Quilt Gallery

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

One of my favorite places in Austin is the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, partly because it is beautiful, and partly because it helps to make me feel truly at home in Austin.  I had the good fortune to work at the center as it was moving from its original location on the eastern edges of the city to its current location. Having seen, and indeed helped with, the birth of the center as we know it, and seeing it now, as though it has always been there, makes me feel like I have grown up along with Austin and am part of it now too.

I had the pleasure of meeting Mrs. Johnson on several occasions and was impressed by her kindness and graciousness. Her words, though softly spoken, carried great weight. I think all of the volunteers worked even harder after meeting her. She has left a wonderful legacy with the Wildflower Center and other open spaces around Austin, the state of Texas, and around the country. She was truly a great lady.

Since opening on 43 acres at its current site in 1995, the Wildflower Center has grown to 279 acres, been renamed in honor of its avid founding patroness, and become a research unit of the University of Texas at Austin. Its original, distinctly Texas-styled buildings, demonstration gardens, and extensive rainwater collection system remain.  The center's message is clear throughout the property: native plants offer myriad beautiful, yet practical, options for our gardens.  Given severe droughts in Texas, California, and elsewhere, I suspect their audience may be listening a little bit more closely.

A good place to begin your visit is the top of the tower, which surrounds one of the rain barrels and affords views of the major areas of the center.

The seed silo with the tower in back

If you are looking for ideas for your own garden, be sure to visit the theme and homeowner inspiration gardens.

Theme gardens

New acreage has allowed inclusion of several additional facilities, such as an arboretum of Texas trees, hiking and running paths, large meadows dedicated to research, and a family garden and children's play area.

In the Arboretum

Entering the Luci and Ian Family Garden

When I visited, a mud pit in the children's play area was clearly a big draw for the ten and under crowd.  Hoses were available for clean-up afterwards, but it is advisable to have a set of clean clothes.

The gardens and plantings seemed particularly lush to me during my visits this July, due to plant choices that are well-suited to the site and to some recent well-timed rains.

Purple coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea)

Purple coneflowers

Butterflies were plentiful in the butterfly garden.

Queen butterfly (Danaus gilippus) on Simpson's rosinweed (Silphium simpsonii) 

And throughout the center.

Queen butterfly on purple coneflower 

Speaking of butterflies, I have been butterflying the corner seams of the border for my compass quilt. With only four thicknesses of fabric at any part of the corner, quilting will be much easier.  I must give credit to Jan over at Bemused for reminding me of this little, but important, trick.  I am making steady progress on these borders and will have more photos in my next post.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Brattleboro and Wilmington, Vermont

Brattleboro, Vermont's oldest town, is tucked into the southeastern corner of the state, where the West River joins the the Connecticut River.  In the mid 1800s it was home to wool, paper and flour mills, along with a variety of other businesses. Today it is better known as a center for artists and artisans, with its sturdy brick downtown buildings now hosting galleries, coffee shops and sporting goods and specialty stores.

I visited early last month for the Strolling of the Heifers, an annual parade that supports local agriculture and sustainable living practices.  Cows are clearly the stars of the parade.

Strolling of the Heifers

All sorts of other participants, including goats, horses, llamas, donkeys and antique tractors, round out the show.

Prior to leaving Texas for this trip, I had cut several dozen squares for the border of my compass quilt so that I would have something to work on during those odd down moments that seem inevitable when traveling. It turned out to be far too few. Not only did I have more time than expected, I have become significantly faster at stitching, and quickly ran through my supply.

So, on a quest for fabric and wanting to see some of the countryside, I hopped on Route 9 west out of Brattleboro and drove to Wilmington, a tiny town in the Deerfield Valley of the Green Mountains.  It was a gorgeous day with a Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream carton kind of sky.

Barns along Route 9

Wilmington's economy has evolved from being based largely on agriculture to one based on recreation and tourism. As in Brattleboro, Wilmington's Main Street is now home to shops, restaurants and galleries, including Jim McGrath's gallery and studio.  Jim is an engaging man and a wonderful artist who eagerly welcomes visitors. Just visiting him and his gallery was enough to make the trip to Wilmington worthwhile.

Jim McGrath in his gallery

He captures in his paintings the essence and atmosphere of New England, from the shapes of the landscapes to the nuances of light and color.  I purchased these two pieces.

"The Shop in Back," Jim McGrath, 2013, 8" x 10", oil on masonite

"Autumn Reflections," Jim McGrath, 2013, 8" x10", oil on masonite

My other stop was at Norton House, a circa 1760 clapboard building crammed with fabric and quilting supplies.

My favorite part is the sale attic, reached via a set of narrow, creaky steps. With so many bolts squeezed together under the eaves, I felt as though I was rummaging around my grandparents' attic.

The sale attic at Norton House

I found plenty to work into the compass quilt, (plus a few others for good measure), and am now well over half finished with this border. I have also completed stitching all twenty five compass blocks together. Whew! As I have mentioned before, with sixteen pieces of fabric meeting at each corner, it was a challenge.  Next time I will strive to be more precise in the cutting and marking stage!

Compass quilt, center and two border sections