Feb 24, 2013

When There Is Nothing Else To Eat

I have never been hungry enough to eat a morning glory.  For Sopheap Pich, morning glories were an important source of nourishment during Pol Pot regime in Cambodia.  Easy to grow, with almost no nutritional value, the form of the morning glory is inspirational for Sopheap Pich.

Cambodian Rattan
The Sculptures of 
"It is good if sculptures make people aware that
there are shapes in their environment, if it encourages them to use their memory."
These works are not about the spirit of a place.  It might be for some people.  Their purity and beauty is what will becomes part of my memory.

Feb 22, 2013

Not An Easy Garden
To Understand

The Last Wild Garden
Chris Strand
Director of Winterthur Garden & Estate
February 19, 2012
 Dupont with some of his gardeners.
"For me it's all about figuring out what that man was thinking."  

That man was H.F. duPont, the creator of Winterthur and the man doing his best to keep the gardens the way were originally designed is Chris Strand, Director of Winterthur.

It's a relief not to be constrained by another person's dictates.  What I enjoy about designing a garden is spreading my wings.  A man like Chris Strand is a horticulturist, a librarian and a preservationist.  His mission is keep the spontaneity of Winterthur alive.   To  know 1,000 acres of landscape intimately is an awesome task.  Chris Strand seems to take it in stride or maybe that is what comes from being at the same garden for 20 years.

Chris used William Robinsons' The Wild Garden to guide us through the Winterthur landscape.  Some of the highlights:

1. Dupont's way of planting drifts of bulbs.  Using branches from trees to layout the design of the drifts.  No straight lines or rows here.  The gardeners saved the branches year after year to plant bulbs.

2.  Collect  seed from snowdrops:  use a cotton bag (like a tea bag) after the snowdrops have been pollinated to collect the seed.

3.  Fertilize daffodils using compost tea.

4.  Winterthur's Dove Tree (Davidia involucrata) is the first to flower in the US.

5.  Use as little irrigation as possible.  It's a salad bar for deer.

6.  Winterthur has a collection of Weardale Perfection.  It is the rarest daffodil in cultivation. 

"In a wild garden, it's a mosaic of plants you want: 
plants you are encouraging and plants that self sow."

Feb 18, 2013

The Power of IDEAS

Changing the Way We Eat
18 minutes each
LaDonna Redmond, Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
Fred Bahnson, Director, Food, Faith & Religious Leadership Initiative
Simran Sethi, Journalist
Gary Hirshberg, CEO, Stonyfield Farm
Tama Matsuoka Wong, Principal, Meadows and More
Dr. William Li, President, Angiogenesis Foundation
Anna Lappe, Principal, Small Planet Institute
Annemarie Colbin, CEO, Natural Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts
Peter Lehner, Executive Director, NRDC
Steve Wing, Associate Professor, University of North Carolina
Peter Hoffman, Chef, Back Forty
Bill Yosses, Executive Pastry Chef, The White House
Maisie Greenawalt, Vice President of Strategy, Bon Appetit Management
Lindsey Lusher Shute, ExecutiveDirector, National Young Farmers' Coalition
Cheryl Kollin, Principal, Full Plate Ventures
Ann Cooper, Renegade Lunch Lady
David McInerney, Co-Founder, Fresh Direct
Music from:
Ulysses Owens Jr. 
Kaki King
Film clips from:
Standing Ground
Food Chains
A Place at the Table

Nine hours later, I can tell you there are a lot of people, who are passionate about changing the way we eat NOW.  I felt like I was on the front line of a movement.   I haven't felt that way in a long time.  
"The front lines of sustainability should be led by those who have been most wounded by the system." Fred Bahnson, author of Soil and Sacrament

"Like seeds, our future is contained within us."
Simran Sethi
"There are 6,000 edible wild plants called weeds we can eat. "
Tama Matsuoka Wong

You have to apply to attend TEDx Manhattan.  I was lucky to be selected for the audience.  In the "What to Expect" section of the brochure, TEDxManhattan implored us  "Don't push your agenda and force your business cards on everyone - just relax and let the amazing TEDx magic happen.  Meet a stranger.  Meet many strangers.  TEDx Manhattan is partly about the talks you'll hear during the day, but equally as important are the people you will meet. Walk up to your fellow attendees and introduce yourself; join the conversations happening around you - make the most our of every minute you have."

I tried to do this.  The speakers were amazing.  No one used notes.  I am in awe of the ability to seemingly speak extemporaneously.  Having given a few talks in my time, I marvel at anyone who is completely at ease on stage in front of an audience.  TEDX  is about "the power of ideas."  I secretly wanted to have my mind blown.  I wanted to leave with a to do list.  I wanted to feel like my feet were barely touching the ground.  Instead, I had my own ideas reinforced.  I wasn't alone.

My expectations were met during the lunch hour. We sat in long tables of 75 - we ate communally and exchanged ideas.  This was when I experienced the power of ideas and the power of TED.  
Out of all the speakers, I think it's worth summarizing what Peter Lehner of NRDC (National Resources Defense Council) had to say about food waste.  
  • 40% of all food in the United States goes from farm to fork to landfill.
  • The average family wastes $2,000 every year on food not eaten and thrown out.
  • 25 pounds of food are thrown out per year per person.
  • 1/5 of all food produced goes to landfills.
  • 6 billion pounds of crops every year are unharvested and wasted.
  • The average supermarket wastes 10% of its food.
The take away... GET TO WORK!

Feb 14, 2013

It's very SIMPLE,
but very COMPLEX

Wolfgang LAIB
POLLEN from Hazelnut
Josef Albers / Homage to Square

Collecting pollen is a surgical operation.  It takes patience and expertise.  Wolfgang Laib has been collecting pollen from hazelnut trees near his home in Southern Germany for the last twenty years.  It is this collection of pollen that Laib  used to make his Pollen from Hazelnut installation currently in the atrium at MoMA.  There is a hidden aspect to this work.  Everyday Laib ritualistically goes to MoMA to clean the pollen of dust or dirt.  "It has to be perfect."

On Wednesday, Laib talked with Agnes Gund about his work.  Gund is a fan and a collector of Laib's work.   In her introduction, she mentioned an aspect of making the work, which the viewer is unaware of: the tapping sound of Laibs' fingers make  as he sifts the pollen through a piece of muslin.

When I go to these type of events, I think that the artist will shed some light on his/her intention.  Laib did not.  No matter how many times Gund posed the question or the different ways she tried to get at what it was all about, Laib resisted any "art speak." 

Instead, we were treated not only to a overview of his work over the last thirty years, but a look at the three places he lives: a 17th century barn in Southern Germany, a house in Southern India and his apartment in New York.  Included in this personal tour, was a photograph of his parents 1950's glass house on the same piece of property where he now lives.  Laib tried to relate how all of these environments contribute to his art practice.  In a nod to MoMA, Laib talked about how he felt about the atrium at the museum. He loves the space, especially for his piece.  You can view his piece at eye level, and you can also ascend the next four floors and look down on the piece, which changes it.

The most Laib would say about his work and repeated many times, "The work is very simple, but  very complex".  Although a very soft-spoken man, with a buddha-like appearance, Laib spoke passionately about his role in creating any artwork.  "I am not a creator.  I am just a participant. The pollen is the artwork."

At the end of the conversation, there was a question and answer period.  
Q:  How does MoMA intend to store the piece?
Laib:  I want all the pollen back.  I will sort it and sift it again and make another piece.
Curator of the show:  If we don't give it back, Laib would have to live to be 600 years old to make other pieces.

That's what I call real recycling.

Feb 1, 2013

Embedded and Engaged
in the Landscape

New York Botanical Garden
January 31, 2013

"I am not going to talk about plants.  Why do we make gardens?  What makes me garden?" Tom Stuart-Smith

Nobody can talk about gardens, the way an English person can.  And almost nobody can talk about them in the way Tom Stuart-Smith does.    "We spend the first half of our lives, copying other people and the second half copying ourselves. Somewhere in there, we find our individual voice."

From Sissinghurst to the Villa Lante to Rousham, Smith talked about process and momentum;  emergence and denouement; intimacy and distance.  This sounds pretty heady, but it wasn't.  If anything, it might have been the kind of thing one discusses with a therapist.
I expect self-assurance from well-known garden designers.  Perhaps only someone who is completely self-assured, can meditate about their connection to the landscape in a room filled with 400 people.  Smith sited the novel, The Garden of the Finzi-Continis by Giorgio Bassani, as an instance of the dangers of viewing the garden as a separate world, of not connecting to the outside world. Smith's garden progress from enclosed, to semi-enclosed to wilderness.  As he said, "my gardens create intimacy and move to a space that acknowledges loss."

One of his most interesting points:  making an empty space in the garden actually creates a space that has a sense of being occupied, of history; something has happened here.  "It tell us how this place relates to the rest of the world."

Smith's life-long quest to be embedded and engaged in the landscape, I am totally in sync with.   I wish all my gardens to be immersive and engaging (maybe every garden designer does).  
The Barn Garden is Smith's self-published a book about his own garden.  "It's a book about coming to terms with who you are as a person".  This last comment brought the lecture back to its beginning.  And reminded me of how I am always struggling with separation and connection, both in the garden and in life.

This a poem that Tom Stuart-Smith recited in the beginning of his talk.  I was unfamiliar with it, so I share it with you.

Robert Herrick
A Sweet disorder

A SWEET disorder in the dress   
Kindles in clothes a wantonness:—   
A lawn about the shoulders thrown   
Into a fine distractiĆ³n,—   
An erring lace, which here and there          
Enthrals the crimson stomacher,—   
A cuff neglectful, and thereby   
Ribbands to flow confusedly,—   
A winning wave, deserving note,   
In the tempestuous petticoat,—           
A careless shoe-string, in whose tie   
I see a wild civility,—   
Do more bewitch me, than when art   
Is too precise in every part.