There’s something about autumn…

the countryside painted in vibrant, warm colors…road-leaves 

The sounds of autumn...rustling leaves blowing down the road, migrating Canada Geese honking to their fellow travelers, the crunch of first frost underfoot, the wind in the trees…

The smells of autumn…apple trees, smokey bonfires, drying leaves, spicy mums, cinnamon laced apple pie fresh from the oven…earth after rainfall…silly people burning leaves…

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Savor the seasonal pleasures…crisp cool days spent working in the garden or walking through the woods, juicy apples just picked from the tree, sumptuous pears baked in maple syrup, outdoor fires for roasting marshmallows, warming drinks and harvest suppers, gathering pecans, picking and carving pumpkins…misty mornings, cozy nights under a quilt, warm mugs, scarf & sweaters…golden light through the trees…a clear, cold night sky to enjoy the Harvest Moon…

 

The words of autumn…     cozy…crisp…gathering…HARVEST…pumpkins…cornucopia…maple syrup… cranberries…nuts…roast turkey…spice…migration…purple grapes…thankful & grateful…persimmons…ABUNDANCE…crimson…golden…sunset…gourds…amber leaves…oatmeal mornings…delicious smells…WELCOME!

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The colors and textures of autumn…

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An autumn sunset…

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An autumn scrapbook…

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A view to autumn change…

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From my back porch to yours, enjoy the change that is upon us!

 

Friends…after an entire summer and early fall spent renovating my brother’s home after the broken pipe and resulting flooding of his house…Not completely finished…arrggh, contractors! BUT, I am finally trying to get back to spending time writing again.

More to come for the end of year. Next year I hope to continue with more posts. AND, I’m churning ideas in my mind and heart right now for a new book project with Jeanine…will keep you posted.

Love from Holly and me!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A home, a garden, a lifestyle, a season, an obsession…

Life moves along with the seasons…this is particularly true during the summer when fruits and vegetables and herbs are at their peak of freshness.

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ALFRESCO…Here, in the above photo, a lite breakfast of ripe, just picked fruits epitomizes the beauty of a summer garden. There is no better time of year than summer for creating fabulous meals while there is a limitless supply of fresh from the garden…or maybe the Farmer’s Market…colorful fruits, herbs, salad greens and vegetables. Eating out in the garden or on the porch/patio is a completely different experience from a meal served indoors. The fragrance of flowers…the scents of the season…mingle with the pleasure of delicious food and drink. Celebrate the tranquility and pleasure of bare feet on the grass or cool stone while sipping a chilled drink…

Long, hot summer days demand light food…plenty of salads, raw and grilled vegetables, simple fish, shrimp, crabs or scallops accompanied by a chilled while wine or Rose’ to bring the day to a close.

A hot summer day calls for cold drinks during the time just before the evening meal…enjoy a glass of Prosecco with fresh blended peaches. [Did you know that peaches originated in China?]

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OR…a personal favorite…Try LILLET with lemon. Lillet is a French aperitif, made in the village of Podensac from Bordeaux wine infused with oranges, honey, fresh mint and spices. Serve it chilled with a squeeze of lemon for a refreshing summer afternoon drink or before a meal as an aperitif. Crisp and delicious and refreshing.

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Of course, when I was growing up in the south, ALFRESCO…in the open air…meant taking a tomato sandwich out on the porch to eat while shooing flies away with a mesh swatter from the Piggly Wiggly…or cold fried chicken and corn on the cob under the tree by the wash house….all while my French sister, Jeanine, growing up in Lyon, enjoyed a bite of cheese or a piece of tortilla, a fresh lemon presse’ and a chunk of baguette from the “bakery” next door. And my friends wonder about my obsession!

 

Season of Summer...we fall into a slower pace, a more relaxed time for being outside, a time for picnics, for vacations at the beach or a cabin at the lake…a time for cooling off in the water, playing croquet on the lawn, canoeing on the lake…endless hours whiled away swinging into the lake dropping from a rope while yelling…”Geronimo”!!

Early summer in the garden…water your garden during dry spells, although we finally got rain yesterday and all night and shows 3 1/2 inches in my rain gauge!! There are 4 things to be mindful of in the garden: be alert for insect pests and diseases and be vigilant in your watering and weeding. Of course, if you follow my organic program you really shouldn’t be bothered by 3 of the chores, but watering is critical when the sky is dry for days and days…plants need about an inch of rain or watering a week. In loose sandy soil you’ll need more!!     So remember…plants are like people…they need to be clean and healthy to feel good and need air and water to survive!

A tip for you if you plan to put in a stone patio this season…which I am doing at my brother’s house…use creeping thyme planted between some of the stones on a terrace or patio to give fragrance and fresh green color year round.

Summer inside…close your eyes for a moment and envision the perfect room for  summer living. So, what do you see? For me it’s whitewashed woods and wicker, sorbet colors and white slipcovers on furniture. The look is comfortable and welcoming. However, I can’t change over furniture every season as would like to do so I think of simple tricks to give a breezy easy livin’ look to my rooms where I spend the most time. Lavender trimmings in the clean fireplace, fresh lavender, gardenia, and peony candles, a creamy white quilt thrown over the French paisley sofa, fresh little bouquets of herbs and flowers on every table, soft pretty pillows, a mantel full of gathered treasures, crisp white sheets on my bed topped with a lacy white cover from Portugal, all express my love for a somewhat simple, sophisticated lifestyle. My house is not perfect and never will be, I prefer comfort for Holly, my Border Collie, and me. It takes a lifetime to get where I am now!

AND, outside…I dream of a courtyard in a village in Provence…There is something, to me, about all things French that make them stylish and ROMANTIC! I remember a summer afternoon spent walking through a market in the south of France…a large woven basket, I still use for shopping, filled with some goat cheese wrapped in green fig leaves, a fresh still-warm baguette, a bottle of local Rose’, a few bars of handmade lavender soap and a new pair of red espadrilles and of course, a lovely bouquet of lavender stems. Later, nearing dusk, we, Jeanine and I, ambled down the lane towards a small stone house with lacy curtains fluttering in the breeze…our little cottage for the night! Roses clambered up the wall and eventually onto the roof…lavender just starting to bud…such wonderful fragrance added to a night sleeping with windows open to the night air.

Tonight, as I slip between the crisp white sheets, lavender sachet from Provence by my neck, I hope to dream of another time and back to that place…

Here’s to the Joys of July….

Love from Patricia & Holly & Cerise, the Deux Chevaux…

 

 

 

 

 

Signs of Summer…family, farm, garden and nature on hot, hazy days…

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Every summer, as soon as school was out, my family would pack up the old family car and drive to North Carolina to visit our grandmothers and my favorite Aunt. Rolling down the dusty driveway, I looked over the front seat trying to get a glimpse of the farmhouse and barn and my Grandmother! There she was, standing by the porch just outside the kitchen door, wearing her blue cotton dress and white apron, a dishtowel thrown over her shoulder. Jumping out of the old 1948 Packard, I ran down the dirt driveway where my Father had parked the car in front of the old white clapboard house,  I quickly hugged my sweet grandmother and then squealing with glee, headed straight for the garden while she followed behind with an old enamel bucket. She knew exactly what I wanted to do…pick some juicy red strawberries to go with her shortcakes ready to come out of the old wood stove oven that I just knew she had made. For topping the berries, Daisy had been milked earlier and her fresh cream was straining through cheesecloth into an enamel pan… soon to be whipped with the old egg beater! I picked a whole bucket full of warm strawberries!cream

My next chore was to get the cream from the wash house and help with the beating until it became a mound of luscious, fluffy, sweet cream. It took a while and as my arm would get tired I would stop for a minute only to hear Grandmother say…”No stopping, keep beating ’till it’s done or it just won’t be fluffy enough…and not too much sugar either!”  Then I had to rinse the berries and pull off the green caps, slice them and sprinkle with a wee bit of sugar.

After a dinner of fried chicken, done in a huge black iron skillet, mashed potatoes, corn on the cob, fresh green beans grandmother had picked while I worked on the strawberries…it was finally time for dessert! Of course I did have to help clean up the dishes from the table, wash them in a dishpan sitting in the huge cast iron sink that I constantly had to pump water into, rinse them in heated water in another pan and then hand them to my brother to dry and stack on the kitchen work table. It wasn’t called an island in those days! AND, we were the dishwasher! Finally ready to make dessert, Grandmother showed me how to fork split open the shortcakes, made rich with fresh churned butter, then scoop on several spoonfuls of berries, topped then with the other half of the cake, more strawberries and then finally…a huge spoonful of sweetened whipped cream…I was in heaven right there at Grandmother’s table.

The day had been long since getting up at 6:00 AM, leaving home we then had a 3 hour car ride. The rest of the day was spent picking berries, feeding the chickens and gathering eggs,  beating the cream and just running around the farm looking at all the animals and livestock and riding the ancient FORD tractor…and then family dinner,  followed by the best treat ever!

Yawning, I knew I couldn’t stay awake much longer so Grandmother started pouring the warm water she had been heating into the wash tub sitting in the kitchen so I could take a bath…running around the farm barefooted had really been fun but I was a dusty, dirty mess.  She told me firmly that I was not going to get into bed with just laundered, clean white sheets, crisp from ironing, fresh on the bed, until I had bathed, and besides…it was Saturday night! Sitting in the wash tub I rubbed her lavender soap on the dirty spots and poured warm water all over me while Grandmother used a pitcher to rinse my hair after soaping. Wrapped in a huge cotton towel, I walked to the bedroom at the back of the house to put on my pajamas and climb into the creaky old iron bed. Grandmother came in to spend a few minutes brushing out my hair before kissing me goodnight…she winked and said, “Don’t read too long under the covers, you’ll run down the flashlight battery.” How did she always know…?

Grow Your Own Berries…a burst of summer! Like so many seasonal fruit delights easily grown in home gardens, there is a very short time that berries are available…so pick often, preserve, freeze, bake and eat some daily. Nothing better on a lazy summer early evening than wandering through the garden, with a glass of wine, picking blackberries warmed by the day’s sun…fresh, sweet, fragrant and so much more tasty than those from a market.berries

Picking from your own plants is one of the joys of the summer season…if you have the time to take care of some new plants now, you’ll likely find fruit vines on sale at local garden centers. I suggest you buy a few vines, get them in the ground, water carefully until you see new growth. Then, monitor as you would your garden.

Birds also love fresh berries so if you have the problem just get some bird netting and cover your crops. Sometimes birds get trapped in netting so look for some that has small mesh. Blackberries, raspberries, blueberries and strawberries are the easiest to grow and offer crops for picking from June to early August, depending on varieties.

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Tune in to birdsong…As the sun sets over the trees and the bright light of summer fades to that time between dusk and darkness, the air begins to fill with evening birdsong. Shadows have darkened, the breeze has dropped and there is a hush punctuated only with the whine of insects and a few birds chirping. The moon rises beyond the trees and the song begins. Birds use their song for several purposes…some to attract a potential mate, some calls communicate between family members and often their short alarm sounds warn of any approaching predators. I enjoy walking through the garden listening to their song and sounds, often identifying a few familiar messages.

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 GARDEN NOTES…Water tomatoes in the morning at this time of year,  if you water too late in the day, wet foliage at night encourages blight. ALSO, as shown in photo, cut/remove lower and inside leaves on tomato vines to aid ripening and encourage the plants to put their energy into fruit production.

Pick lemon verbena leaves to make a refreshing tea or water for warm summer days!

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My chicks follow me everywhere I go in the garden, if I find a bug I toss it toward them and see which one can make the catch…they obviously know me as the food/feed provider even though they roam freely all day, scratching and pecking. It’s such a hoot to watch them waddle/run around the yard going after bugs and just having fun! She is one of my beautiful Gold-laced Wyandottes.

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From Holly and me, happy end of June…

 

All set to enjoy summer in the garden…

…nice long warm days, blue skies and fresh air feasts.

June, a month of strawberries and roses abloom! It’s also the month for wearing hats and cool linen in the garden…and a month for enjoying meals outside.

Early summer harvest…what’s in season? Ripe, juicy, sweet, mouth-watering, luscious, deep scarlet strawberries…inextricably linked with the arrival of summer. The best way to enjoy them…just picked with a bit of real cream and perhaps a freshly baked scone.

Fresh air feast…also coming into season! Some early grape or cherry tomatoes are just in and ready to pick for a tomato tart…This is such an easy, simple way to show off those tiny gems of flavor. Use puff pastry to cut rounds for crust…spread some herb goat cheese on the bottom of the crust, place tiny  sliced tomatoes as shown in the photo. Drizzle some olive oil, sprinkle S&P, and top with shredded Parmesan. Bake 375 for 20 minutes or until golden brown and risen. Truly divine enjoyed with a glass of wine while sitting on the patio watching the antics in the garden.IMG_4529

A Haven of Herbs…there are some shade loving herbs that will flourish in the garden. Fragrance and flavor, provide a harmonious mix in the potager…….Mint, parsley, chervil, chives, lemon balm, sorrel and more do well in a morning sun spot followed by great afternoon shade, in fertile, well-drained moist soil. Of course mint and lemon balm can be thugs that will survive and spread no matter what the conditions. Contain both by planting in large pots sunk into the soil. Lift the plants in the fall, divide the rootball and replant a small clump in fresh compost, back in the pot. Chives, parsley and chervil are pretty well-mannered in the garden and will grow and thrive well almost anywhere…although chervil does prefer cool weather.

Joyful benefits of mint…garden mint or spearmint in an infusion or tea was recommended by 17th century herbalist, Culpeper, to calm the stomach and help prevent indigestion. Often, after dinner, I make mint tea from a large handful of mint, steeped in hot water for a bit…You can drink the tea hot or pour over ice for a cooling and refreshing summer drink. Extra flavor can be added with lemon verbena leaves.

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Hollyhocks...sometimes called fairy hats…are one of the most popular cottage garden plants. They bring statuesque splendor to any planting bed or border and look especially striking against a wall or fence. Their majestic funnel-shaped flowers are abundant in early summer making them attractive to bees and butterflies. Hollyhocks are biennials and re-seed easily. They grow best in fertile, well-drained soil in a sunny location in most areas of the country.  NOTE: I always collect the little seed pods that form from the blooms to help perpetuate the stand of hollyhocks in the flower border.

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A time and place to dream and reflect…A pretty patch of woodland garden, a tranquil, lush spot through which to wander…Each evening after dinner, glass of wine in hand, I make a circuit of my garden. It’s the perfect way to wind down after a busy day. I delight in watching how everything is growing and changing…like weaving the tapestry together. And, just before dusk is the perfect time for watching wildlife visitors. To me, these relaxed balmy evenings and often an alfresco meal in the garden are what summer is all about…

OBELISKS, the exclamation point in the garden…Planting on structure offers another dimension in a garden…it adds obvious height and lifts the eye from the ground thus creating a garden that invites and surrounds. Supporting acts such as an obelisk, a rose arch, a trellis, a trio of bamboo poles and woven pole fencing…all give a little vertical assistance to a variety of plants. Pears grown this way thrive and produce abundant clusters of fruit.

Have you heard about watercress, the original “superfood” ??  A great addition to a salad, sandwich or made into a lovely soup. You can easily grow this green magic in your garden or in a container along with other greens that support brain health and much needed iron to our diet.

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So much more soon… but for now, while I’m working all day in the garden, Holly keeps watch over her growing flock.

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With love and growing good wishes…Patricia & Holly

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HOME, Sweet homestead…

Scent, structure and style…must haves in the garden!  Plan a scent scheme dream…your garden can easily be a place filled with fragrance wafting through the air from dawn to dusk. Scent evokes intense emotions and response, especially when associated with a special memory of a place, a person or an event. I still remember how lovely my grandmother smelled when she hugged me…it was Yardley in those days…lavender scented soap, ‘toilet’ water and fresh powder…

Smell is considered to be the first of our senses to develop…we all react to those scent memories first learned as babies.

An inviting entry path filled with lavender and roses while fragrant phlox and Annabelle hydrangeas intrigue and tease the senses all summer. Cedar structure holds climbing roses…adding a vertical element to the mix.

Perennials, herbs, shrubs, vines, bulbs and of course, old roses all have fragrant members of their group! Let your nose be your guide while choosing what you want as part of your scent scheme…here are just a very few, easily grown and cared for almost anywhere.

Perennials: phlox, lilies, peonies, iris, daisies, coneflowers, dianthus, verbena

Herbs: rosemary, lavender, thyme, pineapple sage, lemon verbena, mints, patchouli

Shrubs: lilac, butterfly bushes, mock orange, viburnum, gardenia, hydrangeas

Vines: jasmine, honeysuckle, sweet autumn clematis and others, wisteria, chocolate vine

Bulbs: daffodils, hyacinths, Oriental lilies, acidanthera, tuberose, lily of the valley

A tip for extending phlox blooms…leave some of the flower stems long, cut some back by 1/2 and some by 1/3…this group of 3 variables will promote longer flowering as well as a variety of heights.

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Make an entrance, my dream scheme entry path to the house...lavender spills over the gravel, rosemary behind and climbing roses against the wall. Of course, the wall and the gate add structure and interest while inviting you into the home. As you approach, the garden beckons, making you feel as if you’re being let in on a well-kept secret. The dream idea is there and can easily be adapted to your site…a cedar, iron or white picket fence could also create the perfect atmosphere for your garden…from rustic to refined as shown below…

Fresh herbs, intensely aromatic, are an essential ingredient in the garden as well as obvious necessities for all types of cooking…and plant-powered medicine. I really cannot imagine having or designing a garden without herbs! From years ago, I remember summertime meals at grandmother’s, eaten outside on a huge table covered with oilcloth, sitting on the swept yard under gigantic old oak and sycamore trees. The food laden table held the scent of rosemary and pepper on tiny new potatoes, fresh basil chopped on huge slices of just picked tomatoes, sweet corn-on-the-cob dripping with newly churned butter and sprinkled with parsley, lemon verbena on strawberries and just cranked vanilla ice cream…all creating vibrant flavors, tastes and memories never forgotten.

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Elderflower…shown above by my creek bed at the edge of the woods…is a plant from Mother Nature’s healing wildflowers. The wonder of elderlower, those frothy white blooms, appear in early summer standing tall along side creeks, country road ditches, flourishing at the edge of shady moist woodlands…is astounding. Both their blooms and berries, used for tea or tincture, offer therapeutic qualities as an anti-inflammatory and colds and sinus treatment, are also rich in Vitamin C and many other medicinal benefits.  The sweetly scented creamy white flowers are used to easily make a refreshing drink as well as a cordial. The lovely bottle of St. Germain shown is a French elderflower cordial with a hint of citrus that adds a bit of additional zip to a glass of white wine or sparkly Prosecco!

NOTE: ONLY the flowerheads and berries are usable!

My garden has gotten so thick that the plants cross over much of the paths…I just plunge on through along the meandering walkways stirring fragrance into the air.

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Along the way I keep several of my antique galvanized watering cans, full of water, for any plant emergencies I might find on my walk. The walkways and gravel paths through my garden link the areas of different planting schemes offering glimpses of eye-catching accents, sculpture, benches and vine-covered trellises.

bluedoorSimply defined, a garden is a place where plants live…the gardener here has created a garden that surrounds you in delightful fragrance and color for most of the year…the result of a planned dream scheme!

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                              The chicks are out playing and pooping in the RAIN!!

So it is time to go out to their pen to clean and add fresh alfalfa and pine shavings…

Till next time, dear friends, from Holly and me…Happy Gardening!

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May…discover the delights of spring.

Early morning spring walk through the woods…

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From darkness to dawn, magnificent oaks, elms, pines and sycamores stood silent…not a dog barked, not a bird chirped among the dark farm houses down beyond the woods. Then, the solitary chirp of a cardinal started in the trees and soon others began adding their mellifluous voices…birdsong filled the air against a rustling of leaves in the breeze. As daylight broadens in the eastern sky, the morning mist cleared away as I stood looking and listening to the expressive cooing of doves in the treetops while more birds joined the burble. Stopping for a moment by a fallen tree, a sudden flicker of movement catches my eye. A tiny bird, jaunty with a flirting tail, alighted on a branch across my path and began chirping off at my intrusion to the minute wren’s world. Sitting on the fallen tree, Holly by my side, listening and watching as squirrels began to scamper in search of nuts  while a doe followed by her twin fawns meandered by just a few feet away from me, I know there is nothing like this experience of hearing and watching and being a part of the dawn chorus.

From my back porch…

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Enjoying a lite lunch outside in the garden on a warm spring day, I have the perfect spot to look over and study the innermost secrets of my garden in harmony with its surroundings. The profusion of unseen activity shows in the soft falls of lavender & purple iris, the sun lighting up apricot, blush pink and white rose bloom, the richness of an amethyst clematis flower opening to the brightness gracefully weaving up and over the garden arch, clumps of deep pink chives in blossom mingled with the grayish tinge of French thyme edge the path in front of several pink and white roses…my garden, my many jewels!

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Petal Power…Late spring to early summer heralds the flowering of peonies in my garden with their showy voluptuous blooms…shown here with one of my favorite hydrangeas…Annabelle! The repeated use of this all season blooming white hydrangea acts as a transition from the perennial garden to my wild cutting garden.

As a “country gardener” I’m not concerned with current trends…I much prefer the traditions of the past by including familiar plants such as peonies, foxgloves, hollyhocks, “pinks”, iris, roses, phlox, blooming shrubs, roses and all kinds of herbs in my garden and for clients that ask me to design gardens for them.! In a “too fast-paced” world these plants offer a reassuring sense of enchanting chaos for me…my garden and my home are my joy…my comfort everyday.

Annabelle, coneflowers white & pink phlox and more…

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Fresh-faced annual appeal…I’ll go along with some annuals that are ideal for filling any gaps in a garden from early mid-summer to fall. Tucked in among perennials sometime in early spring, heirloom plants such as tall and wispy cosmos, bachelor buttons, love-in-a-mist and cleome will create a haze of color and texture…save the seeds to create new plants from year to year.

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It’s just that simple…extend the bloom time of annuals and perennials with regular deadheading, if you have time! Just cut above a strong leaf joint instead of simply cutting off the flower. Prompt removal of flower heads and their stems promotes new side shoots and continuous flowering. Along with consistent moisture, good mulch and some foliar feeding…the plants will bloom longer than if left alone. Also, if you want to collect seeds, be sure to let some flower heads alone to create seed pods.

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Vintage Charm…over many decades my homes have been filled with pieces I have been drawn to and collected, eclectic pieces that fill my home and every room that reflect the gracious marks of time and use…when everyday objects were made to last…along with a few whimsies that often inspire conversation. My heart is always drawn to the charm of French pieces…to use, to care for and lovingly pass down to the next generation who will hopefully appreciate their passage through time and travels.

During spring and summer…a chilled glass of white wine pairs very well with fresh cheese and fruits of the season. One of the most sublime food and wine combinations is fresh goats cheese, crispy baguette and a glass of Sauvignon Blanc.  The same SB also flatters the flavor of fresh cut asparagus and grilled salmon. For an even sweeter treat, try a nice Sauternes with a classic French style fruit and custard tart for dessert.

Here…chick, chick, chick! My little chicks are now 6 weeks old, living in their pen and are growing like proverbial weeds…of course I do give them fresh watercress, clover, meal worms and corn on the cob to peck at…everyday!!

spring       Enjoy every spring day!

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A far from ordinary spring…

Lilac blossoms always say spring is here…and this year, earlier than expected! Mine are already blooming along with spirea near by. Plant this easy, old-fashioned lilac shrub near your bedroom window, 6′ away from foundation, of course. When in bloom, the delightfully delicious fragrance drifting through an open window will awaken you with an unforgettably soft sweetness. Lilacs are simple to grow in the right spot and with just slight care…depending on where your garden grows!! Here in Virginia, my lilacs are living in a sunny spot in spring and as the trees turn green their leaves begin to shade the shrubs in the late afternoon.

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April in the garden…if you succumb to the frenzy of packed spring displays at garden centers offering tempting pots of annuals and perennial plants that you have to read tag info, such as it is,  or ask an onsite gardener, hopefully, before buying?? Whoa! It’s okay to get swept away by the beauty of all those blooms after a winter of none, for some but not me. BUT, be sure your choices will suit your SITE…that they will naturally thrive in your SOIL and prevailing climate…as I’ve said for over 25 years…Learn to love the plants that LIKE where YOU live!

ALL GARDEN CENTERS DO NOT BUY FOR LOCATION! THEY BUY TO CREATE AN EMOTIONAL RESPONSE TO BLOOMS AND COLOR, WISHES AND WANTS! This is a lovely site and I’m sure a joy to visit! Seek out the extraordinary independent centers such as the one shown below! You will typically find knowledgeable gardeners willing to help!

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Time Well Spent…an hour or two spent adding a new layer of mulch to your garden beds will save you hours later on pulling weeds from your garden! Now is the TIME to do it! Apply a 2-3 inch layer of fresh mulch when soil is moist, after a spring rain is ideal, but you can also simply give a good spray from the hose. It’s also a good time to add a top dressing of homemade compost or well-rotted manure just before you apply fresh mulch. As for which mulch to use…I prefer and typically specify deep rich, earthy brown shredded hardwood mulch…NO CHIPS, or COLORS!! Always be sure to avoid direct contact with woody plant stems and especially tree when adding mulch. Mulch piled up around tree trunks like a teepee can especially do great damage.

A place to sit or put supplies you need…Always a good idea to have a chair or bench along a garden path…for those countless times I have spent looking for gloves or trimmers this now saves my sanity.

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So by now you should have trimmed all your lavender and any other silver leaved plants…santolina, Russian sage, curry, artemisias, and such

NOTE: while working in your garden, if the soil sticks to your boots or clogs, it is too wet for sowing seeds but is ideal for transplanting! Seeds are best either scattered or pressed into slightly moist soil and then sprayed to settle in for sprouting.

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Blooming this week in my garden…delicate and enchanting, this David Austin rose, Princess Anne, should be an inspiration to add old roses to your garden. No more difficult hybrid teas!  An Austin rose is typically a nice shrubby plant with deep green leaves and many-petaled, richly fragrant blossoms. In the 1960s, English rose breeder, David Austin, created some lovely new “old roses” by crossing Old Garden Roses with more modern floribunda roses in order to achieve superb fragrance, delicate blooms, winter hardiness and repeat flowering…all with the charm of old roses. Moving several times over the years, I have always included many Austin roses in my gardens. Knowing that there are NO perfect roses…I believe Old Garden or Antique Roses come pretty close…Mr. Austin sought to achieve perfection with his new roses and in my view has come awfully close capturing their romance, beauty, versatility, subtle colors and outstanding fragrances. I always feel a sense of nostalgia as the old or Austin carries me away to the time of English poets. The apricot rose, Lady of Shalott, is an especially nice pure apricot color. A rolled rim Italian terra cotta pot is the perfect container for this rose that I’ve placed just behind a large group of Provence lavender plants in my garden…

Coffee Break…I really love a cup of good, strong, freshly ground and brewed coffee and I only drink organic coffee that is shade grown and fair trade. Many years ago it was difficult to find certified organic coffee but today there are several hundred companies that grow and roast organic coffee beans. Why bother you ask? I learned decades ago about saving the rain forests and WHY…aside from the obvious contribution of so many trees absorbing CO2 for the good of the planet…coffee beans were grown in the shade, under the forest canopy, their natural habitat. Of course some farmers soon found that you could grow coffee a lot faster if you cleared the forest canopy and grew it in the sun! But the biggest problem with growing coffee in the sun is the constant need for dousing it with synthetic chemicals and pesticides…you take a plant out of its natural growing condition and it needs help. As a result, coffee is considered #1 out of the top 10 products to avoid because of chemicals and pesticides used for growing. Thankfully there are farmers once again committed to growing only the finest and purest beans…in the shade and without chemicals or pesticides! It does cost just a wee bit more but I think we’re worth it!!

 

APRIL in Paris…okay, well one can dream to be there again!!

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buy happy                                                                                                        Here’s to a happy spring time, filled with perfect weather and rainfall!

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From Holly and ME!

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A springtime full of promises…

Walking through a deciduous woodland wonder, filled with daffodils and bluebells in early spring, is a magical experience…

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A stand of budding deciduous trees under planted with drifts of daffodils and tulips create a symphony of color…and promises full-filled by nature for another year.

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A picturesque patchwork of flowers and foliage, sunlit clearings, spots of shade and a work of nature always in progress…

From branches of delight to the old-fashioned shrubs of spring, you’ll find a traditional feast full of blooms and fragrance…vivid pink blossoms of Oriental cherry, pale red buds, purple plums, and later, in time for Easter…dogwoods, a sure symbol of new life.

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Crabapple blooms ^ waiting for continued warmth, the buzz of pollinating bees and then the fruits of summer…Cut a few branches before they bloom to bring inside.

Breathtakingly beautiful spring displays of bloom…the annual transformation of bare branches into blossoms and leaves…cherry, apple, pear, viburnum, lilacs, spirea, mock orange and so many more…promises kept that lift the heart and inspire you to put on your garden boots and get outside!

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Spread finished compost in garden beds and then rework your compost pile as needed…to really get growing strong.

Managing your kitchen garden/potager is as much about learning how simple it is to just do basic care & maintenance and then let Nature happen…This is one of the hardest things to do in an era of “instant gratification takes too long”! If you have created an organic kitchen garden, it should be a joy to just pinch and pick and keep watered…Oh, wait…you do have a potager, certainly?? The one shown below is a rustic example of growing in a country setting…my favorite. However, I promise, it is simple to adjust the plan to an urban environment.

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Such a clever use of space and raised areas along with a great group of herbs as companion plants...the garden ^ has been created on a 4 square basis. It’s a glorious spring morning, all is quiet in the garden and the woods behind the house except for an occasional birdsong…with longer daylight hours there is more time to enjoy routine tasks, to plan and potter in the garden…to share salad greens and spring peas…and soon organic eggs from my new flock…just getting started inside today.

I’ve reworked the old chicken pen to provide a safer space for containment if I’m away for a few days, otherwise, when old enough, they’ll wander the garden daily on pest patrol.

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The beginning of my new flock, the little chicks here, staying warm under a light, will stay in the trough until they are large enough to move into their new and improved living space…will keep you posted. ^

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Promise of Posies…Do you have a cutting garden? In addition to my garden of perennials, roses, herbs and such, a separate cutting garden…if you have the space and the sunshine…is a must in order to create a feast of flowers, both annuals and a few perennials, for enjoyment in vases around the home and to share with friends. I often plan such gardens for clients and some years, if not too busy, for me. My planning started in January and planting/sowing of some seeds started late in February …

The cutting garden year starts with daffodils, tulips, drifts of blue scillia and narcissus followed by Iceland poppies, scented stock & wallflowers, iris, love-in-a-mist/nigella, sweet peas, and lime green euphorbia!

Late spring to early summer brings snapdragons, calendula, dianthus, sweet rocket, sweet william, woodland phlox, Canterbury bells, bachelor buttons, and a continuation of more sweet peas.

And mid summer into fall…drifts of cosmos and daisies, zinnias of all colors, Mexican sunflowers, summer phlox, salvias, dahlias, amaranthus, coreopsis, verbenas, coneflowers, and chocolate cosmos.

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With all of the above...easily planted by seeds, bulbs, cuttings or starts…you’ll have wonderful drifts of flowers and fragrant blooms to pick from spring to fall. Who wouldn’t  love that, even on a much smaller scale?

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Experimenting is a good way to learn about flowers, how they grow, how long they bloom and how happy they are living in groups as shown above…A few  years ago I created a small cutting garden of all white blooms and silver foliage which offers a variety of bouquets from my cutting garden. It was such a success I then expanded with many more white and silver plants with a Moon Garden design…in a July post a few years back.

leekSome favorite ingredients from the spring garden are leeks and a few “new” potatoes, freshly dug from their growing baskets…the photo above shows a very creamy version of delicious leek & potato soup. When I make this soup it stays more rustic and a bit chunky…as I do NOT have an immersion blender. But, that’s fine, just personal preference. Leek and potato soup, with a glass of wine, a baguette and piece of cheese, is a simple, inexpensive and delightful meal served very often in Provencal country homes…and, at my country home in Virginia!

IMG_0485    Last March, springtime in Texas, with my French sister, Jeanine, we made Chicken pie and picked fresh salad greens from her potager! See how lovely the tiny bouquets are from her early garden of blooms.

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She keeps watch over the new flock…

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Happy Spring picking!!

Special hello and thank you to a blog reader in Texas, Felicia…she happened upon Jeanine at a local garden center and recognized my sister from the blog!!

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A certain je ne sais quoi…

                         A post of a different color…it gives you a another viewpoint.

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My friends know I have long been enchanted with all things French...the history, the language, the lifestyle, the elegance and simplicity, the furnishings, the decor, the passion and reverence for time worn pieces passed from one generation to the next, along with the rustic allure and charm of the countryside. Very few know why…

This great love and deep appreciation took root as a bookish 12 year old after reading The Diary of Anne Frank… I began my quest to find out all I could about World War II and especially the role of the Resistance in France, which, of course, led me to read many other books about the sacrifices made by other countries and their heroic people who fought and died during the Nazi Occupation of much of Europe! There were so many intriguing stories…Historical fact and fiction of Europe along with books about American history became my companions as I traveled the world through their words.

Traveling for the first time to Paris & Provence in 1999, I was thrilled to be walking the ancient and historic streets I had imagined and read so much about. On the Il de Cite’, Jeanine and I were standing in line outside a small ice cream/sorbet shop when I noticed a stone plaque on the building across the walkway. I walked over while Jeanine ordered for us and found a passage engraved on the stone…loosely remembered…”In this place Jewish children were hidden during the occupation of Paris.” So there I stood, thinking of all the historical events, this very thing I had read about, tears streaming, I thanked God for the people brave enough to fight the Nazis.

While living in the mountains of Colorado in my late twenties…I met a lovely, gracefully aging lady from France who happened one day to walk into my design shop. We talked and talked, she sharing about her home in Provence and why she was living in Colorado, me sharing how much I loved listening to her. She actually lived near me in the Evergreen Meadows east of the village. Enthralled with her accent, her soft, silvery gray hair styled into a bun at the nape of her neck, her blue eyes moist as she spoke of Provence, she asked if I would help with a party at her home. A few days later, excited by her invitation to visit, I followed the directions up the mountain canyon to what she called her rustic home…well, she personified grace and elegance and her home was very much a reflection of just those qualities. It was a home filled with timeless treasures, flea market finds beside the patina of well-loved furniture, enchanting vignettes of china pieces, copper and crystal, and a host of charming antique curiosities…peeling, cracked, and chipped! Her garden…a tangle of relaxed and carefree sunny blossoms. I was there to plan a Bastille Day Celebration for her which turned out to be a rather spectacular yearly event. We remained friends, sharing our love of France and gardening for several years until…Well, and then I moved away…

Living in California...This antique silver box was a thank you gift from a great French lady who became a client while I lived and worked in California. She hired me to design and completely furnish a large condo unit she had purchased in Century City….all while she was still in Paris. We spoke on the phone, weekly, through her daughter who spoke English.fullsizerender101

Working for Madame, as I called her, was such a great experience…every selection and design element was presented and sent by courier to Paris…she would look over the details and then exclaim as we spoke on the phone, often as late as 9:00PM…’how very French this will look and how did you know so easily what I would like…’ That was the easy part, putting the “LOOK” and “STYLE” together. Getting the fabrics and wallpapers and  work and built-ins done and furniture installed in time for her first visit was the challenge. Another French friend, an antique dealer from Pasadena, in the last few weeks of the process, found many pieces from Paris markets that I used to furnish and accessorize the space that became a warm and gracious home filled with color, pattern, art and great spots for relaxing. I still remember her first words as she walked into her home away from home…’Oh, c’est magnifique!’

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And, it happened again…Many years later later I met, by chance, my transplanted French sister, Jeanine, shown above on the right. Once more, I fell into the French of all things…talking, laughing, sharing so much. We began with our love of gardening, then we began cooking together and teaching others about cooking the French way, and then on to our trip to France where we evolved into sisterhood. We enjoy a rich history filled with wildly sumptuous meals, captivating & playful adventures, and an enduring deep friendship. I think back, that hard lump in my throat, of all the memories spent together, the four of us…her husband, Luat, and my late husband, Carl… and all the others who came to enjoy time spent eating and drinking wine while gathered around the pool. We still visit, text every few days and travel when we have time..that will never change.

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Quoi de neuf? Our get-togethers over good wines and cheese and a baguette fresh from the oven were often the perfect ending for our day spent in the garden, our time to talk, to laugh, to relax and to sometimes cry…

So now you know and understand a bit more of how my life has been deeply influenced by …all things French.

 

Over many decades, I have collected vintage pieces from France,  and a few from Italy and England, that filled my homes around the country, reflecting the gracious marks of time and use, along with an occasional whimsy that inspired conversation. My heart fills with love for these everyday objects that were made to last, with the charm of the French way…to care for, to use and to lovingly pass down to the next generation…who will hopefully appreciate their passage through time.

 

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Holly says hello…

cerise 3Cerise loves her time spent in the lavender fields…one day I’ll see them again with her and Jeanine.

 

 

 

“Eating is not merely a material pleasure. Eating well gives a spectacular joy to life and contributes immensely to goodwill and happy companionship.”  Elsa Schiaparelli

March…a time of awakening, lions & lambs & spring cleaning!

 

When the countryside awakes in early spring, the fields and deciduous woods glow with drifts of naturalized daffodils…dancing & fluttering in the breeze, these early flowering bulbs, the color of spring, emerge like hidden treasures. Forsythia, pussy willow and pink star magnolia blooms follow, the sweet signs of spring. Everything is clear and fragrant, life and nature…as certain as the moon and stars!

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Springing into action…time to take advantage of warmer weather to begin pruning, planting and mulching. Already my garden is a spring bouquet of daffodils, forsythia, magical white snowdrops, tiny purple iris, winter honeysuckle, blue rosemary buds, creamy star anise, and winter jasmine’s cheery cascade of sunny blooms on naked green shoots…everywhere I walk, fragrance is abundantly sweet. It is sheltered by woods and enriched by years of leaf-mould and compost…a joy to work in. Suddenly the wind begins to blow, oak treetops swirling like a mixer and I find it difficult to work…my favorite garden hat…found at a little shop in Aix-en-Provence…blows away across the yard and into the woods. Chasing it, I stumble, fall and thankfully land in a pile of leaves I had raked away earlier! Struggling to stand, I check everywhere and find all is well…of course, tomorrow the bruises and aches will make themselves known!  The joys of aging apparent, even though I’m in good “shape” for my age!

 

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Spring is traditionally the season for fresh goat’s milk cheeses…and all over southern France the farmers’ markets will be bursting back into life after the winter break. I love the individuality of a goat cheese from different farms…some rolled in ash, some wrapped in chestnut leaves soaked in brandy or bourbon, some allowed to form a slight rind or crust. Crottins de Charvignol, a French classic goat cheese, available at fine fine markets, is a mainstay favorite for cooking or crumbled on a salad.

Refresh your home for spring…March is typically a month for spring cleaning, a time to sweep up dust in the corners, along baseboards and bunnies under the bed.A good time for moving around furniture a bit and cleaning all wood surfaces with lavender or lemon oil water. I use only natural products…lemons, vinegar, baking soda, borax and essential oils…never synthetic sprays for fine wood pieces! It feels so good to give my home a fresh look and fragrance that reflects the change in season. **See past years for much more details on natural cleaning.

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Watching the garden transform from bare to beautiful…while planning a new planting area! Friends often ask me…”Why do you have so many blooms in your garden in late winter and early spring?” My reply leaves them puzzled…”I design gardens and landscapes with a long season, almost year-round, of blooms and fragrance. Both are very important aspects of any garden. Puzzled because they don’t really know that much about plants and just buy what they see that they like…then get mainly plants that they see  blooming in spring and nothing much more as the seasons unfold!

Garden design is not an exact science, it’s an emotional response to colors, textures, shapes, scent and bloom…for me it is also about experimentation, flexibility and inspiration! Typically I base a garden around a few simple things…good shrubs and plants, evergreen and deciduous, focal points, paths, and structures…and most of all a design that suits the site, the climate and the needs/wants of the gardener. Many layers of planting add depth and a long season of bloom resulting in a garden that excites, invites and soothes the senses!

Love these diverse structures for the garden…both have a rustic feel to some degree, perfect for a cottage garden.

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Dry creek bed…This is another very important aspect of designing a garden…planning for rain and run off! This shows using a simple stone swale to carry rainfall from downspout winding through the yard to the street. I have designed many expansive dry creek beds for clients that wind through a landscape and eventually end in a small pond. Consider this if you have drainage issues before you start planting a garden.

It’s late, the wind is slowed down a bit and time to think about dinner for Holly and me and which wine I want to open…til next time!

be039d95-e0a8-4f82-b157-01c0c259fccf Woof from Holly!! Love from Patricia