Tuesday, January 24, 2012

January Meetings...

Never a dull moment for this dedicated gardener, even in the dreariest and muckiest of winter days. In between planning garden changes, crafting, ordering seeds and plants, keeping the up the greenhouse and securing new spring items for the shop, I've been busy at meetings. One being a goal setting gathering where a group of women sat down and visually plotted out some goals for themselves during 2012.

It's easier than you think and I guess you have to be female to understand this a little better.  I showed Peter what I spent an afternoon doing. He took one look at the poster and said, "Really?...That's very nice, dear." Okay, not the most intellectually challenging thing for a bunch of college educated, professional women to be doing but it sure can get the ideas focused and in place while the creative juices are flowing.. As you can see, mine is all about lavender, the shop and the gardens...what else?

Jane Munzell, Judy Brown (hostess with the mostess), Peggy Carter and a new friend.
More new friends.
My friend, Judy, had a bunch of us over for lunch and a creative afternoon of laughter and friendship mixed in with  a lot of cutting and pasting ensued. Believe it or not, if you have not done this kind of simple, mental exercise or something like this before, you should, because you will not only find out a lot about yourself, you will also find out about all of the things you take for granted and should be thankful for whether they show up on your poster or not. So, I spent the afternoon with women from various professions including landscape architects and landscape designers who are most definitely a lot chattier than the male variety of Landscape Architect I live with.

Nick Weber
Fast forward to the next meeting which was a gathering of the members from the Herb Society of America's Potomac Unit held at River Farm, home of the American Horticulture Society and also one of the various  homes of our first U.S. President, George Washington, just up the road from his Mt. Vernon Estate. These meetings are always terrific...great food, wonderful friends and extremely  knowledgeable speakers. This meeting focused on the 2012 Herb of the Year, the rose, with well-known Rosarian, Nick Weber sharing his what seemed to be unlimited knowledge and experience in the world of cultivating and growing the genus Rosa.  Of course, his favorite rose is a red rose of any kind.

A Knockout Rose from my summer garden.
Among the hundreds of varieties and many classes of roses that range from simple, old varieties like Apothecary Rose and Rosa Gallica to the modern Hybrids, Floribundas and Grandifora Roses in shrub, climber, and miniature forms, he also spoke about "rose gathering foreys" and  "rose rustling." These practices are nothing along the lines of making off in the dead of night with a hundred head of cattle left  grazing out on the range. Rather, it's a much more genteel practice of spotting a lovely rose in someone's yard, parking your car, going up to that person's house, knocking on the door and asking politely if you can have a cutting of their plant to take home and propagate. The process almost always ends happily for the rustler, original rose owner and the rose itself. Sounds like quite a pleasant thing to do on a lovely afternoon, doesn't it?

While at the meeting, I picked up a copy of a book on Roses published by the International Herb Association which was compiled and edited by noted author and cook, Susan Belsinger, a member of the HSA Potomac Unit.  It's a wonderful compilation of stories, instructions, glimpses, recipes and opinions, not  mention facts, about roses from all sorts of herb and plant experts, teachers, lecturers business people and rose growers from around the world..

So, with that, January, for all intensive purposes, is just about over with. Here's to February and what it has in store when it comes to engaging gatherings and interesting meetings that will, to me,  go a long way in shortening winter days even more and, with each day, a little closer to the first blooms of lavender which compliment roses perfectly!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Graniteware

While leafing through Country Sampler Magazine, I came across what they say will be the "Top Ten Collectibles for 2012." I enjoy reading all of the home decorating magazines out there, when I have time and a few of them are and always have been my absolute favorites, like Country Living and Romantic Homes. They are especially comforting on a cold January day since perusing the plant catalogs too much just makes me all the more anxious for spring while the gardens seem to convey that it's just to cold to plan for anything. Even the greenhouse, packed with plants all snuggly and warm, just doesn't want to be bothered so, back into the house I go, plop myself in a cozy, comfortable chair and start flipping through some magazines while sipping a nice cup of Earl Grey Tea infused with lavender blossoms.

Although I like to read these trend articles, I'm always a little disheartened since my home never quite seems to be what's in style, probably because I've been married almost 32 years and it's wayyyyy too late for me to start decorating all over again. Even when Peter and I were just starting out in married student housing at Purdue University (Go BIG 10!) in West Lafayette, Indiana, aside from wedding gifts, our cinder block apartment was largely decorated with furniture handed down to us from our parents and grandparents.

I can remember Peter's grandmother, Ruth Rinek, a.k.a. "Gammy" saying to me one time when she came to visit during our first or second year of marriage, "This furniture is very nice for you, now and it will also make good basement furniture when you have a bigger place down the road."  Hence, a lot farther down the road, we still live with much of that "basement furniture"...in my living room, kitchen and bedrooms.   Of course, we must remember that one woman's trash is another woman's treasure and I really like my furniture, much of which are very nice antiques.   And who, in their right mind, would throw out an antique cannonball bed or chests and rocking chairs that have been in the family for at least a coupleof generations?

However, today I feel vindicated because, for once, I find that I'm actually trendy!...at least according to Country Sampler Magazine. Why? Because I collect graniteware--one of my most favorite things to do aside from growing lavender, of course. Number 4 on their list of "Top Ten collectibles for 2012" is graniteware. Woohooooo!  I collect that and have a lot of it, too! Who'd have thought that finally, after all of these years, I have a collection of things that's trendy when it is supposed be trendy?!

I started collecting graniteware pieces back in the 1980's when I bought a big light blue and white spattered wash tub for only $12 at an auction while on vacation in Wisconsin. I was hooked and there was no turning back. Since then, I have covered my walls, shelves and counter tops with graniteware and love each piece for it's colorful character and rough beauty. Graniteware, sometimes called enamelware or spatterware, was first manufactured in Europe, beginning somewhere in the 19th Century.  By the early 20th Century, this utilitarian line of kitchen cookware and bath utensils was being manufactured here in the USA, largely in the Midwest. Graniteware comes in a rainbow of colors and patterns ranging from yellows, reds and floral patterns to the most common greys and of course, my favorite, light blue. I also found myself amassing white with blue trim pieces in all of it's many forms. I know...I just can't help myself but this stuff is just too pretty and tells the stories of many immigrants to our country as well as pioneers and settlers who made their way across the USA.  Graniteware is certainly a slice of Americana at it's best.

Just in case you are wondering what else Country Sampler Magazine is predicting to be highly collectible this year, here's the list:
1. Blue and White Canton China. Figures...I collect Blue Onion China (pictured) which, apparently, is not so popular this year.
2. Antique musical instruments.  If the piano that Peter and his sister, Amy, learned to play on when they were growing up counts, then I'm in for two trends!  It's also a hand-me-down from Pete's parents and Kevin took piano lessons on it when he was younger as well.
3. Wooden Spoons...NOPE! Not my thing.
4. Graniteware.
5. Majolica.  I have never been a fan of these earthenware pieces.  Maybe a little too earthy for me.
6. Cow Creamers.  Hmmmmmm...
7. Carpet Balls.  I have new ones bought in garden shops and gift shops.  They are great displayed out in the gardens.
8. Wallpaper Bandboxes
9. Silver Plate serving pieces and flatware.  Of course...I collect pewter.
10. Jig Dolls. Wooden dolls with hinges for joints so they can move like puppets.  I don't have one single Jig Doll in my house...anywhere.  I think that's a good thing.

So, that's it, 10 categories of highly collectible things... and not even a mention or nod toward lavender plants...go figure.  Well at least I have my graniteware.

What do you collect?  Anything on this list?  I'd love to hear from you.  Maybe we can make up our own "Top Ten Collectibles."


Monday, January 9, 2012

Oh, Brother!

What did you get for Christmas? Was it what you wanted? I got what I wanted, and then some!  No, not a brother. I already have one of those.  I got something way cooler than that...it's a brand spankin' new SE400 Brother Sewing Machine that has all sorts of bells and whistles with a plethora of new stitches along with the capability to embroider and that is just what I wanted! Now I can do some really cool things when it comes to crafting. I'm not sure, but this machine seems so capable of doing just about anything that I suspect it might also be able to wash and dry dishes...still trying to find those specific directions in the operating manual but, I suspect they are in there somewhere...just give me time.

My new "Brother" on top of  "War Horse."
A rainbow of sewing threads.
Anyway, I had been making noises about a new sewing machine for months now and, me being me, not the most proficient and/or patient when it comes to operating highly computerized machines, probably because I am not highly computerized myself, have always been a bit jealous of those smarty pants-type people who seem to know just what button to push and what switch to flip and everything runs smoothly.  So, I kind've dragged my feet when it came to making any decision concerning finding a new sewing machine. After all, managing an android telephone has been challenging enough as of late. That, and the fact that my mother-in-law's machine which I have been using for years is still trudging along, whimpering a little, but none the less, trudging loyally along. (Think War Horse without the WWI battle scenes.)

But, there it was, under the Christmas tree waiting for me and it has been almost total bliss.   I got this beautiful, new Brother Sewing Machine that, to me, a novice in the machine embroidery business, does everything but walk and talk. After learning how to thread it, which is way easier than I first made it out to be, this baby is almost too accommodating. And, while it is happily stitching along, I sit in awe of it's natural born talent. It makes me feel like one of those smarty pants-type people who always get it right the first time and never look back.  Good thing this Brother Sewing Machine is incredibly patient with me, too, as I fish through directions and learn what it can do.  Okay, I'll admit to not using very lady-like language once or twice while the sewing machine sits quietly, waiting for me to get with it's program and I'm totally aware that it's been smirking at me when I'm not looking but, I don't care.  I have now joined the ranks of those smarty pants-type people...Oh Brother!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Happy New Year

I've heard it said that a gardener's work is never at an end, as it begins with the new year and continues to the next. (John Evelyn) Such is a Happy New Year's greeting...at least for gardeners, like myself, and while this time of the year conjures up thoughts of deep snow drifting over the perennials and bitter north winds blowing throw the bare tree branches, here at Blooming Hill, the weather was mild through Christmas week, if not downright balmy and is only now turning breezy, cold and a little more "New Yearish" but still not too bad.

So, what's a gardener to do?  Well, other than fix a few spotlights up in the spindly tree branches, maybe play little golf with the prodigal son to take my mind off of the plant and seed catalogs that are beginning to pile up in the corners of my house.  Those just have to wait for real winter weather in order for me to get a good garden fix during the coldest of days.

In the meantime, I think I shall also enjoy the quiet beauty of the winter garden. The vignettes of still life seem to be taking a much needed respite from the weather extremes of 2011.  When it was hot is was very, very hot and when it was cold it was very, very cold.  So, a little in between is just what is just about right here at jolly old Blooming Hill in early January.  I won't get too comfortable, however.   I have a sneaking suspicion that the extremes are coming in 2012 as well!

The muted tones of January here at Blooming Hill create their own brand of brush strokes on a natural canvas of winter texture and form. While I remember the summer garden bursting with wide-awake activity, the winter garden slumbers under the crisp blue sky and the chilly yellow sun. The cornucopia of color did not end with the first frosts, rather, it continues to shine softly on these first beautiful days of this new year from the royal red of Gulfstream Nandina to the waxed emerald green leaves of the Southern Magnolia (grandiflora).

Yet, the gardens sleep with one eye open anticipating whatever the weather may bring in the coming days as the Pussy Willow catkins start swelling and the golden flecks on the Witch Hazel begin to bloom into tiny, velvety pearls.

There are still plenty of holly berries and even some winter berries left for the birds to dine on.  Perhaps they know to leave some for harsher days to come.  Even the squirrels seem not as busy scampering through the yard as an occasional fox peeps out from behind the shed out back.  I wish he would stand still long enough for me to get his picture.  I suppose he's more focused on hunkering down, for a long winter.

Crepe Myrtle
River Birch
And, so it goes, as the Maiden Hair Mescanthus grass flutters and tangles happily in the shadows of the cool winter air, the birds find refuge in the laurel branches along the hillside while they wait to reopen their summer homes in the welcoming arms of the crepe myrtles and the river birches  The bark on these trees look like mixed-media art projects, to me, with thick texture and rich color.

Even the curious devil deer seem content with this weather as they help themselves to a little New Year's lavender plant pie.  I know I should resign myself to the fact that they aren't going anywhere no matter how unwelcome they are.  They must think I like them since I'm always taking their picture as they help themselves to whatever suits their fancy in my garden beds.  Just business as usual here at Blooming Hill as all is Merry and Bright, in a winter garden sort of way. Happy New year!