Cozying up by the Fire: Kitchen – Gardening Guide Books to Give or Get…

November 30th, 2009 § Comments Off on Cozying up by the Fire: Kitchen – Gardening Guide Books to Give or Get… § permalink

My favorite place to read: beside a glowing fire…

The photograph above was taken last night from a favorite old chair, where I will be spending my leisure hours reading during the months of January and February. And although a few calendar weeks remain until winter officially begins in the northern hemisphere, I have already started on my seasonal pile of gardening books. Some of the titles in my stack are new, (to be reviewed here later), and some are old favorites, (listed below).

Recently a number of new gardeners have contacted me with questions about the basics of vegetable gardening. New gardeners always have great questions. How do you learn to garden ? What should you plant in your first garden ? How much do I plant and when do I plant it ? While some of us were lucky enough to have vegetable plots of our own as children, (or to grow up on, or around, farms), many gardeners begin when they move into their first home or apartment. To a new gardener, without early gardening experiences, the horticultural world can seem mighty daunting. Phrases like, ‘she was born with a green-thumb’, or ‘he can grow anything‘, or ‘do you have the name of the cultivar in botanical latin?’, only add to the mystery and anxiety surrounding the gardening world. But the truth is, no one is born with a green-thumb, and even the best gardeners can not grow everything, (we all routinely kill things, sometimes by accident – gasp!). And please, never let language intimidate you –  I have met many a ‘gardener’, fluent in botanical latin, without a shred of gardening skill. Just because the parrot can talk, it doesn’t mean he knows what he is saying !

Learning to garden is a basic life pleasure, and it isn’t difficult at all – in fact, anyone can do it. I have been gardening professionally for quite awhile now, and I still can get really frustrated with the often haughty ‘horticultural world’s’ insistence upon academic language and off-putting ‘rules’. This is no way to encourage participation. So, for you new gardeners out there, or those of you just thinking of testing the waters – you know what I say to all that? Forgetaboutit. Seriously. Gardening is an action verb. It’s like Nike says, ‘just do it‘. The most important thing you can do is to approach your little plot of earth with with the desire to have fun and to learn. Everyone has to start somewhere. Most gardeners learn through trial and error, (and a little bit of help from more experienced friends). Remember that all professional gardeners started as novices too, and they often make just as many, (and sometimes bigger), mistakes as amateurs, (making mistakes is part of learning, no matter your level of experience).

Now that we have that out of the way, I will say that there are some very handy resources out there for gardeners; well-written guide books for everyone, from the novice to the advanced horti-maniac. Understanding how plants grow and what they need to thrive is always key to your success. Soil science, (basic natural chemistry), is important; basic entomology, (insect identification), is useful; and of course simple botany, (the study of plants), is helpful. Below I have listed the three books I most recommend to vegetable gardeners. Whether you are just turning your first vegetable plot, or working on your 25th gourmet-potager-plan, these books will help you to develop and improve your gardening skills. Because I teach and coach other gardeners, I am always reviewing the basics and making new discoveries for myself.

So, if you know a new, intermediate or advanced vegetable gardener, and you are looking for a good gardening gift, you might want to consider the three titles listed below. I give each of these books a five-out-of-five star review. So here they are, listed in the order I would assign them if I were your teacher. Now, put the tea pot on the stove, cozy up beside a toasty fire, and dig right in…

Vegetable Gardener's Bible

The Vegetable Gardener’s Bible: Discover Ed’s High-Yield W-O-R-D System for All North American Gardening Regions

This is the first vegetable gardening book I would recommend to anyone. Ed’s book a perfect resource for new gardeners. Written in simple, easy to understand language, it includes step-by-step guides to composting, soil testing, amending and building, seed starting, companion planting and harvesting, and more. It is worth it’s weight in gold…

rodales-vegetable-garden-problem-solver

Rodale’s Vegetable Garden Problem Solver

Fern Bradley’s book is the next title on my list. This is a great book for beginning or advanced vegetable gardeners. The author covers all of the important organic gardening essentials, and digs deeper into entomology and companion planting than many other authors. I consider this an essential title in the organic gardener’s library…

Kitchen Garden Jennifer B

Designing the New Kitchen Garden: An American Potager Handbook

Once the basics have been mastered, (or for the more comprehensive vegetable gardening home-course), I usually suggest reading this fantastic potager-design book by Jennifer Bartley. Although Jennifer’s book does touch on some basic gardening information, I consider this title more of a design and layout, (also important), resource. It is gorgeous and inspirational.

Happy Reading !

Settling into a cozy chair for a season of gardening dreams. Image ⓒ Michaela at TGE

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Article and photographs copyright 2009, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

Please do not use my words or photographs without contacting me first.

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced for any purpose without express written permission. Inspired by something you see here? Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

Thank you !

The Gardener’s Eden is an Amazon.com affiliate. Any Amazon purchases made through the links here help to support this site. Thank you !

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Holiday Brunch from the Kitchen Garden and Local Orchard…

November 28th, 2009 § 1 comment § permalink

Heirloom Lady Apple and Yukon Gold Potato Fry…

Anticipation is in the air. Twinkling lights. Aromatic, evergreen boughs. Crackling fires. Stories. There are so many simple things to love about the coming holiday season and winter months. For me, late morning breakfasts always top the December weekend-pleasures list. After a busy year, doesn’t it feel luxurious to enjoy a leisurely morning at the sun drenched table, sipping coffee and lingering over scattered newspapers? Or better yet, how about a half day spent sprawled out upon the king size bed with a tray of warm pastries and a pot of steaming tea?  Oh, the delights of the quiet season ahead. And while it is certainly a feast made for lovers, brunch is also a fun meal to share with family and friends during the holiday season.

This is the time of year when I begin to pull out my favorite, dog-eared cookbooks, returning to the eagerly anticipated smells of homemade brunch. Although there are many fine culinary titles collecting dust on my shelves, there is one that never needs brushing off – Marion Cunningham’s Breakfast Book Marion’s delightful little collection of recipes has long been my secret, brunch-weapon. French toast, eggs, waffles, potatoes, muffins, cakes; Marion has included everything your heart could possibly desire. She even has a brunch-defining recipe called the ‘Sunday loaf’. Exactly what I was thinking Marion – exactly.

Late last night before turning in, I boiled some homegrown Yukon gold potatoes to enjoy in my own, modified version of Marion’s ‘Apple Potato Fry’ this morning. I have altered the recipe a bit to include sweet onion from my kitchen garden and heirloom lady apples, (see photo notes below), from local Scott Farm Orchard. When I got up today, I simply fried the potatoes, added fresh diced apples, a bit of onion, and cooked it for a few minutes while I stoked the fire. When done, I topped the whole thing off with fried eggs and farm-fresh sour cream. It was pretty much heaven –  and since this is the season of giving, I felt I should let you in on it….

Lady Apple (Pomme d' Api, or Roman)Beautiful heirloom Lady Apples, (Pomme d’ Api) – tiny and tart-sweet, these citron-green apples with a rosy blush are delightful to cook with, eat fresh, or enjoy in holiday decorations such as wreaths…

Pan Fried Yukon Gold Potatoes with Heirloom Lady Apples

Adapted from Marion Cunningham’s Potato Apple Fry, in The Breakfast Book

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6    Heirloom Lady Apples, (or 3 regular sized tart apples such as Pippin or Granny Smith)

5    Tablespoons fresh lemon juice

4    Tablespoons fresh butter

3    Tablespoons vegetable oil

12  Small or 6 medium sized left-over, or freshly boiled and dried Yukon Gold potatoes, (or new red potatoes)

1     Small sweet onion, (such as Vidalia)

Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

6     Tablespoons fresh, whole-milk sour cream, (or whole Greek Yogurt)

Wash, core and dice the heirloom Lady apples, (about 1/8-1/4″ thick). I leave the skin on for color and flavor. Place apples into a small bowl, tossing with lemon juice. Set aside.

Peel and chop the sweet onion, medium dice.

In a small skillet, heat 1 table spoon of vegetable oil over low heat. Raise the burner temp. to medium, add the onion and cook until translucent, (about 5-7 minutes). Remove onion to a plate and set aside.

In a large skillet, (one with a lid), heat the butter and remaining oil over low heat. Meanwhile, cut up the left-over potatoes into 1/8-1/4″ dice, (or use freshly boiled potatoes, patted dry). I always leave the peels on my boiled potatoes for vitamins and texture, (I simply wash and scrub them clean before cooking). As you turn the burner up to medium, slowly add the potatoes, spreading them evenly in the skillet. Add salt and pepper. Cook potatoes on one side until crispy and brown, (5 minutes), turn and brown again, (another 5 or so).

Drain the lemon juice from the apples and pat them dry. When potatoes are a crisp, even, golden brown, add the apples and toss well. Cover with a lid and cook over high heat for two two to three minutes. Uncover, stir and add sweet onion.  Cook uncovered for a few more minutes.

Remove to a serving platter and serve hot with fresh sour cream.

Lady apples diced upLady Apples diced up…

Yukon gold potatoes in panYukon gold potatoes, pan frying to a crispy, warm brown…

Heirloom Lady Apple and Yukon Gold Potato FryLady apples added to the browned Yukon gold potatoes…

Potato Apple Fry with Egg Over-EasyHeirloom lady apple and Yukon gold potato fry with an egg, cooked over-easy, and a dollop of fresh sour cream…

Article and photographs copyright 2009, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used for any purpose without express written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

Thank you.

Holiday Traditions: Visiting a Tree Farm Guest Post by Nanette Pigaga…

November 27th, 2009 § 7 comments § permalink

blury tree one

The Forest Illuminated, Photograph © 2009 Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

I have never been much of a Black Friday enthusiast. Frankly, I would rather snuggle up by a cozy fire with a good book, or a notebook and pen, listening to Erik Satie and sipping hot, mulled cider. But if you are going out today, I hope that you will have fun. Please take care when traveling the busy roadways – safe travels this weekend everyone.

December is just around the corner, and of course the coming month is filled with holiday celebrations in many cultures, all around the world. There are dozens of wonderful traditions surrounding the winter solstice, and one of my favorites is the old pagan ritual of adorning a tree with lights and decorations. So rather than busting down doors at the mall, this weekend I will begin decorating for the festival of light.

A few months back I received a note from reader Nanette Pigaga, asking to use an image from The Gardener’s Eden on the The Garden Club of New Jersey website, which she administers. Nanette’s letter also included a lovely story she wrote about her family’s tradition of harvesting Christmas trees at a local New Jersey farm. The article, featured below, was originally published in 2008 by the Ridgewood News. Visiting a local, sustainable farm and buying a tree is a great way to support your community at this time of year. I thought this might be a good time to introduce special guest-posts here on The Gardener’s Eden. Thank you for sharing your story Nanette….

Ilex verticillata 'Red sprite'

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I asked my mother the other day when and why we began to cut down our Christmas trees.  I could never remember going to a lot to pick one out, I told her.  However, I do remember the many times my two sisters and I accompanied my mom into the magical fields of a tree farm in Lakeville, Indiana, a 30 minute or so drive south of our home in northern Indiana.  We left the boys (my father and older brother) at home.  What my mom revealed to me in this recent conversation was a story with the following elements: 1) my dad was always responsible for bringing our trees home because, 2) my mom was busy taking care of four children.  I guess I was to read into that comment that taking four children Christmas tree shopping, lot or farm, might be too much for any parent to handle!  In any event, my dad 3) came home with a tree one year in which the needles fell completely off within two weeks, and 4) it was decided that my mom would be in charge of tree selection from then on.  I guess I was to read into that comment that someone complained too much for any father to handle!

Just as in those days of my childhood, I have continued the holiday tree selection in the rain, snow, wind and slush of early winter, loving every minute.  When I moved to Philadelphia, I sought out a tree farm.  Ken and I were dating then, and we drove to seven farms throughout New Jersey in one day (I remember the day well- the temperature was 70 degrees) until we found the “perfect tree” at Hall Tree Farm in Glen Gardner.   That was 1978.  We have been going to Hall Tree Farm in that mountainside hamlet ever since.  Mrs. Knorr ran the farm then, and handed out lollipops to all the children from her outdoor “office”, a little red hut, one of the original ticket booths from the 1964 New York World’s Fair.  When calling to get directions, I remember her telling me to, “Just ask anyone in town the way up here.”  Her grandson Scott was a kid then, helping customers tie their selections onto the roofs of their cars.  He took the farm over several years ago, before his grandmother passed away.  Scott has now placed signs leading the way up the mountain to the farm, and has culled the fields of those trees that became overgrown or grew too close together during the years his grandmother’s health was failing.  What now remains is a farm with a large variety of beautifully shaped evergreens to make any grandmother proud.  Scott is there with his cadre of family and friends the day after Thanksgiving 8am-3:30pm and weekends until Christmas to help everyone find their perfect tree.  They will lend you one of their saws (saws brought in are not allowed, to avoid the risk of disease) if you want to cut your tree yourself, or they will perform the act for you.  Transportation for your tree is via tractor-drawn cart.  You and/or the kids can go along for the ride.   The staff will tie your tree securely to the top of your car.  If you go, be certain to check out the Concolor Fir variety, an aromatic, long needle tree.  We have been purchasing nothing else since 1982, when we discovered its needles still fully pliable after four weeks.  Keep your eyes open for wild turkeys and other signs of Mother Nature (last year Scott pointed out evidence bear had been visiting).  If you own dogs, let them romp to their hearts content.  No trip would be complete without stopping at the rustic Woodglen General Store for breakfast sandwiches or lunch immediately after your trek into the country.  Directions to both locations are below.


Nanette Pigaga

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Nanette Pigaga is the Web Administrator for the Garden Club of New Jersey

and the Women Gardeners of Ridgewood, New Jersey

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Hall Tree Farm

93 Red Mill Road

Glen Gardner, New Jersey 08826

(908) 537-2056

Open 8am-3:30pm Friday, November 27th and every Sat & Sun ’til Christmas

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Woodglen General Store

549 E Hill Rd

Califon, New Jersey 07830

(908) 638-4082

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Story copyright Nanette Pigaga, used here with the author’s permission

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If you have a special story, recipe, project or tradition to share, please contact me, (see link at left). I always look forward to hearing from all of you and reading your replies and suggestions.

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Happy Holidays! – Michaela


All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced for any reason without express written permission. Inspired by something you see here? Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

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Bringing Nature’s Beauty Indoors: Creating a Festive Mood at the Holiday Dinner Table with Candles and Natural Treasures…

November 25th, 2009 § 6 comments § permalink

Bittersweet and floating votive candles…

As we begin celebrating the holidays this season, our attentions turn toward the table, where we gather to celebrate and give thanks. Now that I have finished shopping for tomorrow’s Thanksgiving feast, I am beginning to play with some seasonal arrangements to greet my guests and illuminate the dining area. With so much stark inspiration in the forest surrounding my home, I tend to reflect nature’s minimalism by keeping my decorations simple.

As seasonal darkness returns, candles provide a warm welcome at dinnertime. This year I am drawn to beeswax pillars glowing behind glass, and floating votives flickering in bittersweet-laced water bowls. Placing candles behind glass, or floating them in water provides additional sparkle and reflection. Beyond the added luminosity, thick glass and water also add safety to candle displays, particularly when they are combined with natural and often combustible materials…

Pine cones and crabapples, safely piled around a glass-hurricane lantern…

Of course, we all know that open flames are very dangerous, especially in households with children and pets. Candles should never be left untended, even when protected by glass. But when handled with care in occupied rooms, candles enclosed in glass jars, water bowls or hurricane lanterns can provide a safe focal point for beautiful holiday centerpieces.

A few years ago I received several hurricane shades, (pictured above, and linked below), and beeswax candles as a holiday gift. What a great present for a gardener! I use these glass cylinders in many ways, throughout the seasons. The stockier jar-type containers with glass bottoms work great for holding water, stone or gravel in addition to votive candles or short pillars. I also like to wrap vines like bittersweet all around these jars. The taller glass hurricane shades provide higher flame protection, and I love using these on the terrace where they prevent candles from extinguishing in the wind. The taller, heavy glass shades also work well when piling up pine cones, berries, evergreen boughs or branches on the table, as the glass provides a barrier to open flame. Particularly rambunctious households may wish to replace real candles with battery-powered fakes for added peace of mind. Your table will benefit from the natural elements and illumination either way…

Hurricane Glass Shade

Glass Hurricane Shade, (11.5″), by Libbey Glass, $29.49

Libbey 9861112 11.5

Glass Hurricane clearClear Glass Hurricane from Target, $20.49

Glass Hurricane – Clear

When choosing candles, I usually prefer beeswax candles to other types because they tend to burn longer and cleaner, (without the black smoke), than paraffin candles. Although candle wax is often colored and scented, I like the natural, unscented kind best. Scented candles can be lovely for setting a mood when bathing or for adding fragrance to a room, but at the dinner table, I find them very distracting when I want to focus on the smells and tastes of a special meal.

More decorating ideas inspired by the garden will be coming soon. In the meantime, I hope you will continue to look toward the natural world for beautiful, recyclable materials as you begin decorating for the holidays this year…

Happy Thanksgiving Everyone – Safe Travels

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6" beeswax pillar candle

Beeswax Pillar Candle, 6″ tall, $24.00

Six Inch Tall Pure Beeswax Pillar Candle – Unscented

1 natural floating votive candleFloating votive candle for suspending in water-bowls…

Tapered Floater Votive Candle – Medium – 2

Hurricane Glass BowlHurricane Glass Bowl from Target, $29.99

Hurricane Glass Bowl

Beeswax votivesBeeswax votive candles,(image and product from Blue Corn naturals), 4 for $9.00

Raw Beeswax Votives: 4 Pack

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Article and photographs copyright 2009, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

Please do not take, use or reproduce my photographs or my words, for any purpose, without first contacting me for permission.

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the copyrighted property of Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden, and may not be used or reproduced without express written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

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On a Cold, Wet November Morning the Red Twigs of Tartarian Dogwood are Still Burning Bright…

November 24th, 2009 § Comments Off on On a Cold, Wet November Morning the Red Twigs of Tartarian Dogwood are Still Burning Bright… § permalink

red twig dogwood

Tartarian dogwood, (Cornus alba ‘Sibirica’), at Ferncliff in November…

There’s nothing like a dose of brilliant scarlet color to lift the spirits in dreary weather! On this damp, grey November morning, the twigs of Tartarian dogwood glow like red-hot embers in a bonfire. Isn’t it spectacular? Nature can be quite the artiste! This glorious woody shrub grows wild from Eastern Russia to North Korea and Northeast China. Here in North America, Tartarian dogwood is a well-mannered introduced species, hardy in USDA zones 2 – 7. Best massed for color-effect, each shrub will grow approximately 10′ high and wide. Although I occasionally use a single red twig dogwood in a small garden design, I prefer to see this beauty grouped, (as shown above), for a naturalized look.

Tartarian dogwood, (Cornus alba), is a close relative of our native Redosier dogwood, (Cornus sericea), and although they are difficult to distinguish, (even for trained horticulturalists), in this case I prefer the non-native species to our own. My favorite Russian native, pictured here, (Cornus alba ‘Sibirica’), tends to be more upright in habit than our native red twig dogwood, and to my eye, it is a bit brighter in stem color. The rounded form of the shrub is very attractive in summer, forming a natural looking, verdant backdrop for other plantings. In autumn, Tartarian dogwood holds its burgundy foliage until late fall. And when the leaves drop in late October, the stems shine brilliantly in the gloomy landscape. But this beautiful show is only just beginning! Come winter, the red twigs will make a stunning display against a backdrop of snow white. I like to cut about 1/3 of the stems to the ground in early spring, in order to encourage new woody growth. The younger stems shine brightest in the landscape…

red twig dogwood ll, march 19, 2009

Tartarian dogwood, (Cornus alba ‘Sibirica’), at Ferncliff in March…

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Article and photographs copyright 2009, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

Please do not take, use or reproduce my photographs or words without contacting me for permission.

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without express, written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

Thank you !

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The Empty Garden…

November 22nd, 2009 § Comments Off on The Empty Garden… § permalink

Acer palmatum x dissectum 'Seiryu' reflection

Autumn’s mirror…

Empty Nest November small size

The remains of a summer nest, now silent and still…

One evening last week a storm rolled in, and continued throughout the night. In the morning, when I woke, I found a different landscape. The trees all shook their leaves – dramatic and swift. Skeletons now stand where brightly colored canopies once filled the sky. A long night of wind-driven rain and suddenly it’s late fall. Clocks are turned back now, and the darkness falls early. On rainy afternoons, mist mingles with pale indigo twilight, and a mysterious haze hangs upon the woodland edge. As I walk along the gloomy paths, damp earth perfumes the naked forest with a musky odor. Moody and barren, my garden is slowly drifting off to sleep; littered with broken flowers and the echo of summer memories…

willow branches at twilight

Willow branches in the late autumn twilight…

Candle in wall

The rattling, skeletal remains of black snake root…

forest reflected

The forest, reflected…

Vines on the stonewall

Chilly Japanese hydrangea clings to grey stone.

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Article and photographs copyright 2009, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

Please do not take, use or reproduce my photographs or words without contacting me for permission.

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without express, written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Please give credit where credit is due. Link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

Thank you


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Bringing Nature’s Beauty Indoors: Decorating for the Holidays with Winterberry, Pine Cones, Bittersweet and Natural Garden Remnants…

November 20th, 2009 § 6 comments § permalink

NB winterberry upclose

Winterberry branches, in a modern glass vase, beside my painting studio door

One of my favorite ways to prepare for the Thanksgiving holiday is to decorate my home and studio with natural remnants from my garden. At the end of my day yesterday afternoon, I stopped along the bank of the Connecticut river and gathered some native bittersweet vine, (Celastrus scandens), for wreaths and table arrangements. Over the past couple of weeks, I have also been collecting pine cones, berry covered twigs and fruit tree branches from around my property. These autumn remnants will fill vases, urns and baskets around my home. Later I will add some berries and pine cones to my wreaths and door swags, setting aside a few extra decorations to give as gifts. When the holidays have passed, I will recycle my decorations by bringing the berry branches back outdoors to provide food for birds. The pine cones will remain indoors, where I will use them to start fires in my wood stove…

winterberry

Gathered winterberry branches, (Ilex verticillata),  from the garden

I started decorating this morning by filling vases with berry branches and baskets with pine cones. Just adding a little bit of color and texture from the garden really brightened the house and lifted my spirits. I thought I would share some photos of my dried table and floor arrangements as I get ready for the holidays. This weekend I plan to continue making simple, decorative baskets and wreaths – so there will be more ideas coming next week. The best part? All of these decorations came from my garden or nature; the only costs are time and energy – both well spent…

pinecones in a basket

Pine cones, dried and arranged in a basket on my kitchen table

NB bittersweet in aletha soule pitcher

Bittersweet, in an Aletha Soule gunmetal-glaze pitcher, on a table in my studio

NB crabapple vase

Crabapple branches in a Richard Foye raku vase in my bedroom

NB winterberry in vase

NB winterberry

Winterberry branch, (Ilex verticillata)

NB winterberry in urn

Winterberry, placed in an urn on the second floor landing of my studio

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Article and photographs copyright 2009, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

Please do not use or reproduce my photographs, for any reason, without permission

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced for any reason without express written permission. Inspired by something you see here? Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

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Art Inspired by Nature: The Colorful, Botanical World of Artist and Gardener Virginia Wyoming…

November 18th, 2009 § 1 comment § permalink

Virginia Wyoming holding flower pot with grass markings in studio

Virginia Wyoming holds one of her beautiful stoneware flowerpots, etched with grass-like markings and finished with a multilayered earth-green glaze…

Virginia Wyoming’s studio lies at the far end of a long and winding, interrupted road in Westminster, Vermont. When I say interrupted, I mean that the road literally stops midway, broken by forest. Naturally I headed up the wrong direction. As is often the case with an unplanned detour, I met some colorful characters and animals along the way, including a turkey. Of course one of the things I like best about getting lost, is finding my way again. There’s usually more than one way to get to where you are going. And often the round-about way is far more interesting…

Meet Virginia Wyoming, the subject of this week’s ‘Art Inspired by Nature’ at The Gardener’s Eden. A retired elementary school art teacher, Virginia is now a full time studio artist. She was educated at Douglass College, Rutgers University, initially studying painting and drawing. Later, Virginia became interested in sculptural work and pottery while living in New York. The artist began making pots of her own in 1969, and developed a desire to create ‘useful things’.

After moving to Vermont, Virginia continued to create pottery while teaching art full time in a New Hampshire elementary school. She shows her stoneware pieces in Springfield, Vermont at The Vault Gallery, and in Brattleboro, Vermont at Cai Xi Gallery. Her work may also be seen in her Etsy shop online. Through our afternoon conversation, I discovered that Virginia is particularly interested in modern Chinese ceramics. She has taught herself some Chinese through independent study, and hopes to travel to Beijing.

Over the course of years, Virginia has found a niche for her work by creating flower pots and planters, as well as vases and kitchenware. Her work is quite beautiful, rich in both color and texture. These pieces are also an exceptional value. The artist now sells her work on Etsy in a shop she calls Virginia Wyoming Eclectic Studio Pottery. Her work ranges in price from under $20 for small pieces to a high of around $500 for large sculpture. The very popular flower pots in her Etsy shop are priced between $24 and $54, (for a three piece set)…

Virgina Wyoming holding flower pot with leaf motif in studio

Virginia holds another pot with leaf detail…

Virginia Wyoming, studio windowsill pots

Virginia’s botanical motifs and natural palette make her work enormously appealing both as functional objects and as works of art…

Virginia Wyoming holding flower pot with floral motif in studio

A detailed flower pot with attached water cache…

Virginia Wyoming studio:pottery

Some of the beautiful flowerpots, plates, mugs and dishes in Virginia Wyoming’s studio…

The artist’s work studio is quite small, and although it is a multipurpose space located in the basement of her home, I found it rather cozy. As I entered the building, I spotted a wood stove in the corner, and I could hear classical music playing softly in the background. Shelves and tables overflowing with her finished work lined the left side of the space. To the right sat her wheel and her tools, and beyond, more work shelves lined up with bisque-fired pieces ready for glazing…

Virginia Wyoming, studio tools and wheel

The artist’s wheel and tools in her tiny studio space…

Several tables near the studio windows were scattered with works in progress, (including the to-die-for experimental, floral lace plates pictured below). Throughout her workspace and home, Virginia has decorated the windowsills with her own flower-pots; filling them with various succulents, cacti and exotic conservatory plants, many from The Old School House Plantery, (see link below).

Virginia Wyoming, leaf ornaments

Virginia’s delicate leaf ornaments in subtle green and grey hues, and below, some of her newer experiments with botanical imagery…

Virginia Wyoming, floral lace experiment

Virginia’s floral lace experiments on her plates – I love these, (click for closer view)…

Virginia Wyoming, Lace plate 1

One of the finished floral lace plates on the artist’s Etsy shop…

Virginia Wyoming flower pot with cactus

Cacti and other succulents fill myriad flower pots in Virginia’s Westminster, Vermont studio…

Virginia Wyoming flower pot with succulents on studio windowsill

After touring the studio, and discussing her process, Virginia and I walked to her glass greenhouse atop the hill. Not surprisingly, (with just a little bit of help), Virginia assembled the structure herself from a kit. In this beautiful space the artist is currently growing edibles, (including leafy greens and herbs), amongst a collection of ornamental plants. Here in the conservatory, I was able to get a peek at some of her larger containers, including gorgeous vessels, alpine strawberry planters, urns and other stoneware items in practical use…

Virigina Wyoming greenhouse 2

Virginia’s glass greenhouse, (photo courtesy of the artist), is a tiny, botanical jewel-box; filled with lush foliage and gorgeous pottery…

Virginia Wyoming, greenhouse strawberry planters

Virginia’s alpine strawberry planters and a gorgeous sea green urn, shown below as the artist rubs the smooth surface with her hand…

Virginia Wyoming, greenhouse:pot

virginia wyoming, pot in greenhouse

Beautiful planters in every imaginable shape and size, all in the most gorgeous, richly saturated colors, fill the conservatory tables, benches and floor…

Virginia Wyoming, greenhouse pots

Virginia Wyoming, Greenhouse 1

Virginia’s greenhouse in summertime, (photo courtesy of the artist).

An avid gardener, Virgina comes from a long line of horticulturalists. She considers her planters and garden art a personal contribution to the family’s horticultural history, which traces back five generations. Below, garden sculpture from the ‘Awareness’ series and one of Virginia’s large flower pots are displayed in her lovely perennial gardens, (photos courtesy of  the artist)…

Virginia Wyoming, Awareness Series

Virginia Wyoming blue green flowerpot

Virginia Wyoming, Awareness Series 2

Although Virginia’s work is all quite beautiful to my eye, there is one sculpture series that truly stands apart. While discussing her ‘Crow’ series, Virginia told me about a dream she had some time ago. While she was sleeping, two crows appeared. The birds were tormented and distressed; caught up in plastic, croaking, ‘Evermore‘, (as opposed to ‘Nevermore’, a line made famous by Edgar Allan Poe). In response to the dream, Virginia began creating the ‘Crow’ series pictured below. This work is quite different from her other series’. The crows are hand built from weather proof stoneware. They are wonderfully animated, with expressive features and etched detail. Because I am quite fond of Edgar Allan Poe’s poem, “The Raven”, I was immediately taken with both the story and the work. Then, when I saw the amazing birds grouped in Virginia’s autumn garden, I was completely bewitched. The artist has captured the spirit of a cackling flock of crows, exactly…

Virginia Wyoming, crow

One of Virginia’s crows in the studio, (photo courtesy of the artist)…

Virginia Wyoming Crows Gathering in Garden

And here, a group of crows from the series congregates in amongst the leaves in Virginia’s garden…

Virginia Wyoming Crow Close Up One

After touring Virginia’s studio and greenhouse, we sat down in her kitchen for a spell. The artist’s home is warm and welcoming – dozens and dozens of her colorful, beautiful stoneware mugs, plates, bowls and cookware line the shelves of her sunny kitchen. Plants from The Old School House Plantery and nearby Walker Farm fill the room with life and fragrance; her lovingly tended collection all nestled within beautiful handmade flowerpots…

tea in the artist's kitchen

Virginia Wyoming, kitchen, pottery

Virginia Wyoming pot in kitchen

Virginia Wyoming pots in studio home kitchen

Virginia Wyoming, kitchen:flower pot

Virginia Wyoming, kitchen flower-pot with scented geranium…

Although this visit ended far too soon, I am planning to return to Virginia’s studio before the holidays select some of her work for holiday gift giving. Spending time with Virginia is a real pleasure. Her love of horticulture and her devotion to her craft have inspired a beautiful life in the countryside of southern Vermont. If this brief introduction to Virginia Wyoming has sparked your curiosity, I hope you will visit her Etsy shop, Virginia Wyoming, Eclectic Studio Pottery. What you see here is just the beginning – there is so much more on her site! Thank you for spending an afternoon with me Virginia, it was a joy…

Virginia Wyoming in her garden

Virginia Wyoming at work in her favorite garden hat. (Photo: VW)

Virginia Wyoming three flowerpots

A trio of lovely pots in a tray, (photo by VW), available at Virginia’s Etsy shop…

For Further information about Virginia Wyoming and her work, or to purchase any of her available pieces online, please visit her very lovely Etsy shop here :  Virginia Wyoming Eclectic Studio Pottery

For information on the beautiful conservatory plants featured, please visit The Old School House Plantery online at Estsy shop, Eclecticasia

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All articles on The Gardener’s Eden are purely editorial. No compensation, (of any kind) is received for features on this site.

Article and photographs, (exceptions noted), are copyright 2009, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without express written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

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Must be the Season of the Witch Alder : The Spellbinding Late Autumn Color of Fothergilla…

November 16th, 2009 § 4 comments § permalink

Fothergilla gardenii by the wall in NovemberWitch Alder, (Fothergilla major, ‘Mt. Airy’), in the sunny entry garden in mid November; luminous against the Secret Garden wall…

Oh, would you look at this beauty. Look at the magical, bright orange and yellow color, glowing in the grey November light. Is it any wonder they named her Witch Alder? She’s completely enchanting. All around her, the other shrubs have lost their foliage; standing naked in the garden. But in the last weeks of October, Witch Alder just begins to cast her autumn spell. From Halloween right on through Thanksgiving – I like to celebrate the season of this witch.

North American native Witch Alder, (Fothergilla major and Fothergilla gardenii), is one of the first shrubs to bloom come springtime, and one of the last to drop its leaves in late fall. Not only is she beautiful, but Witch-alder also provides a rich source of early-season nectar for bees and other insects; all held within pretty, bottle-brush, green-white blooms. Hardy in USDA zones 4-9, Witch-alder prefers moist but well drained soil, and performs best in sun to light shade. Dwarf Witch-alder, (Fothergilla gardenii), is an excellent small-scale garden shrub, reaching a height of 3-6 feet and a similar width. There is a beautiful, moody cultivar called ‘Blue mist’ that I saw for the first time, a few years back, in a friend’s garden. I was envious then, and I am still longing to add her to my garden. Large Witch Alder can reach 15 feet tall and 6 feet wide in ideal conditions, but the largest specimen I have seen here at the northern edge of the hardiness range was about half that size. I have a number of witches in my garden, (including the closely related Witch Hazel), and one of my favorites for autumn color the intermediate sized Witch Alder hybrid known as ‘Mt. Airy’, (shown here as noted).

So although they have the fake, fluffy snow and blinking Christmas decorations decking the halls at the Home Depot, I am choosing to ignore all that for now. It’s November, after all. There is so much to enjoy in the late autumn garden – why rush? My, it’s downright hypnotic out there on a warm, sunny day. Slow down and delight in all of this season’s magic and wonder. And don’t forget – it’s still the season of the witch…

Fothergilla leafThe technicolor foliage of Witch Alder, (Fothergilla major, ‘Mt. Airy’),  in early November…

Fothergilla gardenii inside the secret garden in NovemberDwarf Witch Alder (Fothergilla gardenii) in mid November, planted in a shady location inside the Secret Garden – note the difference in size and fall foliage color between cultivars…

Red twig dogwood, fothergilla, miscanthus, sedum, etc...Native Witch Alder, (Fothergilla major ‘Mt. Airy’) in a mixed border of shrubs planted for season-spanning bloom, color and texture…

fothergilla gardenii, early springWitch Alder (Fothergilla major ‘Mt. Airy’) provides early spring bloom in the entry garden

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Article and photographs copyright 2009, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without express permission. Inspired by something you see here? Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

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In a Golden Orchard, Dreaming …

November 13th, 2009 § 2 comments § permalink

Stowe Mt. Orchard November, closer shotA 100-hundred-year-old orchard in Vermont, with restoration pruning

Stowe Mt. Orchard Lower PocketThe un-restored lower section of the same orchard …

Lovely place for an afternoon stroll, isn’t it? Yesterday I found myself with an extra hour of time around sunset, and I decided to go for a walk in this old apple grove surrounded by golden fields near my home. The light was low and hazy, and the red and yellow apples shone brightly against the grey bark of the trees. A couple of years ago, I was lucky enough to be involved in the restoration of this beautiful orchard, and the project re-ignited apple growing dreams of my own…

The orchard pictured above is not a working fruit farm, it is simply part of a lovely old farmhouse estate in southern Vermont. Although the original owners certainly grew, and perhaps sold fruit or cider at one time, the orchard never operated as a serious commercial enterprise. Planted professionally more than one hundred years ago, these trees were always part of a private grove. Many years ago, small orchards like this one were commonplace, and most old farmsteads in New England still have a few craggy fruit trees scattered about. The trees on this property do bear some apples, (mostly enjoyed by local deer), however, the goal of the current owners has always been to preserve the history and beauty of this place, not to grow fruit…

Stowe Mountain Orchard Lost Forest FruitStowe Mountain Orchard: Lost Forest Fruit

I am just beginning the practical planning stages involved in realizing my orchard dream. In the northern parts of the United States and Canada, (USDA zone 8 and colder), the best time to plant fruit trees is in the spring. With this in mind, it makes sense to plot and prepare a planting site in fall. Whether you are toying with the idea of a couple of apple trees, or considering a larger home orchard filled with peaches, plums and pears, now is a good time to think about the best location for those trees and to test and amend the soil for spring planting.

A well-planned orchard can produce fruit for at least one hundred years. With this in mind, selecting a permanent site for fruit trees is very important. The first steps in planning a home orchard are to research what kinds of fruit trees do well in your area, and to decide what varieties you would like to grow. This will help you to determine how much space you need to allow for your trees and for the service areas in your planting plan. The distance between individual trees is dependent upon the cultivars grown. Many dwarf fruit trees are available to home gardeners, and they are a good choice if you have a small yard. Of course it goes without saying that fruit trees must be planted in full sun. Trees planted too closely will shade one another, reducing crop yield on the lower branches. Some other key factors amongst the many to be considered include air drainage on the property, cross pollination and coordinated bloom time, and all-important soil chemistry and structure. Honey bee hives may play a role in my future orchard, so I will be researching this topic as well.

In the early stages of preparing for my home orchard, as much of the work will be done beside the fire as will be accomplished with a tractor. At this stage, a significant amount of research and study is involved. In addition to consulting with local experts, I will be reviewing a few favorite titles in my horticultural library. If you, or someone you know is interested in growing fruit, the books below offer excellent information and guidance. I love the idea of an ornamental grove  on my property that also produces delicious food for my table. So I will be cozying up with some books beside the fire over the coming weeks while I continue to dream of a golden orchard all my own…

If you are considering growing apple or other fruit trees, it’s a good idea to educate yourself. The following books are all available, (click title for link to Amazon.com), in paperback. All of these titles are under $30, and three are under $20…

The Best Apples to Buy And Grow (BBG)

The Best Apples to Buy and Grow (Brooklyn Botanic Garden All-Region Guide)
Beth Hanson

Growing Fruit RHS Harry Baker

Growing Fruit (RHS Encyclopedia of Practical Gardening)
Harry Baker

the Backyard Orchardist stella otto

The Backyard Orchardist: A Complete Guide to Growing Fruit Trees in the Home Garden
Stella Otto

The Apple Grower, Michael Phillips

The Apple Grower: Guide for the Organic Orchardist
Michael Phillips

Article and photographs copyright 2009, Michaela at The Gardener’ Eden

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without express consent. Inspired by something you see here? Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams …

Grey and Chilly? Got the Autumn Blues? Spice Up Your Afternoon with Hot Mulled Apple Cider, Or Spike It Up Come Evening If You Choose …

November 12th, 2009 § 4 comments § permalink

A cup of hot, mulled apple cider, garnished with a stick of cinnamon and a slice of orange, studded with fragrant clove…

It’s the middle of November now, and there’s a sharp nip in the air by late afternoon. The sky is often streaked with slate colored clouds, and the sun, when it makes an appearance, slips away early on the western horizon. Naked trees shiver in the wind as I huddle inside my downy jacket, tending to late autumn chores in the garden. I can feel Winter’s icy breath as she whispers, “prepare“…

Well, hold back solemn Winter – I am still scrambling to get things done. The firewood is only half stacked and the Secret Garden still needs mulching. I have orchards to plan and stumps to pull and ditches to clear in the driveway. Hold back stark friend, there are still Autumn moments to savor. There are wild berry branches to gather and pine cones to pick up. The late auburn beauty of November still paints the forest, and bonfires warm our chilly toes as we gaze upon inky skies filled with stars…

Pause now. Revel in the pleasures of this season before we rush to the next.

Yesterday, I stole a quiet moment with Autumn on the back terrace. As I sipped my spicy, mulled cider and savored the warm patch of sunlight, I knew I must share the recipe with all of you here. Simmer a cup or a pot of apple cider on the stove and breathe in the fragrance. Steep rich mulling spices in your drink and enjoy the aroma of the season. Come night-fall, the rum-spiked version of this classic recipe makes for a memorable evening beside a crackling wood stove…

Slow down for a spell and drink up the last drops of Autumn while you can…

mulling spices ingredients and cider in sun horizontalMulling Spices and Heirloom Apple Cider from Scott Farm, Vermont…

Hot Mulled Cider

And Mulling Spice Recipe for Mulled Wine or Hot Spiked Cider

(makes sachets for 4 big, spicy mugs, or 1 large bag for a 1/2 gallon of cider. Divide evenly for single servings, or multiply evenly for larger gatherings)

8 whole cardamon pods, split open

8 whole cloves, (plus extra for orange-garnish)

8 whole cinnamon sticks, (plus more for garnishing each cup)

4 teaspoons freshly ground allspice

4 teaspoons freshly ground nutmeg

4 teaspoons fresh grated orange peel

1 orange, cut into slices for garnish

4 muslin or cheesecloth bags for 4 large mugs or 1 large bag for 1 quart pot of cider

1/2 gallon of fresh heirloom apple cider, (I bought mine from local Scott Farm)

Crack open cardamon pods and and muddle lightly with the back of a wooden spoon or pestle. Place all spices in a large muslin or cheesecloth bag, or evenly divide all spices into four bags.* Tie the bag tightly and toss into a large pot with 1/2 gallon of fresh cider. For single servings, use a small sauce pot. Turn on the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Simmer on low – DO NOT BOIL. In the meantime, create one orange slice garnish per serving, (or to float in serving bowl), by imbedding several cloves in each slice. Place extra cinnamon sticks, (one per serving), in each cup. Remove mulled cider from heat and extract the spice sack. Pour cider into cups or bowl and garnish with orange/clove slices. Serve hot.

*This recipe is a heady mix. For a more subtle blend, increase cider ratio or reduce spice quantities to taste. I like a lot of spice in my life…

Hot Spiked Cider

After simmering the 1/2 gallon of cider and spices for 15 minutes, add 1 1/2 cups of golden Puerto Rican rum to the pot. Simmer for 5 more minutes and continue to prepare as above.

Mulled Red Wine

This is also an excellent spice recipe for mulled red wine. Choose an inexpensive, dry red wine, (such as a Cabernet Sauvignon). Ratio should be approximately the same: 1/2 gallon of wine per bag of mulling spices.

Cheers!

Mulle Cider cinnamon stick, cardamon, cloves

Mulled Cider grated orange peel

Mulled Cider spice sack filled and tied

Photography and Text ⓒ 2009, Michaela Medina/The Gardener’s Eden. All images, articles and content on this site (with noted exceptions), are the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be reposted, reproduced or used in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Please do not take my photographs without asking first. Thank you! 

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Art Inspired by Nature: The Apple of Our Eye…

November 11th, 2009 § 2 comments § permalink

The Garden of the Hesperides, Lord Frederick Leighton, 1892

Lord Fredrick Leighton, The Garden of the Hesperides, 1892

This week’s topic on The Gardener’s Eden is heirloom apples. So in keeping with this theme, today’s edition of ‘Art Inspired by Nature’ focuses on the apple in Western art. A fruit of temperate regions throughout the world, the apple has been cultivated by humans since prehistoric times. Malus sieversii, the wild apple of Kazakhstan, is believed to be the great-great grandmother of our modern, domestic apple, (Malus domestica). These ancient Asian forest apples slowly spread about the globe, hyridizing with wild, or European crab apples, (Malus sylvestris). Eventually, after grafting was discovered by the Chinese, apples became a reliable, staple food throughout the world. Continuous propagation of the apple has resulted in the more than 2,000 modern cultivars grown today.

Human beings are quite preoccupied with apples, and is it any wonder? Not only is this sweet fruit delicious, but it is also beautiful to behold, inspiring artists from the dawn of artistic creation. The apple also became a symbol in many cultures and religions – most famously, of course, in the biblical story of the Garden of Eden. Although modern scientists now believe that the pomegranate may have actually been the fruit of Eden, the apple has become inseparably linked with the story of original sin and temptation. Somehow this association has not hurt the apple’s reputation at all – it has only added poetic allure to this glorious gift of nature.

After an entertaining evening spent researching the apple in Western art, I discovered enough work to fill not one but several large museums. Although it was difficult to decide, I finally chose a few apple-inspired images to share with you here today. I was particularly drawn to the gilded, ancient Greek works of art, such as The Hesperides, (detail shown below). Of course, I had to include some of the work of Cezanne, one of my all time favorite masters of the still life. Interestingly, the image that stays with me when I close my eyes is the modern Red Apple on a Blue Plate, by Georgia O’Keeffe – perhaps it’s time for a snack…

The Hesperides, Meidias, (Greek), circa 420-410BC

Meidias, The Hesperides, (detail), Greece, circa 420 – 410 BC

Hesperiden, Hans von Marees 1884

Hans von Marees, Hesperiden, 1884

cezanne, apples,1878-79

Cezanne, Apples, 1878-9

cezanne, still life with apples and a pot of primroses, circa 1890

Cezanne, Still Life with Apples and a Pot of Primroses, circa 1890

Renoir - The Apple Seller, 1890

Renoir, The Apple Seller, 1890

cezanne, apples and oranges, 1899, musee d'Orsay, Paris

Cezanne, Apples and Oranges, 1899

cezanne, still life with apples and pears, 1891-2

Cezanne, Still Life with Apples and Pears, 1891-2

Monet Apple Trees in Bloom

Monet,  Apple Trees in Bloom, 1887

Pissaro, Apple Picking 1888

Pissaro,  Apple Picking at Eragny sur Epte, 1886

Gauguin, Apples and Bowl, 1888

Gauguin, Apples and Bowl, 1888

Klee Still Life with Four Apples 1909

Klee, Still Life with Four Apples, 1909

Klimt Apple Tree I

Klimt, Apple Tree I, 1912

O'Keeffe - Red Apple on a Blue Plate

O’Keeffe, Red Apple on a Blue Plate, 1922

Ren? Magritte, The Son of Man, 1964, Restored by Shimon D. Yanow

Magritte, The Son of Man, 1964

While researching apples as a motif in art, I visited the Metropolitan Museum of Art website, and I found a wonderful interactive page for kids of all ages featuring a book by Caroline Arnold called An Apple a Day. The book explores the work of Cezanne, with an emphasis on the creation of his apple still life masterpieces. I highly recommend a visit to this wonderful page. Arnold’s delightful children’s book covers two of my favorite topics, apples and art!

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Article copyright 2009 Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

All images in this article are shared under the Fair Use doctrine, for purpose of education and review, and may not be used for any commercial endeavors

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of  The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without written consent. Inspired by something you see here? It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

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