Evolution of Book “A Garden for the Five Senses”

Here it is mid April already and spring has finally sprung! What a joy! So much to do. Mostly weed. Plan, shop, plant. Help the little plants flourish. Pull the hairy bittercress. Plan trips. Get Maryland house back in shape. Finish house repairs left over from last year. Great to be alive! And it is important to me to document here the evolution of the book “A Garden for the Five Senses.”

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The cover of “A Sensual Garden”

I started writing it last year as a test of publishing a photo-rich book using DH’s photos in our garden. I was trying to assist Gail Zahtz get her coffee-table book on Demand Design started in a way that wouldn’t require a huge learning curve for the two of us. I examined several applications that were purported to enable page design that was more than text conversion. Hands down, iBooks Author was the software that had the capability and flexibility needed for any visual based design. Although Gail and my collaboration ended before we could declare victory, I went on to use the software myself as a learning experience.

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Sample page 2 – see the two columns

It evolved from just a photo album of our yard, something that we might print as hard copy for the family, to a guide on what we had done ourselves to excite each of our senses — sight, sound, taste, touch, and smell — in our garden. We envisioned sort of a coffee-table book, but when we explored the cost of producing an actual hard copy version of such a book, we decided to start with just an electronic version to see if there might be any interest in the subject matter.

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Page from iBook: Narcissus

Then when we really got immersed in the project, I discovered how incredibly powerful iBooks Author software is and how careful and knowledgeable a user must be so as not to “mess it up.” I thought the learning curve was short, but that was because even a novice could produce some nice stuff without much effort. In fact, the biggest mistake I made was not to test out the drafts before saving them! I learned a great deal, though, and continued to be encouraged by my solving problems in the books and finding help on line when I needed it.

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Sample page 1

So we published the book with a cover designed by me using the iBooks Author software and named it “A Sensual Garden: Creating a Place for Being Mindful in the Present Moment.” Again, I must thank all those who reviewed the early drafts and redrafts of the early book — I couldn’t have done it without you! So iTunes approved the book to be published as an iBook. I looked for conversion programs that would work with any of the iBooks Author outputs (.ibook, pdf, text), and there were many that claimed they could convert pdf to mobi (Kindle format), but none did. Then I discovered Kindle Comic Creator and it took our pdf format and with three steps in the program turned it into something like an iBook with no errors or reformatting necessary! So we had three formats of book:

  • iBooks (Apple)
  • pdf (any computer or tablet, but no ability to click on links or enlarge photos)
  • mobi (for Kindles with color, but no ability to click on links; every photo enlarges, though)

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Old book title, old cover on Amazon

Next we looked for someone to review the published book and received two that DH and I want to thank:

Roger even wrote a review on his blog!

I will now admit that I emailed and asked for reviews from many hundreds of potential reviewers that included fellow bloggers, book review sites, Amazon reviewers, gardening sites, book reader sites, and the problems were myriad:

  • GoodReads had a maximum size upload file that was much smaller than the size of my book
  • Few readers had access to an iPad
  • Few readers even wanted any ebook to review
  • None of my blog subscribers responded to my request for any kind of feedback

What was I going to do? I wrote writing blogs about the problem writing non-fiction and getting reviews. No one had any advice that I had not already tried. Then I read about some fairly successful authors and how they had had to pay for reviews when they first started out. My first thought was that paying didn’t bother me, but the review had to be honest and not just paying for a 5-star rating no matter how bad the book was. So I went over to Fivrr and asked for honest reviews. Guess what? I got ‘em! Reviewer 2 said my book was great but my cover was awful! Reviewer 1 said my book was great but the title was awful — I wasn’t even using the word “sensual” correctly. He said that the word I should have used was “sensuous.” So I looked it up; he was right. He suggested I pay someone on Fivrr to work up some alternative titles and some alternative covers. So I did. First the title. I looked up “A Sensuous Garden” and found that Monty Don of BBC gardening fame had written a book back in 1997 with this title and somewhat the same subject, throwing in a sixth sense, the sense of intuition. Well I couldn’t use that now, could I?

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Monty Don’s “A Sensuous Garden”

So I ended up changing the title to “A Garden for the Five Senses” and the cover to what you see in the right hand column and below. So my virtual staff helped immensely even though I had already published the book. Now we have worked out the kinks in republishing version 2 (or 3 depending upon which site is keeping count).

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The new cover and title

I would really appreciate any feedback from any of you who have downloaded the book and looked at it in any of its versions. And any other feedback or comments about the blog, the book, or anything.

Beautiful Cummer Gardens

We posted earlier about our trip to The Cummer Art Museum and Gardens in Jacksonville Florida. We continue here with more photos and information about the Cummer Gardens.

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Camellia at Cummer Gardens

They are about 1 1/2 acres in size, in the historic Riverside neighborhood of Jacksonville. The gardens are unique in the southeast, using the finest American landscape designers in the first four decades of the 20th century, Michigan-based Ossian Simonds, Philadelphia’s Thomas Meehan & Sons, Ellen Biddle Shipman of New York, and the renowned Olmsted Brothers firm of Massachusetts.

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Seating in the Cummer Gardens

Ninah Cummer (1875-1958) was an avid educator and promoter of gardening and horticulture through lectures, publications and consultations, and was instrumental in the establishment of the Florida Federation of Garden Clubs, which originated in her English Garden.

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Mercury in the Olmsted Garden at Cummer Gardens

In the late 1890s, the Wellington Cummer family moved to Jacksonville from Michigan to establish their lumber business. The family became the largest land owner in the state, with more than 500,000 acres. In 1902, Arthur and Ninah Cummer built their Tudor Revival Style home on fashionable Riverside Avenue.

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Looking through crepe myrtle at Italian Garden at Cummer Gardens

In 1903, the first landscape architect involved with the Cummer family was Ossian Cole Simmonds (1855-1931). He prepared a landscape plan for Arthur and Ninah. Ellen Biddle Shipman, another famous landscape architect, known in her lifetime as “The Dean of American Women landscape Architects,” was commissioned to design the Italian Garden in May 1931. Shipman’s commissions spanned the United States, and her clients included the Fords, Astors, duPonts and other captains of industry and patrons of the arts, but of the more than 650 gardens that she designed between 1914 and 1946, few remain.

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Italian Garden at Cummer Gardens

The nationally prominent Olmsted Brothers firm, based in Brookline, Massachusetts, was involved with several proposed improvements to the site. In 1922, J. Frederick Dawson of the firm advised Ninah Cummer of the placement of a wall fountain for the English Garden.

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The wall fountain in the English Garden at Cummer Gardens

Waldo and Clara Cummer engaged the firm to design their riverfront garden in 1931. The landscape architect was William Lyman Phillips (1885-1966), now known as “the Pioneer of Tropical Landscape Architecture.”

Initiated in 1903, the southernmost English Garden is planted with azaleas and roses. A wisteria arbor defines the eastern border.

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The English Garden at Cummer Gardens

Four significant features mark the English Garden:

The Tea Garden is located in the southwest corner which has an embellished planter designed by Arts & Craft pioneer William Mercer and was where the Florida Federation of Garden Clubs was founded in 1922.
The second feature of the garden, located midway in the south wall, is a working fountain with a basin of green, gold, and white mosaic tiles with a peacock medallion, designed by architect William Mercer.

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Little fountain at Cummer Gardens

The third prominent feature is a pool which features mosaics designed by Mercer and a copy of a sculpture by Pietrino de Vinci. The beds are planted with azaleas, seasonal blooms and roses.
The fourth, and primary, feature of the English Garden is the large wisteria arbor at the east end of the garden, which features an outstanding display of wisteria.

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Reflecting pool at Cummer Gardens

A tiered lawn is immediately north of the English Garden. The 1931 Italian Garden is north of the tiered lawn and defined by three pools, Italian cypress, azaleas, antique roses, and daylilies. Other specimens in this garden include camellias, redbud, calamondins, and dogwoods, with roses climbing a wall on the north side.

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The calamondins upclose at Cummer Gardens

An arched “gloriette” defines the eastern boarder of the Italian Garden.  The 1931 Olmsted Garden, currently under restoration, is comprised of a curved stairway, a portico, and three distinct garden rooms that reflect the design philosophy of the firm’s founder, especially with regard to rusticity and the careful placement of scenic vistas.

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Museum courtyard at Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens

Noteworthy architectural features in the Olmsted Garden include a pergola, a serpentine stair, and a grotto. The Cummer Gardens were listed in the National Register of Historic Places on January 25, 2010.

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Live Oak and fountain seen through the “gloriette”

To reiterate, the site is very accessible from parking to rolling, so please make plans to visit when you can!

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Cummer Gardens in Jacksonville Florida

We visited The Cummer Museum of Art & Gardens in Jacksonville at the end of March with friends who live in St. Augustine (about 1 hour south). We were very impressed with the accessibility of such an old property. They incorporated ramps (and provided a map of those ramps) in architecturally beautiful ways. I recommend you make a stop no matter what time of year if you are in the area.

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Cummer Gardens bronze and garden

The gardens are small but visually exciting, so you can spend mere minutes or hours, in the gardens and in the museum. The Cummer boasts a beautiful garden located on the banks of the St. Johns River in Northeast Florida.

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Cummer Gardens bronze and garden 2

It is divided into rooms, each with its own name. They don’t seem like separate gardens, but an integrated whole. I found only one piece of modern sculpture in the gardens, and that one didn’t photograph well because of the windows directly behind it. Everything else in the gardens, no matter what the period seemed to flow seamlessly into each other. So I call them a single garden.

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Bronze of Diana at Cummer Gardens

Famous landscaping firms were involved in the gardens’ design and horticulture. But almost all of the garden is under or adjacent to giant live oak trees and it is these behemoths that set the stage for the garden.

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A garden room entry at Cummer Gardens with the St. Johns River in view

The gardens were created in the early 1900s. Arthur Cummer and his brother, Waldo, came from a long line of Michigan lumber barons. They built their homes on either side of their parents, Ada and Wellington Cummer, on the banks of the St. Johns River. The brothers led the Cummer Lumber Company, while their wives, Ninah Cummer and Clara Cummer, masterminded the gardens surrounding their homes. Those gardens are now one of the glories of the museum and are listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

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It was breezy at Cummer Gardens but DH helped me capture this rose

Ossian Cole Simonds designed the original garden using native trees and shrubs at the time of its development by the Cummer family. The formal English Garden was designed in 1910 by Thomas Meehan and Sons with a magnificent wisteria-laden cypress arbor.

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Another garden room at Cummer Gardens

Ellen Biddle Shipman designed the Italian Garden in 1931 as the ultimate display garden for Ninah’s large collection of Italian marble garden ornaments and hundreds of azaleas. Two long reflecting pools frame the view to the green, ficus-covered gloriette that resembles the famous water gardens at the Villa Gamberaia in Tuscany.

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Another garden room at Cummer Gardens 2

Waldo and Clara Cummer engaged William Lyman Phillips, a partner in the Olmsted Brothers firm, to incorporate the elder Cummer’s property in the 1930′s (which they inherited) into their existing gardens. These gardens were partially obliterated in the early 1960s, when both homes were demolished to make way for a new museum building to house Ninah Cummer’s art collection, but plans are in place to restore this landscape to its former glory.

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A view of Jacksonville from the Cummer Gardens

You can imagine the number of wedding photo shoots this place must handle. We didn’t realize that the Museum and Gardens closes an hour earlier on some days than last year, so we don’t have photos of the museum collection, but I was able to pick up a large cement bunny rabbit holding a basket ready for filling with plants that we will cart back to Maryland and use in our own garden.

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