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Garden show sparks artistic inspiration

March 25, 2006|By PENNY GOLDSTEIN

Artist, author and creativity expert Julia Cameron, in her best-selling book, "The Artist's Way," recommends that people engaged in any kind of creative work give themselves weekly "artist's dates."

The idea is that in doing any kind of art, we draw on an internal well of creativity that needs to be replenished. All that's required is an hour or two at an art exhibit, or listening to music, journaling, or, for that matter, making little figures out of Playdough, just so we carve out some quality time with our inner artist.

Gardeners are artists, too. Although the hours we spend tending our flowers and shrubs may seem like that quality time in itself, the need for inspiration from other creative souls is still there. If you didn't attend last week's Flower and Garden Show at Hagerstown Community College, you missed a grand opportunity to be inspired. Here are just a few examples:

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The display at the entry of the show, designed by Denny Warrenfeltz of Roostervane Gardens, included a little red wagon (a few decades old) nestled amid a bed of geraniums and primroses. An interesting tableaux, even if the wagon had been empty. But it was loaded with an assortment of old blue canning jars. Impossible to look at that and not smile at the whimsy and charm of such a creative combination. If you missed it, there's always another day to stop by Roostervane Gardens and browse their collection of fresh and dried flowers, plants, and garden antiques at 2 S. High St. in Funkstown.

Mother nature, the ultimate artist, was, naturally, well represented. Scented geraniums (pelargonium) were abundant in several displays, probably because they have been named the Herb of the Year for 2006. If you aren't familiar with these magical beauties, you're in for an olfactory treat. You'll have another opportunity to get acquainted with them at the upcoming Pennsylvania Herb Festival April 7 and 8 at the York, Pa., Fairgrounds. Cultivated for their scented leaves rather than their blooms, these African natives were introduced in Europe in the early 1600s, according to the Herb Festival Web site (www.paherbfestival.com). By the late 1800s, more than 150 varieties were available in the U.S. from nursery catalogs. Pelargonium leaves are soft and fuzzy like their more famous, big-blooming cousins. It's a delight to pinch them between your fingers and enjoy the scent, which, depending on the variety, will smell like lemons, limes, roses, mint, pineapple, or chocolate. These tender perennials are wonderful potted plants, indoors or out, and require little care. Snipping leaves to flavor sugar, herbal vinegar or ice cream will just increase the fullness of the plant.

Another showstopper was a black pussy willow displayed by Ott's Horticultural Center. S. gracilistyla melanostachys is similar to the common pussy willow we're all familiar with, except that the catkins are not gray, but a deep, purple-black. Imagine that in a floral arrangement with some corkscrew willow branches and forsythia. See what I mean? Just a few minutes taking in the sights and scents, and your own artistic ideas bloom forth. At press time, Ott's was sold out of this plant, but watch for black pussy willows, as their exotic looks will surely make them a hot commodity this season.

Artist Emily Shoey of Littlestown, Pa., takes the centuries-old form of a Dutch bulb vase, traditionally found in Delftware, and recreates it in clay with a Majolica glaze. Shoey, who says she loves to draw and paint, hand paints her ceramic pieces with stylized botanical designs. She also makes concrete stepping stones impressed with leaves of native and exotic plants. You'll have another opportunity to see her unique work next at a Garden Craft Faire, June 2 and 3 at Alloway Creek Gardens & Herb Farm in Littlestown (www.allowaycreek.com).

Finally, Terracycle Plant Food and the Smithsburg High School students selling it at the show were another sort of inspiration. Terracycle (www.terracycle.net) is an environmentally-friendly fertilizer made by a process of feeding organic waste such as vegetable peels, coffee grounds and eggshells to millions of worms. The worm castings are liquified and bottled in recycled soda bottles. The company enlists the help of students all over the country to collect bottles, and in return, donates money to the school or to charities. David Kurz, a sophomore at Smithsburg and president of the school's Environmental Club, says the most important thing he's learned by being involved in the project is that "you can make something out of garbage, help the environment, and make a profit."

Just shows what's possible, with a little creativity!

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