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Edible Plants and Memories of Minna Lee, part five*

Words and photos by Deb Lee, Michele Maniscalco; photo from Lee family album

*last of five parts, so far, with responses from friends and family to my request for photos and text related to edible plants in the life or remembrance of Minna Lee (1917-2005) prompted by her birthday on August 23.

Deb Lee: My childhood memories include summer visits to a peach orchard owned by family friends. My sister Bec and I helped their boys pick peaches, from which our mother made peach cobbler for all. No luck finding old photos of that experience, but I can share photos from eight years ago when we picked blueberries at a farm near Bec and then enjoyed delicious pancakes.

picking blueberries in Germany
blueberries and pickers 2014
preparing blueberry pancakes 2014

Michele Maniscalco: I bet Grandmother Minna would have gotten a kick out of these pictures! 

carrots in the kitchen

The two carrot pictures indoors were taken in our kitchen at 29 E. Concord Street. I call the one of the anatomically correct carrot, “It’s a Boy”.

Michele holding carrots, September 2015
carrots in garden
Praying mantis in community garden

I especially love the one of the praying mantis staring at the camera: that was such an amazing moment for me! I’ll never forget that night. Of course, the carrots and tomatoes were grown at our plot in Northampton Community Garden. 

Minna with Ethan in NJ kitchen, 1988 ?
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Edible Plants and Memories of Minna Lee, part four*

Photos and text by John Miller; Text by Brad Gurman with photo by Bernard Lee

*fourth of five parts, so far, with responses from friends and family to my request for photos and text related to edible plants in the life or remembrance of Minna Lee (1917-2005) prompted by her birthday on August 23.

John Miller: Happy birthday to my Aunt Minna! Attached is Wendy (Adams) in her veg garden (enclosed to keep the baboon out).  Located in Wilderness Heights, South Africa, if you want to locate it.  Spinach, lettuces of all kinds, cabbage, celery, onions, much more …

Courtyard plants and herbs
Courtyard plants and herbs 4
Entrance 1
Entrance 2
Wendy in her garden
lettuce

Brad Gurman: I do have the fondest memories of your mother’s cooking in general, but more her willingness, no, a strong desire or need to explore any fruits and vegetables and after a short visit to Japan, sushi and octopus.  I still recall my often hesitation to try new things, but confidence to try anything she prepared.  My apology, but I have no photos of any of these memorable events. (note from DL: Bernard Lee’s 1984 photo from our album fits with your comments!) Thank you for the opportunity to recall her memory.  Happy Birthday to Minna.  

copy of a photo by Bernard S. Lee 1984: Minna hosting New Year celebration
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Edible Plants and Memories of Minna Lee, part three*

Words from Annie Monahan, Photos from Marjory Wunsch; Photos from Lee family album

*third of five parts, so far, with responses from friends and family to my request for photos and text related to edible plants in the life or remembrance of Minna Lee (1917-2005) prompted by her birthday on August 23.

Annie Monahan: Happy birthday Aunt Minna, wonder what you’ll be finding for the meal of the day and where the participants will be found’. There was happy excitement in the air.

Later as I reached for a peach ripening on the window sill, I thought again of Minna wondering if peaches, in season, might be part of the picture. Picture was important because texture and color were part of the art of the meal.

I have such fond memories of visiting  …..always going for a drive to find the perfect ears of corn so and so had, and the veggies so and so was saving for her just picked that morning. Or if one left early enough a tour of the garden itself. 

Food was hand in hand with the people she encountered.  Everyone seemed so delighted to see her, as always she left people happier. 

. …. meals were a community effort….for example, your grandma cutting veggies as her sight was diminishing being told where they came from and their colors and how they’d be added to others, asking which bowl might be used etc. 

Thinking of so many of the family visiting during Aunt Minna’s birthday ‘season’ brings a big smile. Family and food, hooray.

Minna and Ruth in NJ kichen
Minna on deck at Falmouth house
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Edible Plants and Memories of Minna Lee, part two*

Text and photos by Renee Kasinsky and Tina Gram; Text by Harold Snedcof, photo by Marjory Wunsch; text by Linda Harris, photo from Lee/Levy family album

*second of five parts (so far) with responses from friends and family to my request for photos and text related to edible plants in the life or remembrance of Minna Lee (1917-2005) prompted by her birthday August 23.

Renee Kasinsky: Minna always served great salads and generously shared with family and friends. Salad vegetables: tomato, basil, rhubarb:

Tina Gram: The only time I met Minna was at the house in Falmouth and I recall she cooked up quite a meal. She enjoyed cooking and shared generously with Deb’s visiting friends. It was a memorable evening and made special by Minna’s presence. Garden photos (six, captioned):

harvest-green beans, rainbow chard,
and zinnias
Grape arbor

Harold Snedcof: Now to get to your mother’s love of plants- I remember fondly her chopping up rosemary and then placing the herb on roast beef in your kitchen at the house in Little Silver.  The combination was delicious.

table with squash and rosemary, photo by Marjory Wunsch

Linda Harris: And my fondest thoughts of your wonderful wonderful mother, I did really love her! So warm and welcoming and supportive! What a mom! 

Miriam’s farm: Miriam, Mark, Aaron, Minna, 1983?
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Edible Plants and Memories of Minna Lee, part one*

Photos and texts by Ellen Kramer, Barbara Nachmias-Kedesdy, Judy Morris, Barbara Gold, Sandy Millikin, Ethan Gould

*one of five parts, so far, with responses from friends and family to my request for photos and text related to edible plants in the life or remembrance of Minna Lee (1917-2005) prompted by her birthday August 23.

Ellen Kramer: The box in the backyard where I grow herbs and vegetables has given me many happy hours.  This summer’s heat and drought has stressed many of the plants living in the box.  The cherry tomatoes in the attached picture have grown up to the first-floor window despite adversity. It is a joy to be back there watering the plants and eating ripe little tomatoes warm from the sun. 

Sandy Millikin: The pictures are of my tomatoes with the first Pink Brandywine nearly ripe. The Sungolds have been pickable for a week. But no ripe green zebras yet ……….tomorrow’s lunch will be the Pink Brandywine with basil and olive oil and perhaps mozzarella! As I enjoy it I will be thinking of Minna.

Barbara Nachmias-Kedesdy: Happy birthday, Minna.
Both photos feature plants from our garden. Arugula and basil, pine nuts, and ricotta salad (left), Tomatoes ripening for Caprese salad (right)

Ethan Gould: Reviving the blog in memory of Grandmother is a great idea.  I’m sure she would be proud of you! Attached is a picture I took on Sunday of the tomatoes on the vine in Michele’s garden plot.

Lora Myers: My backyard basil…such versatile leaves! This year’s abundance will yield lots of freezer pesto and tastes of the sun in winter.

Fig on Fig Tree from Judy Morris

Judy Morris: One little fig on the fig tree.

I love my small herb garden mixed with portulacas, one of my Mother’s favorites.

Barbara Gold: Minna Lee and her family were my most important influences outside of my family. Their home was an informal salon of kids, artists and writers. Bern showed us interesting new gadgets – the first Waring blender I’d seen. They were open-hearted, open-minded, encouraging and always interested in what we were doing, thinking, feeling. A true blessing!

Minna and Bern at Goldschmidt’s celebration, 1965

Minna raking Vale Homes yard garden, 1942? (copy from worn-out old photo)

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A rush — Still Learning To See

The sun-powered rush to grow, bloom and reproduce is under full steam now with wave after wave of plants hoisting their flowers up to the wind and/or the pollinators and the eyes of those who are seeing. They tempt with color—much of it invisible to my human eye—and scent and, for the insects, tiny magnetic […]

A rush — Still Learning To See
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Brattle Square Florist, from Recent Past toward Promising Future

On a rainy evening in Harvard Square, May 2019, I responded to a sudden assignment in a smartphone camera class by taking photos inside Brattle Square Florist. As one of countless devoted customers for more than forty years, I had secretly dreamed of somehow documenting the special qualities of its long tall corridor packed floor to ceiling with a great array of plants. In this mesmerizing space, staffed by busy but always available family members, I would reliably wander choosing flowers for my home or gifts for others.

To celebrate the survival of Brattle Square Florist after a precarious time, I now share some photos from that evening along with quotes and links (with pertinent photos) to convey their current heartening story.

“Last month’s announcement that Brattle Square Florist would be closing on January 31st led to an outpouring of support from its customers and the community. Moved by that outpouring, Stephen Zedros, the longtime manager at Brattle Square Florist, put plans in place to take over the business and maintain operations without interruption starting February 1st. “ (quote from Cambridge Chronical-TAB story by William J Dowd, Wicked Local, Feb 8, 2022)

“The Gomatos Brothers, Zedro’s grandparents, opened Gomatos Brothers Fresh Produce in 1917. …. In the 1970s, the family switched over to selling strictly flowers and plants. For years, Zedros’ mother, Catie, and her brother, Ted Gomatos, kept Brattle Square Florist in business and kept it thriving in Harvard Square. “ ( quote from Harvard Square Business Association News, Jan 28, 2022)

“The store will ……. relocate steps away to 52 Brattle Street. Zedros noted, “Brattle Square Florist has been operating in Harvard Square for over 100 years and I’m planning to lay the foundation for the next 100 years.””( quote from Harvard Square Business Association News, Jan 28, 2022)

Key Resources

GOOD NEWS! Brattle Square Florist to Remain Open

Once slated to close, Cambridge’s Brattle Square Florist returns to family that opened it 105 years ago

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Fascinating Desert Plants from February in Tuscon, Arizona

During frigid February days in New England, I was happily transported by photos Julie Shaw texted during her brief family vacation in Arizona. Inspired by those radiant images from that distinctly different landscape, I asked her to share some in a post on Pleasures of Plants. Fortunately for all viewers, she responded with the following images, including well-researched enlightening captions and notes.

Photos 1, 2, and 3 are by Julie Shaw. Photos 4, 5, and 6 are by Susie Shaw.

These photos were all taken in late February at the Tanque Verde Ranch in Tucson, Arizona.

1.      Prickly Pear Cactus, very plentiful at Tanque Verde Ranch. It grows in many climates but is particularly beautiful here.   
2.      Golden Barrel Cactus in front of a Yucca plant
 3.      Santa Rita Purple Prickly Cactus 
4.       Saguaro Cactus. These giants can live up to 200 years and are found exclusively in the Sonoran Desert.
 5.       More Prickly Pear
 6.       Saguaro Skeleton.  When the Saguaro die, their woody leaves can be used for roofs and fences.

Many thanks to Julie Shaw and Susie Shaw for sharing their photos and perspectives!

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Look Back through Several Summers in Glorious Ongoing Gardens

Deep-rooted Thanks to Nancy Arons for her photos and notes from gardens at her home in Pelham, MA!

After chipping away at ice layers on the city sidewalk in early February, I told Nancy Arons how I craved images from summer gardens outside her house in Pelham, MA. She soon responded with truly gratifying photos, including dates, plant names, and intriguing notes. Almost all her photos here are from late July, between 2015 and 2021, except for an irresistible October scene.

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Abundant Bouquets Generate New Journeys

Thanks to a generous gift subscription from my sister, a tightly packed box full of fantastic blooms is delivered monthly to my door. Finding enough places to put them all can be a challenge, so I strive to send some on to other welcoming homes.

December Journeys

After delivery, blooms settled into vases in my kitchen

January Journeys

After delivery, botanical card and blooms in vases on my kitchen table

A future post may focus more on where the blooms have come from, but this one looks at where they went.

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Join in Praises for Roses in Vases

Earlier in January, when I asked friends for photos of indoor plants, Sandra Millikin sent three from her home in England. All were roses in vases, each bouquet distinct and inviting. Her titles and evocative captions added context. The words and images suggested significant stories behind the roses’ arrivals and arrangements.

October Roses

October Roses: Next to my Highgrove favourite china mug for tea bought in August when visiting Prince Charles’ garden

Florist Flowers

Florist Flowers: On my kitchen upstand sent by nephew in Hong Kong….struggling to revive after delivery!

November Roses

November Roses: On my coffee table….still blooming in late mild autumn cheer me up

Sandra’s offerings reminded me that I hadn’t yet done a post that focused only on roses though they are key pleasures in the world of plants. Her trio of photos inspired me to consider roses that came to me as gifts in recent years. I recalled how involved I became in settling them safely into certain vases. Below are three photos from my home, along with hopes that I can follow up with further posts that reflect our winter appreciation of plants.

Ceramic pitcher by Tina Gram containing one of many roses sent by my sister Bec in June 2021
Glass vase holding roses from a big bouquet of many more blooms from my sister in November 2021
Many vases in my kitchen filled with more than a dozen roses from my sister, February 2021

Returning now to another photo from Sandra Millikin, including her observations below.

Antipodean Roses (from Austraila)

Antipodean roses from the garden of my friend Gerry’s daughter in Victoria near Melbourne. These from a time when they were all in lockdown.  You can see how wonderfully they have opened in that blousy way typical of garden roses. Florist roses struggle to do this. And I love the mix of shapes and colours. 

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Winter Views of Indoor Blooms, Remembered and Recorded

amaryllis in living room 2019

Selecting from seventy or so photos of plants inside my home from recent years, I tried to pare down to seven for this post. So I grasped for goals to guide me. The pandemic here in January of 2022 has made me go for photos that show the living space where few people are now free to visit.

Clinging to imperfect, personal details of my kitchen, living room, and dining room, I ruled out some of the most delicate or dramatic petals, leaves, and blooms. Instead, I took in familiar vases, pots, curtains, cherished art, and worn furnishings.

These growing or cut plants stand here as quiet companions with stories they might somehow tell again someday.

Next month I might think more broadly, if I’m still thinking. Meanwhile, emotional motivations prevail.

oriental lilies in dining room 2021

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Summer Wonders from a Wonderful Garden

Here are labeled photos by Tina Gram from this summer (July-August 2021) in her spectacular garden in Somerville. She selected, described and sent them in response to my recent request to friends to share their photos of plants they value. My goal is to present the photos and words in ways that convey the alluring qualities of the plants from the photographer’s perspective. While still facing technical challenges in the process, I’m thrilled to explore new possibilities for sharing the pleasures of plants.

grape arbor (built by Pay)
Nasturtiums, petunias, licorice plant by my pond
coleus varieties

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Sunflowers from Past Summers

Cambridge, late August 2019

Museum Street, Cambridge, late August 2020

Crescent Street, Cambridge, August 2015

Drumlin Farm, Lincoln, July 2018

Sacramento Street, Cambridge 2019

“For Holmes, the sunflowers represent a radiance that “sustains us even when things are not how we want them to go.” The flowers serve as a metaphor for heliotropism—“turning to the light.” They attract bees. They’re said to draw toxins out of the ground. With the profusion of seeds the flowers produce and their deep roots, they symbolize the hardiness of Roxbury. “These flowers intend to survive and they intend to come into being and share their great beauty.”“(quote from Greg Cook interview with Ekua Holmes June 2018)

Photos above are selected from more than seventy photos I’ve taken of sunflowers in the past seven summers. Quote above is the force and source of this post.

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Wonderfully Welcome Responses to My Requests

From the start of Pleasures of Plants, my intention was to share plant photos by friends and family, not only by me. For a few months I was trying to get comfortable with new features in the format I had selected. I hesitated to involve anyone else during that phase. Though still learning the basics of this blog, I’ve begun asking people to send photos of plants they value. I’m very grateful for their responses,* support, and patience as I try to present those photos in a worthy way.

*Barbara Nachmias-Kedesdy has offered these from her garden in Salem, MA:

Autumn crocus (left), David Austin English rose “Munstead Wood” (right)

Japanese anemone (windflower)( left), Dahlias and sweet peas (right)

Hydrangea ( left), Japanese anemone (windflower) ( right)

Mexican chocolate cosmos ( left), Flowering carrot ( right)

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Photos with Stories Reveal the Vitality of Northampton Street Community Garden

One of my first posts ( January 2021) focused on photos I took as an enthusiastic but infrequent visitor* to Northampton Street Community Garden. This sequel adds views of an insider, Michele Maniscalco, who has worked the soil there for several years with attention to significant events in her surroundings. As I requested, she has selected from her own photos and provided her own words to identify or explain them.

Bee on a zinnia at Northampton Street Community Garden, August, 2016. Taken at a photo shoot for Martha Stewart Living Magazine featuring South End-based Best Bees Company, a beekeeping company founded by bee researcher Dr. Noah Wilson-Rich, who started the business in his West Concord Street apartment. Photo by Michele D. Maniscalco
Harley Kravitz, Esq., permanent resident and guardian of the Northampton Street Community Garden in Boston’s South End from the time he was a kitten until his death. Feral and aloof from everyone except his caregiver, Harley Kravitz kept our garden safe from vermin and was much-loved and is missed by gardeners. RIP Harley Kravitz,  2004-2018  Photo by Ethan S. Gould

*Photos ( by D. Lee) at bottom of this post are from my visit in June 2021

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Upbeat Plantings Grow along Upland Road

On neighborhood walks this spring and summer I began to notice tended gardens in the narrow strips of earth between sidewalk and street. Then I noted the sense of shelter from traffic as I climbed the slope of Upland Road lined with clusters of flowers or grasses around saplings or established trees.

Parts of parked cars and road signs intruded on too many photos where I’d tried to capture the elegance or abundance at curbside. While closer focus ruled these out, those photos lost context of dealing with the challenges of the given space.

Whether or not my photos can convey this, I do appreciate more and more such garden strips on streets throughout the city. Upland Road raised my awareness anyway.

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Sharing Roses of Sharon

Some ways I’ve shared roses of Sharon* near me in recent years:

  • dig up and transplant selected saplings that grow below the original bush.
  • cut branches with buds and blossoms (a source of tiny active ants) to fill a vase.
  • sequence photos of successive stages of a blossom.
  • message short videos of blossoms lifting/shifting in warm winds.
  • sweep and scrape shriveled remains fallen on the sidewalk.

Now I add another way: Sort through years of photos of roses of Sharon in my neighborhood and choose seven best for a post on Pleasures of Plants.

*A common name for Hibiscus syriacus, a species of flowering plant in the mallow family, Malvaceae. It is native to south-central and southeast China, but widely introduced elsewhere, including much of Asia. ….. Common names include the rose of Sharon,[7] (especially in North America) [Quote excerpt from Hibiscus syriacus in Wikipedia )

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Wonder at the Range of Hydrangeas

Last week a surprise gift bouquet with botanical notes about hydrangeas got me to start noticing their variety in my neighborhood. I marveled at the many different forms of delicate clustered blossoms among their handsome hardy leaves. Wikipedia affirmed that worldwide there are more than seventy species of hydrangea, including shrubs, vines and truly tall trees.

The range of subtle colors in one blossom or one garden of hydrangeas has also caught my eye.

Hydrangeas around here seem to survive, even thrive, through testy summer months.

Hydrangeas in Harvard Yard garden near Quincy Street, Cambridge
Holden Street, Cambridge, Late September 2018

Views here are selected from my newly made photo album, Hydrangeas , though they hardly represent the range of what I’ve seen within a few blocks of my home.

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Range of Yellow, Intense to Mellow

I invented this mid-April post to allow at least two more magnolias, both with yellow tones, that started blooming after my post about those captivating trees.

Then, of course, the yellows of forsythia, tulips, and daffodils were also eye-catching.

Meanwhile in pots and vases, more yellows called attention!

Other alluring aspects of this color sing out from photos of hellebores, unidentified groundcovers and budding branches. Barred by my self-imposed quota of seven photos per post, they must wait for some future connection.

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Bare Trees Work with Winter Skies

As buds begin on branches, I recall that blossoms, leaves and fruits will reduce the chances for sky and sun to interact with the structure of bare trees. While eyes and iPhones focus on compelling colors along with layers of growing green, I’ll lose sight of dramatic or intricate patterns of tree trunks, bark, limbs and branches for the next three seasons. This post presents reminders of what winter trees will offer again as autumn ends.

(I prepared most of this post, including the paragraph above, in the middle of March but as predicted I was distracted by spring colors. Now, mid-April with weird weather shifts, may be time to “publish” after all.)

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Magnolias, Magnificent and Magnified, April 2021

A few magnolia trees in my neighborhood began to blossom tentatively in late March, followed by a full surge in early April with three bright mild days. Cold winds and rain soon sent many petals to settle, discoloring on the ground after the brief but spectacular displays of distinctly different magnolias. No wet spring snowstorms to weigh them down this year, so they can gracefully give way to other predictably brilliant showings of the season.

This post presents a select few of numerous views I was moved to take into my iPhone in recent weeks.

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Clematis in Cambridge

Clematis vines, leaves and beginning buds are graceful in themselves, while signaling the promise of slightly translucent flower petals unfurling, emerging from the subtle green overlapping leaves. Not sure my words or photos (from streets in my neighborhood) will convey the significance of clematis in my life, but here’s a chance to try.

Two clematis vines (with distinctly different color flowers) have reappeared predictably every year since 1994 along my low wooden fence. Their delicate, fragile yet enduring vines persevere through summer and early fall. A third one planted as a gift in 2007, promises similar persistence.

Clematis is a genus of about 300 species within the buttercup family, Ranunculaceae. Their garden hybrids have been popular among gardeners, beginning with Clematis × jackmanii, a garden standby since 1862; more hybrid cultivars are being produced constantly.” 

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Mandevilla in Cambridge 2018 and 2020

Bright red abundant Mandevilla* adorned the fence and walls of one home on nearby Kirkland Street throughout the summer of 2020. Not until mid July did I properly identify those vines and begin trying to document their captivating qualities over the next few months. I hope to give them more careful attention this coming spring.

A few springs earlier, a bountiful gift from my sister had arrived on my porch. It was a tall trellised container of deliciously white “Bridal Bouquet” Mandevilla that became a highlight just outside my own home for many months. Still somehow I missed the clear connection to the larger-scale scarlet display a few blocks away.

* “Mandevilla /ˌmændɪˈvɪlə/[3] is a genus of tropical and subtropical flowering vines belonging to the family Apocynaceae. It was first described as a genus in 1840.A common name is rocktrumpet. Mandevilla species are native to the Southwestern United States,[ Mexico, Central America, the West Indies, and South America.” ( excerpt from Wikipedia)

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Community Garden, Sacramento Street, Cambridge, June 2015

In 2015, years before I had an iPhone, I took most photos with a Canon Powershot and edited them with Picture Manager on my PC. I was trying to capture the fleeting perfection of peonies, poppies, and irises to send to friends and family far from Cambridge or to save such moments for myself. Though even the few selected here fall short of the experiences of being there, they remind me of those invigorating visits.

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Community Garden, Sacramento Street, Cambridge, 2020

More than any year before, in 2020 I was taken by the abundance of colors, styles, variations in this community garden two blocks from my home. Ever plotless, I was luckily still welcome to wander the paths among distinctly different plots that enhanced each other. Ever clueless, I enjoyed absorbing random clues to the way people managed their parts and the whole of this shared space.

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Community Garden, Northampton Street, Boston, 2018 and 2019

To follow my own blog rules, I’ve somehow selected seven photos from very many I’ve taken during years of visiting this wonderful community garden, where my family members tend a productive lot. I keep marveling at the dense collections of splendors and surprises surrounded by city buildings.

Though trying to focus on photos and refrain from verbal facts, I welcome questions, comments, suggestions, corrections, and connections. Thank you!

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Why, When, How

Behind this Blog

I signed up for this slot last year when it showed as a fleeting bonus to my basic blog, Art Outdoors, on WordPress. It promised a solution to my urges to post pictures of plants that did not fit within my own constraints on what to include as art, which ruled out “the art that nature makes” no matter how amazing. Just knowing that the spot awaited was reassurance enough until this November, as the last leaves fell and faded while the prospect of renewed pandemic restrictions rose. So here goes…

..with a few self-imposed restrictions to keep myself from wandering too far into the weeds..

No more than one post per week

No more than seven photos per post

No more than one short paragraph to introduce the photos

People, pets, buildings, and artwork can appear but not as prime purpose:

Share and show plants that bring pleasure to me and other people.

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