Vern Nelson, "The Hungry Gardener", professional photographer, illustrator, and garden columnist, has been educating Oregonians for almost 25 years. His classroom is his garden. We are privileged to step into the center of his world this June as a part of the Association of Northwest Landscape Designers, 2013 Ninth Annual Designers Garden Tour. The first stop on our tour of seven West Portland Gardens, (where we will experience the minds and hearts of Northwest designers) is the garden of Mary Sherman and Vern Nelson.
Their garden is an intensively planted kitchen garden with a keen focus on low maintenance edible plants. Raised vegetable beds and espalier fruit trees provide structure for the garden, while open spaces and a new covered patio allow room for people to visit and learn about new and old ways to grow their own food. A wood fired bread oven is often the center of neighborhood gatherings and impromptu baking classes. Vern and Mary will be on hand to talk about edible gardening and share the joy they have had creating this garden together.
Jeanette Mullane and Chris Schwartz are the featured artists in the Nelson-Sherman Garden. Read their statements below.
The ever-changing natural world is most often my prime inspiration
when I sit down to paint. The lost edges of a sea cliff on a foggy day, a
shaft of sunlight touching a field of poppies, the alert gleam in a songbird's
eye—these moments of beauty are what I want to share with my
watercolors. I find it unnecessary to idealize nature—I prefer to paint
a "portrait" of an individual bird or flower with its own unique
characteristics at a given moment rather than an idealized representative
of a species. For me, the torn leaf, the fading petal, the irregular
patterns of nature, all contribute complexity and interest to a scene.
I received my early training at the American Academy of Art in
Chicago, where a solid grounding in the basics—color, values, composition
and drawing—was emphasized, and it was my good fortune to study
watercolor with the late Irving Shapiro, one of the best.
Junco Pottery was named after the junco birds that are frequent visitors in our garden during the winter months. My studio overlooks the garden and I derive much inspiration from observing the plants and wildlife within it throughout the seasons.
The work I create is built to be used every day for growing, preparing and eating food. My pieces are designed to function as supporting players in the garden and to present the bounty of the garden in a whimsical and artful way. My pottery is integrally connected to the garden and kitchen. The mason bees that pollinate our fruit trees live in the mason bee houses and visit our bug baths. The fruits they pollinate are cooked and served on my tableware. The fruit remnants live in a stylish compost crock before returning to the garden as compost.
My work is made with high fire stoneware, porcelain clay, and low fire raku clay. The glazes and surface textures I use are inspired by natural materials and everyday objects. I like to create my glazes from scratch and enjoy experimenting with different textures, glaze combinations and clays to create novel surfaces for my work.