Dandelions in Boston

I just got back from a wonderful research trip to Boston, which included many days in the archives of the MSPCA. Before my trip I knew a bit about George T. Angell and the founding of the MSPCA, but I now have a much better understanding of the significance of this organization to the early animal welfare movement. I had such a great visit — I learned so much and everyone was so friendly (hi Jan!).

I would love to post more (including some pics from my weekend tourist breaks to the Arnold Arboretum and the historic North Church), but I’m up against a writing deadline, so these yellow beauties will have to suffice for now.

Greenscapes 2009 — Call for Papers

Greenscapes ~ Sense and Meaning:
Fields of Dreams (Landscapes of Myth and Imagination)
October 1-3, 2009, Brock University

Our landscapes have long been the unconscious repository of cultural hopes, fears and desires. From the Garden of Eden to Aboriginal Dreamtime, societies have perceived their surrounding natural environment to express cultural values reflected in their myths, legends, sacred texts and belief systems. The occupation, transition, or representation of landscape constitutes an imaginative exercise for both subject and object. Yet imagination is not a consciously controllable process, and dreams can be unsettling portents as well as expressions of wish-fulfillment. We welcome papers that explore landscapes of myth and imagination in real and virtual sites, literary texts, images, and installations and invite proposals on the following topics:

• Landscapes of allusion (texts, myths, folktales, legends)
• Sacred and Secular Utopias
• Profane imagination: ruin, decay and social transgression
• Gardens of the ‘first time’: origin myths and social legends
• Dream landscapes: fear, desire, and exploring the unconscious

Please send abstracts (up to 250 words) and a brief biography to greenscapes@brocku.ca by January 5, 2009.

The conference will take place at Brock University, St. Catharines, Ontario. Giles Blunt, author of Forty Words for Sorrow, The Delicate Storm, and Black Fly Season, will deliver the opening keynote on the subject of landscape and fiction.

Conference organizers: Keri Cronin (Visual Arts, Brock University), David Galbraith (Royal Botanical Gardens), Sharilyn J. Ingram (School of Fine and Performing Arts, Brock University), Leah Knight (English Language and Literature, Brock University), Katharine T. von Stackelberg (Classics, Brock University).

We acknowledge with gratitude the support of the Humanities Research Institute at Brock University.

For more information, please visit www.brocku.ca/greenscapes

Kitchen Gardening

Outdoor planting is still a few weeks away, but I’ve been busy with some new potting projects indoors.

Some basil and chives I bought at the Niagara College Greenhouse yesterday:

An avocado seed that I’m hoping will sprout roots soon:

I’ve planted some organic herb seeds in these fun little pots
( Orange = Chives, Green = Sweet Basil, Yellow = Thyme):

So far it looks like Thyme is winning!

Road Trip!

The closing keynote speaker for our Greenscapes conference was Richard Piacentini, the executive director of the Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens in Pittsburgh. His talk was entitled “The Reverse Greenhouse Effect” and, using the structure of those great 19th century glass houses as a metaphor, Piacentini described the inspiration and efforts that went into the recent renovations at Phipps, renovations that resulted in a silver LEED award from the U.S. Green Building Council. Very cool!

Something else very cool that Richard Piacentini talked about that night was the exhibition of Dale Chihuly pieces at Phipps. I love Chihuly’s work, I love botanical gardens and conservatories, and I’m currently writing about the relationship between art and gardens, so when Laurie suggested we take a road trip down to Pittsburgh to see the show for ourselves I jumped at the opportunity. The installation was originally scheduled to come down in November, but it has been held over until February. If you are anywhere near the Pittsburgh area I highly recommend seeing this show. It is simply stunning! I’ve posted a few pics below, but the photographs don’t come anywhere close to doing it justice.






The Vegetable Lamb

One of the neatest things I saw this summer was the Vegetable Lamb at the Museum of Garden History in London. At first I didn’t know what I was looking at , as I’d not heard the story of the vegetable lamb before. The legend of the Vegetable Lamb goes back as far as the year 436, and it tells the tale of a plant that grew living lambs as if they were flowers. According to the legend, the lambs were able to bend down and eat the plants surrounding it and were thus able to feed themselves for a while. Once all the surrounding plants had been munched away, the poor little lambs shrivelled up and died, that is if they didn’t get devoured by a wolf first. Below is an image taken from Henry Lee’s 1887 book entitled The Vegetable Lamb of Tartary: a Curious Fable of the Cotton Plant, to Which Is Added a Sketch of the History of Cotton and the Cotton Trade.

The plant that prompted this legend is a type of fern, the Cibotium barometz. The root of the fern was often collected as “evidence” of the existence of the so-called vegetable lamb. The Museum of Garden history has one of these vegetable lamb roots, their particular specimen preserved under glass around the middle of the 19th century (see postcard photo below).