Wednesday, February 29, 2012

February 29, 2012 -- camellia and weeping willow

These plant materials are season markers for sure: pliable weeping willow wands with their new leaves just emerging and camellia flowers. I'm particularly proud of this flower because it's on a shrub now 6 feet tall that I grew from an air-layered cutting. The parent shrub belonged to Rosalie Nachman, whose West End garden was (and maybe still is; I haven't seen her for years) a camellia paradise.

P.S. There are also some green stinking hellebore flowers in this. I stole them from a previous windowsill arrangement, and the whole shebang is in a black, lipped, pin holder (the kind that holds water).

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

February 28, 2012

This was sort of a punt. I just rearranged some plant materials I already had in the house. In this little, wooden industrial spool are an Ice Follies daffodil, some fern spore structures, and a piece of broadleaved evergreen foliage. I don't know what the latter is. I actually picked it in downtown Richmond a week or so ago and have been intending to get it identified, because I want to grow it! The terminal leaves are arranged in whorls and they are a dark, shiny green.

I actually like this "arrangement" better, because it's not so contrived. This is just a pitcher of daffodils I picked today, exactly as they landed in the pitcher!

Monday, February 27, 2012

February 27, 2012 -- speedwell and hairy bittercress

This is a tiny little crock of spring weeds. The whole thing isn't but about 4 inches wide. In the little crock are speedwell (blue flowers) and hairy bittercress (white flowers). Both are prolific spring weeds that are really quite pretty (hairy bittercress has lacy leaves, and speedwell has four-petaled pale blue flowers with darker blue stripes). It was sort of fun spending part of the day pulling these out and part looking for the best specimens I could find to use in an arrangement! Under the arrangement is a piece of bark covered with moss that I pulled off a cedar log yesterday.

Speedwell below.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

February 26, 2012 -- scrambled eggs

As always, it's the way this "arrangement" came to be that interests me most. I had picked a few old, scrambled eggs daffodils (the raggedy, torn looking-ones) in anticipation of maybe using one with yesterday's fairy house. That didn't work, so, because I had detached the flower from it's stem, I dropped it into a nearby wineglass filled with water. That I liked enough to move to the windowsill, because the floating scrambled-egg daffodil looked almost like a waterlily. Today, I repeated that in two more windglasses. This would be much more effective with bigger scrambled-egg daffodils (mine are ancient and small), and the overall idea (floating single blossoms in wineglasses) would work with lots of things. Warning: daffodils are poisonous, so washing the glasses well after using them as vases is probably important.

Same "arrangments" from above and up close.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

February 25, 2012 -- fairy house

Yesterday Rosanne Shalf and I spent the afternoon making fairy houses. This is just too much fun to leave to children! Actually, we weren't making them exclusively for the fun of it, but rather for an Ashland garden that will be open during Garden Week. However, it sure was fun! Below is one of my structures: soup can covered with bark and magnolia leaf roof, topped with a piece of a white pine cone. The door is just one scale from a white pine cone. One of the great pleasures of doing things like this is getting to see tiny things--like the individual scales of the pine cone--in new ways.

And here's Rosanne with her castle creation -- unfinished but already enchanted!

Friday, February 24, 2012

February 24, 2012

There's a whole new suite of flowers blooming in the garden--second round of daffodils, crocuses, even a tiny reticulated iris. This is just a collection of some of the new stuff (Jetfire daffodils with orange cups combined with some maroonish Lenten roses and other daffys). Lying on the windowsill is the Mahonina stem (stripped of most leaves) that I used in yellow pitcher on Feb. 20.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

February 23 -- General Assembly windowsills

I was in Richmond all day today, lobbying for Planned Parenthood, and wondering if I'd have enough energy to do a windowsill arrangement when I got home. But..guess what? It seems that the Virginia Nursery and Landscape Association was giving legislators baskets of potted flowers today, and guess where the legistative aides were stashing them: in the windowsills of the General Assembly Building!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

February 22, 2012 -- Pickwick crocus

Is there anything prettier or more welcome than a crocus? The minute I saw my crocuses peeking out from under the snow, I couldn't wait to display them on the windowsill. They make remarkably wonderful cut flowers (assuming you're satisfied with small things and don't need your cut flowers to be as long-lasting as carnations). This is my absolute favorite crocus, Pickwick, which has gorgeous striped petals and orange stamens.

Even as I picked it, I knew what "vase" I wanted to put my crocus in: a glass inkwell that was once my mother's. I put crocus flowers in it every year, but, alas, it has been missing for months. I keep expecting it to turn up, but it doesn't. So, after mourning my lost inkwell for the fifty-eleventh time, I went trolling for something else and found a glass glass vase Robert Llewellyn had given me. I had admired it at his house, where he used it to hold plant specimens, and he gave to me (because it had not much more value to him than any other water-holding vessel) with what seemed like perfect pleasure. Well, now I think it's better than my mother's inkwell for crocuses! Bob says it came from Monticello.

The other things in Bob's vase (combined with the Pickwick crocuses) are some daffodil and sweet box (Sarcocca hookeriana) foliage. The latter is blooming right now and making the garden swooningly fragrant.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

February 21, 2012 -- shuffle

I just shuffled some things around on the windowsill this afternoon--moved all my blanched collard leaves into a single bowl, moved some hellebore flowers from a pitcher into a clay cup, and added some sensitive fern pinnacles (the brown reproductive structures) to a bottle of Lenten roses. Gave everything some fresh water (and gave some stems a fresh cut to perk them up), but I haven't fiddled with the green stinking hellebore flowers in the tall yellow pitcher, and they are sagging (which is unusual because they usually last a really long time).

Here are the stacked bowls with blanched collard leaves in them.

And here's the clay cup with some stinking hellebore flowers in it. I noticed these cups on the pantry shelf this weekend and realized I never used them. Might as well turn them into vases.

Monday, February 20, 2012

February 20, 2012 -- daffodils and snow!

Daffodils inside, snow outside! Too wonderful (although hard to photograph). I picked the daffodils yesterday before it snowed and put them in the windowsill with (left to right), a vase of scented geranium leaves; a tall yellow pitcher containing green hellebore flowers, a stalk of mahonia flowers (with leaves removed), and some February Gold daffodils; a small orange pitcher with green hellebore flowers stuffed in the snout; a red vase with some green-striped chopsticks standing up in it; and a little bowl with two big yellow daffodil flowers supported on two parallel chopsticks.

This morning it was just wild walking on a snowy path and listening to spring peepers singing in the ditches at the same time. That (and daffodils blooming in the snow) is February.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

February 19, 2012-- Lenten roses + collard core

Ah, these colors. I picked the Lenten roses in the snow, and as they thawed in the house, drops of water dripped from their petals. So beautiful.

And in the bowl on the left is something else with amazing color--its the center leaves and core of a hunk of collard greens. They are blanched because they never saw the sun. Below is a close-up of the most central part. I couldn't decide whether to use these blanced leaves in my collard cole slaw or to display them on the windowsill. (I have a feeling they may be a delicacy, but it's actually the nice, dark, outer leaves that seem most appropriate for collard cole slaw.) At any rate, I used the blanched leaves, plus this gorgous core, for display rather than food, but, boy, is their color yummy--and so beautiful with the Lenten roses.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

February 18, 2012 -- more mahonia

I cheated again today and extended the windowsill with a table. That's because I wanted to use Mahonia again, and it's just too big for most containers small enough to sit in a windowsill. This glass vase includes two hunks of mahonia (it's yellow blooms show up not at all in the phtos) and a bunch of redtwig dogwood stems that were leftover from pruning today.

Friday, February 17, 2012

February 17, 2012 -- a quickie

There is always something driving an arrangement--a vase you want to use, a piece of plant material you want to save. a flower you want to showcase. But the driving force behind my windowsill arrangement today was this: I needed to create something quickly, because I was out of steam. I gardened all day doing mostly unpleasant stuff (pruning rugosa roses and clearing creeping Charlie from around their stems), and even though it was a beautiful day to be outside, I was ready to come in and collapse. I gave myself about 5 minutes to pull off a windowsill arrangement, and this was the result: a gourd within a gourd (I had nested those gourds together months ago, so that was already done) with a stem of Mahonia bealii tucked underneath. Voila--instant arrangement. I like having used the Mahonia, because it's so wonderfully fragrant right now, and I like the way the outdoors appears outside the window in this photo. It looks almost spring green, and while that's an illusion (there are evergreen hollies outside the window), it is beginning to feel green outside.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

February 16, 2012 --nest and honeysuckle

"That's pretty" John said when he walked into the kitchen and saw this nest + honeysuckle + quince and Lenten rose on the windowsill. John doesn't gush or compliment much, so it warmed my heart to have him enjoy the arrangement. Especially because I'd been struggling with it. And because this is a real ARRANGEMENT. (It's way too complicated and took too much time to qualify as a windowsill arrangement. It started off with a simple idea: combine honeysuckle vine from Feb.8 with nest I found when pruning roses yesterday, but... yikes! Nothing seemed to want to stay where I wanted it and by the time I'd finished this I had an incredible mess in the sink, as well as an ARRANGEMENT that had required floral foam. And, as if to prove that difficulty attracts difficulty, I couldn't photograph this well because the Moiree effect was kicking in (that's the photographic phenomenon that makes a window screen go wavy.) Good grief! Here's the best I could do to photograph the entire ARRANGEMENT,

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

February 15, 2012 -- so green

If you could smell what's in this green vase, the contents would be enough, without embellishment, to be satisfying : many scented geranium leaves with one cluster of green hellebore flowers.

But, alas, when you are publishing things that involve visual images only, the criteria change. Because I was perusing a vase catalog today, I saw all sorts of contemporary arrangements that included materials like the green, woody "ribbon" used below. I also added a clutch of daffodils from a previous arrangement to what's below. Better? Visually, probably yes, but experientially, I'm not so sure.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

February 14, 2012 -- Daphne odora

I had intended to pull together a whole array of fragrant things on the windowsill today, but I didn't do it. Instead, here's one bottle containing two Daphne odora blossoms and a curly willow twig. What a day it was for fragrances though. Mahonia is perfuming the whole back yard, and the incredibly fragrant Daphne is blooming by the front porch. I also spent a good part of the morning taking cuttings from scented geraniums, so I still have volatile oils from those plants perfuming my hands. All in all, a very fragrant February day!

Monday, February 13, 2012

February 13, 2012

For the record, the daffodils I picked yesterday with frozen stems thawed happily in the house and are still looking perky.

Today, on my walk, I picked buttercups (amazingly blooming by the roadside) and carried them home in a cup I also found along the roadside. Filled the cup with water from a ditch to keep the buttercups happy. Once home, I combined the buttercups with some other, more seasonal, things: red maple stem lined with bursting buds and male red cedar foliage with tiny little yellow "cones" forming at the tips. The container is a spool of trellising material with a large tube dropped into the center of it.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

February 12, 2012 -- frozen daffodils

The daffodils on the left, I picked yesterday, when the weather was cold, but not freezing at Flower Camp. The daffodils on the right I picked this morning in Ashland, after a hard frost, when their stems were as hard as sticks. Outdoors, they'll thaw and raise their heads again. Inside, I'm not sure what they'll do. I should have waited until they thawed to pick them, but I was curious.

Below is my absolute favorite description of daffodils hit by cold. It's from Tinkers by Paul Harding.

"A late-spring storm capped the last daffodils and the first tulips with dollops of snow, which melted when the sun came back out. The snow seemed to have a bracing effect on the flowers; their roots drank the cold melt; their stalks straightened from the chilly drink; their petals, supple and hale, were spared the brittle coating of a trur freeze. The afernoon became warm, and with the warmth the first bees appeared, and each little bee settled in a yellow cup and took suck like a newborn."

Saturday, February 11, 2012

February 11, 2012

When it came time to do my windowsill arrangement today, these where the two things in my immediate surroundings that interested me most visually. One was the Cook's Garden catalog (I spent a good part of the morning pouring over catalogs); the other was a coffee cup I'd dropped a vinca stem into (just to keep it in water as I washed the vase). Taken together, they seem to suit a winter day, although, in truth, John and I spent a fair amount of time outside today pulling trumpet vine off a chimney and pruning a Nellie Stevens holly. I felt bad throwing away a truckload of beautiful holly foilage. Should have used at least some of it in an arrangement.

Friday, February 10, 2012

February 10, 2012 -- pussy willow

The other day, when I used alder in an arrangement, the male catkins kept developing in the house and dropped a shadow of yellow pollen under each catkin. The pussy willow I've brought in today will do the same thing, but I don't care! (See yellow pollen already developing on biggest catkin below.)

Here are some pussy willow twigs in a black gin bottle. The catkins on these twigs are bigger than most, because this is some sort of hybrid pussy willow I grew from a cutting collected at the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. (I promise I didn't steal it; the cutting was one given me to use in an arranging workshop there. It rooted and has grown like wildfire.)

Thursday, February 9, 2012

January 9, 2012 --Champagne Pear

It seems I didn't want to deal with yesterday's honeysuckle vines. Instead, I just cleaned up the windowsill--discarding what was shot, providing fresh water to what was not. Here's the result.

What interested me most in that array was the label on the salad dressing bottle (Champagne Pear Vinaigrette) and the color of the Lenten rose (far right). So I pulled together what was already in the dressing bottle--pine and some brown sensitive fern sori (reproductive structures)--and combined it with the Lenten rose. Somehow, all these colors, together, say "champagne pear" to me.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

February 8, 2012

Too tired to do much with this tonight. Maybe tomorrow I'll have a better idea. This is two interesting pieces of honeysuckly vine I pruned out of a tangle of "good" and "bad" honeysuckle yesterday. And this is the bucket I dropped them into, not intending it to be a vase. I readusted them to fit in the windowsill, but that's about it.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

February 7, 2012-- trees

This is where my head was today---looking at trees. In this jar are a stem of tulip poplar (with burgeoning bud), a stem of American beech (with dagger-like bud), a stem of red maple (with flower buds about to pop), and two stems of smooth alder (with both catkins and cones on the same twigs). All so beautiful and indicative of the season.

The most interesting part of this conglomeration, though, was an event that happened as I was moving these twigs from one container to another. The last remaining beech leaf on my twig dropped off (as all the beech leaves on these twigs will soon). I saved the leaf and displayed it as below, but the real magic of this is that I finally found the word I'd been looking for to describe beech leaf color at this stage. I'd heard someone else describe is as "parchment," and I'd once described it myself as "bleached blonde," but tonight I saw it as "palimino," which feel rightest of all.

Monday, February 6, 2012

February 6, 2012 --Vinca major

I was carrying garden debris--mostly dried ornamental grasses--to the burn pile this afternoon, when (on my third trip past it), I spotted this Vinca major (large periwinkle) blooming. So I picked it for my windowsill arrangement. I own a bluish vase that I really wanted to drop the periwinkle into, but I couldn't find it. Must be with the brown shoes I can't find. I was still bemoaning my misfortune (embarrassingly inconsequential), when I spotted this little pot on my vase shelf. Into it I dropped a really small vase that would hold the periwinkle stems in water, then I covered the top with a clump of green moss that, believe it or not, was sitting in my utility room sink. I had discovered it in a bowl under some bags of seeds I'd collected and saved it because, although dry, it was still a pretty emerald green. Have no idea what project I'd collected it for orginally. Anyway, I re-wet it and now it looks as fresh as it was when first picked. Through the moss I poked the periwinkle stems until they reached the vase of water below. So: now I'm glad I couldn't find my bluish vase.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

February 5, 2012-- catalog inspiration

I had to use a catalog as the inspiration for today's arrangement, because I've been browsing seed catalogs almost all day. This one, from McClure & Zimmerman, almost always has a beautiful cover, and this year is no exception. The colors are sort of a tealy-turquoise with yellow orchid in the center. My arrangement is daffodils and stinking hellebore in a stack of small baking dishes. There's also a clump of red sacred lily berries in there, but you can't really see it.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

February 4, 2012 -- February Gold

This is sort of a replay of my January 28 arrangement (February Gold daffodils in little industrial spools), but I like this one better. This time, there's a woody honeysuckle vine connecting the two spools (resting on top of and crossing between them), and inserted through gaps in the vine are daffodils and variegated Vinca (periwinkle) foliage. I'm always wanting to pull up that Vinca, which grows near Flower Camp steps, because it's sort of invasive and certainly not native, but every year I remember how useful it is as an arranging green and let it continue to grow. It often manages to look fresh even in the dead of winter, and I certainly enjoyed using it today. Execution again postponed.

Friday, February 3, 2012

February 3, 2012

This little green bottle is filled with red berries from sacred lily (Rhodora japonica), a little bunch of green hellebore flowers(left), and one hardy cyclamen leaf (right). It's the beautiful cyclemen leaf I like best. They are particularly pretty at this time of year, but will have disappeared completely by... when?... summer for sure. The pink blooms appear in the fall, before the leaves emerge.

I was trying to remember exactly when hardy cyclemen bloomed and realized I could consult my own blog for the answer! Found this photo posted on Nov. 21. Here the cyclamen flowers are combined not with their own foliage (which comes up later), but with foliage from Pieris japonica. It's sort of strange that I used the same vase both times.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

February 2, 2012 -- snowdrops

It was hard to photograph this because the white snodrops are so small (and don't want to show up against off-white woodwork. This is the best I could do. In the brown bottle with the snowdrops are some wild onion greens.

I was a little reluctant to pick the snowdrops, because I don't have as many as I used to, but I was glad I did when I looked at them up close in the bottle and was reminded of something I once knew about them: that each flower has a little green heart inside.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

February 1, 2012-- celery leaves!

This is why I love windowsill arranging. It stirs up the most interesting things! I had put some pansies in this little sugar dish but thought them too dull, so I replaced them with a couple of daffodils and some winter aconite. Still needed some bright green foliage. Where oh where had I seen bright green foliage recently? On celery stalks! So the foliage here--such a bright, fresh green--is celery leaves. This arrangement now somehow seems connected to soup I made yesterday, because without it I wouldn't have had leftover celery stalks!

And about this vase: I bought it at River Time Antiques for $5 (reduced from $8), and it had this message on it. "Circa 1949-54, as is, hairline crack. Franciscan 'Tiempo sprout.'" Have no idea what that last part means, but the hairline crack seems to be no issue. I think it's above the water line.