East Coast Home Tour with my son, Lucas

June 16-July 1, 2014

My son and I went on a road trip East, to Charleston, SC., Cumberland Island, GA., St. Augustine., FLA., and through various parts of GA and TN. These are pictures from the trip.



Drove 11 hours the first day…too much, I realised, too late after Lucas got carsick and vomited all over the back seat. Poor thing. He ate a hearty breakfast the next day, before I drove another 7.

IMG_1540(Above) This is the first pic I took on the trip, from our table in a Waffle House in Crossville, TN., where we slept the first night in a simple motel.

Below: Driving through the Great Smoky Mountains in Eastern TN


We Finally arrived at the travellers hostel in downtown Charleston at about 3Pm the following day. This place was very special and both Lucas and I had fascinating interactions with the other travelers there. He met a 10 yr. old kid from Oregon named Leonardo and they played chess and arm wrestled each other. Lucas beat him at both! but Leo was a great sport! Below is the entrance to the 8 bunkbed room we slept in…


Below: Lucas and I slept in the top bunk



Below: The Chess & chill-out room where the kids played chess. The TV was never on. In between the times I was visiting my mom and taking her places, we would come back here and it was a welcome respite. There were young and not-so-young people from all over the world. In our room alone, there was a group from Montreal, and a couple from Norway.



Below: one of the dining rooms where one could chat and chew…breakfast was included…


Lucas demanded before we left that we visit the Battery so he could see the cannons….




 …he enjoyed clambering all over them despite the fact that it was broiling in the sun




 Our next stop was a 3 day camping adventure on Cumberland Island Georgia…it had been 30+ years since I was there. You have to take a ferry and there are no amenities once you’re there…it is a wild, magical, and very hot place in June!


Lucas caught a millipede and enjoyed it’s company for awhile on one of our walks



 We got to the Dungeness ruins and  there were wild horses all over the place







 Walking to the Dungeness ruins…










P1020958Above—The main road on Cumberland Island.

Below: Our campsite…it was 500 feet from the beach dunes. The squirrels and Raccoons were relentless about trying to get into that food-cage.
















I spent a lot of time just mesmerized by the magical tree canopy that covered most of the island….when it wasn’t storming…

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This little Marmot tent kept us dry even when everything else got soaked

 Below: the Golden Silk Orbweaver, or banana spider…nephila clavipes…beautiful, beneficial, and harmless to humans


There was spectacular wildlife everywhere…and the deer and birds were unafraid.






 The tire tracks on the beach were from Department of Interior trucks that monitored the sea turtle nests that were all over the beach












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Above: a camouflaged spider-type sand crab shell, and

below: Beach Morning Glory, Ipomoea pes-caprae











The cardinals were ubiquitous when I got campfires going…I have never seen so many…and they were almost tame

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The tree frogs were all over these palms after a rain…and in your backpack!



P1030119Below: The first place we had a hot breakfast after 3 days on the Island






After a hearty breakfast, we went to St. Augustine, near where I was born. We stayed in a little beach house for 4 days (below)




This place was built in the 1960’s, and used to be an inn and sandwich shop on the “Colored” part of Butler Beach back when beaches were still segregated. The owner still has the original sign that was posted outside, and Minnie, the lady who originally owned it, is still alive!

IMG_1642Below: Our first excursion (besides the beach…) was to historical St. Augustine



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Around Plaza de la Constitucion








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Above: The entrance to Flagler College









Above: A fountain at the main entrance.

Below: Photos of the interior—the dome, staircase, dining hall and architectural details…
















Above : Lucas in Jail!

Below: Toured a bunch of churches built in the same period as Flagler…and or by the same architect(s)









Spent time cooling down in the Methodist church, and talking to an interesting docent who happened to be from KC—worked as an engineer for Boeing. He did not miss Kansas.


More Historical scenes in St. Augustine. Lucas and I wanted to stay here










P1030257Above: The oldest schoolhouse in the US

Below: Photos of the Fort…Castillo de San Marco







Below: While waiting for the storm to pass, I took pictures of the Coquina…out of which the fort was made in the 1500’s…


…as well as the sign that explained lightening strikes in Florida…




Then we finally got to go upstairs and see the view…and the cannons















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Below: Amazing seafood every day




Another main excursion was to visit the Alligator Farm:












P1030441…Some of the birds in the rookery weren’t so lucky


P1030449In addition to having Alligators and Crocs from all over the world, this place had reptiles, amphibians, monkeys…





Another day we drove to Ponte Vedra so I could show Lucas the house where I was born—(This isn’t it!)




Views entering Ponte Vedra at 40MPH


Below: The house on Duval Drive where I was born. My parents bought it for $63,000 in 1960. It’s now valued at over $3million. Lucas thought it was hilarious that I got out of the car to photograph someone else’s house. But then he asked, “Let’s just go inside!”  Yeah, right. I do remember the layout, though.



Below: This was a duck lagoon where the maid would take me to feed the “quack-quacks” . Yes, we had a maid in 1974…and my mother was a member of the Ponte Vedra Country Club…





Apparently my mother left me in the car when I was 3 and I took myself on a tour around this place. Not bad for a first drive.




…This place is like Hollywood






Below: Back to Butler Beach for some MORE good seafood!


Driving back to GA., we stopped in Lakeland, GA., where my dad grew up, and where several generations of my family had lived since the 1700’s. Here is Lucas on the dock of Bank’s Lake. It’s full of Gators.



See! There’s one.


P1030559 It is gorgeous…


And we stayed at the Lakeland Inn….







We visited my dad’s gravesite and our family cemetery at the Riverside Baptist Church. I showed Lucas how my dad used to roll up Juicy Fruit gum and call it a “How About That”. We made “How About Thats” and enjoyed them with my dad. (I cannot stand Juicy Fruit gum—but that wasn’t the point)



Driving through South Georgia…


..More relatives. This was my GGrandfather , Lucas’s GGGgrandfather, who fought at Chickamauga, where we would stop on the way home


His wife: Roxann


One of the first fellows to live in S. Georgia was John Gaskins, son of Fisher, whose grave has never been located in Alachua, FLA


Views of the church and cemetery. Lucas was fascinated by the gravestones, and the morbid fact there were so many buried children







Not a whole lot has changed in the part of the country. I explained to Lucas that most people lived like this 100 years ago



I visited my sister Lynn Gaskins after 35+ years and we went out to lunch before driving on to ATL. It was a wonderful visit and we are so happy she is doing well.


Afterwards, we visited my sister in ATL, and helped load up a U-HAUL trailer full of stuff to take for safekeeping. We stopped at Chickamauga Battlefield on the way home.


 As usual, Lucas couldn’t get enough of the cannons


Driving through the Appalachian Mountains was beautiful, cool and overcast…


Colorado, a Land of Contrasts

photo 2 - Version 3

We departed late for Colorado on Tuesday,  May 22, spending a very appreciated night at my brother’s house in Aurora, a suburb of Denver. We wasted little time heading out the following morning, reluctantly merging back onto I-70, yet gratefully heading west into the Rockies. Our first and 2nd camping nights would be in Sylvan Lake State Park, in a lovely valley with snow capped mountains beyond.


Our quietude was interrupted by constant buzz of chainsaws…which I quickly grew to appreciate as it insured a constant supply of firewood, usually illegal to take from state parks. However, the Forestry “guys” were right across the creek, in State Forest land, and offered us as much wood as we could get our hands on…and we graciously accepted. I asked if they were culling trees killed by the infamous “Pine beetle bugs”, Dendroctonus ponderosae, or for some other purpose. The reply was that most of the trees were Pine Beetle caused, but a few by the creek, like the fir tree, had died simply of old age. I made some nice walking sticks for Lucas and myself out of the freshly cut wood. The fir wood was dense and hard, just dry enough to make handsomely carved “staffs” as my son lovingly puts it.

IMG_1428Our fire-pit very quickly gained a generous heap of firewood from the trees felled in the creek behind….it’s hard to tell in the photo, but there is quite a steep slope behind the Blue Spruce to the left. I am the dedicated “fire-woman” of the camp. One of my few talents is that I can make a campfire from virtually anything, so long as it’s not pouring down rain. I proved this on a number of occasions after realizing we forgot to bring charcoal lighter fuel and charcoal. What was I thinking? in any case…the experience of chopping firewood with a Kukri was incredibly satisfying.IMG_1427Lucas proudly guards the tent….

and plays after a day hike around the lake…I wasn’t sure who had more fun…Ari the German Shepherd, or Lucas.



Above^…this is the feeder creek for Sylvan Lake. It is nicely wooded. Parts of the path were still  covered in snow, and it got quite chilly at night. We were glad to have brought Ari’s winter coat…since his own had already been shed.

Below-Lucas and Ari are standing on a part of the stream bank where the stream actually passes underneath the bank and under the adjacent trees ….





Shortly after Sylvan—with all it’s amenities typical of a State Park, we traveled to the Gunnison National Forest, which was day 1 of 6 days of no showering (Lucas had one hot shower on day 2 Sylvan—4 minutes for a couple dollars)…. We did, however, get plenty of rain! Upon arrival, we met an 81 year old gentleman, Mel, who served as our gracious camp “host”. He traveled all over the country in his motorhome, and shared stories with us about being a salesman for a plastics company years ago. He was from Cathedral City, CA., and had no clue about Colorado. Lucas adored him…and offered to help him dig out some of the recently flooded campsites near ours. We were in site #17. #18 was totally flooded. I should have guessed. The whole campground was “littered” with these huge round river rocks, arranged very randomly like a Japanese Zen garden. This was no accident…the whole place was probably inundated with several feet of water each Spring. One could see the flood debris in the shrubbery at least 4 feet from the ground.

Our tent lies just inside that forest of tall Pine and Spruce…This was the circle road where campers on horseback could stay. They had hay stands on each lot. In the middle was a pile of wood also cut by the Forestry Service. The following night we got totally rained out. Everything in the tent was FREEZING and soaked (so much for the Coleman tent…never again!) Ari became ill with horrible case of giardia…watery diarrhea and vomiting for the next 4 days after drinking out of the Anthracite Creek. You’d think with freshly melted, rapid moving snow water that it would be purer than the lakes he drinks out of at home…but….guess not.


Waking up to mom’s comforting campfire on a cold morning in the forest is hard to beat…esp. when there is fresh coffee. I tried to get up each morning and get the fire going before everyone got up…Getting up on a cold morning and out of a warm sleeping bag is a difficult way to start a day.P1020368


Nick is my firewood collector. I still didn’t have Charcoal starter or charcoal. We’d have to travel 20-30 miles to Paeonia to buy it….down, down down the mountain, through a tiny coal-mining town called Somerset (seriously…it looked just like West Virginia…complete with truckbed jacuzzis, and tar-sided shacks)—then after 15 more miles you arrive in the town of Paeonia, which had more liquor stores than food stores. …then back up again, and 7 miles of unpaved roads.


The Anthracite Creek was just 50 feet from our tent…roaring away!P1020353

Below: Relaxing along the Anthracite Creek



Ari checking out one of the few Lupine stands in bloom. Must have been in a warmer spot.IMG_1483

Below: quercus gambelii leaf on a lichened rock



Path through the forest…P1020422


Below: Views from the back of our campsite




These scattered rocks were all over the place…..like a Zen garden…P1020463


…Hmmm…these rocks fell from…? Time to get outta the way!


…the trees were tall indeed….The night before we got rained out, I ventured out to do my native plant documentations. Nick said I had been unwise to go out later in the day without accompaniment. This was bear country.


…and the forest was loaded with a bounty of biodiversity…..The Columbines were just starting to bloom.



…including Columbines and False Solomon’s Seal…Polyonatum biflorum, or Smilacina racemosa. Note the flowers are on the end of the petiole and not underneath, as seen in true Solomon’s Seal.



Mountain Boxwoods, or Paxistima myrsinites , growing in between the rocks.P1020394


Above: violets and

Below: wild holly (actually, mahonia repens)


I took an evening walk just to find this little white flower that I had seen on the trail earlier that day. Not sure what it is…but I had to capture it in a pic.


Below: There were these bullrush looking bamboo things in the flooded areas….but the Columbines and penstemons seemed to do OK too.


Below: a white violet I think?


I’m not sure what this is below…a calycanthus?P1020389

Below- Narrowleaf CottonwoodsP1020384

Below: rosa WoodsiiP1020382

below: monkshood?P1020381


Above, r. Woodsii “Wood’s Rose” and

below, Redtwig Dogwood….

P1020374Not sure what this little fuzzy gem is…looked like miniature Lamb’s Ear.

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This below…I could not ascertain whether it was a variation of hypericum (St. John’s Wort) or a type of narrowleafed mountain Mahogany species . It had shredded looking bark and hirsute, pinnate leaves. It was growing amongst the quercus gambelii, or Gambel Oaks (scrub alpine oaks)…if anyone knows what this is…I would appreciate any insight.

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Below: These are some type of snapdragon, a local resident told me. The hummingbirds were going like gangbusters all over them.P1020409

More violetsP1020414

Wild serviceberry. The locals collect and make jam from the fruit. Very fortunate—as there are a TON of them. P1020426

These leaves below (the long ovoid shiny ones) are Penstemons, I am pretty certain.

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Below: This is a species of Geum, I think. geum aleppicum ? P1020387

Below: Wild strawberry


…from the Gunnison, White River National Forest to the Grand Mesa Uncompaghre…to the Far Western parts of Colorado…. it got arid looking pretty quickly. A nice change of environment from freezing rain. What we didn’t know..was that for the first night we would be bringing the rain with us…so one more night of wet and cold…I decided to sleep in the car with Ari, the German Shepherd, since he was still quite ill. Fortunately, it was his last night of misery.

It took us 50 miles out of the forest to find a place to eat. That is how rural this part of Colorado is. Through Somerset, Paeonia, Hotchkiss, and finally, to the town of Delta…where we found Butch’s Cafe with an outdoor eating area so Ari could be with us. We stood out a bit from the locals who looked us up and down but made glowing compliments about our handsome German Shepherd. While we waited on our food, we got to read some local literature on outhouse humor and Lucas got got learn &0’s and 80’s pop culture quizzes and corny humor:

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We loaded up on a protein rich breakfast before heading westward towards Grand Junction and the Saddlehorn campground at Colorado National Monument. We had no idea of what to expect…but the scale of the place was not short of stunning—and beautiful in its ancient, raw coarseness, from the 800 year old Utah Junipers, to layered rocks (Sedimentary and  Metamorphic monoliths and over-hanging promontories—- and in the valley far below…the pre-Cambrian black rocks from 4.5 billion years ago.) This place is surreal and no photo or words could capture its magic.

Below: Views from our campground at Colorado National Monument:



Below: These Utah Western Junipers are 300-800 years old…twisted and writhing from the centuries in harsh conditions….P1020565

This large red monolith  towered amidst the campground.P1020503




Above^ Independence Monument

below: Lucas in one of the many “water eroded holes” in the sandstone.



Below: Indian Paintbrush flower in the desert





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Below: we jokingly coined this as the Campsite Christmas tree….





Cooking was much easier when the sun emerged….







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Below: These were 2 young French rock climbers taking on one of the monoliths. Shows a little of the “beyond humanscale” of this place…





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My sunburn after 2 1/2 days in the desert….Photo on 6-2-14 at 1.20 AM #4

Below: Heading back East towards Denver….this was one of the hardest parts on I-70 for our 2WD, 4CYL Toyota RAV-4. Our next purchase is a 6 cyl, 4 WD RAV.

Dashboard view from around the Vail Pass , the elevation at this point on I-70 is 10,662 feet. That’s not the elevation of those mountains.

That’s the elevation from where I am driving=hard on a 4 cylinder transmission. Struggles to keep 45MPH in the ascent! Otherwise…the little thing did great!




Two Articles on Projects with the Kansas City Bengali Association (KCBA)–Finally published in completion in 2 articles, by Laura Harris Gascogne

Below is the content of both articles, (separately published and duly noted) in their entirety with corresponding photos featured in each article. A caveat: This format is not the exact manner in which the article appears in Neue Keramik Magazin, but how I put the content together on my blog for easier reading.

A First in Cultural Bridging: The Saraswati Project

(First article published  in Vol. 5/2013 of a leading German Journal on Ceramics Neue Keramik Magazin, pg. 66.  The article is published in English and German)

 Doors Opened:

In the late part of 2010, I was introduced to a member of the Kansas City Bengali Association at my office where I teach Ceramics at Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kansas. The member of the local Association was Mrs. Bhaswati Ray, who told me she had come looking for advice or a means to make a Hindu deity for the Saraswati Puja in February of 2011. Saraswati  is the goddess of knowledge, music, arts and science, and one of the foremost goddesses in the eastern Indian state of Bengal.

My friendship  with Ray began after I shared accounts of my post-graduate travels in India during the late 1990’s to go “temple-hopping” and to pursue my longtime interest in Indian sculpture, which had been influential in the development my own figurative work. For nearly two decades, I had been enamored by the twisted and contorted figures that adorned historical Hindu temples whose main purpose served as a visual narrative to those who could not read.  After we spoke, I enthusiastically told Ray I would make the piece. At first she appeared both shocked and relieved.  I then realized that it might not be appropriate for me, a non-Hindu, to make a ceramic sculpture for a religious ceremony. I voiced my concerns to Ray, but she seemed more concerned about the time frame to make the piece than whether I was qualified. In Bengal, most deity sculptures are made out of terracotta over an armature that is never fired. Historically, sedimentary or riverbed clay has been so widely used in Bengali art and architecture because it is a ubiquitous material. The state of Bengal is comprised largely within the Gangetic floodplain, an area very rich in clay soils. During pujas, unfired deities are paraded through crowds of pilgrims in the streets to the temple where they receive blessings by Brahmin priests. The sculptures become “transformed” in the process from a material thing into the embodiment of the deity itself. Following the ceremony, the sculptures are carried down to the Ganges, where they are immersed in the holy river and allowed to disintegrate, a symbol that the cycle of life is flowing and not stagnant. Such practice has taken place for thousands of years by devout Hindus, but never a non-Hindu like myself.

Beginning Project #1: The Saraswati Project

There were only two months to create and fire Saraswati, which meant it had to be smaller. Over the next few weeks, I met the president of the KCBA, Debashis Haldar. I was given some parameters to follow to insure the piece would fall within proper religious protocol. It was expressed that the figure had to be light in color, carrying her symbols of the arts and wisdom.refining detail

above: refining detail

moulding the figureabove: moulding the figure; below: adding clothing

propping the figure Saraswati using porcelainous stoneware that I use with my larger figurative pieces. I proportioned her out of be about two feet in height, using hollow parts put together. I did a lot of reading and studying on her to get to know my subject before I commenced moulding the basic elements, such as the base and general pose of the piece.

Frontal face Saraswatiabove: face

rough detailing of Vina and handabove: rough detailing of vina

Double arm detail saraswatiabove: torso detail

Base detail saraswatiabove:Base detail of Saraswati

Saraswati’s Transformation

The puja ceremony was a very moving and intimate experience for me. Even though I had visited a number of Hindu temples in  India as well as a few in the U.S., I had never been invited to be part of such a sacred rite. I was surprised that it got the attention of Hindus and non-Hindus alike, who attended the ceremony and approached me.  During the event and in the weeks that followed, I was interviewed by the local newspaper and by Vern Barnett, an interreligious leader for CRES (The Center for Religious Experience and Study) in the community who requested that I give an interview to put in his website. During the puja, I was asked to stand next to the sculpture and accept the blessing of a Brahmin priest. He did so, and then blessed the sculpture by marking it with pigment and adorning it with a special saffron cloth. Members of the congregation then told me, “It is no longer a sculpture; she is now a transformed goddess.”

Bengali Sculpture / Laura Gascogne

Above and below: Formal photos of Saraswati

Bengali Sculpture / Laura Gascogne

Saraswati with Bhaswatiabove: Gascogne and Bhaswati Ray

Second article features: The Durga Project

Durga side detail(The second article featured in Vol. 1/2014 of a leading German Journal on Ceramics Neue Keramik Magazin, pg. 62.  The article is published in English and German)

 Several more local articles covered the unusual  and unprecedented Saraswati Project . A month or two afterwards I was again approached by members of the KC Bengali Community. The asked me to make a Durga, for the largest and most auspicious religious ceremony to Bengali Hindus. I was given months of lead time, and was given the go-ahead to begin construction out of terracotta. The Durga Project would be the largest, most complicated  multi-sectional piece I had ever created.

Building Durga

The base alone for Durga and her lion consisted of 75 pounds of clay, which I partially hollowed out and carved after it set up over a week.

Lion baseabove: the 75 lb. base of the sculpture

Secondly, I built the body of the lion upside down, using a cardboard tube that I wrapped a slab around, letting stiffen before removing the tube. Afterwards, I commenced making the legs of the piece, by inserting a dowel rod through  large solid coils of clay. Later, I flipped the lion’s body upright so I could begin building Durga and determine her proper proportions  and positioning.

Durga Lionabove: the head of the lion added with support;

below: the lower half of Durga added to the lion’s back


The lion remained very heavy after it was flipped upright, but I was able to refine the musculature and to visualize how Durga would be positioned. I started her bottom half, unattached, on the lion’s back. The weeks that followed were spent doing an intense amount of detailing and proportioning to insure the piece would be balanced and symbolically correct.

Durga partsabove: parts of the the ten armed figure; below: refining the details once together

Durga upper torso detailingHer ten arms were each individually made and positioned with the corresponding weapon or sacred object. Each of the sacred objects was researched and then created with mixed media, mainly clay and brass.

IMG_6957above: sculpting Durga’s face;

below: detailing the face of the lion

Lion face detailing

Firing a multi-part Sculpture

Once the figure was completed, I separated the statically side-seated figure from the lion, and separately loaded both of them at leather hard into gas cart kilns where they dried out for three weeks. Once the pieces had reached bone dry, the firing was allowed to candle for three days and then fire for two days.

Durga fired in kilnabove: Durga in the cart kiln

Durga Serves a Different Purpose

The ceremony, held at a local high school, was much larger than the Saraswati puja, comprised of local vendors, a huge langar, or lunch, following the blessings, and various bustling activities for the kids. There were two Durgas, as well as other members of the Hindu Pantheon, all richly adorned.  The purpose of my sculpture this time was not so much to be a part of the sacrament, but educational. It served as a reminder to Bengalis about the importance of interfaith tolerance and outreach, as well as cultural education, and the important use of terracotta as a material in Bengali Art.  These  aspects were addressed by a local public radio station during the event. In the final night of the festival, I was presented with the first ever Interfaith Award at a hugely attended presentation in the school auditorium. In a world so steeply divided on religious and cultural differences, I was humbled to be a small yet positive part of mutual change in the status quo through donating “The Saraswati Project” and “The Durga Project” to the KCBA.

Durga formal shotabove: Durga with weapons

11260_30above: Bhaswati Ray, Durga, and the artist

From Boon to Bane: rosa multiflora

Above is an example of rosa multiflora in the Mark Twain National Forest. A century ago it was imported from China due to its vigour and usefulness as a windbreak; later, multiflora rootstock was used as the foundation for many grafted rose hybrids, a use which continues to this day. For example, it is used as a rootstock in the overly used and celebrated Knockout series of roses which flood every home improvement store in the growing season. Their seeming invincible quality and need for virtually no maintenance have convinced the blackest of thumbs that they are able to grow roses by just dumping the plants into holes in the ground…and sure enough, roses on multiflora rootstock often will grow and flourish beyond a black thumb’s dream. My cynicism steps up and says—a boon such as this is not without consequences of a less positive nature…as the saying goes, “if it sounds too good to be true…” But average Joe Consumer is so seduced by the belief that they can have a real rose in their yard for eternity, along with a vision of old world European gardens and whatever else their imagination allows…Because, unfortunately, imagination is all there is after all is said and done. Beyond the vigour and repeating bloom habit there is very little in the way of “old world” rose quality. These roses lack the bloom form, the growth habit variation, bloom variety (grandiflora, floribunda, etc) , color, and last, but perhaps most important—they are completely odorless; people often wonder why modern roses lack a smell but they do not bother to do the research on why. What you do have are a few shades of pink, white and yellow: bright pink, white, dark pink (called RED on labels–hah!),  and pale yellow–blooms that repeat and repeat and repeat. Aside from very little options in appearance, and no smell, you have a rose that is virtually impossible to kill. People love a “what you see is what you get” rose and will sacrifice smell and something unique for no maintenance. And moderns hybrids repeat! Many heirloom roses lack the repeat bloom, but they have amazing perfumes that vary like the finest wines, from musks to citrus, sweet to dry and complex. But many of the most durable, boring, odorless modern hybrids outweigh all these benefits to consumers in the mass market. And that’s it…or wait…is it???? Unfortunately, no…I hate to be the bearer of such depressing news for fans of this marketing hype, but multiflora and hybrids on its rootstock don’t come without further price. A BIG price that might cost the rose world it’s complex and fascinating heritage. A century ago, no one foresaw that multiflora would bring along two things that might prove to be disastrous to the rose world. One is its invasiveness. All one has to do is visit the Mark Twain National forest in May to see how invasive multiflora is. It climbs, winds, seeds EVERYWHERE it establishes. It establishes very very rapidly with a massive, suckering root system….and it is not alone. It’s  a favorite host to a very very tiny tiny mite, called the eriophyid mite. It seems such a harmless, small creature, leaving only minor cosmetic scars on plants it feeds upon…this would not be such a concern if multiflora weren’t a main susceptible carrier species for a deadly virus called RRD, “Rose Rosacea Disease”. RRD is fatal to all roses that get it.

The Eriophyid mite is so small that it cannot travel far on its own. It relies on wind currents to carry it—-to other roses, all of which are vulnerable to the RRD virus, especially those grafted on r. multiflora rootstock, such as Knockouts and many modern hybrids widely sold roses on the market and in every other backyard. Just when knockouts seemed invincible, they now are possible pathogen carriers/ attractants/ and Eriophyid hosts and spreaders of RRD. No rose is immune to RRD, but “own root” and old heirloom roses are a bit more “resistant” for what it is worth. That is why I grow own root roses, but until there is a cure, it is just a matter of time before my own root roses contract the disease and have to be destroyed. It does not stop me from growing roses, even as RRD creeps closer and closer. There are already heavy cases in Kansas, and most of the ones I have seen are on Knockout roses outside unwitting owners of restaurants, shopping malls, apartment complexes and commercial establishments that probably would not remove the affected roses anyway. The good news is that massive stands of r.multiflora  in the wild are dying from RRD, but rosarians are wary and not celebrating just yet…another slow but sure and positive factor is that many folks are beginning to look into heirloom roses once again, and in some cases, bringing back some that were once thought gone forever, such as rosa Gallica, a very durable species that has been around since Roman times.

To read more about RRD, please click on the links below.




2013 Reflections…Merry Christmas and Happy New Year

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year


2013 was an interesting year. We had a good gardening season… asparagus, artichokes, tomatoes, peas, sweet potatoes, tomatillos, peppers, and Nick’s favorite, (NOT!) …okra! Later in the fall we got a HUGE crop of raspberries. Lucas and I did taekwondo all summer & Lucas spent most of the summer swimming in Back to Back Swimming Lessons. He is now at level 3…YAY! We took our first family camping trip—- to the Ozarks—with our German Shepherd, Ari—first to Mark Twain National Forest. It was beautiful, but we did not escape without massive ticks all over!


Playing with bugs in the National Forest…no iPad, no phones….just nature!

(Above) Swimming in Mark Twain Nat’l Forest and (below)

1014842_10151643454572052_1865176833_oa break from campfire food at Table Rock Lake and a boat ride around….

After not seeing a soul for 20 miles in any direction for 2 nights we headed South to Table Rock Lake for some civilization and a hot shower! Then we went to Eureka Springs, Ark. What a cool, eccentric place!
Resting in a grotto in Eureka Springs….


Lots of Photographic opportunities! It’s built on a series of wooded terraces…with hidden pathways, grottoes, and hidden Victorian gems…and lots of really good food!

1014842_10151643454562052_504862457_oA “typical” B&B in Eureka Springs….LOVELY!

Lucas admiring the view coming down a path in Eureka Springs.

A few steps from here, we found an all local eatery that welcomed our dog on the porch to dine with us. Everyone in this whole area was very dog friendly!

1064043_10151643449842052_866793407_oAn example of “Yard Art” in Eureka Springs.

streeteurekaAnother picturesque home…..

I returned home to tend my own garden…this summer was much more forgiving!


With Lots of opportunities to take pics…Lucas took the one of me above!


(Pinata Rose and Cardinal Rouge clematis growing up the sideof the house…)…We also built a Grape trellis and installed over 100’ feet of wood fencing…two 80lb. bags of concrete per post…

Lucas always loves helping!….and eating the rewards! Here he is hoping these grapes grow rapidly….they are his favorite fruit!

1399399_10151941383822052_1606182753_oYUM! Raspberries!


I got into rose collecting when I met a rare rose Collector in Lawrence. He gave away a number of his roses to me, some of which are almost unheard of…but many had amazing fragrance you just do not have in modern hybrids .



As usual…we got a great Lavender crop, too.
Lucas is doing great in School. To our surprise, despite his “spoken word” challenges and eccentricities…he is the top speller in his class and gets a A on every spelling test! He also loves math…thank goodness! He is now a red belt in Taekwondo and that means he might be eligible to test for black next December. He and his mom went to the Ozark Invitational tournament in early December (a week ago) and stayed at the nearly empty Tan-Tar-A resort…it was single digits on
Tournament day! He did great!
Winter Break will keep me busy working on the JCCC Student Literary Magazine.
We had some superb student artwork this year that deserves some great recognition!
We continue to take care of Lucas and Anna, my Mom’s Siamese cats…Lucas at 10 years old rules the cat roost!

Love and Best Wishes for the New Year!

Species Roses & Rhododendrons

Is it me or is WordPress not iPad friendly?  I started on blogspot and it seems easier. Oh well. This spring I am obsessed with finding rare and unusual roses to grow. In past years, it was tulip species, figs, and orchids. This spring it is species roses and rhododendrons. My rhodo interest is limited to those native to southeastern US, all of which are deciduous and the foundation for the modern Exbury azaleas. Despite the fact that they are native to the southeastern US, they are amazingly adaptable to far harsher environments than many of evergreen relatives from Asia. I have a few Exbury azaleas and they have adapted well to a very unfriendly Kansas environment. This spring, i purchased some r. Austrinums and primary hybrids from native plant growers in the southeast. I was shocked to see how cold hardy these guys can be. Like my own personal genealogy or ancestry research, I am not interested so much in their primary qualities so much as their history / origin in contrast to their migration ( natural or man made) and their adaptability.

Like so many species of plants we know today, Roses originated in central Asia, along with tulips, and many perennials and shrubs. I am mainly interested in how these plants grow in their natural habitats, as well as how amazingly adaptable they can be once reintroduced to another environment thousands of miles away on another continent. This summer I am going to experiment with growing some of these versatile and highly adaptable species, such as rosa foetidas,( Persian yellow and bicolor or Austrian copper) musk roses,(variations on rosa moschata, such as Darlow’s Enigma, Nastarana, Secret Garden Musk Climber), rugosas, perpetuals and a few others and their close hybrids. I have a working list on my helpmefind.com account. Pictures will follow.