Category Archives: PERIPATETIC

Dreaming of Spring? The Peripatetic Gardener Reports on Her Travels

by Lois Rose

Cornell is located at the bottom of Lake Cayuga-far above the waters, right? It is approximately five and a half hours from Cleveland, a lovely drive if you take the cut off of 90 through the Southern Tier—mountains, valleys, rivers and streams—well worth it.

The campus contains a large number of gardens but my favorite is the Botanic Garden which includes ornamental and useful herbs, interesting vegetables, perennials, grasses, an amazing bioswale garden, containers and other displays of shrubs, trees, groundcovers.

Many of the herbs are displayed in raised beds, or elevated on the sides of the main garden.


Around every turn is something of interest, like the tree which has a hole cut in its middle, still living and producing huge leaves.(Catalpa I think). 

The drought over the months before we visited had taken a toll but there was still much to see.  Mediterranean plants, those that love the heat, were as happy as a clam in high water. 

Others had ostensibly succumbed and been replaced.  It takes several hours to really see everything in this space, including the containers crammed with diverse and unusual plants on display near the visitor’s center which incidentally has top notch merchandise much of it devoted to gardening.

Cornell is feverish on Saturday morning, and visiting the Farmer’s Market is a treat if you can find a place to park.

The Peripatetic Gardener Discovers Lake Erie Bluffs Park

by Elsa Johnson

Thirty years ago, back in the day when I was studying landscape architecture at the Ohio State University, I had the good luck to be hired one summer as an intern for ODNR, tasked with driving the Lake Erie shoreline from the Pennsylvania border to downtown Cleveland, looking for access to the lake. What a great job for someone who likes to wander off the purposeful route just to see what’s there! For pay I got to drive down every north facing paved and unpaved byway leading toward the lake….and what I found was that while access to the lake was very limited, there were several areas where sizable swaths of undeveloped land remained. I could imagine all kinds of things to do with them, but mostly I imagined parks.   

So it was with (unchanged) curiosity that I set out with my husband recently to explore the brand new lookout tower in Lake County’s 600 acre Lake Erie Bluffs park, which, itself, is quite new.


Lake Erie Bluffs park is located a little east of Fairport Harbor, and a little west of the Perry Nuclear Power Plant, and offers the visitor access to almost two miles of undeveloped Lake Erie shoreline. It was a misty moisty morning – one of those days when all edges seem blurred and softened, as if the thinnest, finest pale veil had been thrown over everything. Soft weather.


We parked at the Lane Road entrance, took a look at the trail map, and headed east along a nicely level crushed stone path in search of the tower.


At 50 feet high, this tower is 70 feet shorter than the Emergent Tower at Holden Arboretum, but because it is set on a bluff that is itself about 50 feet above lake level, the end viewing effect is much the same – one looks out over the tops of (here) mostly young growth trees, and, to the north, to the platinum colored lake with it’s waves unendingly washing ashore.


We hoped to spot a bald eagle’s nest from the tower but did not, although we did see eagles, and, of course, gulls (and a titmouse and a chickadee). In the spring and fall the southern shore of Lake Erie provides an important stopover for migratory birds, but alas, we did not see any. I found myself wondering how close we were to the nuclear power plant, but looking east, I could see nothing but a grey fog veil.

On the return trip we chose to walk the beach trail, right along the water’s edge, which was marked ‘easy’. While everything in this park is pretty level – there are no serious or dangerous challenges – the beach trail is not really ‘easy’. The beach, mostly made up of stones of varying sizes interrupted by driftwood of varying size, provides an unstable walking surface with plenty of obstacles. For someone who has had two hip replacements in the past 8 months and is still a little unsteady on her feet, this half mile beach walk was difficult. But looking back to the east after one near tumble, suddenly, there it was – Perry Nuclear Power Plant, the two towers rising above the trees, and not too distant.


In the other direction one could just make out the lighthouse at Fairport Harbor, a tiny bump poking out into the lake.

Our exploration covered the eastern half of the park’s trail system, a total of about two miles. There is an equal amount of trail in the area of the park lying west of Lane Road, which we did not explore. 


If you go: We took 90 to the Vrooman Road exit, then north on Vrooman, over the bridge (closed to semi-trucks but not to cars), a hard right at the top of the hill, then left on Lane Road. Stay on Lane to reach Lake Erie Bluffs. Another park of interest in this area is Indian Point, access to which is just before the Vrooman Road Bridge. Indian Point overlooks the juncture of the Grand River and Paine Creek.        

The Peripatetic Gardener Visits Naumkeag

by Lois Rose

By chance, because of my son’s wedding, I was able to visit a unique and memorable garden near Stockbridge, Massachusetts recently. We had part of day “off” from wedding festivities and decided to see this estate which includes a “cottage” designed by Stanford White and built for Joseph Hodges Choate, a well-known attorney, between 1886 and 1887 on the top of a hill overlooking fields and mountains.

The 44-room mansion called to my husband and cousin but for me and my other cousin it was the gardens.  Mabel Choate, the daughter of Joseph, worked with Fletcher Steele for over 30 years to produce them.  They are a “collection” of garden rooms, eclectic and entertaining, spanning most of the space around the house on the hill top.  Unfortunately they had fallen into disrepair over the years.  The Trustees of Naumkeag took over the restoration of the gardens and there is a tremendous amount of new planting and replanting going on. 

The Blue Steps are the most well-known aspect of the rooms, extending from an area near the house down to the lowest part of the gardens.  If you have ever glanced through a book about structures in gardens, then this picture will be familiar. 

The Tree Peony Garden has been completely redone and the peonies are not looking their best after a serious drought this past summer.  Built into the side of the hill on terraces, it must have baked in the heat.  The Chinese Garden is quaint with mostly hardscape at this point.  The Evergreen Garden is impressive and elegant. The Afternoon Garden is against the side of the house and has a great view down to the fields below the house. 

Water features, stonework, paths—all restored or in the process.  New plantings have restored privacy and recreated vistas throughout the gardens.  There is an unexpected grove of pines and older trees five minutes from the house: suddenly you are in the woods, away from anything planned or ordered. 

The house delighted my companions, but I think my cousin Dan and I got the better part of the tour.

Beyond Today

by Lillian Myers


Blow a kiss

To the smallest child

A ray of Hope

Pass her to adopting hands

Like a flame lights a candle

Never diminishes


Brilliant, open hearted, mrembo (beautiful)



She enters school, bewildered

Bullied for her long legs and big feet

Her flip flops, one bit broken, repaired, broken, repaired

Mother, Father and classmate beat her on the back of the head

With a leather shoe



Clever, direct, survivor


Abandons one school


Moves into another school, then out the house, to the street, to a new school

To be worth something to herself

To respect her own skin

Sometimes at the top of the class

Sometimes at the heel


Young Mother

Proper, regal, mud hut


Sings Hope into the braids of her three daughter’s hair

Sleeping baby on her lap

Young to divorce

Shines in the refuse


Older Mother

Searching, strong, stressed


Ask the Mother of seven, “Can you see beyond today?”

Abusive boyfriends pass like seeds in the wind

Lucky with 350 Shillings a week ($3.50), no chakulla(food)

Mother’s Hopes for 1 kg of flour on her table, water, electricity

Must offer her eldest to older men on the streets

50 shillings per shot


Baba (Grandmother) 

White black hair, light heavy face, open hearted bosom

Old for her years

During the peak of her wealth she is abundant in family, tradition and time

Once she wove late night stories into the mornings of her long short days

During gatherings of company, she treated people more important than food or wealth

Once her classic firm slow handshakes

Wore wrinkles into her fingers as rivers wear into the rocks
Watched the introduction of HIV, English colonialism and steel

Asphalt, telephone and street child,

Saw the birth of a Christian God

Still relies on her neighbours and family for


Now must trade big Bobs, big money, for clear water
And she still believes in you

Has time for you

Smiles for you



And she always will


The Earth as Mother

Patient, wise, empty

The eldest child

1,000 black birds cross the East African sky

As she drinks cups of late night milky mountain mists

She still lives in the volcanic rocks of Menangai crater

She still flows out from her own hills

Bleeds into her own ocean


The womb of the sky rises to meet her

Upside down

This blue burnt bonanza of uncontrolled mystery is rewritten


A Traveller 

Giving, optimistic, bewildered


“How are you?” sing the children as she walks the slum’s dirt roads


Teaching youth, she wears her mothers used trainers

Contemplating the ladder

Of the Ivory tower


Lillian Myers








A Visit To Holden Arboretum’s New Canopy Walk and Emergent Tower

by Elsa Johnson

Of course it’s neat! 

When I was a kid we had a big sugar maple at the end of our driveway with one low branch so that a child could jump up, grab it, and swing herself up; after that there were regularly spaced branches. One could climb up as high as one dared to go… which in my case was not very high. My brother climbed it to the top, and so did the neighbor boy (and fell and bounced off every branch on the way down, but miraculously did not break a single bone – though he never tried climbing that tree again, either).

The Arboretum Canopy Walk puts you up there at the top of that big sugar maple, so to speak, and it isn’t scary one bit. The ascent is a solid gradual ramp up to a tree-canopy-level walkway laid out in a triangle, with the interconnecting walkways suspended on cables between the non-moving transition-towers (think the Brooklyn Bridge on a much, much, much smaller scale).

It’s lovely and fun (of course the walkways bounce!), although not terribly educational at the moment (there was a notice saying that there will be educational signage coming soon)…but the walkway is beautifully designed, and the design is impeccably executed. One could go and appreciate it for no more reason than that. 

On to the Emergent Tower (yes, yes, a wacky name – what else is the purpose of a tower if not to emerge?) – and yes, yes, really worth the trip; I enjoyed every step of it. 

Like the canopy walk, the tower is an exquisite piece of well-thought-out functional design and construction detailing. Just one example is that the risers on the steps are slightly low, allowing even a couple ladies with one cranky knee apiece to walk up (and down) it without pain and hardly any sense of exertion. How cool is that! And every step of the trip is a visual pleasure, noticing how the floor grid allows one to look through, either down or up, turning the entire tower into an ever-changing kaleidoscope of beautiful metal and wood joinery.

The tower is 202 feet high, which is above the tree canopy at the top (having emerged). One can see in all directions….north to the lake, east toward Little Mountain, south and west… in every direction a green blanket of rolling hills and trees. Also a tension structure, there is wind movement. It is delicious. Go see.  0922151601

The Peripatetic Gardener Visits the Cloisters in NYC

A Visit to The Cloisters in New York City 

Meanwhile — Sloth in the cloister would not have been deemed desirable. You could think of a monastery garden as an early form of permaculture. The Cloisters in Manhattan has three cloistered gardens open to the sun and air. Only one is planted with plants that would have grown in such a place in Medieval times. A monastery garden grew its own food, but also grew plants for other purposes, and some of these plants were dangerous – poisons that were medicinally useful, like foxglove (digitalis)… or just plain simply poisonous, like castor bean plant (ricin — for which there is no antidote), and datura (tropane alkaloids). These plants would have been grouped together in their own quadrant of the garden.

Another quadrant held plants used for culinary purposes… thyme and sage to flavor foods , hops (to flavor weak ale, which was commonly consumed instead of water), comfrey (a mineral accumulator, also used medicinally). Another quadrant grew vegetables (not tomatoes, which would come from the new world when it was ‘discovered’), some of which we would not recognize today, like skirret (tastes something like sweet potatoes, but is a bit more trouble to dig and use; (See Tom Gibson’s recent post) and stinging nettle (a pot herb that loses its sting when cooked). Both of these are important permaculture plants today.

Ignorance can be a form of sloth. An ignorant gardener would not have been long tolerated. He or she would have posed a danger to the community. While a natural landscape like a park may benefit from some form of benign sloth, true sloth would never have been tolerated in a cloister garden.

The Peripatetic Gardener: Native Plants in the New York Botanical Garden

0823151558GARDENOPOLIS Cleveland visits the Native Plants Garden in the N.Y. Botanical Garden

The newest of the New York Botanical Garden’s specialized collections, the native plant garden, designed to be aesthetically pleasing in a kind of wild and messy way, is so much more than just a collection of some 100,000 native plants representative of the indigenous flora of the northeastern and northern Continental United States.

The garden is made of several diverse ecosystems, including wetlands, a lake, meadows, and hillside forests. I saw nothing that is not also indigenous to northeast Ohio.

native heuchera

In late summer it is the billowing prairie flowers and grasses that speak most strongly: goldenrod, ironweed, silvery native mints, rattlesnake master, liatrus, Joe-Pye weed (all with their accompanying pollinators – our native bees, wasps, flies, and butterflies)….

joe-pye weed

and– in wetter places — both blue and red lobelia (with accompanying hummingbirds) and the showy hibiscus moscheutos.

lobelia cardinalis

Both dry and damp hillsides grow many varieties of ferns and carex,

0823151550d false Solomon’s seal, native ginger,



and so much more …and of course a multitude of native shrubs and trees. To peruse a list of plants used in this native plant garden go to

A garden of native plants can be perfect for practicing sloth in, as many of these plants look their best when not expected to be too neat and tidy. Thoughtful design can supply the look of intentional order so many people in urban residential settings desire.

Permaculture in Leipzig 2

Permaculture in Leipzig 2

Leipzig, Germany, is the site of many more than just one thriving permaculturist. (see Part 1  In fact, the city is abuzz with cutting edge permaculture and sustainability projects that should make Cleveland’s green advocates, well, green with envy.  Some context:

The city (population 556,000, or a little bigger than Cleveland) has a number of things going for it. First of all, it experienced relatively modest destruction from World War II bombing and then in the early 1990s, when many old buildings were close to collapse, German reunification funded major restoration. So the city has preserved much of its past.



Second, it has a tradition of resisting authority—- from Johann Sebastian Bach, who (unlike his contemporary, Georg Friedrich Handel) battled secular rulers and addressed his music to commoners, to the Monday night marchers in 1989 who led the peaceful revolution against communist rule.

Third, it has enjoyed an explosion of young people, who, when they aren’t riding bikes, are generally creating a vibrant local scene.  Here’s a song from the Sachsenbrϋcke, a bridge that has become a young people’s hangout:

Finally—and this is a blog about gardens!—Leipzig is the origin point in 1864 of Schrebergärten—the hugely successful community garden movement in Germany.  Leipzig still devotes enormous space to such gardens:

Schreber gardens

Taken together, it’s no surprise that Leipzig has become a post-fossil-fuel Transition Town ( and made substantial progress toward sustainability across the board.

The Leipzig Transition Town organization has even put together a map describing (in German and English) 58 separate sustainable efforts.  Here, picked at random, are four:

KunZstoffe. Recycling and upcycling centre. A stock of materials based on leftovers, waste and discarded products is provided for creating new added value.

Lost Food is a self-governed cooperative to distribute organic, healthy and local food for an affordable and fair price.

Dölitzer Wassermühle is a project rebuilding a historic watermill for electricity production. Also environmental education is provided for kindergarten children.

Lastenrad Leipzig und Radküche:  Selling, refurbishing and renting of used Dutch cargo bikes and a vegan, fossil-energy-free kitchen on a cargo bike. (Cargo bikes are bikes specifically designed to carry large loads.)

Here’s the full map list:

See any ideas for Cleveland?

Permaculture in Leipzig 1

scything in Germany

Permaculture in Leipzig I

On a recent trip to Germany, my wife, Carol, and I decided to forgo the usual hotel/Gasthaus travel routine and test the alternative economy. In that economy people tend to live simply and earn their livings via multiple income streams—maybe, for example, raising most of their own vegetables, selling goat cheese, and holding a part-time job in the mainstream economy.  For us the question boiled down to:  What permaculturist will rent us shelter? 

The answer turned out to be Rainer Kühn, a charismatic and innovative leader in Leipzig’s very dynamic alternative economy milieu. Rainer has built an active web presence, both via Facebook and his own site, under the name of Rainer Blütenreich (which translates as “Realm of Blossoms”  Like many on left in the former East Germany, he feels no nostalgia for the former dictatorship and its spy network (the much hated “Stasi”), but also has a deep skepticism of Western capitalism.  He has helped start Leipzig’s alternative currency, the Lindentaler, and is laying the groundwork for a future intentional community. Continue reading Permaculture in Leipzig 1