It’s the Year of Garden-Park Connections



Have you heard that 2016 is the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service? Well, here’s the press release, and here’s Find Your Park, a growing collection of stories about people connecting with the parks. (The connection is easy for Michelle Obama – she lives in one, and has family connections to another one – the Pullman National Monument.)flower show

The Park Service Centennial will be getting tons of attention when the Philadelphia Flower Show opens today because the theme this year is “Explore America: 100 years of the National Park Service.”  I’m attending the show next week, so more will be revealed.

I’ve already gotten into the centennial spirit, though – thanks to an art contest and exhibit by the Park Service and the U.S. Botanic Garden. They solicited artworks portraying indigenous plants in any of the 400+ national parks, in any medium. (The results are on display until October 2.)

Works by 78 artists were chosen from hundreds of entries showing off plants from such parks as Great Smoky Mountains, Manassas National Battlefield, Klondike Gold Rush and Acadia. Some of the iconic flora on display include giant sequoias, bald cypresses, saguaro cacti, mangroves, ghost orchids, and magnolias. Two shown above are Prickly Pear Cactus and the Staghorn Sumac. IMG_9559-001

Another favorite of mine is this watercolor of plants found in Saguaro National Park, in a very garden-like grouping.

But to my surprise, the most compelling part of the floral exhibit was underfoot – floor graphics made from photos that park staffers took looking straight down to the ground in their park.

Maybe it’s because as a gardener, I spend more time looking at the ground than at distant vistas, no matter how grand they may be.


floor images1

More ground shots!

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  1. I would love to see that artwork – is it going to be displayed online? Or maybe a traveling exhibit?

    The floor images hit home with me, too. I also spend a lot of time observing what’s underfoot, whether I’m gardening or hiking.

  2. Love the staghorn sumac, although not so much as a kid when our tiny brains lumped it in with poison sumac, and we gave it wide berth. It wasn’t until Euell Gibbons came along (or was it the Foxfire series?) that I began to appreciate its practical value as a foraged beverage ingredient. For the unfamiliar, you put the seed heads in a bucket of clean water and beat them with a clean stick to wound the fuzzy hairs to give up their acid. Strain that through a cloth, add sugar and you have a mighty tasty, tangy and refreshing Rhus-ade. But it wasn’t until many years later when I moved to the Midwest that I began to appreciate its beauty in the prairie landscape. Had I grown up here, I might have seen it in a different light from the get go. Frank Lloyd Wright certainly did. So impressed was he by its stunning structure and commanding color that it inspired the overriding motif for more than one of his amazing architectural creations, most notably the Dana-Thomas House in Springfield, Illinois. This classic design, which most of us have seen but might not recognize for its source, is now available on decorating accessories from stained glass windows to cell phone covers.

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