Thursday, June 24, 2010

Planting The Museum's Cornfield

One of the things I love about being a summer intern here at the Florence Griswold Museum is that my days are often filled with surprises-

everything from noticing something new in a painting thanks to a second grader to planting a cornfield! Only a couple of weeks ago on June eighth, I found myself out behind the Museum's garden helping to plant several hundred Indian corn seeds along with fellow co-workers Ted, Randy and Matt F. But why would an art museum plant a field of corn you may be asking yourself.

No, the museum is not establishing a farm to grow vegetables for Café Flo (Indian corn is purely a decorative variety of corn). Instead, the plantin

g was part of the many preparations that we are making for the exciting Harvestime festival at the museum in October. After the grand success of the Wee Faerie Village, David Rau the director of education and outreach at the museum has developed a similar concept for the museum grounds that will engage the creativity of local artists once again. No crows will dare to touch our precious cornfield thanks to the over two dozen scarecrows created by local artists inspired by famous artists from around the world and though out history which will dot the grounds for the month of October. These scarecrows will come in all shapes, sizes, colors, patterns and designs. On your journey around the grounds you will run into all sorts of characters- anyone from Picasso to Georgia O’Keeffe to Childe Hassam. H

owever, even an incredible scarecrow exhibit such as this is incomplete without a cornfield! And it looks like our field is off to a good start; after only two weeks the corn is already around 11 inches tall and is flourishing because of all of the rain and hot weather we have been having. Please feel free to come by and check on the progress of our cornfield throughout the summer when you come to visit the museum. The field is now nicely marked with a sign featuring Van Scarecrow, our very own scarecrow mascot. (Here my fellow intern Ian is posing with the newly installed sign.)

The cornfield will be featured in one of the exciting activities planned for the scarecrow exhibition; guests will be able to pose in scarecrow costumes in front of the hopefully very tall cornfield (the plants are supposed to get to 8 feet by the end of the summer). The museum will be hosting lots of other special events including Not-So-Very-Scary Nighttime tours of the scarecrows as well as pumpkin carving and scavenger hunts. In the meantime, I will be reporting every once and a while about how our corn is shaping up. Stay tuned for the next step- thinning the corn. At this point, it looks like the corn might be knee high by the fourth of July!

(Below is an updated photo of the corn taken on June 24th)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Betty's Tree

Red Bartlett Pear Tree planted in honor of Betty Chamberlain


Elizabeth (Betty) C. Chamberlain, of Old Lyme, is a longtime friend and trustee of the Florence Griswold Museum. To honor her years of service and devotion to the Museum, the Buildings & Grounds Committee proposed, back in January, to plant an ornamental tree in her honor. 

It was agreed that an espalier ornamental fruit tree (Red Bartlett Pear – pyrus communis) would be planted on the west side of the Rafal Landscape Center.  Everyone felt a pear tree would be a welcome addition to the museum grounds. Sheila Werthiemer, our Garden Historian and leader of the volunteer “Garden Gang,” observed that, although there is no record of an espalier tree being planted on the old estate’s grounds, they were being cultivated in America during the Lyme Art Colony days, certainly by 1910.

“Espalier” refers to the horticultural practice of training trees through pruning and grafting in order to create a formal "flat plane “ or menorah candlestick branch pattern. Espalier trees usually grow against a wall, fence, or trellis. The technique was used in Medieval Europe to produce fruit inside a fortress courtyard where open space was at a premium. It eventually was seen as a means of decorating courts and garden walls.  In the 17th Century the word espalier described the trellis  or frame on which a plant was trained to grow.

Sheila selected the pear tree from a local nursery and planted it on April 23, 2010. In addition, we also decided to plant a number of low blueberry bushes to flank the tree. Suitable signage was installed to identify the tree and why it was planted.

Please look for this tree on your next visit to the Florence Griswold Museum.