MN: Land of 10,000 Art Fairs

Last week I attended junk maven Ki Nissauer’s Spring Junk Bonanza. It’s a twice-yearly pilgrimage for lovers of all things vintage, fans of architectural salvage, artists, designers and those who love the thrill of the find. Thankfully, it was indoors, as it was a rainy day. But I whiled away the hours marveling at three auditoriums full of fantastic displays, created by talented visual artists with a flair for grand statements.

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Goofball and good guy, Don Short of West End Salvage, HGtv & DIY Channel

Artists like Vanessa “Kiki” Johanning brought much-needed color and warmth to the Early Bird line, snaked around the front of Canterbury Park at 7:30 a.m. Kiki’s rowdy entourage, with their laughter and cheers made everyone smile. At MN events the people-watching is paired with a healthy dose of Minnesota nice. Strangers become friends.

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Artist Kiki Johanning  #squadgoals

I found a few pieces of Hull Magnolia pottery and craft supplies I couldn’t leave without, but mainly I was at the Bonanza for the mood boost, the dopamine rush I get from seeing makers, junkers and artists doing their thing.

By the time I left JB, my anticipation for the beginning of art fair season had reached a fever pitch. Because if it’s a summer weekend in the Twin Cities, there are two things you can be sure of, massive road construction and art fairs.

I like to think of art fairs as the museum’s rebellious kid sister, the wild child with the wandering soul. And in Minnesota, we have almost as many outdoor celebrations of art and artists as we have lakes. Better still, most of these festivals are held right beside some of our most scenic bodies of water.

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View of the historic Mill District from the Stone Arch Bridge Festival

It only seems right that art should be displayed outdoors in the elements, as so much artwork draws inspiration from, or evokes nature; human, but also earth, the heavens, water, flora and fauna, animal. In fact, many Minnesota animals are huge art fans. Literally.

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An Irish Wolfhound admires all the pretty things.

We show up regardless of the mercurial weather. But a hot, sunny day beside the Mississippi, during the Stone Arch Bridge Festival will take your breath away. A magnificent canopy of trees, grassy knolls and park benches provide cool spots to escape the heat and take it all in: art, people, food, classic cars, architecture and nature.

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Pickled Eggs by Kimber Fiebiger

Meandering the posh boulevard running along Lake Minnetonka’s Wayzata Bay during the Wayzata Art Experience and happening upon a whimsical pair of bronze Humpty Dumpties, toasting with martinis, is the type of whimsical surprise that makes it a can’t miss event.

The Uptown Art Fair is the crown jewel of Minnesota’s summer line-up.

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Lake of the Isles, nestled in the heart of the Uptown Art Fair, showcases Minneapolis’ mix of outdoor lifestyle & city living

Located only blocks from three of the city’s most popular and picturesque escapes, Lake of the Isles, Lake Harriet and Lake Calhoun, the Uptown Art Fair features over 350 artists from around the world, and has been honored with over 140 Pinnacle Awards by the International Festivals and Events Association.

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My dog Bacon loves Uptown

The Uptown Theater takes its name from the funky urban epicenter of Minneapolis called Uptown, a neighborhood that showcases the diversity of people, food and culture in the Twin Cities.

Food trucks pepper the streets around Hennepin & Lake. The delicious aromas of cheese curds, bbq and paella fill the air. Icy cold beverages abound. Ahhhh, this is the life.

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You won’t find Happy Mouth Pickles at the MOMA

If Coachella had a midwestern art fair cousin, the Uptown Art Fair would be it. Live music, beer gardens and the eclectic Uptown vibe contribute to a party atmosphere. The right brain is fully engaged.

For me, the art fair versus gallery experience is transcendent. Don’t get me wrong, I love museums. But when was the last time you went to a museum and actually got to talk to the artist whose work stands right before you, to ask questions about the why and the how of it? When I see artwork that intrigues me or speaks to me, I usually find that I share some commonality with its artist, whether it’s experience, place or feeling or sense of humor. What a treat to be able to meet all of these colorful, passionate human beings with the courage to pursue their vision and embrace their innate talents.

 

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Copyright Artist Kina Crow

“Adrift with just a tutu and her everyday tiara” 

Kina Crow is one of my favorite art fair discoveries.  While Kina will be traveling only as far west from her home in Pennsylvania as the St. Louis Art Fair in 2017, she was an Uptown Art Fair regular for many years. In fact her whimsical clay and paint dioramas were awarded Best in Show, Mixed Media in 2008 and 2009.

The first time I saw Kina Crow’s cheeky little humans made of clay, pondering the great mysteries of life, I laughed out loud. Okay, I probably snorted, unabashedly, as I am known to do when something really tickles me.

Kina’s artwork reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from author Elizabeth Gilbert, “Don’t ever be ashamed of loving all the strange things that make your weird little heart happy.” Kina’s little people with their angsty adorableness (I know it’s not a word, but it should be) ARE the strange little things! She celebrates that lingering bit of awkward adolescent in all of us, who stumble about in this big old world trying to make sense of it all, and she does it with humor, and the aforementioned quirky adorableness. Kina’s new book, I Wonder, is a work of art itself.

So while art fairs may be a great opportunity to get outside and enjoy a gorgeous summer day, surrounded by interesting people, listen to music, taste delicious food and pet all the dogs, what really makes it amazing is finding art and artists you will fall in love with and enjoy for the rest of your life.

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**** Main Image and all images of Kina Crow artwork are copyright-protected and used with permission from the artist.****

 

The Mysterious Lady Delaney

 

Step into the backroom of Century Girl Vintage Boutique in the heart New Orleans on any given day, and it’s like stepping through the looking-glass. There’s something about the room you can’t quite place, a peculiar other-worldliness. The ghosts of bold, adventurous women with raucous laughs and enviously endless wardrobes fill the room. At first glance you may think you’ve stepped into an artist’s studio. Then you notice the strange objects of Lilliputian ephemera, Gothic intrigue, replicas of historic mansions. You have a slightly uneasy feeling that perhaps you’ve stumbled upon the scene of a murder. Oh, and paper dolls. There are paper dolls, too.

This is the workplace of Lauren Delaney George.

I first encountered Lauren’s talents in 2013, when the young entrepreneur was paying her way through college by selling dollhouse miniatures on Etsy. She began creating miniatures when her Grandpa made a beautiful log cabin dollhouse for her Grandma, called “Kate’s Cottage.” The first miniatures she ever created were Christmas gifts for her Grandma Kate, including family portraits, quilts and a copy of her Grandma’s wedding dress.

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Lauren’s Etsy Shop is a book lover’s delight, with books, magazines and records, Doris Day to The Velvet Underground. She can miniaturize anything. (1:12 scale)

At the time, when I started collecting minis, miniature shops were full of shabby chic dollhouse decor and bakery accoutrements. Lauren’s store was quirky. Things you might find included a package of vintage ladies pantyhose, take-out menus, classified CIA files on the Kennedy assassination, a wall calendar from 1926, a microscopic laboratory slide – all in miniature. Her flair for replicating the minutiae of everyday life in 1:12 scale was uncannily exacting.

Her creativity spurred my own, as I let myself venture outside the confines of creating kitchens and Parisian boudoirs. Lauren gave me permission to create vignettes that I found compelling, that told a story.

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My homage to the tortured writer. All documents and office supplies come from L.Delaney on Etsy.

When I needed classical sheet music for an October vignette I was creating, I knew Lauren’s shop was the only place I could turn.

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“At their essence, miniatures are story-telling tools. As in theater, tiny scenes immerse the viewer in worlds inhabited by ghosts, infused with memory and promising adventure and exploration” Lauren said.

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The Haunted Dollhouse

Late last summer, Lauren announced a new adventure she was embarking on, “The Haunted Dollhouse.” I asked her to explain it to us in her own words.

“In New Orleans, truth is stranger than fiction. This is especially true in the case of “The Haunted Dollhouse,” a violent crime involving a 1920s miniature collection. The dollhouse was created by an inmate at New Orleans’s Asylum for the Criminally Insane and is directly linked to a murder which took place in the French Quarter. Appraisers have spent years trying to crack the cryptic messages hidden in its construction. I’ve spent the past year researching it in the New Orleans archives and the inconsistencies of the murder investigation are so bizarre that I felt obligated to make them public. Amateur sleuths, crime connoisseurs, and miniaturists are all invited to take a crack at solving the case and may subscribe to receive the pertinent documents (and bloody artifacts) via www.TheHauntedDollhouse.com.”

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Critical acclaim for The Haunted Dollhouse

Those brave (or foolish) enough to assist me with the investigation will receive a series of five packages over the course of 1-2 months.  Each package contains a cache of clues, miniatures, and archival documents.  Clues may take the form of an old telegram, a 1920s newspaper clipping, miniature artifacts, and simple DIY projects.  Each package is like another “chapter” in the deepening mystery, and as the story progresses, investigators reconstruct a dollhouse which is—EGADS—actually a crime scene.”

I, myself, helped Lauren solve a mystery last fall, and it was a one-of-a-kind experience. I couldn’t wait for each new package to arrive with clues. It was like receiving mail lost for 100 years. A cadre of my closest cohorts were just as eager as I was to unravel the mystery! Here we were in Minnesota in 2017, plumbing the private lives of the upper echelon of New Orleans society in the early 1900s.

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These sumptuous jazz-age dresses could be plucked right out of Daisy Buchanan’s bedroom.  Shoes, tissue box, letter, book, and shopping bags all from Lauren’s shop, as well.

As you may have gathered from Part 1 of my interview with Lauren, Lauren is to vintage glamour, what Anna Wintour is to Vogue.  So, of course, when Lauren first added her  prohibition-era, paper confections, embellished with ribbon and sparkly bits, I was the first in line to snatch them up.

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L. Delaney’s All Dolled Up is a love letter to the women whose dresses now gather dust in antique shops and attics.

They also caught the eye of Dover publications, who published Lauren’s first book in March of this year. Finally Lauren had the opportunity to marry her talents for costume design with her paper artistry, with her book, All Dolled Up.  

“I enjoyed creating paper dresses for my Etsy shop, but I had no intention of creating a book until Dover approached me.  I learned so much through the process of creating the dresses and miniature sets, then photographing and laying them out. It was a huge challenge and I’m really proud of the end result.

I have always loved draping as a method of design, and this process of creating paper dresses is similar.  In fact, there is a whole section in the book about “paper draping” for (tiny) fashion design.  With any creative project, you have to observe the properties of your chosen material and then let it do what it wants to some extent.  Probably the single most important step in the design to fabrication process is choosing the proper materials, whether it be a paper dress, fabric dress, or miniature world!”

As if offering to be Chickadee’s first featured artist wasn’t enough, Lauren has also offered to give away a signed copy of her book. In addition to a great story, paper dolls and richly-detailed backdrops, the book also provides step-by-step instructions for creating your own vintage couture designs. All Dolled Up will delight paper crafters and fashion-lovers alike. For your chance to win, simply comment below. The winner will be chosen by random drawing on May 15th.

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Since her creativity seems to flow from an endless spring, I asked Lauren what she saw herself doing next.

“Well, I’m in the middle of working on my second book, and I’m also excited to expand the world that I first introduced in The Haunted Dollhouse. There are more mystery adventures in store.

I love the unpredictability of life. Ten years ago, in my wildest dreams I couldn’t have cooked up my current life. Ten years from now, I hope I’m still working at the things I love – designing and creating.”

For more information on Lauren’s many, many projects, visit www.ladydelaney.com.

Part One of Lauren’s Interview (her background and creative process)

 

 

 

The Lady Delaney: Artist, Style Icon, Muse

 

I’m so excited to introduce a new feature to Chickadee, a featured female artist who inspires me with her talent, kindness and entrepreneurial spirit. The first woman is Lauren Delaney George. She is someone whom I’ve admired since I first discovered her Etsy shop in 2013, where I was surprised and delighted by her amazing shop, full of miniature delights.

Lauren attended NYU, where she spent 2 years in the school’s prestigious MFA program, and started her career working for E. Jean Carroll of Elle magazine fame, helping with a kooky side project social media game site that she had created, “Catch27.”

Since that time, I’ve discovered that she is a costume and set designer with feature films to her credit. She has worked with the likes of Colleen Atwood, 14-time Oscar nominee, on the film Public Enemies. Lauren’s clients include FAO Schwarz, Monique Lhullier, Erin Featherstone and the Cancer Research Institute. Her original artwork, The Exile of Prospero, debuted at the National Building Museum. She is a style icon with her amazing throwback vintage glamour. And most recently she published her first book, All Dolled Up to critical acclaim, with a second already underway.

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Lauren’s office is located in the back of a fabulous vintage clothing store on Magazine Street in New Orleans, Century Girl.

Blog Summary: Lauren Delaney George is EVERYTHING. #allthegoals #ladyboss #shero #girlcrush

Whew. I had to get my fan girl enthusiasm out-of-the-way in order to write any further. Now that you know the gist of my feelings about Lauren, we can get to the heart of the matter…why she should be YOUR creative inspiration, too.

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One of my absolute favorite projects of Lauren’s. The Haunted Dollhouse.

To me, there is nothing more inspiring than seeing a fabulous creative woman living her dreams, except for kindness, graciousness and willingness to encourage other artists in pursuing their dreams.

I asked Lauren if she would agree to an interview with me, with her knowing nothing about me and she eagerly accepted. So without further ado, I give you the much coveted interview.

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Spooky things happened when I received goodies from Lauren, including this cool haunted mansion.

Melanie: First of all thank you for agreeing to this interview:

Lauren: I was so honored by your email! And holy moly is your blog b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l. I’d love to help in any way that I can with a feature.

Melanie: Thank you. I’m so flattered. Well, I asked a million questions, so let’s jump right in. Are there other artists in your family?

Lauren: My dad is a doctor and though my mom received her MBA, she devoted her life to  raising three crazy children.  Both my parents are very creative.  My mom is a jack-of-all-trades crafter; she knits, quilts, cross stitches, etc.  My dad is really into history and has dabbled in state politics. He occasionally publishes articles and has created a couple of historical documentaries. Though I am the only “professional” artist in my family, traveling to Honduras on a medical relief trip with my dad this year gave me an entirely new appreciation of the artistry involved in cutting up and healing a body.  And my mom has really devoted her life to creating beautiful things for her family and loved ones to enjoy.

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Her style…iconic.

Melanie: You’ve traveled all over the world. Did that have an impact on your creativity?

Lauren: I spent my junior year of college abroad in Aix-en-Provence, France.  I knew that I would never improve my French unless I was submersed in the actual culture.  Several years out of practice, I’m pretty rusty at the skills I picked up there, although I can still mostly understand when it is spoken to me.  When I was in 8th grade, my dad taught anesthesia for one month at a hospital university in Moshi, Tanzania.  My entire family accompanied him and I attended an international school with my siblings (International School of Moshi).  My ISM classmates were from all over the world. 

Melanie So you grew up surrounded by culture, art and history?

Lauren: We grew up really spoiled in the sense that art and creativity were always encouraged in our house.  In fact, our house has always been a bit of a circus, bustling with whatever people’s current projects are!  My brother would often film movies with his friends there, and once even built a “submarine” film set in the garage.  My parents tend to adopt our friends, so there are always people coming and going when we are home.  

My parents are outgoing, creative people, unafraid to try new things.  They don’t operate under the idea that you must have a degree in whatever you decide to pursue.  Their fearlessness has been a major shaping influence in my life.  

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One of Lauren’s exquisite dresses, that she generously shows you how to make in All Dolled up.

Melanie: Have you always known that you wanted to be a designer/artist/author?

I definitely didn’t grow up knowing this was what I wanted to do.  I’ve always enjoyed arts and crafts, but it didn’t even occur to me until I was graduating from college that I could make a career out of a creative field.  My interests and projects continue to evolve and I am curious to see what is in store!

Melanie: Who or what inspires you?

I’m really inspired by creative people and New Orleans happens to be filled with them!  The history of New Orleans also inspires me, because it feels like traveling back through time with all the history and interesting characters who populate the city today.  I also love just discovering other artists through the rabbit holes of Instagram and Pinterest.

Melanie: The best part of social media to me! I read that you met Costume Designer Colleen Atwood on the set of Public Enemies and she influenced your decision to go to NYU. 

Lauren: My encounter with her was hugely significant, because it got me thinking about that possibility. Meeting her was just such an awesomely weird and surreal experience.  It got my brain working on how costume design was this beautiful tangle of all the subjects I loved: history, fashion, and psychology.  

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Melanie: Your artistic resume is so long and varied. You seem to have an ever-flowing river of ideas. Do you ever get stuck? Have you ever felt afraid to try something new?

Lauren: Yes, I definitely get stuck and I think that every human does at some point, regardless of their career choice. For me, the hardest part is sitting down to begin a project. 

Before I dive into something really consuming (like All Dolled Up or The Haunted Dollhouse), my soul gets a little weary thinking about how HUGE it seems. It always helps to break these monsters down into more manageable daily tasks. You need to be disciplined without being too hard on yourself.  Just set yourself up to be moving the project forward every day with small steps. 

For example, if you wake up and say, “I’m going to create a book about paper dolls today,” it’s never going to happen. Instead say, “Today I am going to rough draft a table of contents.  Tomorrow I will outline the introduction. The day after tomorrow, I will create a rough storyboard for the pages.”  The key is that none of these things has to be perfect. Just get your idea on paper and then keep refining it as you bring in new elements.

I am afraid on a daily basis. Fear is a completely normal reaction when you are confronting the unknown.  For a creative, this means not being able to envision the end product at the beginning, but trusting the process will bring you through to the end. 

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One of Lauren’s miniature libraries available in her Etsy Shop.

Melanie: How do you approach a new project? Is your approach methodical, researched, experimental? Is there a Lauren Delaney process?

Lauren:  When starting a new project, I spend a lot of time exploring images and reading.  I am gauging my own reaction to things like tone, color, and setting. I make a lot of notes, collecting quotes from other writers, as I begin placing the images next to each other.  Finding the thread through this collection I’ve assembled is how I discover my own opinion about the world that I am creating. 

Melanie: Oh my! I still haven’t even tackled all my questions about your many projects that I REALLY want to talk about. Your miniatures, The Haunted Dollhouse and your new book, All Dolled Up. I think this is going to have to be a two-part interview.

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This is Zelda, one of the guests at Lauren’s book launch party at Century Girl.

Lauren: Thank you so much again for caring about my work and sharing it with the world.

Lauren has very graciously offered to host a random drawing for a signed copy of her book, All Dolled Up. No purchase is necessary to enter. Simply follow my blog (not mandatory, but I hope you’ll come back for Part 2 of Lauren’s interview) and leave your email in the comments section, so I can notify you if you win. I will not use your email for marketing purposes or solicitation. The drawing will be held on May 15th.

Finally,  I want to end with what I think is one of the coolest things about Lauren. In 2013, during the height of Gatsby mania, when the remake of the classic movie, starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Carey Mulligan was coming out, Lauren won first place in the costume contest at The Gatsby Garden Party in Oheka Castle New York.

“Lauren is so cool,” said her #1 fan.

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Photo Credit: Christopher Lane

To be continued…Part 2 coming soon.

 

 

 

Springtime at the Arboretum

I spent the morning surrounded by birdsong at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum. The chickadee is my spirit animal, or is it spirit bird?

It’s springtime in Minnesota and life is beautiful!

Especially since our very own Minnesota Landscape Arboretum was named The Best Botanical Garden in the country in the 2017 USA Today Reader’s Choice Survey.

Twenty botanical gardens from around the U.S. were nominated by a panel of experts and the Arboretum was voted number one.

I have to admit, I did more than my fair share of lobbying for votes. I’m lucky enough to live about 20 minutes from the Arboretum in Chanhassen, MN, a southwest suburb of the Twin Cities, Minneapolis and St. Paul. It’s located just down the road from Minnesota icon Prince Rogers Nelson’s Paisley Park studio.

In fact, Prince enjoyed spending time there.

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Prince at the MN Landscape Arboretum. Photo Credit: Arboretum website

I have an annual membership, so I can enjoy the arboretum year-round, in my state that celebrates four resplendent seasons, each uniquely gorgeous in its own right. While there’s a three-mile trail that winds its way through the various gardens, an avid gardener or photographer can find small wonders to entertain herself in just one small area on multiple visits.

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The daffodils are coming soon!

So even though most spring bulbs and flowering trees are still weeks away from blooming, I visited the garden this morning to enjoy the sunshine and fresh air that April ushered in. Maple syrup was flowing into buckets hung on the trunks of the giant maples and the smokestacks were billowing out long gray plumes at the Maple Sugar House.

Waves of daffodil and tulip leaves stood at attention on every hill, garden and wooded area. In just a few weeks the entire arboretum will be awash in a sea of color and fragrance.

I had planned to join the mothers pushing strollers, retirees and tourists who enjoy daily walks on the 3-mile trail through the garden today.

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As I was crouching down to peer at the plants, I heard a rustling at my knee. The friendly garter snake. Lots of wildlife at every turn.

Instead I got side-lined in the very first garden I came across. I hadn’t been expecting much color, but as it’s my first season as a member, I thought I’d familiarize myself with the various areas, and the plants they contained. It’s always fun to try to identify the early foliage of the perennials as they first poke through the soil. But I was pleasantly surprised to find many pops of color sprinkled throughout the first garden.

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A cold hardy Dwarf Iris (Frank Elder) 4/23

I planted my first Iris garden last September, with bulbs from the National Iris Society’s sale at the Arboretum in August. So I was delighted to find these little beauties nestled into the rocks.

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Snowdrops. Beautiful blue, too!

Snowdrops are the earliest blooming bulbs to appear on the scene, just as the last snow is melting in March, with the little cups of crocuses following hot on their heels.

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Brilliant purple crocus

Besides hunting for blooms and identifying bird calls, spring is an excellent time to stop and learn something new, that I might normally just breeze by, thinking “oh that’s pretty.” The skeletons of espaliered apple trees stopped me dead in my tracks. The outdoor living garden has a small square paneled on three sides with these ghostly beauties.

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Espaliered Haralson Apple Tree – Introduced in 1922 by the U of M

Then there are the gorgeous structural shrubs that flourish year-round and never fail to wow, such as this beautifully sculpted Korean Boxwood. Love the vibrant foliage. I have two miniature boxwood in my fairy garden at home, so they’re a favorite of mine.

Korean Boxwood

Finally when you’re not in a big rush, during the lull before the full spring bloom and its resultant crowds, solitary time in the gardens allows for time to stop and appreciate the beautiful sculpture, art installations, benches and other hardscape features that memorialize loved ones inspired by nature. I thought this was especially poignant.

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In addition to the beautiful grounds, the Arboretum features events and workshops year-round. I’m looking forward to Yoga in the Garden, using the On-Leash Trail with 3 energetic terriers, plant sales, and the 20th Annual Bud Break and Daffodil Dash 5K coming up on May 7th.

For more information, visit the Landscape Arboretum website at arboretum.umn.edu.

In whatever part of the world you call home, I hope you take some time this month, to get out and enjoy nature. Your senses, mind, body and spirit will thank you.

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