Nurturing creativity with art, animals, and science fiction

Category: Gardening

The original of image was mostly gray on gray. In the center is the following square design: Next to the imagery of the Weird Sisters Publishing logo seen at an angle through shards of glass, the words say: “The Weird Blog, and all of the Weird Sisters Publishing website, is the casualty of a prolonged website crash this week. We have been struggling to get it back into service.” We updated it later, once the site was fixed. Now it says that, but there’s a new, bright yellow area where it says “WE’RE BACK!”

Weird Blog Woes

By Jan S. Gephardt

When I first wrote this post, I was dealing with Weird Blog Woes. The Weird Sisters Website (including The Weird Blog) had been knocked offline by a persistent software glitch and increasingly-long “repropagation” issues. Cutting to the chase: It was broken. We were (trying to) fix it.

UPDATE! It’s now FIXED! 

But while it was still broken, it was blog day. So, while reserving time to work on fixing the Weird Blog Woes, we thought perhaps you’d enjoy reading three great “fan favorite” posts of the past by G. S. Norwood—plus a BONUS!—via a website you actually might be able to access!

We hope to be back in the next two weeks with a new post on The Weird Blog! But in the meantime, please check these out—and don’t forget there’s a BONUS at the end!

The original of image was mostly gray on gray. In the center is the following square design: Next to the imagery of the Weird Sisters Publishing logo seen at an angle through shards of glass, the words say: “The Weird Blog, and all of the Weird Sisters Publishing website, is the casualty of a prolonged website crash this week. We have been struggling to get it back into service.” We updated it later, once the site was fixed. Now it says that, but there’s a new, bright yellow area where it says “WE’RE BACK!”
Design by Jan S. Gephardt.

Three Great Posts By G. S. Norwood–Plus a Bonus!

Let’s start our quest to fight off the Weird Blog woes with this wonderful post by G. S. Norwood, author of the “Deep Ellum Stories.” They’re normally available through our website. G. has a full-time job with The Dallas Winds, but she’s also an entertaining blogger.

At left, G. with her new kitten in October 2019. At right, comfortable adult Gift in G’s lap.
At left, Photo by Marcy Weiske Jordan. At right, G. with Gift on her lap. Both from G. S. Norwood’s private collection.

The Universe Gives Me a Cat

By G. S. Norwood

Sometimes the Universe gives me a cat.

I write urban fantasy, so I’m fairly open to the idea of magical energies at play in our mundane world. Still, I had no intention of adopting a cat in October of 2019. When my oldest cat, Scrap, died that July, I was comfortable with the idea of being reduced to a two-cat household. “If the Universe gives me a cat, I’ll have another cat. But I’m not going to go out looking,” I told myself. It became my mantra. Read more here.

Those Weird Blog woes are fading, right? Who doesn’t love a great cat story? Now let’s move on to another mood-lifter: Wildflowers!

Three scenic views of the stone buildings, water features, and native plantings of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.
The buildings and plantings of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center reflect and honor the local native Texas climate. (See credits below).

Lady Bird and the Wildflowers

By G. S. Norwood

It’s March in Texas, and that means wildflowers—specifically bluebonnets. For the next two weeks, roadsides and fields will be covered with our beloved state flower, a hardy lupine that loves rocky soil and early spring sunshine.

Fields of bluebonnets cover the hills of the Texas Hill Country, often peppered with clumps of Indian Paintbrush. People take pictures of themselves, their sweethearts, their babies, and their pets in bluebonnet pastures. Senior citizens who take up painting as a post-retirement hobby love to paint bluebonnet-filled landscapes.

Why are there so many bluebonnets along Texas roadsides? Read more here.

Have you shaken off the Weird Blog woes by now? Perhaps you’d like some reading ideas “for the road (or the Wildflower Trail?). After all, this is posting in the summer, and summer is the quintessential season for “beach reads” and literary vacations. With that in mind, we hope you enjoy the following.

A hot, hazy Dallas skyline
Dallas has air pollution problems (Dallas Magazine/Getty Images).

My Summer Getaway

By G. S. Norwood

Well. I finally did it. I made it safely through months of writing major grant proposals. Organized three far-from run-of-the-mill concerts. Took on some new job responsibilities, on top of the two full-time jobs I’m doing already. And I survived. Now, my friends and readers, it’s time for my summer getaway.

I’m looking for a place that will allow me to relax. Spend some quality time looking at outstanding scenery. And be much, much cooler than Dallas, both in temperature and in vibe. Read more here.

You’ve made it to the BONUS! One of the very best ways we know to escape Weird Blog woes—or any others—is a trip to Deep Ellum, Texas. Specifically, the magical and amazing Deep Ellum Texas of G. S. Norwood’s Ms. Eddy Weekes, as featured in her Deep Ellum Stories. Here’s your introduction: a free read! Enjoy Chapter One of the first “Deep Ellum Story,” Deep Ellum Pawn.

On a gold-colored background, next to a 3D visualization of the cover on an e-rreader, the words say:
“A solid-gold fiddle, with one Hell of a string attached . . . 
“’I played with the Dallas Symphony.’
“’Uh-huh. And you were pretty good. Then some guy challenged you to a fiddling contest, which you won, and he gave you his fiddle as the prize.’ I rested my hand on the duct tape that covered the violin case. ‘This fiddle, which is made of solid gold.
“Heat, and a faint vibration, rose up from the case as if the instrument inside was alive.
“’It has no resonance. The strings screech like damned souls. And ever since you got it, you’ve had horrible nightmares about giant, slavering bloodhounds with eyes red as fire, tracking you down to carry your soul to Hell.’
“My gaze held his as the color leached from his face.
“Download for free, to read Chapter One of G. S. Norwood’s Deep Ellum Pawn. 
“Book cover art ©2019 by Chaz Kemp.”
Download your copy here! Or read it now online! Cover art © 2019 by Chaz Kemp.

The Golden Fiddle

By G. S. Norwood

The guy on the other side of the counter was antsy, shifting from foot to foot, sniffing, taking quick swipes at his streaming nose with the cuff of his faded beige flannel shirt. His eyes, half-hidden by greasy blond bangs, darted from side to side, as if he was afraid Hell Hounds would appear at any moment, hot on his trail.

He probably was. And God knows, the Hounds wouldn’t have any trouble following his scent. He reeked of sweat, adrenaline, and old urine.

I looked from him to the battered violin case he’d dropped on the counter and shoved toward me. I was pretty sure what I’d find inside . . .

Download Chapter One for FREE here. Or read it now online.

IMAGE CREDITS

Many thanks to G. S. Norwood herself, for the photos of her and Gift, her cat. For the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center photos, The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center provided their logo, as well as the photo of their stone entry building, which Jan found via Tour Texas, and the picture of the predominantly yellow plantings, which came via CBS Austin. Texas Highways provided the photo of the Center’s “Garden of Yes” designed for full-bodied fun by families with small children.

We’re indebted to Dallas Magazine and Getty Images for the view of a sweltering Dallas, TX skyline. And the “Download Chapter One of Deep Ellum Pawn” Banner was designed by Jan S. Gephardt. Cover art for the story is © 2019 by Chaz Kemp.

Hildie stands on a balcony at her home. She wears a red and gold saree.

A Vision From a Different World

By Jan S. Gephardt

To a certain extent, every piece of fiction opens a vision from a different world. But in works of science fiction, fantasy, and speculative fiction, the idea of “a different world” is often more front-and-center.

But translating that into visual art can be tricky. As I’ve described in the last two blog posts, “Visualizing a Character” and “Portraying Hildie,” this winter my friend Lucy A. Synk and I undertook a multi-painting project. We sought to create what are called “developmental” images of several important characters from my books.

Lucy has the painting skills and the “eye of an illustrator” I am disappointed to report that I lack. But I have a cast of characters I need to portray. I’m continually finding new ways to use them for advertising, my newsletter, on the website, and, of course, here on my blog. For me, they’re well worth the investment to bring Lucy’s talents to bear!

In last week’s post I explained why we chose to start with Hildie Gallagher first. And while I was more focused on Hildie herself, savvy illustrator Lucy knew from the start that these paintings would also have to “read” as science fictional.

Hildie makes her way through a maintenance tunnel toward an emergency patient.
Hildie Gallagher at Work, 2022. Our first glimpse of Hildie (in What’s Bred in the Bone) is in action, on the job, saving lives. Here she goes again. (Painting is © 2022 by Lucy A. Synk).

A Different World: We’re Not in Kansas (or Kolkata) Anymore

That wasn’t a problem for the “Hildie at Work” painting. Hildie is an experienced paramedic assigned to the Emergency Rescue Team at Rana Station’s “Hub,” a microgravity environment. I’ve relied a lot on studies and videos from the International Space Station to add verisimilitude to my descriptions of that environment. And the first painting, which shows Hildie floating through a maintenance tunnel toward a patient, is clearly in a science fictional setting.

But Hildie’s life is more than her job. And once again, Lucy had a clear idea from the start about how to show another side of this character. The objective was not only to portray Hildie. It also was to show the plantings around her (a big deal on Rana Station) and the toroid geography of the Sirius River Valley behind her.

If you’ve read A Bone to Pick, the second book in the XK9 “Bones” Trilogy, you’ll understand why portraying Hildie in a red-and-gold saree for her “civilian” painting seemed like a no-brainer. But Lucy remained determined that what could be seen as a painting of a pretty Indian woman on a balcony needed a science-fictional element. Thus, that glimpse of the Sirius River Valley that we see over Hildie’s left shoulder is extremely important. It’s clearly a vision from a different world. And it makes it clear that in this painting we are definitely not  in Kansas (or Kolkata) anymore!

From first sketch through photo-collage to partially-painted, partially drawn, partially collaged concept development.
Three steps in the concept-development process for the painting. Yes, that’s even a piece of Jody A. Lee’s cover for A Bone to Pick in the middle collage’s background. (Concept artwork © 2022 by Lucy A. Synk).

Oh, Those Balcony Plants!

One clear objective, beyond beyond the character herself, was to show the profuse plantings common on Ranan balconies. It’s an important element in this vision from another world. The plants are also one reason why the saree is plainer than most traditional sarees. It’s to give viewers’ eyes something of a break (and also because Lucy hates painting fabrics with repeating patterns on them).

As longtime readers of this blog know, I have strong opinions about feeding people in space – and about agriculture on Rana Station in particular. What you don’t see in the sketches and mock-ups is the conversations we had, sometimes by phone and sometimes via email or text, about the most likely and visually attractive plants to put on that balcony. You may notice in the montage above that the plants on the balcony changed in some way with every step in the visualization process.

A mass of orange and red nasturtium flowers with their rounded green leaves, red cherry tomatoes on the vine, and a white fence, with morning glory vines growing over the top. They have green, heart-shaped leaves and bluish-purple, trumpet-shaped flowers.
L-R: Nasturtiums, cherry tomatoes, and morning glories, our “Balcony Finalists.” (See credits below).

Flowers or Vegetables?

Lucy wanted flowers. She argued strongly for their undeniable aesthetic benefits. I wanted vegetables, mindful of the millions of mouths to be fed on Rana Station’s limited landmass.

But I know the results always turn out better when my illustrators make their own independent contributions to the vision. After all, they’re the ones who ultimately have to make that visual magic happen! And Lucy really, really wanted a flowering vine coming down from above in a certain, strategic spot. She sold me on morning glories when she discovered they’ve been used in herbal teas for centuries.

We eventually settled on two more plant species. Cherry tomatoes are as decorative as they are edible, with their complementary-color contrast of red and green. And nasturtiums, on the railing adjacent to the tomatoes in the final painting, make good salad ingredients. Bonus: they are an outstanding companion plant to match with tomatoes. We spent a chunk of one evening on the phone, mutually researching them. By the end I had become so enthusiastic about nasturtiums that I bought some for my garden this year!

The Saga of the Sirius River Valley

But by far the most challenging aspect of creating this vision from a different world came from a small section in the background. That little corner of the painting became a very big deal. Rex put his nose right on the problem in the first line of What’s Bred in the Bone:

“Damn it, no horizon should bend upward. . . . It was freaky-unnatural for a river to run down the wall at one end of the vista, as Wheel Two’s Sirius River did. Even worse for it to run back up the wall at the other.”

What’s Bred in the Bone

There’s no getting around it. The perspective inside a toroid space habitat is just damn weird (though, to my mind, not as weird as the inside of an O’Neill Cylinder). Add in the “undulating, terraced hills of the Sirius River Valley,” and the portrayal just gets more and more difficult.

Visualizations of the interior of a toroid space habitat: a landscape of the interior, and a cutaway of the interior with homes and landscaped plants.
Visions from 1975, of the inside of a Stanford Torus. (See credits below).

Most Definitely A Different World

The more I work with illustrators trying to wrestle that “from a different world” perspective into submission, the more admiration I have for Don Davis and Rick Guidice. They’re the two NASA artists who made it look easy to portray the inside of a Stanford Torus in 1975 (hint: it’s way NOT). You can read more about the long, angsty process Jody A. Lee and I went through creating the cover of A Bone to Pick on my blog, if you’re interested.

Lucy respected Jody’s rendition on the cover of A Bone to Pick, but she had a slightly different concept. If the terrace walls are 90-plus years old, she thought, they’ll have had time to weather, grow moss in the night mists, and undergo other changes. Also, why waste all that vertical space when even today we have “green walls” and “green roofs”?

So she set out to create more plausibly green primary terraces in her vision of a different world on Rana Station. She drew some inspiration from paper maquettes I’d made several years ago and photographed on an incline to simulate the torus’s curve. She also used my clumsy attempts to capture the view, Jody’s painting, and other resources to create her mini-painting. Then she isolated the landscape and scanned it, so I could use it as a separate piece of artwork/illustration, before she painted Hildie over part of it.

Lucy’s beautiful, verdant landscape captures the terraced hills with their little farms on either side, the meanders of the Sirius River through the center, and the torus’s perverse upward curve in the distance.
The Sirius River Valley: It’s hard to imagine the years of hard effort by a surprising number of people that lie behind this peaceful-looking landscape. (Painting © 2022 by Lucy A. Synk).

A Note About the Saree

Some people may think a saree is a startling thing to see anyone wearing on a far-future space station. How could that possibly fit into a vision of a different world? The answer lies in the culture and history of Rana Station. In the universe of the XK9 books, we humans managed to avoid destroying Earth. The Chayko System is two jump-points away from the place Ranans call “Heritage Earth,” but they maintain ties, communications, and some trade.

Moreover, as I’ve noted in past blog posts, Ranan culture is centered on families. It is perhaps natural that family-oriented people might grow curious about their ancestry. During an introspective moment in A Bone to Pick, major character Charlie Morgan reflects on a period in (from his perspective) Rana’s recent past:

“About a generation ago, Rana Station had gone through a period when seemingly everyone was exploring their ethnic backgrounds. The Human Diaspora had drawn people into space from all over Heritage Earth. During the early decades of space expansion, many cultural practices had been lost. But a few generations after its founding, family-oriented Rana Station had collectively decided they must ‘reclaim their roots,’ in an effort to ‘fully embrace the nature of their being.’ Or something like that.

“People all over the Station suddenly yearned for knowledge of the cultures they’d descended from. Religious and cultural festivals, ethnic foods, and traditional clothing all became important preoccupations.”

– “A Bone to Pick
Hildie stands on a balcony at her home. She wears a red and gold saree.
Hildie on a Balcony in a Saree, 2022. Ready for a special event, Hildie poses on an outer balcony of Feliz Tower. (Painting © 2022 by Lucy A. Synk).

My Multicultural Vision From a Different World

You can also see my fascination with the many and varied cultures of Earth in another passage, from a scene that comes near the end of What’s Bred in the Bone:

“Orangeboro officials began to assemble on the wide flat area at the top of the steps outside OPD Central HQ. The Borough Council emerged first, resplendent in formal attire. There was Rona Peynirci, in a deep red and shimmering gold saree. Charlie spotted Beatriz Chan in green and silver robes, with a matching turban and a stunning emerald necklace. Mayor Idris wore a blue silk wrap. The men, similarly glamorous, wore silken jackets, hanbok, kente, or kilts.”

– “What’s Bred in the Bone

In light of all that, it shouldn’t be surprising to find a saree on this particular space station. As Charlie says to Hildie at one point in A Bone to Pick, “A saree is timeless. It’s always in fashion.” And Hildie’s saree becomes symbolic of larger themes, in that sequence.

Lucy and I are not finished with our projects started this winter. Hildie is the first Ranan human to get character development illustrations. But the XK9s have many human friends. And as Lucy helps me fill out this vision from a different world, I’ll share their stories here (although Newsletter subscribers always get first looks).

IMAGE and Other CREDITS

Most of the imagery in this post is ©2022 by Lucy A. Synk. There’s a glimpse of a detail from Jody A. Lee‘s cover painting ©2020 for A Bone to Pick in one of Lucy’s “working image” photo-montages, used for her reference.

The photos of garden plants are courtesy of three different online seed and plant sales sites. The nasturtiums photo is courtesy of Bonanza, the cherry tomato shot came from Grow Joy, and the morning glories are courtesy of Park Seed. Many thanks to all! (check out their gardening offers!).

The 1975 visions of the inside of a Stanford Torus are ©1975 by NASA. They were painted by Don Davis (torus interior landscape) and Rick Guidice (cutaway view). I am deeply grateful that NASA has made this resource so freely available.

The excerpts from What’s Bred in the Bone are ©2019 by Jan S. Gephardt. The excerpts from A Bone to Pick are ©2021 by Jan S. Gephardt. All rights reserved.

Three scenic views of the stone buildings, water features, and native plantings of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Lady Bird and the Wildflowers

By G. S. Norwood

It’s March in Texas, and that means wildflowers — specifically bluebonnets. For the next two weeks, roadsides and fields will be covered with our beloved state flower, a hardy lupine that loves rocky soil and early spring sunshine.

Fields of bluebonnets cover the hills of the Texas Hill Country, often peppered with clumps of Indian Paintbrush. People take pictures of themselves, their sweethearts, their babies, and their pets in bluebonnet pastures. Senior citizens who take up painting as a post-retirement hobby love to paint bluebonnet-filled landscapes.

Why are there so many bluebonnets along Texas roadsides? We all credit Lady Bird Johnson and her advocacy of the Highway Beautification Act of 1965. But should we? It’s Women’s History Month, so let’s take a closer look.

Two photos of bluebonnet meadows at sunset.
A beautiful Texas sunset provides just the right colors to complement a gorgeous bluebonnet vista. (See credits below).

Lady Bird Johnson

Claudia Alta Taylor was born in the tiny east Texas town of Karnack in 1912, and soon gained the nickname Lady Bird. In 1934 the quiet, diminutive Lady Bird married the very tall, very loud, very ambitious Lyndon Baines Johnson, and a new political power couple was born.

Johnson ruled the United States Senate years before he was named John F. Kennedy’s Vice President. When Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas in November 1963, Johnson was sworn in as President on the plane back to D. C. and Lady Bird became the First Lady of the land.

Elegant, glamorous Jacqueline Kennedy was a hard act to follow when it came to setting the style for the rest of the country, so Lady Bird didn’t bother. Instead, she turned her energy toward something no prior First Lady—including the outspoken Eleanor Roosevelt—had done. She went back to the House and Senate, where Lyndon had wielded so much power, and directly lobbied for the passage of legislation she cared deeply about.

Five black-and-white photos from LBJ’s term as president give a glimpse Lady Bird’s active involvement with government.
Clockwise from top left: The signing of the Highway Beautification Act. LBJ hands Lady Bird one of the signing pens. Lady Bird addresses a conference in May 1965 before the bill was passed. She and Lyndon work with staff on a project in the Oval Office. Lady Bird on the phone at home with Lyndon. (See credits below).

The Highway Beautification Act

As an only child, growing up in rural Texas, Lady Bird had come to love the natural beauty of her native state. On the campaign trail for her husband, she began to see civilization encroaching on that natural beauty in the form of junkyards, billboards, and other roadside eyesores. Prior legislation that set loose, industry-policed guidelines for highway development, was set to expire in 1965. Lady Bird led the campaign for a more complete and permanent solution.

The Highway Beautification Act of 1965 pushed roadside development back 660 feet from the edge of the road on U.S. and Interstate highways. It mandated fences to hide junkyards and other ugly roadside businesses; set limits on the size and type of billboards allowed along highways; and urged the use of native plants at the highway’s edge. D. C. powerbrokers called it “Lady Bird’s Bill.” Once it passed, Lady Bird became a doggedly persistent advocate for wildflowers and native plants—along the highways, and anywhere else they could be grown in the name of beauty and utility.

Two photos illustrate examples of the visual clutter that used to line US highways and obstruct travelers’ ability to see anything else. Two more photos illustrate contemporary roadsides with wildflowers and more open vistas.
The contrast isn’t always this extreme, but it’s easy to see how profoundly “Lady Bird’s Bill” changed the view once it became law. (See credits below).

Lady Bird and the Wildflowers

The Texas Department of Transportation—TxDOT to those of us who know and love it—has been using wildflowers along roadsides for more than 100 years. In 1917, when the policy was to completely clear all roadsides as new roads were built, TxDOT officials noticed that wildflowers and other native plants were the first to reestablish themselves in the cleared areas. These plants helped stabilize the soil, reduce erosion, and provide habitat for wildlife. They also required less mowing and watering than other plants, reducing costs. In 1937, after TxDOT hired its first landscape architect, promoting wildflower growth along roadsides became department policy.

Today TxDOT nurtures more than 5,000 species of wildflowers and native grasses along Texas roadways. The department buys and sows 30,000 pounds of wildflower seeds every year. Roadside mowing is prohibited in areas where wildflowers grow, until after the flowers go to seed.

Perhaps Lady Bird’s love of roadside wildflowers grew out of her familiarity with the results of TxDOT’s policy. She certainly would have seen many Texas roads as she and Lyndon campaigned across the state. Maybe her love of bluebonnets spurred her to work so hard for the Highway Beautification Act. Wherever that initial seed came from, it continued to flower after Lady Bird and Lyndon left Washington and returned to Texas.

Two photos show the multiple species and colors of Texas wildflowers.
Texas wildflowers aren’t only about bluebonnets. TxDOT nurtures more than 5,000 species of wildflowers and native grasses along Texas roadways. (See credits below).

The Wildflower Center

Once back on native soil, Lady Bird teamed up with her friend, the actress Helen Hayes, to create the National Wildflower Research Center, headquartered in Austin. “The founding of the National Wildflower Research Center was my way of repaying some of the debt for the delight and sustenance Nature has given me all my life,” Lady Bird said.

While research was important, many people wanted to see wildflowers in garden settings, learn more about how to use them in their own landscape plans, and to simply have a place where they could enjoy a natural setting surrounded by native plants. The research center acquired more land and renamed itself in honor of its founder and greatest cheerleader.

Today, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center sits on 237 acres of land just outside Austin. Not only is it the official botanic garden of Texas. It has become part of the University of Texas-Austin, allowing the important research on creating sustainable ecosystems with native plants to continue. Open to the public, it allows tourists, garden enthusiasts, and scientists to happily wander the botanic gardens and snap up bluebonnet earrings, books on creating home gardens, and other souvenirs.

Three scenic views of the stone buildings, water features, and native plantings of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.
The buildings and plantings of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center reflect and honor the local native Texas climate. (See credits below).

Just do it!

Has all of this made you hungry for a taste of the great outdoors? There are lots of ways you can enjoy Lady Bird’s beloved wildflowers. TxDOT has a wonderful online brochure with pictures of dozens of native Texas wildflowers you can scroll through. The Wildflower Center is open to the public, but you must purchase tickets in advance.

Better yet, here in Texas, there are many chapters of the Native Plant Society of Texas. Every spring and fall, during planting season, local chapters host native plant sales, so you can bring the wildflower beauty home to your own garden. Native plants aren’t just a Texas thing, though. Other states and nations have native plant advocates too. Find them online or go to your nearest garden center to see if they sell native plants.

Texas offers lots of bluebonnet trails that allow you to take a weekend drive through stunning landscape, and maybe take a few of those bluebonnet pictures yourself. Best of all, you can plant some natives in your garden for the birds and the bees. Enjoy the easy care of plants that evolved for your climate, annual rainfall, and critters. And thank Lady Bird Johnson for raising our awareness of the importance of cultivating native plants in our gardens and in our lives.

Pictures of two-lane roads that run past wildflowers that grow in a colorful carpet all the way up to the roads’ edge.
Bluebonnet trails carry cars full of people through flowery vistas. (See credits below).

IMAGE CREDITS

Weirdness Manager/Art Director Jan S. Gephardt (who assembled and designed all of the montages)  didn’t think one photo would be enough for any of these illustrations, so we have lots of people to thank this week!

Wonderful Wildflowers

The gorgeous bluebonnet vistas come from Dallas Culture Map (the one where the sun shows) and American Legend Homes (cloudier sunset). Many thanks to both! The wildflower “porn” continues near the end of the post. In the montage of two, multi-species, multicolored meadows, one came from Pixels and Ellie Teramoto (bluebonnets and Indian paintbrush). Thanks for the the multi-species close-up to Southern Botanical.

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center provided their logo. They’re also the ultimate source of the photo of their stone entry building. Jan found that via Tour Texas. She found the picture of the predominantly yellow plantings (also from the Center) via CBS Austin. Texas Highways provided the photo of the Center’s “Garden of Yes.” It’s designed for full-bodied fun by families with small children.

Finally, the bluebonnet trails photos come from Southlake Style (upper left) and 101 Highland Lakes and photographer Mark Stracke (lower right). The Comanche Chief News provided the photo in the background. Many thanks to all!

History in the Making

The photos for the “Lady Bird Politics” collection came from a variety of sources. The full-table photo of the signing of the Highway Beautification Act came from Scenic America. LBJ handing one of the signing pens to Lady Bird came from Texas Highways.

Jan was delighted to find the photo of Lady Bird addressing the White House Conference on Natural Beauty May 25, 1965, via FreightWaves. In the Oval Office photo by Yoichi Okamoto comes from the LBJ Library via Vanity Fair. It shows L-R: Juanita Roberts, Lady Bird, Lyndon, Charles Maguire, and Larry Temple. A New York Times review of Lady Bird Johnson: Hiding in Plain Sight provided the White House photo of Lady Bird on the phone.

For the “Before the Highway Beautification Act” photos, we thank Scenic America for the photo of a sign-cluttered commercial strip in Texas. Thanks also to the Colorado Virtual Library for a scene from Missouri. That one looks hauntingly familiar to the Weird Sisters. The somewhat idealized “After the Highway Beautification Act” photos came from two other sources. Stokely Outdoor provided the photo with mountains in the background. New Jersey Conservation gave us the rest stop with wildflowers.

“A Bone to Pick” by Jan S. Gephardt, envisioned as an ebook on the left and as a trade paperback on the right.

The story of A Bone to Pick’s Cover

By Jan S. Gephardt

It’s way too late for this to be a “reveal,” but the story of A Bone to Pick’s Cover deserves telling. Because it was not an easy—or short—journey!

Late update: I unfortunately timed this post just when Jody had retired her old website and hadn’t quite gotten her new one ready. If you’re reading this in late 2021, her links may not work.

The Artistry of Jody A. Lee

For most of my adult life it has been my secret fantasy that someday my books would have Jody A. Lee covers. She and I have a rather long history, and through it all, I’ve cherished an abiding love and admiration for both her, and her artwork. From the very beginning, long before it seemed like even the remotest possibility, I harbored a fantasy. I dreamed that one day Jody could illustrate a book I had written. It seemed like a crazy pipe dream, back then.

Jody and I met through ASFA, the Association of Science Fiction & Fantasy Artists, back in the 1980s. For quite some time in the ‘80s and early ‘90s, my husband Pascal and I acted as her agent for sending her fine art prints to science fiction conventions all over North America. I also created a couple of printed promotional brochures for her, in an early effort to help market her work directly to fantasy art lovers.

Even though those markets have changed, and changed, and changed again, We’ve been friends since then. In recent years we’d grown more distracted by family and career issues. But when I went to her and asked if she’d ever be willing to paint a cover for me, she said yes! My crazy-pipe-dream-fantasy actually came true. Twice, so far! How many people get to say that?

Left to right, some book covers by Jody A. Lee: “The Black Gryphon,” by Mercedes Lackey and Larry Dixon; “A Study in Sable,” “By the Sword,” and “The Hills Have Spies,” all by Mercedes Lackey.
Jody has range and vision and amazing skill. All of these cover paintings are ©Jody A. Lee (image source credits below).

A Memorable Moment in the Book

Jody reads the current draft of my book before she conceives the cover illustration. She builds it based on a memorable moment. In our first outing, for the cover for What’s Bred in the Bone we considered several scenes. Jody’s portrayal of Shiv and Rex in the Five-Ten worked best. But then came a bunch of those devilish details.

Jody doesn’t normally read a lot of science fiction, especially not “hard” sf. I’d had several readers who were old hands at sf go through the work and have little reported trouble with the descriptions. But Jody was having a devil of a time visualizing some of them. We went round and round on the helmet and background and how to portray them. What did I mean by this or that term? What did one of those things look like?

But eventually we arrived at this characteristic moment for Rex and Shiv, a man who was at that point in the story his SBI “frenemy.” And helping Jody visualize it helped me understand ways to (I hope) make the story more understandable and accessible. I like to think that others are intrigued by the idea of a sapient, talking police dog, even if they primarily read other genres. And maybe they will enjoy the stories more, thanks to my consciousness-raising from Jody.

Left to right, Rex in the Citron Flash; then Shiv and Rex in the Five-Ten.
Two highly characteristic moments from the novels. Artwork © 2020 and 2019 respectively, by Jody A. Lee.

A Fantasy Painter Tackles Futuristic Tech. Twice.

When you read A Bone to Pick you’ll almost certainly recognize “The Scene” that inspired the cover. That scene unfolded somewhat differently in the early (2019) draft Jody read, but it’s definitely still in there. Many of those who’ve read the manuscript as beta-readers or critique partners also pointed it out as a favorite moment. I was tickled by the idea that it would end up on the cover. And I think she has realized it beautifully.

But that beautiful painting didn’t happen without long, hard effort.

First problem: Jody knew she wanted to show Rex in the car. But what did a futuristic self-driving car on a space station look like? It needed to look sleek and science-fictional. The boring little auto-nav boxes that most people utilize on Rana wouldn’t “read” well on a book cover at all! That’s how the Citron Flash was born. In later drafts, it developed into something of a “character” in its own right. If you enjoy that minor subplot when you read the book, chalk up another “thank you” to Jody.

But this wasn’t the first time Jody had approached science fictional tech with initial trepidation. Remember Shiv’s helmet and his weapon on the first cover? That gun-looking thing is an EStee. It’s a dual-function service weapon used by law enforcement officers on Rana. But for a fantasy artist who specializes in painting swords, a futuristic firearm wasn’t part of the normal toolkit. For the underlying EStee design, she and I owe a debt of gratitude to Jeff Porter. He helped me with some initial character development artwork, and he reportedly enjoyed designing an EStee for me.

An early study for the Citron Flash, a detail of Shiv’s helmet and EStee from “What’s Bred in the Bone,” and Jeff Porter’s EStee prototype design.
Artwork is © 2020 and 2019 respectively by Jody A. Lee, and @2016 by Jeff Porter.

Envisioning the Inside of Rana Station

Unfortunately for Jody, that was not the most daunting science fictional aspect she’d have to tackle. The story of A Bone to Pick’s cover involves a particular, peculiar twist. Or should I say “upward curve”? The infernal perspective of the habitat wheel posed a far steeper challenge. This peculiarity of the toroidal space habitat landscape is so marked, it provided an opening for What’s Bred in the Bone, where it bothered the newly-transplanted, planet-reared Rex:

“A Bone to Pick” by Jan S. Gephardt, envisioned as an ebook on the left and as a trade paperback on the right.
Jan’s novel What’s Bred in the Bone, the first book in the XK9 “Bones” Trilogy, is available right now. Cover artwork © 2019 by Jody A. Lee.

“Damn it, no horizon should bend upward.

“XK9 Rex Dieter-Nell flinched away from the “scenic overlook.” He clenched his jaws on a quiet whimper, but the shudder down his back made his hackles prickle.

“His human partner, Charlie, met Rex’s eyes. I’m sorry. I know you don’t like it. His words flowed through their brain link on a wave of empathy.

“Rex lowered his head, wary of insulting his partner’s beloved home. . . . I guess we’ll see how things work out. He hazarded another look. Ugh. It was freaky-unnatural for a river to run down the wall at one end of the vista, as Wheel Two’s Sirius River did. Even worse for it to run back up the wall at the other.”

–Chapter One, “A Walk in the Park,” from What’s Bred in the Bone
Rex and Shady are silhouetted against the sky-windows of Rana Station.
Rex has since reconciled himself to the view. (background ©2020 by Jody A. Lee; Rex and Shady portrait heads ©2020 by Lucy A. Synk).

The infernal perspective of a habitat wheel

God bless Don Davis and Rick Guidice. They were the first artists to grapple with the technical complexity of painting a landscape as it would appear inside something similar to a massive bicycle wheel in space. They were an essential part of the early NASA Ames Research Center project. In the summer of 1975, they helped a think-tank of genius scientists and engineers develop detailed plans for a habitat in space based on a wheel-like structure, a basic plan first proposed by Konstantin Tsiolkovsky in 1903.

Drawing the thing from the outside was far easier than drawing or painting images of the inside. But Davis and Guidice brought it memorably to life. You’ll notice that two of the three are cutaway views. As the middle image from 1975 demonstrates (below), it’s really challenging to get such an image to “read” clearly. Bending their brains around the crazy view cannot have been easy. But ever since then we’ve had something of a “cheat sheet” to go by.

And also a challenge for their successors. If they could do it, then it can be done.

Visualizations of the interior of a toroid space habitat: Left to right, under construction and a landscape oof the interior; and a cutaway of the interior with homes and landscaped plants.
Visions from the Ames Center in 1975: © NASA; artwork left and center by Don Davis. Artwork at right by Rick Guidice.

An Alien Landscape

Early in the story of A Bone to Pick’s cover, I sent Jody these images from 1975 (she’d already found them for herself, too, I believe). When she sent her first developmental color study, she accounted for the “bent” horizon. Other aspects of Orangeboro’s topography, though? Unfortunately, not so much.

That was my bad. As a writer, it’s easy to airily refer to “the verdant terraces of the Sirius Valley” and go on with whatever is happening in the scene. But an artist has to show it. In considerably more detail than the writer must devote to the subject. No matter how “impressionistic” the artist’s technique may be. And you’ll have noticed already that Jody has a beautiful style, but it’s not notably “impressionistic.”

So, okay, Jan. What do you mean by “the verdant terraces of the Sirius Valley”?

Rana Station is supposed to be a self-sufficient space habitat that is home to more than eight million souls. Those are eight million souls who need not only room to live and work, but who also need to eat. Self-sufficient means they need to grow it all on-Station. And that means they need to maximize their food-growing space. Don Davis gave us a rolling, but basically single-level landscape that didn’t include nearly enough growing space for what I had in mind. Rana Station needed something different. This led me to agricultural terraces and river meanders.

At left, Philippine rice terraces. At right a satellite view of a meandering river.
Rice terraces in the Philippines create crop land on a steep hillside (photo © by Allyson Tachiki), and rivers naturally meander (photo by Google via Robert Hodgin).

The Terraces of the Sirius River Valley

I needed a “horizontal space multiplier,” if I was going to feed all those hungry fictional mouths. I also needed to account for some of the natural patterns we know will develop over time, because: physics. Humans have been “making more arable land” for centuries, using agricultural terraces in naturally-steep terrain.

And even from early on, it was pretty clear that there’d be a river running through the torus. If you water the plants in gravity, where does the water go? Check the Don Davis landscape above from 1975.

Moreover, if water flows, it naturally meanders. My Rana Stationers would have to allow for that, too. I also realized that an undulating valley structure, winding in and out, rather than running arrow-straight along the insides of the torus also would be a “horizontal surface multiplier.” For an unscientific example of this, fold a paper fan. Your fan has the same surface as a flat piece of paper, but the flat paper is much longer. The folds condense the surface area.

Thus, I told Jody not only were “The verdant terraces of the Sirius Valley” built like giant stair steps. They also rippled in and out. So, is that clear enough?

Say, what???

The story of A Bone to Pick’s cover grew kind of complex at this point. The superb horticulturalists of Rana Station don’t tolerate unproductive weeds in any precious cubic centimeter of Ranan soil. But at this point Jody and I wandered off into the tall, jungle-thick, metaphorical weeds of trying to communicate with each other. No. it was not clear enough. Not at all.

Frustrated, I resorted to the same expedient Davis and Guidice had, back in 1975: I started making pictures. More accurately, I started making models. I created what I thought were interesting simulations of the perspective. But my models still didn’t communicate what Jody needed.

Left-to-right, Jody’s first color study for the cover of “A Bone to Pick,” Jan’s photo of the maquettes she’d constructed, and Jan’s cut-and-paste mashup of Jody’s Rex-in-car sketch over photos of Jan’s maquettes.
At left is Jody’s first color study. Center and right are Jan’s attempts to use 3-D paper maquettes to describe the terraces, switchbacks, and a model of Corona Tower cut-and-pasted behind the sketch of Rex in the car. No, they didn’t make sense to Jody, either. (artwork © 2020 by Jody A. Lee and Jan S. Gephardt, respectively).

Something Like Wavy Layer Cakes

It’s a good thing we had started working on this project well before I needed it, or the story of A Bone to Pick’s cover might have turned tragic at this point. It took me a long time to produce a drawing that more clearly communicated what I needed to convey to Jody (see below left). It’s not great art, and since my studio was mostly in boxes while we put in a new floor, I wasn’t able to develop any kind of perspective for the buildings beyond “eyeballing” the angles. It was crude. It was stiff. Frankly, it was an embarrassing drawing.

But once I sent it, we were finally on ever-more-synchronized wavelengths. I had begun to fear we’d never get there. That she’d tell me to take my stupid job and shove it. But Jody is a pro, and she stuck to it. And when it comes to visualizing something that is purely hypothetical and may never exist in real life, I guess you can’t beat a fantasy artist.

I was startled and distracted by how much my terraced hills looked like layer cakes, but by now Jody had a firm vision and a much less meandering route to the finish line. She took things masterfully from there. We exchanged a series of sketches, and she got to work on the final painting.

Left to right, Jan’s first, stiff sketch in a sketchbook; Jody’s response, based on it; and Jan’s refinement on the idea, with more terraces, in response.
A “conversation” between artists: evolving views of the “verdant terraces of the Sirius Valley.” Artwork © 2020 by Jan S. Gephardt, Jody A. Lee, and Jan S. Gephardt,, respectively.

The story of A Bone to Pick’s Cover

So that’s the story of A Bone to Pick’s cover. I hope that this collaboration has not only produced a cover to make you smile (and buy my book???). I hope that the whole process of working through questions of “exactly what do you mean by that?” and “what does that look like?” has made A Bone to Pick a better book.

You can find out for yourself it it did, on (or after) the release date, September 15, 2021. If you’re interested, you can pre-order a Kindle version in either the USA or the UK. After release, it’ll be available from a variety of booksellers in a variety of formats.

“A Bone to Pick” by Jan S. Gephardt, envisioned as an ebook on the left and as a trade paperback on the right.
Release day is September 15, 2021! Pre-orders available. Cover artwork is © 2020 by Jody A. Lee.

IMAGE AND OTHER CREDITS:

The excerpt from What’s Bred in the Bone is © 2019 by Jan S. Gephardt, published by Weird Sisters Publishing LLC. All rights reserved.

Of course, the vast majority of the artwork in this post is © by Jody A. Lee. The EStee sketch is © 2016 by Jeff Porter. There also are some sketches that are © 2020 by Jan S. Gephardt. And the “head shot” portraits of Rex and Shady are © 2020 by Lucy A. Synk.

The book covers at the beginning come from a variety of sources. That first cover, for The Black Gryphon, is courtesy of Amazon. The covers for A Study in Sable and By the Sword are courtesy of Goodreads. And the cover for The Hills Have Spies is from Penguin Random House.

Imagery and all kinds of rich information from the NASA Ames Research Center makes my life as a science fiction writer infinitely easier, and continues to yield more treasure each time I explore it. And I can’t begin to express the impact the artwork of Don Davis and Rick Guidice has had, both on my work, and on the conception of Rana Station. Seriously, guys. It’s a debt I can’t ever repay.

Farther down, the photo of the Batad Rice Terraces in Banaue, Philippines is © by Allyson Tachiki via Flickr. It offers a great example of how humans have learned to “make more land” out of very steep terrain. The satellite photo of an unidentified river meander originated from Google. But I found it on Robert Hodgin’s fascinating exploration of river meanders. Do yourself a favor and check out that web page when you have a minute. It’s pretty amazing.

The looming rose bush that inspired this post.

Great-Grandpa!

By G. S. Norwood

Family Weirdness

My sister and I call ourselves the Weird Sisters, but the truth is, we are not the only eccentric people on our family tree. Not by a country mile. Trust me on this. There was, for instance, our grandmother, Ethel Briscoe Sherrell. The story of her father – our great-grandpa – and the hand-tinted photograph of an elderly farm wife with a giant rose bush, is only one example of our family weirdness.

A Picture of Pearl

Fat pink roses.
The photo showed a woman standing in front of a rose bush, covered with big, deep pink roses. (Photo: G. S. Norwood).

As long as I can remember, an old-fashioned photograph hung over Grandma Sherrell’s bed. It had a fancy wooden frame with a domed glass cover. The photo showed a woman in a plain house dress and apron, her hair pulled back in a bun, standing in front of a tall, awkwardly-shaped rose bush, covered with big, deep pink roses.

The photo must have been black and white to begin with, but my grandmother had paid to have it enlarged and hand tinted. All the other colors had faded over the years, but those fat, pink roses still glowed out of the picture, catching my eye every time. Finally, when I was in college, I asked Grandma Sherrell the history behind the photo.

“That’s the only picture I have of my mother,” she told me.

Family History

Two photos of Grandma Ethel Sherrell, one with Grandpa Jack Sherrell.
Ethel and Jack Sherrell, unlikely source of family weirdness (Sherrell Family Archive).

Ethel was the oldest child of Ira and Pearl Thornton Briscoe. Born deep in the hills of south-central Missouri in 1904, Ethel assumed the traditional family role of helping her mother care for her seven younger brothers and sisters. She felt very close to her mother, but never cared much for her father. She told me once he was mean.

But what was the story of the rose bush? Even back then, I loved roses, and I knew my grandmother had tried to raise a few of the thorny, finicky hybrid teas that passed for commercially available roses in mid-century Missouri. The bush in the picture didn’t look like any rose I’d ever seen. True shrub roses had mostly fallen out of fashion when I was a kid, and weren’t readily available in the nurseries and garden centers around Springfield.

“My mother planted that bush down by the front gate,” my grandmother recalled. “She loved it. It had the prettiest pink flowers, and always smelled so good.”

Rose History

I could well imagine. A rose like that might offer a little oasis of beauty in the otherwise hard life of a hill country farm wife with a growing family to care for. The roses we now call antiques, like Teddy Roosevelt’s reputed favorite, Duchesse de Brabant, were fashionable shrubs around the turn of the past century. Country women often started new bushes from rooted cuttings passed from friend to friend.

The rose and the Roosevelt: Duchesse de Brabant Rose and Teddy Roosevelt.
The antique shrub rose Duchesse de Brabant was reportedly Teddy Roosevelt’s favorite. (Photos: Annie’s Annuals/Malcolm Manners, and The White House).

Tragedy and Revenge

But then my grandmother’s story took a darker turn.

“One day my daddy took a notion to do some damn fool thing. Move the fence. Plant another row of beans. Something. He cut down my mother’s rose bush without even asking her.”

At this point, the story began to take on fairy tale elements for me. Didn’t Ira know you should never cut down a beloved thorn bush? That’s a sure-fire way to incur the wrath of the fairies. Or your wife.

My grandmother nodded to her photo. “My mother loved that rose bush, and never forgave him for cutting it down. In the original photo, my mother and my father both were standing there by the gate, where the rose bush used to be. It’s the only photo I have of my mother, but I never liked my father. I took the photo to the man who did enlargements and hand tinting. I asked him to blow the picture up, do the hand tinting, and paint that rose bush back where it belonged, right over the top of Daddy.”

Well.

I was both thrilled and appalled by Grandma Sherrell’s story. Appalled by the symbolic patricide of replacing her father with her mother’s lost rose bush. But also, a little thrilled to know that I was descended from such ruthlessness. Nobody ever said Grandma Sherrell was an easy woman. Yes, she was first in line to help cook church dinners and volunteer for the Navy Mothers Club. At the same time, she was sometimes impossible to please, and always quick to decide which of her acquaintances would be “in the Kingdom” come Judgement Day.

Great-Grandpa!

When Grandma died, Jan and I both wanted the picture, but our great-aunt Maxine—Ethel’s youngest sister—called dibs because it was the only photo she had of her mother, too. We have no idea where the photo is now, with Maxine long gone. The story of the rose bush, however, has stuck with both of us. And just the other day, as I was taking photos of my own rose bush, Zephirine Drouhin, I framed the shot, then looked up from my camera in shocked recognition.

The looming rose bush that inspired this post.
G.’s own Zephrine Drouhin rose. (Photo: G. S. Norwood).

There, looming more than six feet tall on my phone screen, was a narrow, awkwardly-shaped rose bush, covered in brilliant, fragrant pink blooms.

“Great-Grandpa!” I cried.

IMAGE CREDITS:

The Duchesse de Brabant rose photo is courtesy of “Annie’s Annuals” and photographer Malcolm Manners. The photo of Teddy Roosevelt is from The White House. The photos of Jack and Ethel Sherrell are from the Sherrell Family archive, as noted. Photos of G.’s roses (which followers of this blog may remember from last week’s post) are by G. S. Norwood. All montages assembled by Jan S. Gephardt.

This is how the strong survive, a montage of happy roses.

Only the Strong Survive

By G. S. Norwood

I have blogged about my flower garden before. Heaven knows my Facebook friends are tired of the new iris and rose photos I post every spring. But this year it felt a little different, stepping out into my garden after the Great Texas Deep Freeze of this past February. When our temperatures dipped into single digits, I was afraid everything in my garden would die. With temperatures like that, only the strong survive.

The once-verdant plant stand is a disaster zone after the freeze.
The patio plant stand in happier days (at left). Today it’s a total loss. (G. S. Norwood).

Total Loss

Let’s get through the painful part first. My back patio plant stand, which has been thriving in fairly deep shade for at least the last five summers, is a total loss. I’ve managed to overwinter three types of ferns, and even some tender begonias, for the past two years. They all bit the dust this winter. Even though I covered them, they weren’t strong enough to survive snow and sub-zero nights.

The only up-side is that I now have a chance to clean out old pots and repaint the weathered boards I used to build the plant stand. The boards still need another coat of paint, but then it’s off to the nurseries for me. Fingers crossed that there will be anything left after all the other gardeners in the county turned out to replace the zillion plants they’d lost to the freezing temperatures.

If only the strong survive, the verdict is still out on the flame acanthus.
In happier days, the flame acanthus attracted hummingbirds to the window outside my home office. Now it’s mostly dead, with a few inappropriate volunteer trees mixed in. (G. S. Norwood).

Looking Dead

Out front there looked to be some obvious casualties. The creeping lemon thyme and the delightful blackfoot daisy that once spilled over the edge of my planter box were both undeniably dead, as was the dwarf butterfly bush I’d intended to plant in a bare spot last fall.

Other perennials, including three flame acanthus bushes, a Texas sage, my cluster of rock roses, and a newly planted abelia looked dead, but still had some spring in their twigs. I might have to do some pruning, but there is a chance they can come back from the root.

The clematis vine, on the trellis next to the front steps, also looked dead. But it always looks dead over the winter. I decided to hold out some hope that these plants were, to quote Miracle Max in The Princess Bride, “only mostly dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive.”

Built of sterner stuff than the Texas natives, the clematis bounced back.
The clematis vine was only mostly dead, but quickly came back to glorious life. (G. S. Norwood).

Only the Strong Survive

In contrast to the Texas natives like the flame acanthus and the blackfoot daisy, my roses apparently loved the cold snap. They have come roaring back this spring, with thick foliage, lots of blossoms, and nary a hint of black spot. Even the Snow Witch rose that got accidentally mowed over is blooming like never before. They brighten my days and perfume my yard. I’ll let them speak for themselves.

This is how the strong survive, a montage of happy roses.
The roses came roaring back. Clockwise from upper left: Maggie, Zephrine, Carnival Glass, Marie Daly (pink), Sweet Pegge, and the return of the previously-mowed Snow Witch. (G. S. Norwood).

Iris Festival

Like the roses, my iris are enjoying a great spring. Iris grow happily in colder climates. February’s freeze seems to have invigorated them. Old favorites like Titan’s Glory and War Chief are blooming lushly. I even have blooms this spring from rhizomes I planted years ago but never saw a flower from, including the spectacular Cantina and Medici Prince.

If only the strong survive, here’s a gallery of my iris heroes.
My iris are having a great spring. Clockwise from upper left: Diamond Lake, Cantina, Medici Prince, Titan’s Glory, Cascadian Rhythm, No Count Blues, Blue Heritage, and War Chief. (G. S. Norwood).

The Garden Evolves

I’m not going to tell you that I’m glad we had such cold weather this past winter. Never mind my plants; 151 Texans died because of that cold snap. We don’t need that again. But the freeze did give me the chance to reassess my garden. In the weeks ahead I will trim back the plants that got overgrown. Shape and reshape the overall composition of the borders out front. I’ll give big plants more room, root out volunteer trees that are in completely the wrong place, and make the whole thing just a little bit closer to my ideal. Because no garden is ever completely finished. A garden is a living thing that keeps the gardener busy, and happy, for a lifetime.

IMAGES

Many thanks to author G. S. Norwood for the photos she took of her garden. All are ©2020-2021 by G. S. Norwood. If you wish to use them, kindly attribute the photographer and provide a link back to this post. G. is the author of the urban fantasy “Deep Ellum” stories, set in the historic Deep Ellum neighborhood of Dallas, Texas. The montages were prepared by Jan S. Gephardt.

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