Thursday, May 28, 2009



This afternoon the air is  thick in our apartment but the breezes bring in some cooler air now and then. I just scanned some sketches from recent days. Thought I would post these and go make some more. 3:15 is time to pack my shopping bag and walk to the metro to get some fresh veggies from the farmer's market downtown by the National Archives. 
Keith and I enjoyed a visit to the Renwick Arts and Crafts Museum yesterday to see an arts and crafts exhibition of Greene and Greene brothers of the early 20th century who made fine homes and furnishings in California. I admired and drew one exterior decoration on the exterior of the Renwick and a chair in a small salon where a velvet bench made sitting down to draw very inviting. The chairs in the exhibition were lovely but there wasn't a good place to sit and draw any of them.  I am going to need  my folding artist's stool with me to sketch in these museum shows. I did a sketch of the folding stool a while back.  This fine stool was a gift from my pal, the poet, Dan Vera who sketches and wants to go on a sketch crawl together out in the city like Danny Gregory and his friends do.  I have been inspired by a few blogs from a group blog called Urban Sketchers. I like to see the drawings other artists do all around the world. Also Michael Nobbs in Wales is a big inspiration to get me  sketching. He blogs and tweets about drawings he likes all the time as well as makes them himself nearly every day. 

Monday, May 25, 2009

gardens settle into summer

Keith under the rose arbor 

old fashioned Japanese honey suckle grows on our garden's old section of wooden fencing smells really good

This week our garden is beginning to look very promising for June, Memorial day isn't just the beginning of beach weather but good flower growing weather is coming now too. Keith and I  decided to take a trip down to the National Mall to visit some of our favorite public gardens on Saturday. We rode metro with lots of tourists down to L'Enfant Plaza and walked over to the Bartholdi fountain triangle garden where the sun was beaming straight down on a view of the capitol grounds. Many plants were in full leaf and gorgeous flowers are on many.  This small garden is behind the Botanical gardens and is named for the big cast iron fountain that sits in the center with a pool. That is now walled off while they spend the next three years restoring the iron fountain the plumbing and lighting. Still the garden was great with many succulents and exotic flowering plants and trees. We also dropped by the new native plantings garden of the Botanical gardens and it's shallow fish pond. Last was the Smithsonian's National Indian Museum gardens and pond where we caught sight of some ducklings with their protective mother. This pond is so grown in you can't see where you are from the edge. We found after a few hours in the heat with all those loud motorcycles (rolling thunder)we were hungry so we ate at Teaism a nice Bison Burger and chose to come home and enjoy our own garden. I know the middle of the day is the worst time to photograph flowers but we did it anyway. I always try to get my home garden photos done before the direct light hits the flowers. Shade of early morning or early evening is always great light and some over cast days are good for even lighting. I spent most of this afternoon loading my garden photos from home and Manassas up on to my page.  Take a click and venture over and see them? 

Sunday, May 24, 2009

the next day

See the new red bud tree here by the truck driver's door. 

The day after the dead tree was cut down and chipped into mulch, workers came back with a stump extractor. It was a sudden loud noise which alerted me to their arrival. I watched the crew digging out the stump and filling in the hole. I wish they had planted another red bud tree in that hole. I like our new red bud tree so far and I have been nursing it with attention and water to see that it survives. The first year is always the hardest for a tree to get roots established in a new planting. We have seen many trees down the street die the first year because during hot dry summers  no one watered them during that crucial period.  Maybe I can encourage them to come and plant a matching red bud tree in the fall near the one I am nursing on our curbside. 
We still have the large Linden tree that died last summer standing on our corner. I plan to call the mayor's hot line to see what can be done about this tree. As they say:"the squeaky wheel gets oiled" so I plan to start calling right after the holiday weekend. I see it as my duty to do my part to green the city. I can help the trees here on my corner get started in their first year or two with water. Down the street is more difficult for me to address. 
I dream about having a big water truck that I could drive around and water newly planted trees in our area. It is so sad to see them expire just for lack of attention. 

Monday, May 18, 2009

tree cutters came but.....

This fine morning I got up to see some orange caution cones set up in 9th and Randolph street's intersection. The tree removal team was set up on 9th street to cut down dead trees. Not long after I heard them doing their work till they turned up on my street and began the work of cutting down a long dead little leaf linden tree. Four costumed workers made quick mulch of the tree branches and trunk in their big wood chipper while the fifth guy cut up the tree using a chainsaw. To my great disappointment  they removed only the little dead tree and they ignored the huge dead tree in front of our house. I guess as I said earlier they will have to wait to get a arborist from department of transportation to come mark this tree and put in work orders for it to be removed with assistance from the power company. I did get a great view of the work from my window and I made a record to show that at least some things get done and done well in Washington DC. for a quick action look see and hear you can watch a short video I am posting.

So there we have the video, fun to see them working.  I need to call the city to request they send a tree person over to condemn our larger dead tree. Then we can see about getting a few more new trees that do not grow into the wires. My pal in Holland tells me it is illegal to plant any tree under a power line in Holland and France. He spent two or three vacations at his country home cleaning up the mess the power company made when they cut and left where they fell a wide swath of wild forest trees near a power line running along his property. At least the government workers here who planted them also cuts them and cleans up the mess when they are done. 

Sunday, May 10, 2009

mother's day after a garden party

Middleburg Virginia  garden party for a new hand made door 
Door on the second floor sleeping porch is visible here. We loved the lush display of red trumpet honey suckles growing on the left of the front doorway.

to the right in the Middleburg garden from above

purple hostas from Chris and Sue's yard in DC blooming for the first time in Mom's garden
white iris from my DC neighbors blooming over blue cadet hostas

Keith and I went to a nice garden party in Middleburg. The garden was beautiful and lots of interesting people were at this party. There was a new specially made door installed on the second floor commissioned by our hosts for their home. It has stained glass by one artist, Iron fittings(hinges and door latch) and all this beautiful maple wood work to complete the door. It opens onto a sleeping porch of sorts in their old farm house which was built about 1875 I believe as a farm house. Middleburg is an old town in Virginia just past the edge of the sprawling development that moved to within a few miles. I love the Koi pond and the blue eyed grass flowering beside the pond. I enjoyed meeting the artists who did the glass and iron work and I knew the artisan who built the door from our annual Light In October events. Chris Mann who used to sell photos now does fine wood working. 
After some drinks and a tour of the ever more developed garden we headed out to pick up my mother and take her to a nice dinner. This we did and enjoyed with plans developed to work in her garden on Mother's day. Today we went to a couple garden centers and did a little light shopping for annuals to fill up a few pots. We came back and cleaned up some weeds and raked last years leaves to pulled out English Ivy. Never plant that nasty ivy if you want anything else to grow in your garden. I battle an old stand of it here in our DC garden that has a ancient roots as thick as my wrist. We had a great day and I look forward to returning to see how things develop in the coming months of summer. 
Now after a long day of shopping and gardening we are home and resting. Happy Mother's day it was. 

Friday, May 8, 2009


Sketching in a book I made that fits in my pants pocket is a habit I pick up and lay down... recently while house sitting I was working on some sketches in my little book that has laid around for months neglected. I wanted to share some of these sketches here. I don't care how good or bad they are just that I get something on the page. It is more a meditation on what is near by than a serious illustration. Line drawing with an ink pen means you have to commit to the line you put down there is no erasure possible. I am really out of practice doing these line drawings but each time you draw you have to start from the beginning all over again and learn your way through the process of translating what you see before you. 
The sun returned to Washington DC today! What a surprise to see shadows under green leafed out trees again.
Nine days of clouds rain and cooler than normal temperatures seems like weeks. It is OK considering we needed some rain to refill the ground water table and avoid an impending drought from the lack of rain and snow this past winter. 

Monday, May 4, 2009

trees near my home

tall oak in our alley 10-12 foot trunk diameter 
huge oak in the alley
SUV's and cars park under it in hot

recently planted red bud 

This is the time of year when all our trees come out and have an electric brilliance in shades of green and some reds. This week with 6 days of clouds and rain they seem especially fresh and delicate. I used to spend time doing Bonsai and learned a lot about trees and read some good books on them and their history. I think we all appreciate good tall strong healthy trees when we live near them. It is a shame how often they are neglected and even just mowed down for development. I can recall so many times when I was disturbed to see one tree or acres of trees dead or removed by men for new building projects. This area of the mid- Atlantic coast without humans like us would be covered in forest they say.  We are the only creature who remove trees besides Elephants who rearrange some parts of the jungle while breaking paths for transit which helps other animals and plants.
Last summer I recall the dry months caused many trees in my neighborhood to yellow and loose their leaves before fall weather ever got here. Trees that were stressed already from much heat and lack of rain for the past several years started to look like they might not survive. I was most upset to find that the huge linden tree that is about 8 feet in diameter that grows on the curb in front of our apartment building didn't get any leaves this year. I wonder how these great trees live anyway with only a 3 foot stretch of open ground between the street pavement and the sidewalks. If only those both were permeable surfaces to let the rain seep in to nourish the roots. It is a very sad thing to see even a butchered tree die when it is this big and old.
Last summer after one of those strong north Easter storms pasted through the area a arborist from the city came around and was doing an inventory and reports on the trees. I happened to be out side when he came by and had a talk with him. I expressed my confusion about those who plant enormous tree stock to grow up under electric wires in the city. They tell us power company customers not to plant tall trees under power lines yet the city department that manages trees thinks nothing of planting tall trees under wires. He says that has changed and that they are being very careful to replace trees that die  with smaller ornamental trees if they are under power lines. He asked if I would like to have a red bud here in front of our house. I said yes sure and watched as he almost marked the road to indicate that a tree be planted at the base of our stairs. I quickly asked if he would put it to the left of that spot so we could park there and unload groceries and laundry. He was very happy to move it a few feet to the left. He also described why some trees that die are very slow to be removed. Seems when a tree is grown up in power lines and on a busy street if it dies there are many things to coordinate to facilitate removal of the dead tree. This points to one situation with contractors that is more trouble than if it were done only by government workers. The government hires contractors that cut down dead trees and remove the debris. When a wire is over head of the tree it requires a crew of tree experts to remove it and a crew from the Power company in addition to a traffic team from police department to steer traffic clear of the work. One tree nearby on busy Michigan Ave. NE is in such a spot and it has been standing dead and leafless for at least 3 years now. It is marked for removal but with all that coordination I doubt it will be removed before it falls and cuts off the power to someone and disrupts traffic naturally. I hope this tree in front of my apartment doesn't take a long time to remove. I plan to report it to the arborist today I met last year.  It is very sad to see it go but the new red bud will grow and across the street the new lindens and sweet gum have lots of head room and they will soon grow tall and offer us a little shade in the early hours of the morning. 
There are two old oak trees in the area of which I am very fond. Since I moved here they stood out and seem like stately old residents predating all the development. One is very tall in the back yard of a building in our alley. Gnarly Oak is spreading in shape rather than tall and grows on the grounds of the elementary school.  In the summer I have noticed that SUVs, trucks and cars pull on the grass to park under that old tree. I know that root compression is one thing that will kill a tree slowly. I wish the city would fence off that area to protect the roots of the old gnarly oak. This tree really has a lot of character. 
Finally one of my most favorite ancient trees that is dying  is on private property belonging to the Catholic Archdiocese who recently remodeled a building to minister to the military. While they remodeled this 1960s building they cut down many trees and one or two were blown over by a storm but this one tulip poplar was a very handsome stately tree remained. I watched as tractors, trucks, black top pavers and concrete work  went on all around it sometimes vehicles rolled heavy equipment over the roots. It was further stressed by dry hot weather and root digging at the base of the tree during remodeling, today it has half died. I took some photos of the state is in now last weekend. I am sad because I thought the shape of this tree was very handsome. Soon it will be gone and the building will be fully visible. I think the tree was much prettier than this new institutional facade. I guess you could say I am a tree hugger but I don't know why everyone isn't just like me. We get great benefits from trees near our homes and in our communities.