!) And all of this was free! We'll definitely we heading back.

Photo Catch-Up: Columbus

Wow! I really admire people who manage to update their blogs on a regular basis, as I just don't seem to be able to accomplish this feat myself. In fact, I have another little backlog of photos eager to push their way onto the web. Heh.

So let's start with Columbus. Not the Spanish explorer, of course, but the lovely city in central Ohio, our friendly neighbor to the south. I was nothing but impressed with this city, and as I've already belabored in the entry about Cleveland, I really like Ohio. I know, I know, this is near sacrilege for someone who's lived in Ann Arbor some twenty-mumble years, but there you have it.

I've been to Columbus three times this year: in February to see the Chihuly exhibit at Franklin Park Conservatory with my friend Amy and her friend Joan; in June for the German Village garden tour with my friend Carole, and in August to tour the Governor's garden on me todd (alone).

Franklin Park is a great place and already incorporated a few Chihuly pieces in its plantings. The exhibit brought in a lot more pieces, though, all of which were set in the beds with thought and care. You came upon them unexpectedly and they really fit the textures and colors of their surroundings.

The bright colors and textures of the glass did not eclipse the subtle greens of the foliage; instead they enhanced one another.

The really bright artwork was placed in the fish pond, where the koi can certainly hold their own.

My favorite piece was a garden of glass set against the concrete walls of the lower level of the conservatory. I absolutely love the vibrant blues and greens, and orange is one of my favorite colors. It's just so happy!. If there were any way I could have sneaked this piece out in my coat, I certainly would have done so and come back for more never even have contemplated such a theft of precious artwork. Ah hem.

Some time in June, Carole and I, who are both wild 'n' crazy gals let me tell you, spent a day in the Ohio History Center poring over seed catalogs from the 1800s. Ooh, watch our dust! We tend a historic garden for Cobblestone Farm and are always eager to find out the latest old news about what's no longer grown! There was also an exhibit at the center, Ohio's Garden Path, that detailed the history of private gardens in Ohio from settlement until today. We stayed in a nice bed & breakfast in Clintonville, and headed out the next day to the German Village garden tour. There we met up with a nice lady, through a gardenweb forum request, for lunch. We also took a quick stroll through Franklin Park and then headed home. For a reason not at all entirely clear to me, the only photo I took was of a nice planting in front of a home that wasn't even on the tour:

Whilst watching Our Ohio, I found out about the governor's garden in Columbus. Apparently the former first lady, Hope Taft, decided the garden, which is frequently visited by tour groups, should showcase native plants from throughout Ohio. She helped plant and tend the garden, and she apparently still comes once a week to volunteer in the garden! The tour guide explained how one of the native plants in the garden had not bloomed in a while because it needed to be pollinated by carion flies. So when Ms. Taft came across a dead turtle in her own garden, she was overjoyed at its potential to attract the flies and placed it in a nice little box for the current first lady. The latter entirely failed to see the utility of the gift! Ms. Hope Taft, you are a lady after my own heart!

The cool thing is, the garden still looks "proper" enough for a governor's home, despite its "wild" additions, like this prairie garden.

There were also small gardens to represent sand dune and bog ecosystems:

Ooh! I'm a pitcher plant!

Each county was asked to provide a stone or plaque for the garden, and one county provided this grinding stone, formerly used in a mill, that has been converted to a fountain. Cool!

And even though it was sweltering that day, hotter than a kitten wearing mittens in July, I pushed on to Franklin Park. As walking the grounds made me feel like Frosty the Snowman (hurry now before I melt away!), I did snap a few photos before oozing back into the car.

Pretty, innit?!