The Fine Art of Doting…

Have you ever heard of Doting? Here’s what I think most folks believe it means….

  • She’s always doted on that child.’
  • ‘Well, you know his momma was always delicate, he’s doted on her especially now that she’s in her dotage.’
  • ‘ I tell you now, she doted on  that man, always making him his favorite foods, keeping him neat as a pin and making sure everything was just so.’ ‘
  • He loved that car, doted on it like it was a crying child- why he kept that engine so clean you could eat off of it.’
  • ‘Well, she was the baby of the family, so everybody doted on her.

Now, we’ve all heard of doting or I guess most folks have. When anybody talks about doting, we basically think it means –

  • ‘She waits on him hand and foot.’
  • ‘Works himself to death trying to keep her happy.’
  • ‘That child is spoiled rotten, I tell you- when she grows up- she’s gonna expect the world to be handed to her on a silver platter.’

Yet, that’s not really what doting means at all. The fine art of doting actually means … To care for tenderly, to habitually bestow fondness and love;  to regularly treat or speak to a loved one with kind devotion and gentle affection.9471982A-D073-455D-A8D8-E27596B7E00E

It’s a harsh world we live in- extreme sporting events, conversations or workouts. Flashing lights, loud music and never ending communication. We’re bombarded with products, information and technology. Calendars are packed, schedules overlap,  being overwhelmed is the rule not the exception. It’s time to bring back the Fine Art of Doting. Oh yes, it will take a bit of being unplugged and slowing down- however, these suggestions take very little time or effort.

Perhaps, due to our religious upbringing- phrases like ‘self-love’ are overridden by teachings about being selfless and thinking about others first. Still. How can you ‘love your neighbor as you love yourself’ if there’s not a certain amount of taking care of yourself? Here’s a few ways that aren’t selfish at all, and are also great for sharing with others!

  • Did you know that spending 15-30 minutes outdoors everyday is recommended for all round good health? I find just walking around my garden to see what I can see is my favorite way to get in some time outdoors. To my delight I recently found Ice Folly Daffodils and the precious- Snowbells! 
  • I love to garden, I think it’s a wonderful pastime- yet- to give a living plant, shrub or even a small tree to a bereaved family may be one of the most comforting things you can do. Here at the cottage, a memory garden was started after my mother in law died over a decade ago. We also have several living things planted to honor loved ones. Just as my grandmother’s spiderwort and hosta remind me of her every year- so do these bereavement plants.
  • My favorite apps on my iPhone are the calendar and timer! It’s one way I dote on myself- since I work at home… I set alerts for small tasks to get up from the laptop- or set the timer for 15-30 minutes to sit and read a book. And by all means set a bedtime alert- to get those hours of sleep everyone so desperately needs! Limit exposure to LED lighting, either by removing them from where you sleep or my favorite- wearing a sleep mask! I’ve also tried the app called Calm…it’s a short meditative pause. And since, we’re all told to limit screen time- and I’m loving the notification of how much time I’ve spent online!
  • Make a habit of putting the phone down when eating family meals or meeting friends- it’s so much better to create the habit of talking person to person! While you are online, learn something new, while spending the time wisely, I’ve been taking a free Winter Photography Workshop on Instagram offered by @thelittleplantation. I’m low end when compared to the amazing photographers in the class- but my oh my! What gorgeous photographs! Beauty in any form feeds the soul! Here’s one of my entries:
  • It’s no secret I love to cook- but what I appreciate even more than the cooking is gathering around a table of good food. Somehow, folks who might disagree on almost everything become agreeable and companionable around a table. Dote on yourself and your family by making simple meals, but don’t forget to set aside a time to load up the table with good food to be shared with others. Grazing boards are a wonderful simple way to eat at home or entertain- FBE7ECF6-4633-4B8C-875A-D9CE61D66E85
  • I’ll be sharing more skin care tips soon- yet I think we all can agree, winter takes it’s toll on everyone’s skin! Here’s a few things that help tremendously- Stay hydrated and get more water (I’ve a challenged another food blogger to make ‘pretty water’) It’s been a fun wsy to entice myself to drink more water… I find when it’s pretty I certainly drink more of it! Here’s a few of my entries. Adding citrus or fruits and vegetables flavors the water slightly and takes very little time. The best thing is-  I’m enjoying it.
  • Switching over to a ‘milk soap’ is a good move… When I worked for Oscar de la Renta fragrance and cosmetics, we had a product that always had a waiting list! It was Oscar’s Bubble Bath, which was non-skid and also had powdered milk granules in it- the lactic acid in milk products is one of the best skin softeners! You can certainly benefit from dissolving about 1/2 cup of dry milk while you run very warm bath water. Test adding granular milk for yourself and see whether your skin feels softer!  Goats Milk Soap is another way to soften skin, this one I found at www.sparrowssoap.com A7E96E71-09FC-4A40-9800-65A4AB01F5F0
  • And,  a new skin treatment that I’m loving… Its called- Dry Brushing it’s a whole body treatment that rids the body of flaky skin while also stimulating the lymph glands! Can’t wait to tell you more about it!8611396A-D832-427A-A45C-DC05C93C7F0A
  •  Now, I know we all love shopping, however, it’s a good practice to shop your closet first! Most people buy the same new things that they already have in their closet! This is good advice- especially since we’re in a transition season,  instead of clothes shopping- accessorize! If you’ve got the itch to buy? Shop for accessories. Here’s a few I’m loving lately! The ribbon badges were found on Amazon and the pearls…oh always pearls! Those pearls were a gift- and came from JCrew! EB3C8154-C3C6-4626-B2F9-BDE25A20A25D
  • Make a habit of dreaming a little… plan a household project or a vacation! Right now, I’m in the middle of making reservations and have an itinerary of all the things we hope to do in beautiful Colorado Springs! We’ll be staying at the beautiful Broadmoor Hotel. For sure, we’ll enjoy eating those mile high donuts atop Pike’s Peak! Who knows? Maybe we’ll even break out in a rendition of ‘America the Beautiful’ while we’re there! And I hope to take a short road trip to Garden of the Gods- with its amazing huge red rock formations.FD35DA87-FE43-4F5A-9515-55125F191638
  •  And..the dreams and plans don’t stop there… of course, I’m looking at a few dates and places to stay at the beach! Looking forward and making a plan for family beach time this summer, kicking off our shoes and feeling the sand between our toes!
  • Make a plan to update a corner, a tabletop or even a room. It’s always helpful to our mental health to look forward! My plan starts this spring with installing striped outdoor curtains, which were on sale last fall, in black, gray and white cabana stripe….to finish up a household project- our tiny screen porch!2316253C-581A-4ECD-AF65-EAE72D92C347
  • And finally, one of my very favorite ways to dote on others… Sometime, somewhere- when they least expect it- Send a surprise note or gift for no reason at all! This is truly the fine art of doting. A small plant plopped in a waterproof plastic bag then covered with a small burlap bag or even a lunch sack- tied with a pretty ribbon, is doting in many different forms- a small gift for a co-workers desk, a tiny reminder to a friend that she’s appreciated or even dote on yourself a little bit! The main thing is to surprise! Now, wait for it- you know, I have to give you something homemade!988986C5-5E7A-4524-B7C5-A0DA2310EB6E
  • I recently made a batch of homemade marshmallows for a much loved family in upstate New York- hopefully they will enjoy many cups of hot chocolate to chase away the chill! And – be surprised to get them! Don’t they look wonderful?
  • Now don’t forget to read below the recipe. A bit more on the Fine Art of Doting! Here’s how you make our very own Cottage Marshmallows! Though, it’s not much different from most marshmallow recipes, there is one tip you won’t want to miss! And these are easy enough to surprise your family too!

Cottage Marshmallows...

Homemade Marshmallows, a confection that’s fun to make and will delight - especially in winter to top a cup of hot chocolate! 
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: American

Ingredients

  • 3 Packages Unflavored Gelatin
  • 1 1/2 Cups Granulated Sugar
  • 1 Cup Light Corn Syrup
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Salt Preferably Kosher
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoon Pure Vanilla Extract
  • Confectioners Sugar Mix with..
  • Corn Starch Ratio 1:4 with confectioners sugar being the 4

Instructions

  • In the bowl of stand mixer, combine gelatin with 1/2 cup of cold water. Allow to sit undisturbed while making the sugar syrup. In a small heavy saucepan combine granulated sugar, corn syrup and 1/2 cup of water. Blend corn starch and confectioners sugar in a bowl and set aside. On low heat, stir until sugar is dissolved, then do not stir anymore. Clip on a candy thermometer. Raise heat to medium high increasing heat gradually, until candy thermometer reaches 240 degrees. Remove from heat. The stand mixture should be fitted with a whisk attachment. Very carefully pour the hot sugar syrup, with whisk on low speed,  into the gelatin mixture. Raise speed to medium high, then higher as the mixture is incorporated. Mixture will become light and airy, generally tripled in volume after 12-15 minutes of continuous whisking. While mixture is whisking- prepare an 8x12 inch glass baking dish with a sieve dust confectioners sugar/ corn starch blend generously Slow mixer speed and add vanilla extract, blend well. Pour marshmallow mixture into pan, smooth top and dust generously with more of the confectioners sugar/ corn starch blend. * Corn Starch added to confectioners sugar helps marshmallows dry out better. Let mixture stand overnight uncovered to dry out. Turn out onto a marble surface or a board and with a serrated knife cut marshmallows into squares- whatever size you prefer ! But at least 1 1/2 inch squares. Toss in more confectioners sugar to coat all sides. * marshmallows can be tinted during the whisking process, however, I tend to think the classic white is the prettiest ! 

Marshmallows are best stored flat, covered with foil until ready to package. I prefer cellphane bags instead of plastic.

     

     

    852428A2-126A-4B61-BB99-199CACDDC185Now, you know I have a story… when I first began making homemade marshmallows… I was just tickled with myself and decided to take them to a holiday gathering… when I explained what this confection was… someone said- ‘Why bother?’ Actually the answer is in the handcrafted marshmallow- it’s soft and sweet, it melts in a cup of hot chocolate like a cloud and let’s face it- If anyone ever makes you a batch of homemade marshmallows? Well! that’s the Fine Art of Doting!

    Love y’all, Camellia

    *All photographs are obviously mine, with the exception of the opening photograph which was found on Pinterest with no attribution- if it’s yours? please let me know so I can give you credit! Amazon and JCrew are registered trademarks and this is not a compensated post for anything you see here!

    *Advertisements on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of Camellia’s Cottage.

    *Check out what we’re doing on Instagram, we’re posting everyday!

     

    Fall Wreaths…

    imageFall Wreaths are an essential transition from summer to harvest, on Southern doors and interiors you will find wreaths and arrangements gleaned from yards and gardens. From the cradle to the grave, Southern ladies insist that:

    •  Knowing a good florist is essential, especially if you don’t happen to have a green thumb or know anyone who does. Please do this by recommendation- if you visit a florist that bases the business on lots of glitter, tinted carnations, specializes in funeral wreaths shaped like golf carts, makes holiday arrangements with canned snow and plastic snowmen  or Horror of all Horrors mostly uses artificial flowers– with as much grace as you can muster, tiptoe backwards out of that shop and run- don’t walk away. Resolve to never darken the door of that place again! It can only lead to social embarrassment.
    • Being in a Garden Club trains ladies in the fine arts of arranging flowers, especially yard flowers for their homes. Being on the Altar Committee of your church is a labor of love and if you have a member who makes an offering of artfully designed yard flowers all the better. Working Garden Club Holiday Houses is not for the faint of heart- it is as rigorous as SEC Spring Training! Beautification of your community is considered  an act of love and devotion as long as you do it with a stylish garden hat and matching gloves; are able to merely glow and grow, without breaking a sweat!
    • The very height of a Southern lady’s repertoire is to actually grow flora and fauna in her yard to use for home décor and special events. Any time there are especially auspicious occasions you can find florally talented ladies roaming all over yards that are known to have seasonal specialties, snipping and trimming from yard to yard to get up enough for a yard arrangement, which is highest form of floral gentility, good taste and refinement.

    Fall Wreaths are part of the genteel Southern tradition. If you don’t actually have a granddaddy who owns a cotton farm, well- at least you can round up some cotton to make a Fall Wreath to grace your interiors or front doors. Cotton Wreaths are highly prized in Alabama. I fashioned my own wreath from cotton grown in the George Washington Carver Garden at Birmingham Botanical Gardens, which was given to me as a gift from the gardeners. I had my husband go to an actual cotton farm and chop cotton for me so that friends and family could have their own! Be sure and leave the ’empty cotton bolls’ on the stems- they are called Southern Stars!wreath

    Fine gentlemen consider it a privilege to grow Muscadines even if the deer eat all of them before anyone gets enough to actually make a pot of jelly! Southern men might dream of Muscadine Wine but he knows the ladies will appreciate the vines for their Fall Wreaths, even if his vines aren’t successful that year. img_0120-2

    Herb boutonnieres are a wonderful addition to weddings and funerals- Granddaughters of a large family I know, fashioned herb badges for family members- Rosemary for Remembrance and Lavender for Love and Devotion, for the visitation and then a few months later, they planted Rosemary and Lavender behind the gravestone. I know one lady who knew that a prominent member of the community would be wall to wall with funeral stands on his behalf. She decided to cut and wrap a massive arm bouquet of fresh rosemary to be presented to the widow at the gravesite- it was a sweet gesture of remembrance. Fall Wreaths can be made from fresh herbs and hung to dry for snipping later, Southerners love this idea. I admit to having fresh basil drying in my pantry as we speak, shamefully I did not fashion it into a Fall Wreath. However, months before a nightly nip in the air arrived, I cut and filled big galvanized tubs with hydrangeas which are drying for Fall Wreaths and filling baskets here at Camellia’s Cottage.

    imageThis weekend, get outside and wind up some Vines, some of the most beautiful Fall Wreaths I have ever seen were made from Kudzu vines! Morning glory vines also make wonderful wreaths… even cuttings of long flexible shrub branches wind up in a quirky sort of way….the wreath on top of the white chest at the end of this post was made from Fresh Gardenia shrub growth- it just happened to dry into a glorious shade of brown, I added cotton to it, to make a Fall Wreath. It is one of my favorite wreaths. You can also purchase grapevine wreaths and stick rose hips, herbs or dried pods and berries along with magnolia leaves for a stunning Fall Wreath- you don’t have to spend a lot to get a lot of decorating magic. Go ahead and embrace the imperfection of yard finds. And please remember the advice from our Southern ladies- Yard flowers are the most loving, because they are a part of who we are.

    Love y’all, Camellia. image

    All of these less than perfect photographs are shamefully mine.

    Instinct or Fitness…

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    I’m just going to admit it- I’m uncoordinated. I will never be good at sports or exercising. Never have been, do not aspire to it.  First of all, going to a gym without at least some color on my face- blush or lipstick -would be sort of horrifying for me. I would hate to inflict that on anyone. I no longer buy swimsuits. I still call them bathing suits-I do not wear bathing suits so as not to inflict my aging body on the general public.  I can wear a cute cover up and have a fine old time. IMG_1398

    The last time I tried exercising in a group publically was in an aerobics class at my church at least 30 years ago- it was a disaster– no really, I am not kidding. The building had indoor/outdoor carpeting. I  had on a cute new outfit with socks and tennis shoes. I stood on the back row of a class of 30 women, just in case. I could not get the steps right, I could not shift several steps to the right and hop, flailing my arms around in the air at the same time. I hopped-scooted over…my tennis shoe caught on the indoor outdoor carpet I stumbled backwards, trying not to hurt anyone or break their rhythm and ended up flinging myself into a whole wall of metal folding chairs. It was not pretty, it was loud with all of those chairs falling like steel dominoes. The acoustics in that room are pretty good… let’s just say this was not a joyful noise unto the Lord.women exercising dailymail.uk

    I have tried to explain being uncoordinated for years- especially when folks tell me about steps and swings and all manner of fitness routines. I cannot risk it.  I’m not proud of this.  I have tried walking on a tread mill more than once and more than once have managed to trip and skid off, machine still rolling.women on treadmills vintage

    My husband, a person of considerable athletic skill, has known and accepted my uncoordinated style; since as newlyweds he let me go with him on a run…when we got back he said-

    • ‘How ’bout letting me run by myself from now on?
    • ‘Why?’
    • ‘Well your feet flap on the pavement.’ Enough said.

    I signed up for golf lessons many years ago…the instructor told me at the end of the first lesson- ‘Ma’am, golf just isn’t your game.’ He didn’t offer to return my money…I didn’t ask either.vintage woman golfing

    I really accepted my ineptness early on…when I was in college I was required to have a certain amount of physical education.

    • I took tennis.
    • I knew the rules, I aced the written tests.
    • When my grade came out, it was a glaring ‘B’ –
    • I asked the instructor why he had given me a B-
    •  Graciously he said, ‘You don’t have the Killer Instinct.’

    Most Southern folks start planning their funerals when they are in their 40’s if not before…Please believe me, I know this- we have a morbid fascination with the process. It could be argued that dyin’ is more fascinating in the South. When I want my husband to listen to anything I am saying – I just have to say- ‘When I die…’ or ‘I want this played at my funeral.’   He listens up.

    Recently I was contemplating an extra roll of fat I had found- it’s none of your business where I found it-I was thinking maybe I should give fitness another chance. I’ve got some important tests coming up- my cholesterol screening and BMI. I thought of all the personal risks involved. To exercise is risky for me.  I have decided that having-

    Beloved Wife and Mother

    She Never had the Killer Instinct

    Carved on my tombstone-is sounding better and better all the time.old tombstone- aol images

    Meanwhile, before I start pushing up daisies- I’m keeping close to the ground and digging in my garden…

    Love y’all, Camellia

    The photograph of the tennis player and the swimmer are from a vintage encyclopedia- called The New Wonder World- last copyright- 1941 by Geo. L. Shuman and Co.

    The women on treadmills- attributed to an article by Huffingon Post

    The golfer, the group photograph of women exercising and the tombstone from AOL images and may be subject to copyright.

     

    Glorious July Miracles…

    IMG_1161

    Just when the heat of July slows me down to a southern drawl… a miracle happens. It sneaks up on me every year. When hydrangea blossoms look like tight pincurls, when roses sulk- fed up with the humidity; the front porch ferns whine for church fans and ice water; even 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 her like plump fairy godmothers- coaxing the lacy summer ballgown onto Glory. Her ladies in waiting, the Crepe Myrtles, have on shocking pink and raspberry corsages. But Glory is a real Southern Belle, never breaks a sweat, not one bead of perspiration. Glory Bower trees put down deep roots- they are my sweet homebodies, staying close to the windows so I can chaperone and gaze as the Miracle of July unfolds.

    IMG_1167

     

    When every other flowery thing begins to close up shop for harvest, the Glory Bower is just getting started; dabbed with honeysuckle fragrance, she’s a subtle reminder of another July Miracle– one that got her start, early one sunny summer morning in July. Like the Glory Bower she seems to thrive on sunshine but her real secret is her deep roots close to home. A fifth generation southern belle of St. Clair County, she is named for her father and grandfather. She is a true miracle. Before her mother turned twenty the doctors said she would never bear a child. After seven long years of waiting…this child was born, a true blue miracle. Even the doctors said to her momma and daddy- ‘Take her home and enjoy her, you’ll never have another one.’ She was so tiny, her long name didn’t seem to fit so she was nicknamed for the southern sunshine she was born under. Her momma sang ‘Swing Low, Sweet Chariot’ as she rocked her miracle on the porch swing. Her daddy played his guitar and sang his baby girl to sleep to-‘You are My Sunshine’. The pediatrician noted the baby hardly had a hair on her head but made up for it by having the longest eyelashes he had ever seen; a neighbor said- ‘It’s a sign of good breeding when a baby is bald headed’…her momma just smiled and made batiste bonnets with ruffles and lace.

    image

    She could talk before she could walk at ten months! She was a born teacher-lining up dolls and stuffed toys, she would ‘teach school’ when she was barely three years old. Her teachers  remarked that her ‘sunny name’ suited her just right! Always an honor student, with a beautiful voice that was rivaled only by her skill on the clarinet, she was voted, ‘Friendliest’ in high school, and graduated with full honors from college, before earning her masters degree in education. She grew up so fast her parents felt as if she blinked her long eyelashes and was all grown up! She has taught hundreds of school children how to read and to love school like she always did. She is a fine Southern lady and a wonderful teacher! Camellia’s Cottage can’t imagine life around here without children in it- we’re glad she’s one of them.

    If you ever find yourself wondering if God still performs miracles just look to the Glory Bower tree, which miraculously blooms so cool and sweet in the heat of a July summer and remember our July miracle.  Today’s her birthday, join us in wishing her a day filled with sunshine, the faint fragrance of honeysuckle and perhaps a gentle rain…

    Love y’all, Camellia

    p.s. Those doctors don’t always know everything… 21 months after this miracle? Another miracle baby girl was born on a sweet day in May! Believe in miracles, watch for them…they are all around you! Can I get a Glory Hallelujah?

    Hydrangeas!

    I have an ongoing conversation with my garden. Nature speaks to me in a strange language- I see dressmaker details in flowers- I see faces in wisened old trees, I see fabrics- sheer, satin, velvet or nubby. When a stem or branch bends or twists, I see embroidery or applique.  I see elves and nymphs hiding beneath tree roots; butterflies and hummingbirds are flowers in flight-busy bees remind me of happy cooks and homemakers. Let me say it this way…I try to use words to describe things when there are no photographs; for instance-if you couldn’t see these beautiful hydrangeas– how would I describe them to you?

    • Blue Eyelet Bloomers?
    •                  Blue Flowered Bubbles?
    •                               Big Blue Pom Poms on a Green Chenille Bedspread?
    •                   Blue Clouds over an Ocean of Green?
    •  Blue Lace Lollipops on Pale Green Sticks?    or Pink Cotton Candy? or-
    •                         Orbs overlaid with blue crochet?

    Hydrangeas bring on summer with the pomp and circumstance of a parade- and stay around until autumn like pale parchments as if they hate to see the season go…

    They are not fickle- though they do tend to surprise me…changing in spring from pale green to blue then brighter blue or decide that they might like to wear lilac instead…

    Before new hybrids- old timers would say to ‘sweeten’ them up- with lime…to get pink blooms. Just look at this pink hybrid! Reliable bright cotton candy pink blooms shamelessly flamboyant in a friend’s garden!image

    And in the last few years, I’ve become enamored of these sweet lace cap hydrangeas!

    A bevy of beauty whether in a bouquet or peeping through a fence- I have to admit I love hydrangeas!

    I’m greedy, I always want more! So, as much as I enjoy describing hydrangeas with words-I have to share more- hoping you love them too!

    Cultivating Hydrangeas is easy – great companion plants in a slightly damp, shady or dappled shade environments, under-planted with spring bulbs, hostas and Ferns…Try it!

    Thanks for stopping by Camellia’s Cottage…remember if you sign up we will never ask-

    • Your age or your shoe size, we will never ask where you were when you got those chigger bites-
    • we will never share your whereabouts though you might need to let your momma know occasionally…

    If you follow our blog…

    • We won’t ask if your weight on your driver’s license is the same as on your home scale.
    • We won’t ask what you were eating or how much when you got that grease stain – or
    • Why you didn’t put down a quilt when you got that grass stain!

    We will never ask when you started dyeing your hair, why you cut your own bangs –

    • We will gently let you know that your dress is hiked up-
    • We won’t mention that the buttons seem to be pulling since you gained so much weight…

    We like you just the way you are! Stop by anytime day or night.  We’ll leave the light on!

    Love y’all, Camellia

    Thank you to a fellow lover of hydrangeas and friend -Alyson, for the beautiful photos of your pink hydrangeas and the bouquet! Think you want to grow hydrangeas? Here are few resources from Amazon.com-

    Hydrangeas!                 Hydrangeas

    Lessons from My Garden…

    Quote of the Day

    Whenever I read a quote about growth, I make a connection to gardening. The greatest lessons I have learned have come to me when I am gardening- doin’ yard work. A good garden is always changing, growing – a living thing.. Gardening is like dealing with the Devil and touching the Hem of God’s Garment.

    When my garden and I started out, I had dreams for it; some have come true.

    • I wanted roses spilling over a white picket fence, I wanted my grandmother’s Spiderwort and her Hosta to thrive.
    • I wanted heirloom peonies to pass along to the next generation.
    • I wanted a couple of magnolia trees and a gardenia that knocked my socks off with it’s white blooms and heavy scent.
    • I wanted big blue Mop Head Hydrangeas by the dozens.
    • I wanted to look out of every window and see something growing.
    • I wanted an old gardener’s bulbs and irises to spring up every year and greet me.

    I’ve gotten all of that and more. I still have to fight weeds- I still have to prune and vigorously cut back new growth. My best laid plans have been interrupted; I’ve even loved and lost-

    My herb garden had to be torn up because of a structural issue. I mourned the loss, I resisted the change. Nature doesn’t seem to resist change– but eases gently, gracefully through the seasons. Plants do not seem to be alarmed or depressed when they are pruned- they just up and put on new growth. There is a quiet wisdom impressed upon me when I garden, nature is a patient teacher. She calmly points out the splendor of the sunshine, the peaceful necessity of a gentle rain and the blinking lights of  fireflies-then, quietly points her finger toward the stars without worry or anxiety about tomorrow..Gardening points me to my higher self-it brings out the dreamer in me. I love this quote by Harriet Tubman:

    ‘Every dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.’

    Gardening helps me believe that within the personality of God, there is an unruffled calm, a perennial pace to life, an order and higher purpose in my life. My doubts and anxieties about aging are overcome when I see a sunset. A Sunset is proof that Nature really does save the best for last. Before the curtains close -She waltzes out, shows off her most glorious colors- spreads her skirts and takes a graceful bow- then tosses out a handful of stars!


    ‘Nature gives to every time and season some beauties of its own; and from the morning to night, as from the cradle to the grave, is but a succession of changes so gentle and easy that we can scarcely mark their progress.’ Charles Dickens


    It’s such a treat for me to share some lessons from my garden. I hope your gardens and your lives are abundant and changing ever so gently. I hope there are still stars in your eyes and dreams in your hearts.

    Love y’all, Camellia

    *image from www.quotesgram.com

    quotes from ‘The Dictionary of Thoughts’ published in 1959 by Standard Book Company

    Find more gardening inspiration on Amazon.com

    Roses…

     

    The roses are unbelievable this spring!  I never thought I would be able to successfully grow roses. I tried- I knew folks who could- they worked at it, they studied it, they tended to them. All of that changed when Knockout Roses arrived in my garden! My prize heirloom ‘New Dawn’ running roses were the only ones before- one magnificent flush was worth it all. Now? I’m surprised every year that I have roses! I had to show them off and a few from Walter’s veterinarian’s too; with a rosebud by an azalea, an iris and a sunbeam or two, enjoy these stunning rose photos. Then I hope you will take time to read portions of a favorite prayer written by George Matheson…    imageThey need to be pruned down, but I don’t have the heart to discourage them yet…

     

    How blessed we are to enjoy so much beauty; delicacy among thorns. Everyone knows how sweet rosebuds are, and no one doubts the loveliness of dewy young blooms- but we ladies of a certain age, must not forget -a rose is at its peak of beauty when in full bloom.

    Many years ago, a young Scottish minister learned he would soon go blind. His fiancé told him that she could not bear to marry a blind man; she broke their engagement and his heart. Many believe that this talented minister and writer of hymns considered his blindness and his broken heart to be the proverbial ‘thorn in his side’. As he grew older and more learned in Scripture, Matheson began to see the truth of Apostle Paul’s admonition ‘ in everything give thanks ‘; and the old Christian also wrote this- ‘I am thankful for my thorn, for when I am weak, His Power shows up best’. George Mattheson must have agreed as he wrote this beautiful prayer in the late 1800s…

    ‘My God, I have never thanked Thee for my thorn. I have thanked Thee a thousand times for my roses, but not once for my thorn…Thou, Divine Love…teach me the glory of my cross, teach me the value of my thorn. Show me that I have climbed to Thee by the path of pain. ..show me that my tears have made my rainbow…’

    *emphasis mine- portions from www.SermonIndex.net  Classic Christian Writing

    I suppose if we live long enough – things happen-things we wish would change; a hurtful thing -which becomes a ‘thorn’ in our sides.  Apostle Paul and George Matheson learned the secret of contentment- they learned the lesson of the Thorn. This Sunday, let us thank God for our thorns as we thank Him a thousand times for our roses.

    Have a blessed Sunday, love y’all, Camellia

     

    When the blackberries bloom…

    imageThe pollen has been terrible for weeks now, I’m not complaining loudly because the foliage and flowers are beautiful this spring! But…we have been trying for months to get some ‘curb appeal’ done, including exterior painting. I hate to say this, but we have a grumpy painter. He’s always grumpy because he’s a perfectionist, and particularly grumpy when he is trying to paint outside. A few weeks ago, he threw up his hands, slapped his paintbrush down and said ‘I’ll be back when the blackberries start blooming !’ What? Yes, he assured me that old timers say- when the blackberries start blooming the pollen stops. I looked skeptical, so he challenged me- ‘If you don’t believe me, just joggle it’… again- What? ‘You know, on that computer of yours, look it up, joggle it’…oh right. Googled it. Never found it. Old wives’ tale I guess. We had some rain, a cold snap, then Blackberry Winter happened. I went outside and to my surprise, I found this blackberry blossom on Sunday.  Monday the grumpy painter called and said he was coming to paint. He wasn’t as grumpy, and he never stays grouchy very long because I cook lunch for him! Anyway, I am going to give you a sneak peak at the finish he’s been putting on our front door. I wanted a high gloss finish, the first round of painting wasn’t glossy enough.  I ‘joggled it’ and found a clear polyurethane paint to add as a final coat. The painter says we still have one more coat to go, but very soon we will show you the finished front door. imageThe paint is dry, and after that one last coat- the gloss will look clean and shiny. I think we’re going to love it. Another upgrade that was badly needed- painting the urns which stand on either side of the door. Again I ‘joggled it’… I was going to paint them and I knew exactly what I wanted to use-blackboard paint. That’s right, there is no risk using blackboard paint- it will cover everything, including exterior urns, planters and even statuary- regardless of the material- metal, wrought iron, concrete or synthetic like these urns. Blackboard paint has a matte finish that looks wonderful and the best thing is- it is so durable even in exterior applications. Well, let me show you what condition the urns were in before, and now that they’re painted.

    You’ll have to wait until we get them planted up to get the full effect. This is just a sneak peak. Now, I can’t let you go without showing you what we used…imageGo ‘joggle’ it for yourself, um I mean ‘google it’ -Rustoleum Chalkboard paint. We love black- but you will be surprised at the array of colors that chalkboards can be this day and time. Meanwhile, I wish those blackberries would hurry up! Makes me hungry for a blackberry cobbler!

    Love y’all, Camellia

    Rust-oleum Blackboard Paint http://amzn.to/1NAtuv1

    Old Wives’ Tales http://amzn.to/1NAtuv1

    Exterior urns and statuary projects http://amzn.to/1SSiVET

    Blackberries http://amzn.to/1NAtQSd

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    A time to plant…

    imageGarden centers are blooming up a storm with bedding plants, herbs and vegetables…Now is the time to start planting, but not before you take a little time to think about what needs to go where, I am a big believer in getting the planting spaces ready whether in established beds or breaking new ground. Garden chores are never done, so decide what you want to focus on first. For me, it has to be the front yard; it’s where I usually park, it’s what I see when I go get the mail, it’s what I see when I come home. This year, we have had to install a new front door (more in another post on that!) and we also had to repair the screened porch in the back, not finished yet! Most  of the work is now going on out back, So you know it would have to be the front yard again this year. Here is my checklist for getting started.

    • Prune the dead branches and shrubs, this includes shrub roses and overgrown or overcrowded perennial plants.
    • Weed the established beds.
    • Find the blank spots. Buy pine straw for these areas, to hold down the weeds and hold moisture once the plants are in place.
    • Make note of what is growing well and where; what the current major color scheme is and if it needs tweaking.
    • Be aware of where the sun is at morning, midday and late afternoon.
    • Keep in mind the style and color of your home when buying plants.

    This is all before the first bedding plants are even purchased. I had one area where creeping jenny and irises are just getting a foothold. I wanted these perennial plants to have room to spread, so that is where annuals needed to go. I made an odd choice as you can see- that’s right, I planted purple cabbage. It was cheap, colorful and will get big and then be gone! Small vegetable plants are generally cheaper than annual flowers. I like to plant begonias that mimic the colors of my knockout roses. But there are at least two spots that are too shady for the begonias to really make a good show, so I purchased a couple of six packs of annual impatiens in the same color family as the begonias and the roses.image

    • When buying bedding plants don’t just think ‘bloom’ think ‘foliage’- often the colored foliage will outlast the blooms. Purple cabbage- real or ornamental, opal basil and coleus are just a few.
    • Don’t buy spindly overgrown plants, you will have to cut them back to get a new flush of bloom which may not be as vigorous as buying very small younger plants. ( I made an exception to this rule, I bought a six pack of violas because I had a small spot for them and because they re-seed. Also at the end of the season I sometimes buy ‘spent’ plants if they are perennial or re-seed and if they are bargain plants.)
    • Don’t buy plants that are dried out, bedding plants need lots of water until they are well established.
    • When buying herbs, the rule of thumb is that most perennial herbs do not prefer good soil and do not need as much water as other plants, basil and mint are two exceptions to this rule. I love to plant rosemary in drier areas of my garden, it can get very large.
    • Some shrubs and fruit bearing plants can be planted now, azaleas and blueberries are good examples of this- both grow in my front garden.
    • There are so many tips and tricks this time of year, but one of my favorites is that a western exposure needs ‘hot’ plants- plants that can take heat and strong sunlight and that have strong color.
    • If something doesn’t work where it is, don’t be afraid to move the plant to a different spot next year, I give a plant 3 chances- after that? I have to assume I can’t grow it. If something you love grows prolifically? Plant it over and over again! I have masses of spiderwort, hosta, hydrangeas, azaleas and roses.

    I love pale pink roses and camellias. I planted pale pink flowers in my front western exposure yard- and they just faded in the strong light. Now, I have a red camellia and the hot pink knock out roses, a mix of hot pinks in begonias and impatiens- when combined with greens, blues and dark purple, the result pleases me in that lighting. I planted my love of pale pink around back where the eastern sun is a perfect place for them to shine.

    There are so many good garden books out there to help you make a good plan, one of my favorite garden authorities is P. Allen Smith- his book, ‘Garden Home’ is one of my favorites. I have more favorites listed at the end of the end of this post. Most of all  have fun with your garden, don’t try to make it look like a public park. Strive to make it a reflection of your own personality.

    I’d love to hear your favorite tips and tricks -seasoned gardeners, first time gardeners, garden writers or bloggers- new and old, let’s hear from you-it’s time to plant!

    Love y’all, Camellia

    P. Allen Smith http://amzn.to/1rcQdZB

    The Grumpy Gardener http://amzn.to/22JwKLl

    Martha Stewart Gardening  http://amzn.to/1SoT62e

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    Berries…Strawberries…

    imageWhen I was a little girl, in early spring a man with a rigged up produce truck came to our neighborhood, with windows rolled down we could hear him as he called out…’Ber-ries, straw-ber-ries!’ It was an exciting sound, ‘Momma, Momma, it’s the strawberry man!’ We’d run to the road waving our arms for him to stop…gears grinding down he would roll to a perfect stop, so that the open wooden shelves could be seen. Little balsa wood pint boxes of perfect strawberries were displayed and exclaimed over. As we were dancing on tiptoe to get a better look, the strawberries would be bought- always more than we needed, always a few juicy ones that had to be eaten right away! To this very day, it is one of my most vivid childhood memories. As a young adult I was delighted to see strawberries growing in rich dark soil, the runners connecting the mother plants to their young…pale green berries hiding under leaves that looked like they had been cut with pinking shears., sweet white blossoms with sunny yellow centers, such a sweet sight! Two years ago, I decided to start my very own tiny patch, not for a big harvest more just for the fun of watching them grow and girl, let me tell you! There is nothing as sweet as a fresh picked, warmed by the sun strawberry ! Here in Alabama, it’s almost scandalous how right that groundhog was when he predicted an early Spring! I’ve been just dying to show y’all  my little patch and how it’s coming along…

     

    The pictures above were taken the first week of March, very  early for Central Alabama! And I was able to buy early spring strawberries at the store, sweet and ripe even then! Now look at my patch in the pictures below- don’t you just love those pale green babies and sweet white flowers!

    It’s so much fun to watch! Truly, they can be grown in containers, you just have to treat them as annuals…whatever room you have, start a little patch just for the experience of growing your own and showing the children what strawberries look like before they see them in plastic boxes at the store.Oh my, bless your hearts! I wish you could be here in a few weeks! If the birds don’t get to them before I do? I’m making a pound cake, not biscuits this time-to eat with those strawberries like we did about a hundred years ago, when the Strawberry Man came ’round!

    Love y’all, Camellia