Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Secret Smith-Gilbert Gardens in Cobb County, Georgia – part 3

The Smith-Gilbert Gardens are very scenic with a great number of exotic and native plants. They are an exciting way to connect with nature. I was going to write two posts on this garden but there were just too many sights to describe and too many images to capture. Even though it is not large, the contemporary sculptures, the tea house, the ponds, waterfall, conifer display, rose garden, bonsai garden or just the peaceful ambiance of the garden makes it a very special place to visit. (Please click on the pictures and collages twice to see all the details.)

Presently I came upon another garden, a vegetable garden, behind a wooden fence.

The Smith-Gilbert vegetable garden participates in Plant-A-Row for the Hungry. Both the American and Canadian associations allow gardeners to help their communities by growing and donating fruits and vegetables to charitable organizations such as soup kitchens. The Smith-Gilbert Gardens works in partnership with agencies across Georgia benefiting food banks. Below is some good looking okra. When I find nice okra at the market I make my okra-tomato-onion casserole with spices from Dubai, then add fresh herbs…..délicieux!

A border of zinnias was calling to me to have their photos taken. Voila…

Others enjoyed these flowers as well.

While I was taking my zinnia pictures, my husband was admiring the bonsai garden.

Dr. Bob and Richard Smith were Atlanta Bonsai Society members and created this bonsai collection over 35-years. This is the only public bonsai garden in Georgia. We kept walking and passed the area offering for sale some of the plants growing in the garden.

Turning around a shady trellis

we entered the Begonia Collection.

Passing by large borders of coleus

we saw a small pond on the side of the house

where some colorful koi were swimming.

They moved so quickly that it was hard to photograph them. My camera is not quick enough – I would think I had taken the whole koi and only had its tail or its head.

While I was trying to capture the koi with my camera, Missy, the house guardian, was watching me with interest.

My husband had gone ahead toward the bird feeders.

This was a nice bird habitat with bird feeders and the bird bath is a sculpture by Seattle artist Jon Hudson.

This piece is entitled “Ts-ung Tube XXII” (1985.) This is a stone sculpture inspired by an ancient Chinese jade ritual object called “ts’ung tube,” symbol of unity of heaven and earth through squares and the circle. The birds seem to enjoy this meaningful bird bath but most flew away before I could snap my pictures.

The little birds had plenty to eat in their feeders.

These gardens are such a hidden gem that we decided to become members and went back to the desk at the house. While I took a peek at the gift shop my husband found Missy, the house dog.

The volunteer at the house gave us more information on the house and gardens. When Mr. Smith died in March 2002, Dr. Bob worried that the property could get into the hands of developers who would subdivide the land and bulldoze the gardens. Wishing to preserve the unique character of his historic house (circa 1882) and gardens, Dr. Bob Gilbert started negotiations to sell it to the city of Kennesaw. The City of Kennesaw bought the property in late 2004 for $2 million with funds from a $12 million parks and recreation bond. A 505 (c) (3) charitable foundation was formed to support the gardens and the Master Gardener Volunteers of Cobb County partnered with the City to help maintain the gardens.

Dr. Bob remained on the property until the fall of 2009 waiting for the completion of his new home in Franklin, North Carolina. He visits the gardens often to work with the Bonsai Study Group. Dr. Bob now writes a column on horticulture in the Franklin Press. We found out that by becoming members of the Smith-Gilbert Gardens we became members of the American Horticultural Society Reciprocal Admission Program – which gives us free access to about 120 gardens in the United States and some in Canada. C’est magnifique – I see more gardens, trees and flowers in my future!

But it was time to go. Before returning to our car we stopped in the picnic area. Even there the trees had identification panels.

Another car was parked next to ours. In the back it had a little panel that read “Master Gardener Volunteers of Cobb County.” Someone was taking care of the gardens.

As I was slowly driving away my husband suddenly said “stop.” He had seen a couple of does in the rear-view mirror. I quickly picked up my Sony DSC-HX1 which has a better telephoto lens than my Nikon D40. I could not open the car door or move too much as I was afraid I would scare the does away – luckily the car windows were open - so I aimed my camera backward while looking in the rear-view mirror. I think that the photos are not too bad considering that I was pointing the camera to the rear in a blind way (.. and I shot mostly the rear of the animals…).

We will certainly come back to visit these gardens throughout the year to witness its seasonal beauty. To wander into natural environments and beautiful gardens keeps us mentally happy. A garden such as this one, so close to our home, and where we can bring a thermos of coffee, a couple of biscotti, a good book and can relax in the pretty picnic area or on one of the many benches, is a treasure that we are pleased to have found. It is no longer a secret to us.

If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need.

Woman Reading in a Garden, Richard Miller, American 1875-1943


Post pre-programmed

Friday, August 26, 2011

A Secret Garden in Cobb County, Georgia – part 2

In part 1 of my post on the Smith-Gilbert Gardens we toured last week I stopped at the rose garden. I took many pictures of these roses as they were still quite lovely under the warm August sun. I had a rose garden once, before I started to go back to work full time, about 120 hybrid teas, a dozen Old Garden roses, half dozen each of floribundas and grandifloras. One of my favorite roses Double Delight was at the Smith-Gardens, shown below. (I am posting many pictures – they will look much better if enlarged – click on pictures twice to see them better.)

The hybrid teas are so elegant with their long stems, but the roses with just 5 or 6 petals are very delicate and their stamens stand out in contrast to their soft petals. As for the Old Garden roses with their multitude of petals their nostalgic charm is precious, too. I love them all.

We went back to the Smith-Gardens this week to see more sculptures we had missed last week. Near the rose garden is a circle of five prayer flags inscribed with messages of happiness, long life, prosperity, luck and goodwill to those who are close and far.

Smith and Gilbert traveled to the kingdom of Bhutan in the Himalayas and decided to include these flags in their gardens. The flag colors represent the elements of earth, water, fire, cloud and sky.

For thousands of years prayer flags have been hoisted in Bhutan, Tibet and other cultures in the Himalayas. Buddhists have planted these flags outside their homes for the wind to carry the beneficent vibrations across the countryside toward all beings. These prayer flags are used to promote peace, compassion, strength and wisdom. They do not carry prayers to “gods” but mantras that, when blown by the breeze gives the wind the opportunity to activate the blessings and spread the compassion around the world.

Further down were vibrant bushes of coleus, a tall type of daisy, flowering shrubs and dainty wild flowers on the ground.

We continued walking on our nature path awaiting another discovery around a corner. We were walking leisurely – the speed limit being the same as the value of π (pi.)

Not to worry - we were not rushing as there were too many interesting plants and pieces of art to admire, such as “Transformations” (1994) the group of pieces by American artist Linda Cunningham.

She slightly carves rocks, keeping the natural qualities of the stones then adds steel beams or bronze forms to create pieces that remind one of the rocks in Asian gardens displayed for contemplation and meditation. Art does not dominate nature, in the Asian philosophy, nature influences art.

Walking along a shady path we stopped to admire Marsha Pels piece which is called “Woman and Dog” (1986) in the garden brochure. In fact it is the patined cast bronze memorial of the artist and her first dog “Seamus.” It really conveys the love between the woman and the dog. I could not decide how to photograph it and took pictures while turning around it.

The tea house was coming into view. No one was there. I wished I had a book with me so that I could stop in this peaceful place for a while.

We walked toward the pond and stopped to take a picture, then realized that we were in each others' picture.

I could hear some rushing water so I kept walking. I passed another small pond with a tempting bench

but the sound of water was very close and I had to take a look.

I followed the little stream

to this small, but spectacular, waterfall.

The water looked so cool - I would have liked to get close and touch it, at the top

or at the bottom of the fall, in the pool.

After a last look at the waterfall – and at least 30 pictures of it, I walked back up the path, passing more flowers,

and another sculpture - a piece by Tom Suomalainen, a Minnesota born artist of Finnish ancestry.

Even without the sculptures, a walk in this garden would be a great pleasure because of all the large old trees on the property.

Some trees carry little houses for birds.

I always gaze up at large trees to look for nests, or birds – or planes – or to just look at the sky and clouds through the branches.

People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle. But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth. Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don't even recognize: a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child -- our own two eyes. All is a miracle.

~ Thich Nhat Hanh. Vietnamese Buddhist monk, poet, born in 1926 and living in France

More to come later...
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