Summertime, and the living is easy … as well as scrumptious

Continuing on Summertime theme… this week is summertime FOODS, always a fun topic. Summer seems in part to be in about the food, specifically the fresh produce and veggies. Easy to find everywhere, fun to find at your local outdoor markets! Keep it local folks- support your local farmer (especially the organic ones) and your community will be better off for your actions.

Monday, today, we will start the week off with HERBS – hopefully your herb garden is flourishing by now. My mint is taking over already! (see photo!) MintThese wonderful words are from Kathy WeberWedge Wood Flowers: Herbs for culinary, medicinal and ceremonial use: She is one of the fabulous growers at the Whole Foods Farmers Market in Garden City on Tuesdays! There are 2 recipes (bottom of page.) One is from Kathy and the other is from Linda Nunes- the Healthy Eating specialist at Garden City Center Whole Foods. She made us this luscious salad last week as the taste sampler food for the day. Want to know what is being made this Tuesday? Sorry, it’s a secret you will have to come on down to see/taste for yourselves!

“Now that is it summer in our area, the farmers markets are filling up with fresh greens, strawberries, peas and herbs. All of these wonderful offerings from the fields will give us an early summer salad just right for us.
Snipping herbs regularly helps the herb plants grow bushy and full and provides more for us to use. Pinch the tops of the plants to prevent flowering and going to seed. If that happens, the flavor becomes bitter.  That is another reason why snipping herbs daily is a good idea.  If you have more herbs that you can use, dry the sprigs on a paper towel and store for cooking.
Use herbs in the summer to bring out the flavor in meals. Here are some tips where using herbs.  Use dried herbs when cooking sauces and soups. Dried herbs have more intense flavors.  Use fresh herbs in salads, as a garnish in soups or sauces, and add sprigs of parsley or basil in a sandwich. Then taste how good that is! (Note, from Ronfleur and Liz- put a bit of mint on my turkey wrap { turkey, a touch of low-fat feta dressing, lettuce and a sprinkle of mint} and it was WONDERFUL! ) 
Plan to enjoy the early summer time enjoying all the bounty provided to us and know that more is soon to come to us from the fields.”
Kathy learned to love herbs from her parents.  Her father lovingly tended his herb garden and often brought in lettuce, scallions, and parsley for a salad for supper.  Her mother loved to make herb tea from herbs that she dried for the winter and so she grew up understanding how to grow herbs and health benefits they provide. Currently she is studying to become a herbalist with Susan Clements. Learning to make tinctures, salves, and creams.
She has combined all her knowledge of herbs and turned it into a business,
Wedge Wood Flowers: offering a wide variety of herbs for culinary, medicinal and ceremonial use. “I love to help folks, learn to grow and use herbs. Along with my herbs, I make cold pressed soap using essential oils and clays. I often use herbs in making soap.  This year I can be found at farmers markets, Pawtuxet Village, on Sat., Whole Foods University Heights and Cranston on Mon and Tues. I also will be at Washington Co Fail in Aug, Woodstock Fair, and Hebron Fair in Conn. I can also be found at various festivals and harvest fairs. Information on where I will be can be found on my Facebook page, Wedgewood Flowers.”  Kathy’s email is wdgewood89@aol.comif you have questions for her.
Here is a recipe with snap peas from Kathy
Cook in water a handful of snap peas for 1-2 min. Toast 2T sliced almonds. Combine 2T oil, 2 T fruity vinegar salt pepper. Combine romaine or spring greens with 1/4 cup chives, and tarragon, add peas, and almonds
Here is the recipe from Whole Foods Market Healthy Eating Specialist,
Linda Nunes.
Combine fresh greens using red and green lettuce. Add sliced strawberries and chopped basil. Make a simple dressing by blending, 1 cup strawberries, 1T Dijon mustard, 1/2 cup Balsamic vinegar, and 1 shallot.  Pour over the greens and enjoy the flavors.

Ooh La La – the day has arrived!

And we are off and running!

Hope to see you there! subscribe to the blog, tell me that you have and there will be a “little something” for you when we see you at the show today!

Culinary Herb Guide

Todays post is from a wonderful website Milly found called The Culinary Herb Guidethe Culinary Herb Guide. . I can’t say it better so here it is!

“If your spice cabinet or garden contain only a minimum of herbs, you are missing out on some of the delightful culinary experiences of life. Once you begin to use fresh herbs in your favorite recipes, you’ll never want go back to using just dried herbs again. You will be hooked.
Herbs are one of natures little surprise packages that contain a lot of flavor. A little goes a long way. You do not need much to make an extraordinary impact in your cooking.

Ever wonder why everything tastes exotic and exudes delicious aromas when you eat at a good five star restaurant? It is usually because of the seasoning. Exceptional chefs know that fresh food is always best and that includes fresh herbs.
Great food can be very simply prepared, but add a few fresh herbs and you have created a masterpiece. Once you achieve the art of seasoning with fresh herbs, you will be astounding family and guests with your remarkable culinary talents.”

On their  Using Herbs in Cooking page…

“Today there has been a great surge of renewed awareness in herbs. A revival of the culinary arts and various ethnic cuisine has prompted new interest. Health conscious cooks have found that herbs contain no calories or fat – a fact of great importance to those on weight loss diets. Doctors even recommend the use of herbs and spices in salt-restricted diets to enhance flavor without adding sodium content. Adventurous cooks have found that raising their own herbs can be quite fulfilling as a hobby with the end results in cooking as just an added bonus.

When using herbs and spices to season foods, it is important to use them sparingly. Herbs should be used to enhance the food’s natural flavors, rather than to dominate them. Only very heavily spiced, exotic dishes require a large amounts of flavoring in their preparation. Different parts of herbs are added to food recipes; leaves, flowers, and stems of plants. Each herb has its own distinctive taste, each with specific relationship to individual foods. They can enhance the foods natural flavor and create a livelier, tastier meal.

Harvesting and Storing Herbs
The optimum time to harvest herbs is in the morning, after the dew has evaporated, prior to the sun warming their leaves. Handle the herbs gently without bruising or injuring the leaves and stems. The distinctive oils that give herbs their aromas and flavors are volatile and can be destroyed if injured. Select just enough herbs to be used, dried or frozen, the same day. Herbs should look healthy, fresh and clean, with out any type of discoloring.

Since the flavor and aroma of herbs deteriorates quickly after picking, be prepared to use them immediately. If you must store them for a few hours, keep them in the refrigerator in a plastic bag that is perforated and can breath. When you are ready to use them, wash the herbs gently under cool, but not cold water and pat dry between paper towels.
Freezing fresh herbs is an easy way to store them for longer periods of time. Clean the herbs delicately, blot them dry, and remove leaves from the stalks. You can freeze them whole or chopped, packing into freezer safe bags or airtight containers. Chopped herbs that are to be used in soups or stews can be spooned into an ice cube tray, covered with water, and frozen. When you are ready to use the herbs, just remove what you need from the tray and add to the pot.

Cooking with Dried Herbs
Most herbal flavors and aromas are released by heat. Although fresh herbs are usually preferred, dried versions can be used. When possible, grind whole spices in a grinder or use a stone mortar & pestle just prior to using for enhanced flavor. Toasting or dry roasting whole spices in a dry skillet over medium heat before grinding will bring out even more flavor. A good rule of thumb is to substitute 1 teaspoon of crumbled, or 1/4 teaspoon powdered, dried herbs for each tablespoon of fresh herbs called for.

Cooking with Fresh Herbs
When using fresh herbs in cold dishes, they should be at room temperature. When preparing a dish that requires a lengthy cooking period, you can use a small, tied bunch of fresh herb sprigs. This bundle is generally known as a bouquet garni and customarily contains parsley, bay leaf, and thyme. Herbal combinations can also be minced and added to a meal immediately upon completion of cooking, and as a garnish before serving. This French practice is referred to as fines herbes. It contains chopped fresh chervil, parsley, tarragon, and chives. This blend is good on mild flavored cuisine like salads, scrambled eggs, and dishes containing poultry and fish.

There are no hard and fast rules when cooking with fresh herbs. Start to experiment using small amounts to see what you like. Here are a few ideas that will help you get started:

  • Try not to mix two very strong herbs together. Try mixing one strong and one or more with milder flavors to complement both the stronger herb and the food.
  • Usually, the weaker the flavor of the food (like eggs), the less added herbs are required to get a nice balance of flavor.
  • Dried herbs are more concentrated than fresh, and powdered herbs are more concentrated than crumbled. Each herb is slightly different but a starting formula is: 1/4 teaspoon powdered herbs is equaled to 3/4 to 1 teaspoon crumbled or the equivalent of 2 to 4 teaspoons fresh.
  • If chopping fresh herbs, chop the leaves very fine because the more of the oils and flavor will be released.
  • Start sparingly with the amount of an herb used until you become familiar with it. The aromatic oils can be less than appetizing if too much is used.
  • Usually extended cooking times reduces the flavoring of herbs, so add fresh herbs to soups or stews about 45 minutes before completing the cooking time. For refrigerated foods such as dips, cheese, vegetables and dressings, fresh herbs should be added several hours or overnight before using. Note: Fresh Basil is an exception. If you add it to salad dressing overnight or longer, it becomes bitter.
  • For salsa, hot sauces and picante, add finely chopped fresh or dried herbs directly to the mixture.
  • Make herbal butters and cream cheeses by mixing 1 tablespoon of finely chopped fresh herbs to 1/2 cup margarine, butter, cottage cheese, low fat yogurt or cream cheese. Let it set for at least an hour to blend the flavor; then taste test on a plain cracker or a melba round. You will gain a great feel for the dimensions of what the flavor will be good with by taste testing in this manner.
  • Flavor vinegar for use in cooking and in vinaigrettes. Bruise one cup of leaves for every 2 cups of white wine or delicate vinegar. Allow to steep for two weeks.”

Check out the website for types of herbs, growing herbs, herb gardens, and recipes. What a great find!

Sculpture The Roses, and Park Ave. N.Y.C.

Roses and Bugs Park Ave. NYC
The Roses (and Bugs) Park Ave. NYC Thanks to: Will Ryman (artist) , Paul Kasmin Gallery, and The Fund for Park Ave.

RUSH to NYC if you can to see these 38 larger than life Roses!  These GREAT BIG WONDERFUL Roses, and all the LITTLE CREATURES, on them will only be around a bit longer on Park Ave. If you missed them you truly miss a delightful art display and fabulous installation of public art! The art made me smile every time I went by them. They will be wilting away on May 31.

The art is from Will Ryman, who is a Bowery-based playwright turned sculptor. The octet of blossoms and each petal are made of plaster, wire mesh, PVC tubes, stainless steel, yacht-grade fiberglass resin, automotive paint, and brass designed to withstand the elements and be enjoyed by passersby. They are between 57th and 67th Streets.  The Height of each bunch is approx. 25 feet high (i.e. 4 or 5 NY stories high.) I got to see the flowers in the winter, in the snow, and they were delightful and surreal. An oddity that my brain knew was seasonally wrong, but my heart loved seeing! When I went back in the spring it was glorious again. My soul was so happy to see the real tulips and other flowers blooming, the reality of it being a bit early for roses didn’t bother me one iota. It was a splash of color and life – a sight to be seen, and a scene to be experienced.  ART that makes me smile, lifts up my spirits and soul, is available to all – that is good stuff!

Many of the roses are already sold, if you want one then be quick to come up with $200-400,000. Or, just buy a petal; you can use it as a chair- really! It will only set you back $25-$30,000. According to Ryman (in Jan. when The Roses went up)

“About half of the works on view have already been sold. The proceeds from these sales made the installation a reality because the $800,000 in expenses were covered by the artist. Whatever isn’t sold by the time they come down in late May will probably be put on loan by the Paul Kasmin Gallery, said Ryman. “

I was talking to my Dad not long ago, and were chatting about The Botanical Beauties and Beasties. One of the things he said was ” they make me smile.” A friend also recently told me the same, she said ” Your creations make me smile every day.”  I thought how great is that!  I was thrilled.  As I reflected on these very kind and wonderful words to my ears, I remembered a mission I had set out for myself when I started creating the Beauties and Beasties. This mission had sort of been forgotten by me lately. Thanks to Dad and to Chris for reminding me. I wanted, and still want,  The Beauties and Beasties (who BTY were called The Critters at that time) to make people smile, and feel good! The world seems like a pretty hostile place often and it seems important to sooth those rough edges a bit if I can. I am honored, thrilled, delighted, and proud that one of the missions of  The Botanical Beauties and Beasties has come to fruition.  Now that is REALLY GREAT STUFF!

In the near future I am planning on telling you all some of the other goals that the Gang at Botaniumus and I have. We have big plans! In the meantime, Enjoy NYC, Park Ave on a near perfect spring 2011 day!

To read an interesting article from, of all places, The New York Social Diary, the first month the Roses bloomed on Park (Jan.)

Naturally the NYTimes had a review in Jan as well.

To see them in the snow The Huffington Post. or a slideshow from Paul Kasmin Gallery 

The Sign for “The Roses” 

Public Gardens are a wonderful form of Public Art.

What architect so noble…as he who, with far-reaching conception of beauty, in designing power, sketches the outlines, writes the colors, becomes the builder and directs the shadows of a picture so great that Nature shall be employed upon it for generations, before the work he arranged for her shall realize his intentions.  – Frederick Law Olmsted

One of N. Americas most famous parks is Central Park  in New York City. We visited on our NY tour and, as always, are thrilled with how spectacular The Park truly is. On a gorgeous spring day like we had, the Park is especially luscious. Naturally, the Blossoms wanted their photo taken there, so we acted as all good tourist do, and added ourselves to the composition of photo taking couples! Central park is a garden oasis in the middle of a large city that bustles and tussles all the time.  Olmsted’s Philosophy about his work is so powerfully correct about Central Park (one of his own creations)  that it is a true tribute to his life and work.

The Blossoms, Central Park Reservoir, Central Park NYC

“Olmsted’s main goal, no matter what he was doing was to attempt to improve American society. He had visions of vast recreational and cultural achievements in the hearts of cities. He did not see parks as just vast meadows, but rather he saw them as places of harmony; places where people would go to escape life and regain their sanity. He wanted these parks to be available to all people no matter what walk of life the person followed.”

I am curious, how does this compare to a painting, a photograph, or a sculpture?  Olmsted  saw parks as places of harmony.  As I think about a piece of ART and that it is usually created for/with, harmony/angst, and/or to provoke thought. True?  If that is so, and a park is a place that empowers the harmony, then a garden (a park is often/usually a garden) IS  A WONDERFUL ART FORM. A garden encompasses many of your senses. Flowers have beautiful colors, scents, shapes and sizes. Garden walkways, and “hardscapes” can create direction or paths for our imaginations. Gardens water features can give sound, provoke a feeling of tranquility, a place to gaze and reflect. A garden by association is usually a place to sit back, to enjoy nature and it’s beauty. I have always believed that a garden is indeed ART, and a beautiful garden is a Masterpiece of Art!

The folks that design our large public parks are usually Landscape Architects. One of the “greats” was Frederick Law Olmsted. “Olmsted was born in Hartford, Connecticut, in 1822. Between 1837 and 1857, Olmsted performed a variety of jobs: he was a clerk, a sailor in the China trade, and a farmer, as well as many other professions. He moved to New York in 1848 and in 1857, without having ever had any college education, Olmsted became the superintendent of New York’s Central Park.

As the superintendent of the park he served as the administrator and then architect-in-chief of Central Park’s construction. Next, he served as the administrative head of the US Sanitary Commission, which was the forerunner of the American Red Cross. Finally his last job, before forming his own firm, was that of the manager of the vast Mariposa gold mining estate in California.

In addition to designing for urban life, Olmsted was anxious to preserve areas of natural beauty for future public enjoyment. He served as the first head of the commission in charge of preserving Yosemite Valley and was a leader in establishing the Niagara Reservation, which he planned with Calvert Vaux, in 1887.

Between 1872 and 1895, when he retired, Olmsted’s firm carried out 550 projects. These projects included college campuses, the grounds to the US Capitol, and residential communities.”

If you are in the Boston MA area today (May 12) here is great chance to learn more.  Film: The Olmsted Legacy: America’s Urban Parks. 

This documentary explores the formation of America’s great city parks, including Boston’s own Emerald Necklace, through the eyes of 19th Century landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted. The film traces the life of Olmsted: his early struggles in school, his personal tragedies and his unorthodox career path. Olmsted and his firm carried out more than 500 commissions, nearly 100 of which were public parks.His work includes the linear park system that stretches from the Back Bay Fens to Franklin Park known as the Emerald Necklace. A panel discussion, moderated by Julie Crockford, President, Emerald Necklace Conservancy, will follow the screening. The panelists will be Alan Banks, Supervisory Park Ranger, Frederick Law Olmsted National Historic Site; Margaret Dyson, Director of Historic Parks, Boston Parks and Recreation; and Betsy Shure Gross, Board Member, City Parks Alliance and co-founder of the National Association for Olmsted parks. For more information on the documentary, visit

Fee $10  Offered with the Emerald Necklace Conservancy   Like films? Like Gardens? Like learning new stuff? Check it out!

ART- multi facetted GREEN ensembles

This weeks topic is ART.

How great is that? It is a topic near and dear to my heart and to all the Beauties and Beasties. There is no museum in Botaniumus so they have to travel for their “art fixes.” This week we will be chatting about different shows, types of art, reasons for art (?) and feature a few cities and museums through out the week. To answer my own question, it is VERY GREAT that this week is ART! Art helps makes the world go round.

The Blossoms
The Blossoms - Created from Cheery Blossoms and more.

Monday (today) will be about a lovely exhibit in Washington D.C. at The Textile Museum– their tag line is ART • TRADITION • CULTURE • INNOVATION. Already, that is an amazingly great start – and so they kick off our ART week. Our feature Spokes-Creatures this week will be The Blossoms. They stem from Japan, and a culture of beauty. They stand for Unity, Beauty and Strength, as does much art.

Another great reason to start with this museum is they happen to have a great exhibit now.  Although The Blossoms did not get go themselves, they have a sister who was able to go. It was an extremely appropriate visit, not only is the city filled with Cherry Blossom Trees lining the mall and neighborhoods (which is art in its self, especially when they are in bloom) but the show at The Textile Museum is  “Green the color and the cause.”


The opening words for explanation of the show are: “Many cultures traditionally associate the color green with nature and its attributes, including life, fertility, and rebirth.  In recent years, green has become the symbolic color of environmentalism. This exhibition celebrates green both as a color and a cause, exploring the techniques people have devised to create green textiles, the meanings this color has held in cultures across time and place, and the ways that contemporary artists and designers are responding to concerns about the environment.

Despite its ubiquity in nature, green was among the most elusive of hues in the textile arts until the invention of synthetic dyes in the nineteenth century. Textiles from the Museum’s permanent collection, created across the world over the last 1,700 years, illustrate a range of ingenious solutions for creating green fabrics.These historical textiles are juxtaposed with contemporary artworks, primarily chosen from over 1,000 pieces submitted by almost 300 artists through an international call for entries. The artists represent five continents, create in a variety of genres, and approach the concept of green from diverse points of view.  Exploring themes such as sustainability, recycling, and the interconnectedness between humans and the natural world, these artists continue today’s “green” conversation by encouraging new ways of seeing, thinking about, and interacting with the environment and this evocative color.”

Below are two examples that begin to show the depth and range of the show. Wording is direct for the Museums website.

Nancy Cohen  Estuary: Moods and Modes, 2007

Handmade paper, marsh grasses, salt, wire, handmade abaca paper; assembled
Courtesy of the artist  –  
Photo by Ed Fausty

Estuary-  by Nancy Cohen
Estuary- by Nancy Cohen

Water is vital for all life on Earth, and the protection of water resources has become a cornerstone of the environmental movement. Estuary: Moods and Modes reflects the artist’s study of the New Jersey Pine Barrens ecosystem—a million-acre tract of largely undeveloped land in the nation’s most densely populated state. The undulating swirls of delicately colored, handmade abaca paper evoke the ebb and flow of water courses, differing concentrations of salinity, and the shifting boundaries between water and land. The artist states that in this work, as in our own lives, “elements hang in balance, each one necessary, vulnerable, beautiful, and above all interdependent.”

From the modern to the ancient.

Fragmentary roundel – Egypt, Late Roman Period, 4th century
Wool; tapestry woven
The Textile Museum 71.10
Acquired by George Hewitt Myers in 1927

Fragmentary roundel- Egypt, Late Roman Period, 4th century
Fragmentary roundel- Egypt, Late Roman Period, 4th century

A female figure, possibly a personification of the Earth or one of the four seasons, is dressed appropriately in a cloak of deep green and wearing a necklace of leaves and petals. In her left hand she holds a sheaf of grain or a basket of fruit, and in her right hand a thyrsus—a staff that is a composite symbol of the forest (a pine cone) and the farm (a fennel). Many early cultures around the world envisioned the Earth as a woman, often shown decked in deep green attire.”


Our own personal guest visitor to the show told me it was a great show.  The mix of concepts, the art pieces themselves, and the range clearly thrilled her. I would have to say – if you are in the Washington DC area bike, walk, or metro your way to this GREEN show! Show up by September 11, 2011 or you will be Blue instead of GREEN.

To learn more–  What Does “Green” Mean to Artists, Past and Present?

2320 S Street, NW
Washington, DC 20008-4088

Floral clocks- Edinburgh Scotland and Frankfort Kentucky …huh?

Whismy Wednesday means GIANT floral clocks this week. 

Edinburgh Floral Clock  – the Grandfather of them all…(and there are quiet a few around the world.)

Edinburgh’s floral clock can be found in the NE corner of West Princes Street Gardens. It is an immaculately tended floral display in the shape of a clock, it also tells the correct time. Commissioned in 1903, it is the first of its kind in the world. It is believed to be the oldest floral clock in the world.

Each Spring, the clock is replanted to a different design.  Since 1946, the floral clock has celebrated a different event or anniversary each year.

One of Edinburgh’s most popular tourist attractions, the Floral Clock is located in West Princes Street Gardens, next to theMound…It is seasonally replanted in a topical design with around 35,000 colourful plants. Previously on show only between June and October, from 2003 a planting of frost-resistant plants takes it through the winter season.

The clock is 3.5m (12 feet) in diameter and the hands, which are driven by an electric motor, weigh more than 60 kg (130 lbs). The electrically driven mechanism replaced a clockwork motor in 1973, which had needed to be wound daily. It also has a cuckoo that calls each hour.


Edinburgh’s Floral Clock was inspired by a carpet bedding display in West Princes Street Garden in 1902 to commemorate the coronation of Edward VII. The following year, John McHattie, the City’s park superintendent at the time, and Edinburgh clockmakers James Ritchie and Son created the floral clock by installing a clock mechanism in the base of the Allan Ramsay Monument.

The early designs for the clock were carried out by John McHattie who was advised by James Mossman, a direct descendant of the court jeweller to Mary Queen of Scots. The first clock began ticking on 10 June 1903 with an hour hand only, a minute hand was added in 1904.

In 1905 the mechanism based on organ pipes and bellows to replicate the sound of the cuckoo was installed in a box next to the Floral Clock to record the hour. The early mechanism did not include the house for the cuckoo or indeed a full-scale model of the bird.

Until 1928, the design of the floral clock was based geometrical shapes with the clock numerals being clearly identified by using a yellow leafed plant. William Grant was appointed Head Gardener in Princes Street Gardens in 1928 and designed and supervised the planting of the clock until he retired in 1946. During the Second World War, motif designs on the clock commemorated wartime events and victories.

The existing mechanism installed in 1903 to drive the Floral Clock was converted to be electrically driven in 1973. In 1953 a house for the cuckoo was installed and the life-size replica of a cuckoo appears to sound every quarter-hour.

Each year a new display is planted in West Princes Street Gardens along the lines of a topical theme. Last year it celebrated the Queen’s Golden Jubilee, in 1994 it took as its inspiration the centenary of the life of Robert Louis Stevenson and in 1974 the clock celebrated 100 years of West Princes Street Garden.

Niagara Falls clock was a direct take from Edinburgh Floral Clock – 

The clock was inspired by then Ontario Hydro chairman, Dr. Richard L. Hearn and was based on the famous clock built in Princess Street Gardens in Edinburgh, Scotland in 1903. Dr. Hearn had seen this clock at the Princess Street gardens during a business trip.

The clock is the largest type of its kind in the world. It is three times the size of the clock in Scotland.

and Frankfort saw Niagara; Today Frankfort’s Floral Clock is Turning 50

FRANKFORT (AP) – Kentucky’s Floral Clock is turning 50 and first lady Jane Beshear is hosting a party to celebrate…The clock, which got a facelift from landscape artist Jon Carloftis, will get its hands painted gold in preparation for the celebration…

 The floral clock in Frankfort, Kentucky is a landmark located behind the Kentucky State Capitol.  The floral clock in Frankfort, Kentucky is a landmark located behind the Kentucky State Capitol. Today celebrates the Floral Clock’s 50th anniversary!

The face behind the clock Ken Dotson, retired as state gardener, was instrumental in the birth of the Floral Clock by the Capitol Annex 50 years ago. State Journal/Tricia Spaulding

In the fall of 1960 the governor visited Niagara Falls where he saw the floral clock on the Canadian side of the border. Combs told Ken to fly there and study the floral clock so one could be built in Frankfort.

“Bert had wanted to get tourists into Frankfort. He said Mammoth Cave was the biggest attraction in Kentucky, and he wanted to even up the odds.”

The Floral Clock was built in 1961 at a cost of $50,000 – equivalent to $360,000 today. The decision attracted a lot of criticism and the clock was derisively known as “Comb’s Folly” or “Big Bert.”

The clock had an inauspicious beginning when it was officially dedicated in 1961. The day began with the sun shining and crab apple trees blooming, but a torrential downpour soon broke out.

The heavy rains washed the freshly planted flowers into the pool near the clock and caused an electrical malfunction. The hands stopped moving, and an electrician had to push a button every minute in order to advance them.

Despite the problems, more than 3,000 cars drove by the Floral Clock the first weekend, Ken said. Tourists also used the pool as a wishing well and deposited more than $300 the first week.

Ken said the first collection was used to buy two ponies, named Tick and Tock, for an orphanage in Kentucky. Later, the money would be used to fund college scholarships for horticulture students.

However, the problems weren’t over yet – fish had been stocked in the pool but quickly died. A filter was missing that prevented oxygen from being re-circulated.

After that problem was fixed, exotic fish and turtles would often inhabit the pool, Ken said. But during the summer the water had to be changed every week because algae would grow quickly.

Combs also had a garden at the Governor’s Mansion and together with Ken would take an armload of vegetables to the Floral Clock on Saturday and give them away to tourists.

“They were amused.”

Another mishap occurred when Ken set up a tape player to broadcast “My Old Kentucky Home” at the clock during the day.

He would turn it off before leaving work except once he forgot and the song repeated throughout the night – much to the frustration of nearby residents.

“Three or four people met me at the car when I arrived the next day. It kept them awake all night.”

He turned it off after only two weeks.

Throughout his 34-year career Ken was responsible for designing and planting floral patterns on the clock’s face.

“I didn’t want the tourists to see the same thing every time.”

He would often trade plants with the gardeners who managed the floral clock at Kings Island near Cincinnati.

“They would try the plants I used, and I would try the plants they used.”

The Floral Clock design would change several times a year with special themes for Christmas and Easter. Slogans such as “Peace on Earth” and a nativity scene were once included but complaints from the American Civil Liberties Union stopped the practice, Ken said.

“They should have kept it.”

He also helped select and set up the Christmas tree – an annual tradition at the Capitol.

Other special displays included a small crop of burley tobacco grown on the Capitol grounds in the 1970s. The purpose was to promote the industry and show tourists how tobacco was raised, Ken said.

Ken lamented the decline of the Capitol rose garden, which he helped plant in 1961. At its height more than 1,000 roses covered half the Capitol Annex lawn but now has shrunk to fewer than 50, Ken said.

He would often eavesdrop as tourists commented on the Floral Clock, and the feedback was always positive.

The most unusual request he ever got was a letter that proposed a bat-themed design for the Floral Clock. The idea was in connection with a bat convention at Kentucky State University. The designs were interesting but no bats ever appeared on the Floral Clock, Ken said.

Ken said the governor in Arkansas once asked him to help landscape the capital in Little Rock – he declined.

A fierce snowstorm in January 1994 convinced Ken it was time to retire after 34 years. After a freezing rain, 16 to 22 inches of snow accumulated closing the interstate, and the National Guard was called out. Snow removal was the most difficult task he had, and Ken once calculated he was responsible for clearing 90 acres of parking lots in Frankfort.

“I’m not doing this any more,” he said recalling the decision.

At his retirement party Ken received letters of appreciation from former governors Julian Carroll, Wendell Ford, Paul Patton, Wallace Wilkinson, Ed Breathitt and Brereton Jones.

The letter he valued most came from Sara Walter Combs, the widow of the man who hired him. Combs died in 1991, and Sara, of Stanton, is a Court of Appeals judge.

“The work of this portion of your life will be enjoyed by countless thousands of Kentuckians and visitors to our state for many years to come,” Sara wrote.

“The message is clear and comforting, that at the center of government and civilization there must always be the loveliness of nature to give perspective, sanctuary and peace.”

– all pulled from the above mentioned/cited article

The face behind the clock  _ The State Journal, Frankfort, Kentucky

Below is from,_Kentucky)

“Instead of sitting on a bank of earth as most similar floral clocks do, the Frankfort clock is suspended above a pool of water.[1] The pool is 36 feet (11 m) in diameter and 4.5 feet (1.4 m) deep.[2][6]Visitors often use the pool as a wishing well.[6] 


In May 1962, the National Council of State Garden Clubs presented the state of Kentucky with its Bronze Seal Award for its efforts to beautify the state capitol, with the clock being a large part of that effort.[8] In 2002, the capitol grounds, including the floral clock, were featured on the HGTV series “Great American Gardens”.[5]


  1. a b c d e f g h i “Kentucky’s Floral Clock”. Legislative Research Commission
  2. a b c d e “On Capitol Grounds”. The Free-Lance Star
  3. a b c Pearce, p. 135
  4. ^ “Combs Rose to Pinnacle From Plain Beginnings”
  5. a b c Hightower, p. 15
  6. a b c Brammer, p. B1
  7. a b “Kentucky’s Floral Clock A Winner”. The Sebree Banner
  8. ^ “Touring Scenic Kentucky”. The Sebree Banner

Gardening for beginners and the magic of gardening.

If your neighbor’s garden has you green with envy, it’s time to dig in and play dirty by planting your own garden. Celebrate the Earth, after all Earth Day is tomorrow!

“If spring has sprung and you’ve just decided to plant a garden, start with the small ready-to-go plants at the store and look forward to the joy of starting your own seeds for next season.

One of the biggest decisions you’ll make is where to plant your garden. Choose a spot with sun and shade, and away from tree roots and large bushes. Once the area is defined and the soil is fertilized and loose, you can draw lines to mark off where each item will be planted. Use the stick and string method to help you keep straight lines and an organized well-kept garden. Root vegetables grow nicely in rows; other veggies, fruits and herbs can be contained in square spaces.” mother nature network – check her out- tons of great stuff!  The above is from

We here at The Botanical Beauties and Beasties garden are focusing on Herbs this year. We love containers for what we have is a deck, a bit of soil area, and some windows. No big yard here to grown on/in/from.

Today myself, and the Beauties, decided we would talk about the magic of gardening. Besides the little elfin like Beautie who has shown up each day this week, there is much more magic in gardens to be discovered. Being in the Boston region, I have decided to use a quote form John Quincy Adams. “Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish.”

I doubt he wrote this about gardens but it does epitomize the magic! When you garden, you get to use all parts of your body, brain and soul. That alone is like magic.  The body part: Obviously  it can be hard work and you may indeed you may have tried and soar muscles from the prep and the planting. The brain part: What fun to sit and dream in the winter what your garden will be, the cliché of looking at garden catalogues and seed packages! The brain makes up the plan, the brain makes up the dream of all the good things to come from your garden no matter how big or small it may be.  The soul:  Beauty of a flower, the satisfactions of your crops, the sheer simple joy of a single bloom – that’s soul food!   Need I point pout that a garden takes enormous patience and perseverance? I think not!  The piece you may be missing out on is: A garden, all the planning, the work, the caring and watching over, all that indeed can take over your mind and not only can the gardens difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish, but some of life’s other ones may too due to your new focus and creation.  Now, that’s Soul food X10!

Elf peeking out from the Herb of Rosemary

Earth Week and our theme of “Growing” continues

I was thinking what would be good Earth Week postings – and it came to me that it ought to be about being good to oneself and to the earth. As I thought I was somewhat astonished how much those two overlapped.  Eat Organic (when possible) and that is certainly kinder to the earth. Grown without pesticides– better for earth and all it’s inhabitants. Spring Clean chemical free – much better for the cleaner her/himself – and again, easier on the mother earth. You get the idea and point I am sure….  Those are kind of the middle things, the big things are more like Oil and Gas, the little things are more like turn off the lights when you are done. It ALL adds up to matter.  So why not just be good to both. Do what you can this week, and every week, to be kind to yourself and you may indeed be taking care of the Earth as well.

Well, in the thoughts of being good to myself … I could not resist: sunny days and  warmer temps means spring flowers and gardens to me.  As many gardeners will attest to – I just had to have some PANSIES so I could start looking at flowers! I planted them up in containers, although I must admit not in that cool idea of a wine crate from last week.  I reused planter boxes that I have, and will have for decades, for they are plastic. I would not buy them again, but since I have them – it is more wasteful not to use them, verses needlessly purchasing new ones and using more resources of any type. Funny thing – when I was all done – there was a little elf like/Jolie like Beautie standing on the Pots edge!  (Image  below)  I guess that means Jolie is our spokeswoman of the week.  In case you don’t remember- Jolie  lives in the meadow, and  is passionate about exploring and promoting herbals and their uses for medicinal means and for beauty. She runs a shop in Meadowville to serve both purposes. (Columbine (Aquilegia)

Don’t forget- the SEED CONTEST is still going! Guess the type, date it sprouts out of the peat pot, and day it is ready to go into the grown and you could win FREE GREETING CARDS from the Botanical Beauties and Beasties.   (BTW YES – The seeds were planted this weekend!) 

Pansies and Elf
Pansies and a little magic


As promised, a great idea for Container Gardening for the Home Cook.

Start your seed/Herb Garden NOW – tips and tricks.

“Each spring, I fill an old wooden wine crate with a cluster of my favorite organic herbs. (Most high-end wine shops will give the cedar boxes away as they typically get tossed once the bottles are unpacked. Drilling a few holes on the bottom for proper drainage is easy, but keep in mind that the wood will only hold up for a few seasons.) I pinch off sprigs of thyme and rosemary for roasted veggies and use spearmint for iced tea. Purple sage adds some lovely color to the overall planting and gives me an excuse to brown butter with my eggs. Bottom line, I’m convinced that having a nice selection of fresh herbs at my finger tips has made me a little more adventurous in the kitchen. Each spring, I fill an old wooden wine crate with a cluster of my favorite organic herbs. (Most high-end wine shops will give the cedar boxes away as they typically get tossed once the bottles are unpacked. Drilling a few holes on the bottom for proper drainage is easy, but keep in mind that the wood will only hold up for a few seasons.) I pinch off sprigs of thyme and rosemary for roasted veggies and use spearmint for iced tea. Purple sage adds some lovely color to the overall planting and gives me an excuse to brown butter with my eggs. Bottom line, I’m convinced that having a nice selection of fresh herbs at my finger tips has made me a little more adventurous in the kitchen.”  Rest of Article, and find other great tips on Practically Green blog. These words from  Estelle Hayes. She lives in Silicon Valley where she blogs at She’s also published regularly on Huffington Post. Estelle’s Herb box below.

Here’s a link for ordering Organic seeds ” When the nights are long, and the days dark and cold, gardeners seek inspiration in their online and mail order seed catalogs. Looking at the colorful pictures of vegetables and flowers stimulates optimistic ideas for the spring garden. This is a fine time of year to connect with fellow gardeners to share seed recommendations. These friends may want to order seeds together, thereby saving on shipping and handling fees and perhaps splitting large packets of seed ” Originally published on

Estelle's herbs in a recycled box
Estelle's herbs in a recycled box

Botanical Beauties – Meet The Blossoms honoring Japan

In honor of Japan. Meet The Blossoms (Sakura and Tanka) – the newest creatures to join the Botanical Beauty and Beasties. Their core is from Cherry Blossoms, but they are created from blossoms of all kinds.

Given the state of disrepair and tragedy in Japan The Botanicals believed it would be nice to have a breath of beauty. Hence, this weeks theme of Beauty and why The Blossoms came to stay. Sakura and Tanka are all about beauty, strength, and unity with, and for, one another. They hope that the possibility of closing your eyes and resting is possible, even when mass chaos surrounds you, and that hopefully there is a bit of beauty in your minds eye at that time of respite.

cherry blossom is the flower of the cherry trees known as sakura (桜 or 櫻; さくら). Cherry blossoms are indigenous to many East Asian states including Japan, Korea, and China. Japan has a wide variety of cherry blossoms (sakura.) Cherry blossoms are celebrated for their beauty.

Why the name Tanka and what does it mean?  Tanka (短歌)  is a short poem and part of a larger Group called Waka, which literally means Japanese poem. The term waka originally encompassed a number of differing forms – Tanka being one of the five. Of the five only Tanka survived and so the term aka eventually came to refer only to tanka.