Garden Inspirations

Quail Ridge Garden Club has inspired me to plant gardens and play piano. This year I was invited to perform a musical review of this year’s meetings for our April 12 luncheon (instead of playing background music for a fashion show, as I had before). I have written about arboretums and gardens in London, Coral Gables, and Edinburgh, but preparing this program made me think about the sparks I find between gardens and music.

At our first meeting of the season in November, Kimberly Helms demonstrated how to choose, plant, and sustain succulents. I went right home and planted succulents in a dish Steve’s mother gave me long ago. Relatives in Dallas recognized the tallest plant as their Reunion Tower. For the musical review, I pondered what kind of music might represent these plants. Succulent, from the Latin sucus = juice or sap, often describes a nice, juicy steak. The closest musical equivalent I could think of to a succulent steak was a richly Romantic Chopin Prelude. I chose the one in A Major as my first number; it has a recurring rhythm that expresses “I planted succulents.”

At our December meeting, President Connie Kellner and Vice-President Mandie Figurelli showed how to take ordinary holiday items, such as balls, greens, tinsel, tiny houses, and snow, and put them together in extraordinary arrangements. Their delightful centerpieces reminded me of a collection I have by pianist Lee Evans, Jazz Up Your Christmas. What fun to play “Deck the Halls” with different accents and syncopations. When Connie confided that her favorite piano piece is “Music Box Dancer” by Frank Mills, I added that 1974 pop song to the program.

January’s program was at Mounts Botanical Garden in West Palm Beach, where a volunteer naturalist introduced us to the wonders of this garden, using botanical terms frequently. One term that caught my attention was heliotrope, from the Greek helio = sun and trope = turning, thus, a plant that turns to the sun. A small, fragrant flower in the borage family is a heliotrope. It is light purple, the same color as the Heliotrope Room on the second floor of the Flagler Museum in Palm Beach. Scott Joplin and Louis Chauvin collaborated on the 1907 rag, Heliotrope Bouquet, which I played next. Here is a recording by a fine pianist I once had coach my students, Alexander Peskanov.

For the month of romance, our February program was devoted to Growing Roses in South Florida. Geoff Coolidge, who advises Wendy and Peter Jones on the lovely rose garden at their Meadowlark villa, explained which roses do well here and why. My musical response was to play “The Rose” by Amanda McBroom. In 1979 Bette Midler made these lyrics famous:

Some say love, it is a river that drowns the tender reed.

Some say love, it is a razor that leaves your soul to bleed.

Some say love, it is a hunger, an endless aching need.

I say love, it is a flower, and you its only seed…

…When the night has been too lonely and the road has been too long,

and you think that love is only for the lucky and the strong.

Just remember in the winter far beneath the bitter snows

Lies the seed that with the sun’s love, in the spring becomes the rose.

Claude Monet was the subject of our March meeting. Becky Wyatt, Quail Ridge artist, gave a talk about Monet’s paintings, particularly ones done in his garden in Giverny. When she asked for a show of hands, many members indicated they had visited Giverny, as Steve and I did last September. Then she showed a video, Monet’s Palate, with famous chefs recreating the wonderful meals he enjoyed there with family and friends. Yum!

Monet’s 1873 painting, Impression, Sunrise, inspired the term Impressionism. In 1888 Debussy composed a musical impression, Arabesque No. 1. In ballet, an arabesque is a graceful line formed by a human figure.  In Islamic art, which prohibits depiction of human figures, it is a flowing decorative motif. I love the interlocking, flowing lines in Debussy’s Arabesque, played here by Aldo Ciccolini.


In shifting venues our Garden Club year was one of improvisation, with considerable variety. Garden Club programs inspired me to dig in the dirt and to play the piano; they set off sparks that led me to practice and play Chopin, jazz, ragtime, pop, and Debussy. We’re all looking forward to meetings in our new Club House next year, where we just might sing these new words I wrote to an old song, as we did last Wednesday.

Quail Ridge Garden Club Song   Tune: Edelweiss

Quail Ridge Garden Club broadens our education.

Shrubbery, trees, flowers, bees:  sources of inspiration.

Horticulture, ecology, gardening, arranging—

Quail Ridge Garden Club fills our lives with beauty.


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