(click on photos to enlarge)
The exhibit draws its name from the titles of some of the earliest long landscape handscrolls painted starting in the 11th century. We were able to look closely at a few of these works exhibited in long glass cases. One that I found beautiful and intriguing was Landscapes of the four Seasons in the Style of the Old Masters by Wei Zhike painted in 1635. The continuous landscape panorama tells the story of the seasons. The atmospheric affects of his painting draw in the viewer who observes simply drawn details of families and individuals going about their daily activities. The depiction of the trees and mountains is fanciful and precise at the same time. His amazing range of brush strokes and what look like washes of paint create a powerful landscape.
A section of the exhibit, The Poetic Landscape, showed how landscape and poetry were deeply entwined in pre-modern China, according to the curator. Some painters adapted lines of famous poetry, while others wrote their own.
The poem painted on a seventeenth century vase was written in the 12th century. The rich blue brush strokes leave deep to faint areas of color. I gazed at this piece wondering at its creation. “On a pleasant day, I seek fragrance on the banks of the Si River;” is the first line of the poem painted on the vase.
Two delightful garden paintings referenced two trees, the Paulownia tree and the peach tree. Originally, there was a series of 31 paintings. Each was accompanied by a poem. My photos through the glass are poor, but the images are sweet. Painted on location by Wen Zhengming in 1551, the Garden of the Inept Administrator is still in existence, but it is difficult to find these scenes due to many renovations to the gardens over the centuries.
Throughout the exhibit I saw no reference to women at all until a series of depictions of famous women. The woman scholar Cao Zhenxiu wrote a cycle of 16 poems in 1799 and they were illustrated by Gai Qi. Cao selected women of diverse talents. Many of the scenes take place outdoors.
Visiting a gallery of paintings and ceramics I had never seen before, even in reproductions, made the time in The Met well spent. Walking up and down 5th Avenue along Central Park and then stopping at a wonderful Turkish restaurant, Peri Ela, allowed the enjoyment of seeing the paintings to linger.
It was our first visit to Cantigny, www.cantigny.org. The 500-acre park is named for a village in France where Col. Robert R. McCormick served with the First Division in 1918. On a warm, sunny day during our walk we found many benches placed so visitors can enjoy shade and the breeze while viewing the landscape. Upon entering the park, we were impressed by a 200-year-old bur oak.
A stunning bed of mostly annuals showcased plants that enjoy full sun and dry soils. The combination of deep purple to red to pink blooms and foliage in the planting was a showstopper. The bed did include Coleus ‘Mariposa’, a plant needing more moisture than the others, with red and pink variegated leaves. Carex ‘Amazon Mist’ added some coolness to the design. Gomphrena ‘Fireworks’ (globe amaranth) with its pink globes wove its way through the bed. Alternanthera ‘Little Ruby’ hugged the ground throughout the bed with its small purple leaves. Potentilla nepalensis ‘Miss Willmott’ has unusual strawberry plant-like green leaves and small pink flowers with a darker eye.
The next day we spent at The Morton Arboretum, www.mortonarb.org. It was Perennial Partners week, celebrating long-term members, a group to which we belong. The 1,700 acres ‘outdoor living museum’ spans both side of Illinois Route 53, just north of Interstate 88. We took a tour of the Sterling Morton Library where plant explorations are documented. We saw beautiful rare botanical drawings and plant catalogs.
Annual beds at the entrance to the visitors’ center greeted us. They were another example of how not to give up on the growing season. This bed did not have plant labels I could then research. Mounding chartreuse colored leaves repeated throughout the garden, creating a theme. Grayish blue green leaves on a tall plant added an upward motion. These plants offered a backdrop for both mounding and spikey flowering annuals in blues and pinks. We also saw a gingko tree with exuberant annuals planted in a large pot.
We found the conifer walk and gazed at enormous trees of many shapes and hues. These majestic, mature trees in the open park-like setting had a great effect on us, giving me a renewed appreciation of our large trees.
I came away with many new ideas for designing pots and may sneak in a few fresh plants this year. With rain expected this week, my perennial beds should perk up, ready for their fall specials.
Our prairies awake with warming soils. We can see green leafy growth beginning now. We were not able to burn the prairies in the late winter/early spring this year which would encourage quicker growth. Last year we burned part of them and the year before the ditch. Next year we will have more work to do. The plants will not fail us and will emerge, grow and bloom on their own schedule. There are a few early bloomers in the prairie, arising out of spent debris from the previous year.
Birds, bees and insects will fill the prairies with their sounds and flights making our walks through them full of life. The tall plants form bower like shapes over our heads we need to duck under, while the dogs run ahead. I have visited other larger prairies but, somehow, our own prairies slow my pace and increase my powers of observation. Taking my camera with me lets us revisit the prairies and share them with you.