Category Archives: design

Life in gardens: last look

As April’s cherry blossoms fade away, one more vintage scene. . .

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“Street life in Yokohama park with blossoming cherry trees,” from the photo collection of  journalist Holger Rosenberg, who traveled to Japan in 1903, via National Museum of Denmark Commons on flickr.

In Japan this week, the flowers are at their peak only in the most northern regions.

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Home sweet France

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Of course France isn’t our home, but after years of passing through — on our way to and from Francophone African countries — visiting beautiful Strasbourg this weekend felt like a petit homecoming in general awareness.

Suddenly, I could speak to people in their own language* (albeit, simply and ungrammatically), understand signs, and go to Monoprix and read all the product labels. The skies opened. . . .

I love living in Germany, but, thus far, the German language is a stone wall to me. Thankfully, the school system here is so good that you can always find someone who speaks at least fair English. I do try to maintain an appropriately ashamed look every time I say, “I sorry, I don’t speak German.”

Anyway, Strasbourg was great, and I saw my first blooming wisteria this year there.

I can recommend Hôtel Gutenberg,  flammkuchen (aka tarte flambée) with a glass of pinot gris for lunch, and the boat tour of the River Ill, which circles the city center. And the spectacular cathedral is celebrating its 1,000th birthday this year.

What’s the French for “fiddle-de-dee”? . . .
The “Fiddle” we know, but what’s from “Dee”?
Le chat assis in an English tree?

John Hollander, from “For ‘Fiddle-de-de’

*in French, of course, but the native language of  Strasbourg is actually Alsatian, a dialect of German that is spoken by 43% of the region’s population, according to Wikipedia.

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Vintage landscape: courtyard pattern

I’ve making patchwork pillows in shades of blue this week.  The mosaic arrangement on this courtyard wall would be a good one to copy in fabric.

Tillia-Kari courtyard“Vnutri dvora Tilli︠a︡-Kari. Detalʹ na pravoĭ storoni︠e︡. Samarkand (Inside Tillia-Kari courtyard. Detail on right side.), between 1905 and 1915, by Sergeĭ Mikhaĭlovich Prokudin-Gorskiĭ, via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division (also the photo below).

In the center of Samarkand is the Registan complex, consisting of three madrasah (religious schools). The third of these, the Tillia Kari Madrasah, was built in 1646–60 on the site of a former caravansarai. Its basic plan is formed by a rectangular courtyard, bounded by arcades that contain rooms for scholars. Although much damaged, the facades show profuse ceramic decoration in geometric and botanical motifs, as well as panels with Perso-Arabic inscriptions above the door of each cell. Seen here is a detail of a cell facade inside the courtyard, with the walls covered in a geometric pattern of small glazed tiles and a fragment of an inscription panel above the door.

— from the image’s page on World Digital Library, a project of the Library of Congress.

view of Tillia-Kari courtyard“Vid s Tilli︠a︡-Kari na Samarkand (View of Samarkand from Tillia-Kari).”

Sergeĭ Prokudin-Gorskii made early color photographic surveys of the Russian Empire in the decade before World War I and the Russian revolution. He left Russia in 1918, eventually settling in Paris. The Library of Congress purchased his collection of 2,607 images from his sons in 1948. There are more vintage photos of Tillia Kari here.

Not Delft or delphinium, not Wedgewood. . .

But way on down in the moonless
octave below midnight, honey,
way down where you can’t tell cerulean
from teal.

Lynn Powell, from “Kind of Blue

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Vintage landscape: boxwood drive

Boxwood hedge, by F.B. Johnston, Library of CongressDriveway, Castle Hill, Charlottesville, Virginia, 1926, by Frances Benjamin Johnston, via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

The original house on the plantation of Castle Hill was built in 1764 by Dr. Thomas Walker and his wife Mildred.  Walker was a friend of Peter Jefferson and later guardian to his son,Thomas.

At the time of this photo, the property was owned by his descendant, Amélie Louise Rives Troubetzkoy, a novelist married to a Russian prince who eventually ran somewhat short of funds.

By the fall of 1938, when future novelist Louis Auchincloss, then a law student at the University of Virginia, came to have tea with the aging princess, he found her living in “romantic, impoverished isolation in a decaying manor house.” To get to the house, he had to find his way through a double row of aromatic box hedges that rose up three stories high and were so enormous that his bulky Pontiac could barely pass through. The awe-inspiring hedges even became the subject of one of Amélie’s poems, which she wrote in middle age. She ends the poem with “Hedges of Box,/Hedges of Magic./…Behind your barrier of glad enchantment/I have rediscovered reality.” The reality Amélie envisioned had herself within the encircling wall of boxwood, still a young beauty of twenty-one, seated on the back of a unicorn.

— Donna M. Lucey, from “The Temptress of Castle Hill,” Garden and Gun

Today, the estate is still privately owned.  Its remaining 1,203 acres (from the original 15,000) have been permanently protected against development by a conservation easement with The Nature Conservancy.

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The Sunday porch: Trondheim, Norway

The Sunday porch/enclos*ure: Norwegian hotel, ca. 1900, Library of CongressFossestuen Hotel, Trondhjem, Norway, between ca. 1890 and ca. 1900, a photochrom by Detroit Publishing Co., via Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.

Click on the photo to get a better look at the building’s green roof and outdoor restaurant seating divided by planters and latticework.

 Nestled in the mountains near the lower tier of the Lienfoss waterfalls, the Fossestuen Hotel drew many foreigners to this picturesque region of Norway. Built in 1892, the hotel was actually a restaurant that served dinner and refreshments to tourists. The building reflects the traditional wooden architecture of Norway, with the sod roof a source of insulation against the harsh winter cold.

— from the image’s page on World Digital Library, a project of the Library of Congress.

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