5 Principles of Good Design…

Why is a gate standing ajar or roses along a fence so inviting? How does a change of pillows or adding a house plant lift the mood? A clean open room or a swath of colorful flowers pleases the eye. Why are we drawn in with a touch of wonder, a bit of mystery or whimsy, just from reading words upon a page? And, what is it about the morning sunlight, a cheerful window box, open shutters, finding an unexpected sculpture, even overlooking a greening field? Emotions are stirred, inspiring the click of a camera, the swath of a paintbrush, the writing of poetry.

img_4608Whether you’re writing a novel or a blog post, making a garden plan or creating a room… producing artwork, planning an event or marketing a product or service- Good design is essential. Here are my 5 Principles of Good Design:

img_49181. Structure– This sets the boundaries, writes the outline, establishes the parameters. Structure in creative design includes entryways, walls, fences and paths.  Windows, enclosures, doors even garden gates all offer a view from beyond. Structure is  the size of a canvas or even the frame of great artwork. Good placement of structure, allows for taking advantage of natural or planned views. Outbuildings, barns, sheds, greenhouses, even porches are good examples, too. Structure is very much like the plot of a story, the layout of a room, setting the stage, doing a first draft or an initial sketch- even a basic recipe. Everything depends on the planned or existing structure.

img_48652. Light and Color. Whether muted or harsh, light is an amazing tool, that’s why we have phrases like ‘… shed light on a subject.’  Words, fabrics even paints are really absorption of light. Twilight in a garden, dark passages, shady fern glades opening onto a patio’s splashing fountain, glistening droplets cool down a sunlit space. Light highlights form. Color can be compared to a main theme, prompting a response. Color draws the eye and keeps it focused. Shades of color massed together are more pleasing than bits here and there. All good storylines have a main theme, color is way to establish theme. Keeping color consistent is important, with the occasional exception of an accent color, always best when used sparingly.  Do you enjoy reading about colorful places, delightful folks or being enlightened? Remember that phrase and you’ll do alright.img_4924

3. Focal Point– a focal point draws you in. Into the garden, into a story, into a work of art. A focal point has the effect of pausing, just as a curved path slows the pace. Focal points can be compared to deciding which type of frame best suits a painting. And, a focal point is very much like punctuation, exclamation mark or even a main character. img_4855

4. Emotion. This might be the most important principle of all. How does the design make you, your reader, your audience feel? Is it the scent, is it the shape, the shadows? Is it the sense of comfort or being home? It might even make you smile or be inspired. Never underestimate the value of mystery, curiosity, serenity, anticipation or a bit of whimsy. And always leave room for serendipity. The unexpected twist. Emotion is movement, memory and motivation. Change structure, focal point even light and color and you experience new emotions. Adding whimsy to a serious garden, home or story always brings a smile.

5.  Abundance and Restraint. There is a place for both in great design. The abundance of roses, a single flower, each has a message all its own. Generally in a garden or a home- abundance is highly desirable, a huge bowl of fruit, a flower arrangement, an overflowing bread basket, a mass of single color. Often in a painting, a marketing plan,architecture even in writing – restraint is often best. Remember, if the restrained design of a room, a work of art or a garden looks easy, it’s not.  Nature teaches us the best lessons-  dew drop says something far different than a generous spray from a watering can.

Tell me your story, don’t leave anything out. Take a photograph, set the scene, put color and emotion – use restraint or abundance to its best advantage and if it’s a recipe… well, you know I want you to do everything except scratch and sniff the spices, vanilla or lemon! Spark my imagination, let me feel the emotions.  Let the colors in your art or garden lift my spirits, thrill me with color combinations, set boundaries with a fence, gate or beautiful frame.img_4471

If you design a beautiful room, add a focal point or a pleasing outdoor view, maybe a charming window box. Literally, frame the view of your amazing work of art and it actually visually expands the experience. Give me abundance or show restraint, it’s like editing– often what you take away is more important than what you leave in.  And, hey! In the South, we like a bit of whimsy, humor and often we tilt to the morbid side of things. We put our crazy eccentric sides out there and relish being different, maybe we could use a bit of restraint. Oh me, how I do run on…

Love y’all, Camellia

*This is a larger subject than one blog post can contain. Still. I think to have these principles in place builds a framework on which your creativity can thrive.

  • Build the framework with structure. 
  • Light and color are much like adjectives or spices.
  • Add a focal point as your main character.
  • Use emotion to its best advantage, this is the active part of your design.
  • Stir in restraint and abundance and you have a winning combination.

Camellia’s Garden Party…

img_2706I’m never really sure who’s going to show up at our Garden Party here at Camellia’s Cottage…it’s such a fickle dance. Who’ll show up early or be fashionably late? Will they be effusive and bring extra guests or volunteers? Or stand around halfheartedly, even look bored. Perhaps they’ll chat like magpies or huddle together shivering and complaining. Spring is more like a house party that begins in fits and starts- gets rained out, stalls or lasts for weeks on end. img_3846

Even though I’ve gardened for years, I’m still an amateur. Though, I have tried to arrange things so that most years, everyone doesn’t show up all at once- rather more like a procession. Here in Alabama-

  • We always count on the Camellia Cotillion to kick things off early- since they always bloom when almost everything else isn’t. Camellias steal the show in late winter and very early Spring.
  • Back in those fickle February days, Flowering Quince showed up dress fit to kill, yet the Yellow Bells never rang out even once! We since found her in her brown house dress and she’s gone to the compost heap as we weep her passing.
  • The Daffodil Trumpets sounded early and to be honest, they’re almost played out; they’re exhausted really. The Tulips stayed completely out of sight, the Hyacinths barely bloomed- we suspect we’ll need to put in replacements. Those Wood Hyacinths are such nymphs! They came and went before we knew it- though we’ve always  been thankful for the sweet scent they bring. And the Snowdrops were weepy for a few weeks, though we all admit how charming they always are as guests.
  • The Judas Trees often make a poor show of themselves…they’ve shown up. Still. They’re weeping bloody tears on the driveway.
  • The roses had to be cut back severely, they shot up so high last year. And who knows if New Dawn will even stop by this year, I’ll have to remind them to send an RSVP.
  • Oh well, the Wood Violet Teas seem to be underway and underfoot! They’re sweet little things,quietly huddled in small groups for several weeks now, gathering strength and vigor, whispering among themselves. The purple hats seem to be outnumbering the more shy white ones.
  • Thankfully, the Bearded Iris showed up to chaperone, looking stiff and proper, though I must say they prefer to keep to themselves, at a safe distance and seem to multiply every year. I thought surely I could count on an array of Irises to keep things in check with their pale, piercing leafy stares. img_2712

Even though the Spring Dance started early this year, wouldn’t you know? It’s been taken over by the Azalea Ball! To be honest, the younger Azaleas are being shy about showing off- maybe it’s the influence of Iris and the Chaperones? In years past, the older Azaleas show up dressed in somber green with tiny pink polka dots- sitting and sulking on the sidelines, a few shrinking Violets at their feet. Not this year! Oh, ‘no sirree bobtail cat!’ They’re showing their bloomers this year!img_2707

I’ve decided Azaleas are subject to mood shifts- sometimes standoffish and almost rude. This year, they’re snickering and giggling like magpies- dressing in ruffled shocking pink! I’m half expecting to see’ dyed to match’ satin slippers beneath their outrageous gowns! Honestly, the mockingbirds are out in full force! I personally think they’re as shocked as I am at the Azaleas! Unpredictable. img_2708

Spring is always unpredictable, yet she’s always missed, greatly desired, wanted desperately, dearly loved and truly welcomed to the Cottage Garden Party! It must be said, usually Spring in the South is flawed- by weather, circumstances beyond our control- like when frowning Jack Frost appeared as uninvited guest who didn’t even call ahead! Why, he’s even been known to throw hailstones as big as golf balls- honestly we try to avoid him at all costs!

We try, we truly do- to schedule Spring Garden Parties…then find we have to scrap the actual outdoor human parties in favor of acting as bemused bystanders. Spring is anything but boring, like well planned parties- either the Guest of Honor doesn’t show up or an uninvited guest arrives. We lower our eyes at the overdressed Flamboyants or give the side eye to the underdressed- even the bedraggled and depressed. Now, that puts a damper on any party! Please, don’t tell- I actually prefer the Flamboyants, like this year’s Azaleas, with oversized personalities who offer our Garden Party endless amusement.img_2706

The Azalea Trails are legendary in Alabama! We celebrate the beauty and bounty of Spring with irrepressible joy! Okay. We’d like a little more notice than the nightly weather report. Honestly the Farmers’ Almanac, the Barometer and the definite twinges of the Arthritic Chips on our Shoulders are more reliable than the Weatherman.

But really, who am I to be judging the Natural World? Especially when I’m up on my High Horse sitting in a Climate Controlled Saddle? I’ve been late. I’ve been unpredictable. I’ve even been flamboyant a time or two. Okay- rarely… I’m just saying, maybe I’ve bloomed at the wrong time myself. After all, I’m a Camellia, I love me a good early Southern Spring-

  • Violets, Dogwoods,
  • Wood Hyacinths, Snowdrops, Bearded Iris,
  • Daffodils, prickly Quince and oh yes!
  • Azaleas

Especially those flamboyant old girls out there having the time of their lives! Really, y’all, those Azaleas are going crazy! Swaying and sashaying! Before we know it- those stuck up Peonies will be showing off the Ball Gowns they’ve kept secret all year long!img_3678

All of these and more…always throw a big case of Magnolia Fever on me… and I’ve decided I’m not quite ready to be thrown on that old compost pile. Thanks for stopping by our Garden Party!

Love y’all, Camellia

*All photographs are obviously taken by me. ** Judas Trees are commonly known as Redbuds- many call these trees with tiny buds and heart shaped leaves Judas Trees- even that famous southern author- William Faulkner. I’ll let you research that yourself!

A message from Brenda- I wanted to write a bit of a lighthearted post because…It’s wonderful to have a garden, especially now in this current crisis. It’s hopeful to know that the seasons, especially Spring- can be counted on as we stay at home, waiting. And, also wonderful to be able to reach out to you virtually…sending great love to each of  you. Stay Home. Stop the Spread. Stay Hopeful. And! join me @brendawyatt_ on Instagram! We sharing posts or stories everyday! I’d love to see you there!img_2709

3 Simple Spring Projects…

As we do all we can to practice good health measures and shelter in place… I thought it might be good to have a few simple projects, easy enough to involve the children while they’re out of school and in need of a bit of fresh air.

The Green Onion Project is one I practice all year round, in our mild climate. Save the root ends of green onions…they will dry in a small bowl on the counter or you can put them in the ground right away, your choice. If you don’t have a garden space- a container filled with potting soil will do just fine.

They do better outside, though I suspect a very sunny spot indoors will do. Scoop out small holes and press the green onion root in firmly with no air pockets. Put as many as desired. An inch apart is just fine.

Water in well and without just a week or so you’ll begin to see green tops emerge! I generally cut the tops when I need them leaving the root end planted. An easy project to do with children!

Hint: you can thinly slice the root end of celery also, press firmly in the soil… you won’t get long stalks, yet before long, you’ll have the very flavor filled tops.

The Ice Cube Project. I love to make pretty ice cubes. Shamrocks might be my all time favorite. Find smallish shamrocks or clover (pesticide free) Fill ice cube trays 3/4 full with water. Top with a shamrock and freeze. Feel free to add more water during freezing process if the shamrock isn’t submerged

. Tiny wild strawberries work very well. Also, very thin slices of lemon or lime cut in quarters are beautiful in a glass of tea or lemonade.

Cranberries and Blueberries should work as well. Experiment with various fruits. This is a fun project, if your choice fails… try again! Staying hydrated is always important- making it pretty is always good incentive!

Spring Violet Tonic This project isn’t fool proof and it’s not for children to do alone. Pick a packed cup full of wood violets or violas. Flowers only, please and once again pesticide free. (The wood violets are coming into their own now in the South, violas work well too!) In a small saucepan, add one cup of cane sugar, one cup of water and one cup of wood violets.

Simmer until the flowers and sugar have dissolved (don’t be surprised- it will look like a green sludge) Allow to cool, refrigerate if not using right away. Add a tablespoon of the mixture to the bottom of a glass. squeeze about a teaspoon of fresh lemon juice, ice and top with club soda. The result will be a pale violet color! Violets are full of Vitamin C, this Spring Tonic is actually good for you!

Here’s hoping you’re staying safe and well. We are all in this together, be kind and patient with one another and don’t forget to say your prayers.

Love y’all, Camellia

All photographs are obviously mine. *Always wash any produce and pat dry.

3 Natural Fall Wreaths…

49A3F03F-BE30-4796-8C1E-933AEF3BB261Here at the Cottage, I don’t change out front door wreaths for every season or holiday; however: in the fall when the ferns are shriveled up from the heat, the chrysanthemums sit and sulk and refuse to bloom and… let’s face it, it’s still hot and flowering pants in the border are beginning to wane… so! a wreath seems to be a good way to freshen up the front door as we transition from summer to fall. And let’s face it- when the garden starts to look tired, and it’s hot and dusty; shining up the front door for a bit of curb appeal, even perking up the screen porch makes things feel like fall even if it’s still hot as the hinges on devil’s back door!

5FF5A447-644E-4BFB-8196-1109CCDF5427Then, there’s this- I think it’s fun to forage for blooms, vines and quirky things. I wind them up into a pretty wreath (see those pretty things above!).  Now…. Fresh and dried materials won’t hold up forever, so… It’s better to enjoy the wreaths for a season, then put all except the base material in the compost pile.

Here’s another thing to think about, sometimes a fresh wreath is for a special event or party and isn’t expected to be everlasting, in fact it’s beauty is for the occasion like a flower arrangement.  *Please note I didn’t mention a wedding wreath because let’s face it, in the South- football season and hurricane season aren’t considered optimal times for a wedding, which is a shame since there’s such a bevy of beautiful blooms! If a couple does decide to tie the knot in fall- they check the football schedule or offer a room where the game can be watched, they ask the officiant which his favorite team is and! The couple should have alternate evacuation routes  in place if a tornado or hurricane interferes with the festivities! And don’t get me started on booking a honeymoon during storm season! Well…I’ve gotten off on a tangent… Here’s two wreaths we’ve made this Fall and one I’ve kept from year to year. They are 3 of my favorite natural fall wreaths!

All three are done on a form. I generally on a wire frame, a straw form or a grapevine wreath. D26F917D-763D-4884-A430-0EFC92310ABA

One was a purchased form and the other two are on a ‘native’ grapevine called muscadines- which grow wild here and we also have cultivated muscadines which we grow… both vine types make excellent wreaths on their own with lots of tendrils and even little clusters of dried muscadines; these and nothing more make a wonderful free form wreath. Just start winding it up and leave on the curlyques!  Please don’t worry about perfection, the charm of a natural wreath is the imperfections!

7EACE68D-90C1-4233-AAA1-004D5D4E49B1One wreath is made simply of Annabelle hydrangeas which usually dry to a pale green, then tinged with pink or if picked early will dry to a delicate pale cream.  Here’s a close up of how mine dried this year- though sometimes they turn a light tan sort of like a paper bag!

DDF96A28-B85F-49AB-99E1-43D5D5D35AFBThe mixed hydrangea wreath at the top and below is a foraged wreath with vines, wild flowers, fading roses and ferns. The first round of foraged flowers were too droopy by the time I made this wreath- so I just went out and snipped a few more things! Use your imagination and what you can find!

E2E3230B-60BC-4310-8D43-99981B673E23This foraged wreath is one of my favorites- yet I don’t expect it to be an everlasting one. I would mention, the fresh additions like the ferns generally don’t dry well- yet they could be refreshed and replaced. Feel free to remove anything past it’s prime and replace with some new things! And now for the natural fall wreath I’ve kept- drumroll please…

7D109C83-00DD-4892-8580-29C7B38D7318The other wreath is made of Alabama grown Cotton- this is the one I’ve kept from season to season- it’s very special to me. The cotton was grown at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens in the George Washington Carver garden, planted to honor this famous Alabamian whose work to enrich the soil with primarily peanuts, in depleted cotton fields through crop rotation. His research and work is legendary. This particular cotton was being pulled up at the botanical garden in the fall, so I asked the head gardener, who was about to discard the cotton stems and bolls-

‘Could I have some of that Cotton?

He graciously gave all of it to me! I wouldn’t take anything for this special wreath! Cotton is still a cash crop here and is occasionally grown for the floral trade and I hope this practice will continue! Even with it’s sad history, there may be nothing prettier than a field of cotton pushing up out of the red clay soil of Alabama is a sight to see!EB9CB100-2FA2-4A50-A4F7-6E6DA4D7F779

Please don’t let perfectionism get in your way! Just get started…with a walk in the woods, around your neighborhood and even your own garden! Pick way more than you think you’ll need! I keep stuffing material in as tight as I can around the wreath form, then occasionally secure with cotton butcher’s twine or fine floral wire! The main thing to remember, is that the more wreaths you make the easier it gets! Here’s to a great Autumn made fun and beautiful with Natural Fall Wreaths!

Love y’all, Camellia

*all photographs are obviously mine!

Puttin’ Up the Garden…

88720A63-524D-4A26-A6F4-B2F025138F29It’s that time of year when everything planted in the spring seems to be ripe now! Folks used to say- ‘everything’s comin’ in at the same time!’ When it comes to Puttin’ Up the Garden’ if you get a minute to sit down, you’re shellin’ beans or shuckin’ corn or lookin’ through bushels of fruits and vegetables to cull out the ones with bruises or bad spots! Those bits and pieces are used to make up meals during ‘Puttin’ Up the Garden’ time… And every single able body is put to work!

Why, my mother used to go to a beauty parlor where while the ladies’ waiting to get permanent waves or get a cut and curl… were snapping green beans or shelling lima beans! And… the men weren’t off the hook either! Years ago, my husband’s barber must have had a bossy wife because the men were also pressed into shelling peas service! They wanted everything ‘right ready to put up’ ! When someone bought a deep freeze,  it was an occasion and if you had more than one? Well… it would be full too! Canning and freezing were necessary chores! More than one lady would have a horror story about a pressure cooker explosion or a canning disaster… yet they pressed on. One of my favorite things about ‘everything’s comin’ in at the same time!’  is how creative folks got with the bits and pieces of vegetables-EF54ADD3-9EA8-4F51-ABD4-140551DAE2EC

  • Mixed fruits were either canned together, or my favorite frozen!
  • Thick soup mixes were made from extra corn, beans, onions, okra and tomatoes; onions and bell peppers were diced, bagged and frozen;
  • Let’s not forget all kinds of vegetables were either processed into Pickles or Refrigerator Pickles- cucumbers, green tomatoes and even Peaches!
  • Some things were dried too!  I have a friend who told of a bumper crop of peaches… the kids would either have to stand over the peaches laid out on big tables and fan the flies or they’d spread a sheet in the back of her daddy’s big station wagon! Don’t you know that car smelled like heaven?
  • Pecans are often shelled, then frozen (I keep them in my freezer all the time! They stay fresh much longer!) When pecan are needed- I toast them with butter and salt to bring out the flavor. Delicious!
  • Peanuts are either boiled.. yes! or dried in an even layer then ‘parched’  which is another way of saying…roasted in the shell.

Anyway, the point is, nothing was wasted- if something stood still long enough it was gonna be used up in one way or another!   Generally, because the season is warm and we don’t get heavy frosts, folks plant leafy greens and root vegetables to be harvested in the fall. I know I’ve got some spring lettuce seeds that I’ll be sowing as soon as the mornings are cool.66E21BDD-14CF-4E99-8DF2-521DFDEB8B89

Now, keep in mind- with all of summer’s flurry of activity – meals still had to be put on the table! As hot as it always is… cool salads and sandwiches are often made up for the midday or evening meal. Potato Salad stuffed scattered with cherry tomatoes along with saltine crackers is still one of my favorites; cool and easy pimento cheese, egg salad, chicken salad or our famous tomato sandwiches were easy to prepare and eaten quickly. Even soups or salads topped with Crumbled Bacon is quick and easy with no long cooking time to heat up the kitchen or take up valuable stovetop space!35CD2C7C-CA07-4DD2-8ED9-534B04E9E5D4

 

55A44958-63F9-4523-90DB-9DC8384D3029Combinations of extra vegetables were cooked, roasted or used for toppings. Grilled meats nestled with roasted and fresh vegetables are a new take, still with the thought of making use of every bit of garden goodness!

To this day I love my grandmother’s quick and easy combination of Zucchini, tomatoes and onions. She was ahead of her time using zucchini- her favorite vegetable stand was run by an Italian family- I recall the very day he convinced her to try zucchini! Here’s how she made Mimi’s Zucchini and Tomatoes

  •  One or two small zucchini, a tomato or two and thick slices of onions layered in a skillet or a glass bakcing dish with no water
  • Just covered loosely with a lid or foil.
  • Steamed with salt and pepper, then topped with shredded Cheddar Cheese while it’s hot-
  • You will not believe how this simple dish is so loaded with flavor!
  • This is a family favorite and one of the best examples of using small amounts of garden vegetables while the big lots are processed for the winter months.

I do love to make a batch of pico de gallo, yet my favorite mix might be an Italian style mixture made of basil, tomatoes, green onion and bell pepper with red pepper flakes for a bit of heat-mixed lightly with red wine vinegar and olive oil.. Top a warm batch of spaghetti and meat sauce with this mixture seems to cools it down for fresh flavor and summertime eating!  56A31DA8-D2FD-443E-B394-6BB755FDAC13

And while I’m at it- we generally have a bumper crop of hot and mild peppers. I make up pepper sauce with the slender hot types yet also love to dry them for my own red pepper flakes! E86E4D33-A76C-45C7-8B52-B7076A637023

And! If you love Stuffed Bell Peppers try this-

  • Don’t blanch the peppers-
  • Rinse and pat dry. Seed, core and slice them in half lengthwise…
  • Fill with a fresh ground meat mixture, similar to meatloaf – or any mixture you enjoy- an all vegetable mixture with rice would be wonderful too!
  • Place the uncooked stuffed peppers in a single layer on a sheet pan and freeze them! Place the frozen Stuffed Bell Peppers in a freezer safe bag and store for a few weeks.
  • No need to thaw, place them in a baking dish- at 350 degrees…
  • When the juices are flowing and the filling seems almost done- a squiggle of tomato sauce or ketchup on the top finishes them off.
  • From freezer to oven,  in less than 45 minutes you have a wonderful meal!
  • Hint: I often shred cabbage into the bottom of the pan and nestle the stuffed peppers in so they stay upright while cooking …the resulting cabbage is amazing!

EDD7042D-FD0B-4547-901D-B602B167B97F  And last but certainly not least is Shoe Peg Corn Salad… Simply made with several ears of corn cut from the cob, chopped or cherry tomatoes, purple onion, bell pepper and cucumber all small diced is a no cook salad that’s sure to please anyone! 3C813151-0A79-4973-A1A2-3F2FD7A9D150

Dressing Mix is easy-

  • Six or eight ounces of sour cream
  • Several tablespoons of mayonnaise with the zest and juice of a lemon
  • Cracked black pepper and salt to taste.

You can make up the dressing made right in the bowl- it’s a cool and easy side dish or even on it’s own with saltine crackers… it’s amazing! And the best part is- you don’t even have to turn on the oven to make it!

Here’s hoping while you’re putting up the goodness of your vegetable gardens, you’ll enjoy cool, fresh meals along the way! I know we are!

Love y’all, Camellia

*All photographs are obviously mine!

Summer Tomatoes in the South…

70853A62-5688-42A3-8CFD-C0DAE8E348BFWe wait all year long for summer tomatoes. We long for them all year. There’s no end to what we do with summer tomatoes-

  • We put them in canning jars, freeze them and preserve them any way we can think of for winter soups, warm red sauces and hearty stews, so of course we’re trying  keep the memories of summer tomatoes alive.
  • And yes, we make fresh tomato soup with thin slivers of cool cucumber, snips of green onion, crumbled bacon and a drift of shredded cheese.6450DC56-D19F-4397-BB09-69BDFD262117
  • We consume vast quantities of summer tomatoes alongside Fried Chicken, Pork Chops and a personal favorite- Fried Catfish.
  • Who would turn down a vegetable plate of butter peas, steamed yellow squash, corn muffins, macaroni and cheese alongside thick slices of summer tomatoes?
  •  We stuff summer tomatoes with shrimp salad, egg salad, tuna salad or chicken! And it must be summer tomatoes or the taste just isn’t there!
  • There may not be a better savory pie than Summer Tomato Pie, my sister’s is the best I’ve ever tasted- a flaky pie crust oozing with fresh summer tomatoes, a sour cream and onion filling topped with thick and melting sharp cheese- well, I’m drooling just thinking about it!A2E3C53C-B1DF-4E1F-8726-FF4FE037F9F3
  • Let’s not forget mile high Club Sandwiches, grilled Hamburgers and of course the all time favorite Bacon, Lettuce and Tomatoes… as long as there’s a summer tomatoes on there- any of these are near perfection!E38C9809-2B2C-46E9-8DDB-338336A88517
  • Of course, we love Fried Green Tomatoes- now you may be able to get hot house green tomatoes all year round…yet, if they’re made with summer green tomatoes they’ll have that extra special flavor!E2C9EC81-455C-4901-89C7-EB479A3E1320

We consume all of these wonderful things and more… almost any mixed green salad is elevated by summer tomatoes, even the humble potato salad with cherry tomatoes is a cool refreshing lunch! 6A0BF5E2-9057-46E1-9489-B0B7C797DA8BBereavement buffets almost cry out for scalloped tomatoes and tomato aspic which are amazing made with summer tomatoes!

C5B80D0A-75AB-4CCC-9716-B9E97D59347BNow, if you’re from the South… and I mean truly from the South- there’s one particular delicacy which is the real reason we wait all year for Summer Tomatoes… Tomato Sandwiches! If you add anything more than loaf bread, mayonnaise, summer tomatoes with salt and a bit of black pepper- then you don’t really have a Southern Tomato Sandwich! I’ll let you all fuss and discuss which mayonnaise is best- to me as long as the ingredients include lemon juice on the label you’ll have good mayonnaise and no, we don’t call it mayo – say that and it might put you under suspicion!

0CC775ED-48DD-488F-98E7-CFCCDCBC6CF8Now, if you’re a true believer in a pure Tomato Sandwich- then you’ll know there’s a secret wish we all have had from time to time… to have one beautiful slice of tomato which will cover the whole slice of bread… Big Boy Tomatoes move over.. the new one to try is – ‘Mater Sandwich’ ! Of course it is! I’m here to tell you this one is a winner… never mealy or bland tasting… the ‘Mater Sandwich’ variety of home grown tomatoes is one you’ll want to try!  We’ve been picking and eating these for weeks! Now, if you’ll excuse me- I’m gonna fix me a Tomato Sandwich!

Love y’all, Camellia

All photographs are obviously mine! *Mater Sandwich tomato plants may be a registered trademark!

The Glory Bower…

22B6237F-FFBE-463B-8F4A-1D051176A07FJust when the heat of summer slows me down to a southern drawl… a miracle happens. It sneaks up on me every year. When hydrangeas blossoms look like tight pincurls, and roses sit and sulk- fed up with the humidity; the porch ferns whine for church fans and ice water, even the impatiens lay down their heads and weep… that’s when the Glory Bower Trees quietly begin to bloom.

Hummingbird wings whir around her. Butterflies flitter on her pale green shoulders. Fat Bumblebees stir slowly around like plump fairy godmothers- coaxing the lacy summer ballgown onto Glory Bower. Her ladies in waiting, the crepe myrtles, have on raspberry or shocking pink corsages. When every other flowering thing closes up shop for harvest, the Glory Bower is just getting started; dabbed with a faint honeysuckle fragrance. Glory Bower is the real southern belle, never breaks a sweat, not one bead of perspiration. Glory Bowers put down deep roots- they’re my sweet homebodies, staying close to my windows so I can chaperone and gaze as the miracle unfolds.7E302FAB-3BE8-4229-9FF8-189F4DB356BF

If you ever find yourself wondering if Mother Nature stills performs miracles, just look to the Glory Bower- which blooms as fresh as spring, cool as a cucumber, sweet as honeysuckle in the scorching heat of summer. Wishing you a day filled with sunshine, the faint fragrance of gardenias, magnolias and honeysuckle and if you’re really blessed a faint whisper of butterflies, bumblebees and hummingbirds circling around a Glory Bower and who knows? Maybe an evening’s worth of a gentle rain…

Love y’all, Camellia

*All photographs are obviously mine. This post in a very edited form was first published as ‘Glorious July Miracles…’ right here on Camellia’s Cottage in July of 2016, photographs for this version have been edited as well and new ones added from this year’s Glory Bower. The proper name for Glory Bower is Clerodendrum, which we pronounce ‘Clair O Dendrum’. Since I live in St. Clair County, it seems to me… as much as I love this precious tree that it should be the official tree of my home county! The lacy blooms which attract butterflies, hummingbirds and bees in the heat of summer… fruits in the fall as a dark blueberry seed surrounded by magenta petals literally cover the Glory Bower then provides much needed food for the birds during our hot dry late summer and early fall. My original tree was rooted and given to me by an old gardener and I wouldn’t take anything for the ones who have sprouted around the cottage.

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3 Lessons of Spring…

We’ve posted 3 Lessons of Spring and one strong suggestion on Instagram in the last few days. I thought you might enjoy them too!

This rather humorous photograph of a planter we have here at the cottage, was about to be planted with a few bedding plants… I decided to snap a photo of her first! She’s inspiring don’t you think?

B21EFFCA-536B-4BAF-A5F1-DC5ED4E7390C ‘The mind is a wonderful thing! It’s where creative ideas begin, where we learn, where emotions form and where we make decisions. Deciding to use ideas, knowledge and emotions for good is the highest form of humanity.’


30C47988-A6F4-40E4-A463-38FEDA229E84Eggs might be the ultimate food form of Potential. This photograph inspired us. ‘Potential, that’s one of the wonderful emotions I feel in Spring… nothing says it better than a basket full of eggs by my front door. Little Johnny Jump Ups aren’t really Spring flowers here, but they seem to rejuvenate themselves right now- and they have the potential to re-seed. now, that’s a lesson too! I hope your Spring brings you an awareness of potential all around you…not to mention the marvelous potential you hold within!’


These bearded irises were passed along to me by my grandmother many years ago- the deep purple is amazing and thrills me every year! This was shared with a lesson I think of every year!

A8A57D14-8713-4E66-BCE4-FDBC60D796B2 ‘Bearded Irises are standing tall in all of their glory…what a lesson they are! Standing up, not afraid to show the world who they are and own their unique beauty. And! Despite an unfortunate name, bearded irises welcome the day with gladness!’


Those 3 Lessons of Spring speak volumes without saying a word…

  • Deciding to use our minds for good, like the planter, it looks like a brilliant idea is sprouting.
  • To see potential in our world and within ourselves…whether it’s at the end of life’s cycle or like an egg- at the beginning!
  • To stand tall, like the regal Iris, despite an unusual name and short bloom time is a lesson to us all… to seize the time we have, bloom where we’re planted and in our own unique way.

Now, here’s a strong suggestion…it’s Time to Spring Clean… we can get sidetracked and buy things we don’t need! So, here it is! Shades of Blue…DDFFEC62-7066-49D5-8847-862AF386BB87

‘Shades of Blue… natural dyes, indigo, prints and stripes, chambray, madras, Oxford cloth and denim. Blue is beautiful year round, especially in Spring and Summer! I’m Shopping My Closet first- then checking the choices with my favorite catalogs- for updates this season!’ It’s a spring closet clean out and a money saver too!

I love Spring…pollen and all..lt inspires me with its beauty and lessons all around! What will you do this Spring? I’d love to hear! I’ll be back soon with good tips, good thoughts and yes, good food!

Love y’all, Camellia

* All photographs are obviously mine. Follow @brendawyatt_ on Instagram for more tips and ideas! I’ve found new friends and seen the astounding things so many are doing! Happy Spring, yall!

8 Tips for Creating Memory Gardens…

006CD037-D4B8-4F22-84E0-D092A1D064D4I didn’t set out with Memory Gardens in mind… though the idea began to form when my grandmother shared some Hosta and Spiderwort, then an old gardener sent Daffodil bulbs and another shared Bearded Irises. My father in law, sent a few Redbud saplings from the family farm and my mother showed up one day with a sapling called Glory Bower, which blooms in the dead of summer when nothing else will. The Glory Bower is in bloom near one of our daughter’s birthday and always reminds me of her, beautiful and generous. Each year it seemed, I had memories of my family and others who had generously shared plants. Here’s a closeup of Spiderwort-C85AFD07-43D8-4885-BDF0-61350C33BC6F

Tip #1 Memory Gardens can be scattered throughout the landscape or in a designated place. I do both.

I had an idea of purchasing a tree or a shrub on special occasions or in memory of a loved one…So, a memory garden was forming as I was learning about where, what and when to plant. On several occasions I gave a living plant instead of sending flowers and often bought one to be planted here at the cottage. Without really planning a Memory Garden, my garden was making memories for me.E2A910D2-F038-42C2-830C-21D87D3833BF

Tip #2 Think perennials. Memory Gardens aren’t just about trees and shrubs- Herbs, like Rosemary- for Remembrance, Lavendar for Love and Devotion,Sage for Long Life and Wisdom- are great memorable additions. The bearded irises weren’t given to me by my grandmother yet, she loved them, so they remind me of her, always. Bulbs, Ferns, Hosta, Shasta Daisies are wonderful and can be planted in the garden, near a loved one’s birth date. Perennials as bereavement plants which die down but return year after year are a hopeful reminder of the resurrection.

E5345747-53BA-4FBC-ACD5-07CE39E9AA4CWhen we re-did the front yard- a parking area in front of a picket fence changed things.  A family member gave me two heirloom roses- New Dawn, they are the ones at the end of the fence. Every year, I’m reminded of her beauty, her thoughtfulness and her kindness. The pale pink roses still grow proudly at each end of the picket fence, And they bloom close to her birthday! A tiny gardenia shrub was bought on sale… it reminded me of a dear friend, who had loved a fragrance with a distinct gardenia note, the shrub is now so big- it has to be cut back!  I planted a hedge of holly, that was perfect behind a garden bench given to me by my sister, it reminds me of her everyday.   On and on it seemed, I was given plants or buying plants that evoked memories.  The garden began to mature… What I found as the years went by… is that Light changes everything.82EF6299-6536-4585-89C5-B974EEE7B2D6

Tip #3 Even if you have established a specific area as a Memory Garden- be prepared to divide, move or even replace plants. When this occurs, I try to use memory plants in another more appropriate site, especially with adequate light.

1040EFD8-827B-426C-AFEA-DDB9B4429969Trees grow. Sun loving plants find themselves in the shade. Trees fall. Shade loving plants shrivel in the sunlight. Trees even age and die. The soil is disturbed or other trees crowd them out. And, these elements affect our yard to this day. So! It became important to me to establish areas where my memory plants had the best chance of survival. And some memory plants need dividing.  I didn’t want to lose the old heirloom plants, so I divided them and spread them throughout the garden areas; still purchasing memory plants along the way.

Tip #4 Memory Plants are all occasion! Births, Milestones such as graduations, Weddings, Anniversaries, in addition to the Loss of a Loved One, are the perfect opportunity for memory plants. The main criteria is choosing a plant which evokes a memory of the occasion and the loved one.

CA33CF63-8BCA-4BE3-989D-E998FD69019BLittle Gem Magnolias were planted in memory of my Aunt Iva and my precious grandmother, Mimi. Yet the occasion when the magnolias were purchased commemorates our daughter’s wedding. They were used as a large display in urns at her wedding reception.  I like to call these Little Gems- my ‘Steel Magnolias’; which Mimi and Aunt Iva certainly were, as were other southern ladies for whom I purchased the same small magnolias.  Those magnolia trees and a few camellias I had purchased evoked to wonderful memories throughout our garden, not to mention the beautiful large blooms!

Tip #5 For very special occasions you may choose to plant a specimen tree or large shrub. Be sure to site the tree for its own specific needs for soil and light.

10FF4451-1BCD-467B-A5AF-7B652D5ED689If you’re getting the idea that my memory plants were placed at whim, you wouldn’t be far from the truth, I planted for the conditions the plants and trees required. A freeform Memory Garden was more like it… until 2006.My mother in law died. I was devastated. I worked furiously in the garden in the days following her death. Being on my knees, seemed the right place to be; brought to my knees by this blow of her death- I could be alone, I could dig, yank weeds, weep over the least tiny bloom- gardening helped. Have you ever felt like that? Immersing yourself in a hobby or physical tasks that free the mind? Gardening was therapy for me. Shortly after her death, to honor her , we were given a piece of statuary, an angel.

10A4D15A-1A5D-453F-96FF-7F7D6AC6325B It seemed too large to put on prominent display in the front of our house…. as I continued to work out my grief- a spot toward the back of our yard, kept catching my eye… it was a clump of dogwoods, they were in bud.  It seemed to be the perfect spot! So, that’s where she is…my angel and my first attempt at a specific Memory Garden. At the base of the angel, were planted miniature daffodil bulbs from a funeral basket of spring flowers my sister gave our family. They have multiplied over the last decade. In the Spring since the Angel was placed, it still surprises me-  if anyone glances this way, passing the cottage- down the side yard toward the dogwoods… there is an Angel. The spot for her Memory Garden was somehow, by some miracle- chosen for me, not the other way around. We have since lost some dogwoods, planted some roses and crepe myrtles. 4AB961E2-804F-48FC-AAAE-DCFCB15FF953

Tip # 6 Be careful buying statuary. Use it sparingly. Place it appropriately, so that it’s shape and size work with your garden. Sometimes your site will tell you where it needs to be placed!

B2760811-B63E-4AED-BF05-FB6A0C0567C1So! I have continued my practice of buying memory plants. In 2017, I planted a camellia for my friend, Denis who died that spring.(photo above) I planted ten azaleas when my mother died, also in the Spring of 2017. Five azaleas for her grandchildren and five for her great grandchildren- she adored them all! Those were interspersed in the existing garden. Still. She has her own specific Memory Garden.F2F581E9-7D70-4B27-8336-7A6B4D6BDD6F

Friends and family bought hydrangeas for my mother as well, she loved hydrangeas and I do too! They are in shades of pink, white, green and blue that can only be called ‘hydrangea blue’. I planted them in groups by color, not mixing them so it’s more pleasing to the eye. There were a good many, so- for my mother… there is a hydrangea garden along a side yard and around the back deck- areas which  were never intended as a memory garden. Yet it seemed to chosen for me. I plan to add and add to it until the hydrangeas say- ‘No more, please’.  Memory Gardening has been a source of great joy to me.  I tend to name the plants- Denis, the Camellia delighted me, when she was full of blooms this year!2F91DB41-12F4-4A73-AA67-A60391CE5160

Tip #7 Add to your memories all at once or, perhaps a better plan is to gradually add to it, as I am doing with the hydrangeas and camellias.

C72C813D-0039-4267-BD1D-FEA018DD4E86Last fall, my beloved Walter, a Himalayan cat who had graced us with his presence at this cottage, died. I had to do something for Walter, I was almost inconsolable.  My sister had given me a statuary cat, more than a decade ago, it had never found a permanent site. At age 17, I suppose, Walter had lived a long life- I never imagined the grief I would experience when he died. So, I created a very small Memory Garden for him… under one of the azaleas planted for my mother, the statuary cat was placed, with an engraved stone which epitomized Walter…it says, ‘Do no great things, only small things with great love.’ Rose petals fall on this small piece of statuary, it isn’t visible from the street, but I see him every day as I go to my car. Somehow it comforts me.  I have recently planted a few scraggly violas near him hoping they will re-seed. There are lamb’s ears nearby too. Each one seems to be a bit of those small things only a family pet is able to bring to a household.

B4A154E7-B044-424C-8ABD-14285FFE8CA7Now, I’ve gone all sad sack on you and I don’t want you think Memory Gardens are just for bereavement- they aren’t! Plant memories for any occasion- name them or not, but as you plant- you are putting down roots, you are making a garden, you are making your home, your neighborhood, your world a more beautiful place!

Tip # 8 Don’t be afraid to ask for advice! Your local garden shop is a wealth of information. Ask them to suggest plants to use, what the plant will require, and how large it will get. You may need to have specimen plants installed, sometimes a garden center will be able to suggest a service. Ask for help- your plants willlove you for it!

Like I said, I didn’t set out to create a Memory Garden… now, that I have, the memories make me a better gardener. When a baby is born or a beloved friend passes on… I hope you will visit your garden center and pick out a special plant. And if the notion strikes or if there is a space in your garden, perhaps you will plant it and start a Memory Garden of your own… now, if you excuse me, I need to go outside and plant a Leyland Cypress named Wayne…

Love y’all, Camellia

* All photographs are obviously mine. The quote near the statuary cat is attributed to Mother Teresa. My husband’s dear friend, Wayne died right before Christmas, an evergreen was given to the family and the Leyland Cypress is to be planted here at Camellia’s Cottage.

Camellias,Chocolate and Love…

If there’s one thing about February that always delights me- it’s that camellias are in bloom, chocolate is on the menu or in a heart shaped box and love seems to be in the crisp cool air. This year, the red camellias are showing out, a bumper crop of ruffled blooms, and this tickles me because they’ve taken their own sweet time about getting to a point of consistent blooms- the shrub was chosen for it’s double ruffled petite blossoms- in honor of my mother in law- who I loved with all of my heart- who was petite, beautiful and …well, it just seemed fitting to plant a camellia to honor her life with our state flower, the Camellia.

Valentine’s seems to be an oddly conflicting  holiday. Oh yes, it’s supposed to be all about flowers and chocolate and romance, yet it’s often a disappointing holiday, even with all of the gift ideas, hearts and beautiful sentimental cards- disappointment often stands in the shadows. Still. Love itself comes in many forms- romantic love, yet also love of family, love of friends and yes, love of place. Other than my own home- there is possibly no place on this earth that I love more than a beautiful historic hotel in Point Clear, Alabama which combines all kinds of love… camellias bloom profusely and a certain form of chocolate stole my heart many years ago.

The Grand Hotel is her name. Close by is Mobile Bay and  a quaint town called Fairhope; just down the road is a beautiful small town named Magnolia Springs…now if fair hope, beautiful sunsets, camellias, magnolias and a grand old lady doesn’t give you a clear point of view… I don’t know what possibly could. The pace is slower, Afternoon Tea is served every afternoon, the grounds are filled with huge live oaks that have long gray beards of Spanish moss- under their spreading branches- camellias, azaleas and all manner of distinctly southern plants bloom in profusion around a mossy lagoon. I have visited there during every season of the year, yet February is the time of year I’ve probably enjoyed most- in the lower coastal south- it might get chilly but never so cold as to discourage the camellias or the guests. I’ve been there in formal dress several times in February- it seemed to me, the most glamorous place anyone could be!

Yet, my best memories of the Grand, are of the ones when my children were young and truly learned the exquisite art of dining and dressing for the occasion at a champagne brunch with live music playing softly- tunes like ‘Stars fell on Alabama’ or the more lively- ‘The Alabama Jubilee’. And if there is ever a place on earth for ‘jubilee’ it’s on the shores of Mobile Bay where that amazing phenomenon happens when it’s least expected!

The first time I ever tasted- Flourless Chocolate Cake was at the Grand Hotel, and I recall thinking- ‘What an elegant dessert! Surely, someone could have come up with a more decadent name!’ Somehow, over the years- I was given their recipe for this decadent chocolate dessert. For years, I’ve thought I couldn’t recreate it- and the truth is? Without the backdrop of the Grand Hotel it would no doubt ever taste the same. So! I took the recipe and tweaked it to make the recipe my own – and while our camellia’s are blooming their fool heads off? I decide to try my hand at making it and decorating it with those festive red blooms! So, it was only  appropriate to name it- Camellia’s Flourless Dark Chocolate Cake. It’s way easier to make it than I’d ever have thought- and decorated with red camellias grown right here at the cottage- it was downright gorgeous and…well, it took me back… Here’s how you make it-

Camellia’s Flourless Dark Chocolate Cake…

A dense rich dark chocolate cake, made with baking chocolate and cocoa, a mere 1 cup of sugar, no flour at all, and- to deepen the flavor- espresso powder is added. A small slice garnished with whipped cream is an elegant dessert. 

  • 2 Sticks Butter (Cut in pieces- plus more for pan)
  • 1/4 Cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder (More for dusting pan)
  • 2 Teaspoons Instant espresso or coffee granules
  • 1/4 Cup Heavy Cream
  • 8 Ounces Unsweetened Baking Chocolate (Chopped )
  • 5 Large Eggs
  • 1 Cup Granular Sugar
  • 1/4 Cup Powdered Sugar (As needed for dusting)
  • Whipped Cream
  • Fresh Mint Leaf, Berries or flowers (For garnish)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare 9 inch springform pan (or a 9 inch cake pan lined completely with parchment paper) Butter pan and dust with cocoa powder. Set aside. In a heavy medium saucepan, melt butter on medium low heat, add baking chocolate pieces and carefully stir until melted. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together large eggs, add granulated sugar, espresso powder and cocoa powder until fully combined. Carefully incorporate melted chocolate and butter until th batter is blended well. Pour batter into prepared pan lightly smooth batter. Bake at 350 degrees on center rack until puffed and set, approximately 35 minutes. Allow cake to cool for a full hour in the pan. If needed run a knife around sides of pan (if a baking pan is used, lift out of pan and fold down parchment ) unmold cake on serving platter. (Cake may be wrapped well after cooling and stored for up to 2 days before serving.) When ready to serve, dust with powdered sugar, add whipped cream and  garnish as desired. This is a very rich dense cake, small slices are preferable. 12-16 slices. 

And while we’re talking Camellias, Chocolate and Love… here’s a few ideas to make Valentine’s special:

  • Give or plant a camellia shrub, a special rose even a gardenia to honor a loved one or to beautify your landscape.
  • Bake a special dessert, cookies or a cake to give to friends and loved ones.
  • And, since the Grand Hotel has a spa that has been named one of the best in the country- why not make Spa Water for yourself and loved ones- decorated with rose petals?
  • Or give a spa certificate to a loved one, a friend or even treat yourself to a manicure or pedicure? Maybe find some seasonal flowers (like Camellias) and give a bouquet?

I know. I know. We tend to think of Valentine’s Day as just for couples in love…. I’ve come to believe- love, the sweetest kind is love that’s spread around a bit… so my best idea this year- Determine in the next few days to find folks who could use a hug or a bit of extra love and care- make a card, send a goofy text, write a note, give a call or just visit for a while? Sometimes the best thing of all is to say-

. Love y’all, Camellia

*All photographs are obviously mine. *The photograph of that gorgeous sunset was taken by me at the Marriott Grand Hotel several years ago- I’ve been reassured the sunsets are still glorious! *Choose flowers to decorate food or water that are organically grown or that you know the source. *The dark chocolate flourless cake can be made ahead two days before it’s served- so you’ll have plenty of time to make it this week!

Health and Beauty tip: Tea Tree Oil is an amazing oil for skin treatments and comes from the same family as the Camellia. And did you know? Dark Chocolate has been known to soothe a cough more readily than hot tea or chicken soup? Of course, that a bite of dark chocolate that slowly melts in your mouth! And, if the weather permits at all- the best health advice I can give you this week- is to try to spend 15-20 minutes outside everyday- it lifts the spirits and fresh air is a total body treatment!