Sunday, August 14, 2016

Franklinia--A Statesman in the Garden.

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A rare Franklinia (tree in foreground) stands in a garden amidst coneflowers, bee balm, day lillies, lavender and more.  It's a true statesman in this perennial garden bed.  A red maple (Acer rubrum) anchors the other end of the border and shines bright crimson in the fall, so as not to be totally outdone by the more diminutive yet regal Franklin Tree.  By the way, how do you like my china teacup flower, made by my very talented friend, Rick Wiedner?  As an artist and blacksmith, he certainly has an green-iron thumb!
The flirty and flouncy Franklinia Tree blossoms that had fallen to the ground during a fast moving rain storm dress up an old blue and white serving bowl.  I think Benjamin Franklin would be flattered as he was not only an inventor but also a true admirer of women.





















High heat, hefty humidity and soaking raindrops, that come out of nowhere and then disappear just as swiftly, cannot keep a good tree from blooming its little heart out in these dog days of summer.  Have you ever heard of a Franklinia Tree (Franklinia alatamaha)?  Named in honor of Benjamin Franklin, the Franklinia, or Franklin Tree, was discovered way back in the middle 1700's in the state we know as Georgia, along the Alatamaha River by botinists of the time, John Bartram and his son William. This heirloom and rare ornamental has been considered extinct in the wild since the middle 1800's and can only be found/cultivated by nurseries.  In fact, it is believed that all of the Franklin trees grown today came from the few specimens the Bartram's brought back from the Georgia territory and then propagated and grew in their own Philadelphia garden.

Fresh blooms framed by clusters of waxy green leaves at the end of each branch release a pleasant scent  that attracts not only pollinators but also people. The soft scent lends a bit of lightness to the heavily perfumed lavender plants on the property.
Blossoms appear like fireflies in the duskiness of a hot summer evening.
The Franklinia tree we have here at Blooming Hill was a gift to us from Peter's mother, Lynn, soon after we moved in 23 years ago and has been a source of beauty and pleasure since it took up residency in the garden just off the covered back porch.  It took a couple of years for the once small sapling to produce it's lovely camellia-like flowers that appear from perfectly round, tightly wrapped buds in midsummer. However, around year number three, it started blooming and, since then, this venerable tree  never fails to dress itself up in cotillion-like fashion, each year, just in time to give some of the fading flowers of late summer a little boost.


Butterflies visit this tree all day long.
Marble-sized and pearl white, the buds will unfurl new, long-blooming flowers each day for about a month.
What did I tell you?  The butterflies love the Franklin Tree!
Franklinia's glossy foliage provides beautiful fall color too, making this ornamental a striking addition in the cultivated landscape. So, while the Southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) that towers over the little Franklin tree, situated just 15 feet away, may choose to only produce 2 or 3 blooms a year--for whatever reason--here at Blooming Hill, the Franklinia has proven that it is just as distinguished as ol' Ben himself, never holding back its many virtues while proudly leading the gardens into fall. 

Sunday, July 17, 2016

The Grass Beneath My Feet

"The grass so little has to do,
      A sphere of simple green.
 With only butterflies to brood,
      And bees to entertain."

Emily Dickenson penned this verse perfectly as an homage to the sprawling lawn that lies lazily out there amid the riot of activity of which only high summer can claim.  Soaring temperatures and humidity that's thick as pea soup bring on the tempers of plump, red tomatoes growing strong and now beginning to burst out of their cages.  Orange butterfly weed clamors for its place among the gangs of zinnias and bee balm (monarda) now out in force and reaching for the sky, hoping to catch a winged creature or two.  Solitary Golden sunflowers are the big guys of the bunch and can easily elbow their way up through the flowers and herbs arranged with style throughout garden borders while keeping their eye on the emerald turf, just in case the lowly grass decides to overstep its bounds. Even the calmer deep blue and purple blooms of the garden shutter at the thought of uninvited wildlife stopping by for a light snack before the rabbits and chipmunks--uninvited as well-- return for dinner.

Grass seems to be the only growing thing out there content to let anyone just clip,it, pull it and walk all over it.  In fact, in the language of flowers, the meaning of grass signifies submissiveness, welcoming the flutter of wings and trampling of (devil) deer hooves and children's bouncing balls and slip 'n' slides.  High summer allows the growing grass to slow down to a crawl, content to please the bees, tickle the garden snakes' bellies, give refuge to the toads and pad my bare feet while I drag the hoses to plants crying out for water so they can keep their bragging rights to beautiful petals and sun-kissed colors in jewel tones.

The grass--well the grass knows it's place by summer.  It doesn't mind its sun-bleached split ends or its seedy golden locks being cropped and combed by zero-turn mowers and fearsome weed wackers and gladly offers itself to the comfort of beasts, birds and golfers, alike.  Never discriminating, grass welcomes with open arms, clover, dandelions, thistle, weeds and wildflowers of all kinds  Rolling over sunny hills and resting in shady dales, grass provides a perfect anchor of tranquility to balance out the heated dog days of high summer.  I'm thinking that we could learn a little something from grass, as I walk upon it in my own yard weeding and watering, or admiring the view as I walk along a country road.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

We Hit The Big Time in Country Gardens Magazine!

Yep--that's our lavender.
Finally, after scores of emails, dozens of phone calls, the passage of a spring, summer, fall and winter and then one more round of the four seasons, which comes to over two years of waiting, not to mention a visit stashed in-between from a photographer and writer, we find ourselves featured in the spring issue of one of our most favorite gardening magazines, Country Gardens.  Albeit, we aren't on the front cover--page 96, actually, but--we are in there, with a 9-page color photo spread, accompanied with our abridged Blooming Hill Story.  Wow! Can I tell you how thrilled we are to be a part of this lovely, modern gardening periodical?  Yes--we are! 

So happy together.
So, rather than rehash the entire article, you might want to pick up a copy of the spring issue  of Country Gardens Magazine the next time you are in the grocery store and read about Blooming Hill Lavender Farm and Gift Shop for yourself. Better still, stop by and I'll show you a copy.  I bought just a few for myself to have on hand so, I can spare one, if you'd like.

Anyway, I've attached a few pictures, not in the magazine spread, but taken by the photographer, Rob Cardillo, when he was here, last June. So, what's next? Well, we open for our sixth season of business, here at Blooming Hill, on Friday, April 8.

The shop will be properly decked out in it's "6th Open Season Finery" and the lavenders and gardens will be greening up and freshly combed. Lavender plants, ready for sale, will come around the beginning of May. Until then, we are here and we are so very excited to be your hosts when you come to visit the farmlet.  We've doubled the size of the field and have a "lavender calendar" packed with events and happenings that we are sure you will want to be a part of. You can see them on the sidebar of this blog.

Until then, I hope you check us out in Country Gardens Magazine and enjoy the article!
I can smell it already and it's only March.  Actually, I can't, because after more than 20 years of growing lavender, I think I've become so accustomed to lavender's intoxicating scent that I can't really smell it anymore--Go figure!
Writer's note: The first two pictures on this blog entry were taken by me.  The rest of the photos are scanned from pictures taken by professional photographer, Rob Cardillo when he was here last June.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

The Unveiling of Upperville

"Upperville, Virginia in the Piedmont Valley", Peter's newest addition to his collection of original oil works of historic towns in Northern Virginia.  I think he does the town proud!
Displaying Upperville small.jpgDisplaying Upperville small.jpgDisplaying Upperville small.jpgIt's been a while since my husband Peter, whom I affectionately call "P.Lorenz" when he is in one of his many creative modes that include painting, designing a garden, building something, sitting around playing Scrabble on his Android phone or even yelling at the television while watching his favorite team win or lose to an opponent ("COME ON, PURDUE!"), has completed another painting of one of the historic towns we are lucky enough to live near, here in Northern Virginia.  At last, after many a Sunday afternoon coupled with after-work weekday-nights of painting a new scene spread over the last year, he has finally completed one more artistic interpretation to add to the P.Lorenz Original Oil Painting Collection of Towns and Hamlets of Northern Virginia.  This new scene is his depiction of Upperville, a Virginia town, founded in 1790 and nestled in the Piedmont Valley with a rich history.

This painting of the First Presbyterian Church in Wheaton, Illinois
was one of the first Peter did when we were first married,
back in the early 1980's, while he was still in college.
He painted it on an old bread board that once belonged to
 his (Quaker) grandmother.  It is still is one of
my favorites because we were married in that church.
Another scene that graced the walls of our tiny apartment
during married student housing days. Peter painted this on old
lath board he nailed together.
Peter is a landscape architect by education and training and I remember, as it seems a lifetime ago, living in married student housing at Purdue University where Peter started honing his skill as an artist. We looked at white-washed cinder block walls that needed something, anything really, to hide the boredom and plainness of those walls, and at the same time, would not break the bank of a newlywed couple who depended on my retail management trainee's monthly salary.  Trust me when I say it barely covered the rent and food at the time.  Peter, well let's just call him P.Lorenz for the sake of argument, started hanging his architectural projects and artwork on the walls--much better! Even me, a perennial "neat-nick", thought they nicely complimented our wedding china, brightened up the hand-me-down furniture and softened the stark white walls.

Getting back into the swing of things, in 2011, after an over 20 year painting hiatus, he painted "Beautiful Philomont, Virginia", the lovely little Western Loudoun hamlet we live in today.  Peter painted the original on an old bread board as well and then donated the painting to our son's (who is now almost 25 years old) elementary school when he was in fourth grade for a school fundraiser.  This is the one of the few originals we no longer own but the owners who bought the painting were kind enough to lend us the picture so we could take pictures of it and sell it as prints.  My sister, his brother and a couple of lucky neighbors own original work by P.Lorenz as well.
Then, the demands of graduation, job hunting, moving halfway across the country, jobs, houses, more moving, house renovations, house buildings, children and jobs (I think I said that already) turned his attentions to all of these things so, "picture painting" was wholly forgotten for many years. However, somewhere around year 21 of our marriage, Peter started painting again and rediscovered a long "on-hold" passion and outlet for his creativity.  The rest is history.

So today, we proudly unveil P.Lorenz's latest work of an historic, Northern Virginia town called "Upperville, Virginia in the Piedmont Valley" and add this to his body of other works, that include his renditions of the following Northern Virginia towns; Philomont, Bluemont, Lincoln, Purcellville, Middleburg and Leesburg.  Now, on to the next conquest--Hillsboro, Virginia--coming soon, hopefully.

Note:  For a complete viewing of Peter's artwork offered for sale as either color prints or stationary, go to bloominghillva.com. 
One of my favorites by Peter a.k.a P. Lorenz, "Bountiful Purcellville, Virginia".

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Elf Leaves

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Abundance is the sharp scent of elfin-leaved lavender on a beautiful sunny day
I spent this past weekend down in Blacksburg, Virginia at a meeting for the South Atlantic Region of the United States Lavender Growers Association and met a bunch of truly interesting and enthusiastic lavender growers.  Among them was a couple who are on the verge of opening their own lavender farm, during the coming year in South Carolina, by the name of "Elf Leaf Farm."  I thought it was such an enchanting name, aside from Blooming Hill of course, that they had chosen for their new lavender farm and smiled to myself as I imagined a meadow full of elves, fairies, pixies and sprites all at home and entertaining themselves among the flora and fauna in a field of white, pink, lavender and purple flowers blooming in a mystical haze on a warm summer morning. Okay--sometimes I let my imagination run a little more wild than usual but I grow lavender so, it comes with the territory!


Image result for images of the lavender flower fairy
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Don't tell me they are not real!--She is all the proof I need!
Winter Fairy House Kit:
An elfin homestead.

I asked them, "How did they come about choosing that for a name?"--other than figuring out that their last name was of Gaelic origin--and wondering what may be the added significance behind this title. Derek and Allison told me that "elf leaf" is a shortened translation for the Irish term "ar dhath an labhandair" which I think means the color of lavender (or something close to it) in our plain, old English or just "labhandair." pronounced pretty much the same as we pronounce lavender in English, only with a little more musical lilt to the word.  In any case, I like the name they chose for their soon to be calling and operation, "Elf Leaf Farm," as it brings to mind the magic of this ancient and mystical plant that asks for very little but entertains so many and gives so much in return.

Image result for images of the lavender flower fairyNow, close your eyes, sit back and picture mischievous elves clinging happily to those tiny elf-sized silver-green leaves while almost invisible fairies dance in, out and around a field of abundantly blooming lavender bushes on midsummer's eve.  It's not so hard to do, is it?  As I look out onto my own snow-covered and ice-laddened field of elfin leaves today, still deep in their winter sleep here at Blooming Hill, I can almost hear the elves and fairies singing a lullaby to the lavender and whispering, "Be patient. Summer is coming and then it will be time to wake up and celebrate yet another season of "ar dhath an labhandair" wherever there is lavender growing.
Image result for images of tiny magical elves and fairies
Celebrating and dancing into the night while keeping watch over their elfin-leaved plants.
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Really like the rows of 'Angustifolia' and 'Stoechas' varieties of lavender in different shades. Beautiful!:
 Elf leaves?--To be sure!

Monday, January 25, 2016

The Wonder of it All.

Thank you winter storm "Jonas" for depositing over 3 feet of snow in my yard, this past weekend!  This is my driveway and looking down the hill towards the road, this past Saturday evening...what driveway and what road???

Strands upon strands of embroidery floss, threaded and stretched from floor to ceiling play off of light to create a fabric kaleidoscope.
Susan and me on a winter's day enjoying the Renwick Gallery.




















These first months of the year bring dark days of winter or bright, frigid sunshine.  A time when I turn my attention from the lavender field and gardens and get a little rest and refocus on the coming growing season. Even on days like this, with 39 inches of snow staring obliquely at me outside my window, taking the time to appreciate all of the sights and adventures that wait just beyond my own backyard can be luxuries that I don't often take advantage of.

Getting off of the Farmlet, when we are in season can be a real challenge and takes lots of preplanning.  However, January through March is a relatively quiet time here--if you ignore all of the snow that is waiting to be shoveled--as Blooming Hill is closed during the winter months.  After all, who is thinking about lavender, other than P.Lorenz and myself? So, when someone just happens to suggest a road trip, believe me when I say, "I'm all in"!  

The artists intent was to evoke an image of a tsunami.  I saw an ever changing desert sky at dusk in this darkened, peaceful room that beckoned gallery visitors to sit and stay, even lay down on the softly-patterned carpet that resembled windblown waves.  It became a place to dream, if only for a while.
Imagine having to cut out all of these little cardboard paper pieces to make giant stalagmites coming to life and taking shape as an indoor canyon--and I thought pruning lavender bushes was tedious work--geesh! 
Pods of twisted willow branches make inviting spaces to dwell in for mythical and practical everyday creatures, alike. Windows and doors are fashioned allowing people to walk in and out of them.
That is just what happened last week when my friend, Susan, invited me along to see the Wonder Exhibit  at the Renwick Gallery, a Smithsonian American Art Museum, located at Pennsylvania Ave. and 17th St, NW  in Washington, D.C.  The Renwick Gallery, founded by William Corcoran back in the middle 1800's, is renowned as America's first building dedicated specifically as an art museum and, while this gallery normally houses a permanent exhibit showcasing arts and crafts stemming from early America to the present, currently the Wonder Exhibit has taken over the place and features nine different artists who have created expansive art forms, from re-purposed materials or things taken from nature, that mimic or enhance in new and different ways, things, that already are not so ordinary in and of themselves, like giant redwood trees, the dessert sky and even life-size gnome houses buried deep in the forests of our imaginations.

Shimmering, shooting stars dangle in this rather delicate looking chandelier.  I kept thinking about the person who has the honor of dusting and polishing each strand of mirror, glass and light--I guess that is just the O.C.D. cleaner in me.
This is only a tiny portion of an entire room wallpapered in insects arranged in intricate patterns.  So, if you don't know what to do with those pesky stink bugs that Northern Virginia seems to have all over the place, especially during the autumn months, here's a rather ingenious idea...Just a thought.
Made from the plaster casting of a hemlock tree, the sculpture itself was recreated using strips of cedar.




















What a wonderful cure for cabin fever--snow or no snow.  The Wonder Exhibit will be on display at the Renwick Gallery until this summer.  Of course, by then, the natural wonders of nature expand 100-fold all around my place, as I'm sure it does in your yard, too. Come to think of it, even on this snow day, wonder and beauty can spring out of the most usual of places I see everyday.
I so enjoyed the Renwick Gallery last week but I must say that I also enjoy the artistry and wonders that occur daily in my own backyard, no matter the time of the year.



Monday, January 18, 2016

A Beautiful Mess

Creamy, white roses for a wedding.

Pale pink ranunculus.
My finished arrangement back home.
Last Wednesday, I took a field trip with my fellow "Night Bloomers" Garden Club members and spent the afternoon visiting Rick's Flowers in Sterling, Virginia where owner, Rick, not only talked flowers for every occasion, but also gave us a class on making an architectural flower arrangement that we took home to enjoy and remember our gathering by.


















It started as a beautiful, sunny but typically cold January day that warmed up with each flower we added to our arrangements and even though we all used the same flowers in the same order, each person's sweet bouquet of pink roses and gerbera daisies along with steel blue eringium (sea holly) and seeded eucalyptus, took on it's own unique personality and appearance as we built upon a foundation of glass and green oasis. Rick was (and is) a great teacher.  You could tell he spends a lot of time working weddings as he patiently guided us through the art of flower arranging while a gaggle of women continually talked over him. However, we did manage to stop talking, here and there, long enough to allow him to give us instruction.  "Cuddos" to him!


"Decorating for a wedding is like dressing a woman.  You can have a beautiful dress but putting all of the right accessories, jewelry, shoes and things together to make an entirely, wonderful and truly lovely presentation is what everyone will remember long after they have seen it.  The same principle holds true when planning the flowers and decorations for a wedding celebration. Whether you spend a lot or a little, make sure the flowers are beautiful to compliment the occasion."                  Rick of Rick's Flowers
Rick (far right) showing some of the group how to first get started on our arrangements.  Can you feel the creative juices beginning to flow?
Everyone's flower arrangements taking shape.



















Before we got started on our flower creations, he gave us a peak into the busy and complicated daily life of a florist, balancing weddings to funerals and every other occasion in between, big and small, that calls for beautifully arranged flowers.  I might add, he did this whole presentation in a very cool, calm and collected manner even though he had a huge wedding event, out here near in my neck of the woods, at the Salamander Inn, in Middleburg, VA this past weekend.  Rick's workroom was filled with frilly hydrangea heads, delicate wax flowers, unfurling white roses, fragrant stalks of stock, dreamy ranunculus and so much more, all lined up and waiting patiently in buckets of cool water, making the work space an extremely pleasant place to be.

A beautiful mess.
Frilly and fluffy hydrangeas waiting to take their proper place in upcoming wedding arrangements.

While we made our arrangements, Rick told us about his life with flowers that began when he was just thirteen, back in his home town of Atlanta, GA.   One of his first jobs entailed working for a demanding florist who taught him the ropes and furthered his love of this creative, fulfilling and sometimes, highly stressful profession.  How many people go to work every day and do what they love to do for thirty years and counting?  If you, like Rick, are one of those people, consider yourself very fortunate!
"The earth laughs in flowers." Ralph Waldo Emerson

Lunch time and a toast to our gracious host.  Our arrangements paraded down the center of the table, making the January day a floral and culinary affair we will remember for a long time.
One of the finished arrangements waiting for lunch to be served.














So, we laughed, we talked, we listened, we arranged and learned more than a thing or two about the art of flower arranging and enjoyed ourselves immensely, finishing the day with a beautiful luncheon among the flowers, sitting at our banquet table that was dressed in pastels decorated by us, largely thanks to Rick.  The delicious fare was prepared and coordinated by fellow "Bloomers" Kim and Mary. This fresh January floral outing could not have been more perfect!  Really--if you do not belong to a garden club and think you may want to join one, call me--I have connections.  Besides that, any and all garden clubs are always welcoming and looking for interested people eager to share and learn about the natural world of flora and fauna. It's worth your time, believe me.

Rick and Arlene.
We also made simple yet elegant boutonnieres.
















Showing off the boutonniere I made.  Yes, I know it would look much better on the jacket lapel of a handsome groom (or perhaps my prom date?) but this is what I had to work with. 
In any case, thank you Rick of Rick's Flowers for your generosity, knowledge and patience and thank you fellow "Bloomer" Arlene, who works for Rick and arranged the outing for us.  It was hardly a beautiful mess but truly a beautiful time!