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April Showers

It’s raining. A lot. I am severely tempted to complain. A lot. Then I remember the last three summers when it did NOT rain. A lot. Then I push aside that temptation and think of all that rain as water in the bank to be spent when moisture funds run low. The bareroot perennials in the root cellar can wait another week or two and they will be fine. The spring clean-up of garden beds can wait. The pansies don’t arrive until next week so I don’t have them to addle my brain over the rain. Rather, the rain is a chance to get paperwork wrapped up that soon there will be no time to deal with. Volunteers have returned and time for indoor activities disappears rapidly now.

From my office window I can see green buds swelling on woody plants. Some maple trees are blooming. The male goldfinches are again gold. Spring has arrived and there is no turning back. I realize that does not mean Mother Nature will let us move smoothly on through April and May. She may well have a couple bitch slaps planned for us. But … not a damn thing I can do about that. Enjoy the moment and hope for the best.

Digitalis ‘Polkadot Princess’

Digitalis ‘Polkadot Princess’

Lots of blooming plants appearing now. Well, maybe not lots but a good many. I would show you some pictures but it is raining too hard right now to do that. So I will cover a few more of the new plants we are adding to the gardens this year.

In an earlier post I mentioned a foxglove we are adding this year, but we are actually adding second this year. Another sterile hybrid, Digitalis ‘Polkadot Princess’ (part of the Polkadot series) looks more like a traditional foxglove.

Bred by the folks at Thompson & Morgan it gets 2 to 3 feet tall and blooms from early summer to early fall thanks to its lack of seed production. If it does well I will consider adding ‘Polkadot Polly,’ the peachy colored sister.

This next plant we are taking a bit of a chance with and pushing it to the limit of its hardiness zone. Euphobia x martini ‘Ascot Rainbow’ is a zone 6 plant, maybe 5b. And technically we are a zone 6 region. Except when we are not. But what the hey? Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Euphobia x martini ‘Ascot Rainbow’

Euphobia x martini ‘Ascot Rainbow’. Photo courtesy of www.PerennialResource.com.

‘Ascot Rainbow’ grows about 20” x 20”, wants full sun, and should have good drainage in winter. It does bloom in late spring but this is one you grow for the foliage. The green and yellow variegation takes on deep pink and burgundy when weather cools down in fall. The new growth always has a touch of this but it intensifies with the cooler temperatures. Interestingly, the showy bracts (structures that surround the real flowers) are variegated as well. ‘Ascot Rainbow’ makes a great container plant also.

Ipomoea lobata (aka Mina lobata or Quamaclit lobata)

Ipomoea lobata (aka Mina lobata or Quamaclit lobata)

One of the finest annual flowering vines will put on its show on the fence outside the Greenhouse sales area. Ipomoea lobata, or Mina lobata, or Quamaclit lobata is gorgeous. I mean GORGEOUS! And the only things more intriguing than the flowers are the common names. Spanish flag. Firecracker vine. And my absolute favorite, Exotic love vine.

Oh hell yeah! That is exotic love and I’m feeling that love all the way to my very soul. Exotic love vine grows to several feet and blooms start appearing in mid-summer. The flowering continues up ‘til frost. Jim grows these from seed. You can too.

The rain has let up but I know the minute I go outside with the camera it will return. Just thinking about it made the thunder start again. Over the next several days I expect plants to simply explode out of the ground. A little sun and a little warmth and everything is going to want to express its joy of surviving the winter. Check you gardens frequently so you don’t miss a thing. And if you are missing anything then you don’t want to miss Perennial Premiere April 26 and 27. We will have just what you’ve been missing.

In the meantime, how high’s the water, Mama?

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Filed under: Greenhouse, Horticulture, IMA Staff, Oldfields

 

Creating an Autoportrait: Patty Schneider

Obscured beneath the simple words, numbers, shapes, and colors found in much of Robert Indiana’s work are essential memories and symbols of the artist’s life. Indiana’s visual vocabulary is encrypted with personal symbolism. This is particularly evident in his long series of Autoportraits.

To complement The Essential Robert Indiana, on view through May 4, the IMA invites visitors both on-site and online to Create Your Autoportrait using some of the same elements that Robert Indiana incorporates in to his. During the run of the exhibition, IMA staff members will be creating their own Autoportraits and blogging about it.

The sixth in this series features Patty Schneider, the Grounds Supervisor at the Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park: 100 Acres.

Rather than focus on a common theme, I chose my Autoportrait according to what represents me in broad terms; the numbers are milestones, but the rest are things that characterize pieces of me from this past year.

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2: In 2013 I started the second phase of my Horticulture career at the IMA, stepping into the role of Grounds Supervisor for the Art & Nature Park.

08: 2008 was a year of many life changes; I moved to a new city (Indy) two weeks after graduating from the University of Wisconsin, started my dream job as a horticulturist at a public garden, and got married.

The author, Patty (right), and her husband Grant.

The author, Patty (right), and her husband Grant.

574: A milestone I would not have predicted to be that significant at the time. 574 are the first three digits of my very first cell phone. The year was 2002 and it was my junior year of high school … it was a cute little, bright red Kyocera with a cool blue backlit keypad. I never would’ve guessed that a decade later our cell phones would evolve to serve as much purpose as our computers.

Joy: If I were to get a tattoo, it would be with this word … one that I desire to share and emulate no matter what the circumstance. To my thinking, happiness is merely an emotion; joy is a state of mind.

O’Hara: Lake O’Hara is the most breathtakingly beautiful place I’ve ever experienced. It is in Yoho National Park in eastern British Columbia and has limited access in an effort to reduce human impact on its environment. The day we were there we got caught in a brief rain storm, but it only added to the mystical charm to watch the rain approach from across the valley and envelop us. I felt so acutely aware of myself, knowing I was part of that mountain in that moment.

River: My 1-year-old Irish red & white setter. She has surely changed the way my husband and I live our lives, and most DEFINITELY has changed the way I am able to garden!

Green, blue and yellow: Green and blue are my favorite colors. Adding the yellow reminds me of a fall day, my favorite season of the year.

Filed under: Art, Art and Nature Park, Audience Engagement, Exhibitions, Horticulture, IMA Staff

 

The IMA in Egypt, Part 3: ‘Wrapping up’ our Mummy Coffin Research

Today’s blogger is Dr. Gregory Dale Smith, the Otto N. Frenzel III Senior Conservation Scientist at the IMA. Dr. Smith is reporting through a series of blog posts on the IMA’s involvement in an exhibition at the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology in Ann Arbor, Discovery! Excavating the Ancient World.

Fig. 1.  A portion of a painted headdress from a Late Period wooden coffin. The annotations provide the unique data label, the chemical elements identified by X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy, and the most likely pigment inferred from the elements found.

Fig. 1. A portion of a painted headdress from a Late Period wooden coffin. The annotations provide the unique data label, the chemical elements identified by X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy, and the most likely pigment inferred from the elements found.

A year ago this week, I boarded a plane for Egypt carrying a small “mobile lab” to take part in a collaborative fieldwork project studying ancient wooden funerary objects. As I reported earlier, the goal was to determine better conservation methods for stabilizing these beautiful, but fragile painted artifacts, which include decorated sarcophagi and statues. As the group’s chemist, my job was to use portable analytical instruments to identify the pigments, adhesives, and binding media used in the surface decoration of these deteriorated objects. On this one year anniversary, I wanted to wrap up my blog series by presenting some of our results from this exploratory season in the field at Abydos.

Our analyses showed that the ancient Egyptian artists used natural materials to decorate the tombs of their dead (Fig. 1). The binding agents for their paints included glue made from boiled animal skins and resinous gums exuded from plants. The colorants were also largely natural minerals including white chalk, yellow and red earths, soot black, and the poisonous arsenic containing yellow mineral orpiment. The primary blue pigment, however, was synthetic; Egyptian blue, a copper-containing glass frit was first made in Egypt as early as the 4th Dynasty around 3000 BC. Armed with this information about the paint composition, conservators are able to choose the most appropriate consolidants to stabilize these often disintegrating artifacts.

Fig. 2. A composite “eye” from a Ka statue composed of copper sheet, marble, and obsidian. The left eye is shown in pieces while the right one has been reassembled by conservators.

Fig. 2. A composite “eye” from a Ka statue composed of copper sheet, marble, and obsidian. The left eye is shown in pieces while the right one has been reassembled by conservators.

We also encountered other decorative elements including the inlaid eyes (Fig. 2) from wooden Ka sculptures found in the chapels associated with royal tombs. These are composite structures that include metal eyelids identified as pure copper sheet soldered together with lead and limestone whites of the eyes carved around a central black pupil of imported volcanic obsidian. The black gemstone was held in place with a plug of beeswax. Future work might include using chemical analysis to trace the foreign source of these luxury trade items.

Fig. 3. A display panel from the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology’s exhibit Discovery! Excavating the Ancient World showing the Abydos wood project team onsite.

Fig. 3. A display panel from the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology’s exhibit Discovery! Excavating the Ancient World showing the Abydos wood project team onsite.

One further outcome of this highly successful exploratory field season is the exhibit Discovery! Excavating the Ancient World at the Kelsey Museum of Archaeology at the University of Michigan.  The work of the conservation team was included in the exhibition’s didactics to show the diversity of disciplines that contribute to our understanding and preservation of archaeological materials (Fig. 3). All of those who were part of this field season are extremely grateful to our home institutions for the latitude to come together to participate in this exciting project, and to the American Research Center in Egypt (ARCE) who along with the University of Michigan funded the expedition. Aside from being a fascinating study with components of ancient technology, complex biodeterioration, and delicate preservation interventions, our work in Egypt was a lot of fun (Fig.4)!

Fig. 4. Team leader and Kelsey Museum conservator Suzanne Davis shows off the Ka statue inlaid eyes after reassembling the excavated pieces.

Fig. 4. Team leader and Kelsey Museum conservator Suzanne Davis shows off the Ka statue inlaid eyes after reassembling the excavated pieces.

Filed under: Art, Conservation, IMA Staff, Technology, Travel

 

Creating an Autoportrait: Clifford Graham

Obscured beneath the simple words, numbers, shapes, and colors found in much of Robert Indiana’s work are essential memories and symbols of the artist’s life. Indiana’s visual vocabulary is encrypted with personal symbolism. This is particularly evident in his long series of Autoportraits.

To complement The Essential Robert Indiana, on view through May 4, the IMA invites visitors both on-site and online to Create Your Autoportrait using some of the same elements that Robert Indiana incorporates in to his. During the run of the exhibition, IMA staff members will be creating their own Autoportraits and blogging about it.

The fifth in this series features Clifford Graham III, the IMA’s Gallery Guide Security Supervisor.

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Blue, green, and purple are my favorite colors, I LOVE the cool color palette. I used 2 and 11 to represent my birthday; and the 14 is for this year — NOW.

I am not spontaneous; I get too caught up in tomorrow to enjoy NOW. For 2014 I want to learn to enjoy the moment; because right NOW is all that any of us is sure of. I LOVE music! It is my way to unwind, let go, and relax. A melancholy melody, angelic harmonies, or a thumping bass line allows me the space to let everything go. LOVE is my spiritual gift; everyone needs it, and everyone wants it. I also used LOVE in my Autoportrait to pay homage to Robert Indiana.

Filed under: Audience Engagement, Exhibitions, IMA Staff, Protection Services

 

SPRING! Spring? … spring …

Let’s hope it really is here. And it doesn’t have to be one of those crazy springs that is more like summer. Just a nice “normal” spring. Whatever the hell normal is now. So far, like winter, spring is trending cooler than average (look beyond the 65 of today). But that may make all the spring flowers last longer so long as it does not turn frigid. Which is to say – No More Polar Vortexes! You got that, Mother Nature? I certainly hope we understand one another.

Real signs of early spring are finally upon us. Every blog, tweet, and Facebook posting you come across is talking about the same group of plants. And that’s okay. We are all so hungry for the return of spring each year it is only natural. This year, our appetites for spring are ravenous! Nothing like a diet of barren white snow and subfreezing temperatures to make you drool over a simple meal of bright green and sunny yellow. I strongly suggest you get out there and eat it up.

 

Filed under: Greenhouse, Horticulture, IMA Staff

 

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