Inspiration

Cloud formations

A cloud. Source: Pixabay.

Miraculous beauty: The sky is an endless source of beauty. It is an ever-changing canvas. One day it is a clear blue with wisps of white. The next it is covered in puffy grey shapes with rays of sunlight streaming through. Every colour and shade and pattern that could be imagined has been strewn across it, and we are all witnesses of this ongoing miracle. That’s why the psalmist wrote, “The heavens declare the glory of God, and the skyRead more

Shukkei-en, Hiroshima: Beauty from ashes

A wedding at Shukkei-en, Hiroshima. Source: Pinterest.

Hiroshima, then and now: If you’re like me and have little first-hand knowledge of Japan, the city of Hiroshima conjures up images of tragedy. As World War II was straining towards its conclusion in the summer of 1945, Hiroshima became the first city to be attacked with a nuclear bomb. The effects of this were disastrous and are well documented. But our purposes today are not to zero in on the devastation that human beings are so adept at causing.Read more

Rhododendrons & Azaleas

Pink azaleas growing. Source: pixabay

Beautiful flowering shrubs: If you’ve ever read Daphne du Maurier’s novel “Rebecca” you’ll remember the recurring references to the azaleas that grew at Manderley and which were used in a perfume for its late mistress. The author describes a fragrance that captures the imagination, but leaves many gardeners scratching their heads. Many of our most familiar evergreen azaleas have little to no scent. If you want fragrance, you may have to sacrifice year-round foliage. Though azaleas are a type ofRead more

Waterfalls

Goðafoss Waterfall in Iceland

What is it about flowing water that we love so much? A waterfall is a simple thing. It happens where a stream or river flows to a point where there is a vertical drop in its course. And yet, this simple phenomenon – which occurs throughout the world in ways both modest and spectacular – never fails to delight us. Water is precious and it is necessary to life. Flowing water in particular is a sign of freshness and purity.Read more

Gustave Doré’s Bible Illustrations

Gustave Doré’s Bible Illustrations

The hard-working prodigy: Gustave Doré (1832-1883) was born in north-eastern France near the German border. He was a child prodigy, showing an unusual aptitude for art at as early an age as 5. By the age of 16 he’d already begun his career. Though he died at the age of 51, Doré produced an astonishing volume and breadth of work during his life. The Bible which featured his illustrations was published in 1865 in French, but very soon after reprintedRead more

Monet’s Garden (Giverny, France)

Water lilies and bridge at Giverny. Source: Pinterest.

Monet’s most beautiful masterpiece: Claude Monet (1840-1926) is best remembered as French impressionist painter of beautiful landscapes and water lilies. But he is reputed to have said, “My garden is my most beautiful masterpiece.” Monet’s purchased a home in Giverny, France and took up residence there in 1883. The landscaping of the property, and the creation of his flower and water gardens quickly became a passion. The flower garden Nearest to the house is a flower garden named “Clos Normand.”Read more

Air Plants

Air Plants

Strange and beautiful tropicals: “Tillandsia” plants are among the strange and beautiful things we find on our planet. More commonly known as “air plants,” this peculiar species do not like to have their roots in soil, but instead are able to gather nutrients from the air. The job of the roots is simply to anchor the plant. You may have seen these plants cleverly displayed and growing in glass globes suspended from a ceiling, in terrariums, or mounted on walls.Read more

Butterflies

Butterfly on a rock

We have seen it with our own eyes: Would you believe me if I told you there was a species of butterfly called “Anna’s eighty-eight” that looks like it has a graffiti sprawl of that number on its wings? The first time I saw a photograph of one, I thought I was looking at something photoshopped. But not so. This unusual species is real, and can be found in the wet tropical forests of Central America. The Smithsonian Institute estimatesRead more

William Morris’ Textile Designs

Seaweed inspired textile design by William Morris

Embracing Traditional Craftsmanship: William Morris (1834-1896) was a man of many talents and interests, but he is chiefly remembered for his beautiful designs. During his lifetime he produced designs for wallpaper, textiles, embroideries and stained glass windows (to name a few). He is considered the founder of the “Arts and Crafts Movement” in Victorian England, a movement which responded to the mass industrialization of that era with the embrace of traditional craftsmanship. “He emphasized the idea that the design andRead more

Galaxies, Nebulas, and Supernovas

A NASA image of the Swan Nebula

NASA’s Spitzer and Hubble Space Telescopes have captured some incredibly beautiful and awe-inspiring images of space, many of which they have made available online to the public with open permission for a wide range of uses. I don’t pretend to understand exactly what I’m seeing in these (images below). (The captions are taken from the notes on NASA’s site). But they do fill me with wonder. Just think: the God who made the galaxies, the nebulas, and the supernovas isRead more

Henry Ossawa Tanner’s “Religious Realism”

"The Three Marys" by Henry Ossawa Tanner

A Remarkable Man: Born in 1859, Henry Tanner was “the first African-American painter to gain international acclaim” (Wikipedia). His father was a minister in the African Methodist Episcopal Church, and his mother had escaped slavery through the underground railroad. Tanner’s talent and heritage resulted in unique, insightful and evocative works, qualities that happily were recognized in his lifetime. To this day, however, I believe he is not as well-known as he deserves to be. Tanner’s road was not an easyRead more

Prieuré d’Orsan (Berry, France)

Prieuré d'Orsan

A monastic ideal: A “potager garden” is the French version of a traditional kitchen garden. This style of gardening is meant to produce excellent edibles, but the garden itself is also designed to be beautiful. Flowers, edible and non-edible, are woven through the fruits and vegetables. The result is a companion planting dream. The monastic gardens of the middle ages would have resembled potagers because for the monks the garden was crucial as their source of food and medicine, butRead more

Sissinghurst Castle (Kent, UK)

Sissinghurst

A long history: One of the best-known sites in England, Sissinghurst had a long history before coming into the care of the National Trust in 1967. Its buildings date back to the 1500s, but after the dissolution of its owners, the site ended up as a workhouse in the 1800s. It then fell into further disrepair, becoming a “slovenly” farmhouse. It was not until 1930 that the site was purchased by a couple with a vision for a world-class garden.Read more

Wisteria

Wisteria

A gorgeous climber: I’ve always had a soft spot for wisteria. While it is in bloom it is simply one of the most beautiful plants in the world. It climbs, it cascades, it makes everything around it beautiful. This vigorous vine produces fragrant blooms of purple or white in the spring. And as part of the legume family, it shares the characteristic of being nitrogen-fixing, which is beneficial to other plants growing nearby.   Be prepared for size, weight andRead more

Bosco Verticale (Milan, Italy)

Bosco Verticale

The Vertical Forest of Milan: Bosco Verticale is not a garden in any traditional sense, but it is wonderful nonetheless. The project is a feat of architecture and engineering which brings a “vertical forest” (the English translation of “bosco verticale”) to the congested city of Milan. Completed in 2014, these two residential towers have won numerous awards and attracted international attention.   Green and Sustainable The passion for greening up urban spaces is not new, but it has certainly beenRead more

Ninfa (Latina, Italy)

Ninfa

The epitome of a Romantic Garden: When you think of an Italian garden, this is probably not what you think of. And though I have not been there myself, the images I’ve seen have convinced me that the Garden of Ninfa is one of the most beautiful places in the world. Ninfa is classified as a “romantic garden” in style, but in reality it epitomizes a romantic garden. Picturesque ruins, cascading roses and clear streams give it the look ofRead more