Wildflowers in December


A lot of us gardening addicts think we live in our own little particularized universe, isolated by our allegiance to perennials, seeds, bulbs, vines, compost, mulch, pruners, trowels, and topsoil. Nobody we know cares about gardening as much as we do. I know I feel that way. That’s why, at least partially, I started writing an online gardening journal that turned into a collaborative gardening blog that turned into writing for gardening magazines and then turned back again to include all of the above.

But as much as obsessive gardening may seem like a specialized endeavor, somewhat removed from daily life as it is defined in twenty-first century practice, I am continually astonished by how plants and flowers permeate every possible area of human existence as I experience it, even in the winter. It happened again Sunday.

We visited Buffalo’s art museum for a few reasons—to see the most recently installed exhibitions, to walk around the adjacent ornamental lake (the museum is set in an Olmsted park), and to have lunch in the museum’s café. The walk was lovely, highlighted by the many specimen plantings that surround the lake, and then, before even entering the building, I saw the big poster (shown at top) of Anselm Kiefer’s Der Morgenthau Plan, which has just been purchased by the museum. It is being shown along with another huge Kiefer the museum owns and a couple loans to make up a mini-survey of the artist’s landscape-evocative works. The painted wildflowers in Der Morgenthau Plan are echoed by real flowers used as an element in another mixed media work (detail, above). The other big painting the museum owns, Die Milchstrasse, depicts a large, burned field.  

There is plenty to say about Kiefer, but I won’t try to say it here. Just one thing.  He uses flowers to evoke history and the dim horror of historic events. It’s quite an accomplishment. And a very poetic way to experience a field of wildflowers at the beginning of a Buffalo winter.

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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regularly radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world,and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at yahoo.com


  1. That is a photo-based work; the central image is of a figure lying on the ground and then there all kinds of roses and other media obscuring it. It seems to be about death and rebirth–I’m generalizing–like so much of his work. Sadly, the best work in the show, a huge abstracted seascape is my fave, but it is only on loan. I don’t have an image of it. I will have (for the magazine) but I can’t use them here.

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