We do daffodils!

tc_steele_daffodils_01I came to the T.C. Steele State Historic Site early last spring, after working for many years at Brown County State Park. At first, everything seemed different — the scale, the pace, the historic aspect. Then I answered my first phone call from someone wondering when the daffodils would peak.

Starting around September, Brown County State Park receives numerous calls like this from people asking about ‘peak’ fall color, so I was slightly amused by the daffodil question. Then they began to bloom. Fall color vistas and our ‘sweeping drifts of daffodils’ may differ in scale, but I learned that they rate the same on the WFS (Wow Factor Scale).

After her move to Brown County in 1907, inspired by the abundance of wildflowers around her, Selma Steele made plans to ‘naturalize’ flowers over the hillsides surrounding her new home. She wrote in her memoir, The House of the Singing Winds,

A day came when I set out, as a first experiment, a handful of Scotch daffodils. Now … this bulb garden covers many of the hillsides. There are many varieties, blooming virtually by the thousands and thousands*, contributing an unearthly and elusive beauty to the landscape, all enveloped in the soft atmosphere of springtime.

tc_steele_daffodils_03Well I won’t even try to top that description. Why not visit and see the results of Selma Steele’s plan? You could call ahead to find out the perfect day to see the most spectacular show of spring color, but why bother? Selma planted such a variety and abundance of flowers that even if the daffodils aren’t ‘peaking’, something else surely is.

*Perhaps Carl Sagan read The House of the Singing Winds.

 

 

Davie Kean is the master gardener at the T.C. Steele State Historic Site.

The synchronicity of spring

The 100+-year-old apricot tree at the T.C. Steele State Historic Site.

The 100+-year-old apricot tree at the T.C. Steele State Historic Site.

March 20, 2009 — the first day of spring. The lone apricot tree was just beginning to bloom, I didn’t have my camera with me, a frost was predicted, and I would be away for the next few days. I was sure that my ‘photo-op’ would be lost by the time I returned. But Tuesday morning I was greeted by the tree in full bloom, along with an overcast sky, which my photographer-sister assures me is actually preferable to Willie Nelson’s blue skies. So I got my pictures.

The poor tree is showing its age — it’s not telling, but it must be nearly 100 years old. Early this spring when the tree was still dormant, a visitor who ‘just happened’ to be a hobby orchardist took a few scions from the tree. He’ll try to propagate replicas of our historic fruit tree by grafting these cuttings onto appropriate rootstock. The perfect timing of his visit was the first instance of synchronicity.

The next came a few hours after I’d taken my pictures. While looking through copies of Selma’s scrapbooks, I came upon a letter she’d written to her friend and summertime neighbor, Mae Weinstein. She wrote on March 20, 1945, “I found the forsythia in full bloom. Our apricot tree burst into flower overnight. I do hope there will be no freeze to interrupt the flowering period. It is so early for my tree to be out. Generally the Shadbush comes first. It is still without a sign of blossom.”

So 64 years later, as I felt compelled to write about our apricot tree, we had nearly-identical seasonal conditions on the first day of spring (including no Shadbush in flower). I wonder what I’ll discover about the flowering quince, which is now just starting to open up? I’ve already noticed that its color is a near-match to the fresh coat of paint on the “House of the Singing Winds.”

Davie Kean is the master gardener at the T.C. Steele State Historic Site.

I “heart” trees!

Planting trees on Arbor Day.

Planting trees on Arbor Day.

By definition, I’m probably not what you’d call a tree hugger. I’ve never attended a protest or chained myself to a tree (or anything else, actually) and I’ve never gone on a hunger strike for the cause. Perhaps I should though, because I really dig trees. I loved climbing them as a kid and investigating what kinds of critters lived in them; and even old, dead trees meant the possibility of morels in the spring!

Since moving to “the big city” several years ago, I’ve especially missed having lots and lots of trees around. Luckily for those of us who need our tree fix, city and state park systems help provide a welcome reprieve from the daily bustle, treeless commutes and new subdivisions with their fresh landscaping. But we also need to do our part to make our yards, neighborhoods and cities more tree and nature friendly.

Carving trees with a chainsaw.

Carving trees with a chainsaw.

So in honor of trees, the Indiana State Museum, Indy Parks and Indiana Urban Forest Council are throwing a little party (okay, who are we kidding – we throw a HUGE party) to celebrate trees. We invite Tim Womick to come all the way up from North Carolina to get us hyped about planting trees and being good stewards of our environment. We have experts from across the state, including Dr. Speer from the Indiana State University Dendrochronology Lab in Terre Haute. (Dendrochronology: the science dealing with the study of the annual rings of trees in determining the dates and chronological order of past events.) We have a chainsaw carver, beekeeper, wood turner and tons of other groups. Then we invite the Department of Natural Resources down to pass out free trees to everyone!

As spring rolls in and the weather gets nicer, it’s time to head out to the park and enjoy the shade of a big oak tree and watch squirrels frolic in the branches. And hey, if you are looking to plant a tree or see a great Arbor Day show – stop on by the museum on April 24. We’re always looking for more muscle to help with our own tree planting.

For more information about the Arbor Day Celebration or to see a short video from a past event, please visit the official museum website: www.indianamuseum.org.

And the winner is…

Tile-A-Vision by Cappi Phillips

Tile-A-Vision by Cappi Phillips

The results are in and the Indiana Art Fair Signature Artist piece has a name. It was tough for this year’s artist to choose among the over 400 suggestions left by Indiana Art Fair visitors in February. But there was one title that 11 contestants all agreed would make a terrific name: “Tile-A-Vision.” Congrats to all of the following contestants who recommended the title: Rebecca of Plainfield; Jeb Smithwick of Indianapolis; Jeff Marsh; Greg Mac of Indianapolis; Brian Blackburn of Decatur, Illinois; Christopher Lyons of Indianapolis; Betty Cockron of Indianapolis; Jacob Crouch of Indianapolis; KyleeAnn Wheeler of Indianapolis; Adam Hon of Marion; and Mary Jane Schnake of Danville. And thank you to all who helped to give this piece of art a unique name!

 Here are the “runners-up” that were also personal favorites of the artist:
“Archaic Mosaic” by Vicki Bohlsen of Whiteland, Indiana
“Don’t Touch That Tile!” by Greg Dale of Defiance, Ohio
“Ode to Analog” by Sheila Walsh of Toledo, Ohio
“Boob Tube Redux” by Jane Runge Darlage of Indianapolis