Tag Archives: gardens

My favorite New Year’s greeting

Japanese Friendship Garden of Phoenix (Photo by Susan O. McCall)

My virtual inbox filled quickly most December days as retailers alerted me to various sales and organizations pleaded their case for year-end donations.

While I’m all for charitable giving, I’m not a fan of requests for cash couched  in holiday greetings.

So an e-greeting offering heartfelt thanks and genuinely helpful tips for enjoying a tranquil holiday season stood out among all others.

It was from Ro Ho En, also called the Japanese Friendship Garden, in Phoenix. And it didn’t ask for money, though I’m guessing they need the support just as badly as other cultural resources.

I asked their executive director, Susan McCall, for photos to share with readers, and she sent three she’d taken herself– a perfect complement to the three holiday wishes I’m passing along in the hopes they’ll bring needed perspective amidst all the New Year’s revelry.

Japanese Friendship Garden of Phoenix (Photo by Susan O. McCall)

Ro Ho En shares these tips for enjoying the season…

1. Take a deep breath.

2. Share kindness with everyone you meet.

3. Give thanks for all that is good in your life.

Japanese Friendship Garden of Phoenix (Photo by Susan O. McCall)

If you’re not feeling particularly calm or collected as you greet the new year, find a little spot on your refrigerator or bathroom mirror for these simple tips so you can read and reflect upon them often. Or head to the Japanese Friendship Garden for a peaceful stroll. You can click here to learn more about their hours and many offerings.

— Lynn

Coming up: More than a day for MLK


Shakespeare goes green

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Every time I attend the Utah Shakespeare Festival with my daughter Lizabeth we spend our evenings attending something called the Greenshow — which takes place Monday through Saturday before evening performances in the Adams Memorial Theatre.

The Greenshow has its own lovely stage surrounded by sprawling lawns that attract tourists and locals for performances that include song, dance, live violin music, jokes and more. Even Greenshow trivia with young volunteers (it was Alexis from Utah when we attended Friday night).

Friday’s Greenshow featured entertainment with an Italian theme. After I ordered my iced latte from a charming snack bar dubbed the Sweet Shop, the barrista ala Bard sent me back to the lawn for a bit of opera music sung by talented Greenshow performers, mostly students studying theater and music at Southern Utah University.

Saturday night’s Greenshow had a 50th anniversary theme and, in a rare appearance, Queen Elizabeth of Shakespeare’s day (or her modern-day double) opened the show. Earlier in the day we celebrated at a “Bard’s Beach Bash” event before taking in a patriotic production of “The Music Man.”

The musical inspired a 20-something man seated behind us to exclaim “I love America!” as the show ended with a flurry of red, white and blue confetti.

Saturday night we saw “Richard III” in the outdoor Adams Memorial Theatre, enjoying the light rain that fell during a portion of the performance. After the show we overheard two elementary-age boys raving to their parents about loving the whole show, not just the scenes featuring ghosts and sword fights.

This production of “Richard III” felt more cerebral than the gut-wrenching production we saw Southwest Shakespeare Company perform in Mesa last season. We love seeing the same works in multiple venues.

While at the festival, we also enjoyed all sorts of green gardens, including a Shakespeare Garden near the Randall L. Jones Theatre that has statues of Shakespeare characters King Lear, Juliet and Falstaff — plus lots of plants I often buy in Arizona but never succeed in keeping alive in the heat. I always find myself with a serious case of garden envy in Cedar City.

I suppose there’s another sort of green that I should mention here — the kind that’s needed for the Utah Shakespeare Festival’s capital campaign. Those of you who can’t make it to festival offerings this year but want to support the creation of a new Shakespearean Theatre can click here to learn about ways to get involved.

— Lynn

Coming up: Spotlight on the Utah Shakespeare Festival’s youngest actors, Southwest Shakespeare Company’s 2011-12 season

Going green in NYC

Though large bags of trash get piled throughout the city before garbage trucks can get to them, New York appears to be way ahead of Arizona in the “green” movement. Circular trash bins sit on many a street corner, but in many indoor settings, you’ll find separate containers for paper, glass and the real rubbish that can’t be recycled.

When I attended parent orientation for the incoming class at Lizabeth’s university in NYC today, the food services director spoke with genuine enthusiasm about the school’s many “sustainable” practices — buying local foods and such. More evidence that New York trumps Arizona in the green department.

Our hotel in lower Manhatten is “green” is some deliberate and unintended ways. They’ve got low water usage toilets that turn flushing into a funky form of upper arm workout, and eating utensils in the dining area made by “Tater Ware” — whose slogan reads “We’re the Solution, Not the Pollution.” Both cutlery and wrap are biodegradable. And because the hot water goes out most days, we’re saving energy by taking cold showers.

I’ve encounted another sort of green with alarming frequency here in NYC. It seems there’s a Starbucks ’round nearly every corner. For a while I had great fun photographing them all. But I’ve seen enough now that they’re starting to bore me, with one exception — the dancing cups ala Starbucks in “The Book of Mormon.”

Parks are plentiful in NYC, and I never tire of seeing them. Many feature public art and paths lined with benches. Often they’re the landmarks that help me navigate the city. And they’re never empty, except when closed up for the night. I sat in a park around midnight one evening, and had plenty of company.

But my favorite “greens” in NYC are all those lush window flowerboxes, giant potted topiary and small rectangular plots of plants that surround the trunks of many a tree in all sorts of neighborhoods. I’ve met some lovely people while photographing their gardens, and hope you’ll enjoy these images of their handiwork…

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Coming up: Pianos meet public parks

Google and gardens

Sydney Gunnell of Arizona submitted THE EARLY SPRING for this year’s DOODLE 4 GOOGLE contest for K-12 students

National Public Gardens Day is being celebrated May 6, 2011 thanks to The American Public Gardens Association and Rain Bird. It’s designed to raise awareness about public gardens and their role in promoting environmental stewardship. Also to promote plant and water conservation — something we’ve yet to master here in Arizona.

I was struck, while browsing this year’s submissions by K-12 students for the “Doodle 4 Google” contest, by how few of the drawings with plants and flowers feature specimens native to the desert Southwest. Still, I can’t really complain — because it’s taken me more than two decades to develop my own appreciation for Arizona flora and fauna.

I grew up in Colorado, Alaska, Hawaii and California — with nary a Saguaro in sight. But my son, born and raised in Arizona, patiently prompts me in the ways of xeriscaping while doing his best to forgive my forays into plants of other regions that I still keep in my garden to remind me of my childhood.

We’re longtime members of the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, but I was pleased to learn recently that Arizona is home to several other public gardens as well. (My personal garden feels public when neighborhood dogs leave their mark, but it doesn’t technically qualify.)

Those noted on the “National Public Gardens Day” website include not only the DBG, but also two public gardens in Tucson — Boyce Thompson Arboretum (affilated with UA) and Tohono Chul Park. Also The Rose Garden at Mesa Community College and Wallace Desert Gardens in Scottsdale.

We know of other gardens in Arizona as well, including the Japanese Friendship Garden in Phoenix, The Arboretum at Flagstaff and The Arboretum at ASU Community Garden in Tempe. All make for fun adventures with a camera or sketching materials in hand.

We dabbled in gardening as my children, now 17-21, were growing up. It taught them that the best food comes from the earth rather than machines. That growing good things sometimes takes time. That it’s okay to play in the dirt. That living things need tending to on a regular basis.

Encourage your little ones to try their tiny hands at gardening, and keep the care of Arizona’s natural bounty top of mind with garden-related day trips, garden-inspired art projects and explorations of garden-related books and activities. Maybe someday the winner of a “Doodle 4 Google” contest will feature the early morning bloom of a Saguaro cactus.

In the meantime, there’s plenty of amazing “Doodle 4 Google” artwork to explore on the Google website — which features submissions by K-12 students from around the country. You can vote online for your favorite through May 13. And watch for next year’s contest if your child might like to enter his or her own masterpiece.

Judges who selected this year’s 40 finalists include an astronaut, two Olympic gold medalists, several cartoonists and authors of beloved children’s books, a couple of museum professionals, an award-winning actor and others who grace the world with their own unique bits of art.

The winning “Doodle 4 Google” will be displayed on the Google homepage for 24 hours on May 20, 2011 — and the artist will receive prizes that include a $15,000 college scholarship. The 40 regional finalists win a trip to NYC and will have their work exhibited at the Whitney Museum of American Art.

For the rest of us, a simple parenting pearl still holds true. Refrigerators make the best exhibit spaces.

— Lynn

Coming up: Arizona school earns Grammy Foundation award 

Bird brain

There’s a giant tree that towers near a set of north-facing windows in my son’s room on the second floor of our Scottsdale home. A cat tower sits nearby so the family cat, Pinky, can take in the view — which often includes birds flitting between branches.

We often enjoy the sound of birds in the morning as we eat breakfast in a kitchen nook with a large bay window that gives us a bird’s eye view of citrus, pine and assorted desert trees. Sometimes hummingbirds land on nearby plants — but typically they prefer the garden in front of our house.

Our garden — filled at the moment with brightly colored poppies and geraniums — sits under windows for other rooms, making it easy for everyone in the family to watch birds with some regularity. We’re not seasoned bird watchers, but we do enjoy watching families of quail — especially babies lined up behind older birds — as they duck in and out of bushes and shady plants.

One day Christopher and I were looking for something to do. He’s never been much of a sitter, which means television and Nintendo-type gizmos have never held much appeal. Usually we try and get outdoors or at least explore something with an artistic or animal twist of some sort.

We settled on the Nina Mason Pulliam Rio Salado Audubon Center in Phoenix — which features both indoor exhibits and outdoor habitats that are fun for folks of all ages to explore. We took lots of photos that day so we could put together the following slide show to give you a feel for the Center, which you’ll enjoy a whole lot more if you head out exploring with your own kiddos and camera.

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My favorite bird experience by far took place when Christopher was in elementary school. We lived on a quiet street in a house that looked a bit like something out of “Hansel and Gretel” — but with a mahogany-colored, ivy-covered facade rather than sides covered in striped hard candies or red licorice.

Christopher’s room was at the back of the house, far from the front and back doors. Still, a tiny baby quail found its way into Christopher’s room one day. We spotted it near a denim beanbag chair that nowadays serves as napping central for Pinky.

The bird ran inside Christopher’s closet when we tried to get a closer look. Thank goodness it never made its way to Christopher’s large LEGO table, where it surely would have been lost among pint-size construction trucks and pizza chefs.

We all knew better than to touch the baby bird, but we needed to get it to safety. We called an organization that does bird rescue — and they gave us very detailed instructions on how to get the baby quail from our house to their rescue center.

I don’t remember the name of the group we called, but I’m glad we found them. And I’m proud that my three young children knew better than to try and pet the baby bird or keep it as a pet.

Most of us don’t have bird on the brain all that often. But just in case you run into a similar situation of your own one day, why not take the time now to get the name and number for an animal rescue organization like “Liberty Wildlife” on your bulletin board or in your favorite organizing gadget.

Somewhere out there is a mommy quail who thanks you.

— Lynn

Note: Click here to learn more about an initiative of the National Audubon Society called “Pennies for the Planet.” It’s a fun way for kids to support wildlife conservation projects including boosting habitats for Monarch butterflies in Arizona.

Coming up: More outdoor art adventures