There’s one botanic garden that I’ve been meaning to visit for sometime. Smith College Botanic Garden is part of Smith College, a liberal arts college for women located in Northampton in Western Massachusetts. Now that spring is here, visiting this garden seems to be the perfect way to enjoy the season. The botanic garden is situated inside Smith College campus. This college was founded in 1871 through the endowment from Sophia Smith who wanted to use her inheritance to give better education for women and that of equal to what men receive. Smith College Botanic Garden was established in 1895 to provide teaching, public education, scientific research and also the beauty of the place. There are glass houses in the garden built in 1895 and they’re fascinating and I will talk about them in another post specifically. These glass houses is what attracted me to visit the garden.
On my way toward the garden, to my delight, I saw several saucer magnolia trees in bloom. The sound of trickling fountain from a nearby pond with a beautiful female bronze statue was heard mixing with the sound of the birds. On the side of the pathway toward the glass houses lay a beautiful rock garden. This first rock garden in North America was established in 1897 copying the rock garden at the Royal Botanic Garden at Kew in London. I stayed there for the longest time admiring the lay out of the garden that resembles the environments of high altitude area and the tundra. Some of the plants have small and succulent leaves to conserve water, rather large flowers to attract pollinators, or roots that go deeper into the underground stream. Some have short life cycle adapting to the drought season. It is a remarkable beauty to see some of the plants nestled between the rocks. It’s sort of beauty and the beast inspired.
Being in any garden, for that matter in Smith College Botanic Garden was a wonderful experience for me. Not only because I needed to take a break from the busy sometime mundane days, but also to learn about the garden. I always love learning about botany, you see. After admiring the Rock Garden, I went to the glass houses and astonished by the collections of plants being cared there. A lot of them are tropical plants and they thrive beautifully. I know some of the tropical plants having seen and planted them in my mother’s yard. She would’ve loved to come to the glass houses and probably would be amused seeing her plants are growing in a four-season country. When one of the gardener informed me that the garden would be closed at 4PM, I then headed to the garden office. I met a nice lady there who told me about another garden on the other side of campus and I’d love to visit it in June when the roses are in bloom because they have rose arches there. I ended my visit with sitting on a bench near the perennial border just relaxing even though the wind became pretty strong and chilly, waiting until the time for me to go to meet my daughter to see her orchestra concert in nextdoor city.
Old and historic places are my favorite kind of places to visit. It is one among many interesting places that I’d love to see up close. During our short visit in North Carolina in February , we stopped by a wonderful historic place called OLD SALEM. The historic town of Salem was established in 1766 by Moravians – one among the oldest Protestant denominations – who originated from the Czech Republic. Old Salem boasted a remarkable architecture and attention to details that are still exist today. Three-quarters of the buildings in the old town are the original constructions. Salem used to be the center of the administrative, professional, craft, trader and spiritual activities which in present day is immaculate and simply wonderful. Rows of old houses and shops line up the main street. Several houses are available to rent. Can you imagine living in an old and historic house like the one on the 1st photo? That house is called the Fourth House which is the oldest home that still stands in Salem. The German style house was built in 1768 using timber and bricks and has 3 rooms which is known as the “Flurküchenhaus” plan. The first tenants who lived in the Fourth House were a saddle maker and his wife who rented it from the church.
The other point of interest in Old Salem that we visited was the Winkler Bakery. It wasn’t hard to entice anyone to come to the shop where the aroma of fresh baked goods wafting in the air. Visitors were greeted by the pieces of sugar cake that were waiting on a table at the dining area. A lady who wore an 1800’s-styled clothing, served the cake while a man who also wore similar clothing style prepared another batch from the wood-fired oven that’s part of the bakery. The aroma was so heavenly! My kids and I couldn’t stop getting one more piece of the cake and there was no rule of how many you were allowed to get. So it’s all fair. There were several choices of breads and other baked goods sold at the bakery including the sugar cake. Although the flavor of the bread they sold wasn’t as good as the one they baked in the 200-year-old wooden-fired oven. The charred part of the top part of the bread was a distinct flavor and gave the uniqueness. It’s true, the modern oven can’t beat that of an antique one.
We opted to merely walked about this old town and not going on specific tour visiting each of the main historical interest. The town is a live museum where to get into several buildings you need a ticket for it. But we didn’t buy any ticket due to the time constraint and the vast area of the town that we thought it would need an all day to spend. Visitors are free to roam around the peaceful neighborhood, though would be unable to go inside the ticketed buildings. My kids and I also went to the souvenir shops there that were among the small shops that lined up the main street. The weather wasn’t the prettiest and it’s still winter. It was pretty bleak that day. We thought of coming back here again maybe during summer or fall to be able to enjoy the garden and the outdoor activities set up there for the visitors. It must be lovely when the flowers are blooming and the gardens are thriving. There are lots of places that I would love to see in Old Salem. I hope one day I get to visit this fascinating place again for longer time.
In this part of Tarrytown, you won’t find the Headless Horseman mentioned in Washington Irving’s story, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. In this part of Washington Irving’s story is his Sunnyside home and what an exquisite home it is. I took the kids on one weekend to this small cottage that garnered the artsy-touch of Washington Irving. The house is nestled behind some wooden area behind the gift shop. We were welcomed at the gift shop with the rest of the visitors to buy the ticket admission. Then at a certain time, a tour guide wearing a hoop skirt in small purple flowers motif and a knitted hair cap with two long purple bows, greeted us and took us to Sunnyside. Along the path that we walked through, we passed a huge tree that is more than 300 years old. It guards the surrounding like an ancient grandfather. The short distance that we took was filled with the guide’s stories and informations, not to mention, the twittering of the birds.
The house that Washington Irving called home used to be a farmhouse owned by a Dutch-American man, that he bought in 1835. When we came upon the house, I was stunned. Sunnyside is not as sunny as I thought it would, perhaps it’s because of the wisteria vines that draped the house that Washington Irving himself chose to plant. When we came, the wisteria has already bloomed, so what we saw was more like overgrowth rather than something beautiful. The entangled, crisscrossing vines, toppled on top of another, give the house an added flair of an antique building. The influences of Dutch-Colonial Revival, Tudor Revival and Scottish Gothic, was proof of how deeply Washington Irving understood about the architecture of Sunnyside. The guide took us inside the house and we went into room by room, including Washington Irving’s study where he acknowledged as the Father of American Literature. Sunnyside is a quaint house with a beautiful view of the Hudson River, that one time noted Charles Dickens as its guest. Each corner of the house possesses its unique story just like the master of the house, the great Washington Irving.