The Lodge at The Clearing, Door County, Wisconsin, c.1980.

 

 

 

 

 

Director's Note: Turning Indoors
by Jo Ann Nathan

 

 

 

"During winter the wind comes in crisp and invigorating from across the prairies. At this season of the year the landscape assumes a dreary look to many who do not see and cannot understand. But to others, when the gray arms of the cottonwood are illuminated by the January sun and silhouetted against the blue sky, when sleeping buds are covered with frost sparkling in the winter sun, when the dormant life of millions of flowers is covered with a blanket of snow, when rich plowed fields await the seed that is to feed the millions, and gray and lavender clouds beckon you on over the prairies, the landscape sings a song of rich tonal beauty, a great prelude to dawn, a reminder before the resurrection of life. Our northern gardens should be as fitting in winter as in any other season of the year. In a garden that is covered with a white blanket of snow there is a distinct beauty..."
Jens Jensen, Sifting

 

Jensen was an incredibly effective spokesman for his beliefs. Using lofty phrases, he could move people to increase their interaction with the natural world, to appreciate and value the Midwestern landscape, perhaps even in winter.. His words are beautiful and inspiring. We will reproduce many of them in this, and subsequent issues. Decide for yourself if they can overcome the winter blues and come close to duplicating the pleasure of actually being in nature. A crucial issue for the Jens Jensen Legacy Project is how to convey the magic of Jensen's work in the dead of winter when it is buried under snow, or looking dead and exhausted under dingy gray skies. His landscapes can feed our spirits and, thereby, contribute to the mental health of our communities. But, for those of us who cannot enjoy them as much when we are freezing cold and the flowers and animals are all hiding, we have the option of turning indoors. Fortunately, there is a marvelous example of Jensen's work that is indoors. It is the Garfield Park Conservatory, particularly its fern room which is the best intact Jensen design, probably because it is indoors. Go see it. When you walk in from the bracing winter scene outside , the moisture in the air will remind you of summer. You will immediately notice the smell of living plants that has been missing from our senses for several months, and you will see the lush green vegetation and hear the sound of water falling over rocky ledges.

Not surprisingly, we are featuring Garfield Park and its famous conservatory in this issue. Jens Jensen related his experiences building the Garfield Park Conservatory in an enjoyable article which appeared in the Saturday Evening Post in 1930. We are delighted to reprint portions of it including the engaging story about the creation of the waterfall in the Fern Room. For a current look at this "jewel" of the Chicago Park District, Lisa Roberts, Director of Conservatories, gives us her perspective.

The Lodge at The Clearing, Door County, Wisconsin, c. 1980

Robert Grese, Professor of landscape architecture at the University of Michigan,director of the Nichols Arboretum in Ann Arbor, major Jens Jensen expert, and writer extroradinaire for many books and publications including The Living Green, continues his three-part series on the Conservation Roots of the Prairie Style. Part II addresses design specifics, i.e. how the conservation ethic was translated on the ground, how designers sold this idea in terms of an actual design. He will point to some interesting examples both outdoors and in (the Garfield Park Conservatory). We are also turning indoors in other ways by providing some suggestions for warm winter reading about gardening and the people who were majors players in America's landscape story. For pure fun there is an excerpt from the University of Wisconsin's newspaper, Wisconsin Week, about the latest Jens Jensen to study landscape architecture. Read on and stay warm.