Tuesday, January 31, 2012

January 31, 2012

My camera battery is exhausted tonight, and so am I, so I just photographed something already sitting in the windowsill: mahonia in a bottle and pansy in a little green vase.

Monday, January 30, 2012

January 30, 2012 -- leftovers

This afternoon I emptied lots of little vases, discarded some plant material, moved still-happy material around. One of the results was this (vase of leftover mountain laural foliage and collard midribs). The collard midribs last a really long time and remind me of feathers.

Here's what else remains on the windowsill. Seek and find: mahonia, gumball, nandina berries, pine, sycamore bark, stinking hellebore flowers, pear.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

January 29, 2012 -- more daffodils, etc.

These are the same nandina berries and grasses I used in Jan. 24 windowsill arrangement, but I've moved them to a different vase (a brown pitcher) and added pine and daffodils. I just love the way these things evolve--sort of a round robin of plant material. It's also wonderful knowing my posts here will serve as a nature journal for me--reminding me the February gold daffodils were in full bloom in Virginia on January 29, 2012.

Oh, and there's a pear ripening to the right--it's color so pretty with the other materials.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

January 28, 2012 -- daffodils!

There is some Calvinist(?)strain in me that thinks having a great gardening day in January will be punished by bad weather/unhappiness/tragedy later on, but the fact is I gardened all day in glorious weather today and.... so far no punishment. And it feels so good to have stretched those muscles that only get stretched when I am gardening. Among other things, I cut back some Mahonia aquifolium (hence, the maroon foliage I dropped into these spools), and as I hacked out lots of hard, unyielding clumps of river oats (much less enjoyable work than cutting back Mahonia), I was in the vicinity of BLOOMING DAFFODILS. The little February Gold daffodils are at their peak right now, and they won't back up and bloom in February, so, as far as I'm concerned, this is spring.

Friday, January 27, 2012

January 27, 2012 -- cones and earth star

Bought these two little industrial spools in Scottsville today, because I thought they'd make great platforms for two pretty pinecones Rhonda and I found yesterday.

There was something else I wanted to display on these little platforms, too: earth star mushrooms. They grow almost flat on the ground and look like they are made out of leather or rubber. Very strange. And inside....whew...they smell incredibly musty.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

January 26, 2012

This is material Rhonda Roebuck and I picked today at Flower Camp: winter jasmine (looks like forsythia, but more graceful, with yellow blooms), dried gaura stems (new growth is coming out at the bottom of the plant, but we picked the dead stuff because it was so whispy), and one green bunch of stinking hellebore flowers.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

January 25 -- violas + a gumball

I had lots of things to choose from today, because there's lots going on in the yard and I did a windowsill arranging demonstration this morning, but the plant materials from among it all that interested me most were some tiny violas and a gumball. They're sort of perfect for a warm January day--something woody and something sweet.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

January 24, 2012 -- evolution

I like the way this little arrangement evolved. I had removed some dead Christmas greens from the front door and left them on the back porch, where I figured some of the material might dry. The nandina berries (some red, some yellow) dried to particularly interesting colors, and this morning it was the yellow ones (now sort of a browny mustard) that caught my attention. I pulled them together into a little bouquet in my hand, then started looking for some yellow-green leaves to go with them. Some chloritic aucuba leaves seemed right, as did the dry, straw-colored foliage of Japanese Hanoki grass. Dropped all this into a little ceramic vase that looks like a sack. The colors really appeal to me, and it's so much fun to be mixing dead and living material in January!

Monday, January 23, 2012

January 23, 2012 -- dregs

The green leaves here are leaves I stripped off the hellebore flowers I used in windowsill arrangements yesterday. Each one is pretty--palmate, like a hand--but for some reason I kept them gathered here into a bunch, where you can't quite see that shape. The other glass containers are some I was gathering together for a demonstration tomorrow, and I liked the way they looked empty.

Below are more leftovers from yesterday--just bits and pieces I had pulled off the hellebore stems and couldn't seem to throw away, so I floated them in a low vase.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

January 22, 2012 -- more green

This morning I picked more stinking hellebore flowers and dropped them into my red/yellow/orange vases. Just love these flowers! When I picked them they were stiff with cold, but they are as staunch as they can be--inside and out. I stripped most of their foliage to use them in these vases, but I've saved the foliage and will use it eventually.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

January 21, 2012 -- icy weather

The weather had been just a background for my day today, until...I went out at 5 p.m. and picked this cluster of green hellebore flowers. First, John had reported an ice storm at Flower Camp--trees coated with ice. Then, I'd had to clear some ice off my car windshield in Ashland before driving grandchildren home. But somehow, with grandkids around, the weather hadn't really registered until I went out to pick this hellebore after they'd left, and I found a chunk of ice nestled among the florets. It must have been really cold all day. Do tell.

The other interesting thing about this (to me) is the way it evolved. I'm tired, and whatever I created this afternoon had to be easy. Green hellebore (Helleborus foetidus) flowers are always easy (each cluster a bouquet in itself), but I'd resisted picking them until today. (They've actually been blooming for weeks.) I had planned to drop one into my new pale yellow pitcher, and did that, but it seemed to need something stronger underneath, so I went to get a decorative napkin. The napkin, however (which has some bright blue in it), reminded me I had this little blue pitcher, which was much more fun to drop the hellebore into. I fear all this wonderful color doesn't show up in photo, but, as I said, I'm tired, and it seems I'm unwilling to work harder to get the color right.

Friday, January 20, 2012

January 2012 --- Grace's arrangement

Grace Ann Hugo, 7, chose her own container and plant material to make this arrangement. "Why did you choose the berries?" I asked. Her answer: "Because they were bright."

Thursday, January 19, 2012

January 19, 2012 -- mahonia

This is definitely cheating a little bit. I pulled this hunk of mahonia out of a "regular" arrangement to showcase it in the windowsill. On the windowsill it will, surprisingly enough, hold up pretty well even out of water. The yellow mahonia blossoms started blooming a couple of weeks ago, and now, if you bring them into the house, they release their lily-of-the-valley-like fragrance, which is absolutely intoxicating.

Here's a bad photo of the "arrangement"--actually just two stems of mahonia in a striking vase--that the windowsill mahonia came from.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

January 18, 2012 -- parsley

This little vial of parsley is so pretty--or was until I ate all the parsley. Notice how short the stems are. That's because I'm harvesting parsley almost faster than it can put out new leaves.

I shuffled some things around on the kitchem windowsill this morning, and they resulted in this: dueling sticks and collard greens.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

January 17, 2012 -- spirea

I wish I had started taking pictures of these spirea twigs when I first cut them, in mid-December. I cut them then to use in a regular arrangement, and, at that time, they had tiny, linear golden leaves on them. The leaves started falling off after Christmas, then tiny white flowers bloomed on the naked twigs. You can still see the remnants of some of those flowers lining the twigs. But it's these twigs' third act that I'm enjoying now. They have started to put out new, fresh green leaves and are just as pretty as they can be.

Monday, January 16, 2012

January 16, 2012

This twig of highbush blueberry has been sitting around on a windowsill since at least January 1. It was beautiful when I plucked it, and it wanted to come into leaf when I dropped it into a vase inside. Now, I fear, it is petrified.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

January 15, 2012 -- my new stuff

I bought this little pitcher at River Town Antiques in Scottsville yesterday. Love it, and I bet I'll use it over and over. Today it has yellow violas and some buttercup foliage in it.

At Rivertown Antiques (which, to my delight, has really inexpensive bric-a-brac as well as antiques), I also bought four yellow ramequin dishes, a long low, chartreuse vase, and a yellow pitcher. Couldn't resist putting them all in the windowsill together, because they look so pretty together.

In the top of the stack of ramequins, I put a beautifully curled old oak leaf, and in the long, low chartreuse container are some plum tomatoes (from the grocery store) and a clutch of pine needles left over from my December 31 arrangement.

These colors remind me of the 1960s, and because all that is coming back, they seem really contemporary now.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

January 14, 2012 --- winter aconite

Please excuse the bad photo. I could do something to get rid of the shadow, but if I do that, I lose the blue of the berries. How I wish I knew more about photography! I really want the berries to appear as they are--sapphire blue--because they grabbed my attention as I walked back from the shed tonight. These ground-hugging berries appear among the linear foliage of mondo grass in winter. Blooming near them, in the garden, is winter aconite--the yellow flowers I've also dropped into this vase. They've been blooming since very early January, which isn't all that unusual for them. They are absolutely my most reliable early-blooming thing, and yes, even in the middle of winter, they do signal a turn toward spring. In the garden, they look sort of like ground-hugging buttercups (although their foliage, which I also love, looks like the tops of miniature palm trees).

The winter aconite I grow is Eranthis X Tubergenii.

Friday, January 13, 2012

January 13, 2012

Linda rearranged her material from last night (putting the pine and the mountain laurel in bottles, among other things), and this is the result.

This is cheating a little bit (the materials are on a desk in front of the window, not on the windowsill), but the materials are no less interesting.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

January 12, 2012 -- walk in the woods

Linda Armstrong collected this array of materials as we walked in the woods today. At first, she tried to get the pine to stand up (without mechanics); then she decided not to try to defy gravity and just let it lie on its side.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

January 11, 2011 -- brown things

Two brown things grabbed my attention this morning. The first was the seed pods of pearl bush (Exochorda racemosa), which are a dark, almost mahogany brown and held on the shrub's twigs like little jacks. Here I've put them in a brown vase with an opened okra pod.

I've also been enjoying the lacy stems of purple lovegrass (Eragrostis spectablis), which blow around like tumbleweed when their stems detach from the ground. (No other native grasses in my neighborhood do this, but it's a great strategy for dispersing seeds.) I picked up a few of these stems on my walk and put them in a dressing jar. When I tried to photograph them in the windowsill, they showed up not at all (too airy), so I shifted them to a position where they'd have a brown piece of furniture behind them. NOW you can see how gorgeous they are.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

January 10, 2012 --- collards and aucuba

This is 1) a pine stick from my walk 2) collard greens leftover from Jan. 7 (when I discovered these young, blanched leaves tucked inside some older ones), 3) some geranium leaves leftover from another windowsill arrangement, 4) some aucuba berries, and 5) one bud from an aucuba twig. They are all arranged in a low, black plastic dish, and I love the way the trees outdoors are reflected in the water.

The most interesting thing I discovered in the process of creating this was the aucuba bud. (It's the pointy bud at the 2:00 position in photo below.) I had noticed how big and bulging they were on the shrub, but only when I brought some of the berries indoors and found myself wanting another botanical shape to add to this conglomeration did I appreciate how exquisitely formed they are. I pulled lots of the aucuba leaves off the twig to make this bud and the berries show up better.

Monday, January 9, 2012

January 9, 2012 --- another sock

The grayer it gets outside, the more I love my colorful new socks. And did I mention that each sock is different?! So today I arranged to the left foot. (Yellow violas in green bowl).

Here are both socks and their respective "arrangements" combined. These socks may never make it onto my feet I love them so much. Thank you Judy Morrill!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

January 8, 2012 -- socks with violas

Last night I went to a party where we played Thieves' Christmas, and, to my delight, I wound up with a great pair of socks. Every time I wanted to be happy today, I just walked by them, because their colors were just so cheery. Decided to use one of them in my windowsill arrangement, because my green/orange bowls were still nearby. In the bowl are some violas, which almost match the colors in the sock.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

January 7, 2012 -- collards, leftovers

This almost doesn't count as a windowsill arrangement (it's on a table in front of the windowsill), but I enjoyed it so much I had to include it. These are the leftovers from some Collard Green Coleslaw I made yesterday (the ribs leftover from removing the "flesh" of the leaves, as well as some blanched leaves from the interior of the bunches). If I'd known, when I was cutting them out, that I was going to use these ribs in an "arrangement," I'd have cut them more carefully, but they're still pretty striking.

And here is Mary Ann Pugh's recipe for Collard Green Coleslaw. Mary Ann gave me both the recipe and 1/2 lb. collard greens for Christmas. What a gift!

Collard Green Coleslaw

1/2 lb. collard greens, stems removed
3 medium carrots, grated
1 medium onion, grated
1 medium red bell pepper, diced
1/2 cup rice or cider vinegar
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup oil
1 tsp. powdered mustard
1 tsp. celery seed
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper

Stack collard greens leaves and roll into log. Cut narrow strips from log to create "ribbons." Transfer to bowl and add other veggies. Whisk remaining ingredients together in small saucepan. Bring to boil and stir to dissolve sugar. Remove from heat and pour hot vinegar mixture over veggies. Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight. (Adapted from Vegetarian Times)

Friday, January 6, 2012

January 6, 2012 --- Asian daffodil

Having a daffodil in January is like having a Z to play in Scrabble; you feel compelled to use it to great advantage! I didn't like leaving my lone daffodil blossom in Oasis (it just wasn't going to last as long there as it would with its stem in water), so I moved it first to a regular vase then to this bowl, where I supported it with four chopsticks. This is a wonderful technique to use with camellias (positioning them in a low bowl supported by a grid of chopsticks), but this is the first time I'd tried it with a daffodil. I love it!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

January 5, 2012 -- you can't eat Oasis!

I thought I had a nice head of brocolli in my refrigerator's crisper drawer tonight, but when I went to pull it out for dinner, I realized that the green in that plastic bag wasn't brocolli; it was a leftover Bravo Oasis holder I'd sprayed green (for an event), soaked, then stored in the frig. when it wasn't used. I'm still wishing it were brocolli, but I decided to make the most of finding it by using it as a vase. The daffodil I picked on January 1 was still pretty, so I decided to display it in the Bravo cylinder. To insert a daffodil into Oasis, you have to first make a pilot hole with something (I usually use a chopstick) to keep its mushy stem from collapsing. Because it was handy, I used one of the new chopsticks I'd bought in NY. I like those chopsticks so much (they're bright green and striped), I decided to use more as the upward thrust in my arrangement. The greens all come from a single twig of a variegated holly (called Butterfly, I think). The little Oasis cylinder solved my "what to do for a windowsill arrangement today" problem, but I'm still in a quandry re what to serve for dinner.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

January 4, 2012 --- wake up!

This little concoction was inspired by something I found along the roadside this morning--a bottle of "A.M. AWAKE Fast Shot," a "scientifically blended formula" of something designed for "instant energy." Under the label (curled in foreground of the photo), was a nice little brown bottle, which I used to hold two stems of black liriope berries, two orange voilas (which are still blooming outside), and a couple of pine tags. Using the pine tags was fun, because I "harvested" them from my December 31st arrangement. It was interesting to be reminded that when you need a vertical element in a tiny arrangement, you don't need a yucca or iris leaf--just a couple of pine tags will suffice!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

January 3, 2012 -- okra "flower"

I pulled the sections of an okra pod apart to create this "okra flower," something my grandaughter, Grace, taught me to do. It's amazing how effective this "flower" is. As I pulled the pod apart, seeds were spilling all over the place and it was all I could do to resist collecting them. (Nancy, you have already saved all the okra seeds you could possibly use!) The foliage the opened-pod is combined with is equally interesting. It is buttercup foliage that I collected on my walk this afternoon. It was seriously cold outside, but this foliage was as staunch as it could be (and prettier than it looks in the photo).

Here's how the windowsill looks right now (that's a red oak leaf on the right):

Monday, January 2, 2012

January 2, 2011 -- multiflora rose foliage

I actually picked these two stems of multiflora rose foliage on a walk a couple of days ago, and they've been sitting in a vase on the windowsill ever since. I loved the leaves' color: sort of reddish with yellow undertones, and their well-chiseled shape and diminutive size makes them seem more like something rare and elegant than like the leaves-plucked-from-invasive-weed they are.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

January 1, 2012 -- a daffodil!

What a great way to start the new year---with a daffodil blooming! It's not all that unusual for this particular daffodil to bloom very, very early (I think it has bloomed for me in January before, and I know this variety, Rjenveld's Early Sensation, sometimes blooms in December in Gloucester), but it's still a surprise on New Year's Day! Here it is in the garden.

I had no compunction about picking the daffodil (it's blooming way away from the house in a spot where I'd be unlikely to see it much), but I did have a struggle deciding what greenery to combine it with. I picked several things, then settled on the linear foliage of sacred lily. The other greens (an arum leaf, some ivy, a frond of autumn fern) I dropped into a salsa bottle just to save them, then decided I liked them so much, I gave them a spot on the windowsill, too. Lots of evergreen foliage is really pretty right now, because it hasn't been burned by seriously harsh weather.