Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Cheekwood Re-visited

I made another visit to Cheekwood Botanical Gardens and Museum this past week. I’m not sure where other people choose to enter this gorgeous park but my gateway of choice is featured here, in this photo. It’s my personal tradition to pass between these two famous sphinx statues and this visit had to begin like my last. I had high hopes of enjoying a day off from work, and my passing by these riddle masters was, and is always, essential.

 For those who have read my previous posts, ‘The Giver Treehouse’ and ‘Cheekwood Gardens’, you are aware of the history of these two mysterious lion ladies. I had been perplexed by these greeting sphinxes and, after excessive online research, had been unable to determine their origin.

Stubbornly, I then proceeded to utilize every available search engine known to man before exhaustedly arriving at an obvious conclusion-

“I should ask Cheekwood.”

 Emailed Cheekwood. They emailed back. I got my answer.

Many thanks to the quiz champion, Christine, who sent back an answer faster and with more accuracy than the Internet! I officially nominate you for Employee of the Month for being so awesome. :)

For those of you who haven’t got a clue what I’m talking about- just know that Christine is awesome and so is Cheekwood. As for the sphinx mystery, see previous posts so that you may be endowed with Christine’s garden trivia knowledge. One more thing for the newbies…

THIS is where you should start when you first arrive to Cheekwood. Walk past the sphinx statues and begin your stroll after they fill you with child-like wonder and curiosity. They promise you’ll begin your visit here again next time.  :)

Across grassy fields that somehow remained green during this summer’s heat wave, I arrived atop a hill to take in this view. On previous visits, more kids than I could count had surrounded this glassy lake. Today, however, a few families gathered near the water to enjoy its refreshing and cooling breeze. I was thankful that I chose this day to re-visit one of my favorite spots in the park. I prefer to go here on days that are less frequented by visitors- not because I don’t like crowds, but the absence of them affords time to oneself, amid beautiful surroundings that may be more thoroughly enjoyed. Here’s where you should stand, newbie visitors, to enjoy a spectacular view of Tennessee’s landscapes. On second thought, this is my standing spot. You can choose one nearby. I called this one first. Official ‘Dibbs’ on this location, friends. :)

Uh, oh…I laid claim to my standing spot too soon. I forgot that this is another of my favorite observational viewpoints. I guess this one is now up for grabs, since I got greedy about my first hilltop, park-overlook spot.  Trade-sies? We can barter for these, or maybe it’s best to act like grown-ups and share standing spots. We can work out some sort of schedule, right? First-timers, I’m afraid seniority (and Cheekwood members) must be given first preference in the favorite-spot-claiming process. Don’t worry, though- there’s room for everyone here. There are also more views to enjoy- You’ll find your favorites. If they also happen to be my chosen locations, I’ll be a big girl by sharing the view with you.

The Garden of Eden…Cheekwood’s ' The Color Garden' is the next best thing, in my opinion.  One sign in this garden reads as follows:

"The first element of garden design most people notice first is color. Color creates an emotional response, sets a mood, catches our attention. This is true in home decor, fashion design and advertising.

This garden explores the use of color in the garden through annuals, perennials, trees, shrubs and vines. Nashville's long growing season and mild winters allow several changes in the display of annuals during the year, such as chrysanthemums in autumn, cool weather plants like pansies and tulips in spring, and a variety of annuals in the summer, including tropical plants.

The first section of the garden has beds with sweeping curves and a gently sloping lawn. As visitors enter the garden they see the plantings first at a distance, to appreciate the plants purely for their colors, and then close up, to enjoy a more detailed view. This area is followed by a series of arches, on which a variety of vines grow. The arches direct the eye to the foal point of an antique urn. On the lower walkway is a mixture of shrubs and trees, serving as a transition from the brightly colored garden above to the subtle beauty of the Water Garden and Japanese Garden."

Japanese Garden's stone path leads down a peaceful trail that I always enjoy.

On a hot day, you’re likely to find me here. Shaded by tall stalks of bamboo, this pathway is afforded cool shelter from mid-day’s blistering sunshine.

Part of my Cheekwood visitor routine involves taking pictures- LOTS of pictures. I’m prone to leaving the garden with more photos than I’m willing to publicly admit. I had to look like Mr. Gadget when I shot this photo through hovering bamboo stalks- I’d brought every camera I had and tried each one to see which would best capture sunlight, sky, and leaves.

Kneeling down on the shaded path, I emptied my pockets and scurried around on the ground as I aimed every lens I had towards my target.  My pile of pocket-contents either would lead one to believe I was insane or just incredibly prepared. I prefer the latter depiction, though all that was missing to complete my Inspector-esque look was a trench coat.

Visiting this garden on a less populated day prevented me from worrying about what passersby thought of my strange photographic methods as I lay down on the trail with my camera angled upwards to the sky.  Inspector Gadget would be proud.
Anyone else who may have happened upon me here would probably change their route, to avoid having to explain my less than normal park behaviors to their children. I wouldn’t blame them…

‘Mommy, why is that lady laying down there? What is that huge pile of stuff that she had in her pockets?’…
’She’s taking pictures, Sweetie. Let’s go back to the tree houses now…hurry.’

Luckily, no such awkward behavioral explanations had been necessary during this visit. Being alone on this trail is magical and one’s appreciation for natural and exotic surroundings can quite easily be mistaken for creepiness. Still, you should try it- life’s too short to worry about looking weird- Especially when you’re thoroughly enjoying yourself!

I felt as if I’d been transported to another world. This garden creates a sense of wonderment that has to be experienced for one to fully comprehend. In this beautiful garden of culture and mystery, I’d been taken far from Tennessee- to a unique place where both bamboo and bonsai graciously welcomed me.

I can’t help but wonder how park employees provide care to these non-native plants. To satisfy my curiosity, I’ll save myself some research hours and ask Cheekwood first this time. I imagine that the majestic height of bamboo requires meticulous maintenance of a skilled gardener. I believe an email inquiry must now be initiated…I’ll get back to you on what I find! Perhaps our former Cheekwood trivia master will assist to enlighten us again. (BAMBOO INFO...TO BE CONTINUED.)

While we await Cheekwood’s response to our bamboo question, a sign in The Japanese Garden can provide some historical information. One sign read as follows:

"As seen from the viewing pavilion, Shomu-en is designed to re-create in the mind an early morning mist rising between the distant hills, a scene often noted in Japan and Tennessee.

Shomu-en was developed with generous contributions from many donors including Mrs. George-Weesner in memory of her parents, Mr. and Mrs. Fred F. Shaw.


As summer eventually ends, so must Cheekwood’s acclaimed tree house exhibition. I had to go once more before this feature ends, to bid farewell to some of my favorite features. This rainbow fish had been one of my personal favorite tree houses, with The Giver Treehouse ranked marginally above all others. (To me, anyway.) If you haven’t had a chance to discover your favorite house, there’s still time- You’ve got to HURRY! All exhibits are incredible and this one shouldn’t be missed, friends. Plop down on the bench here to take in a unique view of The Rainbow Fish Treehouse before it’s too late!

The little blue fish whizzed through the ocean with his scale flashing, so it didn’t take long before the Rainbow Fish was surrounded by the other fish. Everyone wanted a glittering scale. The Rainbow Fish shared his scales left and right. And the more he gave away, the more delighted he became. When the water around him filled with glimmering scales, he at last felt at home among the other fish.
-The Rainbow Fish, By: Marcus Pfister

Cheekwood Museum of Art

The Walden Treehouse is here to stay! Hip-hip-hooray!

• Walden Treehouse 
DESIGN FIRM: Pfeffer Torode Architecture
TEAM MEMBERS: Jamie Pfeffer, Jonathan Torode, and Don Torode
Fabrication Firm: Vintage Millworks
Team Members: Aaron Dunn and James Dunn
Construction Firm: Dunaway Construction
Team Members: Joe Dunaway, Andrew Dunaway, Matt Sayers, and Chad Scurlock

“If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.” – Henry David Thoreau, Walden, 1854

This back-to-nature treehouse takes its visitors high up into the tree canopy to a fairytale retreat where they will find the perfect setting for daydreaming.

Click link above for more info on Cheekwood's famous treehouse exhibit. 

A quaint little cottage patiently awaits visitors, who feel as though they’ve just stepped into the pages of a fairy tale.

I choose this photo to visually summarize the word ‘romance.’

“Keep your love of nature, for that is the true way to understand art more and more.”
- Vincent Van Gogh

“The bee is more honored than other animals, not because she labors, but because she labors for others.”
- Saint John Chrysostom

One of my favorite pictures I've ever taken- of floating leaves, upon fountain waters at Cheekwood.
“Rest is not idleness, and to lie sometimes on the grass under trees on a summer’s day, listening to the murmur of the water, or watching the clouds float across the sky, is by no means a waste of time. “
- John Lubbock

• Conch House (
DESIGN FIRMS: Anne Daigh Landscape Architect and Pfeffer Torode Architecture
TEAM MEMBERS: Anne Daigh, Jamie Pfeffer, and Jonathan Torode
FABRICATION FIRM: Vintage Millworks
CONSTRUCTION FIRM: Dunaway Construction

"His ordinary voice sounded like a whisper after the harsh note of the conch. He laid the conch against his lips, took a deep breath and blew once more. The note boomed again: and then at his firmer pressure, the note, fluking up an octave, became a strident blare more penetrating than before." -- William Golding, Lord of the Flies, 1954

This structure encourages children to assemble before entering to create rules for their own “tribe”. Once inside, the first child to reach the top platform will blow the horn and become “chief.”

A little boy actually took this shot! He spotted me as he walked alongside his mother and his outgoing nature provoked a delightful conversation! He asked politely  if he could take a picture and I, of course, couldn't resist! To my newly made little friend, this one is yours! An excellent shot, if I do say so myself...taken by a charming young 5-year old I met along the way.

Floating Pac-Mans! :)

On my way back to my car, I debated about whether or not I should stop by this fountain along the way. Now, I'm glad I did!

My FAVORITE Treehouse! See 'The Giver Treehouse' post for more pictures of my walk through this colorful creation!

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