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Leafing Through A Summer Collage

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WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. -- My mother used to call me a “leaf thief.” That had to do with my love of African violets such that I would ask friends if I could steal a leaf from any of their exotic violets that I coveted.

I would “root” the leaf and eventually, I had a window sill of friends in my indoor garden. When I tired of African violets, I populated my Westchester garden with other varietals offered by friends.

I hasten to say that I am not especially known for my green thumb, but having friends in my garden has become an enriching way of preserving memories of people and places.

So for example, I have a beautiful Balsam tree that a friend dug up for me in Saranac Lake, and a red maple and some peonies from a friend on Bayberry Road. Uncle Eddie who has since passed away brought me an Acouba from his Cedarhurst garden, which he had gotten from my mother’s garden.  A colleague from Nyack split her overgrowing decorative grasses and irises to share with me. One artist brought me some wildflowers (not a bouquet, but those with roots) and another artist gave me some bamboo plants.

You may ask, and rightly so, what has this got to do with the arts? It’s all about process. I thought about the collages I used to do, and Instagram, and all the other ways we put our ideas, memories and treasured possessions together in places where we can preserve and reconnect with them.

It made me think of my garden as a living collage, a scrapbook I can walk through on my way to somewhere, keeping in touch with friends and family and remembering them.

So if you’ve ever brought a potted daffodil, chrysanthemum or hydrangea to my house, you can be sure you are also somewhere in my garden, reappearing every spring and summer.

Janet Langsman is chief executive officer of ArtsWestchester. Her weekly blog is published with permission of ArtsWestchester and is also posted online.

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