Chainsaw ART-IS-TREE by Clayton Coss

Losing a beloved tree is a heartbreaking experience.  Because of last year’s drought many homeowners have experienced the feeling of loss, and the very big cost, that usually accompanies the death of a mature tree. Until my recent vacation to Tulsa, I thought the only option available to people with a dead tree in their yard was to call in the pros and watch sadly as they turned it into wood chips.  However, thanks to a good friend, I now know that if you live in Tulsa, you have another option when it comes to dealing with your dead trees.

Clayton Coss is a sculptor whose skills with a chainsaw have made him a bit of a celebrity in the Tulsa area.

Clayton Coss is a sculptor from Tulsa.  For the past 26 years he has made a living turning tree tragedies into works of art.  Clayton is a skilled carver that can convert your dead tree into a portrait of your kids, Mickey Mantle, Ben Franklin or anything else you can dream up.  While there are many sculptors out there that can carve figures out of a piece of wood, there are very few that can do it with a chainsaw.  That’s right, I said chainsaw.  Now I know what you are thinking but trust me; Clayton is not your run of the mill, road side sculptor of bears and totem poles.  No, Clayton is a very talented artist that has been able to turn American kitsch into his own brand of fine art.


I would have never believed a bust this realistic could be carved with a chainsaw

I met Clayton while visiting with our friends Mark and Margaret Hartley.  The Hartley’s recently moved into an absolutely adorable Tulsa neighborhood and Clayton was in the process of finishing two sculptures in their new neighborhood.  Bobby and Jonas Woolslayer commissioned Clayton to carve a large bust of Ben Franklin and another of our lord and savior, Jesus Christ in their front yard.

Margaret knew I would be interested in Clayton’s work so we walked over to the Woolslayer’s almost as soon as we arrived.  When I turned the corner and saw Ben I was literally speechless.  Never in my wildest dreams would I have believed that someone could have carved such a striking likeness of a human head with just a chainsaw.  I truly thought the bust was outstanding.

This lovely lady is one of four Coss originals you can find in Uttica Square

Clayton is a quiet and humble man and I enjoyed visiting with him immensely.  Since chainsaw artistry is kind of an obscure art form I had to ask how he got started.  He told me that several years ago a friend showed him a few tricks.  Since he enjoyed it, he just stuck with it.  His practice and perseverance has paid off.  His talents are in high demand and have now made him a bit of a local celebrity.

Clayton’s work can be seen all over Tulsa.

If you want to see more of Clayton’s work, just drive around Tulsa.  You can find his work in neighborhoods, local businesses, public places and even the upscale and very swanky Uttica Square.  I spent a very enjoyable afternoon exploring Tulsa while conducting a scavenger hunt for his many sculptures.  If you would like Clayton to turn one of your dead trees into a Coss original contact him through is website “Chainsaw Artistry”.

A whimsical Coss creation in Uttica Square

P.S.  If you don’t live in Tulsa, please remove dead trees from your property as soon as you notice they have died.  Yesterday I read a very sad story out of Houston.  During a backyard family gathering, a pine tree that died in last year’s drought fell and killed a mom and seriously injured her 13 year old daughter.    This would not have happened if the neighbor with the dead tree had done the right thing.  Sorry to sound a little preachy but it really is important to remove dead trees.  If you don’t and your tree falls on someone else or their property you will be held responsible.

Lavender Fest at the Living Kitchen CSA

The view from the porch of the Living Kitchen CSA

I love the CSA movement.  If you are not familiar with the CSA concept here is a brief run down.  CSA stands for Community Supported Agriculture.  Basically, the CSA is an arrangement between a farmer and their customers.  The members of the CSA agree to pay a weekly fee to the farmer in exchange for an equal share of their harvest.  This arrangement ensures that the farmer has the resources needed to keep the farm going and the members get a steady supply of fresh, healthy (generally organic), locally grown vegetables for their families.  I really love this movement because it allows a lot of people to make a living farming on a relatively small scale.  I am a firm believer that what we put in our mouths really matters.  The people that operate CSAs feel this way as well.  That’s why this arrangement works.  Good people who love agriculture and taking care of the earth provide great food to people that care enough about what they feed their families that they are willing to support the producers.  Everyone wins!

Linda Ford hard at work distributing shares to her members at the Tulsa Farmer's Market

Two weeks ago my wife and I visited The Living Kitchen Farm and Dairy ( in Bristow Oklahoma.  This CSA is run by two of the hardest working entrepreneurs I have ever met.  Linda Ford and Lisa Becklund run a thriving business that combines vegetable production, a goat dairy, mutton production, egg production, artisanal cheese making, farmer’s market and fine dining experiences.  WHEW!  I am exhausted just telling you about all they do!  Their CSA model is a little different than most.  In addition to fresh vegetables, they also provide fresh eggs to their members .  They also intend to add mutton to the mix in the near future.  It is their ultimate goal to provide 75% of their member’s food needs.

Our Chef and hostess, Lisa Becklund, with Mrs. Yupneck

Running an operation this diverse does require some help.  The girls employ seasonal labor and are assisted by several volunteers.  This summer, they also have two college interns that are helping them with the just about everything.  Kathleen Airola (B.S. in Horticulture, University of Arkansas) and Josey Hoelscher (B.S. Animal Science, Purdue) are providing assistance in all aspects of the farm’s operations.  Young people like this are the future of Agriculture in our country.  I am excited to see such talented young people excited about a future in the agricultural world.  Both of these girls were extremely knowledgeable and personable and I enjoyed visiting with them immensely. 

The Living Farm interns: Kathleen Airola and Josey Hoelscher. Also pictured is Living Farm volunteer Cara Johnson. Special thanks to Cara as it was her and her mom that rescued the yupneck and his party when we became lost on our way to the farm!

Even though I am incredibly interested in all thing horticultural, what brought us to Living Kitchen was the birthday of a dear friend.  My wife was looking for something “different” to give her friend for this birthday.  The Living Kitchen Lavender Festival is what she came up with.  In addition to their agricultural events, Linda and Lisa sponsor monthly dinners (in the non-freezing months) that feature whatever is in season on the farm.  We were lucky enough to be there for the “Lavendar Festival”.  Every dish and drink had culinary lavender used in its preparation.  Lisa is a trained chef and her skills were apparent.  Everything that entered out mouths was outstanding. 

Flat bread made in the farm's "cob oven". The bread was perfect with the homemade chevre made right on the farm.

Atmosphere always plays a huge part in the fine dining experience.  Lisa and Linda have a log cabin on their property that they use to host their dinners.  This cabin looks like it is straight off the pages of a magazine.  We enjoyed our Lavendar Feast on the screened in porch of this rustic home with 29 other lovers of good food.  We ate, laughed and made new friends.  All in all, it was a perfect day.  My hat is off to these two outstanding young women.  Together they have built a business that feeds both the stomachs and souls of their guests.

Linnaeus Teaching Garden

A statue of Carl Linneaus, the father of botany and the namesake of the Linneaus Teaching Garden

The Linneaus Teaching Garden in Tulsa is an incredibly beautiful place that was a gift to the citizens of Tulsa by the citizens of Tulsa.  The garden is the vision of a true Master of Horticulture named Barry Fugatt.   Mr. Fugatt is the resident horticulturist at the Tulsa Garden Center.  In 2005 he approached the director with a plan to create a garden that would educate the people of Tulsa on the horticultural possibilities for their own yards and gardens. 

A lovely bed as you approach the teaching center

Over the rest of 2005 and 2006, 3000 people contributed the $800,000 needed to get this project off the ground.  With funding secured, the city authorized the use of 1.5 acres in Woodward Park to be used as the home of what was to become the Linneaus Teaching Garden.  Industry sponsors donated the material and labor to build the structures and hardscapes.  This trend of giving has continued and the garden has now thrived for five years without the need to take any public money.

Summer phlox and a bumble bee

The center is staffed by a cadre of trained volunteers.  To work here, you must complete a 12 week course that covers everything from plant taxonomy to landscape design.  Once the course is complete, the volunteers agree to provide at least 40 hours of their time to the garden each calendar year.

In the yupneck’s humble opinion, this type of garden is needed in every city in America.  The gardens are beautiful and they are filled with plants that grow well in Tulsa.  There is no sales pitch.  If you want to beautify your yard or start a vegetable garden, then all you have to do is stroll around this 1.5 acre oasis.  Every planting is clearly marked and selected soley because it does well in the Tulsa area.  If you want to know more about the plants or the methods that have caught your eye, then you can ask any of the very friendly and well trained staff for the additional info.

Lovely water feature

The Linneas is not just about ornamentals.  The vegetable garden was just as lovely as the beds.  I loved the extensive use of containers.  As more and more urban dwellers catch the gardening bug, container gardening is going to become a much more common way of growing veggies.  Containers are easy to get started and easy to maintain.  In fact, a container filled with the appropriate media (soil) will generally have fewer weeds, require no chemical fertilization and use much less water than a traditional, in the ground, row garden.  One complaint I have often heard people make about container gardens is that they cannot grow big vegetables like corn.  The Linneaus has obviously disproved this urban legend.

I have never seen corn grown in a container. Very interesting. I also liked seeing the whiskey barrels reused as very attractive container gardens.

With the feel of a public garden and a mission of education, this garden is an incredibly rare and valuable resource for the gardeners of Tulsa.  The fact that it is completely funded by private donations and staffed by people that are as passionate about horticulture as I am makes me love it even more.  I wish I had something like this in my neck of the woods.

Pansies in the middle of June! I don't think were in Zone 9 any more!

The Gardens of the Philbrook

Mrs. Yupneck entering Villa Philbrook. If you think the front is impressive, wait until you see the backyard!

This past weekend, the yupneck and his lovely wife took a much-needed break.   We headed to Tulsa, Oklahoma for a little R&R.  If you have never been to Tulsa, you should make a goal to go.  I have been several times now and each time I discover something more amazing than I did the time before.  This city is truly a gem.  With a population of approximately 250K, it is the perfect size to provide you with all of the big city amenities while maintaining the feel of a small town.

Tulsa used to be the oil/energy capital of America long before Houston took the title from them.  Because of this, there is still a very large oil and gas presence (and money) in the area.  All of that oil money has blessed Tulsa with an incredible collection of Art Deco buildings and a thriving arts culture.  However, I did not come to see buildings or art.  I came to see plants.  And boy am I glad I did.  Horticulturally, Tulsa is a beautiful city.  It is dotted with lovely parks, beautiful public gardens and absolutely fabulous neighborhoods.  Those folks in Tulsa evidently love their plants as much as the yupneck.  I saw so much beautiful stuff that I cannot include it all in a single post.  So, here is the first installment of the Great Tulsa Escape Weekend.

The "backyard" of Villa Philbrook

Our first stop was the Philbrook Museum of Art.  This Italian Renaissance Mansion was a gift to the city of Tulsa from Waite Phillips.  The mansion is spectacular and the art amazing.  However, it was the 23 landscaped acres surrounding the property that really got me going. 

After passing through the central gallery, you quickly come to the center of the museum.  It is from here that you get your first view of “the backyard”.  To say it is impressive is a huge understatement.  The Italianate Garden was designed and installed with the house in the 1920s. 

One thing I have begun to notice as I have toured gardens and landscapes this summer is how simple the plantings are.  Mass and repetition are two of the founding concepts of landscape design; and they have been used exquisitively in this garden.  Above, notice that the majority of the picture is made up of just three plants: boxwood, grass, and jasmine.  These three elements are strikingly combined in the parterre.

A mass planting of hardy hibiscus makes a lovely hedge at the Philbrook

As you walk down the hill, you leave a formal parterre and enter the water garden.  While water is a constant theme of the entire garden, the pond in the lower garden is the focus.  Here plantings were selected to give a more “wild” or natural appearance.

Lovely combination of variegated miscanthus and barberry

 The lower garden is flanked by a very lovely structure called “The Lover’s Chapel”

The Lover's Chapel

I was amazed by all of the plants that they can grow in Tulsa that i just have had very little to no luck with.  Lots of hydrangea.  Here is a very beautiful mas of oak leaf hydrangea

Oak Leaf Hydrangea and Bears Britches

There were a few things growing at Philbrook that I have in my garden.  Below is a picture of a couple of things that are very common in our part of the world.

Castor bean and purple heart

 I really want a pond in my own garden.  The Philbrook’s ponds only made me want one more.

Koi and water lilies at the Philbrook

And finally, I will leave you with a view of Villa Philbrook looking up from the lower garden.