Posts Tagged With: peonies


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Laurel Wood is a lovely public garden in Wayne, New Jersey about a mile from my friend, Ginnie’s, house. She and her husband often walk the 33 acre garden to enjoy its beauty and quiet. We decided to have a girls day outing and visited the garden before lunch. The Japanese kousa dogwood is madly blooming. Huge trees with branches that look like umbrellas of creamy blossoms were strategically planted all over the woods.

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The trail is paved and has many interesting features, arches, little coves with resting spots, beautiful benches, a gazebo, running water, fountains, a small lake, and many botanical specimens imported here by the original owners of the garden.

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The sight garden, which is replanted frequently for its blooms and beauty is part of a foursome. Sight, smell, taste and touch.

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You may recognize the foxtail fern, fuzzy leaves, spiky plants and how different they can feel. It makes it a nice place for a blind person to visit.

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Edible flowers, nasturtiums, mints, sages etc. all fun.

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The garden designers made a point of contrasting colors and textures. The hostas here grow to gigantic size with a wide variety of types, as well.

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Again, that mix of textures, hard and soft leaves, gravel, wood, shade  and density.

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It had rained hard the day before and Japanese iris were still carrying drops of rain.

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Ginnie and I both liked the peonies. Almost done blooming Ginnie found one large pink blossom bent over with the recent rains.

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The single petal peonies were still going strong, lush and pastel. One round ball not yet open. I miss my blooms at home so a public garden is a real treat.

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We lunched at Opas Greek restaurant nearby. Ginnie is Greek and she knows what dishes to order. We started with the pellini, an assortment of dips eaten with crisp pieces of pita bread. Upper left is taramosolata, which is made with fish roe and is a greek way with caviar. Right is a spiced beets, za’atar with garlic potato, lower left tzatziki, cucumber with herbs and creamy yoghurt,  and feta with kalamata olives. All excellent.

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I ordered bronzini, a very tasty fish.

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We laughed because Ginnie doesn’t like to see the fish with the head and eyes on the plate but I told her I’d make sure it was dead.

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The fish came with a wonderful Greek salad with a stuffed grape leaf (dolmada) in the center.

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Ginnie ordered the ibrami, (I’m not sure that is spelled right), it is a roasted tomato, eggplant and onion loaf. Girls share and we both tasted everything. One of the benefits of having girls day out. The pellini sauces enhanced the loaf. Every bite a treat. I hope I’ve made you hungry for Greek food, because just writing this makes me want to go back.

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We are up early to visit the UR Garden. The designers took great pains and cost to turn this  beautiful,  former government employee’s home, into a centerpiece of Chinese garden architecture.  Walled gardens are meant to shut out the troubles of everyday life. To do that, a garden must have balance, and elements that instill peace and serenity.

A perfect garden will have  a hill, water, rock, plants, a building and trees,  the major components.
The plants and shapes and positions of everything in the garden have special meanings. If you plant a pine tree for strength, you must have two, a female and a male pine tree. If one dies, you must remove the partner tree and replant two new ones to replace them with their relativity in size maintained for “balance”.

The rock and hill must be a  size to complement its surroundings, not overshadow it.   Gates, bridge rails and doors are smooth and pleasurable to touch. Walkways flow.  Windows and doorways have form and interest to please the eyes.

Bamboo represents strength and resilience and music as the wind passes over its hollowed stems in a gate or a structure.  Each plant is chosen for its symbolic meaning. A flowering plum represents rebirth and renewal when it blooms on bare wood in the spring.   A lotus is purity. Peonies symbolize wealth.

A carved historical event.

A  requisite lion.

A protective dragon.
After this painstaking cultivated garden was matured, a contingent of Chinese garden experts came from Vancouver, Canada to see it. They commented on how “beautiful”the garden was. Not perfect?  When asked why it didn’t meet expectations, it was  because above the wall, in a small corner,  could be seen, a modern condominium in the distance. The cure will be heighten the wall or move the condominium if necessary. They take the poetic aspects of their peaceful garden very seriously.

In the afternoon we cross the river to the Yangtze market to pick up last-minute souvenirs. Several of us take tea at a lovely tea house. We are let loose in the market place within walking distance of our hotel. Three of us go to the Hip Hop Market and gawk at merchandise for teens, babies, grandchildren, ourselves. Very expensive stuff.  Shoes like we’ve never seen in our lives before. Stiletto heels six inches high. See through blouses and bathing suits. This is China?  It was a gas. We dashed from store to store like unruly kids to take it all in.

That night, at our  farewell dinner, we  traded  email addresses with our new friends and said our goodbyes.  I don’t remember  our  farewell dinner  but, I’ll never forget  China.

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