Monday, March 29, 2010

Palm Sunday Bouquet

This past weekend marked Palm Sunday and Peter volunteered (or rather, I volunteered Peter) to make the flower arrangement for our church in celebration of the holiday and the beginning of spring.

We went out Saturday afternoon in search of plant material for this, which took us to places ranging from our own backyard, as usual, to Costco for fresh flower bouquets and then to Home Depot where he happened to walk by a lovely palm plant just waiting to be put to use. Peter, whose mantra is "no flower bouquet or arrangement can ever be too big" set his sites on designing something bold, dramatic and imaginative--his trademarks in flower design, of course.

Then, when we finally arrived back home, the real fun began with him assembling his creation on the back porch in the late afternoon sun. Starting with red maple and cherry tree branches filled with colorful, fragrant blossoms along with pussy willow for the core of the arrangement, Peter let his imagination take over and the design began to take on texture and life in an old iron urn which is often his vase of choice. Although the urn is heavy, (it takes a strong back to carry it, even when empty) it can hold a lot and can easily withstand tall architectural arrangements. Most importantly, it won't tip over.

The flowers in this arrangement hold many meanings important to the Easter Season beginning with white lilies for purity and majesty and white roses for love and respect. There were also white chrysanthemums for truth and cherry blossoms for nobility. Red maple stands for elegance and reserve while palm branches are probably the most important symbol in the arrangement in honor of Palm Sunday marking Jesus' triumphant return to Jerusalem and the beginning of the most Holy Week in the Christian Calender. Sprigs of boxwood for endurance and eucalyptus for healing helped to complete the entire floral spray into a very thoughtful display.

Garden lore claims that Palm Sunday, the 6th Sunday of the Lenten Season, is also a good day for gardeners to sweep out the church and scatter the gathered dust over their gardens where it would protect and fertilize the soil during the growing season. Palm Sunday has often been thought of as a good day to plant seeds as well. This year, it is still a bit early to be planting anything other than frost-hardy seeds and plants in our Northern Virginia area.

The flower arrangement was simply beautiful and welcoming, standing tall in the church sanctuary on Palm Sunday morning. I hope it brought the same good thoughts, joy and remembrance to those who attended the services there as it did for Peter and me on such a glorious early spring day.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Signs of Spring

Can it be true? Has spring finally arrived? Has the snowbird finally flown the coop? Well, in my opinion, "Spring is bursting out all over, all over the meadows and the hills..." As the song goes, so goes spring this past weekend, especially here at Blooming Hill and I am all too pleased about it. And, true to form, the annual race to prepare the gardens also arrived right on schedule as it was a work weekend here, to be sure.

In celebration of the arrival of spring we pulled out all of the stops when it comes to tidying up the garden beds and my weapon of choice was the electric hedge trimmer. When you have almost 5oo lavender shrubs to trim before they start breaking, not to mention shrubs and bushes of all kinds that need trimming before they turn too green, what other garden tool would you choose?

Shovels, pruners, manual hedge clippers and the wheel barrel take a close second place in my heart on this beautiful, warm day that seems only to want to tease the most sincere of gardeners--I keep reminding myself that it's still only March--Don't get too excited. Yet, we plowed through, undaunted, with much more work to accomplish in the coming days. Just wait till we pull out the rototiller...oh, what fun that will be! While Peter took the helm with the weed-whacker on this day, by summer, I'll take that task over and he will captain the hedge trimming, tree pruning and mowing--don't feel bad for him--it's a riding mower. Weeding will demand every person available.

However, today, I spied daffodils, pansies and violets all eagerly blooming while irises, scented geraniums, cherry blossoms and tulips as well as hyacinths are making ready to strut their stuff within the next week or so.

Although I missed the first daffodil bloom of the season, legend has it that if a person is lucky enough to find it, she will be blessed with more gold than silver. Daffodils are thought to bring good luck. However, there is a word of caution to this legend. Never just cut one daffodil and bring that into the house on it's own because it may bring bad luck. In the language of flowers, daffodils represent respect, chivalry and regard for others. They certainly are regal looking in any setting, standing straight and lovely, clothed in golden yellow-- rain or shine.

Violets, on the other hand, have long been associated with politics as well as botany and herbal lore. Violets were the symbol for Athens, Greece as long ago as 1000B.C. and Napoleon adapted it as his symbol during his rise to power. It is also a flower that has long been associated with sleep. Many books on herbal medicine have recipes using violets in tinctures or teas to help people fall asleep. These violets growing in my yard are wood violets and are just beginning to bloom in the grass on our front hill under the cover of trees where they receive dappled sunlight. Violets represent sweetness and modesty--hardly characteristics of Napoleon, I'm thinking, but maybe Josephine saw something in him that the rest of the world did not.

And then, there are the pansies--so many colors to choose from at the garden centers all prettier than the next! Pansies have long been associated with Valentine's Day because they are an emblem of love and kind thoughts. These, pictured here, are so welcoming at my front door and they surely can withstand the swings in temperature that this time of the year can bring while always looking perfectly coiffed and frilly at the same time--how do they do that?!

All in all, the welcomed splashes of color throughout the yard make for a wonderfully delightful first few days of spring while readying the garden for future rewards as the season progresses. Good things come to those who wait and we certainly waited more than our fair share this past winter. Of course, there is always more work to be done than there are hours in a day but, Tucker, the ever-watchful foreman spurred us on, making mental notes of all the little things we may have missed for us to tackle on our next "work-in-the-garden" day.

Spring is here, at last!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Gardenia - You are lovely!

Walking into the kitchen these past few mornings brings with it an extra special delight--the lovely fragrance of a gardenia blossoming. This isn't happening because I went out and bought a Glade air freshener. Rather, it's because my gardenia plants are actually blooming. Okay, so it's really only one bloom at the moment, but I do see more and more evidence of creamy-white petal tips peaking through their green envelopes with each day, making ready to open and send forth their fragrant greeting soon. However, it can't be too soon as far as I'm concerned!

Every year, it seems to be a goal of mine to grow a richly fragrant gardenia in the house and this year has been no exception. A visit to my local Home Depot always leads me into the the garden department where I can find a lovely little gardenia to take home and try. This year, a visit there produced two small standards with braided stems, each standing about 18 inches high. Who can resist a gardenia's waxy snow-white flowers resting among the beautiful dark green, shiny leaves of this shrubby houseplant? And when they bloom, their fragrance is truly intoxicating. Of course, I should add that it's hard for me to resist anything when I go into a nursery or garden department of any store. Gardenias do best in at least four hours of direct sunlight each day, so lately, I've been taking to putting these plants out on my front steps to soak up as much natural light as possible, especially during this dreary, rainy week we have been experiencing.

Gardenias also like it cool (ideally between 60 and 70 degrees) especially at night in order to bloom well. I could put them in the green house where there is already precious little space, but I would miss them and their delicious fragrance in my kitchen--they make me happy. So, I shall continue putting them on the front steps for a few hours each day in order that they receive their daily dose of natural light and fresh, cool springtime breezes. They also seem to prefer "wet feet" so keeping them well watered is another daily task for me to do in order to keep these little beauties happy.

Just like the Loreal commercials say, "They are worth it!" especially when gardenias are in bloom. In the language of flowers, the meaning of gardenias translates to "you are lovely." Someone may also send a gardenia to their "secret love" or to someone they may want to wish "good luck" to. When you get up close and personal with a gardenia, you can definitely understand why their meaning is such.

Gardenias are only hardy as outdoor shrubby plants to zone 8, so if you buy a gardenia and want it for your garden, put it in a pot for the spring into summer into early fall periods and then bring it indoors to a bright and sunny daytime window where it will stay cool at night. Of course, this is easy for me to say, but not so easy for me to do, since it seems I end up getting a new gardenia plant every spring as I've long forgotten the one from the previous year. (Hmmm--Where did I end up putting that anyway?) However, hope does "spring eternal" and I find myself, once more, happily surrounded by my "current-blooming" and 'ever-gracious" gardenias.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Hometown Arts and Crafts Fair

It was an exciting weekend for both Peter and me as we participated in the 13th Annual Hometown Fine Arts and Crafts Fair at Ida Lee Center in Leesburg, Viginia. We were the only booth of our kind there, among the multitudes of jewelry artists and doll clothes makers, which probably helped our cause in selling eucalyptus wreaths, pussy willow wreaths and Peter's paintings not to mention lavender pomanders and sachets and handmade pillows and pins and even some live plants.

We had a vision of keeping the booth to a somewhat cohesive color scheme (shades of blue) which really helped to draw visitors in and browse our "gifts from the garden." This was our first venture into an indoor show and we had a wonderful time meeting and talking with so many friendly people and we were thrilled to hear over and over again that we brought with us a breath of fresh air by opening the doors to a sneak peek at spring after this long winter--which may not be over with just yet. I'll admit that it did smell good in our booth stocked with lavender products, aromatic wreaths and scented geraniums ready to bloom. Spending time at this crafts fair reminded me that spring truly is just around the corner and I'll be very glad when we finally get there!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Craft Fair Ready!

Ever the dedicated wreath maker, Peter was up in the Pink Pussy Willow Tree this past weekend busily pruning it back in an effort to embellish this year's crop of Pussy Willow Wreaths with an added dimension of "catkin" softness. I think they are turning out to be very lovely. Our nephew, Chris, stopped by this weekend as well and thought that these wreaths would look "really nice on a wall somewhere" think?!? After all, that is the point of all of this creativity and craftsmanship.

Peter has truly mastered the art of twisting and knotting branches into everlasting keepsakes from the garden. What makes them especially special, in my opinion, is that they are from our own garden and we have the heavily pruned pussy willow bushes and tree to prove it!

And me, well, I keep busy gathering and glittering magnolia pods and dried hydrangea mopheads that will look lovely displayed in springtime arrangements in vases and beautiful tabletop bowls. I'm also busy assembling pomanders and sachets that fill drawers and rooms with a gentle, lavender fragrance sweetened with "rosy/lemony" aromas from scented geraniums. Yes, that's me in my Christmas present "Snuggy"sewing up a kitty cat sachet...thanks, Nick! It's kept me warm and cozy while watching the Olympics and working on my crafts.

The reason for all of this "busyness" recently is that we are getting ready for the 13th Annual Hometown Fine Arts and Crafts Show at the Ida Lee Center in Leesburg, Virginia this coming Saturday, March 6. We'll be there with all of our "bells and whistles"--everything we create from wreaths and pillows to pins and paintings, handcrafted and hand painted by Peter and me. These, pictured here, are just a few of the items that Peter and I will have at the craft show and hope that you will come and visit us at our booth. I'll even have a few scented geranium plants and rosemary standards to get you thinking spring in all of it's coming glory. The snow can't last that much longer!

Don't miss seeing Peter's exquisite eucalyptus wreaths, too. This spring they are made in the blues and greens that reflect the freshness of the season and are perfect for dressing up any room in the house. I like to hang them off of large pieces of furniture, like this bookcase in my living room. Once again, my nephew suggested that they would look great on a wall, too. Such a smart boy--brains, along with creativity, run in the family.

We hope to see you at the Hometown Fine arts and Crafts Show. If you can't make it, don't worry, we''ll be in other shows and fairs later in the spring or you can always stop by and visit us here in our garden at Blooming Hill. It's our favorite place to be.