Monday, March 19, 2012

Creating Whimsy in the Garden

The Merry Weather Garden Club met on March 15th at the home of Sally Neal who hosted the meeting and program. The club “walked the garden” as its horticultural talk and noted the early spring blooms.  Besides the usual white and blue wisteria beginning to open, the dogwood, iris, redbud, snowdrops, late daffodils and forsythia were showing their colors. Other plants the club asked to be identified were Neal’s grandmother’s lilac that was beginning to bloom and give off its heady fragrance, Carolyn Gilbert’s Tropicana colored flowering quince she had passed on to Sally, and the showy golden kerria. The members carpooled to the Neal’s farm in Mountville where the speakers for the meeting waited.

   The subject of the program was bringing whimsy to the garden to encourage young gardeners. Neal pointed out the numerous books and web sites that had tips for gardening with children.  “Make it fun” was high on each author’s list with other advice like giving garden space to a child and letting them have ownership of the plot, and sowing popular seeds like sunflowers, lettuces, radishes, snow peas, cherry tomatoes, nasturtiums, bush beans, potatoes, and pumpkins.
   While adults often put composting, insects, and getting dirty at the bottom of their idea of having fun, children think the opposite. Getting dirty or “mucking in the soil” is an important part of growing up. Composting and rotting discards, playing with and counting seeds, having a lab garden, watching cool and weird insects, browsing catalogues, having their own scaled down tools, building frog houses, making tee pees for climbing beans, dressing a scarecrow, designing “pizza gardens” or theme gardens like those for wildlife are all part of the wonderful outdoor classroom that is a garden. Besides becoming a good steward of the earth, children will usually eat their healthy produce.
   Garden art or whimsy in the garden was the topic demonstrated by speakers Mary Ann Rasmussen and Martha Evans, both of LaGrange.  Rasmussen’s daughter Caryn has created delightful fairy houses using gourds.  The unusual shapes of the common birdhouse and dipper gourds are accessorized by Caryn with moss and pebble lined doors and windows, and buckets and gardening tools add to the scene to create magical villages for the wee folk.
   Martha Evans described her experiences growing up as the middle child of six children who regularly were told to go outside and play, and the door locked to keep them outside.  They dug in the dirt and created mail boxes, rock and leaf houses, stick and leaf people and in the process unlocked and nurtured wonderful imaginations all while having great fun.
   Growing up on the fringes of Brenau College, Martha met one of the professors who took her daily constitution through Brenau’s scenic woods.  The teacher introduced Martha to the sprites, elves and fairies that populated the woods and spun stories that have stayed with her.  Today she manufactures and sells fairies that she designed over three decades ago and are more popular than ever.  Her fairies and garden furniture and gardening tools are in demand for creating miniature gardens and inspiring imaginations. 
   Evans placed a layer of moss in a flower pot, added a metal arbor and birdbath and simply transformed an ordinary potted plant into something special. Her gardens have won national awards as she tours with her products.
   Evans echoed the message of the speakers by pointing out her children’s guests don’t get to bring video games, cell phones and movies to their farm but are turned loose to explore and create.  The resulting forts, fairy houses, animals and people made from nature give the children favorite, long lasting memories all the while inspiring their creativity.
   In club business, Neal announced the April meeting would be on the 19th and it would attend the 14th annual Lunch and Learn hosted by the Concord Garden Club with speakers Beth Jones, Martha Boswell, and Anna Evans touting home grown projects. The May meeting will be on the 17th and will be a tour of Andrea Harding’s Breezy Hill home and new addition.
   Mary Ann Rasmussen described the Basic Design Course that was held on March 13th by the Elms and Rose Council which was the first of five daylong classes teaching flower arranging and this class studied line and line mass designs and color harmonies. Four other classes will follow throughout the year.  The cost is $25 and includes materials and lunch.
   Toots and Ed Hobson visited Gibbs Gardens in Ball Ground recently.  The spring daffodils were in full bloom and are called the largest mass and number of varieties outside of Holland. The grounds feature a replica of Monet’s bridge and lily garden at Giverny, a Japanese Garden, arbor garden, manor house, summer house, children’s garden, bakery and more.
   Treasurer Jean Biggers gave the fiscal report and Neal distributed the 2007 awards (that had just arrived!) for participating in the Backyard Habitat Category from the Community Wildlife Project to Sallie Mabon, Peggy Jones, Mary Anne Harman, Linda Wilburn, Neal and Karen May.