Sunday, August 9, 2009

Leftovers, Part 1

In an earlier post, I promised to report on the Russia Today sampler session by the scholar, the garden tour, the amazing visit to the Natural History Museum, the view of the Cheshire Cat's tree, the final classes, and the talent show. If only for my own interest, here's the old news.

The scholar, aka Karen Hewitt, is a most impressive person. She started visiting Russia about twenty years ago and has returned fifty times, leading small groups of OUSSA and other interested people. Her home base is Perm (of the Permian layer), a city on the eastern edge of Russia before it turns into Siberia.

It's of great interest to geologists. She answered our questions thoughtfully and politely, even my lame question about the environment when I invoked the Aral Sea and Chernobyl, neither of which is actually IN Russia.

The garden tour was to visit three college gardens, which ones to be revealed only on the day. Our guide was, as Jerry said, "dry as a stick," and was more knowledgeable about the history than the gardens. Nevertheless, we saw two good gardens before peeling off for the Natural History Museum.

St. John's College is notable for its rockery, but like all of them also features amazing green lawns striped by the mower as in every Angela Thirkell novel. Of COURSE you would never set foot on the grass.

The weeping beeches are beautiful, although there was a time when people hid under them to do illegal things. Apparently they have routed them out for now.

The rockery was mildly interesting although it's not really my cup of tea. We did see a glorious blue gentian, whose true color almost comes through in this picture.

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The second garden was at Wadham College, where the heavens opened up, though briefly.

The dahlias against this ancient wall were particularly nice.
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Wadham is notable because of Dorothy, founder of the college (with her late husband's money) who arranged for the library to be located above the kitchen, which would keep the books dry. She arrived at Wadham with her coffin, in case of sudden death. Tucked in a corner around the library/kitchen wing is this oddly charming statue of Maurice Bowra, a long-time warden here.
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