Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Deck the Halls

A whirlwind trip up to Longwood Gardens, last week, was a Christmas treat for Peter and me.  There is probably almost nothing better than a visit to this place during the holidays to get a gardener (or anyone else with even the slightest appreciation of flowers) into the spirit of the season.  To top off the day, we also made a stop in Lancaster County, PA. to pickup a cupola for our soon-to-be studio showroom and lunch at another favorite haunt of ours, Terrain in Glen Mills, PA, just 15 minutes from Longwood.

Our first stop, early in the day, on the windy, cold eve of the eve of Christmas Eve was early in the morning at the home of an Amish craftsman.  It was a big and lovely home with no electricity, at least to the house but I couldn't tell if there was electricity in his workspace.  However, it really didn't matter.  We were only there long enoughto load the cupola and then we were off--vying for road space with a horse and buggy on it's way to somewhere in the same direction as we were headed, it's occupants all bundled from head to toe in black wool to help keep the winter winds at bay--probably an unwelcomed photographer or two as well.  I, on the other hand, was very thankful for the heated cab of our truck as well as the windows rolled up tight.

Then, it was off to Terrain and lunch in their atrium-style cafe. It may have been cold outside, but the weather was quite agreeable inside as we dined on salmon tea sandwiches and lavender cupcakes for dessert...delicious!   The Terrain Cafe was not very crowded for it being two days before Christmas. I suppose everyone was in the malls instead. So, we were able to enjoy their contemporary "UP-North take" on floral design and Christmas decking throughout the place at our leisure.  Walls of beautiful wreaths, masses of narcissus and wintry whites mixed with vintage lights makes for a very pleasant shopping atmosphere.  It's just as pretty here in the dead of winter as it was in the heat of summer.

All good things must come to an end but, lucky for us, it only got better as the day went on.  Time for "Le Piece De Resistance!"  Crimson red winter berry greeted us at the entrance way and continued to dress up just about everything in sight confirming my belief that you can't have enough of this beautiful shrub in your yard, flowering white in late spring and early summer with rich green leaves giving way to plump red berries that attract birds into late fall and early winter.  Although it was cold, the day was sunny and bright and the dormant plants, bare trees and evergreens outside exhibited quiet beauty and elegance.

Inside he conservatory, poinsettias in a rainbow of colors, bright red begonias, intricately painted amaryllis and true-blue hydrangeas, among so many more beautiful yet delicate flowers, coupled with glittering ornaments and sparkling ribbons bedecks the halls of the conservatory at Longwood Gardens.

Cyclamens, winter berry and evergreens frame the giant begonia bedecked Christmas tree.

Poinsettia standards stand guard at almost every doorway into yet more beautifully decorated rooms.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The Snow Lay on the Ground

"The Snow Lay on the Ground," goes the the wonderful old Christmas Carol, continuing with "the Stars Shone Bright."  It goes on to sing of the night that Jesus was born.  It's not quite Christmas Eve, yet the snow that lays on the ground here at Blooming Hill is enough to fill us with a longing of the Christmas Spirit.  Nothing says Christmas like snow and, thanks to the chilly weather, the few inches we have is not going away but promising to stay around with an additional gift of at least a few inches more Christmas Eve through Christmas Day.

 Looking around the gardens, there are quiet vignettes to take in and savor, each it's own Christmas Greeting Card. The frosty landscape takes on an entirely new view of nature, in its powdery-white glory, pondering the turn of the seasons.  Tranquil fountains, that flowed freely in warmer weather are now frozen but no less beautiful and they seem even a bit fragile, as they sleep through the winter solstice. There will be a total lunar eclipse tonight, something that hasn't happened in over 300 years--a winter solstice coupled with a total lunar eclipse.  Peter said to me, "Lucky for you it should be about the time in the wee-hours of the  morning  when the dog wakes you up for his nightly  prowl of the property."  He said that as he chuckled however, maybe this time I will be happy to get up and see the coppery glow cast over the moon that the meteorologists predict will come along with the eclipse.  Hopefully, my camera will catch this to add to my cache' of Blooming Hill as "winter wonderland."

These first days of meteorological winter have been brisk, to say the least, but the sun  has prevailed and all is bright.  Lawn chairs sit in repose, gazing at a frozen pond while angel hair grasses shake their shaggy manes in the wind and seem to relish the unusually cold days around here.  They look as though they have been sprinkled with confectioner's sugar and would make tasty Christmas treats.  Even the gray-green lavender shrubs have been sprinkled with snowy sweetness in the crisp December air.

Lately, my daily walk highlights old, hollowed out trees that withstand the test of time appearing regal and stately, perhaps camoflauging a Christmas elf or two as well.  This scene looks like something straight out of the Land of Narnia, calm yet mysterious and beckoning me to come in and explore the woods beyond. Tucker was more than ready to do so but, for me, the day was too cold to venture in.

Shoveling the long driveway, chopping wood and all things winter and "manly" must continue around here.  After all, who said we should stop and enjoy the brilliant, clean snow, like the cherubs resting under the dogwood trees.  Even the the hammock looks inviting in it's own "Jack Frosty" way.  Ahhhh...all is well with the world, at least for the moment.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Hillsboro Holiday Craft Show

This past Saturday was the first time I had ever participated in the Christmas in Hillsboro Homes Tour and Holiday Craft Fair and it was certainly a lovely event with the weather outside cooperating where the homes were decked in their "Williamsburg style" finest.  I wish I could have seen it but I was inside at the Old Stone School manning my booth filled with toile pillows, Peter's paintings, plants, wreaths and so much more.  However, being inside was probably just as good since everyone visiting the Holiday Craft Fair was truly in the Christmas Spirit.

Hillsboro, Virginia was originally settled by Quakers in the mid-18th century.  When the Civil War began, Hillsboro was a thriving village with three mills, several taverns and numerous other small businesses.  However, the War took its toll on the area and by the time it was over, the town's burgeoning industry had moved elsewhere.  Now Hillsboro sits in the foothills of the Blue Ridge filled with beautiful homes that line the busy road that runs through it.   Yet, this town still provides residents and commuters alike with panoramic views of the mountains and beautiful vignettes of historic, pre-Civil War and Victorian Homes.  Five homes were open to the public and all were dressed to the "nines" in Christmas Greens.

Even though I was busy from the beginning until the end of the craft show, I was delighted to have Elena stop by and visit me before she joined her group of roving carolers through the homes of Hillsboro serenading all of the visitors.  As pretty as I thought my booth was, Elana certainly brightened it up that much more.  Elena is also part of the cast for the holiday theatrical production at the Hillsboro Old Stone School of  "Once Upon a Christmas Carol," an ode to Charles Dickens' original tale.   Elena told me that she has several parts to play in the production and if she is as talented as she is pretty, I'm sure it must be a wonderful play.  I loved her beautiful Victorian costume of velvet and satin. Her furry muff reminded me of when I was young and my sister and I both had muffs to warm our hands when we were dressed in our Sunday best during the cold Chicago winters.  They may not have been so fancy, but they were made of white rabbit fur and mine was one of my favorite things.

So, that was the gist of my weekend--fun and festive and wonderfully full of friends, new and old, to get me into the holiday spirit.  It was great to have an indoor space this time where the weather was certainly delightful inside a heated building.  It always amazes me how much I can pack into a tiny space but it always seems to work out invitingly well no matter what time of the year it is.  However, this booth was especially colorful and festive to match the Christmas atmosphere all over Hillsboro. All I needed was perhaps, a little eggnog to sweeten the day even more.

In any case, the Hillsboro Holiday Craft Show was the last of the shows for me during 2010 and now I start planning and looking forward to 2011 but not after a little more holiday cheer in my own home.  So, for now, I'll start enjoying my own decorations from the holly and ivy to frosted pine cones and quiet snow angels, all tucked away in their own little corners of the house.

In the meantime, here is a sneak peak at Peter's newest painting, fresh off the easel --The historic Quaker Village of Lincoln, Virginia.  I wonder which town will be his next muse?  We'll have to wait and see...Until then, enjoy this Christmas Season.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The Greenhouse Effect

This cold weather really has a grip on Blooming Hill with these blustery winds that whip through the trees and swirl what's left of the leaves on the ground.  I look out over the lavender beds and although they are now a little paler and grayer, they cling bravely by their roots, determined not to let go.  The Farmer's Almanac called for this windy, cold weather and although we might get a reprieve from these wind gusts, colder weather is destined to follow.  So, I've stayed inside and concentrated on getting Christmas trees and decorations up  No snow outside yet, but the Christmas tree in the living room casts a peaceful aura of lightly falling snow.  At least today, the sun is out but the wind promises not to quit. I'll go back inside and enjoy the Christmas decorations.  Even one of my favorite angels seems perfectly happy staying cozy as she brightens up a shelf in my corner kitchen cupboard with no wind on her wings.

However, I do have to venture out of the house but thankfully not too far.  I've been spending a lot of time in the greenhouse lately--one of my favorite places--trying to gather and prepare scented geraniums, Swedish ivy and a few bays, rosemary's and myrtles for this weekend's Hillsboro Craft Fair.   Everything seems snug and cozy, even against the bitterly cold nights.  It seems earlier than usual for such harsh weather to be hanging around here.  Normally, December is bright with cool days and frosty nights but I don't recall brutal winds blowing day after day this early in the season, at least in recent memory.  Maybe I'm just remembering it in my own way and remembering back, for me, can always be a bit sugar-coated when I step inside the greenhouse and smell the fragrant foliage and see flowers still blooming.  As I stand just inside the door that is buffering the winds, suddenly past winters and especially the beginning of this one becomes calm and serene.

Aside from the large potted plants,  the tiny rosemary, bay and lavender cuttings are holding up well.  in their little peat pots. Using these plastic covers from cakes and pastries may look a little silly but it has been a wonderful way to protect  tender little babies in the greenhouse where the temperature can fluctuate greatly from day to night even with heaters running.  They stay moist and warmer under cover than just exposed to the air already moist and warm in the there, kind of like an extra blanket wrapped around them through the next few months.  Slowly, the cuttings will develop roots, and as they do, I will remove them from under the plastic and re-pot them as well as introduce them to the atmosphere of the greenhouse. Aside from the benefits these covers provide the plants, they give me a good excuse to bring home something sweet from the market periodically.  The small potted plants you see here were started as cuttings in September and have sprouted roots strong enough to come out of the plastic coverings and acclimate themselves to the greenhouse air.  Their growth will slow down now until February or so when extended the daylight really begins to make a difference and plants start preparing themselves for spring. 

Even if you don't have a greenhouse, you can still create your own greenhouse effect in your home with a grow light and plastic covers over cuttings.  I like to use plastic coverings because of the greenhouse effect they create for tiny cuttings and I seem to have much more success with this process during the fall, winter and into spring.  I think the key here is the moist air that is generated under these covers.  These particular trays, also started back in September, are up in my attic and everybody looks good up here, too.  In fact, most of the French lavender (front right) has strong root systems already and need to be placed into pots very soon in order for them to stay healthy through the winter months. If you try this in your home, remember that you must be patient and don't water too heavily, if at all, because the light and the plastic covers will generate the moisture needed for the cuttings.

In the meantime, back to the greenhouse where clipping,  pruning, a little watering and constant rearranging keeps me busy, just like in the garden, but out of the harsh winter elements.  Baby, it may be cold outside, but in here, the Ponderosa Lemon tree is in full swing preparing its own Christmas gifts while mums I bought back in early October are still blooming and geraniums from the summer are still bright--their own kind of Christmas decorations.  To me, this is just as pretty as Christmas lights!

So, everything is nice and cozy and crowded in the greenhouse, close enough to be bundled up against each other for warmth yet still allowing for plenty of greenhouse air circulation for each plant.  Just the way I like it...the more the merrier and the more to keep me company while enjoying the Christmas season and onto waiting for spring!