It’s SUNDAY, time for soup & traditions!

Today is Sunday and I’m making SOUP...even though it is sunny and considerably warmer outside…a ‘balmy’ 54 degrees! The soup can actually simmer slowly on the gas stove while I poke around a bit outside in the sun gathering vitamin D. The sky has been overcast, gray and dreary for the past week so today is very welcome…and gives me a moment to gather a few fresh herbs! On the stove is late winter soup…chicken and vegetables…cooking in my favorite Le Creuset pot, a parting gift from friends when I left Texas over 12 years ago.

IMG_0219Soup has been a tradition of mine for many years…the gathering of ingredients, the preparation, the simmering pot on the stove, the aroma when coming inside from the garden and finally the enjoyment of a nice bowl of warm goodness after a day of chill and sometimes very hard work! What could be better?!

Of course, SOUP has historically been traditional fare for hundreds of years…and served as main meals in many countries. Cooked over a campfire, wood stove or gas range…most soups are simple to make from just about any collection of ingredients!  I especially like the soups one finds around the south of France and areas of the Mediterranean. Gee, surprise.

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There are so many kinds of soup that you can enjoy just about anywhere…shown above is a nice Provencal fall vegetable hearty soup being served family style on the patio.  Along with the soup is Pistou, typically added just before serving at the table,  a seasoning paste of pounded [in a mortar & pestle] garlic, basil, and olive oil. Often added to this mixture, is Parmesan cheese, dried bread and pine nuts or almonds…showing a bit of Italian influence.

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Here, shown in the garden…is spring garden soup with new potatoes served alongside a fresh egg omelet. Another great companion for the humble soup would be Rillettes de Poisson, or creamy fish spread of finely shredded fish, chives and mustard spread on toasted baguette.

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For villagers in the south of France, Provence, traditions are also strongly important…the families work long hours tending to their land, gardens, farm animals, vines and orchards, while making cheese and often doing stone work. Early morning would start with cafe’ and bread, usually left over from the the night before…unless fresh croissants were available in the village bakery. Their mid-day break for a meal [dejeuner] is typically the main meal of the day. Except for special occasions, their supper or evening meal is very light….typically soup, bread cheese and seasonal fruit or preserved jam/fruit as a little sweet with their bread.

Most Provencal cooking is considered “home cooking” with traditional food preparation methods or recipes passed from one generation to the next. This has been considered the inspiration for professional cooks/chefs…calling their food…”in the Provencal style “!

In most villages, the Provencal cook or housewife prepares meals from whatever is available seasonally from the garden or sometimes the bounty found at the village market…soup being the mainstay of the farm kitchen.

Many years ago, one of the most fabulous things I learned from my French sister, Jeanine, is to look in the refrigerator/freezer, find chicken stock, a few fresh or often “leftover” ingredients, collect some herbs and greens and such from the garden and within an hour or two have a fabulous meal of magical soup, cheese and bread as well as a simple dessert of freshly made sorbet.  I’ve seen her do this from some of the most unlikely ingredients that quickly become a 3 Michelin star repast. After arriving home from the office, she does this several times a week and WE do it every time we are together. It soon becomes an art to see what we can create!

FRENCH ideology is…Take what you have and make it something better!

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Reigning Violets…Tiny violets, fragrant violets, candied violets, violets on a salad, a nosegay of violets…the fragrance and beauty of Viola odorata flowers is elusive and unique. In the language of flowers, the violet celebrates modesty, virtue, faithfulness, humility and happiness.

Violets were used medicinally [ often a cough remedy] throughout the known world since before Christ, Romans made sweet wine from them, and they were used as a component of strewing herbs in Medieval homes to sweeten the air.  Much later, violets became very popular with the Victorians for their fragrance when blossoms were used in eau de toilette and for tiny flower posies ladies carried to hide their noses from street smells. In fact, it was reported that in 1874 six tons of violet flowers were harvested in the south of France to then be shipped to England.

Violets won the hearts of the French long before Napoleon but they became a favorite of the Emperor and his wife Josephine. At her home, Malmaison, the Empress grew violets along with her favorite roses. The Emperor was so obsessed with violets that he chose them as his emblem and would often send Josephine tiny bouquets. While in exile in Elba, Napoleon told his supporters that he would return to France when violets were in bloom. After Josephine’s death, tiny bunches of violets were regularly placed on her grave.

Violets are a quaint, romantic little flower…used for soaps, medicinal preparations, candles and perfumes. Candied violets have been a favorite sweet treat throughout the centuries…I’ll never forget buying some of these quaint treats in a Paris sweet shop…I still have the jar and wrapping.

Gardeners can grow the true hardy Viola as well as some of the newer hybridized  varieties that were bred with longer stems. Usually available in garden centers, or wooded areas, these dainty beauties are lovely in a strawberry bed, an herb garden or as a rose companion. Violets are virtuous, vivacious, valuable and oh, so powerful!  Soon they will herald the arrival of early spring…

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NOW, I’m going to take a moment to whine a bit…having VERTIGO really does suck!!

Here’s hoping I can work through all this and get on with my garden, my home and my writing…

From Holly and me…love & hugs till next time!

 

 

 

 

Welcome January…and 2018!

8ac4c6ac07e775ee92e7b6e1cd902fef     With each new day comes the CHANCE to do, make, fix, choose, try, find, love, show the world and anything else you choose to do! Think on new chances for YOU this new year! 

DO…I choose to DO something FUN everyday, at least once…sometimes it involves a new garden project, sometimes a closet that needs cleaning [how did that get there], searching and researching for my blog and a new book I am thinking about writing. Do people still buy books?? Rhetorical! Of course I do, I LOVE the feel of a book and being able to write notes on pages and look at great photos in cookbooks and just enjoy knowing that the bookstack of beautiful covers, words, pictures, thoughts, ideas and so much more are sitting and waiting for me by my chair…for anytime!

MAKE…This week while the temps hover in single digits here, I’ve chosen to be inside for a few hours and work on a favorite project: sharing our family history in pictures for daughters and grandchildren…

Using black and white copies of old photos, I glue them to manilla shipping tags and suggest hanging on the Christmas tree each year as a reminder of family past as well as all those still with us. On the back of each tag I write who is in the picture and as much information about the date and where taken and how related in family. I usually decorate the tags with lace or ribbons and sometime buttons and such…IMG_0210

This collection of tags and special photos now fill a small box and as I continue making more I truly hope that they will be saved and cherished for many years to come.

Tonight I will FIX a frittata for dinner…hens have slowed down production, but a few of my 16 girls usually lay 6-8 eggs that I find amidst the piles of warm straw in the nest boxes. Keeping fresh water for the girls is an ongoing process as the water bowls freeze within an hour after filling!!

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This photo is from a woman who writes a blog…FRESH EGGS DAILY… about chickens and farm life which is quite a hoot to read!

This afternoon using my fabulous new stand mixer that my daughter, Cindy, gave me for Christmas I’m also going to MAKE spelt bread.

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Much too quickly so go ahead…take a chance and try something new!!

 

For now, From Holly and Me…we wish you great happiness for the new year and always!

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Rediscover the Spirit and Sparkle of Merry Christmas…

Welcome family and friends…a bright, twinkling display of tiny lights strung over a deciduous vine or climbing rose already growing on an arbor creates a warm and welcoming entry to your home. To make it more festive for Christmas, add red plaid ribbons and bows with sprays of evergreens.

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Capture the season by decorating your home with traditional garlands of fresh greens adorned with red velvet or gingham ribbons, winter berries and fresh foliage, simply wrapped presents stacked under the live tree shimmering with tiny white lights, flickering candlelight on the mantel…clicks.aweber.com

 

Rows of candlelights in simple jam jars decorated with ivy and sprigs of holly flicker on a window ledge while bunches of seasonal greenery hang inside and out.A sparkle of red and silver set a gracious holiday table.

 

Bake/Make tasteful treats…gifts of food give so much pleasure and nothing evokes anticipation of the celebrations to come quite like the tantalizing aromas of Christmas baking…spicy gingerbread cookies, jars of fruity jams and jellies, dreamy chocolate fudge, steamed fruit puddings, homemade biscuits crammed with cheese and nuts, curried pecans, and so many other creative foods.

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The joyful spirit of giving and sharing often gets lost in the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. But, giving can be more fulfilling if we remember that the best gift is one that creates something special between you and another person.

 

Winter Warmers…’tis the season to eat, drink & be merry… 

Enjoy the magic of a winter walk through the countryside or nearby park followed by a steaming pot of soup still simmering on the stove. Later, spend time warming in front of the fireplace accompanied by a glass of rich Armagnac, or a smooth Cognac to sip and savor. Don’t forget, a bottle [or 2] makes a lovely and thoughtful gift. HINT:  In France, the Dartigalongue distillery has been producing spirits since 1831. The Roger Groult distillery offers some of the finest Calvados made from a variety of apples grown on their own trees…their region is in the heart of the Pays d’ Auge.

If you want to really splurge… Look for Jean Fillioux Cognac, considered one of the finest premier cru in the world of Cognac. The estate is located in the heart of the Grande Champagne region. Some of their RESERVE FAMILIALE bottles are over 50 years old.

Of course my choice, [ if I could even afford the gift box ] is DuPeyrat organic Cognac XO, aged a minimum of 15 years by the Du Peyrat family at their distillery in France. The family has been producing Cognac for over 300 years so I assume they have their production very well organized.

To keep the good cheer flowing…any of these wonderful, luxurious spirits would be perfect for a sit and slow sip by the fireplace.

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This time of year marks both a beginning and an ending…the hard work has ended for a while and while I still putter about on warmer sunny days, I am looking ahead to next spring…For now it’s the beginning of winter and I know that long after I have closed the back door and hung up my very old blue denim jacket, the gardeners of Provence will still be out, having supper on the patio, snapping off stems of rosemary & thyme still warm from the sun…I knew it would be this way, winter slowly creeps on and I am already longing for spring and a visit with my French sister, Jeanine…

Love and All the Best Wishes for the Holiday Season…

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Merry Christmas! says HOLLY!!

 

 

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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