Saturday, November 26, 2016

Giving Thanks And An Impromptu Visit To The National Cathedral - Thea McGinnis

Thea here.  A phone call from my friend and fellow garden club member, Anita, prompted a visit to the National Cathedral in Washington, DC.

We drove over last week in the early afternoon. We enjoyed particularly good weather and hoped to get a peek into The Bishop's Garden.  The Cathedral is a must-visit for guests to our Nation's Capital, but this day, it was quiet yet busy with tours, students from schools, and worshipers.

When we walked into the Cathedral, though, we also got a delightful surprise.  The Alter Guild and Flower Guild members for the National Cathedral were busy at work adorning the many interiors with autumnal decorations. Anita and I found them breathtakingly gorgeous.

This is a huge endeavor for these teams of volunteers and the beauty of the floral designs and displays.  Next week, I expect they will begin with their Christmas and Holiday decorations.  Here's some shots (taken with my iPhone - sorry!).
We caught the floral team in the middle of creation, and it was fascinating to see how they planned their designs.

The cathedral has many chapels and most have their own baptismal fonts. 

Sunlight filtered through the stained glass windows created quite an interesting light display. 

After touring the cathedral and visiting their fabulous gift shops, we went outside for a bit to explore the Bishop's Garden.  The roses were still blooming!

For visitors, the cathedral has underground parking with elevators to ground level. For more information on the National Cathedral, The Alter and Flower Guilds,  and the All Hallows Guild that takes care of the beautiful gardens, I'm including their links.  It was such a treat to see the Thanksgiving florals. I plan to make another trip soon to see the Christmas florals.  I highly recommend a visit to the National Cathedral.  I believe the All Hallows Guild also sponsors Tea on Tuesday and Wednesday afternoons. FMI  

Post and all photos by Thea McGinnis. 

Monday, November 14, 2016

Bountiful Autumn - A Guest Post by Jenny Sullivan


It is autumn, the best time of the year in the opinion of this gardener and many another.  We plan road trips to Skyline Drive to swoon over the fiery trees. We find ourselves humming “The Autumn leaves (doodly doodly doodly doo) drift by my window (doodly doodly doodly doo). / The falling leaves of red and gold.”  The stop-you-in-your tracks beauty of those splendid, bold colors stirs the heart to give thanks in this season of Thanksgiving.

But my favorite autumn poem never mentions leaves at all! It celebrates the harvest, that other feature of autumn that makes any reasonable gardener grateful to creation for this amazing phase of the diurnal process. Here is the first stanza of John Keats’ poem, “To Autumn.”

 Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
 Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun; 
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
 With fruits the vines that round the thatch-eaves run; 
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd and plump the hazel shell 
With a sweet kernel; to set budding more, 
And still more later flowers for the bees,
 Until they think warm days will never cease,
 For summer has o’erbrimmed their clammy cells.

Let’s slow down and go back. This 24-year-old Englishman, writing in 1820, is taking us on a tour of the abundance of autumn. If, like me, you have ever required your children or grandchildren to “stop and smell the roses,” you might want to follow the lead of Keats, whose poem invites us to look closely with awe and wonder at things we might be foolish enough in this busy world to fail to notice.

For instance, just look at those verbs, verbs that accentuate the abundance of autumn— deep, rich, wonderful autumn. Keats tells us that autumn and his close buddy, the sun, are “conspiring” together, hatching a plan to bring forth bounty.  They don’t want the vines to be puny or piddling. No, they want to “load” the vines, and in loading them, to “bless” the vines with fruit, with the blessing of food. These vines are so full of nature’s energy in this race to the harvest that they “run” around the thatch eaves.

The apple trees do not merely have apples hanging from the braches. Autumn and his friend the sun have caused those trees to “bend” with the weight of the abundant apple crop. Autumn and the sun “fill” and “swell” and “plump” the fruit and the gourds and the nuts all the way to their centers with ripeness.

The flowers, perhaps like your zinnias at this moment, just keep budding and budding so that the confused honey bees think that maybe the warm weather will never end. They are reaping such a grand autumn harvest because a lingering Indian summer has “o’erbrimmed” their cells, cells that look ready to spill a cascade of abundance.

Go back and read that stanza again if you like. I never tire of reading it any more than I tire of walking in an orchard, strolling through a garden, or looking out my window at the falling leaves.

Keats creates cornucopia of imagery in this poem, a word appropriate to our Thanksgiving season when images of fruit pouring out of cornucopias are pictured on the fronts of greeting cards and floral designers use the cornucopias in their arrangements for their Thanksgiving tables.

This might also be a good time to check out the Cornucopia Institute, a group working to promote family-scale farming.

Their website is full of interesting articles such as one by Cathy Clabby from North Carolina Health News about “the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians . . . using research and new partnerships [with Virginia Tech] in expanding access to wild foods at the heart of their culture.”  They are tracking and cataloguing the wild food of the Great Smokey Mountains, maybe some of the same kinds of food at the first Thanksgiving and perhaps, in the future,  food that will again appear on  this autumn holiday’s bountiful table.

Jenny N. Sullivan is a gardener, author and garden club member in Northern Virginia, and the daughter of a storyteller. Instead of reading nursery rhymes and fairy tales to little Jenny, her mother told her about "the olden days," the 1920s in her beloved small hometown in south central Virginia. Those stories provide the atmosphere, the local color for Sullivan's first novel, From My Father's House. Sullivan grew up in Norfolk, Virginia, received a B.A. and an M.A. in English from Old Dominion University and went on to a long teaching career in the Virginia Community College System in the Tidewater area and in Northern Virginia