Creative, Yet Easy

This a walk along memory lane from a time when we attended home tours.  One of those many canceled events because it is 2020 and the time of the epidemic.

Not sure if these are live plants or not, but they could easily be container plants, like Boxwood that can be trimmed and shaped.  The rounded form and the fancy pots make these stand out.

I like the idea of decorating something you already own.  This sled has a winter theme, but think about other items, like a tricycle.  Even though it can’t be hung, it could welcome guests to your front door.

So easy and yet, attractive.  Let the orange slices dry out before using them.

Just put a pot of Poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima) in pots and place them among cactus or agaves.  Of course, they are tropical, so they cannot be outside in really cold weather.  But you could use winter hardy violas or pansies in pots.

Or you might even decorate your agaves with gumballs.  They need to be strong enough to bear the extra weight.

Create Christmas trees with sheet music or tear the pages out of an old hymnal.

Decorate kitchen cabinets with purchased wreaths or create your own.  I personally would have chosen a brighter color for the bows.

Cut out Christmas ornaments out of heavy card stock and string them under a picture frame or old window.

This garland is made from folded squares of tissue paper.  Red and green tissue paper would make it more seasonal.  Add a string of lights and voila.

Fill any container with Christmas balls or other decorations hanging on small branches.

Use a baby buggy, wagon, or any other item used to transport whatever.  Fill it with anything Christmasy and you have a unique decoration.

This made me wish I had a old wooden tool box.  But other outside wooden or metal garden items would work.

Bake some gingerbread men and ladies, decorate, and string them together.  A clever hanging garland for anywhere.  Of course, then the remaining cookies can be eaten. However, these may be made of an inedible material.

Just a few borrowed ideas to get your creative juices flowing.

“Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!”
                                                                                                                       Dr. Seuss

Have a Holly, Jolly Christmas

Usually in December, we attend some Christmas home tours in different towns.  This crazy, crazy year, we have stayed close to home, and most of the tours have been canceled, anyway.

So I’m going to focus on some of my favorite decorations that we’ve seen over the years.

This house was on the tour in Waxahachie in 2015.  The decorations was whimsical and fun.  Plus, they appeared to be expensive.

I wondered if they were special ordered and who would eat all the candy used in the displays.

So many trees – probably about 10 throughout the house.  Each with a theme.  This one was in the kitchen, so there are gingerbread men, candy, and baking utensil ornaments.

My favorite decorations were in the kitchen.

Santa soaking in a bubble bath in a clawfoot bathtub.

This was a large house.  Every nook and cranny was decorated.  It blows my mind to think of the time involved, but I think she had friends to help.

Creative.

 

Upstairs was not open.  Cute, cute idea.

“It was the night before Christmas.  Not a creature was stirring.  No even a mouse.”

 

Decorations continued outside on the wraparound porch.  Love this sign.

Love the draping ivy on this old stove used as a plant stand.  Another clever idea.

This was a fun tour.  Maybe next year.  Aren’t we all saying that about things we missed this year.

“You can tell a lot about a person by the way they handle three things:  a rainy day, lost luggage, and tangled Christmas tree lights.”  Maya Angelou

Chandor Gardens

A visit to a cool garden was just what the doctor ordered.  Weatherford, Texas, possesses an old private garden that is now owned by the city.  During this time of isolation, most of us need a little distraction.

We expected it to be mostly unoccupied on a weekday.  And it was.  We saw another couple and some workers off in another part of the garden.

Chandor Gardens was owned and created by an Englishman, Douglas Chandor.  He and a hired hand toiled for years to achieve this diverse, spectacular space.  In 1939, a newspaper article featured his garden.   He hoped to encourage other gardeners to dream big.

A favorite theme for Mr. Chandor was Chinese art, so it’s displayed all over the garden.

He created this fountain with many found objects.  In recent years, renovation was required because some parts were crumbling.

Two rows of coke bottles encircle the fountain.  A bottom row is made from glass construction blocks or glass bricks.  Very creative.  He was an artist, after all.

Walls were created from stones and bricks.  Not sure if this was done because there were different levels naturally or if soil was brought in to create different levels.

Boxwood hedges provided small secluded areas.

A brick wall at the back of the property separates it from another property, creates privacy and provides a backdrop for some features.

Because most of the garden is in shade or partial shade, annual plantings provide color and interest along the pathways.  Here, two different types of Coleus draw ones eyes down at this spot.

The gnarled branches of this old Cedar has become a sculpture to be seen from a lower path and an upper one.

Just as I stepped onto the first stepping stone, one of the carp or gold fish executed a flop, splashing water up.  Don’t know who was more startled:  me or the fish.

This pond is shallow with the stepping stones attached to the bottom.  They’re sturdy but disconcerting because it looks deeper than it is.

The pink Pentas or Egyptian Stars (Pentas lanceolata) contrast with the greenery for an attractive display in a stone urn.  Pentas are tropical flowers from Africa and the Arabian peninsular and are thus, annuals.

Several fountains throughout the gardens are calming with their sounds.  Water also just visually has a cooling effect.

Several shady areas have benches and seats to allow for rest and contemplation.  Tall Magnolias in this area are stunning.

Just being outside, especially in a pretty garden, is relaxing and calming for one’s soul.

“May we think of freedom, not as the right to do as we please, but as the opportunity to do what is right.”  Peter Marshall

Behind the Scenes of a Plantation

Farms, ranches, and plantations require equipment for planting, harvesting, and storing crops.  Some of those items can still be seen at Rosedown Plantation in St. Francesville, LA.

Guests are free to wander around the property.  Around the house, there are plants and fountains.

it’s difficult to know which things have been restored.  This brick doesn’t look old enough to be original.

Further away are the formal gardens.

Then, there are old buildings used to store equipment and vehicles.

Could not find any signs to explain the purpose of the different items.

A purple Salvia and maybe a butterfly bush.

An area of clover makes a soft pathway.

The kitchen building is quite a distance from the main house.  This served two purposes:  eliminate the fire danger to large main house and to avoid heating up the house in the long hot, humid summers.

A brillant red Celosia.  I wonder how well it reseeds.

Surely, the metal grate around the bottom of the house is new.  This allows for airflow under the pier and beam building, but also keeps out wild critters.

The kitchen house would also have been used to store food stuffs.

Beautiful pots of Spider Lilies on porch.

Ta da – the kitchen.  This large cooking fireplace explains why the kitchen is away from the house – fire risk and lots of heat.

Some beauty before a goodbye to the plantation.  Love, love Gomphrenas.

This is the last post about St. Francisville.  Hope you love history as much as I do.

“History, despite its wrenching pain, cannot be unlived, but if faced with courage, need not be lived again.”  Maya Angelou

Plantation House

No matter how much we abhor the idea of plantations and slaves, it is a fact of history.  There is no justification for the slave system.  So visiting a plantation in no way condones what happened.

Around the main house is shady.  Considering the heat and humility and no air-conditioning, shade was necessary.

The entry way shows the opulence of the house.  The floors looked like linoleum, but the guide assured us that everything is either original or time specific.

Interest in Greek and Roman decor during the 1800’s in Europe and the U.S. seems strange.  But it was considered classy.

Plantation houses provided upscale living for its time period.

No running water, so this was the method of taking a bath – a metal sitting tub.  Is this where “sitz bath” comes from?  The upstairs window was opened and buckets of water were pulled up by servants using a pulley system.

Look at those thin little towels.  They look like cup towels.

The nursery was used for the youngest children.

The area close to the house had walking paths and some water features and shrubs.

Boxwood hedges edged the paths leading to the fountain and the house.  The flower garden was away from the house where it was sunny.  The small building left of center was for garden supplies.

In the sunlight, many different flowers could be grown.  Some Marigolds remain.

At first, I questioned the use of the rebar stand but learned that it was used way back in the 15th century.  They used high quality cast iron that did not corrode.

Not sure if these are Foxglove, Plumbago, or something else.

The deep color of these Globe Amaranth, also known as Gomphrenas or Bachelor Buttons, are stunning.

Life today with our conveniences is easier and hopefully, our respect for all peoples has improved.  But the daily news proves otherwise.

“Those who deny freedom to others, deserve it not for themselves” ― Abraham Lincoln

Rosedown Plantation

Across the South, there are several plantation houses still standing.  One of the most intact ones left is the 8,000 square foot house at Rosedown Plantation. It was built in 1835 outside of Saint Francisville, Louisiana.

From the front gate, seen here, a long driveway under a canopy of overhanging trees and drooping Spanish moss leads to the stately house.

Can’t you just see Scarlett O’Hara with her parasol and hooped skirt waiting at the front portico to welcome guests that step down from their carriages.

The house and expansive grounds around it are in exceptional condition.  The cotton fields and slaves’ quarters have disappeared, but about 50 acres remain that show the grand scale of this place.

This plantation is well known for its formal gardens.

Couldn’t figure out what kind of small tree this is.  The flowers look like roses, so maybe it’s a small bush beside the tree.

Don’t ya love the modern fire hydrant in that strategic location?

Each section of this large formal garden was surrounded by Boxwood shrubs.  It all seemed rather neglected.  However, it was October.

No indoor plumbing but water to fountains.  How does that work?

At one time, the area probably wasn’t as overgrown and scrubby looking.

Total mystery what this is.  The leaves and flowers look like Begonias.

Love Spider Lilies.

Although it’s difficult to admit and way harder to understand, plantations are a part of the South’s history.

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” George Santayana

Shady and Serene

One of the meeting places for the Southern Gardener Symposium was in an annex building of a stately church.

Grace Episcopal Church in Saint Francisville, LA was completed in 1829.  It was shelled during the Civil War and rebuilt in the 1880’s.

Beside the church, a large cemetery with old gravestones is a quiet place to wander around.

There’s something sobering to be reminded of people who lived so long ago.  History reminds us of the accomplishments of people who came before us.  It also serves as a warning of mistakes not to repeat.  The problems and worries that occupy much of our everyday thoughts and time don’t seem quite so important.

The land in this area is so fertile, but I did not expect ferns growing on tree trunks and branches.

A sense of the past hangs in the air, along with the Spanish moss.

Seriously, how much rainfall is needed for ferns to sprout roots in tree bark?

Old churches make me sentimental and grateful for life and all its opportunities and obligations.

“Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, today is a gift of God, which is why we call it the present.”   Bill Keane

Southern Garden Symposium

The Southern Garden Symposium met in Saint Francisville, Lousiana, in October, 2019.  Although I knew that gardening conditions are very different there than they are here in Central Texas, it was a chance to see some old southern gardens and hear some interesting speakers.Saint Francisville is a small town with few large meeting venues.  So attendees could choose different sessions held in small buildings in different parts of town.  On the first day, a catered lunch was provided at Afton Villa Gardens.

The antebellum home was destroyed by a fire in 1963.  The gardens remain and are used as a park.

Not sure if this concrete basket is as old as it looks, but it fits perfectly in the setting.

My kind of flower bed – massive plantings with different kinds of flowers.  There are red Zinnas, white Cleome Spider plants (Cleome hassleriana), Marigolds and Pentas.White and Pink Cleome Spider flowers look like sparklers.

Bright Marigolds mixed with Mexican Bush Sage.

English Ivy clinging to the old bricks, more Marigolds, and small purple flowers in the clay pot make a stunning display.

The same flowers were repeated in many beds.  I don’t know if that was intentional or because those flowers were suited for autumn.

Pink Cleome mixed with a wood fern and some kind of shrub.

Mexican Bush Sage (Salvia leucantha) is what I consider to be a Central Texas plant, but it obviously does well in other types of climates.

It is native to subtropical and tropical conifer forests in central and eastern Mexico.  This area is about the same latitude as Central Texas.

Brazilian Black and Blue Sage, also called Blue Anise Sage (Salvia guaranitica), needs some shade from midday sun.

Gardening book sales are always a hit anytime gardeners congregate.  Purple Plumbago or Cape Plumbago (Plumbago auriculata) in pots flanking the statute.

These large old tree with Spanish Moss hanging down just screams “southern garden.”

After lunch, there was plenty of time for wandering.Peaceful setting for wandering and relaxing.

“Southern living:  where the tea is sweet, words are drawn out, days are warm and faith is strong.”  unknown

Tyler Roses

Tyler, Texas, hosts Smith County Master Gardeners’ bulb sale every October.   A drawing card for the 2019 sale was Greg Grant.  He is a Texas plant guru, who has discovered and named quite a few natives.  Before the actual sale started, he spoke about the attributes of each bulb that would be for sale.  Naturally, this created interest in the sale and made us all lust for each type of bulb.

Tyler Convention Center was the sale location.  Behind the center are the famous Tyler Rose Gardens.

Following the long, long, dry summer was not the best time to visit the rose gardens, but we didn’t want to pass up that chance since we were there.

Tangerine Streams Rose is a Floribunda, which tends to be shorter bush roses.  Floribundas bloom with flowers in clusters.

Also a Foribunda, Charisma, looks like a poster child for roses.

Perfume Delight is a hybrid tea rose. Tea roses are repeat bloomers and were named because their fragrance had the scent of Chinese black tea.

Hybrid teas were created by cross-breeding two types of roses.  They bloom with one flower at the end of a long stem.

It was a cold, misty day, so we walked quickly through some of the gardens.

Coretta Scott King is a Grandiflora, which is a cross between a hybrid tea rose and a floribunda rose.  This is a florist rose with flower center taller than the outside petals.  Plus, the long stems make it easy for use in bouquets.

Black Bacara is a hybrid tea.

Christian Dior – another hybrid tea

Proud Land – hybrid tea

Iceberg Rose is a good example of a Floribunda.  Just look at all those blossoms.

Cherry Parfait – Grandiflora

There are hundreds of different roses.  I love them all, but to have them in my yard requires raised beds, amending the soil, and watering them.  That limits my choices.

Tyler is in East Texas, with high rain-fall and good soil.  Perfect spot for roses.

In one corner of the gardens, the Master Gardeners have a demonstration garden.  Love, love this plant.  I have one but don’t know the name of it.  It looks like the bush form of Gomphrena.

“Life is short.  Smile while you still have teeth.”  unknown

Garvan Gardens, Part Two

Garvan Gardens in Arkansas has a long history.  It was purchased by Arthur B. Cook in the 1920’s.  He owned Wisconsin-Arkansas Lumber Company and Malvern Brick and Tile Company.  When he died in 1934, his daughter, Verne Cook Garvan took over the companies.  As the female CEO of a major company in the south, she served in a unique position.

Today the gardens are owned by the University of Arkansas.

Verne Garvan was the first to develop the land and make it into a show garden.  The property is one of the fingers of land that juts out into Lake Hamilton, so it is surrounded on three sides by water.

Someone had fun creating ghoulish scenes.

Since this is a woodland gardens, it’s pretty shady in most areas.  But clearings, like this one, allows a space for sun loving plants.  Yellow Chrysanthemums grow in a formal design.

Not sure what this is.  The flowers look like Morning Glories, but I don’t think this is a vine.

We’ve visited Garvan Gardens before.  Their children’s section has always been a disappointment.  It mostly consists of large boulders that children can climb.  But this new attraction is well done.

The Tree House is entered through a raised bridge.

A side view of the Tree House shows three different levels inside.

Workmen are unloading pumpkins for a special Halloween event.  Not sure what the pattern will end up looking like.

On the left side of the walkway is Mexican Bush Sage (Salvia leucantha), an excellent plant for central Texas, also.

I waited for this peacock to pose, but he was more interested in preening his feathers.  Duh.  Beautiful feather colors.My favorite part of all the garden is Anthony Chapel with its glass walls and ceiling.

It is used for weddings and other events.  There’s a separate building with dressing areas for brides and grooms and their attendants.

The whole inside/outside design makes it extra special and peaceful.

The nearby electronic Bell Tower is built from steel columns. Visitors can walk into it and look up to the sky.  The computerized chimes ring the hour with familiar tunes.

Brides and Grooms can select specific songs to be played as they exit the chapel.

Adding to the serenity of this place is a lumbering turtle: an example of the pace to enjoy all the beauty of nature.

“Be decisive.  The road of life is paved with flattened squirrels who couldn’t make a decision.”   unknown