A Louisville Treasure – Hidden Hill Nursery

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My good friend, the bacheloring and visiting Mike Sears, dropped in on me this weekend and we actually covered quite a bit of ground. But one of the nicest parts was hitting his junior high school Jeffersonville, Indiana days and those neighborhoods hard along the river. So we found ourselves very close to Utica and I decided to go see Hidden Hill. Mike was enchanted, of course and we got to see Bob who, as always, was as warm and engaging as ever. So I was going to just send this to Mike, but it’s been 4 years since this ran, so I’ll recirculate it a little.

Bob Hill spent 25 years or so working as a journalist for the  Louisville Courier Journal writing about diverse issues and subjects including gardening, society and historical facts about Louisville. He is enormously respected as a cool voice with a long view and deep, caring insight.  As a book writer, he penned one of my personal favorites: “The Crack Of The Bat”, the definitive history of the world-famous ‘Louisville Slugger’ baseball bat, a tool yours truly has used to good effect and also has broken into varied pieces many, many times as a baseball mutt in an earlier era. A modern day Luddite like me longs for that sound when I venture out to my favorite Spring pastime, sitting as near as I can to Muhammad Ali and watching the University of Louisville “ping” the opposition to death with their metal bats. 😉 Bob also wrote a true crime book called “Double Jeopardy”, a local crime which leads him to authoritatively comment and which was featured on the National TV show, Dateline, a couple times and which I read years ago. It is the definitive book on that tale as well, sad as it may be.

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Well, Bob Hill is as nice in person and as creative as ever. In fact, he may be doing things that make “unique” look normal. He owns and operates Hidden Hill Nursery, a fascinating, whimsical spot and a must-see on the garden traveler’s road map which also doubles as a nursery, selling exotics. “It’s my niche,” he says with a smile. Bob has most definitely NOT seen the last of me. I am involved in a small project even now which could use a few of his big old Yellow Magnolia’s. He welcomes – for the record – landscapers and designers at almost any time for purposes of sales. He does, after all, run a business in his nursery as well as present a marvelous jaunt amongst his various treasures.

Anyway, so my Mom and I took a jaunt on an unseasonably hot Autumn Day on Sunday, attempting to finally make it to this gorgeous garden on it’s final Open To The Public day of the season. We had spoken of it many times and I had heard rumors of it’s fascinating properties from the sports fans I hang out with at a local sports message board, Inside The Ville, a Scout.com site dedicated to Louisville sports.

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Inasmuch as the nursery and garden was compiled around his own home, Bob’s efforts over a long period of time have produced a totally delightful trove of small pleasures and simple beauty which reflect to a real love of the soil and the respect for Nature Herself which Bob gladly and openly brings to the game. Bob Hill is an obvious appreciator of artistic talent and a very non-shy exhibitor of just that. Pssssst…….he has pink bathtubs.

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He also features exhaust pipe lizards and a junkyard dog – in a hat no less! – who absolutely reflects that in reality, seen here overlooking a peaceful and gorgeous small waterfall which begins a coursing creek in an outstanding water feature under a cool, shady canopy smack in the middle of the Gardens.

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Like everyone I know, of course, Bob also features a very outspoken “oxygen tank duck”:

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We were also relieved to find directions posted on some nearby trees,  subtle, yet still effective:

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As far as this pair of pants (below) is concerned, I mentioned to Bob and his crew who were relaxing nearby that these overalls could “probably walk to get themselves washed”. Thank God they laughed.

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Butterfly chairs abounded!

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And as fun as all this was and is, Bob Hill is also a serious cultivator and appreciator of gorgeous plants and stunning beauty – all in a variety and diverse number of settings one has to get close to in order to truly appreciate their scope.

Take these automobile-sized leaves, for example, stuck hard solo under yet another cooling canopy –

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Since I am not at all certain this picture does justice to the sheer magnitude of these monster leaves, here is another cluster, battling it out with a giant Banana Tree in a sunnier location on the site –

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Make no mistake, designers and landscaping aficionados have much to delight their own senses, aside from the whimsical stuff. There are small features throughout the place, well-designed and gorgeous constructions in their own rights. Take this splendid courtyard as an example as we examine it from various views, including closeup pictures of the simple profusion of the prettiest plants in Nature. This “hot” little Chrysanthemum fronts a serene and exceedingly well-designed small patio/coutyard:

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Another few views:

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A detail I adored –  a small, shady perennial Paradise:

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This one………………the one below. I had to stop and look twice. Please enlarge.

This is a sculpture whose sensuality belies its metal composition. It plain looks good enough to eat.

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This small setting below may say more about this splendid garden wonderland than anything I could have imagined. We happened onto this on our way out – it is across from that splendid pink bathtub!

I have no idea of the purpose of this little clearing – if one exists. But I can aver that this reveals a factor of the epitome of excellent landscape and garden design which shows the invitation and the promise which are the rudiments of the most mysterious and excellent designs in the world. When perception rules in the fields it belongs in and the eye becomes trained to accept mystery and to drink in beauty like a fabulous natural drink, then gardens such as this will be everywhere.

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Bob Hill, we absolutely loved our visit. You did real good in my book and my Mom agrees.

That’s unanimous, then. 🙂

Among The Best People I Knew – Albert Cuadros

There is an air of sobriety and sadness at this blog today as the news of my Father In Law’s passing takes deeper hold. Albert (or “Al”, of course, as he was known to his many friends) Cuadros died peacefully in the hospital at the age of 87 after a long bout with heart problems. Among the many things one could say about my relationship with Al is that I actually knew him rather well. This happens with persons to whom the notion of ‘complexity’ matters not. Nor is this to say Al Cuadros was not a man of penetrating intelligence, because that is also hardly the case.

Al believed in a world not paralyzed by analysis. He believed the simplest pleasures may very well have been the best. The love of his beautiful wife, Rosina and the adoration of his children were the penultimate measures of the range of what delighted him most. I say this because I know it to be true. Al considered all the world’s ideas deeply. He probed and analyzed and voted and argued, he advocated in his Union and argued inside and outside that. And, as a result, Al Cuadros found his meaning in life surrounded by living family and friends. I am utterly convinced he believed there was no better world, in this life or the next.

He also loved telling stories about his upbringing in Brooklyn. His father, a forceful, opinionated Colombian and his Mother, a beautiful lady of Mexican descent, deposited Al, kicking and screaming in the midst of the hugest American city of them all. His stickball experiences, his view of the Mob, the neighborhood and his experiences in high school and even earlier became a part of my own folklore as he rambled on about the forces which formed his personality. He could make Broadway live and in color in these retellings and I guess he found an exceptional listener in me, because I mentally recorded a billion tales of his childhood. I sometimes felt so privileged to listen in. And, sure, sometimes I got tired of that crap. But he always had some sort of lesson involved in his tales, I swear. They nearly always were related to embellish a complex point about life itself. The Bible of Al, therefore, became a satisfying secret stash of humanity, replete with lessons and containing elements of human emotional pain.

Al also flew during WW2 amid the atmospheric shrapnel and ultimate vulnerability of those heroic plane riders. His love affair with aircraft became his trade, working on something he loved for long years and retiring from basically the same job he began with following the war.

Al was a Union man, through and through. He honored the working man like few have the temerity to do these days. I am convinced my dearest impact on Al was to witness me working on their landscape in Incline Village for the 10-12 hours a day I put in up there. When I finished, in the years following, Al would proudly display his own efforts at the landscape – digging and prying boulders out of the Earth like a Virtual World’s Largest Shovel – and then proudly showing me his “terra-forming” – his expanding land mass in his back yard, made larger by dint of one wheelbarrow and one boulder at a time wrenched out of the surrounding Earth in a miracle of pure human labor. He would grab me within minutes of arriving there to give me the tour of our mutual efforts. I felt honored and shocked at first until I realized he considered us partners. That was when I concluded Al Cuadros was one extremely uncompromising and cool guy. He valued work and he valued what it rendered.

I am selfishly pointing out my own relationship with him because his impact on his children was so deep I can barely touch it. In fact, I feel humble in the face of such a total unconditional love, coming from a creature to whom the measure of a life is measured in the love he leaves behind.

I can think of absolutely no lesson more profound than this. Al Cuadros was a Giant to me, for reasons I can only hope to mirror in my own life. No one adult has more affirmed my own biases about why we continue on than Albert. He is one of those people who make life worth living. There is no higher praise.

I will really, really miss this great guy.

Strictly Personal – My Mom – Part 1

Here it is, Mother’s Day, 2012 and I find myself up and at ’em and ready to go buy a Mother’s Day card locally before she awakes. I will call my ‘other Mothers’ (That sounds just bad, heh heh) as well – My ex, Alice, Mother of our gorgeous child, my sister Diane, maybe by sister-in-law Lisa and I’ve actually been working for my other niece’s Mom, Mary Beth, on remaking her garden into her dream garden – a wonderful chore but rained out this morning.

Anyway, I decided to reissue these posts in honor of my Mother – posts which I actually wrote back in February. So you can see, I am not a latter day Mom-lover ……not a fair weather Mother guy at all……I come by my love and care for those Mom’s who were unfortunate to produce us quite honestly.

Happy Mother’s Day to all of you and to all those wonderful women who began life for morons like me.


I could – and may – just as easily write about my father, Fred Snedeker. But Dad passed away in 1983 and my Mother is still around, “fresh off” Father’s passing, still in love with the man after 42 years of marriage and now 27 years after his death. We pass December 22 each year in a bit of prayer and remembrance as it is one of Mother’s worst days. Her devotion to Pop honestly is an awesome characteristic which I can barely even imagine, considering the course of my own uneven married events. But she is most definitely what you see. She has been through so much in general, and she feels so young at heart and so full of life and curiosity at 92 years old, she will forever stand as a guiding light for me and innumerable others who have encountered her.

I returned to Louisville, as I had announced, on September 30, 2 years ago. It was a beautiful Autumn in Louisville that season and Mother and I traveled all over town.

It gave her a chance to walk and talk, exercise and do what she does so well – teach. She reintroduced me to the area and we also discovered much which was all brand new. Yew Dell Gardens, Bernheim Forest, the wonders of Main Street in Louisville including the brand new basketball palace – Cave Hill Cemetery, the glories of Cherokee Park, their old rental apartment on St. James Court where they renovated into magnificence an entire floor of a beautiful historical old home. We were peripatetic after my arrival, getting out all over town.

(She had taught – Accounting Principles –  at various small colleges in Louisville until she was 84. These were full loads, standing all day, after which she would often walk up to 3 miles per day. At 90, she had given up her season tickets to Louisville basketball games – what used to be my Christmas Gift to her every year – although I did accompany her and her great good friend Kathleen Drummond to the opening basketball game in the new arena – Yum! Center – for the Louisville girls against Tennessee.)

Here’s a cool pic of Mom grasping her little Beena Girl at our place in Reno. I’s say she looks rather pleased.

Anyway – this changed a bit after she suffered a couple of falls – while with me both times, sadly enough – and she has found herself just a bit less inclined to get all out and about, certainly not as much as when I first arrived. Her fragility has increased a bit, in short, although to this very day, she just finished 2 weeks on jury duty downtown. So she aint crippled, lol.

If one gets nothing else from reading this strictly personal tale of my own selfish interests, please know I do it because I can – for one thing. For the second “thing” – I admire this lady endlessly. For the third “thing”: even if I did not, I feel we gain from knowing older people. Their versions of history are remarkable and all-too-often silent. In our rush to buy the next new gizmo or catch the fab new TV sitcoms which so often determine our off hours, we overlook the hard yards the generations prior to us had to cross in order to deliver us to our Present. This person endured a period in our history which was at equal turns deadly, depressing and inspiring. When you ponder Mother’s birth year – 1919 – and what she may have encountered as an active, intelligent woman with an independent streak, you will find elements of the evolution of our National Consciousness represented nearly completely. It is supremely humbling to me, finding out about the casual cruelties administered to racial “others”, the poor and dispossessed and to women themselves during her lifetime and how she dealt with that.

Just the same, all I take from it all is currently, in real everyday life today – at worst – is that we were able to relish what we experienced since I have been here. Nor is it as if there’s not some mighty fine events which have taken place within the very walls of where we now live. While we haven’t set activity records, the love pretty much never stops in the persons of visits from her grand daughters and now her great grand daughters from the same gorgeous Meagan. Her other “grands” – my kid Alena, Mike and Lisa’s Beckett and Zoe, the very sunny Hannah, Meagan, Jenny and Aaron – simply exist as parts of a heart more than roomy enough to entertain stories and attention at any given time – on any given day.

It is often hard to relate to young folks what it means to have spoken and loved her Dad and Mom, for example, and hear about what life was like prior to automobiles and electric lighting. It was always amazing listening to her Dad speak of opting for a horse on snowy days to deliver the mail in the flatland and bitter winds of central Illinois during severe Winters.

Speaking of my Grandad and Grandma, they flank everyone here, with my Mom being second from the left, her sister Jody the Bride standing next to Grandad. My older brother and sister are obvious, as is the apprehensive young baby – me – seen in the foreground in the fashionable killer shorts.

But it can be equally instructive listening to Mother relate what the times were like as she grew up a kid in East Central Illinois in the ‘massive’ (insert cynical chuckle) urban metropolis of Humbolt, Illinois – population 350. Our visits to “Granddad and Grandma’s” house always involved pretty much an all day ride and were spaced throughout my entire life as a kid as near routine. We got to make Icons out of various elements of this setting – my brother Mike, for example, has these “often-chthonic” dreams of the huge corn silo’s which existed beside the railroad tracks which also bordered the home there. Inside those silo’s, Mike has encountered a Stephen King-like retinue of events and weirdness which inspire creepy deep psychic exhumations and symbols which that sort of setting completely appropriately provides. Think “Children Of The Corn”.  Also, inasmuch as we moved so often during our childhoods – with our Father being a contractor and upwardly-mobile at that – Grandad and Grandma’s place was of pivotal permanent importance to Mike – and even the rest of us – who went to something like 10 schools in 12 years.

Mother’s beginnings were humble enough – one of two daughters of the local Postal Dude who pretty much knew everyone in the local world, Paul Rogers and his wife Etta. In the end, Paul Rogers – her Dad – ran that route for 47 consecutive years. This placed them in a reasonable spot with permanent incomes as the Depression and the Dust Bowl wore on throughout Mother’s childhood. She was even able to attend college at Eastern Illinois University, where she met my Pop. Their stories are private but her confidences concerning their romance have absolutely warmed my heart like few other events. It is moments such as those where I almost always reflect on how incredibly cool it is to be able to share these splendid times with such an experienced yet loving Mom.

“The Choice” – whether to return to Louisville in person and launch things totally ready to help out –  arrived at one evening out on the porch at Mike’s home during one of our many Sunday dinners in Portland, talking with he and his wife, Lisa. It remains a decision I am more than content with and one which I actually wish more could share. I feel lucky now.

A cool look at the ‘fam’ – brother Mike, sister Diane gabbing at Meagan and Jeff’s wedding while Mom proudly looks on.

Whereas Mother had recently experienced a broken back (lol, true story) at the time of our sibling confab, and seeing as how she had also experienced a few financial setbacks, we sat and contemplated what we could do. The more we explored things, the less satisfying they were. I had recently stopped landscaping full time and had undertaken writing for a living. It was actually working, providing me with an income of at least some stability, even as new as it was to me. I had never really considered myself a writer at all, frankly, but life brings us to some odd crossroads.

I had a small epiphany: Why don’t I go live there a while? I mean, I am mobile now. My market is in the ether.

I broached the subject out loud, looking for holes to punch into the theory, and we decided it was impossible to find many, provided I didn’t mind the trip ‘back in time’ – to Kentucky and my early life. Hell, that one was easy at the time – it was actually exciting. That night we booked my flight, I made the local arrangements, and the rest is history.

But this is current stuff. Mother’s story is more Prehistoric!  (She’ll kill me for that, lol.) If there are no further posts here in the future, look no further than her room for the perp.

Musings On Growing Up – “Black Ink”

I’ve taken a break recently from blogging here. This blog is always a labor of love and has of course changed in many ways as my circumstances have altered. To be frank, the break has been good for me. I have always cringed at – yet accepted the rules and time constraints of toil as a normal diet of maturity. I think we all have.

I have been fortunate enough in my landscaping career to have encountered the tickling sensations of accomplishment, for which I am eternally grateful. It takes us nearer to an immortality as we devise what we suspect are permanent systems of substance for the pleasure of those to whom we labor. Both parties gain immeasurably – the client from his living aid – the contractor/designer from his gift to the world and his labors. His crew experience their own brushes with Righteousness as the projects close.

Work itself, as we all know, offers redemption as well as accomplishment. As Eric Hoffer says:

“No matter what our achievements might be, we think well of ourselves only in rare moments. We need people to bear witness against our inner judge, who keeps book on our shortcomings and transgressions. We need people to convince us that we are not as bad as we think we are.”

I agree. This is exactly why you need a waterfall!!!   😉  (Made by me!!)

Back to work…………and the reality of My Work:

On the negative end (at work) the injuries, the occasional dust-ups with anger from all sides, the incredibly helplessness in the face of a mean-spirited Weather God, bereft of humor save for Irony – all form an alternative Universe which seems to descend inexorably on us all.

What to make of all this? All these Opposites!

Recently, in the space of a month, the faces of the remote and oddly-disconnected Love and Death settled in, affecting my heart and soul to degrees I am scrambling to catch up with. Fate decided to present me with the exquisite pleasure of finally meeting someone who means as much to me as nearly anyone I’ve ever known. A reunion of souls occurred which had its origins here – on a computer. My virtual “family” became one in fact as an indescribably lovely series of events scrolled across my human life and perceptions like an Early Christmas for the Soul. I felt rich beyond measure as we conversed, face to face – as if I had done something very Right.

Subsequently, a dear Soul mate and member of my extended family passed away, God bless her. She loved me and my family extremely dearly, did Katie Short. Without resorting to the maudlin, I will just say it reminded me of something more obviously substantial as time goes on: that life compresses with age. Events actually gather momentum and stream helplessly as the Eternity imagined from Youth becomes less of that. The pain is real, much as was the Love I have gained from the former event.


On a lesser – but incredibly evocative and meaningful level – I also watched myself  literally “lose” 2 living friends, as emotional events created another graveyard – this one mired in vanity, loss and misperception. It made me wonder if somehow I had not been paying attention to the parallel Universe where persons and events smack together like loose Protons and Quarks, as we continue sightlessly forward, immeasurably confused about the human motives and all of our human frailties. Our tiny egos march ahead like lions as our suspected courage makes us less than we once were, robbing us of our destinies and presenting us with problems we must actually wait for others to decide on. The absolute, complete absurdity of life never stops………. and all we seem to be able to do is endure it. This is inarguable for us all. I have therefore finally learned something – “It is”, as they say, “what it is”.

Not much of a prize, is it?

Heavy thoughts on this Saturday morning.

It’s been a Summer of stunning emotional variety and not all of it good whatsoever. Challenged by these events, I feel somehow chastened – as if I am realizing truths and factoids which exist in the amazingly huge gaps between the human atoms.

I arrived to my 60’s like March does – with a roar and a massive red hot club, playing the crap out of softball, embracing an evolving life like a vain 18 year old. A couple years into it, I have gotten myself beat to crap, lol.

As I often quote Mike Hammer: “It was like the kiss at the end of a hot, wet fist.”  😉

Here’s an irony: I admit I do still feel pretty darn good. I now wonder if this blanket, unthinking optimism is some style of curse, leering at me like The Last Temptation. I know – I am waving my weenie at Fate Itself in this unusually sophomoric fantasy which recognizes pretty much my feelings as some sort of bottom line. In a sense, even a beaver or maybe even that tin can over there can see the futility of that.

Right now, I don’t think so. For better or for worse, I feel my connections to real folks and they warm me. When I analyze my wide-ranging and numerous life mistakes, they Tazer me back with massive, clinging regret and they cool me back down. My regrets are Huge. Massive. The tale of them forms a line of shame. These ‘faux pas’ could destroy anyone. I smile and nod and hug others, and I feel unworthy as hell sometimes. How does one live with his guilt, I often ponder?

I now realize this is life itself. Our mistakes are a field of accounting which never realizes Black Ink. Nor can we “take them back”.

I have come to believe we need to begin each and every day with a clean slate.  I know – it’s a perfect dodge, lol. But I confess this aphorism has more merit the more I entertain its relevance to this planet of ours:

“Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof” Matthew 6:34