Flowers and plants and shrubs — oh, my!

I love this blog, {frolic}, and this post about a gorgeous plant nursery in Sweden.

I love nurseries and garden centers!

Buying flowers and plants makes me so happy. I enjoy getting up early in the morning to say hello to them all, watering and spraying them before another 80 to 95 degree day. (Did you know you shouldn’t spray plants when they’re already in direct sun? The water droplets act like magnifying glasses and can burn into the vegetation.)

We only have a small balcony — 12 feet wide by six feet deep — but it gets a lot of sun and wind, facing northwest and on the top floor of a six-story building with no shade beyond the building’s own shadow.

Here are some of this year’s plants (so far), clustered at the base of our Alberta spruce, which has already weathered several brutal winters exposed to frigid temperatures and high winds.

This year’s include heliotrope, lavender, marigold and back-eyed susans. One year we chose a flower that attracted tons of daddy-long-legs. Oooops!

The way we make the best use of our tight space is with talaveras, brightly colored hand-painted ceramic pots and wall planters Jose bought for us in Tucson. They add a cheery note and we store them away in the garage carefully every winter. They’re not cheap, but so much prettier than clay pots!

I’ve also spray-painted several clay pots bright lime green and deep navy blue, to match our balcony fabrics and decor.

In addition to the talaveras, we also hang three small doves of unpainted terra cotta,  — the photo at the top of this post — that double as (unused) candle holders. I bought them in May 2005 at the edge of the Salto San Anton, a small waterfall in the neighborhood I lived in when I was 14 in Cuernavaca. We went back expecting to find it totally different — but the empty field I used to gaze into instead of doing my homework was still, all those years later, still an empty field.

Here’s a photo of the other end of the balcony, which becomes our outdoor cafe for the summer. We set up a pretty table, with matching napkins and cutlery, glasses and plates in a range of blue, yellow and green that I’ve collected over the years, some vintage, some antique, some new.

The bench is just a homemade plywood box, (which contains all our hardware, tool boxes and gardening tools), with custom-made cushions and pillows that make it into a banquette we can easily toss indoors when it rains. Some of them are made of vintage fabric, one of them of two napkins I sewed together. The printed dark blue fabric is a bedspread that covers the hideous pebbled glass divider between our balcony and our neighbor’s.

Here’s a lovely blog post from London, about her balcony garden, recently chosen for Freshly Pressed.

Do you have a garden?

Details, please!

Ready, Set, Draw! Not Your Gun — Your Pencil

Image by englishsnow via Flickr

This sounds like a great way to spend a Saturday…at Wave Hill, a gorgeous garden in the Bronx. It’s a free day of drawing, tomorrow. As the site suggests, drawing something forces you to slooooow down and really look at an object or a person or a place.

I’ve started a Friday morning drawing class, three hours, working with colored pencils, one of my favorite media. Last week we drew an apple. This week, the teacher was late and one of my classmates brought in 3 spectacular purple flowers from her garden — two iris and something I didn’t recognize. So we drew that.


Flowers are difficult! Lots of detail and minuscule streaks and shades, palest yellow and white. I blew the refraction effect of the stems in water — they look like they’ve moved to the side — but maybe I’ll fix it next week.

The teacher, who’s a bit ferocious, actually liked my piece, which was neat. I did it small and controlled, while my flower-bearing friend created huge, blowsy blooms blasting off the paper. It’s fascinating to see how differently we each see the same things, even side by side, and how we translate them onto paper.

After about two hours, we all get up and walk about the room to see what others are up to. There is a man who sits to my immediate left, doing a large drawing of a photo he took in his native Haiti. His style is loose, free, gorgeous, inspiring. I love being surrounded by talent. One woman is painting a butterfly on a bush, another a cat in a window. All of which demand technical skill, but — most important — the willingness and the ability to look at something really closely and for a long time.

If there is any skill we’re losing, even disdaining, in an era of continuous partial attention and screens filled with “reality” television, this is it.

“What’s happening here?” the teacher asked me, gently, pointing to a blank spot on my drawing. “Um, I wimped out,” I admitted. I didn’t quite know what to do, so I stopped. She helped me see the solution — erasing and moving a line — and I started again.

It’s so regenerating to learn, or re-learn, something creative.  I used to draw for hours every day after I came home from high school. I’ve really missed it. But, being a workaholic, could barely stand the idea of three hours not working on a weekday. Pshaw!

Nothing I’ve done in years is making me as happy.

If you haven’t drawn something in years, sit still for an hour and try it (again.) It does take time, and patience, (and a good eraser and a thick piece of drawing paper.)It doesn’t have to be “good” or realistic. It just has to be yours, and pleasurable to do.

Whether you try to capture the essence of  your kid or your cat or an apple, you’ll never see it quite the same way again.