When Seasons Collide…

‘For everything there is a season and a season for every purpose under heaven’s canopy…’sally-smith-flowering-quince-with-snow

For valiant undaunted courage, persistent love with a magnificent obsession for life in the face of heartbreaking uncertainty as Seasons Collide…sally-smith-crocus-in-the-snow

For enduring faithfulness, unfailing civility, uncommon graciousness and transcendent hopefulness in the radiant promise of Spring…sally-smith-scilla-and-snow

‘God has made all things beautiful in His Time… ‘

Love y’all, Camellia

These beautiful photographs, which I named ‘When Seasons Collide’ were shared with me by friend and amazing Alabama photographer, Sally Smith of http://www.CampCreekCreations.com The dazzling photographs were taken as winter fumbled with life’s thin veil and the seasons of life collide.  The photographs belong to Sally and can only be used with permission. *The quotes are extracted from Eccelesiastes 3, with additional text added by Camellia’s Cottage.

Winter in the Deep South…

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After the beautiful weather we’ve had this week, it’s hard to believe that just a few weeks ago, we had snow! That’s Winter in the Deep South for you.  The Seasons here are like a big family, we love to show off our Spring Beauties in all of their glory days, we have loads of fun with the Triplets- Lake, Bay and Gulf Coast in Summer, then we long for the weather to cool off for when the fun, colorful cousins-Fall, Foliage, Football and Holly Days arrive. But Winter in the Deep South is the fickle eccentric side of the family. Snow is like the flighty aunt who lives way up above the Mason Dixon Line, who makes sneaky calls to the weatherman sayin’ she’s coming home but changes her mind at the last minute. Aunt Snow is mostly a no-show, but when she does drift down it’s a surprise visit. She comes breezing in and before she can wear out her welcome she’s gone- leaving us to wonder when or if we’ll ever see her again. Snow is the most fickle weather condition in the Deep South. This sun-filled winter week, the flowering quince is showing out and bulbs are pushing up foliage- like when our colorful sun-loving cousins are around, quirky things happen. It’s because we’re having another weather pattern that actually does happen every Winter in the Deep South- a warm spell right in the dead of winter. We worry about the foliage and blooms- we would rather have blossoms near Easter. Old gardeners tell me that it’s actually a good thing for bulbs to put out foliage- if a killing frost comes through, the bulbs will have extra food to make it until Spring. Who knows if it’s true? Yet, somehow we do manage to have a beautiful show sometime along April or May- though I do recall one Easter when everything was just beautiful then lo and behold! Aunt Snow showed up before we had a chance to get out the bed sheets to throw over the azaleas!  We generally accept that Winter in the Deep South will be like having unexpected company, you know the type, the eccentric, unusual characters. Uncle Duncan Raines is quite a character- using colorful loud language, Uncle Dunc storms in, dropping by for a few demanding hours and then leaves you with a mess to clean up. vintage-burl-and-freesia-2

Or, the unexpected company is like Uncle Burl Frost, who always overstays his welcome. If he brings his sister with him? Let’s just say, we  nevah roll out the welcome mat when Burl Frost and his sister Freesia Butler drop by! Brrrr! It’s a chilling visit! Pipes rattle and freeze when they hear these two coming. Burl and Freesia are considered bonafide nuts! However, the most peculiar and eccentric of the whole Winter clan is- Uncle Gray Ova Caste. He doesn’t say much, so we don’t either. We tell ourselves that Winter’s occasional visits from Aunt Snow are fun, that Frost and Freesia kill off the bugs, we always need a Duncan Raine…it’s just the cold, gray overcast days that dampen our spirits. The doldrums set in when Uncle Gray Ova Caste settles in for a long dreary spell. They say he made his fortune in pharmaceuticals.  After one long stretch of heartbreakingly damp, overcast days, hanging heavy with fog- a friend once exclaimed, ‘If this fog would just lift!’ Uncle Gray Ova Caste is plain depressing, he shows up with heavy footsteps, damp boots and sits there looking dreary. We sit around longing for him to move along. That’s the part of Winter in the Deep South we dread the most, but then there are those clear dark starry nights when he finally drifts away. Without much warning, another warm spell will come along and lift our spirits. The Camellias will bloom, and we’ll tell ourselves that Spring in all of her glory will come by soon. I for one, am longing for it.

Love y’all, Camellia

*Vintage photographs of ‘Uncle Burl Frost and his sister Freesia Butler’ are from old family photographs belonging to Camellia’s Cottage- they were unnamed so Burl and Freesia seemed as good as any!vintage-burl-and-freesia-3

*Also, I would like to say- it’s at times like these that I truly wish I was a better writer and made better use of this beautiful language to convey what Winter is like in the Deep South, but hope you had fun with my folly and unusual cast of characters!

Imaginary Southern Party…

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Southern Party Food, just those three words conjure up delight. I’m not sure why I haven’t had more parties. I think I might regret it one day. I have helped with quite a few Southern Parties, but ‘at-our-house-parties’ have mostly been given for the now all-grown-up children. I do however, plan quite a few Imaginary Southern Parties. Sometimes, I will dream of having a table groaning with pick up food hearty enough for the men but in dainty portions for the ladies. Maybe I will have a neighborhood Easter Egg Hunt, with big containers of jelly beans and foil covered chocolate eggs, a bakery cake with all of that icing, big decorated sugar cookies and Pre-School Punch! Or perhaps I will do something unexpected like have a Build Your Own Shrimp and Grits Party– with all of the extras,

  • grated cheeses, chopped green onions, diced bell peppers,
  • pickled sliced jalapenos, diced ham, halved cherry tomatoes,
  • crisp crumbled bacon, fried okra, maybe even slices of Conecuh County Sausage and of course Tabasco®!

I would add baskets of corn muffins, tiny biscuits and cheese crackers alongside a big platter of fresh fruit. And Oh! the stories that will be told! I love the one about a high ranking military man who impersonated Elvis to entertain the troops! I will have a piano and a fair haired young man whose slender fingers softly play familiar tunes like Summer Time, the Tennessee Waltz or Broadway show tunes; perhaps a lady crowned with a cloud of white hair wearing Red Revival® Lipstick  will drape herself across the piano singing low and slow.  Maybe some of the guests will sway. I’m sure there will be a tall dark handsome man eating a slice of Mimi’s Pound Cake who insults me by saying his mother’s Cream Cheese Pound Cake was better, but I won’t care, after all a man should love his momma’s pound cake best. When the Beauties arrive, lacquered and sleek with twinkling eyes and big wide smiles, the men will hear- ‘Hey good lookin’ – what ya got cookin’ , then they will exclaim over every Brown Eyed Handsome Man. No matter how old we get- Southern ladies love to flirt and flatter. Outrageous stories will be told and re-told, followed by bursts of laughter. Perhaps there will be a jigsaw puzzle set up by a window and every now and then someone will pause to see if they can find solve a piece or two. The dessert table will have a big bowl of Banana Pudding, Pound Cake with Sugared Strawberries and fresh whipped cream standing by; there might be bite size tarts like our famous Pecan Pies. Coffee will be served to those who want it. Small groups will form and a few secrets shared. By the time the party is over, spirits will have been lifted and later we will say- ‘A good time was had by all.’   These are the Southern Parties of my Imagination. We used to call these- At Homes.  img_2098

Southern Party Food is like none other. It can be quick and easy or so complicated even Escoffier wouldn’t be able to pull it off! The best place to start when planning a party in the South is to weasel recipes from the best local cooks or find them in local and regional cookbooks. Southern cookbooks always tickle me, set my tastebuds tingling and are the cookbooks which fire up my imagination, especially the local Church or Junior League Cookbooks. I went on a tear recently and ordered about a half dozen cookbooks which had been on my wish list for years. I always start at the beginning, just like a best selling novel. I read the prologues, I scan the names of the contributors, the auxiliary, or officers. Then I imagine them planning  in soft southern drawls.

  • ‘Now Betty Gene, don’t forget to include that Pre-school Punch you always submit for the Beverage section- we can’t have the teetotalers out there thinkin’ we’re all a bunch of winos’ – or
  • ‘Tammy Faye, now you know we can’t put together this cookbook without your Great Aunt Mary Sue’s recipe for Cheese Souffle, I know she never made them herself but she guarded that recipe like it was pure gold- which, to be honest it was.’
  • Gaynelle, now we must have the recipe for your Sunday Roast Beef and Horseradish Sauce- it won’t be complete without it.’

I am forever amazed at how much drama there is in a single cookbook- recipes which are not for the faint of heart- like Fried Rabbit wherein we must leave to our imagination just who shot that rabbit and where- but the dainty lady who submits it makes sure that you rinse it well- making sure there is no hare in it- uh I mean hair, that all the leaves are rinsed out of the cavity – and ‘Oh my! get the saltbox out to kill the bacteria! I love to dream up scenarios for these formal little ladies who use their husband’s names. These cookbooks bring my Imaginary Southern Parties a special flair. Recipes warn or designate that some dishes are ‘Chafing Dish’ and some are to be served Hot, Chilled or Room Temperature. The Beverages are an amazing array- one Party Punch left me wondering if you would have to use a big galvanized tub to make it up – I’ve changed it up a bit with fond memories of Pre-School Graduation parties, but not the quantities so you can see what I mean!

Pre-School Punch

  • 1/2 Gallon of Pineapple Sherbet, 1/2 Gallon of Lime Sherbet,
  • 4 -28 oz. bottles of ginger ale – chilled, 1- 28 oz. bottle of soda- chilled,
  • 1- 48 oz. can of pineapple juice- chilled,
  • 1- 16 oz. jar of maraschino cherries, 1 quart of sliced fresh strawberries.

Mix all ingredients together. Stir and Serve. Yields two punch bowls. *Now, I ask you what size container would you need to stir and serve all of that for two punch bowls??? I can tell you now it would be slopped all over the place if I was making it! However you can take it from me- this punch is famous! I think if the recipe is halved it would be great for my neighborhood Easter Egg Hunt. For my Imaginary Build Your Own Shrimp and Grits Party– I would definitely add these whimsical appetizers from Bay Tables of the Mobile Junior League! I would double or triple the recipe, I do believe they would be just that good!

Jalapeno Gator Eggs

  • 1 (12 ounce) jar of jalapenos
  • 1 pound of Cheddar Cheese – grated
  • 1 pound lean ground sausage
  • 1 (10 count) can of biscuits

Drain jalapenos and remove the stems. Cut the jalapenos lengthwise and remove the seeds under running water. Stuff the jalapenos with the cheese. Shape the sausage into patties. Wrap around the stuffed jalapenos. Arrange on a baking sheet. Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes. Drain and cool. Sausage Jalapenos can be frozen at this point. Separate the biscuits into two layers. Wrap each around the sausage jalapenos and seal the edges. Place on baking sheet. Bake at 400 degree for 10 minutes. Yield 20 servings. * Note: Some recipes leave out some critical information-for instance, these would be whole pickled jalapenos. The canned biscuits would be the flaky type. I would also use mild sausage since the jalapenos add heat, but hey go for it if you love it hot! Recipes like Jalapeno Gator Eggs- get me in party planning mode- real or imagined!  Now I ask you darlin’, which Imaginary Southern Party would you come to? Or, maybe there’s another one…just a few pages away! I’ll keep you posted…

Love y’all, Camellia

All cookbooks were found and ordered from Amazon.com  Photographs are obviously mine!

A Classic Southern Sauce…

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Some of our most beloved Southern Sauces, like Remolaude, Seafood Cream or Bernaise Sauces are as smooth as satin brocade, others are as cool and puckery as seersucker on a summer day- a classic blendiing of Lemon and Butter or an Herb Seasoned Butter Sauce; then there are others which are Hot and Spicy- our classic  Cocktail Sauce is made with chili sauce, a big squeeze of lemon and as much horseradish as you dare -gives Fresh Shucked Oysters or Cold Boiled Shrimp just the right kick! And then there is one Classic Southern Sauce which stands out from the rest, but who hides out in the most delicate of Southern Junior League Cookbooks -She is as mean as the devil– deceptively sweet and fruity with a murderous combination of horseradish and hot mustard that honestly hits every tastebud in it’s wake… The Classic Southern Sauce is so scandalous that some sweet Southern ladies refuse to even name it-or claim it, they disguise her by calling it ‘Mustard Sauce for Ham’ or ‘Miss Lida Jane’s Wild Boar Sauce’ but I’m here to name names darlin’- and while I’ll give you the real basic recipe just know that every Southern cook worth her salt will either have a change of heart- decide to tweak it and not even have the decency to tell you about it- we’re just full of devilment like that! This Classic Southern Sauce actually isn’t easy to find by her real name in modern cookbooks! If you haven’t guessed by now…this Killer Sauce is named Jezebel!img_2109

Classic Jezebel Sauce

  • One 18 oz. jar of Pineapple Preserves
  • One 18 oz. jar of Apple Jelly
  • One small can of dry mustard
  • One small jar of horseradish
  • One tablespoon of cracked pepper – or less

Combine all ingredients, blend well. Put in pint jars and refrigerate. Keeps indefinitely.

This is the classic recipe with barely any precise measurements. I have to admit, if I can’t find an 18 oz. jar of Pineapple Preserves, I love to add some Apricot Preserves to mine- to make up the difference. I also prefer Horseradish purchased in the Seafood Department or refrigerated section- it always seems to have a little more kick and texture; and I use Coleman’s Mustard in the can-  some recipes call for regular mustard however, it’s not nearly as much fun- I mean, watching folks taste the sweetness and then the kick- eyebrows go up and let out a whoosh of a sigh is loads more fun! Most general recipes will say- ‘to taste’ for an ingredient like Cracked Pepper- Jezebel seems to, well,  feel guilty by saying ‘One Tablespoon – or less’ . Really, darlin’ you’re just now feeling guilty after all of that horseradish and hot mustard powder? And it just kills me that the recipe advises-  ‘Jezebel Sauce keeps indefinitely’ but really, it does! Sort of like the devil, always lurking around. Generally, a recipe for Jezebel Sauce will say-

  • ‘Delicious with Ham, Pork or Beef’ –
  • Others will add- ‘Good on blackeyed peas’ –
  • Some will say- ‘Wonderful on the cocktail buffet over a block of cream cheese’.

And all of that is infinitely true. But Jezebel Sauce is also-

  • a wonderful snack when smeared on a Ritz® cracker then topped with a thin apple slice, apple slices dunked straight in it isn’t bad either!
  • a teaser of an addition on a party table-slipped on top of a sliver of ham in a small yeasty dinner roll is the perfect two bite appetizer
  • and Jezebel Sauce is a real eye opener when added to a thimble sized sausage biscuit for brunch. img_2113

It’s never too early to start thinking about Valentine’s Day- why not make up some Jezebel Sauce now and give one of those pint jars tied with a big red bow to your sweetheart? It keeps indefinitely.  You will be unforgettable, I promise.  I know, my sweetheart just got a jar of his own- he loved it and no doubt he will still be thinking about it tomorrow. Jezebel Sauce is one of those closely held secret Southern Sauces you need to try just once- I dare you- no, I double dog dare you!

Love y’all, Camellia

Photographs are obviously my own!

A Prayer for our Country…

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O Ancient of Days, our Great and Glorious God, we pray that You will grant to us the same strong conviction of Patriot Dreamers, the firm will forged on the Anvil of Freedom, the moral character of a people willing to humble ourselves before Thee on bended knee with the same sweet spirit of Abraham Lincoln who was more concerned that our country unite on the Side of Almighty God rather than expect You to stoop down and take sides in a divided nation. Enable us to take up the heart of Lincoln- ‘with malice toward none and charity for all’. We beseech You to mend the cracks along unseen fault lines, strengthen fearful minds and heal broken hearts. We dare not get ahead of ourselves by venturing into an uncertain Future when Thou Alone knows our Destiny.

O Lord our God, give rise to Hope in our hearts. Keep melancholy and apathy far from us. Help us to remain calm and unruffled in any and all circumstances. Hope is a glorious gift from the Throne of Heaven. What has kept mankind going is the refusal to stop hoping in the face of great odds, so we pray that Your Strong Hands will continue to fan the flickering flame of Hope when we are worried, tired and weary.. May we be united in prayer, united in seeking Thy Will and united in our desire to hear what You are saying. Enable us to govern ourselves so that we prize hard work and duty above rank and privilege.

Help us recognize the deep concerns and needs of our fellow citizenry and do what we can to lift them up; cherishing our obligation to love one another as You have so graciously loved us. May we abide with You and be completely convinced that You are mindful when one tiny sparrow falls and You also take notice of the fluttering hearts and the furrowed brows of Your Children and are even now, lending Your Divine Ear to our prayers for this Nation wherein we are blessed by Thee to dwell.

To our Savior, the Hope of Mankind and Lover of our souls, we make our prayer with a mighty Trust in Thee. Amen.


Have a Blessed Lord’s Day.

Love y’all, Camellia

*wonderful opening photograph of the Porches of Alabama by Jeremy Miniard @ http://www.jeremy.miniard.fineartsamerica.com

Bevy of Beauties…

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They still spring forth from twisted roots, thick marshes, stark hillsides, rushing rivers, dark coal mines and hard red clay soil of Alabama, a veritable Bevy of Beauties. Let us never forget that Stars Fell on Alabama, that Hank Williams wrote ‘Hey Good Lookin’ , What ya got cookin’  and F.Scott Fitzgerald found his Zelda right here in Alabama.

It’s no coincidence that Southern girls aren’t just cuter, they are stunning beauties. We know this from birth; like Strands of Steel woven through lace christening gowns, ruffled petticoats and tulle tutus. For a select group there is an almost immediate affinity for sparkle, sequins and crowns. Their eyes flash with fury, the art of flirting comes naturally at an amazingly early age. Charmingly, disarmingly  and alarmingly they manage to get their own way, especially with their daddies, brothers and beaus, who are more than happy to go along with it.

Some prefer hats and are devastating, some wear Hollywood style sunglasses all year round, some prefer to wear their crowns- All. The. Time. And others insist on over-accessorizing. We allow it, we encourage it and just between me and you? It’s easier than arguing them down.

We crown our daughters for every conceivable Fruit, Flower or Nut- not to mention Cotton, Crisco® and Congeniality! For others, the Tutus and Dance costumes aren’t  reserved just for recitals but worn everyday. Recently, I saw a tiny girl with a running suit on with wide bands of sequins down each tiny arm and each tiny leg- her mother said the child loves it so much she has to wash it while the little girl is sleeping!  It must be said, that those who are born loving sparkles often get the crown– we have spawned more than one Miss America right here in Alabama and Southern Beauties win more often than any other region of the United States!   We may be the Land of Cotton but someone somewhere has made a killing off thousands of yards of tulle for years now- ball gowns, prom dresses, homecoming courts, beauty pageants, cotillions and Mardi Gras.

Even Senior Centers have beauty contests- I have warned my family if the day ever comes when they think I need to be assisted in living, even though I’ve never won a beauty contest in my life-it will cost them a fortune in sequined pageant dresses, because Southern ladies nevah evah give up hope! It would be a mistake to think these beauty queens are all fluff- many go on to become lawyers, surgeons, executives, artists, teachers, engineers and even rocket scientists. If you research the Southern Bevy of Beauties, you will find articles have been written throughout the years- all asking and trying in vain to answer the question of why Southern women are so much prettier- some say it’s the extra amount of sunshine, others say it is the humidity that makes their skin glow and their hair so full. Some say it’s the slower pace or the sweet southern drawl, some say it’s handed down from generation to generation from folks who have stayed in one place. Some say it’s training or other less desirable reasons- which, to be honest, hurts my feelings to read such nonsense. 01bfc08b061192c2354e9003ed02f0a27f3b4d7e3f

To pigeonhole Southern Beauties would be a mistake- some are as soft and gentle as Wood Violets, some live as large as Magnolias, some cover pain and heartache like the sweet scent of Confederate Jasmine, some are more like creamy Gardenias you can’t miss ’em but they bruise easily; others are  late bloomers like the Glory Bower. Then there are those who simply bloom at the wrong time- like Camellias, our Winter Rose. We name them for our indigenous flowers, for our ancestors and some are so precious we’ve named them Jewel, Ruby, Opal and Pearl. Then there are some who are quicker than a lightning bug can blink- so we’ve nicknamed them for Junebugs and Katydids.image

They are as sparkling as our Rivers, they giggle and babble like our bubbling Springs, they are as tough and spunky as Pig Iron but soft as Moonlight and twinkle like Stars. There is an intoxicating mix of culture in the South- more Flags have flown over the Deep South than any other. The spice blend of American Indian, Spanish, French, British,  African, Greek, Italian, German and Caribbean not only influenced the very food we eat but contribute to our sweet and spicy Bevy of Beauties. Most of my ancestors were of European descent, yet I have an American Indian great grandmother aptly named Bama. Whole counties, rivers and towns bear names like Choctaw, Etowah, Tuscaloosa and Cherokee. In the county where I live, the will of a Cherokee Indian Princess is on record. Of course she was a Princess! No other region of America has been so ravaged by war and gone down a trail of bitter blood sweat and tears like the South. We’re still struggling with the aftermath. It is undeniable that Beauty is Born out of Trouble. Is it any wonder that our Daughters are a Bevy of Beauties?

We teach them that to be well received, they must have good manners, high standards, be well dressed, have a winning smile, get good grades and be good citizens- secretly we know that beauty and brains is a devastating combination! So, from generation to generation- we revel in their beauty but admire good posture born of backbone and courage. Oh my, how I do run on!

Love y’all, Camellia

*Photographs are the personal property of the community  of Camellia’s Cottage and should not be used without permission. * Photograph of ‘Katydid’ was taken by Hollis Ellison a wonderful photographer!

*Some of the vintage beauties are from Ash-Clairma 1961, the high school annual of Ashville, Alabama where surely some of the most beautiful ladies on earth were born.

* ‘Hey Good-Lookin’ was written by Alabama’s own Hank Williams.

* Zelda Fitzgerald was from Montgomery, Alabama.

*Alabama has had three winners of the Miss America Pageant®, over 20 were runners up and countless have been finalists and special award winners, including our very funny Award Winning Author- Fanny Flag.

Be willing to chop wood…

My journal for 2004 records various and sundry inspirations- I was reading and reflecting on several inspirational works by Guideposts Editor Arthur Gordon. This one is especially good, from his book-‘A Touch of Wonder’- when Mr. Gordon says- ‘We must be willing to chop wood instead of sitting by the fire.’

‘The trouble with most of us isn’t active or deliberate wickedness- it’s Lethargy, absence of caring, lack of involvement in life. To keep our bodies comfortable and well fed and entertained seems to be all that matters. But the more successful we are at this, the more entombed the soul becomes in solid immovable flesh. We no longer hear the distant trumpet and go toward it; we listen to the Pipes of Pan and fall asleep. Each of us must be willing to chop wood instead of sitting by the fire. Each of us must guard against the influences that lull and seduce us toward a state of non-living. Each of us must fight his own fight against the betrayal of life that comes from refusing to live it. Each day, for every one of us, some distant trumpet sounds. But never too faint or too far for our answer to be: ‘Wait, I’m coming!’

from ‘A Touch of Wonder’ by Arthur Gordon

One of the great inspirational writers of the 20th century, Arthur Gordon, is best known as the Editor of Guideposts Magazine. He was a native of Savannah Georgia. His great grandfather founded the Central of Georgia Railroad and his famous aunt, Juliette Gordon Low founded the Girl Scouts of America. Arthur was a graduate of Yale, a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford England, an Air Force Intelligence Officer during World War II, he was a writer of many books, had the distinct honor of interviewing Rudyard Kipling and was a charming Southern gentleman who was fond of saying- ‘Watch out for Southern Charm..’ I agree. Two of Arthur Gordon’s books have inspired me for many years- ‘A Touch of Wonder’ and ‘Through Many Windows’.  Mr. Gordon was right about being willing to ‘chop wood instead of sitting by the fire.’

It is easy in Winter to become lethargic, apathetic even lulled to sleep by a warm fire- but we must all be willing to answer Life’s Trumpet Call. Have a wonderful Lord’s Day!

Love y’all, Camellia

arthur-gordon-savannah-now-obit-1912-2002   photograph of Arthur Gorden- http://www.savannahnow.com

Arthur Gordon’s books are available through all major booksellers including Amazon.com His outstanding obituary is recorded in Savannah Morning News savannahnow

Photographs of ‘chopped wood’ were taken near the Liberty Bell Center in Philadelphia- which was used as decorative mulch for shrubs.