Trees and Valley

Looking forward to the next exhibit at Valley House Gallery, opening Friday, October sixth. The show will be recent paintings by Mary Vernon. Her works are painterly oil and paper on masonite collage paintings. I hope to attend the Artist Talk Saturday morning at eleven.

After another visit to the Dallas Arboretum, I am ready to announce my favorites of the Ultimate Tree Houses. The designs are great for families, and will be in place until the end of 2006.

FlutterBy was designed by a team from HDR, Inc. The large wings seem to sail through the trees. The structure at the base is reminiscent of a boat's prow. What a dream to sail in a ship of wings!

Framework, but Kippen Schect and Jonathan Wood, is a lovely design for contemplation and meditation. The view through a series of frames changes with the viewer's position. It's a lovely explanation of perspective for young people, but very difficult to photograph with its alternations of bright light and dark shadows.

Leaves Imagination does not impress on first approach, but deserves attention. Designed by HNTB, its curved forms of pale green mesh reminded me of four leaves curled into cocoon shapes. Within the curved forms hang leaf decorations made by school students, that shimmer and sway like an inside out Christmas tree. There's a wonderful sense of safety and potential for magic, of being inside a place where a lowly caterpillar might become a radiant butterfly.

Ultimate Blooms is a big hit with the preschool set for burning off steam in a shady spot. Designed by Sebo Shim and R. Kelly Giddens of The Beck Group, it features elevated wood pathways between and through three large latticed tulip forms. Although "treehouse" creates the expectation for structures requiring ladders and ropes, the Arboretum's Tree Houses are all structures at the bases of trees.

Although difficult to find, Reynaldo Herreros' Tree House, is interesting, mainly because it is under the branches of a 220 year old bois d'arc (Osage orange) tree. The trunk must be over twelve feet in circumference. I think it would be a lovely place if a little fishing stream were nearby instead of traffic on Garland Road.

Most of the Ultimate Tree Houses are north of the main entrance to the Arboretum. Perhaps the most magical house, Casa Musgo, is south, at the far end of the Arboretum's Fern Dell. If your children are likely to get worn out, start your visit there. Or maybe spread a blanket, and let the whole family doze or watch the migrating monarchs overhead.

Elizabeth Smidt's design is a perfect place for fairies and elves. If you stepped inside and found Snow White tidying up for the Seven Dwarfs and singing duets with a bluebird it would seem completely believable. The octagonal house is covered in spagnum moss and sprayed with mist. Ivies and plants grow from the moss, and hanging prisms and crystals at each corner of the roof add to the magical light effects. The morning I was there, glittering dewy spider webs added to the charm.

Pick a cool day, and head to the Arboretum. You don't have to go with kids! Adults need magic, too.

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