Monday, April 30, 2012

April 30, 2012 -- red clover, wild grasses, Swiss chard

It's hard to explain how this evolved. I had picked the red clover and grasses on a walk yesterday and decided to use them in a windowsill arrangement this afternoon. I was planning to sort of line them up, soldier-like, in this glass vase, but I didn't have enough material, so I grabbed a fat Swiss chard stem from the refrigerator to use as filler. But when I had the Swiss chard stem in my hand, it seemed just too big and cavernous (in terms of depression along its midrib) to spoil it by cutting it up. Instead, I tucked my clover and grass stems into it like cheese into a celery stem. Then I folded the sides of the Swiss chard even closer together and secured them in place with toothpicks. The result is really contemporary-looking and would look better in a modern windowsill than it does in my old-fashioned one, but I like it. It seems impossible that all these stems could really be in water, but they are--just wrapped up in a Swiss chard stem!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

April 29, 2012 -- gardening

This photo evokes a day for me. While pruning some dead wood out of a Mahonia, I accidently cut off a live, growing tip -- a beautiful growing tip. So I carried it inside and dropped it into a bottle. Later, while pinching back violas, there was one stem I just couldn't throw away because its two flowers were so pretty. They, too, went into a bottle in the windowsill.
What I really like in this photo, though, is something I hadn't really meant to be photographing: it's my gloves hanging over the water spigot, after I'd rinsed them out!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

April 28, 2102 -- mixing it up

I decided to reorganize yesterday's flowers and greens, putting some of the sweet William Flowers in the vases with the spinach flowers and leaves. I like this better. And I've decided I really like looking at the spinach in a vase. It's such a great, rich green.
There's a lily-of-the-valley leaf and an autumn fern frond (both from previous windowsill arrangements) in one of these vases, too.

Friday, April 27, 2012

April 27, 2012 -- beheadings

I did lots of beheading in the garden this afternoon. First, I discovered my spinach was bolting (going to seed) already, so I snipped off its flowerheads. Amazing how much pollen spilled as I did it! The snipped pieces were just too pretty to throw away though, so I dropped them into these little vases. I think I could distribute these better to make them look prettier.
Then I cut flowers from my sweet William, which wasn't going to seed or even waning, but I wanted to make sure it would still be blooming on May 19 (for a wedding), so I snipped off some blooms in their prime (to bring on new, younger blooms). This was painful, but necessary, and it resulted in a pile of very short-stemmed blooms I was about to throw into the compost heap when I realized I couldn't do it. Instead, I brought the blooms inside and used them almost like paving materials in this long, low vase. What I really needed was a grandchild at my elbow, because he/she would have had a better idea how to use these short-stemmed flowers.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

April 26, 2012 -- traveling leaf

Don't ask me why I packed up this particular leaf and took it to a friend's today (where we were doing flowers for a wedding). I had used it in windowsill arrangements on April 23 and 24 (with an iris), and it was just too pretty to leave behind. So I included it in a bucket of other small blooms and leaves I contributed to the wedding flowers. It wasn't used, and after we'd cleaned up all the mess, Barbara Micou agreed to do a windowsill arrangement, photograph it with her cell phone, and send the photo to me. (Such an IT wizard!) I loved it when she chose to use this Heuchera leaf, one peony bud, and some bronze fennel in this sweet little vase.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

April 25, 2012 -- Alpine strawberries

This was sitting in my friend Rosanne Shalf's windowsill yesterday, and I loved it so much, I asked if I could take it home and photograph it in my windowsill (because I didn't have my camera). So here it is, in my windowsill where it looks almost as pretty as it did in Rosanne's.
Rosanne grows these lucious little strawberries and has given mw plants over the years, but they never seem to succeed for me. This isn't the wild Virginia strawberry (which isn't even edible). This is the true Alpine strawberry (frais d'bois), which is a delicacy to eat and a feast for the eyes, too! Rosanne often uses them do decorate desserts, and they also obviously hold up well when cut and put in a vase.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

April 24, 2012 -- the iris opens

So: if you remember from yesterday...I put an iris bud in the windowsill with a Heuchera leaf and a piece of goldenrod greenery. And the iris bud was one that had broken off when I was gathering some cut flowers. I liked the iris bud with the Heuchera leaf, but today the iris bud opened and created an even more amazing combination.
This is just too beautiful for words. And it couldn't have been more welcome to my eyes because I'd had a long day before arriving home to my windowsill, and finding this sitting ready for me to photograph was like getting a gift on high.

Monday, April 23, 2012

April 23, 2012 -- bits and pieces

This array started with a reddish iris bud that broke off when I was transporting some cut flowers this morning. It's in the bottle second from the right combined with a reddish Heuchera leaf and a stem of goldenrod foliage. On the far right is the Asian pear I brought back with me from the Capital One snack bar. Second from the left is a bottle containing a frond of Autumn fern, a tulip poplar flower I picked up off the ground this morning, and a couple of lily-of-the-valley leaves from a previous arrangement. My favorite thing in the windowsill is the yellow leaf on the left. I was about to photograph the other three bottles of material when I noticed yellow leaves on a shrub outside the window were distracting from the photo. I went out to pull them off, but one of them (this one) was so pretty I couldn't throw it away. I stuck a pencil through a hole in the leaf to keep it upright in a Tobasco sauce bottle.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

April 22, 2012 -- Austrian winter peas

I thought this post would be easy, because I was out early picking flowers to use for an event on Tuesday. I was out (almost before first light) gathering snapdragons, peonies, etc. before the rain could shred them.
However: the flower that interested me most was the one I had fewest of: the flowers of the Austrian winter pea. This is a plant that I use as a cover crop (not as an ornamental or edible), but this spring it has been both gorgeous and edible! (A friend alerted me to the fact that its leaves and tendrils taste like early peas!) Next weekend it will, undoubtedly, be full of blooms, but this weekend, its blooms were scarce, and I harvested them as if they were gold. I wanted to make the point that they were more valuable to me than peony blossoms, but my photos don't quite show that. Trust me: at this moment in time, I'd give 10 peony blossoms for one more Austrain winter pea blossom.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

April 21, 2012 -- simple is best

Yesterday I relearned the lesson "simple is best," when I dropped this one blue columbine flower into a water glass. This is so much prettier than the complicated conglomeration I'd fiddled with earlier in the day. I had tried to save some peonies and foxgloves for a very long time in the refrigerator (to give them to a friend for Garden Week arrangements). Many of them did fine, but others were too spent to give away, so I tried to use them in a sort of Nature Morte arragement. In addition to the almost dead flowers, the arrangement has an Asian pear in it. That part appeals to me because I know where the pear came from--a snack bar on the Capital One campus, where I spoke on Earth Day but managed to miss lunch, so they gave me a pear!

Friday, April 20, 2012

April 20, 2012 -- revised rush

In yesterday's windowsill was something I loved but didn't have time to tweak into anything that looked very pretty. It was a clump of rush stems I'd weeded out of the garden. (Rushes look like grasses but have round stems.) This morning, I took the rush clump out of the turquoise coffee cup I'd dropped it into yesterday and displayed it, instead, in this little sugar bowl. I love this, because it's so simple and showcases those beautiful green stems
Here's a close-up of my favorite part of this "arrangement"-- the place where all the wonderful greens meet.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

April 19, 2012 -- the truth on Earth Day

This is hard to post, because it is not beautiful (visually), but it's what's in my kitchen windowsill right now. Left to right: an Asian pear that I picked up at Capital One Earth Day celebration today; yesterday's pansies, etc.; my coffee cup full of a rush I weeded out of the garden this morning but found too beautiful to discard; and two 'Twin Sisters' daffodils that haven't yet died and got thrown into this bottle just to keep them until they do die.

As anyone who has done this knows, it takes time to make things LOOK as beautiful as they are. Forgive me for not having time to make the photo correspond to the reality.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

April 18, 2012 -- a handful of flowers

This is one of those days when I just picked a handfull of flowers and dropped them directly into a vase. (I did take a minute to choose a vase of the right size.) The picking started when I inadvertently snapped off a good pansy flower while deadheading some spent ones. That flower drove everything else I picked--first some yellow mustard flowers, then some wild blue forget-me-nots, then a stem of purple of Ajuga, a couple of lavendar Chinese temple bells, and a purplish leaf. I can't remember the name of the plant with the purplish leaf. It's a very aromatic Vietnamese herb, begins with an H, and is a bit invasive. Help anyone? I know I once called it "Hootennany plant" to help myself remember it's botanical name, but now all I can remember is "Hootennany plant"!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

April 17, 2012 -- tree peony

This sort of bloom seemed to REQUIRE display today. It's a tree peony, and this one is particularly significant, because one of my cousins gave the plant to me when my mother died. As anyone who reads this blog will know, I don't remember dates, and I had to check with my sister to be reminded when my mother died: April 22, 2003. So this tree peony as been in my garden for 9 years. Amazing. (When I asked my sister about the date, she commented "I've had my peace plant since then," so she, too, has a living plant she was given as a bereavement gift. My mother wouid love that!)

There's a green bow under the peony blossom in this photo because the only suitable jar I could find to put the peony blossom in was one I couldn't seem to completely scrape the label from. The bow sort of hides all the remnants of the label. This tree peony is now about 4 feet tall, by the way, and this year it has had five or six spectacular blooms.

There's a young piece of Mahonia foliage in the jar with the tree peony blossom.

Monday, April 16, 2012

April 16, 2012 --' Twin Sisters' with familiar companions

There is so much blooming in the garden that seems out of season (too early), that I decided to pull these things together, because, it seems to me, they are always blooming during Garden Week in Virginia (which begins this weekend). They include: the 'Twin Sisters' daffodil, Virgnia's native columbine (Aquilegia canadensis), and a yellow-green spurge. Also included in this bottle is a stem of variegated Japanese Solomon's seal and the pod of a tulip. The tulip pod appears at about the place where 12:00 would appear on a clock, and it's really pretty--larger and more elongated than most tulip pods in my garden.

P.S. I was out of step with my dates, but now I've corrected them.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

April 15, 2012 -- Narcissus and wild azalea

The two flowers I wanted to use most today were the wild Pinxter azalea (pink, honeysuckle-like flowers) and a daffodil called 'Twin Sisters.' The daffodil's full botanical name is Narcissus biflorus, which alludes to the fact that it usually has two flowers to a stem. It's one of the latest-blooming daffodils, and I used to see it blooming in several places along Virginia's Rt. 6 between Richmond and Scottsville, but now... not so much. I was thrilled to discover I had a nice patch of it blooming in my own yard, because, once-upon-a-time, I had the wisdom to order some from Brent and Becky's Bulbs (which is one of the few places that offers them). Interestingly, I notice they are now more expensive than most of their other daffodils, presumably because people now value them as heirlooms.

Can you see the Narcissus reflection in the window?! That's just like the mythical Narcissus, who saw (and admired!) his reflection in water!

The pinkish-orange things in the lower part of this arrangement are the centers of the two peonies I picked a few days ago and carried with me to the beach. I pulled most of their now-spent petals off to reveal this golden center.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

April 14, 2012 -- April beach flowers

I was so worried about going to the beach and finding myself flowerless, that I carried my little peony buds with me. Crazy, I know, but true. Here they are, having fully opened, in a windowsill at Corolla, NC.

I needn't have worried, though. The beach was awash in flowers, and the place where I was staying was full of vases (that had probably never been used as vases). I pulled these two lavender ones off shelves in different parts of the house and filled one of them with flowers and weeds picked from the front yard: purple verbena, dock, lyre-leaved sage, rosemary, and foliage from what I think is Indian hawthorne. All this looks bluer than it really is.

The other wonderful thing that happened relative to vegetation around this beach house is that Kate (my daughter) used the rosemary to flavor a "pizza" made with brie cheese, turkey, and garlic on pita bread. Absolutley scrumptuous!

Friday, April 13, 2012

April 13, 2012 -- Swiss chard

I neededs something quick and easy this morning, and these Swiss chard leaves provided it. I think I used this same vase for Swiss chard leaves last fall. They are just the most gorgeous leaves and sort of surprise to me when they suddenly come into their own--standing up and strutting those colorful stems and wavy leaves.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

April 12, 2012 -- accurate

The best thing I can say about this it that it's accurate. I took materials from the past couple of days and attempted to combine and refresh them (discarding waning material, giving the surviving materials fresh water, etc.). On the far right are the peony buds I put out on the north porch (in a deep bucket) this morning to try to keep them from opening. They refuse to obey my commands.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

April 11, 2012 -- peony buds, iris, late afternoon light

These colors were just beautiful as night was falling. The flowers (in vases from left to right) are 1) lily-of-the-valley, 2) peony buds, 3) one pink snapdragon and some blue phlox, 4) one iris blossom, 5) a Byzantine glad with some phlox and an old, yellowing Solomon's seal leaf.

Here are the peony buds and iris flower up close. I particularly like using iris flowers this way (one bloom in a tiny vase), because it allows all the other buds on the stalk to keep maturing outdoors.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

April 10, 2012 -- Annelinde tulip

I picked this tulip because I wanted to combine it in an arrangement with sweet William. Doing that, I thought, would help remind to plant this particular tulip nearer my sweet William next year. But when I brought both flowers inside, I liked the little tulip (Annelinde) better with white moneyplant than with sweet William, which seemed to overpower it. Such lessons are more simply learned through arranging than through gardening!

The other helpful thing this arrangement did for me was make me look up the name of the tulip in the Brent and Becky's Bulbs catalog. I had wondered why they sent their fall catalog out so early, and now I know why: people like me are looking up the things they ordered in previous years to try to remind themselves what the blubs' names are, so they can order them again!

Annelinde is a really short, very late-blooming tulip with variegated foliage.

Monday, April 9, 2012

April 9, 2012 -- more Easter egg color (and quieter blue)

I undid my centerpiece from yesterday and brought most of the flowers back to Ashland, where I culled through them this morning to make a new arrangement in a jar to take to a friend. Here it is sitting on a dish in the windowsill. The colors are just wild: lilac, purple money plant, pink snapdragon, deep pink sweet William, lavender Chinese temple bells, the Dorgogne tulip. Here's how Brent and Becky Heath describe the color of the Dordogne tulip in their catalog: "exterior is rose with yellow edges and is fiery red on the inside with soft orange edges; as it matures, its colors modify and transform into a Monet-like painting." I actually think the colors get harsher, not more subtle, as this tulip ages, but it's still mighty pretty.

However: I have to say I'm enjoying the leftovers from this arrangement maybe more than the Easter-colors one. Here's how the leftover lilac and a few other stems in a pitcher looked on the counter with other blue things still sitting in the windowsill behind them. Just so quiet and restful.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

April 8, 2012 -- hiding eggs

The most imaginative things that happened today at Flower Camp had nothing to do with me. In fact, it wasn't even close. I woke up to find that my grandsons had hidden eggs for their younger sister in the most wonderful spots. Those spots included what you can see in this photo, if you look really hard: a pink egg in a dirty sock drying on the clothesline (that sock had been fishing in the river), and a yellow-green egg on a windowsill it would have taken a ladder to reach (if you handn't gone upstairs, opened the window and screen, and perched the yellow plastic egg on the windowsill). The Easter Bunny hops, does he not!?

Those egg hidings inspired me to drop some plastic Easter eggs into the tulip blossoms in my centerpiece, and suddenly something I'd found sort of boring was fun.

Then, dutiful windowsill arranger that I am, I pulled some of the same flowers together (lilac, lavender iris, apricot tulip, Chinese temple bells, wild mustard, purple money plant) in a bottle just to fulfill my "a windowsill arrangement a day" commitment. I wanted to nest a plastic egg in this tulip, too, but it couldn't seem to carry the weight.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

April 7, 2012 -- Grace's poppy, my borage

My granddaughter Grace found a broken gourd top in the garden and decided to use it as a vase (to make it stand up, we put it in another vase, wooden stem down). Into the gourd, which holds water , she put a California poppy. Amazingly, she knew the California poppy by name, because it appears in one of the American Girl stories!

And here is a bunch of flowers I dropped into a blue bottle exactly as I gathered them in my hand: blue borage flowers, wild daisies, yellow wood poppy, and leaves from an ornamental grass.

Friday, April 6, 2012

April 6, 2012 -- cilantro and maple helicopters

What a beautiful day. Perfect spring weather--complete with wind. The most impressive things to me today were the helicopters hanging from the red maples, so I brought one tassel of them in. Also inside waiting to be included in this bottle was a glassful of leafy cilantro stems. Amazingly, they are already sending up the mature shoots that will bloom and set seed. But even more amazing is the fact that I thought I had only one cilantro plant in the garden this year (that's actually true), but today I found a ton of cilantro plants coming up in an open area near the barn. I count on cilantro to reseed without my intervention every year, but my one seedling in the garden proper had me worried. That's why I was so delighted to find a whole stand of cilantro coming up in an area where I'd thrown leftover seed last fall. (John had cleared the area of autumn olive, I had seen "raw" soil and pounced -- throwing leftover seeds of all sorts into it.) Reward: my fingers smell like cilantro and we'll have cilantro in our soup tonight.

I like the oak bark in the background of this photo.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

April 5, 2012 --white and blue redo

I wanted to try again with my whites and blues, because I wasn't satisfied with how well they showed up in yesterday's photo. So I went on another "looking for whites and blues" walk through the garden. Came back with this collection of materials, which includes dogwood, moneyplant, woodland phlox, Jacob's ladder, periwinkle, and Ajuga flowers.

I'm not sure these materials didn't look better in the sink than they do on the windowsill! I think there's a trick to photographing blues, and I don't know what it is.

My bluebells (almost all gone now) and variegated ivy got relegated to a corner.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

April 4, 2012 -- blue and white

These are just some pretty little blue and white things, none of which you can see very well in the photo. Most interesting to me are the lawngrass in the vase to the far right and the rockcress (tiny white flowers) in the middle cruet. I spent a large part of the morning pulling grass-going-to-seed out of my moss, and every time I juggled it I got a face full of pollen. Couldn't resist bringing some inside to "capture the moment." The rockcress is interesting because I picked it (actually a friend picked it) in the Flower Camp riverbottom last weekend and I brought it back to Ashland (out of water for two hours) to identify it. I'm still not sure I have the identification exactly right (I think it's lyre-leaved rockcress, Arabis lyrata), but whatever it is, it's beautiful. And it's amazing that such a delicate-looking wildflower could not only survive so long out of water but perk right up and act like a fine little cut flower when finally rehydrated.

In these containers (numbered left to right) are 1) Virginia bluebells, Amsonia, Spanish squill, white money plant; 2) Confederate violets; 3) periwinkle and rockcress; 4) variegated ivy; 5) Jacob's ladder and lawngrass-going-to-seed.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

April 3, 2012 -- Cracker Barrel inspiration (or Yesterday with Orange Added)

Yesterday, in search of Easter treats for grandchildren, I made my way to Cracker Barrel, where there was lots of idulgent-but-not-totally-unhealthy stuff (like chocolate covered sunflower seeds). While there, I encountered a $7 plate I liked, which I thought would make a great birthday gift for my sister, because it had a hummingbird on it (and she loves hummingbirds). Well, my sister may never see the plate, because I'm now totally in love with it. The colors really interested me, and, in fact, I realized that by adding orange and blue to the flowers I'd used in the windowsill yesterday, I'd have a similar combination. (I must have already been gravitating toward these colors, because my new coffee cups are that old-fashioned turquoise blue.) So now, in my turqoise mug, are all the flowers I used in yesterday's windowsill arragement plus 'Princess Irene' tulips (orange with purplish striations, some periwinkle flowers, and a couple of heuchera leaves. Who'd have thought pink and orange could work so wonderfully together!? And I love the fact that this was inspired by a decorative plate from Cracker Barrel.

Monday, April 2, 2012

April 2, 2012 -- sweet Willliam, etc.

I wanted this to look just the way it did when I rounded the corner with the lawn mower this afternoon and encountered this sweet William, wild mustard, and Chinese temple bells blooming together. So sweet! I'm particularly thrilled to have the Sweet William, because I grew these plants from seed last year and have been nursing them into bloom for what seems like a very long time. These plants seem particularly precious, because I planted half my seedlings in Buckingham, half in Ashland, and in Buckingham, 3/4 of the planting has been destroyed by voles. There, the voles started destroying the plants' roots in early spring and have continued until now, when I'm finding budded, rootless stalks on the ground. So sad (for the gardener, not the voles!). In Ashland, however, the wait for these plants to bloom has been worth it. I know this is supposed to be an old-fashioned, easy-to-grow plant, but I find it sort of challenging.