A Garden of Sculpture

I was sorry to read in the papers a last week that Seward Johnson had passed away. His name may not be familiar to some, but here in New Jersey, where he was born, we remember him fondly. Mr Johnson was lucky enough to be heir to the Johnson Pharmaceutical fortune but more than that, he was an amazing artist who created hundreds of works of art. He was also founder of a lovely place, not 45 minutes from my home, called Grounds for Sculpture.

Grounds for Sculpture, opened in 1992, is a magical place in Hamilton, New Jersey, not too far from Trenton. Beyond the vine covered walls you will find 42 acres of gardens and rolling hills featuring hundreds of Seward Johnson’s works along with those of other local artist. The park is filled with meandering paths, beautiful landscaping and surprises around every corner. Some of the pieces there belong to Johnson’s Monumental Scale collection, towering statues 20 feet tall, as well as many of his Beyond the Frame vignettes where the visitor can step inside famous Impressionist paintings. These are among my favorites along with his Celebrating the Familiar series. Several inside exhibits and restaurants are also on site. Miss Dee and I visited there in late August, our last outing of the summer break. Here are just a few of the lovely things we saw.

“A Turn of the Century” from the Monumental Scale collection, inspired by Renoir. This piece is about 20 feet tall and stands in front of Rat’s, one of the gardens artistic eateries..
“God Bless America” also larger than life! Obviously inspired by American Gothic.
Miss Dee getting to know one of the ladies in the Celebrating the Familiar series. This one is called “Captured”
A piece called “Summer Thinking” There is actually writing in the journal!
Here I have stepped into one of the vignettes called “Family Secret” from the Beyond the Frame series
So many lovely and peaceful pathways
Another Beyond the Frame vignettes sits at the edge of one of the property’s lakes. This one is called “Sailing the Seine”
“Daydream” a massive sculpture that can actually be seen from the road as you drive by the gardens
A Japanese inspired garden near the snack bar
Another Impressionist inspired piece “If It Were Time”
A fantasy in light and metal called “Fan”
A Van Gogh inspired room.
We made friends with this lovely lady at one of the inside exhibits. She is part of the Icons Revisited series
Even the Cafe where we had lunch was a work of art.

We had such a wonderful time exploring Grounds for Sculpture. We’ve already made plans to go again because our feet gave out before we saw even half of the many pieces on display. I think the Fall would be a great time to go back. Every season in fact, will add something new. Seward Johnson, in his 89 years on Earth, certainly added a great deal of beauty to the world.

The Weekly Smile – Hibiscus

image

My father-in-law gifted me this beautiful little hibiscus tree on Mother’s Day. It now stands in the corner of my deck filled with more buds than I can count and these stunning tropical blooms.  I smile every time I see it.

Mother nature is really the most incredible artist ever.

image

Please visit Trent’s World to see the rest of The Weekly Smiles (or perhaps, add one of your own 😊)

A Night in a Castle

 Summer Bucket List item #1. Technically, it was an overnight trip and not a day trip but I think it still qualifies! 😊

Last week Hubby, Miss Dee and I took a road trip up north to The Castle at Skylands Manor in Ringwood NJ. The building itself was built in the 1920’s but was designed to resemble an old Tudor castle. Really cool! Surrounding the castle are the most beautiful botanical gardens. The land and buildings are owned and cared for by the state botanical society and offer year round tours and events. The Castle at Skylands functions as a bed and breakfast and an amazing wedding venue for some very lucky couples. The inn keepers also run the catering business for any of the affairs held there.

Here are some shots of the exterior of the building…

castle facade 2

castle

And the interior…

I kept visualizing Scarlett O’Hara coming down this stairway!

breakfast roomMiss Dee enjoying her breakfast in the sun room.

This is a small peek at the gardens.  The grounds were huge and every corner you turned revealed another statue, fountain or display of plants with a quiet little bench from which to enjoy the view. There were only a few blooms this time of the year so we all decided we needed to make a return trip in the spring.

arborfountainbutteflies in flightlong pool 2bridge fountain 2liliesrear patio 2water lilyvisitors centerThis ivy covered cottage serves as the visitors center and this little hobbit-like house…

pump house.. is where the pumps for the fountains are hidden!  Miss Dee was ready to move in!  All photo credits, by the way, go to the lovely Miss Dee (except of course for the one photo she is in).

The staff at the inn was very helpful and pleasant and the rooms are full of character.  If you are looking for modern conveniences though you will probably be disappointed.  There are no phones in the rooms, no refrigerators, no bar or restaurant on the grounds and breakfast was your typical continental fare, muffins, bagels, juice and coffee.  We drove into the town of Ringwood, about 3 miles away, for dinner.

All in all I would definitely recommend a visit to Skylands Manor, especially if you are interested in history, or botanical gardens or just a really romantic get away. I know we will be going back!

Check out their web site for more information: http://www.frungillo.com/venues/skylands-manor

Y is for Yard

I love my yard.

I love my house too but this time of year the yard is my most happy place. It’s not that it is an especially large or fancy yard. There is grass and flowers and trees, like you would expect, but it’s more than that. It’s our little piece of land. It’s green and alive. 

 I think this “yard love” must be something that came from my dad. He was the only one of his siblings to leave Philadelphia and haul his family across the Delaware River to New Jersey because he wanted a house in the suburbs. Mostly, I think, he wanted a yard.  Growing up in a tiny row home with no outdoor space except the front stoop and the alley between the house and its neighbor may have fueled this desire.

My parents bought their piece of suburbia in 1956. It was a brand new 3 bedroom rancher, costing four thousand dollars secured with a loan from the VA. The lot was a pretty good size but it was bare except for the new sod so dad planted some trees and put in some shrubs under the front windows. We also had blackberry bushes that grew wild along the back. That summer he bought a lawn mower and a grill and invited all his brothers and sisters to come down for a BBQ.

The next year they put up a fence and a shed and a few years later, an above ground pool. My dad worked as a truck driver in the city. This was sweaty, hot work in the summer so every night he would come home, put on his swim suit and dive in that pool before we even sat down to dinner. I like to imagine him floating around, looking up at the blue sky and thinking “Ahh! This is the life.”

I’m channeling that same sentiment when I sit looking out at our yard. I admire how lush and green the grass is and how big the nectarine tree that my husband bought me a few years ago forMother’s Day is getting. I remember all the birthday parties our kids have had out there and how many holiday BBQs  we’ve celebrated. It’s my little paradise. My Dad would have loved it too.