The remains of the day …

“Everything has to come to an end, sometime.”L. Frank Baum, The Marvelous Land of Oz

© 2012 Mary Garner-Mitchell. “Parsley at Flower Camp”

It’s the season for seeds, and the skeletal remains of flora are just reminders of past verdant hues. The air has become thin with chilling whispers of what awaits come winter. I look at these forms and remember all so well their splendor, the way they garnished and the flavor they lent to what otherwise was ordinary. I mourn their passing, but celebrate the memory of their being — their deep roots, their flowers and how they stretched to reach their potential and the promise that life will go on in all things left behind.

Sue. You are loved.

Making arrangements

Arranging a bowl of flowers in the morning can give a sense of quiet in a crowded day – like writing a poem or saying a prayer.   — Anne Morrow Lindbergh

© 2012 Chip Mitchell. Floral design by Mary Garner-Mitchell. Centerpiece candlelabrum for food table at the wedding reception of Berkley Gordon and Colin Mudrick, September 15, 2012. Floral materials include coral spray roses, bridal white and peach long-stem roses, dried oak leaf and fresh “antique” hydrangeas, silver artemisia, protea, abelia, yarrow, dalhia, pale peach stock and “Love Lies Bleeding” amaranth. For more wedding floral images, see  http://www.chipmitchell.com/clients/cmp/downloads/wedding


Painting, design, dance, music, and of course flowers — all art is arranged. I think I may have mastered a couple of these, and a couple I dabble at, but I love flower arranging above all. It comes as naturally to me as breathing.

Over the years I’ve realized enormous similarities between flower arranging and graphic design.  I once told an intern back in my previous life as a newspaper art director, that page layout was similar to arranging flowers.  One needs an entry point, a focal point and an ending.  White or negative space is essential, as is cohesiveness in color and tone. And the color and tone must convey the story or theme, be it either a photo spread or flower arrangement. For focus, a dominant image married with a well-crafted headline should prevail, supported by secondary and detailed “spots” lending detail.  Same is true for a flower arrangement. One key material or blossom is supported by the punches and wisps  of select materials that will dance and enhance.  As for endings, in a photo spread, an image that is the sum of all the others before it; for florals, if not the container, then it is the collective whole of the materials that went into the arrangement.

I think the same can be said for life.  There’s the entry point — the birth and/or nurturing through childhood; some form of focus — natural gifts or education that will support and influence; and the ending — a means of grounding, closure and completeness.  Stories, be they in photos or flowers — or lives — all transfer to memory, and all, though bound to fade, color every passing day hopefully with beauty and richness.

Recycling plastic

© Media General. “In the Garden” by Mary Garner-Mitchell. Acrylic air brush, watercolor, pencil on paper. Editorial illustration for gardening article.

I was searching for just the right quote to fill the void in my “recycled” watering can illustration, when I came across the 18th-century lines above. While they speak to everything I feel in my bones about two of my passions (art and gardening), one word gave me great pause:   Plastic?  Plastic spade? What, a Colonial Walmart selling crappy tools?

Indeed, I have a love/hate relationship with plastic in general. Mostly hate. I curse its existence every time I go to open any overly-protected-over-packaged-off-the-shelf product, or realize our plastic recycling bins are (once again) overflowing.  I know it’s never going away, literally — as a noun that is.

Which brings me around to my love/hate relationship with words. I often I find the English language just plain stupefying and as I stumbled today, I wonder how anyone learns it completely.  Of course, I am fully aware Mr. Mason’s now antique description is just one example of how our pliable vocabulary bends and stretches over the centuries. But his use of “plastic” made me realize how far down the definition chain this otherwise perfectly placed adjective has fallen. In the context of this quote, it is at the very bottom!

plastic  adj. — being able to create, especially within an art form; having the power to give form or formal expression: (the plastic imagination of great poets and composers.)

“Write” on! How can I hate such a great word? Plastic: reclaimed, reused, recycled!

Estate Sale Rehab

Concrete folk art bird was once painted red like his brother. A round mound perch of cement studded with river rock plants him firmly on the porch rail. © Mary Garner-Mitchell

I’m just coming off the high of Friday’s estate sale. The rush extended through the weekend in what I like to call a “Piddle Party.”  This is when I excuse myself from the typical weekend house chores and focus on getting creative in the garden and/or in the barn with my found objects and junk. So, my new treasures didn’t disappoint as I got to work early Saturday morning cleaning and scheming without an iota of buyer’s regret!  The concrete birds are perched on the deck for now, but I’m sure will flit here and there (as much as concrete birds might) as the months go by.  The most transformed item was what was left of a twig table I had culled from the trash in the estate sale barn. Off-kilter and wobbly, its three legs were all different lengths and it was missing a couple of “teeth” along it’s top. All the stretchers were missing save one that was broken.  I went to my store of sticks and easily replaced and secured all parts.  The burled ones came from a creek bed at Nancy Hugo’s Flower Camp, in Howardsville, VA.  I knew they would eventually find a home one day, and they complete this now sound rustic table. For the tabletop, one of the slate shingles (salvaged two summers ago when our local train station was re-roofed) was an easy fit with a single cut. I won’t go into detail on other “rehabs”, except to say that all cleaned up rather nicely and seem to be happy in their new home!

Miscellaneous found objects welcome “Red” — brother to concrete folk art bird — make up an ever-changing tableaux on my porch bench. © Mary Garner-Mitchell

Surely bound for the dump, a twig table found a new home and new life. All it took was a few prized sticks, a slate shingle for a top and a little spar varnish! © Mary Garner-Mitchell

Garden & Fun

Photo © Mary Garner-Mitchell

 

One of my absolute MOST mind-calming things to do, besides gardening is to spend an afternoon in the barn plundering through my found objects and turning them into something “new” and useful.  My Flower Throne was built in such a fashion from parts I had collected over several years. The shield back was an alley find from two decades back when we lived in the Fan; the round center piece is from a broken brass plant trivet; cabriole legs and miscellaneous ornaments amongst a box of treasures purchased at auction for a buck; and the framed base from old moldings that came with the barn when we purchased Stagfield. Two dismembered wire baskets form the “innards” and corral the soil and plants with the help of a scrap piece of Astroturf! I hit it with some leftover white paint and this year planted in all white verbena and New Guinea impatiens.  Somewhere I have photos from previous, more colorful years, before the original harp design in the back rotted out and had to be replaced with the trivet!  I think up these sorts of things on those nights when sleep escapes me. If I had good lighting in the barn, I’d just get up build something.  But alas, I must wait for daylight and a day when the garden or office isn’t calling!

” … a few of my favorite things “

Getting my hands dirty and making “things” …. namely growing flowers and creating dimensional art. The “brass butterfly,” photographed by John Hood, and styled by yours truly was created from embossing metal, Sculpey and wire. The fuzz on the body of the butterfly is shavings from a black pipe cleaner. A trip to the Flower Market in Richmond and “Voila!” — the visual for an antihystimine advertisement was born!

© Mary Garner-Mitchell / Photo by Jonathan Hood