Posts Tagged ‘Open Days’

IMG_2009Sunflowers, and their kin.

They always give me the urge to glean the seeds and preserve their petals, and capture all the sunshine within them.

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The photos are my own gleanings, taken at Mettawa Manor during a recent Open Day for the Garden Conservancy. The owners of this estate graciously open their property every year for the Garden Conservancy’s Open Days.

Bill Kurtis and Donna LaPietra have a gracefully determined respect for the land and the presence of place. In the 25 or so years they have called Mettawa Manor their  home, they have reclaimed prairie and ponds, added new features and gardens, and have enriched and enhanced those already growing. They are the epitome of what garden conservation can and should be.

Folks go to Mettawa Manor in hopes of seeing Bill Kurtis. They return, again and again, because of the lure of the prairie, the stillness of the ponds, the majesty of the woods, the history of the area, the exquisite formal gardens, and even the hope of a small ice cream cone or tasting of grass-fed beef, one of Bill Kurtis’s many ventures.

You may know who Bill Kurtis is. If you don’t, you likely recognize his voice. He was a reporter for Chicago’s local CBS news for decades and is well-recognized for his investigative reporting for which he has received numerous honors, including a Peabody award. He has reported and anchored news from both coasts, as well as nationally. Bill Kurtis also reached wider audiences through programs he conceived such as “Cold Case Files”, “Investigative Reports”, “The New Explorers”,  “American Greed”, and most recently  “Wait, Wait . . . Don’t Tell Me!”, for public radio on PBS. I love hearing his voice on Saturday mornings on a radio show I’ve long enjoy.

I admire Bill Kurtis and his partner in life and in business, Donna La Pietra. Ms. La Pietra has an impressive resume and career of her own and is well known for her charitable work. You might be interested in reading about them here.

It is Kurtis and La Pietra’s collaboration in the 65+ acre  Mettawa Manor estate for which I personally have my greatest admiration. At this historical country estate they have shared a vision of what it means to be good stewards of God’s good earth. They have also shared the gift of hospitality as they frequently open the garden and even their home for good causes.

I came home on Sunday renewed, anxious to inch our little prairie forward, seed by seed, and to plant more trees along the way. I have a book on harvesting to read, for the owners generously gave visitors a book from their personal gardening library. Really, dear reader, the gift of gardening and conserving comes in many forms, especially at Mettawa Manor. What more can I say?

Well, I really can say much more, but, this is already getting long in the tooth, and I did want to show you some photos of sunshine. I hope to share the book I brought home with you soon, and to share more photos of this garden and another we visited in future posts.

For now, I’ll just glean a few photos of flowers.

Black Hollyhock:Mettawa Manor Lily:Mettawa Manor


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I’m just a tad busy today, off to several meetings, but, I thought you might enjoy a few dahlias we met on the Open Days walk we took this weekend for the Garden Conservancy.

The setting was a turn-of-the-century Victorian, a purple “painted lady”.  All around were the most amazing gardens, with dahlias six feet tall and as wide as dinner plates. I had been by this house in La Grange many times and never imagined what splendor resided just beyond the hedges.

This was such a peaceful, calm garden; the perfect antidote to the busyness of life and the sadness of the weekend as our country marked the 10th anniversary of 9/11.

Flowers do this to me. They bring about a brightness and a fascination and a beauty to behold in this often turbulent world.

I’ll show you the ponds and lotus and even the house soon.

For now, just breathe deep and imagine the splendor of dahlias on a warm, sunny late summer’s morn.

Thank you for visiting the Cutoff yesterday and for your comments.


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I have been having some problems publishing my posts. It looks like I can now, so, here goes; one, two, three . . .

When I saw this petunia, named Pretty Much Picasso, several years ago at the Ball Seed Company in West Chicago, I just knew I wanted to try it in our garden. We had been out to Ball Seed when it opened its test gardens to the public for a day as part of the Garden Conservancy’s Open Days Program. Oh the plantings we saw with all the new plants that would be coming to market were such a thrill. It was Pretty Much Picasso that stole my heart that day. It took me until this year to find. I leapt for joy (well, not really leapt, more like squealed with delight). I snatched one up to give it a try and Picasso is now nestled in with some other like-minded friends in a big pot.

It is such an exciting color, pink with a lime green border, and I smile each time I walk by.

We have a several maple trees here. They are beautiful, especially come fall when they are decked out in their finest colors. They can, however, be a bit of a problem in May and June when their seed pods come flying down in a furious attempt to reproduce themselves. Thousands upon thousand of these whirling helicopters inundate all that they can to stick into the ground, and anything else, in an attempt to take hold and seed themselves. This one seed above brought a smile to my lips. See how it has nestled itself into one of the flowers?

We sweep and sweep and Tom has even used shovels to scoop up these seed pods. They clog up the gutters and fill up the windsheilds on the cars. I go around, sometimes several times a day, to scoop them out of the centers of hostas and all of the pots. Then, soon enough, we find little maple trees growing in cracks in the driveway, in the flower beds, and in the pots.

Persistent they are, these little seeds, never giving up. I pulled this little seedling up – it was no bigger than my thumb – and I thought you might like to see it, especially those who live across the pond or down under. Isn’t it amazing the will to survive?

Have you had an abundance of maple seed spinning like helicopters in your garden this year? Have you found them in any unusual places?

Have you ever attended a Garden Conservancy Open Day? They have dates all over the country with the most wonderful gardens imaginable. You can find out more about the Garden Conservancy and open days by clicking here.

Have you seen the Black Velvet or Phantom petunia? Stunning! I’ll try to share some pictures of them soon.

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