A sculpture by Michael B. Mazur, Earthworks founder, at the Garden's Entrance.
— Gail Kahn, New England Wild Flower Society Volunteer
New Entrance Installation
The public entrance to New England Wild Flower Society’s Garden in the Woods offers a new dimension of welcome and sensory delight: a five-piece entrance installation by artist and landscape designer Michael B. Mazur. The founder of Earthworks, a landscape design firm integrating stone, water, and earth, Michael has received many awards at the New England Spring Flower Show. Although his work has been viewed to rave reviews at multiple flower shows and at the Garden’s Rock On! exhibit in 2006, and installed throughout the region’s private gardens, this is his first major installation in a public botanical garden. Michael’s long-term loan of this new sculpture is a generous demonstration of his commitment to the Society, and the Society welcome this new partnership.
Two four-foot, roughly pyramidal stones demarcate the entrance, suggesting formal gateposts while still keeping within the naturalistic aesthetic of the Garden. Just a few steps beyond, a stone and water sculpture, a matched pair of four-by-seven foot, diamond-shaped pieces, opens like a jewel box to display a selection of moisture-loving natives. Water murmurs as it froths out from under the plantings, streams down the lower stone, then disappears into the leaf litter under the sculpture, there to be recycled into the fountain again.
Horticulture Director Scott LaFleur collaborated with Michael, designing and installing fresh native plantings to complement the new elements. Framed against the subtle sparkle of the vertical stone, pitcher plants (Sarracenia flava and S. purpurea), dwarf crested and blue flag iris (Iris cristata and I. versicolor), and sedge (Carex spp.) display their delicate blooms and leaf shapes, while the periwinkle spires of cascade beardtongue (Penstemon serrulatus) move the eye upward to the sculpture’s apex. Beside the entrance signs and under American beeches (Fagus grandifolia), two stone benches provide easy seating for visitors to view the sculpture, wait for tours or shoppers, or simply relax. The mica schist benches have a fine sheen and lovely striation.
“The larger bench has a beautiful golden and gray patina with fascinating layers,” says Michael. “The first time I saw it, I knew I wanted it for a bench and I knew it was meant to be horizontal.” Multiple levels on the benches allow for a container display of native plants, or for toddler fun when they want to sit a few inches higher than their parents. On a sunny weekend afternoon, the display already looks as if it has always been part of the Garden entrance.
Plant and Stone
Michael’s juxtaposition of arching, fragile foliage and flower with water and stone skillfully distills the New England landscape. Rock, forged by heat and pressure, gradually weathers in the presence of water and other natural processes to produce soil. The type of soil determines which plants thrive. Native species are the expression of the land that nourishes them. The plants’ seeming delicacy is a facade, for they are an incredible life force.
Michael describes his design credo: "If the stones are not big enough, the garden will overwhelm them. If I can move the stone, then it's not too big for a garden." Here at the Garden in the Woods entrance, Scott and Michael collaborated to achieve a balanced proportion of plantings and stone for a bold, yet harmonious environment.
Artist Michael B. Mazur
With 25 years of experience in landscape design, Michael’s Earthworks company serves clients throughout the New England region. Michael especially appreciates clients who want to express their individuality with unique design choices. From garden design, hardscape, and plantings to structures, entry gates, gazebos, water features, and ponds, the firm offers it all. Visitors are welcome at Michael's Garden and Gallery, located just a stone's throw from the Society's Nasami Farm & Sanctuary in Whately, Massachusetts. Call ahead at 413-548-6933 or email him at email@example.com.
Michael says, "Rattlesnake Gutter, where I live in Leverett, Massachusetts, is my inspiration. It is an amazing natural landscape. The glacier carved it out as it retreated, there are beyond-belief sized stones, waterfalls, and many native wild flowers. It seems I am trying to recreate the power and peacefulness of that landscape with everything that I do,"
Ask him what rocks he likes, and Michael replies, “I like them all. Big rocks are the answer. They talk to you. The art comes from really looking at them—from recognizing what they really are. In a lot of Earthworks’ projects, the rock runs the job. I prefer to use them naturally without cutting — they are so beautiful if you show them off the right way. But you have to know which way is up!”
A Formal Entrance
As W. Gary Smith so aptly demonstrated during the Garden’s 75th anniversary exhibit, Art Goes Wild (2007), the native plant garden has grown beyond its “wild as nature” origins. Michael’s spare, modern sculptural elements introduce a formal note to the Garden’s entrance, yet they still feel perfectly at home. The idea behind the installation, stresses Michael, is for visitors simply to “know this is the entrance. They’ll be able to spend time enjoying the stone and water sculpture at this great gathering place. I see this as helping the whole experience—an exclamation at the beginning and the end of the Garden.”